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.
We returned to Woodbridge on 11 August, hoping to take part in Eversons’ ‘Dinghies on the Deben’ event. Having towed ‘Cachalette’ down, and launched her from Woodbridge Boatyard slip, Bev decided it was too windy so Steve set off on his own. He was forced to give up when a cleat snapped but managed to sail back to the Tidemill unscathed. The weather didn’t really improve . . . but there are important plans for the galley this trip.
Steve’s been thinking about galley storage for a couple of years and there’s been various temporary arrangements. The wood is purchased, templates made and it will be done by the end of the summer! The design includes an ingenious removable box behind the Taylors stove and eventually there will be a device to stop anything slipping down into the bilge!
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.
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.
Steve reserved a lovely piece of teak (salvaged from an old wardrobe a couple of years ago) for the chart table. After cutting to size we spend time checking out how best to design this area to accommodate storage for charts and books, the switch panels, VHF radio etc. We count how many switches we’ll need, and it’s more than the old 8-gang panel, so another item on the ‘research’ list of those more expensive items, along with the fridge options which we’ve been thinking about for a long time having discovered that a small one can cost as much as a huge domestic fridge freezer, and then there’s the issues of keeping it charged without draining the batteries . . .
From chart tables to plumbing . . . We decided a long time ago to have a water tank, rather than water carriers. Installing the foot pump and faucet came to the top of the ‘to do’ list – after several discussions and trial runs about where to site them, or even to abandon the plan altogether!
After connecting the foot pump and experimenting with the faucet, Steve came up with the ingenious idea to secure it to the bulkhead where it’s at the right height and can be twisted out of the way when not needed. After a bit of testing for water levels, the pump works perfectly to fill the kettle and washing up bowls. We’re not having a sink with plug hole, preferring the ‘bucket and chuck-it’ option. We’re not re-installing the heads either to keep the number of ‘through the hull’ holes to a minimum.