Friday, 31 July 2009

I leave Heybridge and am now in Burnham

16-10: One final picture of Heybridge basin as I lock out this morning - I enjoyed being there even tho' I was ill for some of the time (BTW - I feel better if not totally recovered - but I have just done a 35 mile passage requiring some navigation (I mean sandbank-avoidance!)).

I am now in Burnham-on-Crouch Yacht Harbour - another nice place.

There was no wind this morning, but I left the Blackwater on the ebbing tide. I then took a short cut over some sand banks and JUST managed it - with the keel fully up and all the alarms telling me the water was too shallow. The wind got up enough to sail a reach into the Crouch.

Burnham seems a strange mixture of some very decrepid-looking boats and some ordinary boats and some very new - racey boats: strange because I had expected a few old designs and a lot of new stuff as this is (or maybe was) one of the great centres for sailing. I am here for a few days so will probably find out more - -.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

I stay in Heybridge basin

9-24: This is the view out of the lock for most of the tide.

But I am really staying put because I have not felt well for the last few days - and have gone off my food - and ache a good deal. I am hoping to get out on the tide on Friday morning, when I will sail down the Blackwater and then up the Crouch, avoiding some impressive-looking sand banks on the way. Meantime I can lay about feeling sorry for myself and wander along the tow path.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Hideous developments

14-50: the notice says it about a proposal for lock-side development at Heybridge basin.

To which I add that it is unspeakably awful how insensitive developments have been allowed in some traditional places along this coast. Perhaps large and hideous flats (often bought as second homes or as 'buy-to-let' at unaffordable rents) are alright in large towns - Lowestoft / Walton for example. But not in villages like Heybridge (and also Brightlingsea).

Here every house in the village has this notice - I hope the planning authority gives a NO - and the developer goes elsewhere. I might add that a few small cottages on the site - to match the original 18th century ones - would be better than derelict sheds. I suppose someone makes loadsa-money from it - there can be no other reason.

Chalmer and Blackwater Navigation Canal - opened 1797

12-26: here I am in a rural setting alongside the canal bank.

It seems miles from anywhere - but is a couple of miles from a shopping centre and - maybe - an hour's drive from central London. Plenty of mud outside the lock at low water and a variety of boats here - from wonderful renovated smacks to dreadful wrecks. Nice tea room on the sea wall.

The wrong sort of weather - heavy rain and the promise of strong gusts of wind. Needless to say I am going to stay put - but plan to up and off to Burnham on Crouch sometime before the weekend - probably tomorrow at high water - the lock is only opened just before high water.

Even the Vikings were held up by the tide before the battle of Maldon
(thanks to a follower for this information)- the site of which I can see if I stand on the deck.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

I make it to Heybridge Basin

21.20: Heybridge regatta - smacks and traditional yachts racing - fantastic.

I sailed with the tide from Bradwell amongst a lot of others heading for Heybridge - hard work as I needed to tack - but the last couple of miles was a nice reach. I anchored to watch the start of the races. Then, at high tide, through the lock into the basin of the canal, where I am now moored. Hot sun and harder work than the words make it sound.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bradwell marina

10-30: Getting the anchor up yesterday took a lot of patience. There was a strong tide and wind from the same direction, so I had to ease forward on the motor - rush to the front - pull in a bit of rope - rush back and repeat. Once I had the chain in hand - I drove off into the deeper water of the channel which pulled the anchor out and worked well. This kind of effort is the downside of anchoring.

Sailed in strong (Easterly) wind to Bradwell marina (but with the tide running at 2 knots up the Blackwater) - the sea was quite choppy with short steep waves especially over the shallow parts. I found the entrance to the marina obscure but it was high tide so I got away with going the wrong side of a red post. I also missed the pontoon and had to go round again - perhaps not surprising that I felt a bit tired and cross by the end of it.

Today - very windy again but a little bit of sun. I shall gross out here until the weekend. Probably.

Monday, 20 July 2009

At anchor off Mersea Stone

Updated: July 21st: 8-35am: Mersea Stone is a shingle beach opposite Brightlingsea - lots of tide and the wind has been uncomfortable and it is raining on Tuesday morning.

I left Tollesbury (late due to a minor problem with the electronics - a worrying loose wire somewhere, cured by banging the instrument pod!) at high tide this morning and could not decide where to go. So I went down wind / down tide for a couple of hours and finished up here. Hard place to anchor as it is very steep to and it is desirable to get a close in as possible.

I am disconcerted by the wrong sort of wind for the Thames - but I have promised myself I will not just go - whatever. Every day has some high wind forcast for the rest of the week - or from due south. I have spent too much time worrying about it and need to think out an alternative plan.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Tollesbury - mud, saltings and worry about the weather

11-30: There are a large number of mud berths here - with old and new boats in holes in the mud and walkways between them. Interesting - as are the large numbers of boats out of the water showing the shape of their keels. And a lot of wooden boats - some falling apart - some wonderfully kept.

Yesterday - shopping on my bike in Tollesbury village - and a gentle walk along the sea walls amongst masses of butterflies, taking pictures of mud. And all the time worrying about when to leave and whether to cross the Thames. Today - windy again but it looks as if it will moderate next week. No real inclination to move due, I fear, to harbour rot - - - .

Friday, 17 July 2009

I go to Tollesbury marina by way of several mud banks and a nice sail

10-15: Tollesbury marina: the pic shows the creek outside the marina with traditional mud berths. I waited here for water over the sill into the marina - by pushing the nose onto a mud bank. Very windy and a lot of tide - a bit more going aground to get off (I actually used the anchor to hold the nose to the current!). Then a bit of drama getting into the berth as the wind was pushing me onto other boats - a good spectator sport I guess - but some of the spectators were helpful. Very tiring.

On the way here I had a very good sail with two reefs and a broad reach across the Blackwater river.

It looks as if the weather is not suitable for an undramatic crossing of the Thames - southerly winds, too much wind and unpleasant rain are forecast for the next week or so. I will hole up here for a few days to see what happens - I have shore power so can surf and blog to excess.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

London - trains - buses - admin

9-00: The wind looked awkward for an easy crossing of the Thames - so I went up to London (numerous buses, fast train and the underground - very tiring) for the middle of the week. I am now finishing my accounts and tax - and then setting off up a river - not sure which one yet!

The wind still looks awkward (ie from the wrong direction) for the next couple of days - but there is sunshine. And I still find it hard to make these decisions.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Smacks at Brightlingsea

19-50: A weekend of sunshine and wind - sailing a smack called Electron from Brightlingsea (not the one in the picture, but one very similar). Saturday - a race tacking out to sea against the tide , followed by a downwind leg with the tide to Rowhedge festival. Sunday - sailing around in a lot of wind followed by lunch rafted up to other smacks. Excellent fun - and thank you to Nicky and Jo Ennion and their wonderful daughters.

I was planning to cross the Thames this week - but the wind is forecast a bit too strong and also from the wrong direction: I have not yet decided which of several plans to follow - but note that I continue to play safe.

V. tired!

Friday, 10 July 2009

A mud berth - Blackwater

9-10: Mud everywhere and LA Girl in a mud berth. This is an unpretentious place - really attached to a boat yard. Several traditional wooden boats undergoing renewal - whole trees sliced along the grain drying out. A lot of old tugs and such like being renewed as possible houseboats with people living on them. Interesting.

I leave when the tide comes in at lunchtime.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

I sail up the Blackwater

19-00: The wind was more or less on the nose so I ran the engine a lot - but at least it charged the batteries. A lot of gusts - but I got here - here being Blackwater Marina along the Lawling Creek.

I sailed in over sparkling water - I now look out at acres of mud and the boat is aground in mud for most of the tide. But I have had a shower - and lurked out of the rain again.

I walk to Bateman's Tower, Brightlingsea

Tuesday - amble past beach huts in the sun - eat ice cream and bacon roll - a late birthday treat. Drink coffee - driven into a shelter by an enormous squall with wind and rain off the sea. Return after it is all over - a bit like sailing really apart from the ice cream.

No blog earlier as I mismanaged the boat's batteries again so that the laptop would not charge up.
Written 18-50 - Wednesday 8th July

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

I stay in Brightlingsea for my birthday - -

- - and also today - plan to leave tomorrow to explore Blackwater. The weather is nasty - heavy rain and high winds. The view from my cockpit does not do justice to the lowering clouds.

Yesterday - I just hung out for a quiet birthday - I could not even find an ice cream in Brightlingsea to celebrate. I have now been retired for two years - common view is that it takes two years to properly appreciate retirement - we will see - - .
written 9-30 am 7th July.

Monday, 6 July 2009

I am in Brightlingsea - -

- - - home of the Smack Preservation Society ( beautiful examples shown here), mud, a hideous modern development of waterside flats (ugh), floating pontoons, a one design dinghy (raced with as much fury as the dinghies at Tynemouth) and more beach huts.

Arrived yesterday and I am tied up on a floating pontoon in the middle of the creek - can I face pumping up the dinghy to row ashore? Nastier weather than usual - wind and heavy clouds.
Written 10-10am.

Sunday - sailing to Brightlingsea

Written 9-55 am: Brightlingsea. Short passage following the coast to Brightlingsea. No wind, so I needed the engine - but I got the tide right and made good time past Walton-on-the-Naze, Frinton and Clacton, passing wonderful accumulations of beach huts all the way and two piers (Walton and Clacton).

Saturday: I find an obscure mooring up a creek

Written 9-46am in Brightlingsea:

On Saturday I did find a wonderful place to anchor up a creek in peace and obscurity - about two miles from mass-anchoring for the weekend. No anchor-dragging - no going aground - perfect.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Walton Backwaters and anchoring

10-00: I left the comfort of the marina yesterday and I am now anchored a few miles up Hamford Water. The tide has turned (to go out) and the boat has swung round until the tide turns again - or the wind gets up.

I tried to anchor further up the creek at low water yesterday - but it took two goes to get the anchor to bite. Hung out in the sun for a few hours but just as I was thinking of making supper the anchor dragged - indeed it did not merely drag - the boat behaved as if it did not have an anchor out at all. And it would not re-set. And I was being pushed onto a mud bank and dragged upstream rather fast (at least it was not rocks).

Much fiddling with the anchor and much churning of brain cells to figure out how to escape, as I could not bring the anchor in whilst I was more or less aground. In the end I motored to deeper water dragging the anchor - and was then able to pull it in - not easy.

I came back down river and anchored near some other yachts where the holding is said to be better. I am not sure whether to explore another creek when I have the energy to pull up the anchor - or whether to stay put.

Am I mad - why anchor when there are nice comfortable marinas around? Good question - the answer is that there is something magical about being at anchor - especially in a river or estuary. It has some problems - the need to have good batteries and be self-sufficient for a start. I have never had problems with anchors dragging as it did yesterday - so it normally seems very secure although it may not appear so.
I quite like picking up a mooring but often miss - getting hot and bothered - and moorings are less wild and peaceful.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

I cycle to Walton-on-the-Naze: another place - another beach.

18-30: Yep - another beach and another East coast resort. This is the posh end of the beach with extraordinary beach huts in serried ranks up the cliff. Very attractive - busy with lots of small children digging holes and paddling - with their mummies - rather old-fashioned in some sense but nice. And a complete contrast to the other end of the beach - around the pier. The wrong end of the beach is an old fashioned 'chips and kiss-me-quick' zone - but also crawling with infants-school children - wonderfully supervised by their teachers and having fun.

The town has a run down feel - some really run-down (but very nice 19th century) houses on the sea front led me to wonder why no-one has taken them over and done them up. The usual empty shops in the high street but also a good bread shop and butchers - lots of tea shops. A surprisingly endearing place.