On Friday morning, bright and early, BBC Radio Suffolk arrived to record the first of three interviews broadcast throughout the morning.
Although starting bright and sunny, there were warnings of a change in the weather as skippers began to think about preparing to leave for the Parade of Sail while the lock was on ‘free flow’. Untangling all the careful rafting from Wednesday, striking the bunting and deciding about how many reefs may be needed, 80 classic yachts and working boats slowly departed ABP Beacon Marina. Ben Collins was going to crew with us for the Parade of Sail and it was lovely to welcome him aboard on Friday morning.
Paul had organised the fleet into ‘squadrons’, each group streaming a long coloured ribbon to identify them to their lead boat. The locking out was brought forward to accommodate a commercial vessel making way upriver and by 1.30pm, the larger boats were hoisting sails and gathering under the Orwell Bridge. On schedule, we were joined by the flotilla of dinghies and open boats sailing up from Suffolk Yacht Harbour, Levington. As members of the first ‘squadron’, boats over 100 years old, we began to line up for departure and the skies began to change. Dark clouds had been gathering and there was a rumble of thunder. Within 20 minutes or so of the Parade setting sail the water began to churn, lightning struck and visibility dropped to only a few metres in the driving rain. Already sailing, skippers had to don waterproofs, shut hatches, scandalise sails and prepare to sail in close company through the spectacular thunderstorm.
After perhaps half an hour, the rain stopped, the wind dropped and the Parade continued in relative calm down to Suffolk Yacht Harbour. With everyone assigned berths scattered around the Harbour, we gathered at the Harbour Room for paella and an evening of entertainment. The rains returned on Saturday with a vengeance. We had been invited by the skipper to visit ‘Lilian’, the splendid 100′ motor yacht built in 1916 and were taken out to her by the water taxi run by EAST. As the rain eased we tried to dry everything out, turning on the newly fitted diesel heater and pleased we’d brought the summer cover with us. After a most enjoyable fish and chip supper in the Lightship we took out place at the highly entertaining charity auction and bid on a few items.