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.
It was disappointing not to stay with the fleet, but we enjoyed our week back in the Tidemill and don’t regret our decision. The stormy forecast was certainly accurate and we drove down to Ipswich on Saturday 31 July to join the final pontoon party before returning to Derbyshire.
‘Cachalot’ joined the OGA Deben Rally, 25 – 26 August 2019. This was our first event with the gaffers, and thanks go to Alistair for capturing us with all sails set. Two nights on a buoy at Waldringfield and a day sailing down to Felixstowe Ferry with James was all we had time for as we needed to drive up to Aberdeen for Ian’s funeral . . . it’s 600 miles from Woodbridge but we decided to leave at 0530 on Monday and do it in one day . . . Sunday was an early start too, leaving Waldringfield at 0600 to motor carefully upriver and just get over the bar at 0640.
We’d been invited to join in with Maritime Woodbridge this year and set out from the Tidemill Yacht Harbour an hour before high water on Friday to motor round to the Town Quay. After running aground twice, and concerned about the fast approaching high water, we returned to our berth in the marina.
On Saturday, we tried again. It looked like there would be more water in Bass’s Dock and we approached slowly, running aground again alongside the Dutch barge ‘Inez’, but there was plenty of time before high water, so we waited. As the tide came up, we gradually warped our way into the dock stern to with several helping hands joining ‘Flooka’ and three Albert Strange yachts ‘Mist’, ‘Galatea’ and ‘Nirvana of Arklow’.
There were plenty of visitors braving our gang plank to come aboard, with lots of admiring comments for ‘Cachalot’. The event was held in the newly redeveloped Whisstocks Centre and seemed to be very successful with plenty going on.
We hoisted the mainsail when OGA friends Pete and Clare came aboard . . . thanks for all the help and advice with rigging and reeving!
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!
One last trip down to Suffolk in November finds us staying with James for the weekend of the East Coast OGA AGM. We check everything out for the winter, and hope that the old boom cover will afford sufficient protection against the weather until the spring.
After the launch, the bilge pumps were set and timed regularly – it all seemed to be going OK so we went sailing with James on ‘Kestrel’ with the East Coast OGA, setting out from Waldringfield for the August Cruise to Brightlingsea on 11 August. Andy agreed to keep a watchful eye on the bilge pumps, so Steve didn’t need to worry (much!) and could enjoy the sailing and a bit of relaxation for a week away . . .
On our return, the priority was to be the mast, but the bilge pumps were still running rather too frequently. Reluctantly, it was agreed this was more than just ‘taking up’, despite all the old tricks of sawdust under the hull . . . she needed to come out for a better look below the waterline. We could have had her lifted at the Tidemill, but a better option seemed to be the short motor up river to Larkmans, where James could have a look at her seams and do any work while she was left in the slings for 24 hours. The tides were just right, with high water around midday, so Steve motored up river on 23 August.
There’s still lots to do, but it’s not all work . . .
Friday morning dawns, and there’s still lots to do. Yvonne arrives with the flags and the old bowsprit is taken round to the boat as a temporary mast to dress her overall. She also has bunting for the inside. Chris has very kindly let us make use of his empty tent for storage since the launch of his boat a couple of weeks ago. He’s also happy for us to make use of it as a reception venue, so this is also dressed up and trestles laid out with drinks and nibbles.
The launch is scheduled for around high water at 1050 and people begin to arrive as the preparations continue. It’s great to see so many people coming to help us celebrate. The party goes on all day, and into the evening with another musical gathering to round off the night. Throughout the day, we’ve also received messages from as far away as the Baltic and South West England – thankyou to everyone who’s supported and encouraged us on this rather long journey. There’s still quite a lot to do before we get out on the water, so keep looking out for the next instalments of our story!
While we wait for the metalwork to be returned, there’s plenty more to do!
The long bolt is drilled, and secured just above the rudder stock and rings for the mainsheets are all secured through the deck.
The big plastic box storing yards of tangled electrical cables is unpacked and instruments are checked, then fitted in place ready for the electrics to be re-installed. The bilge pumps, in particular, are scrutinised and cleaned up ready for service.
Sadly, it seems the depth sounder hasn’t survived, so there’s quite a bit of research to source a replacement to be fitted before the launch.
Steve will be returning to Derbyshire in the Bongo, via Birmingham to pick up Simon, and plans to get the deck painted with at least one coat before leaving on 14 July. The weather is kind, with a gentle drying breeze and no rain . . .
He plans each day allowing time for a few more coats of varnish and then gets the coachroof painted in Epifanes no. 24 with non-slip pearls added, to match the hull. Before the chainplates can be fitted, due to the change in design, there’s six more frames to be fitted inside the hull – a piece of work unaccounted for in the list of ‘essential to do before launch’ list!
Bev sets to work masking up all the varnished areas in contact with the deck in preparation for painting. She takes the car back home on 10 July to get some more work done on the house before Simon and Steve return at the end of the week.
We know Dutch OGA friends Rik and Celeste on ‘Cine Mara’ and Fred on ‘Morgaine’ are visiting the East Coast. We track them down while they’re at anchor in the Deben, and invite them for a cuppa – our first visitors on board, even if she’s still in the tent on her cradle!
Once the counter bulwarks are in place, it's time to think about replacements for the port and starboard sides, and the capping rail.
After careful measuring, a stock of iroko is purchased from Thorogoods, sufficient for the new bulwarks as well as the capping rail. It's all sticked up ready, beside the tent . . . but what's the best way to secure the new bulwarks to the deck?
After much discussion, with various people, and several mock-ups and drawings, Steve starts production of 14 stanchions to sit neatly beneath the capping rail.
Making the stanchions takes quite a while, and was interrupted by a few days out sailing with the OGA for the August Cruise. Bev sailed with James on 'Kestrel' for the whole week, and Steve spent most days working, joining the fleet for evening events ashore . . . It was great to welcome a crowd of gaffers at the tent on 22 August though, even though she's not in the water, we kept our promise of beers a-plenty!
Bending on the iroko for the bulwarks went well, and by the beginning of September the deck was looking pretty shipshape - just needing the capping rail and enough good weather into the Autumn to allow us time to paint and varnish ready for winter.
Time for the finishing touches! Last summer we promised to have her ready for the OGA August Classics this year, she won't be in the water but skippers and crews are all invited to visit during their sojourn at the Tidemill 23/24 August. With the deck and hull all done, there's just the bulwarks before we can varnish and paint her for the winter.
Steve starts with the reclaimed counter section, strong, laminated and possibly original. He makes a new set of knees to secure it firmly to the deck and makes good progress - it's great to see the counter restored (almost) to her former glory!