The Eventider's News




Issue Eleven Autumn/Winter 2008.



Page 2

West Mersea and Trafalgar


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The West Mersea Meet



After weeks of poor weather I was amazed to find the weather looking good for our annual West Mersea Meet.  I was a little disappointed that many of our regulars were laid up, not by problems with boats but by health or family problems.  Dougaljo had been damaged and was unable to attend as well.  A dispute with a mooring pontoon in Bradwell caused by high winds and a split post, causing her to get hung up badly..  She will be back afloat in the spring, looking better than ever I suspect!


As we sailed slowly across to West Mersea on the Saturday, we were followed by 'Bonita', the WW, crewed by Alan Margaret and Nick.  It was a lazy slow genoa run....


The eventide 24 'Otteau' with Heidi and Nigel with son Oliver came out to meet us. They however were to meet us Sunday...   this year it was going to be different at West Mersea.  For a start we had vowed not to eat at the club again, not as part of a large group anyway.  Bar meals were still good, but not this year.  No this year it was Regatta day!  I have always wanted to attend WM Regatta, and this year was the year.  We had reconnoitred a few weeks earlier and found the Victory pub was having an all day BBQ, so that was the food for Saturday!

We were pleased to see this MG dressed overall.

We watched the greasy pole with amusement, and saw three local lads get the flag before time was called.  We did however miss out on the dinghy and swimming racing, another time.  We met Mavis and Brian of the GH 'Right E OH' standing on the pontoon.  they had been there most of the afternoon and had enjoyed grandstand views.

We also had the crew of 'Bombastique' with us, first time out in their new inflatable.

Later that afternoon we were met by  Darian's daughter and family.  we ate as planned at the Victory, enjoyed all the fun of the fair at the traditional fair,  then met outside the WMYC to watch the fireworks.

These are often the best for miles and that night was no exception.  The Oooos and Ahhhhs went on for 30 minutes! 

We then repaired for a pint before taking off up the creek in our dinghies.  Having carried lifejackets, torches and all around all day, it was a fully kitted up crew that set off.   Alan and Margaret had been in their own dinghy and had set off with Mavis and Brian to 'Right E Oh' for a night cap.

We set off and it was only by chance I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye in the dark, it was our Michael and Karen aground!  Their outboard, a long shaft, had touched and they had slewed round into the mud.  There was much laughter as we helped them off!

We made it back to our boats, moored once again on moorings arranged by our friends Tony and Sally, for a donation to the RNLI. 

what we did not know till the next day was that Alan and Margaret and nick had an adventure of their own that night.  Luckily it was flat calm, but they missed the little gutway shortcut and were halfway to the Nass before they realised and came back.  By the time they made it back they could see the cabin lights of our boats and used them to home in on. However we had all dried out by then and it was a bit of a climb back on board.

Sunday we had thought of going for a sail, but we had to be back early as we were booked into the Oyster Bar restaurant for 5.30.  So we had a lazy day on the boats.

When it came to getting into dinghies we got Margaret and Alan into ours and Nick with Michael and Karen, inflatables are so better for load carrying than small solid dinghies...


We made our way ashore and met up with Doug and Jo who had driven over earlier and spent the afternoon with Brian and Mavis. 

We studied the menu standing out in the warm afternoon sunshine.  It was quieter today, the fair was still going, but there were not the hundreds of merrymakers that there was yesterday.

We sat to a log bench table, all 23 of us and enjoyed one of the best meals in a long time!  I simply had fish and chips, but others delighted in all sorts of fish and shellfish, all beautifully prepared.  The meal was a hit!  Even the deserts were special!



That night after another stop at the WMYC and before that the fair again, we boarded dinghies for an uneventful trip back to our boats, all except for Michael, who ran out of fuel just after dropping nick off!  Fortunately it was just a few yards to row!


The next day we crept out and sailed the Blackwater, well that was the plan, but muggins here went aground right in front of the WMYC pontoon and sat there for 4 hours!  Never mind, or boats are designed to do that, a quick nip out in the dinghy to put a line on a nearby buoy and the kettle went on and the books came out, a lazy afternoon watching the people on the pontoon  and the local seal entertaining them.

We just fed the gulls!





Trafalgar cruise.

At about Trafalgar day each year I try to escape for a few days, or a week afloat.  some years, like 2007, it is a short cruise, others it can be calm and even warm.  2008 was sort of in between, bordering on warm... 

So it was that on Trafalgar day, October 21st, my brother in law, Keith, and myself were caught loading Fiddler's Green by several other members, just down to Bradwell to sort Doug's mast!  It had been a little damp and breezy for a few days, but the forecast was optimistic enough for us to let go and putter out into the Blackwater.


As we sailed out under just genoa in a good F4 we headed for Cocum hills and the Colne.  the resident cormorant watched us rush past.



Keith on the helm, sailing upright with the wind almost astern doing 5 knots with just the genoa.  You can just make out the distant Bradwell power station and the beacon marking the wreck of the old target barge 'Molliette' on Cocum Hills.   You can see the Cormorant coming back to roost!  If you ever pass at low water springs and see the wrecks remains, you will be wary of getting the wrong side of this beacon!


Soon we are up to the fishery buoy and the echo sounder reads more than 1.5 metres again!  Eventides are great for sand hopping!


Entering the Colne, the wind begins to die and go northerly, so the motor is on and we gently putter up through the flood barrier to Wivenhoe.  This delightful waterfront was now bathed in soft warm evening sunshine.  We decide to turn just above the village, hoist all sail and drift back to the Pyefleet on the tide and with the faint breeze.  The only other craft we met were a couple of canoes, one with art students taking interesting pictures from under the jetty of the old shipyard..  different.


We drift close by an old friend, the 'Bert Prior', a sand and ballast ship that sails nearly every tide from here at the  Fingringhoe quarry, to London's Bow Creek, carrying materials for construction sites all over London.   She is just one of a small fleet that work from here and Brightlingsea.  Used to know the skippers of some of them when I worked on the Tideway.  Reg was the skipper of the Bert.!


As we approach the Pyefleet, the sun sets with a sizzle and the wind dies to nothing, reluctantly we start the Beta again for the last mile, navigation lamps on!


It was not long before we had brought up to anchor, though we had to try twice before it would bite!  the Pyefleet these days has been so scored with anchors that it is often not as good a place to anchor as it was.  Tonight the 30 pound Delta is well bedded in and with not a ripple we sleep soundly.


The next morning the distant riding light and the vaguely familiar transom became clearer!  It was the beautiful GH 'Golden Morn'.  After breakfast and a clear up we raised the anchor and slowly motored up to them.  A couple of pics and a good morning later we hoisted sails and set off out.  Golden morn has a rather special stable dinghy in davits on her stern.  I learnt from Brian the skipper of 'Right E Oh' that the owners of 'Golden Morn had made it specially to be super stable.


As we sail out, is a nice westerly F3 to 4, we overtake the classic Yacht 'Duet', with youngsters aboard. they appear to be trying to use a sextant on the foredeck...  She runs out of Brightlingsea doing sail training.  We later see her under full canvas and there would be no way we could even catch her then!


We are heading south and soon pass close to the 'Knoll' buoy.  The intention is to have a closer look at the activity on the Gunfleet.  From my cottage I can see the ships  lights by night, but they are too far away to see.

I know they have started work on the wind turbines and assume that is what it was. 


As there is  a 500 metre exclusion zone round the sands, you cannot get very close, but close enough to see this massive floating crane. It was engaged in pile driving and foundation work.  Nearby there are already 4 bases in place.  If these are erected anything like as fast as the ones we saw go up in 4 days on the Kent side, I expect they are already helping you to boil a kettle!


The Yellow bases are conspicuous enough!  Not sure from the spacing how may or in what sort of groups as yet, the Kentish Flats turbines are in rows of 6, but there may well be less space here for that.  Will keep an eye on them from my cottage window, and at 85 metres tall you will not be missing them!


We sailed a little further towards Harwich, then as the tide began to flood we turned our bowsprit towards the Nass and gently sailed west into the afternoon sun and with a failing breeze. 

At 5.15 and 3 hours before HW I ran under motor towards my mooring buoy at Tollesbury.  We stopped 15 feet short.  Never mind, motor off and kettle on!


My mooring is on the port side just past the buoyed channel at the entrance to Woodrolfe Creek.  It is plainly marked 'Fiddler's Green' and any member is welcome to use it by arrangement.  I use it a few times a year, when I want to really escape.  to sit on the mud and watch groups of 12 or 15 Avocet walk past within a few feet, to hear the Heron right alongside during the night...  the first time I wondered what the heck it was!  Sounds really alien....

Not long after the kettle boiled we felt the boat stirring and 10 minutes later I had driven her further up the mud and close enough to hook the buoy. Once secured we relaxed and got dinner underway.  again we were treated to another amazing sunset...


The next morning the weather was as predicted, windy!  Good day to spend on the mud.  I gently pulled FG close up to the site of the  mooring sinker as the tide ebbed us dry.  The mast thrummed to the rising wind and inflating and launching the dinghy was fun.  With Keith on board to pass me tools etc and generally watch my welfare, many is the unfortunate who has got well and truly stuck in the mud round here....  I set to, to change the chain.

I mouse all my shackles with electrical ties these days, kinder to your hands, even though I wear gloves,  when you are grovelling in the mud to find the shackles, a few years later.  Even after removing the ties I could not get the blessed shackles undone,  huge stilsons would not move them....   so it was plan 'B' and out came the junior hacksaw.

Nothing can be so sapping as using one of these archaic  bits of bent wire to saw through a 1/2 thick shackle pin.  An hour later, exhausted, I had cut through the old and replaced the riser with 20 feet of new, galvanised 3/8th chain.  All was secure and moused once again and I even had energy  to clean off the buoy!  After a breather!

To clean up I always have a couple of buckets of water to hand, filled before the tide ebbs away, to clean off in before I get on board.  Nothing worse than getting on board and having no means of clearing up.  I leave boots on the stern deck and the old oilies and over trousers go straight into a black plastic sack for taking home to wash.  The dinghy has to wait till the tide comes back, but it cleans up fine.

However even after scrubbing furiously on board, and at home, days later after I can still smell the Tollesbury mud on my hands..  good stuff!  Must be, as the ground chain on my mooring is as good now as it was when I first laid it, in 1973!



Back on board and relaxing, I can clearly see the marks in the mud from our keels that we made on arrival.  The mud here has built up about 3" over the years, largely by the amount of mud released from the nearby  breaches in the sea wall.  These 'managed retreats' as they are euphemistically called  are great for the birdlife, but they have caused a great deal of changes in the creeks and on the salt marsh, not all for the better I suspect. 




We relax on board for a bit, but keep finding jobs to do.  at one point Keith gets the miniature vacuum cleaner out and vacuums the carpet, must show this pic to my sister....  On second thoughts...

I check all my batteries (they are ex RAF Nicads!) and find a couple of duff cells, that explain why the fridge conked out last night. They are easy to change and the next time the motor is run they will be back up to full strength.  Sadly though they have been onboard for nearly 19 years, it looks as if I might have to switch to conventional lead acids one day soon, as I only have a few spare cells now and there are no more available.. another year maybe...

That evening the tide failed to come in, or at least it was so late, 2 hours,  it was not till after dark we floated, so we opted to stay put and dry out overnight again, to test the chain!  We once again dried out bolt upright, very comfortable. 

As an added bonus some years ago I fitted a holding tank. when dried out this is very useful!


The next mooring Keith fries up a great meal, we had been looking forward to this all week, after yesterdays mud walloping, he thinks I deserve it!

Eventually we float and with all stowed away and the dinghy washed, we let the mooring go and wend our way out.

We sail up the Blackwater in a very gentle breeze, that changes to a head wind, so we motor at slow revs up river.  At Osea I decide I have had enough motor, the batteries all look topped up and the gentle breeze beckons.   All sails hoisted.


The river is almost deserted, but there is activity on shore at the Marconi Sailing club and Stone Sailing clubs...  Members stand and watch as we drift by.  They are hauling out and I bet there are a few who wish they were not!


Against the back drop of a blue sky we sail down with the tide.  We round up under sail to our anchor in St Lawrence Creek, a tiny, almost secret creek  off the Thirstlet and have lunch, before raising anchor and sails and creeping silently out before the dropping tide traps us.  It is too quiet for the motor.  A solitary curlew calls from the mud.

We are now the only vessel to be seen and in the low, late afternoon sun our red sails are picked out and glow.  We are reluctant to lower them, but as we round the Bradwell beacon we have to, as the depth on the gauge only gives us a few inches over the sand, so we motor slowly in, and all is stowed for another season.