Went out on the tide from Tollesbury yesterday (May 2nd) for the first sail of the season. I was joined by Jonathan and we met down at the boat around 8am and left on the tide around 9am. Not a huge tide (4.28m) but there was around 7ft over the sill, so plenty of water down the creek. We motored past the wreck of the Crebe (see the chart for the position of the wreck) by the Nass which has been marked with a large port-hand marker and put sails up just past the Nass. The wind was quite light and from the north to start with, but gradually rose to blow around 15-18kts from the north. We had a lovely sail up the coast close past Clacton and Walton piers but couldn’t quite make it right into Harwich and had to do a couple of tacks along the south edge of the main ship channel. Just off Cliff Foot buoy we took the jib down and motorsailed the rest of the way to Halfpenny Pier. A fast run – four and a quarter hours from Tollesbury to Halfpenny Pier. Though the wind was blowing us straight onto the pontoon, it was nevertheless comfortable.
We went ashore for a beer at the pub and then back on board for some lunch. Over lunch we watched a huge windfarm rig being towed past by a tug on its way out. After lunch we sprung very neatly off the pontoon and motored up to Woolverstone. A sad sight on the way – just after Fagbury Point, a small yacht had clearly sunk on her mooring or at anchor. We moored on the MDL hammerhead (pontoon B) as the RHYC pontoons were quite busy. For an evening meal, we walked down to the Butt and Oyster at Pin Mill – a lovely walk, but marred by the amount of mud on the path from the recent rain. By the time we came out of the pub, the rain had started again and continued noisily and heavily most of the night. Apart from a slight leak down the mast, all seemed fine despite the rain, but having to shut ourselves in meant quite a bit of condensation overnight.
Getting up at 4.30am was depressing. Though the overnight gusty northeasterly had reduced it was still raining hard, but after a quick shower we left around 5am. Bacon and egg sandwiches and lots of tea restored the mood and once the rain cleared at Felixstowe we hoisted sails and broad reached across the the windfarm past Landguard buoy. A brief sighting of a harbour porpoise (?) was a first – a very small but distinct fin just dipping up and down several times close to us. This was followed a short while later by a seal looking at us very aloof – probably wondering what on earth we were doing in such miserable weather! We gybed across towards the pier and goosewinged down the coast for an hour or so before coming round onto a starboard broad reach and gradually heading up to the west towards the Colne Bar buoy. The wind picked up nicely to 16-21kts driving us down the coast at an average of around 7.5-9kts over the ground. Round the Bar buoy and onto a close reach with around 21kts under full sail. She went beautifully – around 25 minutes from the Bench Head to the Nass. We had planned an overnight in Brightlingsea, but Jonathan had a job interview the next day and so we decided to head straight into Tollesbury so he could get a proper nights sleep and prepare.
A great trip despite the weather and more or less everything works perfectly. The engine ran nicely and only a few minor problems; the Silva Nav repeater played up a little and a few minor leaks, but generally all went well and she seemed to handle better than last year – less weather helm, though we will see if this is definitely the case in the coming weeks.
For some more pictures, see the Woolverstone picture gallery.