We decide to go down to Woodbridge for Easter weekend, then travel on to Hampshire with the van. As usual, it’s a later start than planned but finally we get on the A6 towards the M1 at 1230 (after returning to the house as Bev forgot contents of fridge!!). After a surprisingly traffic free drive, given it’s Good Friday, we arrive reach the Tidemill at 1700. It’s a bit problematic finding somewhere to park up, as all the boats are still out on the hard with lots of visiting cars for the weekend. Lou and Maggie had booked a table at A-Listers for 1945 so we had plenty of time to get the van shipshape before going out for a most enjoyable meal.
Steve puts a couple of coats of varnish on the mast and we spend a lazy Easter Saturday catching up with folk around the Tidemill in the sun before a pontoon party at 5pm with Claudia, Dan, Marco, Valentina, Maggie, Lou and Ben. A really enjoyable gathering until it got a bit chilly as the sun dropped down – it is still mid-April after all. On Easter Sunday the tides are perfect for a lunchtime outing in the kayaks, so we go up to Robertson’s and paddle downriver against the tide to the bank opposite Kyson Point then back up with the tide to Honolulu Beach. Lovely and sunny but a bit of wind without being cold. I think I like the kayaks best of all, getting more confident to explore amongst the reeds and shallower places! Steve spent some time sorting out the little boat in case there’s wind for a sail in the morning. Bev cooked supper and we ate on our boat with Ben. There’s talk of getting both boats out into the river, once we take the winter covers off.
Sadly, there’s not enough wind for sailing and Steve didn’t want to paddle so Bev decided to give the van the long-promised clean. She found a perfect stepladder on the scrap pile and spent all afternoon doing a full valet inside and out. Despite the ladder, she couldn’t quite reach the roof but everything else is sparkly and gleaming. Great to get all the ‘muck’ off from the muddy January trip to Scotland and being stored in the cowshed!!
On Tuesday, 19 April we’re invited for breakfast aboard Ben’s boat at 0930. He serves up an excellent fry-up including stir-fry vegetables, eggs, bacon and black pudding. We depart the Tidemill YH 1140 and find a Morrisons for fuel near Chelmsford: £100 for 58l, 171.9p per litre – worth the detour of 15 minutes, everywhere else is 176.9p plus.
We receive a message from Lou that our boat’s ‘adrift’ after the February storms! All a bit worrying . . . so Steve calls Ben who said he’d take a look. He ties her up alongside her own pontoon and reports no damage and the bilge counter still only showing x2 since November. We hoped to get down as soon as the weather improved, but stranded at home in ‘Covid isolation’, there was another call, this time from Marco. It seems the cover has big puddles and may need attention . . . Out of quarantine at last, and a good forecast, we pack the van and drive down in glorious sunshine on Friday 25 March.
All the boats are out on the hard, but we manage to manoeuvre the van in between an old barge and trailers so that the electric cable will just reach. ‘Cachalot’ is still slightly adrift and Steve finds a warp has sheared through! The puddles have made the cover very dirty but none of the water has gone inside, and the bilge counter is still only on x2. After the long drive, we decide to try our luck in town and manage to get a table at ‘A Listers’ for an excellent evening meal.
By lunchtime Saturday the cover is scrubbed and tied back down securely along with a new warp to tie her more securely to the pontoon. The tides favour a late afternoon out for a paddle in the kayaks. Sunday is another fine day, with light later into the evening now that the clocks have gone forward.
Steve fits the auto-helm and refits all the component parts of newly varnished galley, which have been at home overwinter. With the weather taking a turn for the worse, we decide to return home on Tuesday, after a bike ride into Ipswich to catch up with John and see his newly built skiff.
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!
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.
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.
After a few days back in Derbyshire at the end of April, we return to Suffolk despite the bad weather forecast for the May Day Bank Holiday weekend. We bring all the sails from winter storage, fitting them easily into the Adria with plenty of space to spare for tools, wood, varnished panels, sole boards, the partly finished summer cover and Bev’s sewing machine.
Arriving in Woodbridge late, at the wrong state of the tide, but keen to wander into town to see what’s going on despite the wind and rain, we manage to sleep in the van with all the sails stacked in the cab. Next morning we carry them across the pontoon and find room to store all the sails under the winter cover. It’s still really stormy though, and not a very pleasant weekend compared with last year when we basked in sunshine! The modified sole board and step, taken home for some more work, are re-fitted and looking good in the cabin.
On Tuesday, 23 April, Mike and Steve bring ‘Cachalot’ back round to her berth on the North Arm.
We move the van back to where there’s been a lot of landscaping over the winter and park up near where the tent used to be, looking upriver towards Melton again.
There’s only a couple more days of fine weather, and we need more plywood to finish the forepeak so once the boat’s in her berth, there’s a trip to Ridgeon’s at Martlesham Heath where the Adria once again comes into her own. Being based on a panel van, the two 10′ x 4′ boards fit neatly and easily in through the double doors on the back with the bed lifted up out of the way!
After our early start in February, March was pretty busy . . . but Steve did find time to work on the sole boards while we were home in Derbyshire, ready for fitting on our return to Woodbridge at Easter.
After sending the OGA Gaffers Log to press on 12 March, we drove the new van to Arnside, Cumbria for an excellent conference about boats built there by Crossfields and fitted in a short tour in the Lakes, including the narrow road along Wastwater.
A couple of days later we set off for Val Thorens, in a newly-acquired Mini [but that’s another story], calling to see Kate & family in Southampton before catching the night boat from Portsmouth, meeting Simon and Ricarda off the train from Paris at Gare de Moutieurs and enjoying a brilliant week ski-ing with them, before returning via Southampton on 31 March.
2 April found us with Mike & Dee of ‘Bonita’, sipping champagne and nibbling canapes at the Classic Boat Awards ceremony, Royal Thames Yacht Club, Kensington. Neither ‘Bonita’ nor ‘Cachalot’ was a winner but we enjoyed the event and felt honoured to have been nominated.
Thankyou to everyone who voted for us!
It’s generally too cold to start work this early in the year, but we’ve taken the plunge, and ‘upgraded’ the trusty Bongo for a 6 metre Fiat Adria motorhome! After 12 years, the Bongo was still a good van and, having passed the MOT (with a little bit of welding), we decided to sell and buy a van with insulation, heating and separate sleeping/sitting areas.
It was sad to see the Bongo driven off by her new owner last week, but lovely and cosy to cook, eat and sleep in the Adria, without having to change the layout of the van.
‘Cachalot’ is still in her temporary berth on the South Arm while the Harbour staff finish dredging and winter maintenance so we park just above the boat meaning Steve can get started with planning how to fit out the forepeak while Bev makes the new van our winter ‘home from home’. We’re still discovering all the options which include hot & cold running water, fridge, cooker and a great heating system powered by LPG or mains hook-up!
The great news is that the bilge pump only seems to have been tripped once, since November . . . and the cover has kept her snug against all the winter weather, and showing no signs of wear apart from bird droppings!