I felt my way out of Martlesham Creek and found the mud three times as the tide was still low and I didn’t really know which way the channel went. That’s a bit of fun really because with no rocks to hit it’s just a case of sticking it in reverse and trying a different direction or waiting for the rising tide to lift Fiesta up again if you get stuck hard! Cruising round the corner and seeing Woodbridge Tide Mill is always a treat to me. When I got to the entrance there was already more than a meter of water over the cill so I called the harbour master to get my berthing instructions and in I went. Countless numbers of family sailing visits from childhood through to adulthood and sailing with my Uncle Jack come flooding back as soon as I get to the Tide Mill Yacht Harbour. Once the boat is sorted I tingle with excitement about walking into town although I can’t really explain this. I normally detest towns and crowds of people aimlessly wandering around the shops with the main decision being ‘Well, let’s think about this Brenda. Do we get the food shopping done first or shall we pop into Boots and get that cream for your piles? Tell you what, let’s stop for a coffee and delay making any kind of decision at all for as long as is humanly possible, providing it’s not too painful for you to sit down of course’.
‘Err, hello, excuse me? I’d be very pleased to help you. There’s a really long walk off a really short plank over there, I’ll even take you there myself. Please, just give me that chance.’
God, I normally hate it but for me Woodbridge is different. I actually like walking through the town even though I’ve been here numerous times so for anything to come as a surprise relies totally on the onset of Alzheimer’s and yet turning up in Woodbridge is always exciting and to me feels a little like a home coming. I love the place! I don’t stop for coffee though and I don’t go in the shops, I just walk though in my own little world and then head back to Fiesta! Once back at the marina, totally unsurprised by what I found but very happy, I gave myself a good scrub down in the lovely marina facilities, plugged into the marina electrics in order to give the batteries a much needed charge after my period of self sufficiency and enjoyed the boat being warm and toasty thanks to the fan heater! Funny how a simple thing can feel like such a luxury. The ship got a bit of spit and polish on the inside but I have to say that 2300 miles of sea sailing, salt and wind lashings have taken their toll on the outside. Fiesta is looking slightly dishevelled in some areas with mud stains, weed growth and dull lacklustre looking hulls. This is not surprising though. I reckon that over the last four years her total annual mileage between winters has probably been somewhere around the five hundred mark so following such a long summer shift she does need some tickling here and there. However, in a surprising way for an everso slightly anal boat owner, I can stand on the pontoon and look at these blemishes and cosmetic battle scars with folded arms, a straight back and a dollop of pride. She has done well, very well in fact. The only part of her that is still shiny is the fibreglass part over the door where I tend to stand and look out ahead with my arms up on the coach roof and this extensive contact has kept this part shiny! I like to think of it as a cuddle mark! Fiesta, well done you! Another three weeks or so and you get to rest and have a massage.
Thursday night started with a walk to the train station to meet my mate Iain Conway, fresh from the city all suited and booted! It was great to see him, last seen in a very hot Solva on the Pembrokeshire coast back in June. We went to the pub to sample some almost local Adnams Ghost Ship and then we went next door to the Galley restaurant for dinner where we were joined by Roz, Senior Partner of Conway Family Enterprises. What a cracking dinner and a lovely start to my stay in Woodbridge.
The next day I received a visit from Adrian, last seen in Newscastle, before that Largs and before that, on the maiden voyage to Dover. Also present was his wife Jo, last seen in Dover when she drove down to pick Adrian up. For me it was of course fantastic to see them both but what surprised me was Max’s reaction to seeing Jo. Actually, more than that, being almost miracle like, Max actually heard Jo before he saw here and I don’t think he has heard much for the last year or so. This probably says more about Jo than it does about Max’s hearing although it does suggest that Max isn’t in fact completely def. He heard the high pitched tones of the best thing to come out of South Woodham Ferrers before he saw her and immediately appeared to shrug 5 years off as he was fairly overcome with excitement! Max does have his favourites and Jo is high on that list!
I made sure I had a bottle of rosé in the fridge for Jo and Adrian has learned to arrange this in a permantley attached funnel type way by means of various straps and pulleys so Jo is both happy and quiet which means Adrian and I can catch up and chill out. It really is the only way and if we put Max in Jo’s reach we can sometimes eek out several minutes of peace and quiet using this method notwithstanding the occasional interruption in an ever-so Father Jack like ‘DRINK, DRINK, DRINK’!!!!! type of way if the hose leading from the funnel slips out!
Adrian and Jo stayed onboard for the night and left for home in the morning which gave me an hour to prepare prior to be being boarded by my Mum, Joanna, James, Tom and Jack. We went off to the Maybush pub in Martlesham for lunch and enjoyed it’s beautiful position and wonderful view over the Deben. We had a great day and their visit marked three social occasions in as many days! It looks like I can still do it.
In keeping with the theme of my last blog, I really have kept the pace slow. I stayed in the Tide Mill marina for five nights which was longer than planned but I always hate to leave and on this occasion I didn’t have to! When I did leave I only made it about about a quarter of a mile before tuning right and mooring up right next to the Tide Mill itself on the council owned Quay. This was for two reasons. Firstly, I still didn’t want to leave Woodbridge, secondly I hadn’t previously realised that they allowed visitors to moor there and thirdly (math obviously not a strong point) three nights on the town quay costs the same as one night in the yacht harbour! Ok, there is no electric hook up or water on tap but with full tanks and fully charged batteries I just ran my diesel heating to stay toasty!
There isn’t a lot of water approaching the quay or alongside it even at high tide so the night before I moved there I checked the tides to ensure there would actually be a high enough tide for me to get there. According to the predicted tide height it was going to be marginal so I went to the quay, climbed down the ladders and measured the minimum depth required up from the mud and scraped a line through the weed on the wall so I would have a visual cue on approach. Basically, if I could see the line it wouldn’t be deep enough. I felt pretty smart and almost smug about my cunning approach to this situation although the whole system fell apart when I realised that in order to be able to see or not see the line would mean being so close in that I would already either be practically alongside or aground on the mud!
Just to highlight the continuous variables involved in this hobby of mine, there was an unexpected negative sea surge in the north sea which basically meant that whereas tide height predictions are normally very accurate, a westerly wind and a spike in atmospheric pressure kept some of the tide out. So, when I was close enough to see the line, it was about four inches above the water and Fiesta was already touching the muddy bottom (something that gets you into a lot of trouble these days)! By this time it was already high tide so it was a case of abort or go for it. I gambled against the dented pride that being stranded high and dry on the mud does to you and risked the prospect of giving people 12 hours to point and laugh at the prick trying to look like he intended to sit on the mud ten feet short of the quay and I went for it. I put the power on and carved two trenches through the mud and Fiesta stopped about a meter short of the wall! I was then able to rig up a couple of lines to the bollards onshore and use the engine and lines to pull me in sideways until I was perfectly in position! Lovely and pride in tact! Apologies if this sounds like gloating but in my defence I hope my previous blogs have shown that I would also be honest enough to show you the other side of the coin had that have happened! As I have said many times before (yawn), you do need a bit of luck!!!
There is one little ritual that I like to keep up whenever I visit Woodbridge. Woodbridge has a lovely old privately owned cinema. The films are not the most up to date but I love the old school ticket office, ice cream parlour and popcorn. It’s fantastic so I always go along to watch a film, any film and get a ticket for one. This is one of the few occasions (along with getting a table for one) when I feel slightly uncomfortable and imagine everyone pointing and staring at the sad guy all alone. However, this time around, it was not at all like that. Quite the opposite in fact because I went to the matinee showing of the Snowman with that Michale Fast-Bender bloke and ended up meeting a few single ladies. In fact there were lots of them, probably a 10-1 ratio to guys on their own. Ok, Ok, they were sixty, seventy and maybe a bit more but single, yes! Older guys out there, you are missing a trick! I know where I will be every afternoon in a few years time once Sarah has come to her senses!
I finally left Woodbridge yesterday morning. The height of high tide was predicted to be 30cm higher than when I arrived at the quay. This time the prediction was spot on so I was afloat and able to reverse away from the quay nearly an hour before high water. This early escape meant that I could push on and leave the River Deben. The sand bar at the entrance means the river is not accessible at all states of the tide and I had thought that I wouldn’t float soon enough to make it all the way out before the tide fell away making the entrance too shallow. As it turned out, it was perfect and I went out of the Deben flushed on my way by 5 knots of tide a couple of hours after high water. Unfortunately this meant that I did myself out of one more night in the river. I had planed to anchor off Ramsholt and enjoy that little gem too but that will have to wait until next time.
In beautiful clear blue skies but a chilly 5 degrees I made my way along the coast and entered Harwich Harbour. It was such a change not to have a paper chart rolled out and to be constantly checking my position. I knew that part well and I kept a listening watch on the Harwich vessel traffic services channel to make sure there were no big ships on their way in or out before I crossed the shipping lane and entered Harwich Harbour.
I am now moored at Ha’penny Pier in Harwich. So called because of the toll that was charged to moor here when it was used by paddle steamers in the late 1800’s Apparently it is one of the UK’s only surviving and working wooden piers and it provides a nice little shelter and great views of the ship movements from both Harwich and the Port of Felixstowe. Even better news is that it’s officially closed to yachts at this time of year but no one seems to have noticed that I have sneaked in as I bob up and down in the harbour swell with no other boats around! Who knows, maybe I will get a Harwich official knocking on the side of the boat asking me to move on or pay but for now I have my own marina!
As I sailed in through Harwich Harbour, behind me I could clearly see the Naze Tower at Walton and only a four hour sail the other side of that is the River Crouch. In a way I was tempted to sail straight there but that was simply the excitement of actually completing the circle but before that happens I have the lovely River Orwell to reacquaint myself with and then possibly the Walton Backwaters. Oh no, I’m not done yet!
Jo, Adrian and me by means of carefully balancing the camera on the solar panel!
The entrance to the marina at high and low tide and my favourite old boat here
Fiesta moored alongside the Tide Mill on the town quay and the view from the cockpit
This is where I scraped in, just!
Poor old Heavenly Twins catamaran moored in a creek and forgotten….
A view of the Tide Mill as I left, the church at Ramsholt, the Ramsholt Arms pub and a beautiful sunset viewed from Ha’penny Pier