28 July 2022

Our plan was good, the tide was right, so we set off down river on our way to Ramsgate. As we departed Harwich harbour Mr Stena decided to come out too. Not the vision you would normally like to see coming for you, but then as we were sailing in 4m of water we were not in any danger of being run down.

Leaving the harbour behind the wind was not quite as had been forecasted. We wanted to sail out on a course of around 150 degrees in order to skirt around the top of Gunfleet Sand unfortunately for us our best course would have had us going straight through the windfarm on Gunfleet! Rather than attempting that we just sailed out past The Naze and decided to pop down to Brightlingsea instead. Normally if we were intending to visit anywhere around The Blackwater we would have set off some three hours previously. Still we had a good breeze and still a couple of hours of good tide taking us down the coast. Running in from Knoll we still had plenty of water over Colne Bar and set our course up the river against the ebbing tide. By our calculations we were arriving with around 20 – 30 minutes to spare that would allow us to enter the marina over the cill. Having called up the Harbourmaster we sat stemming the tide for a few minutes before he escorted us in and found us a berth in the “posh” side of the marina. Paying our dues they were rather surprised when we said we would leave on the next high water ie 01:40! rather than midday on the Friday.

With lines prepared to slip later we had a beer on board before wandering up to The Yachtsman pub for a meal. Returning to Melissa it was clear that even if we wanted to leave we were now completely trapped inside the marina. Clear too that we would not want to cross the cill without being certain of adequate clearance.

Having a last beer on board we got our heads down for a few hours before our 01:40 departure. No moon to assist us but the stars were out and even spotted a satellite passing overhead. The leading lights were obvious as we left and the channel is well marked as we made our way seawards.

Whilst we had a nice breeze it wasn’t going to allow us to head straight up the coast but we were able to make a course out towards the top of the windfarm. From there it became more torturous getting back and so once we turned in towards Harwich with the wind now pretty much on-the-nose it was time to have some assistance from the engine and take the headsail away. Brian put a cooked breakfast on whilst we were making our way in which was plated up by the time we were secured alongside. Not the outing that we planned for but still managed to have a good sail down and a few night hours on the way back.

9 – 10 July 2022

With favourable tides and a weather forecast that looked possible we set off on Saturday leaving home at a civilised 09:30. Being a weekend trip both Brian and I could take our wives along leaving the dogs in capable hands at home. The number of bags being transferred onto the boat you might have thought we were off for a week. Plenty of water and alcohol does weigh fairly heavy! On starting the engine it sounded a bit odd but water was spitting out the exhaust and once warm we set off gently out of her berth. On reaching the marina entrance, with a few more revs, the overheat alarm went off. Apologies to the yacht following who probably wondered what I was doing as I reversed back towards the fuel berth and tied up. With the to off the water inlet the strainer was clear but something was reducing the water flow. A screwdriver wasn’t long enough, nor was the wooden spoon handle. I picked out a wooden clothes hangar and removed the trouser bar, bingo just right for poking down the inlet and disturbing whatever it was that was blocking the water flow. Engine restarted, now sounding normal again, bilge pumped out and off we went. Even with the tide running out of the river we still needed to run the engine to make our way out through the harbour. Although the wind was light and progress was slow we were enjoying the sight of the Thames Barges that must have had a race meeting in progress. Not certain that reaching Bradwell was going to be an option nevertheless we pressed on for the Naze.

Rounding the Naze and heading down the coast we started to pick up and not too log before we could fly the spinnaker for a bit more speed. We had a good spinnaker run all the way down and rang up the marina for a berth on the way. Dropping the spinnaker by the power station wall we put lines and fenders down for a port side berth only to find that B19 which we had been allocated was occupied! As B20 was empty we had a quick swap of lines (two small fenders already on stbd side anyway) and dropped into B20 and secured ourselves. Too late to be speaking to marina staff who by now had gone home we had ourselves a beer before heading off, past the Pigeon post, to the Green Man for a meal.

After the meal, wine and nibbles on board in the cockpit with a quick game of cards as the sun set before turning in. We had plenty of time in the morning for a leisurely breakfast before chatting to the marina staff who were unaware that the boat occupying B19 was still in place as it was supposed to have been moved on. Departing Bradwell the wind was enough for us to hoist the spinnaker again and make our way down towards Colne Bar. It was getting really light, the spinnaker flopping about and our groundspeed dropping right off. Time to drop spinnaker and pop the engine on for a while. As I sorted out the spinnaker down below the crew were pulling out the No1 Genoa and the breeze started to kick in now on our beam. Engine off again and we were sailing once more. Past the Naze it looked like being a spinnaker run into the harbour but with the wind increasing we just goosewinged the sails and had a brisk rolling ride in. With 5 to 6Kts of groundspeed and 10 to 14kts of apparent wind it was no surprise to see yachts coming out with reefs in. With a lot of Sunday yachts out we picked our space early and spun around dropping the mainsail early but then had plenty of time to get covers on and fenders out etc before arriving at her berth. 28NM down just under 6 hrs and 28NM back at 6:30 hrs. Plenty of sunshine, plenty of sailing, plenty of alcohol in great company, who could ask for more?

9 10 June 2022

Finally a weather window and a favourable tide together with a willing crew meant that an overnight visit to Bradwell was on. Unfortunately at the last minute Brian went down with a cold and had to call off. With our dog under the care of our daughter it meant that Carol could come along too. As we prepared to slip we weren’t the only ones as two other yachts on our pontoon were also preparing to depart for the Blackwater. We slipped out and raised sails taking the ebb tide out of the river made our way over to The Naze keeping a weather eye out for the poorly marked pot buoys, some of which have three odd sorts of floating objects and lots of bits of old rope attached to them! We pushed on out before tacking back in towards Frinton-on-Sea, the next tack took us out to Gunfleet windfarm on a better course as the tide built in our favour. The next tack was a long one and we were heeling 25 to 30 degrees but with little weather helm and a steady breeze it was a comfortable sail. Carol was well wrapped up against the breeze, with apparent wind peaking around 25kts.

Approaching Colne Bar in order not to be swept up the Colne river we opted for a short tack towards North Eagle giving us a better line in. We dropped sails early before ending up at West Mersea on the wrong side of the river then motored the last bit in to Bradwell marina. Having phoned in earlier we slipped easily into our allocated berth for the night, tied up and opened a can of beer before heading off to the Green Man for a meal. Plenty of time for breakfast in the morning with HW Bradwell at 09:30 we slipped at 08:40. Raising sails and making a slow but steady progress out with the wind being considerably less than the forecast we opted to take the No 3 Genoa down and raise the No 1. A bit of a challenge for Al as it was a little choppy at the time but once up it was definitely the right sail as our groundspeed for a while was up in excess of 7 kts. We made good progress up the coast and the sun was out too.

Al made use of the wooden pushpit seat that Brian had made, addded a temporary garden seat cushion for a bit of comfort. As we past Frinton we were slowing with the wind now astern and went onto a goosewinged ride skirting the shallows off the Naze and remained on that sail plan all the way into Harwich harbour entrance.

Entering the Harbour the wind picked up and even furling some of the Genoa away we were covering the ground between 5 and 6 kts against the last of the ebb tide. Back on berth we had covered 34NM on the outbound leg and 29NM on the return. The only downside to the trip I now have to make repairs to the broken toilet seat (thanks Carol). Fortunately it looks like I can just replace the hinges for under £10 as a new seat online looks like being around £56 for the standard and £99 for the soft close version!

2 June 2022

Light wind and plenty of sunshine, ideal conditions for Carol so we took the dog down with us and ventured out of the marina into the river. With the tide coming in and the wind blowing up the river I opted to sail up the Orwell towards Ipswich under headsail alone. With a normal crew we would have had the mainsail up and possibly the spinnaker but it was enough to give the dog an outing. On the approach to the Orwell bridge we were treated to a cracking flypast! We didn’t get to see the helicopter fleet but the rest of them were popping over at regular intervals. Carol just had her phone out to snap a few pics as we went along, not up to capturing aircraft.

Turning around at the Orwell bridge I rolled away the foresail and had to motor our way back down to SYH as the Red Arrows flew past overhead, doubt if they could have spotted my RAFSA Ensign on the stern though. Back at SYH Carol managed to step off first with the stern line and I nipped off and popped the bow lines on, looked like we had been doing it together for years. Just a gentle 10NM out in 3hr 15min, plenty of sunshine for Carol, plenty of helm time for me and Tegan seemed to be quite content on board.

25 May 2022

Due to an adverse weather forecast for Tuesday, chances of thunderstorms, combined with the prospect of a return passage from Bradwell with a strong wind on the stern making for a rocky rolling ride we decided that discretion was the way ahead and opted for a day sail on Wednesday instead. Now Thursday or Friday might have looked more promising but other commitments wrote those days off. So it was that we were preparing Melissa to sail, listening to the howl of wind in the rigging and seeing 27kts of wind whilst still in the marina. Undeterred we headed out and opted for two reefs in the mainsail and with a partly rolled No 3 genoa set off down river. Making good speed with the tide taking us out too it wasn’t the time to be pinching the wind so we popped in a tack before the dock which gave us a good line out without interfering with the dredger. As we approached South Shelf with the tide and leeway pulling us into the channel we tacked across the harbour before tacking out again staying well clear of commercial operations. The short choppy sea was making for a bumpy wet ride out and with apparent wind popping up over 30kts the cooker was often at the limits of the gimbals. Strange that we appeared to be the only yacht out sailing…….

Out by Stone Banks we tacked around and with the wind now more on the beam we had a flatter ride back, easier on both crew and oven. Now on the return we did spot another yacht or two out enjoying the breeze, although the yacht that followed us in that had no sails up running on engine couldn’t keep up with us under sail. Running back up river we contemplated going up towards Ipswich but as the river bends it’s way inland and the wind gets harder on the nose we opted for an early finish and a hot drink when back in the marina. A short day out but we managed 16NM and averaged in excess of 6Kts as we shot back in from Stone Banks. Quite wet and windy for Carol’s first sail of this year but despite wrapping up against the spray it was pleasantly warm.

12 May 2022

As Dicky was busy it was just the three of us to take Melissa out for the day. As we departed Harwich harbour and skirted the shipping channel, Al set us off on a course “best to sun”. Brian had brought a borrowed 360 camera with him and had a go holding it out on a stick. Unlike the normal “gopro” video he had been told to just raise it up and the software would do the rest when downloaded. You can see the results here.

Melissa on 360 camera

Not sure that the subject matter lends itself to this sort of filming, I find a bent mast and a “banana boat” a bit off putting. Think we will stick to the normal cameras or the wide angle lens of the “gopro” style camera in future. Our course left us heading out towards Cork Sand and with a falling tide we judiciously chose to tack away before we would have been sitting on the sand. Now we were making progress over to Stone Banks and with the prospect of a conflicting course with a yacht coming out with just a mainsail, clearly under motor but without a day shape, we tacked back out and now we could make a course to take us past South Cork. Turing around South Cork we were nicely on a beam reach for home and a suitable point to put pies in the oven. Brian kindly brought a portion of homemade shepherds pie (gluten free) for Al. We had been covering ground at a good pace and found ourselves beating the DFDS ferry back into the harbour, not that he would have come anywhere near us as we were only in around 2m of water across Harwich shelf! Back up to SYH and on berth 25NM covered and most of it in full sunshine.

12 April 2022

February and March have been a big disappointment, a combination of factors coincided so that whenever there was a weather window to go sailing either I or my crew were unavailable. However, at last Melissa has been out where she likes it best, a sunny day sail out up the coast. Al having recovered from a bout of Covid and Michael who’s yacht is still ashore in Ipswich joined me for a day sail. A couple of tacks down river with the first reef in and then motored past Shotley and across the Stour entrance. Sailing again out of the harbour we put in an extra tack to stay well clear of a fishing boat and then had a gentle sail out past Pye End. Photos from Michael’s phone.

Once we had finished a cup of soup we tacked, shook out the reef and took the tide up the coast. The buoyage at the entrance to the Deben looks different again this spring but the website is still showing the 2021 positions, it will be interesting to see just how much it has changed to. Hopefully there will be an aerial update by drone at LW as per previous years. My homemade pies went into the oven and were served up with gravy, just for Michael and I as the pastry wasn’t the gluten free sort. They must have been OK as the bowls were emptied out. Just past Bawdsey manor we turned around and headed back making reasonable progress against the last of the tide. Turning up into the harbour I did suggest that the crew raise the spinnaker as we were sailing goosewinged but they politely declined, a little bit of assistance then from the engine and once clear of the docks we sailed the last leg up to SYH. A good day out in good company, 24NM covered.

26 January 2022

After a promising weather forecast it was looking rather overcast and murky when we arrived at the boat. Having made the journey down and with a cuppa in hand we set off from berth. Had to dodge the dredger but plenty of room around it and a cheery wave from the operators, probably thought we were mad, they may be right. Took a gentle path with the last of the tide down towards Harwich and the open sea. Heading out on a beam reach with a remarkably flat sea the only downside was a lack of sunshine. Mugs of soup the next order of the day as it looked like the sun was trying to peek through. As we were approaching Medusa the pies went in the oven and we continued on until the GPS said we had covered 10NM. As the Gps clocked over to 10NM we made our only tack of the day and headed back in. Progress now a little slower against the set of the tide and pies served up in bowls with a touch of gravy. At least the sun now broke through and it definitely felt warmer on the back of your neck. A second yacht could be seen along the coast between Titchmarsh and Harwich then shortly after a set of sails heading out directly towards us, all that sea and they came straight out to where we were! Passing by at Stone Banks they turned around shortly after and being a 38 footer soon overhauled us on the way in. Took a snapshot of us from the Harwich Haven webcam on my phone as we passed, due to the wide angle we only appear as a small blip on the screen.

Melissa from HHA webcam

We had slow but steady progress through the docks and picked up a bit more breeze when clear of the ships. Sails dropped outside SYH, fenders deployed and sail cover on we had less room round the dredger going in but adequate to pass without them having to stop work. Back on berth we had covered exactly 20NM and were packed away and on the road within 10 minutes.

Track 26 January 2022

Thanks to Brian and “birthday boy” Al for their company. For those that couldn’t make it there’s always another day to come.

21 January 2022

The first outing of 2022, a slightly delayed start to the day whilst I replaced Melissa’s engine start battery. It has served us well for 9 years but would appear to have dropped a cell so time for a new one. I couldn’t find one the same as I had previously purchased which meant doing a position swap around with the leisure battery and renewing a couple of the cable terminals. Whilst Brian and I were on Melissa, Al and Dicky were doing a couple of jobs on Colchide. Having completed the battery change and started the engine we had a cuppa and waited for Al and Dicky to join us. With all four now on board we slipped out of berth and proceeded out of the marina, taking care to pass clear of the dredger maintaining the 2m depth. With an incoming tide and a shorter day sail we took the tide up river towards Ipswich. This did mean that we had a fair bit of tacking to keep us busy on the way up.

Tacking up river

With pies provided by Dicky nicely heated up in the oven and the tacks getting shorter as we approached the Orwell bridge, we turned around ate our grub and headed back home. The last of the incoming tide was now against us and with the wind behind us it was time to break out the spinnaker. It wasn’t a racing manoeuvre, but eventually it went up, filled, and provided some much needed assistance.

Happy crew having got it up!

A pleasant run back down river, time to have another brew up on the way before having to drop sails outside SYH.

Relaxing spinnaker running with a hot drink.

Having four of us on board the spinnaker and sheets were repacked and stowed, mainsail dropped and covered, fenders deployed, stern warp made ready, washing up completed, even Ensign and Burgee lowered all before stepping off and berthing up. A short but very pleasant start to 2022. With the right clothing and the sun shining it wasn’t too chilly, 12NM to begin the year’s tally.

21 January 2022, track up and down river.

15-16 June 2021

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.

Tuesday track.

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.

View from scrubbing grid

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.