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.
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.
We fit in a short trip to Woodbridge early September before Steve takes the van to Chamonix for ten days climbing with Simon. We creep out of the Tidemill at 1800, Saturday 7 September, with only just enough water over the sill and motor downriver, intending to go to Ramsholt. By 1845 it’s getting dark and windy so we call Tony and ask to spend the night on a buoy at Waldringfield instead. By 2000 the wind has calmed down and Sunday dawns a bit gusty but warm and sunny. We enjoy the spectacle of Waldringfield SC One Design Dragonfly fleet racing for their 70th anniversary then motor slowly back to the Tidemill just before dusk. Steve decides to go over the bar at 1:35m, we touch and clatter across the sill – hopefully no damage is done and we moor up at 1910!
There’s no Indian Summer this year and we scan the forecast to find a couple of days when we can check the new mainsail cover fits and then lay ‘Cachalot’ up for winter . . . Saturday 19 October looks promising. We drive down to Suffolk in the van for the weekend, get the sails bagged up and spars laid on the deck, but as we start to put the winter cover on the rains return with a vengeance!
It’s impossible to secure the cover tightly enough, so we leave it and return in the car to finish the job on 3 November and sleep on the boat. It really is quite cosy as a winter hideaway, and now the winter cover is on, the bilge pump is going off quite infrequently.
The weather means we can take the winter cover off at last, relying on the summer one finished off perfectly by Baz.
With sunshine forecast, and only light winds, Steve decides it’s time to bend on the mainsail.
Once that’s done, there’s a bit more ‘rigging and reeving’ to do and Pete offers to come round and lend a hand. Steve climbs the mast to set up a couple more blocks and tidy the new rigging.
Baz calls round on Wednesday, as promised, with the summer cover. Started by Bev last autumn, it was reluctantly handed over for him to stitch the reinforcing panel and tapes as she couldn’t manage to do them on Mum’s old sewing machine. To allow us to measure up, Steve’s temporarily taken the winter cover off and laid the mainsail and gaff in place. We also measure up and send dimensions to Steve at Ratsey & Lapthorn for the new mainsail sailbag.
Once the electrics are done, Steve re-fits one of the Samson posts and starts to repair the storm damage done to the coachroof back in February 2018.
Baz calls on Monday 13 May to talk about the winter cover, and agrees to stitch the long panel on the summer cover, which is proving a bit too much for Bev’s domestic machine. Discussing all the options, and looking at the weather forecast, Steve decides not to take off the winter cover just yet and Baz takes the summer one away.
The weather changes for the better so we try out the van’s awning and Bev persuades Steve to protect himself from the sun with some new headgear. She gets out the sewing machine to make a cover for the mast boot, fitting it before the varnishing starts, and Steve rigs up a way to secure the forward section of winter cover to provide protection for varnishing.
Baz has made several visits to the boat, checking measurements for our winter cover. After the first ‘fitting’ on Wednesday, he meets up with Steve on Friday, 2 November, for a final fitting and checking over any tweaks and adjustments. Baz takes the cover back for some more stitching and returns on Sunday afternoon with fingers crossed it’s all OK. There’s only about two hours of daylight, but the weather has been perfect, fitting in exactly with schedules for moving the boat, fittings and getting other work done before we have more ‘restricted access’!
With lacings, bungees and straps, it fits perfectly with two roll back access doors, flaps for the fairleads and allowances for the halyards, mooring lines and fenders. We enjoy a cup of tea, sitting in the cockpit ‘tent’ as the sun goes down.
Made from polycotton, the cover doesn’t make the inside too dark. Waking up in the morning on Monday as the Tidemill staff start up the crane to lift boats out, we open the hatch and roll back the door to see another beautiful sunny morning.
Having agreed everything with Baz at the end of September, we talk with the Yacht Harbour staff as he’ll need to be able to have access to both sides of the boat.
The North arm of the Tidemill, where we’re moored, will be dredged this winter, so we’ll have to move to the South arm at some point in the autumn. Bill, a bit further down from us, is going to move round in early October, and is happy for us to have his ‘corner’ berth.
With everything planned for laying up, we drive home for Bev’s birthday, returning a week later. It’s not just laying up that’s to be done, Steve’s determined to get a backrest for his bunk in place before we go back to Derbyshire again, and make templates for the area behind the chart table and other ‘flat surfaces’.
Woodworking is more of a challenge without the tent, but he’s set the ‘Workmate’ up on the pontoon and manages pretty well – but there’s more scope for accidents, with one or two items slipping into the water! He borrows a ‘Seasearcher’ from Henry one day and finds not only the small plane but a large drill lost a couple of weeks ago!
While he’s working on the interior, there’s no room for Bev, so she’s happy to go out visiting and finding other things to do in the area (including the shopping to make sure there’s always something good to cook for supper). She’s also the one who ensures we can fit everything into the car – quite a challenge this time with the mainsail and toolboxes as well as bits of wood to take home!
We motor round to Bill’s berth on 16 October and make her secure, enjoying a last night in this new spot, before driving home to tidy the house up for a long weekend with Katie, Giacomo and Roberta, travelling ‘up north’ for half term.
People keep asking when we’re going out sailing . . . and there’s always an excuse! Tide is wrong, still fitting out, too much wind, no wind, rig isn’t ready, mainsail isn’t bent on yet, no time to get out/in over the Tidemill bar, we’ve got to be in Derbyshire . . . Is what Rik said proving to be true? ‘Now we will find out if Steve is a boatbuilder or a sailor!’ Or is it Bev, who quite likes pottering around in Woodbridge and the surrounding area?
After ten years in the tent and the van, there are lots of reasons for us to just enjoy being on our boat, in the water, doing the ‘fitting out’ and getting her ‘shipshape’. Actually living on her this summer, without needing to have the van as a ‘back up’, has been great! Her interior is really taking shape. We’ve had lots of visitors, and can repay some of the hospitality we’ve had over the past ten years. But, she’s a sailing boat, not just a houseboat, and we have got some lovely new sails. So we check the tides and go for a night out in the river on a calm weekend 28-29 September. Thankyou, Bill, for the loan of your mooring buoy at Ramsholt. On Saturday morning, who did we see but ‘Kestrel’, sailing downriver and surprised to find us out of the Tidemill at last!
We needed to be back in the Tidemill to meet Baz on Saturday afternoon to discuss the winter covers, measure up and plan a schedule for getting everything done before the weather turns. Decisions made and schedule agreed, we’re going to bring all the sails home for winter storage and store the gaff and bowsprit on the deck. Bringing the anchor into the forepeak will mean we can have a fully fitted cover fore and aft with zipped doorways both sides of the cockpit, as we’ll want to come down during the winter.