This is a bit weird. I probably have less to write about in this blog than I have on any of the previous ones and yet the feeling of fulfilment that I have felt over the last week is greater than anything I have had on this trip so far!
I really can’t work myself out so I don’t know what chance anyone else has. What I mean by this is that for more than 25 years I had what has to be right up there with the most social of jobs out there and with so many opportunities to socialise and so many people to meet and talk to throughout the course of the working week, it was not uncommon that the only time you would truly be alone during the week was whilst in the prayer room downloading your old data that serves only to slow you down and overload the system if it isn’t dowloaded into the recycler on a (hopefully) regular basis.
The fast pace of this world is, I think, the reason why you would sometimes find newspapers or other more visually biased publications in the prayer room. There really aren’t many other opportunities for a person to disappear from view, not be forced to communicate and truly be alone. When you think about it, that’s a bit f*cked up isn’t it? It can’t be right that going to the bog is often the only time anyone is truly alone even if only separated by a thin partition! Of course there are those who live alone and they get this valuable, and to me essential, quiet time but mostly being totally alone is a rarity in today’s world.
I can’t work like that. I have to be alone sometimes. It’s the only way I can feel normal but what probably isn’t particularly normal is the amount of time that I can spend alone and how much I enjoy that time. What confuses me though is the extremes at which I am happy. The all encompassing frantic busy working life all the way through to complete and lengthy solitude! Well, I say solitude but I suppose what I really mean is being away from anyone that I know. My family and friends have got used to and accepted this about me but girlfriends, in my experience, are often not as accepting! However, following fairly lengthy research I appear to have found a good one with Sarah. She totally accepts my defence of ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ because on this occasion, it really is. I’m the weird one! I simply have to have alone time to reflect, reason and reset.
To state the obvious, I have had an enormous amount of time on my own over the last 7 months but what has been a little surprising to me is that I can honestly say that I haven’t been lonely for a single second! It’s not that I don’t miss people because I do. Missing people but not being lonely is not a contradiction as far as I am concerned. The big caveat in all of this is Max! You’re never really alone when you have a dog so I have no idea how I would have felt over the last 7 months without my miserable, lazy but loyal sidekick. He’s been fantastic and the older and more lazy he becomes, the better sea dog he is. Sometimes he only gets to go ashore once a day and even then when I get his lead out he will look at me as if to say ‘Really, can’t I just stay here and sleep’? No Max you can’t! You can’t sleep in your own urine. This is a game of do what I say, not as I do!
Ok, I went right off on one there but the original thrust of this was that since arriving in the River Deben I really haven’t accomplished anything at all. However, this isn’t being lazy as far as I am concerned. It is about having the most wonderful downtime, relaxation and period of reflection. Honestly, I feel like I have entered a zen like state. I have now been anchored for a week and only moved once. My first anchorage allowed me to explore Felixstowe Ferry and the Bawdsey area and then I moved to a little creek called Martlesham Creek not far from Woodbridge.
At a guess I would say that I have visited the Tide Mill Yacht Haven at Woodbridge twenty five times in my lifetime, all by boat which means that I have gone past Martlesham Creek on every occasion without ever giving it a glance. The focus has always been to get to the Tide Mill and that’s because Woodbridge is one of those places that to me, feels like home. I think we all have places like that and for me Woodbridge has always been one so Martlesham Creek never even got a look in.
What is different about this occasion is that I’m not trying to cram these destinations into a few days off work. Oh no, I have time. Time….. That normally illusive commodity to anyone but children, retired folk or benefit cheating scumbags. It is incredibly and thoroughly wonderful to have time because the zen like state I have entered over the last week has been magical as indeed is the peace and tranquility of this little creek that was perviously completely overlooked.
Winter has truly announced itself too. On two mornings there has been a frost on the deck and there is something very special about standing on the foredeck with steam pouring off your coffee and mist hovering above the perfectly still water of a silent creek. Pure magic. My time has been spent going ashore in Doris to walk Max, pottering around doing a few boat jobs on the never ending boat job list and reading on the foredeck in the sun albeit fully wrapped up. My evenings consist of dinner, music, more reading or maybe a film before drifting off into a lovely slumber.
The funny thing is that I feel guilty and a bit lazy admitting to this but I think that’s because of the default setting in most of us that simply accepts being totally and utterly rushed off our feet with no time left to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
Fear not though, I can live with the guilt because I am really enjoying these pleasures. Being self sufficient and alone in a creek surrounded by jaw dropping beauty and having time to reflect on the last 7 months has been perfect. It’s only the fact that I’m running low on water and fresh food that means I am going to head into a marina and back onto the grid later today! Oh, plus the fact that it’s sign on day at the job centre and I need my benefits!!!!! No job and no fixed address, surely there must be something for me!
There have been two moments of relative drama since being in the River Deben. Here in Martlesham Creek the tide leaves Fiesta high and dry about three hours either side of high water. It is relatively hard mud here which means Fiesta sits up on her keels nicely and the anchor has something good and sticky to get it’s tooth into and this makes for a relaxing night’s sleep. Just in case, and as usual, I do have my drag queen switched on and next to me in bed and he (or she) will start moaning in my ear if the distance from the original anchor drop position increases beyond the set amount. So the only thing to be concerned about here is what the boat will sit on when the tide goes out. As usual the chart tells you what the sea bed is but not always what’s on it. As luck would have it, the Google earth photos of this area were taken near low tide so I was able to see that it is just flat mud without any major lumps, bumps or debris on it. This is what gave me the confidence to anchor and dry out here as this place is not detailed on the chart as a recognised anchorage. However, as Fiesta settled onto the mud the day before yesterday there was a funny groaning noise. Because of variables such as tidal flow, wind strength and direction, you never sit down on exactly the same piece of mud each time and what was lying totally unseen just below a thin covering of mud was a pretty sizeable log, long since water logged and therefor happily forming part of the sea bed furniture. Well, one of Fiesta’s keels found the end of the log and her five or so tonnes of weight pushed one end down causing the other end to rear up out of the mud. This is one of the hazards of taking the ground and fortunately it poked up pointing away from the boat so it was fine. I considered lashing the end with a rope and tying it off to the side of Fiesta so on the high tide we would lift it up, swing round with the incoming tide and then I could drop it up stream where it would settle into it’s new home and Fiesta would swing away from it when the tide started going out again. However, being big and heavy, this thing was not for moving so instead I decided to mark it with a small fender and then move Fiesta’s anchor away so she couldn’t sit back on it again.
Doris was pumped up and sitting in the water and it was only about 5 feet deep so I thought I would reposition the anchor using the dinghy rather than starting Fiesta’s engine and anyway, I only had to move it 20 feet further away. As with so many things, you never really know where the next f*ck up is coming from. Well this one was coming from below! I followed the anchor chain out in the dinghy to where the chain was going straight down so I knew I was above the anchor and started to lift it. Sure enough, up it came. My plan was to lift the anchor up so I could just see it and then motor it to it’s new position and drop it. Simple! Well, unfortunately my last pull was a little over enthusiastic and I managed to spike the bottom of Doris and suddenly there was a whooshing sound and bubbling water as half of Doris deflated in about five seconds flat!!!!! What a total and utter tool! I was aware that the pointy bit would be coming up under the dinghy but I didn’t think for a minute it would be possible to put the pretty blunt pointy bit of the anchor through the tough rubber skin of the dinghy. Wrong, wrong, wrong you ball sack!!!! And of course, the real rub of single handed sailing is that there is no one else to blame. That’s the only bit I don’t like about all of this!!!
Fortunately, with one chamber still inflated and an inflatable floor there was no swimming involved so I finished repositioning the anchor and then got a very sorry and deflated looking Doris on the foredeck. Despite a hole over an inch long I managed to stick a repair patch on and I left it for twenty-four hours before a field test. Fortunately it worked so it just means that Doris has a battle scar and I have learned a lesson!
Funny what a long since forgotten and disappeared from view piece of tree can do to your day!
Once again though, what makes this OK is the fact that I did have the time to get it sorted. It simply became a surprise entry on the boat job list for the day and let’s be honest, I’d rather have these sorts of things to sort out than have to do an honest day’s work in an office! It’s true you now. A bad day’s sailing is better than a great day in the office!!
You know what? I think I have achieved something here. I have managed to do cock all over the last week and loved every single second of doing so here in my favourite east coast river and I’ve managed to turn it into this week’s blog!
Finally, I have an observation to share. My apologies about what comes next because it makes me cringe and yet I feel it’s probably an important detail so here we go.
I was conceived on a boat whilst my mum and dad were ‘seeking shelter’ from a near hurricane down a little muddy creek and no, that last part is absolutely NOT a euphemism!! Ok, that’s the cringey bit out of the way.
My first time on a boat after the immaculate conception was when I was three weeks old and although I have long since suspected that there was plan to test the floatation qualities of the Moses basket, at least one of my parents changed their mind hence I’m still here. Ever since then I have shared my entire life with boats at every possible opportunity. My love and devotion has never wavered even in testing situations or periods of excessive wind. (I’m sorry Sarah for some of those dutch bed time zephyr’s). It’s been a lifelong passion of mine and long may that continue and despite throwing all of my time at it for the last 7 months, I love it more than ever. What’s more, in these modern times we are subject an ever increasing amount of control, health and safety dos, don’t and rules and regulations that I feel are actually reversing evolution to some extent by making the average western human less capable, less adventurous, more conservative and totally risk adverse, and yet the opportunity to do what I have been doing still exists almost without any control.
I have no sailing qualifications and yet I can move around freely ruled only by the wind, time and tide. Good and bad decisions are mine and mine alone to make and I can successfully disappear off the grid for days, weeks or months at a time should I wish to despite all the while never actually being far away from civilisation. This has got to be one of the last bastions of such freedom and to be getting away with it feels really naughty. Much like the feeling of skipping school as a kid, being given too much change in a shop, intentionally triggering speed cameras late at night with your number plate covered up (whoops) or finding an extra special publication behind the seat in the prayer room during those data download moments in the office.
It is so very special and I LOVE it!