With the newly refurbished coachroof, we’re all ready to set out on Friday 22 July for the East Coast OGA Summer Cruise. It’s the first time ‘Cachalot’ has sailed (in our ownership) beyond Stone Point/Pennyhole Bay, so we’re quite excited as we head towards our rendezvous with the OGA fleet in Brightlingsea. Our crewman for the week is Dan the Miller. He arrives after work, checks out his berth in the forepeak and we finalise provisions and plans. 1900 finds us departing our berth at the Tidemill and motoring out over the sill, 1.8m. HW1955 Bar. 1020. It’s cloudy with light breeze, a warm, balmy evening for our motor down in company with Ben and Freddie on ‘Tanhauser’. At 2100 we pick up Billy’s Buoy at Ramsholt with ‘Tanhauser’ on the other side of the channel. Supper on board and set the alarms for 0430 . . .
Saturday 23 July dawns as our alarms jangle and Bev fires up the stove for the first brew of coffee. 0500 we drop the buoy and motor off in a dead calm downriver reaching Felixstowe Ferry at 0600. With more coffee and breakfast on deck, we motor across the Deben Bar and raise the mainsail off Wadgate Ledge. Steve cuts the engine but only manages 2.7 kn. By lunchtime, we’re only just beyond Landguard Point, and looks like Ben in his Bermudan rig has decided on the offshore route! We motorsail for a bit, keen to ensure we reach Brightlingsea in time for tea, staying on the inshore route and watching the depth. We’re rewarded when the wind improves mid-afternoon for the best part of the day, storming down the Wallet touching 6knots SOG to meet up with Ben who’s also heading for N Cardinal Knoll at the River Colne entrance.
We drop the sails and motor cautiously up the channel, following Ben who draws just a little more than us, but there isn’t much water and we both run aground . . . we finally make it round to the Heritage Pontoon and raft up to share stories of the passage. Ben has had problem with his batteries and talk of bilge pumps prompted Bev to check ours, only to find the bilges full to the sole boards! After pumping out, Steve mused about what might have happened and decided it was his recent modification to the bilge pump, rather than any leaks in the hull. Water had been siphoning in as we were heeled over. We turn in early after a tiring day and look forward to the rest of the fleet arriving tomorrow.
On Sunday 24 July the OGA fleet began to arrive. The EC Race was held at Stone Sailing Club on Saturday and they were racing or cruising up to arrive in time to prepare for the Safari Supper in Brightlingsea. By mid-afternoon about 20 boats of all shapes and sizes were rafted onto the Heritage Pontoon. We’d offered to host a main course for six and had a most enjoyable evening moving from boat to boat for the other courses. As plans for tomorrow were discussed, it looked like the weather was about to change with high winds forecast.
Monday dawned and sure enough, the wind was beginning to blow with force 7 in the forecasts. There was plenty of discussion about what to do and the final decision was for the whole fleet to remain on the Heritage Pontoon and cancel the planned passage to Stone Point. An alternative barbecue venue was agreed with the Smack Dock and despite the wind we had an enjoyable day. Steve finally managed to hoist his OGA pennant, Ben climbed his own mast to do some repairs and agreed to take the line up ours for Steve.
Steve M’s been promising to come up to sail with us, and he arrived in ‘Dauber’ at the Tidemill on Sunday. The tides are good for a full day out in the river so we decide to leave the Tidemill at 1700, Monday and motor down to pick up two moorings at Waldringfield for the night, going ashore for supper at the Maybush. With the outboard the dinghy only carries two, so Bev’s taken across to order in the pints and book a table! On Tuesday morning, we awake to a flat calm and no wind! As the tide comes in the wind freshens and Steve motors across to ‘Dauber’ in the dinghy to pick Steve up. We stow dinghy and outboard, slip the mooring and depart Waldringfield at 1200 noon.
We motor through Ramsholt moorings then put up the sails and get some tips from Steve M. for the ‘rigging and reeving’. Bev takes the helm as we sail down towards Felixstowe Ferry in perfect conditions to check out the set of the sails. After two or three attempts, we pick up a buoy at Felixstowe Ferry under sail and have lunch at 1500 departing 1545 for a run in light airs back to Waldringfield. We drop the sails just before the moorings and motor alongside ‘Dauber’ to let Steve M. jump across, returning to the Tidemill at 1800. A perfect day out, rounded off with a curry at the Bengal Tiger, Woodbridge with Steve M.
The weather’s wonderful, ‘flaming June’ seems to have arrived in Suffolk. There’s sunny, cloudless skies and it’s time for a bit of maintenance. The toilet cassette in the van’s been leaking and Bev’s done lots of research online but decides a trip to Sharman Caravans in Ipswich is the best option as there’s so many to choose from!! On the passage back from the Orwell, Steve noticed an electrical problem resulting in no power for the VHF radio and concerns about the batteries. The fan belt has been slipping and, now tightened up, it’s all OK, but a new fan belt (and spare) are on the list of purchases. He decided to replace the leisure battery for good measure, getting a new one from Thurlow Nunn at Melton. After taking the old one for checking, it still had some charge, so it’s now installed as a backup. Success on both maintenance fronts, with electrics declared fixed and the leaky toilet cassette sorted, we’re ready to go out again. The tides were good for a few paddles up and down from Robertsons and Bev became a member of the WhatsApp group ‘Ladies who Launch’. Ben decides he’s done enough to take ‘Tanhauser’ out for the first time, and we decide to go out together when PJ arrives on Friday, 17 June.
PJ arrives to crew with Ben and ‘Tanhauser’ is declared ready for her first trip out of the Marina. With her decks, cockpit and cabin cleared of all the accumulated gear not necessary for a passage it looks like we can set out over the sill at 1430 for a motor down to Ramsholt. Arriving at 1630, George allocates us Billy’s buoy (no.105) and no. 80 directly opposite across the channel (in line with the church). We have great fun in the calm, sunny weather but as the current it always strong we set up a fender on a long line astern of ‘Cachalot’ and Ben sends a line across between the boats. He’s keen to test how watertight his clinker dinghy is, and rows across to ‘Cachalot’. Verdict: it’s very leaky! Steve goes for a swim and this confirms the urgent necessity for some sort of ladder as climbing back on board seems more difficult every year. PJ offers to cook supper and Steve puts the outboard onto our dinghy and we motor across to spend an excellent evening on board ‘Tanhauser’, returning to ‘Cachalot’ in the gloaming.
Up for breakfast at 0730 and we’re hailed by PJ, ‘do you want some bacon?’ They send it across on the tidal current, wrapped with an egg box for buoyancy but Bev fails to capture it with the boathook so Steve quickly launches the dinghy and motors downstream to capture it! Our planned departure from the buoys at 1100 was delayed as Ben and PJ took over an hour to recover the half-sunk dinghy and stow her under the boom. We hail as he James sails by in ‘Kestrel’ and finally set off downriver to test the sails and rigging on ‘Tanhauser’. The sails go up well, and she’s looking pretty good as we turn at 1400 before reaching Felixstowe Ferry, for our return to the Tidemill with the tide. We slip back into the Marina at 1630.
Steve’s confident the boat is ready and registers for the Suffolk Yacht Harbour Classics Regatta, Friday 10 – Sunday 12 June, 2022. PJ and Ben are confirmed as crew and Bev will bring provisions by car to Levington on Saturday, when she returns from Derbyshire. The weather looks promising although the tides aren’t ideal for planning a passage out of the Deben, with high water early morning or in the evening. PJ’s working but will try to get down to Woodbridge on Thursday. As luck would have it, he arrives just in time to sneak over the Marina sill on the evening tide at 2030, and they motor down to Ramsholt to pick up Billy’s buoy. It’s an early start on Friday, slipping the buoy to motor down to Felixstowe Ferry and cross the Deben Bar at 0600. They motor down the coast against wind and tide in a rather lumpy sea arriving in Harwich Harbour at 0930. Breakfast of mushrooms was on offer until they opened the box and decided against it – they’d been tucked away in the van for a couple of weeks at least! After an enjoyable sail up the Stour to Wrabness and back they went into Suffolk YH at Levington to moor up in front of the Lightship with other boats gathering for the Classics.
Racing is due to start on Saturday at 1040. Just before the start, they witnessed a potentially dangerous collision between ‘Rely’ and ‘Lynx’. Steve and his crew decide to ‘follow the fleet’, rather than race, and are surprised to find they’re given third place at the end of the day! They have a most enjoyable day sailing ‘round the cans’ returning to SYH at around 1600 where Bev was waiting having returned from Derbyshire. The weather was glorious, with a sunny, warm evening spent on the deck of ‘Cachalot’ eating pizzas and enjoying the company of several ‘Young Gaffers’ who had been racing on ‘Sweet Return’.
Steve had given the main cabin bunks to PJ and Ben so Bev joined him in the forepeak – it’s just about comfortable enough for two, but VERY low on headroom! The forecast for Sunday was less windy so Steve took out the reef and Bev joined the crew for another enjoyable day following the fleet out in the bay. It takes us a very long time to tack back into Harwich Harbour and we finally arrive at 1800. The Lightship is closed and we manage to rustle up a meal on board for four from tins of curry and some rice found in one of the lockers. It’s an early rise on Monday 13 June with HW at Woodbridge Haven, 1125. ‘Cachalot’ leaves her berth at 0730 to motor sail up the coast in fair winds and crosses the Deben Bar at 1015, arriving back in the Tidemill YH 1230.
On Monday 23 August we plan to depart around 1230 for a few days in the river . . . but at 0930 an ambulance arrives looking for Bill’s wife Sally on ‘Cloud Nine’. It’s all very distressing as a second ambulance arrives but by 1230 we ask ourselves why we’re staying. There’s nothing we can do to help so, just after HW at 1415 we set off taking the ebb through Methersgate and Waldringfield with the staysail. As we pass the Rocks we notice a young lad racing around in a rib. Suddenly, it stops mid-river and he’s yelling for help. We turn quickly and motor back, a man arrives in a motor launch and tows him back to the Rocks – we can only assume he’s the somewhat irresponsible Dad.
We sail on down to Ramsholt, Billy’s Buoy is taken and George directs us to another quite a way downriver. The tide’s running very strongly as we pick up the buoy at 1615. Steve cooks a fine supper and Bev enjoys a full body and hairwash on deck as the sun goes down. All clean for the first time in a couple of weeks!! It’s quite windy and gusty later, chilly too, but a lovely full moon, cosy in the cabin with plenty of warm clothes.
After some persuasion from Steve, as it’s windier than forecast, we sail off the buoy on Tuesday 24 August with just the staysail against a strong tide in f.4-5. Sunny with some cloud we enjoy sailing back through Ramsholt and then down to Felixstowe Ferry. We were given a buoy mid-channel and managed to pick it up first time at 1510. Spent an hour ashore using Conor’s water taxi (£5 return and £10 for the mooring to John) but no fish and chips! They all closed at 3pm!! Pub was shut too on Tuesdays so had to settle for an ice cream and supper on board.
Wednesday we sailed back upriver to meet Lou and Maggie at Ramsholt, picking up a buoy opposite the pub at 1300.
Lovely lazy afternoon, sunny and calm. Having missed f&c last night, we motor ashore in the dinghy and have a great welcome for supper on the ‘Ramsholt Arms’ terrace. Met ‘Silver Phoenix’ from the Tidemill then back for drinks aboard ‘Cricket III’ with Lou and Maggie . . . strictly boots off before boarding as we were VERY muddy, motored back to ‘Cachalot’ as dusk falls 2030. Left our decks and dinghy seriously muddy for a morning clean up!
Thursday morning was very windy, and there’s not enough water over the cill until 1330 at the Tidemill. We bring in the bowsprit, stow the staysail and dinghy but leave cleaning up the mud until we’re in the marina. Set out for a rather lumpy motor back up to the marina in company with Lou and Maggie.
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 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.
Steve spent the morning getting the boat ready for Peter’s arrival while Bev tidied up the van, stowing tools, bikes etc., as she’s spending the week in Derbyshire to catch up on jobs around the house and garden . . . Held up on the M25, Peter was a bit late, but there was still time to get out of the Tidemill just before high water. They spent the night at Ramsholt on Billy’s buoy, drinking rum and planning a passage to Brightlingsea.
Since her launch in August, 2017, ‘Cachalot’ has been out of her berth and into the river on several occasions, but never actually left the Deben! In 2018 we had a late start, problems with the hull, no sails until July and there was still lots of ‘fitting out’ to be done. There were too many family commitments elsewhere in 2019 and last year we were all ‘locked down’! In searching the archive it’s nearly 15 years since she last crossed the Deben Bar. On 1 September, 2006 we returned from the OGA Classics Cruise, joined by Hedley, and sailed all the way up the river! Donna Morgan caught us on camera as we passed through Waldringfield . . . so, she’ll definitely be going out this year!
During a trip to Dartmouth in May, Steve acquired a beautiful winch from Steve M. He’d taken it off ‘Cormorant’ and was about to sell on eBay. It’s now securely fitted on the foredeck along with the cowl air vent over the forepeak cabin. Winches, kindly given to us by John and Jane, are also now set up with two pairs of clutches for the foresail sheets.
Below decks there was a radical tidy up, removing anything not required for a passage.
There’s now a secure place to keep the electric outboard, hooks for hanging wet gear and an improved area around the stove with places to stow all the essentials for cooking.
Steve cleaned the bilges and on checking the manual pump found it was totally seized and needed taking out, cleaning and re-fitting . . . in a particularly difficult place under the deck!
Looks like we’re all shipshape and ready to go! Peter is due to arrive on 12 July to join Steve for a first trip out of the river . . . then we hope to join the OGA East Coast cruise at the end of the month with more crew lined up.
At the end of July, we put the batteries back in the campervan and drove down to Woodbridge, Bev in the camper and Steve in the Freelander. Arriving quite late on 28 July, we left sorting out the van until morning and slept on the boat after a good supper cooked at home. We’d already got several invites for ‘socially distanced’ supper and/or drinks and as the weather brightened up, we looked forward to an enjoyable couple of weeks.
Bev was encouraged to go out in the little boat for a row upriver and back, Steve also found a lovely secluded little place to swim and tie up the dinghy opposite the Tidemill. We’ve also splashed out on a new electric outboard, still awaiting delivery from Germany.
The weather was truly scorching! Shorts, sunhats and suncream essential with 35 degrees in the shade for about a week. We enjoyed swimming in the river to cool down . . . and Steve scrubbed the topsides while we were moored on Bill’s buoy at Ramsholt.
The Tidemill barbecue was put to good use for entertaining, but Bev had forgotten to pack the gin, so there was ice, tonic and lemon but Steve missed the vital ingredient! It’s on the shopping list for next time.