At last, we’re ready to join the East Coast Gaffers Summer Cruise. The boat’s fitted out, had a ‘shake down’ sail and we have crew, but the weather looks less than promising! Simon and Ricarda arrive to depart the Tidemill at noon, Friday 23 July.
We motor down to Waldringfield to pick up buoy no. 221, next to ‘Kestrel’ who we’ll sail in company with tomorrow. Sadly, our other crew member, Leigh, is ill and won’t be able to join us. Sitting on the buoy, the river’s flowing quite strongly but Steve, Simon and Ricarda decide to go ashore in the rubber dinghy.
It’s a challenging paddle, somewhat low in the water, across the tide to creep up the shore for a landing by the beach huts. They return after a bracing walk for a windy, overcast and rather chilly evening aboard.
On Saturday 24 July the forecast is for gusts force 5. We depart Waldringfield 0945 in company, both ‘Kestrel’ and ‘Cachalot’ under sail with reefed main in a light breeze, 3-4. As we approached Felixstowe Ferry the wind was increasing. James decided it was time for ‘plan C’, to drop all sails. Steve did the same and as we set out to cross the bar it was gusting 6-7 and certainly very bumpy! Staying close to the shingle shore and watching the depth, it seemed to take a long time before we could see the buoyed channel. There was a large container boat on the horizon. Bev watched the tilt to and fro of Cachalot’s cross-trees in the swell as we approached the shipping channel. Waiting in the aptly named Rolling Ground, we watched as the ship with pilot and two tugs slowed and two additional tugs came out.
It remained very choppy and lumpy as we finally crossed the shipping channel and looked out for Pye End Buoy at the start of buoyed channel to Stone Point.
Motor-sailing with staysail we caught the last of the flood into Walton Backwaters arriving at 1300 to anchor with ‘Charm’ and ‘Transcur’.
Steve put the outboard onto the dinghy and took Simon and Ricarda ashore while Bev cooked supper for everyone, filling our new cooking pot with kedgeree to eat on the beach. Simon returned to ferry Bev (and the supper) ashore.
There was a good turnout of gaffers by the evening: ‘Cachalot’, ‘Transcur’, ‘Charm’, ‘Witch’, ‘Plum’, ‘East Breeze’, ‘My Quest’, ‘Philomena’, ‘Kestrel’, ‘Rely’, ‘Crescent Moon’, Sue and Howard’s new Bermudan ketch ‘Souvenir’ and Mike’s motorboat ‘Tempus’.
At the briefing on the beach, the unanimous decision was to return to the Deben in the morning.
HW on Sunday at Woodbridge Haven is 1319 and Bev stays on ‘Kestrel’ to motor-sail back up the coast against wind and tide with only force 1-2 forecast. We lift anchors and the fleet departs 0945. James takes the ‘short cut’ round Landguard Point staying close to the beach and cuts the engine but has to motor again to round Cobbetts Point. The rest of the fleet stay further out, with ‘Cachalot’ looking good with main and foresails set. The fleet makes its way up the Deben to anchor at the Rocks in lovely bright sunshine, relaxing as the tide turns us around for a lazy afternoon swimming and enjoying the peace of the river.
Simon and Ricarda have to leave today so Steve takes them in the dinghy up to Waldringfield. Its a good test for the outboard as he’s against the tide both ways! With a bit of paddling, he makes it there and back.
The forecast looks bad, with stormy winds and strong gusts from Tuesday until Thursday. Not wanting to be trapped, the decision is for the fleet to return to the Backwaters.
We decide to stay in the Deben, rather than leave the boat in Ipswich if the weather remains bad until the end of the week.
On Monday, after a visit from ‘Rely’, we watch the last of the gaffer fleet disperse.
Steve brings in the bowsprit, cleans the decks and we leave at noon to motor back into the Tidemill at 1330.
It was disappointing not to stay with the fleet, but we enjoyed our week back in the Tidemill and don’t regret our decision. The stormy forecast was certainly accurate and we drove down to Ipswich on Saturday 31 July to join the final pontoon party before returning to Derbyshire.
After leaving the Tidemill on Monday, 12 July, Peter and Steve spent the night on Billy’s buoy at Ramsholt, enjoying supper and a tot of rum as they made plans for their passage to mark the first time Cachalot has been out of the River Deben since September 2006. HW at Woodbridge Haven buoy on Tuesday was 1416 so they waited on a buoy at Felixstowe Ferry for sufficient water and have a cuppa. Peter took the opportunity to try changing the depth sounder from ft. to m. and disabled the display completely! Fortunately, Steve managed to reset it, just before noon when they motored out of the river in very lumpy conditions. The sea-state remained poor, forcing them to motor along the coast to Harwich Harbour. Due to the poor conditions, they decided to come into the Orwell, taking a berth for the night at Suffolk Yacht Harbour, Levington and enjoying a meal ashore at the Lightship.
Wednesday found them enjoying a lovely sail up the Orwell to Ipswich, with reefed main and staysail, where Peter hoped to be able to purchase a fishing rod. They took a berth at Ipswich Haven Marina and made a foray into town. Departure into the lock on Thursday morning, resulted in some minor damage to the freeboard as Cachalot bumped the pontoon. Nothing serious though, on inspection it would just need a little rubbing down and coat of paint.
After sailing back down the Orwell into the River Stour, they took a buoy at Wrabness and Peter unpacked his new fishing rod. Tidying the sails, Steve noticed that the boom had slipped down the mast by about 3 inches! While Steve repaired the gooseneck, Peter fished from the stern: #1 catch, a large piece of seaweed, #2 a crab but third time lucky yielded a reasonable sized sea bass!
Friday 16 July dawned with fair winds and blue sky. HW at Woodbridge Haven was not until 1634 so they had plenty of time to enjoy a sail in Harwich Harbour. John, out on the Morecambe Bay Prawner fishermen’s lifeboat replica ‘William’ sailed down from Ipswich with a camera, resulting in a good collection of photos and video. Thankyou, John!
As the weather was so fine, Peter and Steve sailed back up the coast early afternoon, crossed the Deben Bar and sailed all the way up to Waldringfield. Touching the mud on the final tack could have ended badly, but Peter jumped on the rear deck and freed her in time to take in the sails and get back into the Tidemill in time for supper.
Steve spent the morning getting the boat ready for Peter’s arrival while Bev tidied up the van, stowing tools, bikes etc., as she’s spending the week in Derbyshire to catch up on jobs around the house and garden . . . Held up on the M25, Peter was a bit late, but there was still time to get out of the Tidemill just before high water. They spent the night at Ramsholt on Billy’s buoy, drinking rum and planning a passage to Brightlingsea.
Since her launch in August, 2017, ‘Cachalot’ has been out of her berth and into the river on several occasions, but never actually left the Deben! In 2018 we had a late start, problems with the hull, no sails until July and there was still lots of ‘fitting out’ to be done. There were too many family commitments elsewhere in 2019 and last year we were all ‘locked down’! In searching the archive it’s nearly 15 years since she last crossed the Deben Bar. On 1 September, 2006 we returned from the OGA Classics Cruise, joined by Hedley, and sailed all the way up the river! Donna Morgan caught us on camera as we passed through Waldringfield . . . so, she’ll definitely be going out this year!
During a trip to Dartmouth in May, Steve acquired a beautiful winch from Steve M. He’d taken it off ‘Cormorant’ and was about to sell on eBay. It’s now securely fitted on the foredeck along with the cowl air vent over the forepeak cabin. Winches, kindly given to us by John and Jane, are also now set up with two pairs of clutches for the foresail sheets.
Below decks there was a radical tidy up, removing anything not required for a passage.
There’s now a secure place to keep the electric outboard, hooks for hanging wet gear and an improved area around the stove with places to stow all the essentials for cooking.
Steve cleaned the bilges and on checking the manual pump found it was totally seized and needed taking out, cleaning and re-fitting . . . in a particularly difficult place under the deck!
Looks like we’re all shipshape and ready to go! Peter is due to arrive on 12 July to join Steve for a first trip out of the river . . . then we hope to join the OGA East Coast cruise at the end of the month with more crew lined up.
Earlier this year we received an email via the ‘Cachalot’ website from Tom Corbett: “Would appreciate seeing ‘Cachalot’ again. I sailed out of Bradwell on Sea until my health prevented the sheer physicality of sailing her! I will be 90 this year and still on the water, albeit the Norfolk Broads.”
Tom had owned her between 1970 – 1975, and we promised to arrange a meeting as soon as the Covid19 restrictions permitted. On Saturday 26 June, we had a most enjoyable afternoon aboard with Tom and hope to meet up again later in the summer . . .
We returned to Woodbridge on 8 June, bringing the sails and everything else for the boat that had been stored at home over winter.
It was a busy few days at home catching up with life in Derbyshire. There’s more work for Bev to do in the garden now, since all the work done, including new planting, during lockdown last year!
Before going up to Larkmans, Steve bent on the mainsail and replaced all the temporary ‘winter’ rigging.
He motored upriver with the tide to arrive promptly at 1220 on Thursday 10 June, as planned. After being lifted out on the crane, and scrubbed down by Aldon, there was some discussion about how long we needed to be ashore.
After consulting the tidetables, it was agreed everything had to be done by Monday lunchtime, or we’d have to wait another week for sufficient water. So, what was there time to do? The weather was glorious, possibly a bit too hot for doing the anti-fouling, but they’d found us a nice shady place for the weekend. James was enlisted to have a quick look at the hull and despite the pain caused by a return of toothache, Steve persevered in the heat and by Monday morning ‘Cachalot’ was ready for a return to the water.
Gleaming with new anti-foul, the waterline had been checked and corrected and a couple of small repairs below the waterline had been done. Her topsides were sparkling following a thorough wash down, and some touching up where paint had been rubbed off. There’s a few other jobs outstanding, but these can be done while she’s afloat.
A call to the dentist resulted in an emergency appointment for Steve on Wednesday, and thunderstorms were forecast for the weekend, so after motoring back to the Tidemill we packed up the Landrover and drove back to Derbyshire again on Monday 14 June.
Steve’s been thinking about a simpler rig for ‘Cachalette’. During the ‘Lockdown’ winter 2020/21 he made a new mast, mast step and spars.
After a visit Dartmouth in April to see Steve M., and a bit more discussion over the design, he’s sent measurements for a lug sail.
Watch this space . . .
Simon, Ricarda, Katie, Simone and the children were camping at Shottisham for half term week in June and Giacomo seemed keen to put on his new buoyancy aid! He enjoyed his trip out in the river with Grandad and Uncle Simon . . . all smiles as they returned.
On 12 April, 2021, the Covid19 restrictions were relaxed to allow overnight stays . . . we took advantage of the freedom to travel, and set off for Woodbridge for a very quick check on the boat. En route, we called for lunch in the garden with Bev’s cousin Sue, at her new abode near Cambridge, arriving at the Tidemill just before dark, in time to collect fish and chips to eat on board. The boat was lovely and cosy with the heater on, but got seriously cold overnight – prompting a promise to Steve of a new sleeping bag before our next trip. The purpose of this trip was just to get away (now we’re allowed to) and make plans for what needs doing for ‘fitting out’. Driving home we called in for lunch with Simon and Ricarda who are now living in Cambridge.
Our next visit to Woodbridge was a family affair! Simon, Ricarda, Katie, Simone and the children planned to camp at Shottisham, just across the river for half term (31 May – 4 June).
We travelled down on 26 May, taking the campervan and towing ‘Cachalette’ behind the Landrover. The weather was glorious, the winter cover came off and we were pleased to share our berth for a few days with the lovely Albert Strange yawl ‘Nirvana’ . . . definitely raising the tone of the Tidemill!
Following a call to Richard at the Tidemill Yacht Harbour, asking to check on the bilges following the stormy weather during December, Steve received an email with photos today. It’s great news that the bilge counter remains set at zero, the bilges are pretty well dry and the winter cover, now serving its third season is standing up well to the rain and wind.