With the scrubbing grid booked for Wednesday we headed down to the boat on Tuesday afternoon. Light breeze and sunshine prevailed so it seemed appropriate to pop out for an early evening sail. Having gone down river to the Stour we headed up the Stour against the tide making all of 1.5kts at times despite wind in the sails and having goosewinged the No 1 genoa. We kept out of the channel both to avoid the stronger tide in deeper water and to keep out of the way of the ferry docking at Parkeston quay. We had a chilli on board, all kindly pre-prepared by Brian, but having left Dicky fettling away on Colchide we cut our sail short so that the food could be heated and rice cooked ready to serve up when we got back to berth. Turning around now with tide assistance we made good speed back to Shotley where now we had to turn up the Orwell against the outgoing tide. Between Orwell and No1 buoys it was necessary to have a bit of assistance from Mr Volvo in order to get back before the food would otherwise have been ruined. Nevertheless we still managed to keep both sails full until time to lower them away and motor back into SYH. Berthed up, beers in hand and a great chilli with rice sitting out in the cockpit enjoying the late sunset.
As we were intending to depart at HW in the morning for the scrubbing grid Al took my car keys and spent the night on Colchide with Dicky leaving Brian and I to rise at 04:00 and as quietly as we could motor around the marina to the grid. With no wind at all we loosely tied up with a fender lengthwise to give us a gap and waited for the tide to recede.
Brian did the honours in the galley and the others joined us around 06:00 for a hearty cooked breakfast. When the depth gauge stopped at 0.8m Melissa had settled onto her twin keels. As the tide dropped further exposing the slimy weed growth it was time to don the lower half of an old immersion suit and commence pressure washing the hull.
The outside of the hull and keels were not too bad, however between the keels there was heavy growth of some real ugly critters which had definitely been slowing the boat down through the water. As the hull dried off masking tape applied to the top of the antifoul line and the a fresh coat rolled on. With hardly a breath of wind the underside and between the keels was taking time to dry off and required a rub over with some paper towel to speed the process on. The tide had just about reached it’s lowest point by the time we had together managed to apply a coat of antifoul all round. As well as covering the boat, there was a good coating on Al’s shirt, Dicky’s elbow, the odd bit of blue hair and fingers! Some hand cleanser rubbed in and rinsed off took care of us but Al’s shirt was done for (good job he brought a very old one to wear). Whilst we had access to the underside a new shaft anode (kindly purchased by Brian) was attached. All that remained was to go and assist Dicky with a few jobs on Colchide before returning to Melissa as the tide rose up again. As the depth gauge finally indicated 0.9m we were afloat again and gently went astern off the grid and motored back round to our normal berth. With Melissa berthed and our kit stowed in the car we left Dicky finishing off his jobs on Colchide and made our way home again. Starting the day early was a good move as we managed to get the wash and re-antifoul completed before the day got really hot. A very productive day, made a lot easier by having good friends to lend a hand. Thanks again gents! Now we need a good forecast of fair winds to make another passage to the Blackwater and see exactly how much improvement a clean hull makes.
At last an overnight trip down to Bradwell. This time was to be in company with Colchide an Atalanta A89 owned by Dicky. A leisurely start taking the last of the ebb tide down river Brian with me and Al with Dicky. Colchide was off down river slipping through the water ahead of us. We had to motor sail through the docks but once past Harwich shelf were able to sail again. With Colchide still ahead we paused to change the headsail from No 3 Genoa to the No 1, we were going to need all the canvass we had to keep up. On past Walton-on-the-Naze Colchide took the coastal route whilst we headed further out to gain a little more tide assistance. We were then able to set the spinnaker and thus rigged even though travelling further made up time on Colchide.
Turning into the Blackwater by Colne Bar starboard hand mark we doused the spinnaker and set the No 1 genoa. Even though we had altered course the wind appeared to follow us round and we would have been better off leaving the spinnaker up longer. As it was we had cut ahead of Colchide and were able to hold position and we both entered Bradwell Marina line astern where we had been able to obtain adjoining berths. Time for a beer or two before heading out to The Green Man for a really nice meal consumed in fresh air sitting in the beer garden.
With daylight coming early it was easy to rise and breakfast before setting out just after 7am. Unfortunately it was a day for the fishermen to enjoy, not for sailing on a passage. We motor sailed and took the deep water route again whilst Colchide hugged the coast for the most direct route home. The wind didn’t fill in for us and though we could have sailed our groundspeed would have been around 2kts, fine for a day sail but insufficient to make passage. With the motor ticking along at 1500rpm and sails doing their bit to help we were making good progress. Up by Wallet No 1 we turned in towards Medusa and were able to make progress by sail power alone, turning in for a line back to Harwich harbour we converged with Colchide once more. Motor back on through the docks until in clear air up the river Orwell where we were able to do a final bit of sailing towards Suffolk Yacht Harbour. With Colchide closing on us we decided that was enough and with motor back on took down the sails and headed in just in front of Colchide.
Outbound berth to berth 28.7NM 6hr 3min, return berth to berth 30.4NM 6hr 33min. The last time Melissa was out of the water for a scrub down was 11 August 2020, following that with lockdown and lack of use she has been accumulating growth on her hull. It would appear that Colchide having only recently been launched is slipping through the water considerably more efficiently. Next job is to book the scrubbing grid again and see what improvement a clean hull will make when we can cruise in company again.
Third outing of this strange year. I had managed to visit the boat earlier with the first easing of lockdown, when I managed to give the batteries a bit of charge and run the engine for a bit. With the engine in gear and a few revs on there was a stream of weed and growth spun off the propeller and trailing behind the berth! The first day actually sailing this year was the 30 March, a gentle sail up the Stour to Mistley with the tide and turning at high water, the tide then assists the passage back again. The wind didn’t make it a straight run back so we were kept busy with a few tacks in shallow water, just to make it interesting. 22NM for the first day out.
The second outing was 16 April when we headed out in light winds and whilst it was reasonably sunny it was still pretty chilly so we got just past Stone Banks before turning for home, heading up river Dicky fancied popping up past SYH for a quick look at Pin Mill before returning to berth, 20NM for the day out.
Now to 21 April, with a good breeze forecast we took down the No 1 genoa and raised the No 3 before leaving the pontoon. As we left the marina with Suntis the wood boat coming down from Ipswich we motored across the channel out of it’s way before raising the mainsail to the first reef (not essential but makes for more comfortable sailing). With this configuration and the tide running in our favour we headed down through the docks. The wind coming over the big container ships does some strange things in the harbour but we sailed on through without any drama. At the harbour entrance we decided to pop the second reef in the mainsail and reduce a bit of headsail to match. With this configuration we were well comfortable, unlike the yacht hard pressed and over canvassed coming into the harbour.
Continuing on out it was going to be a hard slog to make the Yacht Beacon so we just opted to head out to Cork Sand before turning for home. A rapid 6.5NM in just over the hour, apparent wind peaked at 28kts and the waves around 2.5m gave us a good ride. With hot food in the oven as we returned to calmer water in the harbour and plenty of time in hand we sailed on up to Royal Harwich Yacht Club before turning for home. Now against tide and wind for the last bit it was time to run the engine and stow the sails. Back on berth 21NM this time, nicely consistent mileage despite completely different conditions. Roll on the end of restrictions when we can get together for a few overnight runs.
So with lockdown 2.0 approaching rapidly and a weather forecast that at least indicated that we would stay dry it was time to get out sailing once more. First job of the day however was to check on Colchide, already out of the water and on her trailer. Crawling up underneath the tarpaulins was necessary in order to lower her twin lifting keels to rest on the trailer for the winter ashore, an understandably small omission by a soaking wet through Dicky when she was lifted out. On arriving at Melissa there was a strange piece of plastic on the deck, looking up it was clear where it had come from.
Whilst it’s interesting to see what windspeed we are experiencing it certainly wouldn’t stop us sailing. I will obtain another very expensive piece of plastic during lockdown and shin up the mast when we are allowed back to the boat. Making slow progress down the Orwell I made contact with Michael who was leaving Ipswich and expected him to catch us up being in a considerably larger yacht. We took the tide up the Stour even though it meant making a few tacks. With a rising tide the Stour provides a large expanse of navigable water and we were tacking on around 3m of water. Colder than it has been so far this autumn a bit of tacking exercise, some soup inside and the sun shining it was good to be out on the water.
No sign of Michael’s yacht but we had plenty of company without feeling crowded. It certainly seemed that a lot of people had the same idea of one last day out before lockdown. As we tacked down closer to Mistley the light breeze we had been enjoying eased off and as the tide was on the cusp of turning we turned too. A gentle sail back and with the wind just abaft the beam Al was keen to fly the spinnaker once more. With spinnaker up we picked up an extra knot of speed and as the tide started to pick up too we could make steady progress back towards Felixstowe docks.
On passing Shotley and heading back up the Orwell it was necessary to start the engine and drive back to SYH. Tacking in the light air against the tide would have seen us going backwards out to sea! Back on berth wrapped up and on the road for 16:30, a little later than usual and a lot more traffic on the road. Still if that was to be the last trip this year we added a respectable 22NM to a total of 586NM so far. Hopefully we will pick up a few more days in December.
Had a good little run out on 1 October in company with Colchide when we popped out to Medusa and back. Dicky wasn’t fit to sail today so it was just Al, Brian and I that were to go out. On arrival with me putting the kettle on the crew took the No 1 Genoa down and raised the No 3. Once into the river we raised the mainsail to the first reef and set off down river making good use of the 18-20 kt breeze to overcome the tide.
Once clear of Harwich harbour entrance we opted to put the second reef into the mainsail, groundspeed not affected but it made it more comfortable (and easier to brew up!). We sailed out towards the Naze allowing plenty of sea room to avoid the shallows, as we passed the Naze we hardened up a bit on the wind and headed on towards Wallet No 4.
Out towards Wallet with Al not wanting to be late home and the prospect of fighting the tide back to the harbour entrance we tacked around. Keeping up on the wind made Brian’s galley work awkward but we soon had a steak pie, a cuppa to wash it down and a fairy cake as a treat (thanks Al). As it was we had a good run back, I snapped an image on my phone as we passed the HHA webcam, and then enjoyed a favourable tide up the river.
By the time we were ready to drop the sails there were several yachts all together in the same bit of water, don’t normally have this many out on a weekday it was more like a summer outing. Back in we were wrapped up and on the road home by 14:35! Well early for Al but having sailed 23.2NM berth-to-berth in 4hr 27min at 5.2kt average. Cracking sail for an October day out.
Wind directions were looking good, tides were in our favour, so with a slightly earlier than usual meet up we set off into a murky grey day. Down river there was a gentle breeze blowing, but surely that isn’t the direction we were promised? Allowing for wind sheer over land and especially over the mega container ships in Felixstowe docks we pressed on. Taking the tide up the coast we were making reasonable time although we couldn’t sail the direction we actually desired. As wind speed decreased and still remained in the wrong direction we opted to motorsail, groundspeed increased from 4kts to 7kts and now it was in the right direction too. We would make the pub tonight after all. Very little to see along the coast, just made out the cottages at the entrance to the river Ore, Orford lighthouse of course conspicuous by it’s absence. Sizewell dome made an appearance out of the murk and Southwold light was flashing every 20 seconds. At Lowestoft entrance we followed the recommended route in from North Newcombe not wanting to play chicken with the shallows. Duly calling up for permission to enter we followed a work boat in. Unable to raise the Royal Norfolk Harbourmaster on channel 80 we resorted to mobile phone to be told “hang a left and berth anywhere”. On motoring in following the sign for visitors berthing, the pontoon was full, though if all the boats had moored a bit closer to each other there would have been room for two or three more! We went round and picked up an empty finger berth and Al went up to the office to make sure we were not obstructing any locals.
All was well so we shut down and tidied up before entering the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club for some food and drink. The beer was good, as was the food, the staff friendly too. The whole place was a bit like stepping into a time warp, maybe that’s how they like it but to us it didn’t quite match the grandeur of it’s title.
Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club
The shiney bright (and big) Fairline motor boat looked a little out of place amongst the commercial fishing boats. Back on board we were able to get a few hours shut-eye before slipping at 03:40, having obtained clearance from port control first. Departing a well lit harbour the North Sea was particularly black! Even after the eyes adjusted and gained some night vision, two days before the new moon and a bit of cloud cover didn’t provide much ambient light. Fortunately the buoys were well lit and easy to follow. Clearing East Barnard with the wind astern we hoisted the No 1 genoa and settled down to a very gentle sail waiting for the tide effect to kick in. As the sky lightened and with zero apparent wind we were able to hoist the mainsail going downwind. At around 06:00 the spinnaker was deployed.
Early morning spinnaker
Initially providing only a modest increase in speed but soon as wind and tide combined we were covering ground at a good pace, at one point we covered 3.6NM at an average of 8.15kts. My Garmin even recorded two counts above 9kts which was backed up by the Standard Horizon CP180 chartplotter.
9.1kts from Standard Horizon GPS
Off Orford Ness with our course turning 20 degrees to starboard combined with a building breeze we dropped the spinnaker and reverted to No 1 genoa. Of course, 20 minutes later the wind eased back and the spinnaker would probably have been OK again but the No 1 was providing plenty of drive and after all we were cruising not racing. It doesn’t take much increase in wind strength to go from “exciting” to “scary” and then for something to break. For the statisticians we went up to Lowestoft berth-to-berth 48.4NM in 9hr 23min, average 5.16kts and returned 44.8NM in 8hr 45min average 5.12kts.
At last the wind, the tides and the crew were all suitable and available so with a slightly earlier start than normal we set off at 09:00 for Ramsgate. Pushing down river against the tide meant using the engine to assist progress and topping up the batteries at the same time. As we passed through Harwich harbour a call from Dicky who couldn’t make it came in and we directed him to the Harwich Haven webcam so we could give him a wave.
Webcam view passing through Harwich harbour
With full main and No 1 genoa we were making reasonable progress and then the wind strength kicked up a gear and we put the first reef in and a partly furled genoa. Trucking along nicely we rounded the top of Gunfleet and headed down and across Kings Channel to the Little Sunk. Plenty of water for our bilge keels and on across Black Deep to Foulger’s Gat.
Approaching Long Sand Inner
Long Sand Inner SWM can just be seen above the first stbd stanchion. Popping out of the wind farm by Long Sand Middle SWM gave us a straight run down to North Foreland.
Approaching North Foreland
Dropping sails after crossing the Ramsgate fairway the crew eventually made contact with Ramsgate Port Control and we followed a survey vessel into the port. Unable to raise the marina staff we helped ourselves to one of the plentiful visitors berths. Berth to berth 44NM in 9hr 26min, average groundspeed 4.65kts. After changing the No 1 genoa for the No 3 genoa in anticipation of the return run, we set off down the pontoon and met the friendly staff who are happy to provide up to 4hrs stopover at no cost!
After climbing the huge staircase to get to the pub at the top of the hill we were disappointed to find that although several real ales on tap, no food was being served. We walked back down into the town and found a pub serving food, three meals and drinks for £24 great value. Back to the yacht for forty winks before slipping lines at 23:00. With the front passing through the winds got up and we pooped the first reef in the mainsail. Apparent wind got up into the twenties and we were enjoying a brisk night sail, North Foreland to North Gunfleet 25NM in 3hr 52min average 6.5kts hard on the wind. Unfortunately for us with a bit too much Northerly element to the wind and combined with a strong cross tide we were unable to pass the safe side of South Cork. We popped in a tack but as it was clear we could be out for several extra hours fighting the foul tide the decision was made to utilise the engine to help take us safely home. Back onto berth at SYH we had covered 44.5NM berth to berth in 7hr 56min averaging 6.5kts across the ground.
Ramsgate and return tracks
Packing up took a bit longer than usual but the run home was brisk with a lot less traffic than usual. Here’s to the next outing.
One week on from scrubbing Melissa’s hull and time to have a sail out to see the difference. Originally planning to pop down to Ramsgate, the weather forecast for Wednesday has gone from “OK” to “horrendous” and back to “unpleasant”, so call up plan B, just a day sail. Hard on the wind down river we opted for the first reef, once clear of the Stour and with open sea ahead we shook out the reef and plunged onwards towards S Cork. It soon became clear we would be unlikely to make S Cork so we settled for a more comfortable point of sail, just off the wind but still well heeled whilst Al put the kettle on! Turning inside Cork Sand we opted to run with wind on the quarter rather than dead astern before gybing back to the Yacht Beacon. Tacking round and heading back parallel to the channel we were overhauled by a large container vessel. Given that we were sailing in less than 10m of water we were perfectly safe from being run down. Turning towards the harbour and surfing in on the short waves with wind astern it was prudent to put the preventer on though it didn’t actually get any work to do. Once through the harbour the river was so much flatter and the wind abated. We dropped sails before the marina to avoid any conflict with the dinghies and two sail training yachts. Back on berth we had a good 22NM run out, overall average 4.5kts, running with a bit of tide down the side of Cork Sand averaging 6kts.
With the scrubbing grid booked and HW at 05:30 Brian and I drove down after tea to spend the Monday night on board, Dicky also was down working on Colchide so we had a couple of sociable beers before turning in. Up early we motored round to the scrubbing grid, hopefully not disturbing the neighbours. Now just a case of waiting for the tide to run out and us to settle onto Melissa’s bilge keels. Once on the grid Brian fired up the oven and Dicky joined us for a cooked breakfast. Having eaten the water had receded enough to don waders (cut down survival suit) and commence the pressure washing.
Commencing pressure washing
The antifoul paint, despite it’s extortionate price, clearly does not keep the fouling at bay! Still at least as the hull was still wet it was coming off easily with the pressure washer.
The last time Melissa was out of the water was 21 March 2019 when we were last on the scrubbing grid to clear the fouled propeller and I had brushed her clean at that point. Probably the enforced lockdown, no sailing, from Covid 19 has allowed the growths to have a field day.
and the prop still worked!
Looking like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean!
There be Pirates
With the high temperature it wasn’t long before the bootline was dry enough for some masking tape and the bottom of the boat was finished washing just as the water cleared the grid. It still took a fair bit of effort (Brian and Dicky) to wash and brush all the debris clear. Mixing up two part tins of antifoul gave us enough to cover all but the last bit between the keels. That will wait until next time when we will take her ashore for a couple of days. A new shaft anode purchased and fitted and a brush of teak oil around the rubbing strake. A lot of hard work, a lot of sweat and a lot of water drunk but finally the results of all that work could be seen.
Waiting for the tide
Now with time on hand waiting for the tide to return we cleared away the gear and went down to Colchide, putting Dicky up his mast for some fettling. Then rigging his modified foresail and setting up his reefing lines before settling down onto Melissa with a well earned beer until she was afloat again just before 3pm. Now to look forward to seeing the difference on a decent run down to Ramsgate (weather permitting).
With four of us available the plan would be to take both Colchide and Melissa out but on arrival at SYH the breeze appeared to be more than the 15kt forecast and was howling in the rigging. Dicky decided to leave Colchide on her berth and so the four of us set out on Melissa. With the wind pushing into the Marina it was a reverse exit from the berth round to Port and around the end of the pontoon into the next alleyway before driving out. Good Southerly wind and favourable tide for sailing up The Stour meant that we had a tough tacking sail down river. If there was only two of us I would have motor sailed it. We arrived at Mistley still with tide in hand and decided to pop into Jacques bay to anchor for lunch. Good run back with the gusts rounding us up enough to warrant easing the main but not steady enough to warrant an extra reef. Good company and a good 23NM day sail, Melissa definitely not as sprightly as she should be so the next outing will be a visit to the scrubbing grid.