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.
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 great week cruising with the gaffers, spending the last two nights in Ipswich, the passage back to the Deben aboard ‘Kestrel’ was cancelled due to severe weather warnings. James spent the night at Pin Mill and we returned to Woodbridge by car, tidied up the boat and drove back to Derbyshire late Sunday afternoon. After a week at home we return to Suffolk for the Tidemill annual barbecue on 11 August. Jim joins us for the evening and enjoys an afternoon on the river with Steve, sailing ‘Cachalette’ right back to her berth astern of ‘Cachalot’.
We’ve been checking the tides carefully this week as it’s Springs allowing us just over three hours to go out and back over the Tidemill YH bar during the daytime. The weather looks to be set fair too for a short trip out in the river to pick up a buoy and hoist the sails. It would be good to have another pair of hands and by chance, Leigh pops round to say he may be around to help after collecting his boat from the Orwell. So, today’s the day we go out in the river (with sails) for the first time!
The decks are cleared and everything stowed neatly in the cabin, sails are made ready, fenders cleaned of all the slimy sea squirts that have clung to them and off we go as the mark on the bar just covers 1.5m at 1400. Gently does it, but what’s happened to the engine? It’s making a horrible noise and Bev is keen to return to the marina. However, Leigh and Steve listen, take a careful look and decide it’s OK to continue with our project down river . . . we motor down past Loders Cut and pick up a buoy. We play for a while with the mainsail then motorsail back with the staysail.
We need to make sure to get back over the bar by just after 1700. Bev takes the helm on the return trip and motors upriver, over the bar and into the marina, doing well until the last turn into the berth, when a sudden gust of wind knocks her completely off course . . . thankyou, Leigh and ‘Mrs Brown’ (Richard and Eileen) for helping to get us safely back into the berth with damage to nothing but Bev’s confidence. Once the engine’s fixed, we need to practise tight manoeuvres under power.
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!
Having collected the sails in their smart red Ratsey & Lapthorn bags, we wait for a windless day to have a good look at them . . . hoping we’ll be able to bend on the mainsail whilst she’s still in her berth. Despite a short ‘blow’ at just the wrong moment, the sail is laced to the gaff and mast then flaked successfully without any mishaps.
Bev has repaired the very old mainsail bag found on the boat when we bought her. It will have to do for now – but a new one is on the list of ‘nice to haves’ for the future . . . more pressing is to measure up for ‘lazy jacks’. With the size of the loose-footed mainsail, they’re pretty essential!
We leave the other sails for now, as there’s a bit more work to be done on the bowsprit before setting the jib and we’re heading back to Derbyshire for a long weekend.
After just over a week at home, catching up with life in Derbyshire, jobs around the house and getting the OGA Gaffers Log to press, we return to Suffolk with the promise that the sails will have been brought to Suffolk Yacht Harbour for our collection on Monday.
As she seems to be taking up, Bev is tasked with cleaning the bilge and we drain it completely, fingers crossed she’s settling down now!
We’ve been doing lots of research into all the other ‘bits and pieces’ we’ll need, so combine the trip to collect the sails with quite an expensive visit to the chandlery, funded in part by Bev’s first State Pension payment! A special purchase, along with the essentials like the radio and water pump is a fine new clock with matching barometer. We also call at Larkmans to order cordage for halyards and sheets . . . lots of it!
We spot a post on Facebook:
“Mainsail for a beautiful, fully restored east coast (UK) gaff cutter. Traditional sail with narrow panels. Headsails already completed again with narrow panels, traditional mitre cut and of course handwork that only Ratsey & Lapthorn can produce.”
“There is only one standard of work in this loft and that is the very best.” T W Ratsey, 1833 Ratsey & Lapthorn
We check whether these sails are actually ours, and yes, they’ll soon be ready to collect . . .
Steve returns to Suffolk in the van on 12 October to be sure we’re ready for Ratsey & Lapthorn on Monday. It’s the Harwich Shanty Festival at the weekend, so Bev drives down in the car after the gasfitters have been. To make sure there’s good access for measuring, Steve moves the boat round to the long pontoon by the travel hoist on Monday, and we wait for Andy and Steve. The weather is good, if a little windy at times, and they leave with all the necessary notes to make the sails over the winter. Feels like a really big milestone.
There’s been a great deal of thought about how to be sure the boat is secure for the winter, and doesn’t cause too much worry as we’re so far away. The decision is made to store her ashore at the Tidemill. So, as Andy and Steve leave she’s lifted out again in the travel hoist and taken up to her winter quarters. We take home as much as possible for storage and leave her tucked up ashore, looking forward to a trip to Spain and Portugal. Three days later, Brittany Ferries phone to inform us that due to the hurricanes in the Bay of Biscay, our ferry is cancelled. We depart from Plymouth instead a couple of days late - pleased to have missed the full Biscay experience!
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.