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.
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.
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 few days in Derbyshire, we’re back in Suffolk for the OGA Summer Cruise. After a passage race on Friday, 20 July and the East Coast Race on the River Blackwater the following day, the week’s cruise ends with a parade of sail up the River Orwell today. ‘Cachalot’ isn’t ready to take part, so Bev crews with James on ‘Kestrel’.
While Bev’s out sailing, Steve gets on with fitting out with evening trips to various locations to join the Gaffers by car. The work is made harder by the blistering heat and lack of shade, but he manages to to get a lot done including installing the VHF radio and navigation lights, setting up the Wykeham Martin jib furling gear, bobstay, bowsprit shrouds and anchor (without the newly-acquired winch, for now).
He spends an enjoyable couple of days with Steve, from Ratsey’s, who’s visiting the Tidemill YH on holiday from the Isle of Wight and also repairs another area of winter damage where the new capping rail has split. All these ‘little jobs’ take time, and it’s sometimes hard to see progress, despite ticking them off the list!
Lists, and more lists . . . what to do next? Now she’s back in the water, and seems to be taking up OK with the bilge pumps kicking in at ever increasing intervals, Steve asks himself, “What are the priorities for ‘fitting out’?”
The damage caused by the winter storms is top of the list, after fitting the base for the second bunk, so we can both sleep aboard in comfort. The broken porthole is polished up, reglazed and re-fitted. All the damage to the deck and coach house roof are also made good and repainted.
He decides that the mast will be OK, bearing the scars of the winter storm, but the bowsprit is taken ashore for rubbing down and another coat of varnish.
With stormy weather lashing the country, we scour reports and forecasts for the East Coast hoping that everything is OK in Woodbridge. On Tuesday, 13 February Steve receives a phonecall from the Tidemill whilst in Southampton and enjoying being ‘grandad’ . . . “Steve, your boat cover has been shredded in the storm and there seems to be some damage to the deck and coachroof.”
What to do? It’s a long trip, but Kate lends him a sleeping bag and he sets off only to be caught in long traffic jams on the M25 to arrive cold, tired and in the dark just before 8pm. After a fine meal and a pint at the Anchor, he settles down for the night, cosy in the warmth of the fan heater, loaned sleeping bag and comfy on the new bunks. No damp inside the boat, and it will all look less bad in the light of day.
It seems that a warp had tangled itself round a belay pin, ripping it out and using it to flog the deck, mast, coachroof and bowsprit, smashing the glass in one porthole. Having no workclothes, tools or varnish, Steve called at Larkmans and James lent him an ’emergency maintenance bucket’ with everything he’d need to make a temporary fix. A call at Suffolk Sails resulted in the possibility of a temporary cover being made in the next few weeks . . . a long drive back to Derbyshire and Steve’s now at work on finishing the kitchen!
Along with tidying up the site, Steve’s hoping that the sailmaker will be able to measure up before the end of the season, so is keen to get the boom and gaff in place. There’s also nowhere left ashore to store any spars!
James helps bring the boom on board and Steve sets up the gaff and calls to make a date with Ratsey & Lapthorn. All fixed, Steve and Andy will drive up from Cowes on Monday, 16 October. So, it’s time to get on with stowing everything that can be left on board for the winter and making a start on the bunks . . . fortunately, the weather seems to be quite settled, and not too cold as we may need to work into the autumn to get everything ready for the winter. Bev leaves Steve in Suffolk and returns to Derbyshire where the plasterers will be making a start.
Now that the tent is empty, there’s room for the mast to be under cover. Two fellow berth holders volunteer to help move it inside, with a mast trolley loaned by Larkmans.
The tent has to be dismantled, and it’s not before time! The lean is becoming more and more pronounced, and it seems unlikely to survive another big storm, but makes an ideal workshop to finish varnishing the mast as another bout of wet weather approaches.
As Steve cleans up the mast and applies several more coats of varnish, Bev returns home to get the ‘other’ project up and running again after the summer interlude. There’s the plumber and plasterers to schedule in as well as sorting out the new floor.
Steve finishes the mast, prepares the cross trees and gets the final bits of metalwork from Moray at BronzeWorks. It’s agreed that the best way to get the mast in is to take the boat to Larkmans again, so James takes the mast by road and Steve works at Larkmans to get the mast ready. Eager not to miss the tide, and having re-calibrated the depth sounder, Steve sets off a little early to motor up river and spends a few moments in the Deben mud part way to Melton . . .
There were two weddings, another ski trip to Val Thorens and the kitchen project to occupy us from January to mid-April 2017, but Steve made time to write a long list of all the jobs that need to be done in preparation for getting in the water this year!
There’s new sails to be made, and Ratsey & Lapthorn have been engaged to make these, so we’ll be off to Cowes later this month.
Moray McPhail, at BronzeWork in Martlesham, will be making the new keel bolts and sorting out all the other metalwork for us. Following discussions over the chainplates, it was agreed to have a channel to carry the shrouds over the bulwarks so, on our return to Suffolk at the end of April this was the first job to be done, port and starboard.
After joining the OGA at the Tollesbury Rally on 29 April, we returned to Woodbridge but the incessant wind forced us back to Derbyshire by the end of the week!