When I was a child I was once told that the week begins on Sunday. This was a concept that I did not fully appreciate until my weeks cruise on the East Coast. My son Ben is in the process of changing from Primary to Secondary school this year, and having completed the various tests required at school the syllabus consisted mainly of end of term play preparations and hymn practices. So I agreed to a week out on the water at the beginning of July.
The date was set for our departure from Pag on Friday 2nd. Having taken John Lís advice and decided against a channel crossing, the passage plan for the east coast was on the agenda. We arrived at the yard with a car full of supplies and began the task of fetching and carrying to the mooring. The exact details remain a contentious issue between Ben & I, but as I recall, Ben returned to the car with the car keys to get some further items and on his return the keys to the car were locked in the boot. A phone call to my wife to deliver the spare key was then made resulting in her having to drive the 40 miles from our home to open the car!!
Finally aboard, and off. Ben and the helm, engine running, dingy tied to mooring buoy, me up front slipping the ropes, then waving arms as we motored forward with the mooring buoy to port & the dingy to starboard!! I shouted to Ben to reverse which was probably the wrong move as the next thing was a rope round the prop!
Not for the first time John L came to my rescue. Having unwound the rope we finally set off. By this time however, the tide had turned, and our keenness to get off got the better of us and we kept to our original plan. We motor sailed out of the Roach on a heading for Brightlingsea. Having followed the channel past the Crouch buoy I missed judged the point at which to turn in to the Ray Sand channel and changed course nearer the Sunken Buxey. The result with a falling tide and being too far NE of where I should have been was the inevitable and we ran out of water. Being a bilge keel boat this was more a case of damaged pride rather than damaged boat. Within a short while we were able to see sand and shingle all around us with the channel still full of water just to the North of us. So close yet so far!
After a number of calls to John on Benís mobile, as mine had clearly lost its sea legs, we had an anchor out and had informed the Coast Guard of our position. We were concerned that the weather forecast had deteriated to 4/5 occasional 6ís for the evening blowing from the South West. We checked in each hour with the Coast Guard and John. Around 10 oíclock the waves began pounding the side of the boat. By half past we had started to float and by gently pulling the anchor chain to deeper water we were under way. The motor back into the Crouch and subsequently to Pag was one I would not wish to repeat. With a bad case of wind over tide, the seas were very heavy and breaking continuously over our bows. It was pitch black by the time we reached Pag. Finally around midnight we settled down to sleep on our first night back on the moorings.
Saturday brought more wet & windy weather necessitating the cancellation of the dingy race. Having made a trip to Southend to replace my phone I got conned in to buying the only remaining top voucher of £20 for Benís phone. Back to Pag and following a lunch at the Plough & Sail, and a very enjoyable evening aboard Imothies with the three Johnís we returned to Destaye for our second night on the moorings at Pag.
Sunday brought fresh hope of a departure. The weather had improved a little enabling the dinghy race to happen. Plan A was agreed on and with High Tide around 3pm a lunch time departure was planned for. At the chosen time the engine was started and warmed up. Having checked the position of the dingy, I prepared to slip the ropes. All looked well until a screech from the cabin alerted me that the engine was over heating. John came and had a look for me after competing in the second race of the day, and we discovered a small quantity of the Buxey Sands sea weed in the water intake filter and a header tank a little on the low side, both of which were quickly fixed. Feeling that we were in danger of spending a week at Pag, we took the decision to head to Burnham having learnt that the Buxey Sand and falling tides donít mix.
A short while later we were in the Burnham Yacht Harbour, tied up, and feeling a lot happier at having got somewhere. We strolled in to Burnham and enjoyed a Thai Meal in a restaurant. Ben missed the football final that saw Greece as surprise winners of Euro 2004 but this did not seem to matter as we had finally made some progress at last. So the week began on the Sunday!
The following days saw us spend an enjoyable evening at Colne Yacht Club having successfully found the Ray Sand channel and making it to Brightlingsea. This was followed by a sail up the Wallet to Pin Mill. The weather forecast confirmed that strong winds were expected for the following day so a decision to check into the new Ipswich Yacht Harbour was taken.
Approaching the bridge over the Orwell
The next day with the winds as strong as promised, we left the boat and took the Bus to Woodbridge and on to Sutton Hoo. An enjoyable day was followed by a hearty dinner on board staying clear of the heavy rain following the strong winds.
The next morning brought brighter weather and a pleasant sail to Titchmarsh Marina behind The Naze. The winds over night had been forecast as strong again so the choice of a marina seemed to be the best policy. The following day was a good run down to the Crouch to hook up with Swanti and her crew of John L & Alan for an enjoyable weekend trip to Faversham.
The week was our first trip alone outside the Crouch, and despite the week out of school, I am sure that both of us learnt a lot. My special thanks have to go to our 3rd crew member of course, John L, who must have been grateful when I was back at work and no longer ringing him at home every 5 minutes for further advice!!