Back to the Tidemill after the Classic Yacht Regatta, it was time to get ready for the OGA East Coast Cruise, July 2022.
Having finished all the interior coachroof improvements (just in time), including a handrail to run the full length of the cabin on both sides, we were ready. With crewman, Dan ‘the Miller’ we set sail from the Tidemill YH in company with new OGA members Ben and Freddie on ‘Tannhauser’. It’s the first time ‘Cachalot’ had sailed beyond Stone Point in our ownership, so we were keen to reach Brightlingsea, to join the fleet after the East Coast Race at Stone. 1900 finds us departing our berth at the Tidemill YH and motoring out over the sill. It’s cloudy with light breeze, a warm, balmy evening. At 2100 we pick up Billy’s Buoy at Ramsholt with ‘Tannhauser’ 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, but there isn’t much water and we both run aground . . . finally making it round to the Heritage Pontoon where we raft up to share stories of the passage. Ben has had problems 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.
On Sunday 24 July the OGA fleet began to arrive. 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 of the renowned ‘Safari Supper’. 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.
After our extra night in Brightlingsea, the OGA fleet departs Brightlingsea Harbour Tuesday 26 July, 1100 for a passage race to Suffolk Yacht Harbour, Levington in light cloud and winds F3-4. It’s a self-timed start from a bearing on Bateman’s Tower and we hoist the sails following ‘Plum’, ’Reverie’, ‘Clytie’, ‘Rely’, ‘Cygnet of London’ and ‘Kelpie II’. It’s an enjoyable sail and we make about 4.5 knots but soon begin to fall behind the rest of the fleet and by 1400 they’re all on the horizon as we pass Jaywick. Failing to get past Walton Pier before the tide turns we motor sail for an hour to reach Pye End Buoy at 1830. Finally reaching Harwich Harbour at 1900, the breeze picks up for a good sail up to SYH where Ben takes our lines – everyone else has retired to the pub!
The fleet splits up on Wednesday with some departing early to get up to Aldeburgh and Lowestoft for the weekend races. We set sail in light winds at slack water, heading for Pin Mill with plenty of opportunity to practise gibes in beautiful sunshine. Mid-afternoon we continue up the Orwell and spend an hour waiting for the lock as a large commercial ship is turned before we’re let in. We take berths at the Haven Marina with ‘Tannhauser’ and ‘Kestrel’ then make our way to John & Jodie’s for an excellent Gaffers’ supper party. We leave Ipswich on ‘free flow’ at 1130, following ‘Kestrel’, and spend a rather stressful day as the winds increase to F6. Motoring down to SYH we take refuge in the marina and, as the ‘Lightship’ is open, enjoy supper there. Friday dawns with a cloudless, sunny sky but very light winds. We set the sails off Suffolk YH and drift downriver into Harwich Harbour. Once out of the harbour there’s a bit more wind for a lovely sail up to the Deben entrance (with a bit of motor-sailing to get there in time). We sail over the bar, right up to Waldringfield and back into the Tidemill at 1430. At the prize giving in Lowestoft, ‘Cachalot’ is honoured to be awarded the Concours d’Elegance Trophy.