Alan Holland joined me in SWANTI as we set off in a light wind blowing from
the South East as we motored through the Narrow Cuts from Paglesham to meet
HAYNOR at the other side of the Havengore. The bridge has been a bit
unpredictable over summer as it has been known to occasionally be out of action.
This usually happens when approaching from the sea especially in bad weather
when you most need the shelter. Alan and I made coffee as we waited for HAYNOR
to from Southend – wards and we both motored back through the ‘gore and into the
Our plan was to spend the evening at Brightlingsea, the rest of the Old Gaffers boats would be jostling for space at Mersea, so we thought we could find a more quiet spot where we would join friend Rodney, in HALLOWE’EN and Nigel in FRANCHESCA. Nigel also has a beautiful Shuttlewood 16” clinker sailing dinghy ‘MEMORY’. During the trip we met the owner of Memory’s sister ship HOPE (apparently there were two others, FAITH and CHARITY – what happened to them?). We hoisted sails in the Roach and had to motor sail down the Crouch as the wind faded. Still time for a brew again.
We were able to stop charging the batteries as we turned down the Ray Sand Channel and had a gentle sail towards Brightlinsea. We had a slight ‘chop’ on the water as we approached the Bench Head. This is a point where the ebb from the Ray Sand Channel meets the Blackwater and the Colne. Within a short while we were navigating up the small channel that leads to the pontoon moorings at Brightlinsea where we rafted up against FRANCHESCA and HALLOWEEN. HAYNOR tied up on the other side of the pontoon and we prepared to go ashore to the Colne Yacht Club for dinner.
The following morning was one of those many idyllic days we have had this year. I made an interesting maneouver to turn SWANTI around in no water by walking the bowsprit along the side of FRANCHEACA so that the flood tide swung my stern around. This would have worked fine other than when I let loose the bowsprit, no-one was hanging on the stern and SWANTI almost sailed off on her own. We managed to leap on board without hitting anyone. In retrospect, any on-looker would have admired our seamanship. But we knew better and motored slowly out into the Colne.
With sails set again, we took various short-cuts across Mersea flats according to draft and raced HALLOWEEN, FRANCHESCA and HAYNOR up the Blackwater, in pursuit of the rest of the Old Gaffers who had set of racing a half hour earlier.
Being a Dauntless, we kept well in over the Mersea Flats, turning up mud in our wake as we made a good four knots over the tide. We met up with the rest of the OGA fleet off Osea Island, but never being one for racing, stayed towards the rear and drank a beer while we watched the spectacle of the whole fleet tacking up past Heybridge Basin.
Here we were met by Dauntless Assn member Richard Bessey in WINKS, a very pretty 12’ lugsail clinker dinghy. We lowered sails as we approached Maldon to prepare for shuffling around for a berth. Maldon dries out completely at low water and visitors have to vie for space with Thames barges, fishing smacks and bawlies.
HALLOWEEN was there before us and had managed to moor with her bows directly onto the beer garden of the Queens Head pub on the Hythe, tying up against John Wainwright’s DEVA. We squeezed next to HALLOWEEN and HAYNOR next to SWANTI, with the bowsprit hanging over the beer garden wall..Could we have got closer? FRANCHESCA decided that her 4’ draft would have made her lay over in the mud so returned to moor at Osea Island where there is always deep water.
We had a great time meeting old friends and drinking almost too much. Late in the evening we rested, fully dressed as we needed to leave at 2:00am. I really could not sleep much and woke at 1:00 to make coffee and prepare for the return. We slipped moorings and I followed the stern light of HALLOWE’EN in the early morning darkness. Alan Saker in HAYNOR stayed behind as he was meeting crew there on the Sunday for an extended weekend. At about 3:30am, we laid anchor off Osea Island for a sleep and to wait for the morning light.
We were wakened about 8:30 with the sun streaming into the cabin. These beautiful days are beginning to be predictable. A good breakfast and we were off on the last of the ebb towards Mersea. I wanted Alan H to meet John Gladwell who was restoring Dauntless AMANTE in the saltings near the house boats that Mersea quarters are so well known for.
We picked up a mooring in the Besom, and in brilliant sunshine rowed ashore to the stone just off the Quarters. A short walk over the saltings brought us to AMANTE. She was still without any spars, but the Dauntless Assn have managed to locate rig for her and they should be shipped to John by now. It was good to meet John and see progress to date.
Alan and I then continued on to the Victory (pub) for ‘refreshment’, and then back to SWANTI to prepare for our trip back down the Ray Sand Channel. With the wind still very light and from the East, we had to use the engine again, but this we cut as we shaped more to the west down the channel. We had the most perfect winds to blow us down the Crouch and Roach and back to the moorings at Paglesham.
As a footnote, the winds must have been quite strong as I did not realise I had torn the luff of my jib badly. I only discovered this when I was racing the following weekend and had to immediately retire. I am afraid it is new sails for me this winter..