by Alan Holland

RUTH, my 20-foot bermudan-rigged Dauntless, missed the '96 Shotley rally, due to some badly timed but essential repair work. Things looked more promising for 1997 except that the Festival was scheduled to start on Thursday 19 June, and this new mid-week arrangement prevented my son from crewing with me. So the passage from Paglesham was to be solo, and in order to allow for a leisurely trip, and a night in Pyefleet, I was on board at 0945 on the preceding Tuesday. 

At HW (1100) we (RUTH and I) were underway sloop-rigged in overcast conditions with the wind rising 4 Easterly. Good progress was made down to the Branklet, at the confluence of the Roach and Crouch rivers in sheltered water, then a couple of long and short legs got us out to Shore Ends. Here the seas were beginning to come lumpy, not to RUTH's liking, and less to mine, the wind having gone slightly north of east. Both sky and sea were slate-grey, except for the white horses, and there was not another craft in sight. 

It was just half-ebb, theoretically at least in our favour, but the wind over tide conditions were steadily knocking the way off RUTH's shoal-draft hull. I was reluctant to rely on the engine for my passage, as I had recently carried out some repairs which had yet to be fully proven. Having barely sighted the Rays'n buoy, I ran back from the Outer Crouch and anchored under the slight lee of the north shore at the "Holliwell" racing buoy, consoling myself with the thought of a day in hand, and a couple of mugs of tea. It proved to be an uncomfortable berth however, and RUTH chucked herself about in a most disorderly manner, presumably due to the ebb out of the Roach. A shift across the river to Clark's Corner cured the problem, and a rather disappointing day was finally brightened by the sight of the Mistley barge REMINDER coming up under tops'l and fores'l, to disappear round to Paglesham on the early flood. Later, her former Horlock stablemate XYLONITE motored down from Burnham way and anchored less than a cable below RUTH.

Wed 18 June. Forecast S going SW 3-4 possibly 5 later. A calm night was followed by a good breakfast. The sun glittered on the "Big H" on Foulness, accompanied by a steady southerly breeze. I paced the deck impatiently until 0930, two hours before HW, then got the chain up-and-down. Main, staysail and jib were hoisted, the anchor broken out, and bobstay set up. As RUTH settled on her inshore course, the clinking of XYLONITE's windlass pawls could just be heard across the water, and her tops'l started to creep up. She crossed the tideway to the north shore, then to my surprise and delight RUTH overhauled one of the fastest barges in the current fleet. Then she sheeted in her main... but we stayed within shouting distance until the first of the Dengie target beacons, having both cut well inside the Rays'n buoy (I did not see it). 

At 1230 RUTH brought the NW Knoll abeam, shortly after which the slightly confused seas of the converging ebbs were encountered. With a brilliant sun and quartering breeze, Clacton Pier was passed at 1330 (no thoughts of Pyefleet now), and Walton Pier at 1445, where we sheered out to avoid a large rectangular area marked out with lobster pots, which was certainly different to the usual apparently random scattering. A little later we were overhauled by the big bawley GOOD INTENT out of St Osyth. Shaping for Harwich brought the strengthening wind dead aft, and this partly influenced my decision not to enter Shotley lock that evening, preferring the idea of a quiet anchorage somewhere in the Stour. 

On a run, RUTH's masthead-to-bowspritend jib is her best sail, but with the wind anywhere forward of the beam it can be a liability in a strong breeze and restricted waters. I held on to it past the Pye End, then reluctantly hove to just before Dovercourt Breakwater, and got it down. I noticed that GOOD INTENT had held the wind well on her starboard quarter right out beyond the Landguard, then made one gybe straight into the harbour. 

Feeling slightly more comfortable under reduced sail, but still on a dead run, my intention was to get up past Parkeston in the lee of the S shore, and avoid crossing the deep channel at all if there was nothing on the move at Parkeston Quays. Crossing the Shelf, I passed outside a yacht and a fishing-boat on permanent moorings just off the old Navy Yard, and prepared to gybe and alter course to the east. There was a grinding and bumping sound from astern and the tiller jumped in my hand as the rudder-plate bounced and hinged up. Not sand, not shingle, but rocks, less than 2 feet below! It was 1715, just about low water... so be warned! This was in the area known as the Guard, well north of the Cliff Foot rocks.

Having cleared this hazard more by luck than judgment, I gybed and headed east, still south of the dredged channel. Shotley did not look particularly inviting, but I spotted some moored yachts close inshore in the bight just past Harwich town. Dropping the plate and hauling sheets, I decided to have a look, as it would be ideal for popping across to Shotley in the morning. As I closed, however, the local boats did not look at all comfortable, sheering and jumping about in a surprising manner for the prevailing state of wind and tide. 

I bore away and passed Parkeston, where all was quiet. Just before Wrabness, as the first of a line of heavy mooring buoys is reached, there is another bight called Copperas Bay, a tree-lined bird sanctuary. Once again RUTH nosed shorewards until the wind was completely masked, the plate came up, and the anchor went down in two feet of unruffled water a few yards from a miniature sand-spit that was just about to disappear beneath the early flood. Here indeed was Dauntless country, and complete peace and solitude. It was 1800.

Thu 19 June - S4 - rain.
Departed Copperas Bay 0800 under power in steady rain. Alvin (the Albin) slowly made progress over the flood past the beacon marking the nasty-looking remains of the wharf at Erwarton Ness, and the equally depressing (at that hour) front window of the Bristol Arms (I had somehow got on the lee shore while sorting out warps and fenders). I had already convinced myself that there would be the usual delays locking into the marina, so when passing the entrance beacons, I was surprised to see the light change from red to green. I started the run in, and with a fresh following breeze, I was concentrating on the pontoon when looking up, I then realised that the lock gates were open, which only proves that sometimes the eyes don't see what they would like to see.

Now... Ease revs .. and blow sideways? Into reverse...stern goes out... well just sheer in, bung her into neutral, and jump for it with both warps in hand and hang on to the old girl. At least the lock's empty. It works.

0930 moored up at far end with two or three other early arrivals - no other Dauntlesses yet.
1400 SWANTI arrived from Walton.

Fri 20 June FC SE 5
Crewed on SWANTI to Pin Mill. Lunch at Butt. PM S6 & rain - a very uncomfortable trip back. Dick took tumble in cockpit and bruised ribs.
PM Supper on SWANTI

Sat 21 June FC S/SW 5-6
Heavy showers - listened to cricket - PM Bristol Arms with SWANTI's crew for a good supper.

Sun 22 June FC SW/NW 4-5-6
Thunder - rain - very breezy outside.
1100 family arrived from Woking and Wickford - sunny. Took three-year-old grandson round marina in borrowed inflatable and borrowed lifejacket. 

Mon 23 June FC W 4-5
Shifted RUTH to Dauntless corner. Lazy day.
Robert and William arrived by car, CHRISTABEL having been deterred by foul weather at Queenborough.
PM informal Dauntless get-together in bar - Peter and Nick crew of DORMOUSE, John Langrick of SWANTI and CHRISTABEL's crew. Lena Reekie sent apologies as LINNEA aground in Walton Backwaters. Nightcaps on board RUTH

Tue 24 June FC NW 5-6 later 3-4
1130 RUTH locked out - William crew. Robert crewed on SWANTI. DORMOUSE and Crabber MOULIN VERT in company. M/sailed to Pin Mill 1230 arr Pin Mill - Lunch at B&O.
Sailed back - strong S breeze. Alongside pontoon - then caught stern warp round screw in lock - red face! Heaved her through, borrowed dinghy and cleared it without wetting elbows. Not many yachts are so forgiving.

Wed 25 June FC SW/SE 3-7
1100 RUTH locked out - JL crew. Sailed sloop-rigged to Mistley, arr 1300 - rain, followed by rain. Lunch at Thorn - very jolly. Dep Mistley 1615 HW - rain. Sailed to Shotley - very lumpy below Wrabness - got set onto rusty buoy. Picked up pink buoy off Shotley 1830 - very windy. 
1900 locked in and moored a/s SWANTI.
PM - roast beef etc with DORMOUSE crew.

Thu 26 June FC NE 5-6 rain. The end of Shotley for RUTH - a wet and windy week, but not yet quite finished, as we now look forward to Sail Ipswich 97!.
1100 RUTH locked out - destination Ipswich Dock - John L crew. Close reaching breeze - sloop-rig. Barges at Woolverstone incl Lady DAPHNE, HYDROGEN etc
1230 sailed under Orwell Bridge with dredger SAMUEL ARMSTRONG close astern.
1300 picked up mooring off Fox's Marina - waited for tide. 
1600 Locked in Ipswich Wet Dock - moored alongside Cranfields'.
with CENTAUR, WYVENHOE, MARJORIE, IRONSIDES. Met Jimmmy Lawrence and Gary Butler - no berths available on MARJORIE or CENTAUR for Pin Mill Barge Match.
PM - discharged crew - beer at dockside bar - taxi to Shotley - roast beef and more beer. Joined SWANTI as mate.

Fri 27 June - No FC S5 wet, wet, wet. Rain swept horizontally across the top of Shotley lock.
1200 lunchtime beer with JL, Lena and Hans (Heybridge Crabber)
1400 SWANTI dep Shotley - Two reefs to Ipswich - nonstop rain.
1615 locked into Ipswich Dock - moored on smack tier - seventeen bottoms out! Was keen to check RUTH so went straight ashore - over sixteen reefed bowsprits - soaked but happy.
PM locked into Lord Nelson - Buckshee jazz - JL & AMY bawley crew.

Sat 28 June - Warm & sunny.
0630 SWANTI dep Ipswich for Paglesham. Barges locked out for Pin Mill Match.
Festival day in Ipswich Dock - toured Polish & French square-riggers, listened to band, occasionally stood-by RUTH (now the only Dauntless present) and entertained visitors. Attended Lady Mayoress' function at the Corn Exchange in company with crew of Crabber MOULIN VERT - fireworks - late night. Congratulations to the city of Ipswich for a well organised and enjoyable event. 

Sun 29 June - Festival Day 2 - RAINBOW's 100th birthday. PM - MOULIN VERT, RAINBOW, HAZEL MAY etc departed. I needed to be home by Tuesday AM and had decided to go by train so I could enjoy the sail back later. Fish and chip supper. Overcast, and dock looked empty and quite desolate. Met Lena who had come to Ipswich by car. She had put out from Shotley on Sat AM but turned back at the Medusa due to heavy weather. LINNEA was booked into Shotley for a week.

Mon 30 June FC N/NW 4-5-6 Rain
FC NW/SW 4-5-6
Cabin heater on - rain
FC W/S 4-5-6 Rain
A very wet and dismal day in Ipswich - free night in Dock.

Tue 1 July FC SW 4-5
0730 underway from Cranfields' wharf - berthed at Neptune Marina. Booked in for seven days.
1000 dep Ipswich by train.
1200 arr home - windy but dry at last.

Six days at home...

Mon 7 July FC NW 3 - sunny
0845 dep Wickford by train
1112 arr Ipswich - checked out RUTH and lock procedure - OK. 
1400 RUTH underway - locked out of Ipswich Dock. Made sail off Cliff Quay by ENA - Wind SE 2 - so much for forecast!
M/sailed down Orwell & across Harwich Harbour. Crossed channel from Shotley Spit to Guard buoy, passing ahead of outgoing ferry from Parkeston on increased revs. ENA motored down astern and brought up inside Guard buoy, then made sail and headed back up Orwell.

RUTH steered for Walton Backwaters entrance, passing DORMOUSE outward bound. Anchored in two feet on port side of Red No 6 buoy at 1900 (low water). Good supper (curry and water melon) and a very quiet night.

Tue 8 July FC Var 2-3 
0815 up anchor and sailed towards Pye End on last of ebb. 
0845 shaped out to Naze with Alvin as wind Southerly 2.
1030 Walton Pier - tacked ship & Alvin off.
1045 progress very slow - Alvin on!
1200 Clacton Pier
1300 three-quarter mile N of Bench Head. Wind S freshening - Alvin off. Course 270.
1400 half-mile S of Nass beacon. Sailing fast on broad reach - course 255. 
1445 HW - off Pewit Island hove to and handed all canvas. Started Alvin and entered Bradwell Creek from West end. Passed marina entrance and exited creek.
1525 anchored just outside channel close in to sea-wall under power-station. Large fry-up for lunch/tea. Had promised to phone wife so radioed Marina on 37 for berth, acknowledged with Echo 29.
1800 entered marina - berth E29 at far end otherwise marina appeared to be full. Berthing a set-piece including three-point turn but no witnesses. Checked in at office (9 per night), phoned Cordelia, visited club bar (exceedingly quiet) and Green Man (very quiet). Hungry again so curry on board - quite a quiet night. 

Wed 9 July FC E/NE 3-4 - bright and sunny
0900 LW - dep Bradwell Marina under power. Kept to channel but rudder-plate touched several times in the Creek. Passed inside Training Wall and kept as close as possible to mud, as tide now flooding. Wind Easterly 3, & thick fog blowing in. Power station lost to sight although still close astern. Stayed within sight of cant edge & withies - less than 50 metres. Encountered yacht anchored close in to first of wave-break lighters - owner ashore presumably after winkles. 
1015 off Sales Pt fog cleared - sunny - headed for outer wreck beacon. Wind E by S 3 veering slightly.
1145 Alvin off - she sailed herself on a broad reach from the Bachelor down past Holliwell Pt, while I sat on the foredeck - the sweetest few hours of the entire trip.
1615 anchored Quay Reach on Foulness side - HW. 
1800 fry-up and Romanian red. A quiet night. Nearly home.

Thur 10 July FC NE 3-4
1030 overcast. Set staysail only, for a very leisurely sail up to Paglesham on first of flood. Followed S side of Wallasea about six feet from mud edge. Overtaken by family of curlew traveling on foot. RUTH was back in home waters after three weeks.
1140 Picked up mooring where dinghy was still made fast, tidied ship, and rowed ashore, wondering if car was still there...