September was mostly sunny and bright, so we took the camper down to Hampshire for a ‘socially distanced’ family get-together in the New Forest. We also fitted in a visit to OGA friend Ben in Lymington before returning to Woodbridge for the end of a very unusual summer.
The forecast wasn’t promising for the last few days of the month, so we returned home, wondering when we’d be able to lay ‘Cachalot’ up for the winter . . . it seemed very likely that another full lockdown would be imposed before the end of October.
Scanning the forecasts, we looked in vain for a few days without rain or strong winds. As a second lockdown became more and more likely, we decided to take a chance on 29 October and drove down in the Adria and Landrover.
The following day Derbyshire Dales was put into Tier 2, then the second full lockdown was announced for 5 November. We’d made the trip with a couple of days to spare!
With sails stowed, spars brought on deck, engine winterised, bilge pumps checked and all the other stowing and ‘laying up’ jobs complete, Simon and Ricarda drove over from their new home in Cambridge to help put the winter cover on.
Just in time, everything was ready and we towed ‘Cachalette’ back to Derbyshire with a van full of sails for winter storage at home.
As Storm Ellen abated, the wind remained strong with intermittent showers and rain. We went for a bracing walk from RSPB Minsmere along the coast to Dunwich, and took refuge in the van for the chilly evenings.
Steve did manage to get up the mast to fit a new block and sort out some of the new rigging, but we decided to return to Derbyshire for a damp and windy August Bank Holiday weekend . . . very different from last year when we joined the first OGA Deben Cruise.
Early September found us back in Woodbridge and we collected our new ‘toy’ – an electric outboard. Ordered weeks ago in July, like many popular items in these strange times, it was held up by ‘logistics’ . . . so we finally fitted it onto ‘Cachalette’ for a test trip on 12 September, first for a trial around the marina then out into the river . . . it really is amazingly quiet!
Angela and Joe joined us from Derbyshire for a couple of days exploring the Deben, including a short trip out in ‘Cachalette’ with Joe and a sunny afternoon swimming at Bawdsey.
After a week at home, we decide it’s time to return to Woodbridge on 20 August, despite the weather forecast . . . Strong winds hamper some of the planned work initially, which included Steve going up the mast! It’s warm and sunny though and the camper van is a ‘safe haven’ from the winds, rocking us to sleep at night . . . While the wind whistles round the masts and rigging, Steve finds plenty to do to improve the galley and there’s the newly renovated fridge to install. It’s over 15 years old, rescued in a sorry state from the sinking in 2007 and sitting at home ever since as a ‘non urgent’ project. With a few parts secured on eBay and some fiddly electronics, it seems to work OK using the solar panel for power.
At the end of July, we put the batteries back in the campervan and drove down to Woodbridge, Bev in the camper and Steve in the Freelander. Arriving quite late on 28 July, we left sorting out the van until morning and slept on the boat after a good supper cooked at home. We’d already got several invites for ‘socially distanced’ supper and/or drinks and as the weather brightened up, we looked forward to an enjoyable couple of weeks.
Bev was encouraged to go out in the little boat for a row upriver and back, Steve also found a lovely secluded little place to swim and tie up the dinghy opposite the Tidemill. We’ve also splashed out on a new electric outboard, still awaiting delivery from Germany.
The weather was truly scorching! Shorts, sunhats and suncream essential with 35 degrees in the shade for about a week. We enjoyed swimming in the river to cool down . . . and Steve scrubbed the topsides while we were moored on Bill’s buoy at Ramsholt.
The Tidemill barbecue was put to good use for entertaining, but Bev had forgotten to pack the gin, so there was ice, tonic and lemon but Steve missed the vital ingredient! It’s on the shopping list for next time.
On 14 July, Steve decides the time is right to go down to Woodbridge. The Marina has been open to bertholders for a couple of weeks, although some of the facilities are not available yet.
He loads the Freelander, with its newly-fitted towbar, with re-upholstered cushions, summer boom tent/cover, rigging and sails etc., then goes round to his Mum’s house to hook up the ‘little boat’. Stored in her garage, ‘Cachalette’ has had the benefit of a full winter maintenance programme and glistens in the sunshine, all ready for taking out on the River Deben. Driving quite carefully with such a full load, Steve’s impressed with the fuel economy of the Landrover as he arrives in Woodbridge having only used a quarter of a tank.
Jim joins him from his holiday caravan in south Norfolk to change the oil in the engine, the winter covers come off and the sails are bent on. There’s quite a bit of activity in the Tidemill after the easing of lockdown and after a very wet July, the weather looks set to improve at last! Looks like it’s time to bring the camper van down and get out in the river . . .
The newly upholstered cushions look really good, complemented by the pillow bags made last summer by Bev.
As a national ‘lockdown’ looked increasingly likely, Steve drove down to Suffolk on 14 March to check on ‘Cachalot’, just in case we’d have to leave her for another few months. Sure enough, on 23 March, 2020 the edict arrived for everything to stop . . . and we’ve been locked away in our Derbyshire hillside for the past four months. So, what was the plan?
‘Cachalot’, safely surviving the winter under her covers, would have to remain in ‘social isolation’, rather than join the East Coast summer cruise, cancelled along with all the other OGA East Coast events for the summer.
Covid19 rules meant we weren’t allowed to travel to Suffolk, as it involved an overnight stay, so Steve utilised his joinery skills in an unplanned project for the house – replacing Victorian plaster coving in our front room and hallway. Now partially completed, he finds that joinery with plaster on a 3.5m high ceiling is even more challenging, and potentially dangerous, than replanking a 30’ wooden boat!
He’s also been doing some woodwork, of course, and repaired the workshop roof and windows, originally built on decking high above our house, in 2007, when ‘Cachalot’ first became a project. ‘Cachalette’, tender to ‘Cachalot’, and built 2010 by Steve on a terrace just above the workshop, has benefited from a thorough maintenance programme during ‘lockdown’. Over the winter she’s stored in his mother’s garage, just a couple of miles from our house. Work included re-gluing a knee, renovating the ash sole boards, repainting and revarnishing the whole boat.
As ‘lockdown’ begins to be eased, Steve fits a towbar to our recently acquired Landrover Freelander and trails ‘Cachalette’ down to Suffolk, along with the newly covered cushions for ‘Cachalot’ (an excellent job done by our local furniture restorer, Andy), sails, rigging and other bits and pieces from winter storage at home.
On arrival at the Tidemill, he’s pleased to find that the bilge is completely dry with the counter recording that the pump has not been triggered since his last visit, almost four months ago to the day in March.