The Harwich Haven Authority didn’t come knocking on the side of the boat for payment and I stayed for two nights before leaving Ha’penny Pier and heading up the River Orwell.
I aimed for Pin Mill where there is a lovely little pub right on the waterfront. Pin Mill is only a few miles from Harwich but thanks to a northerly breeze and an air temperature of only 3 degrees I was freezing cold by the time I got there. Blimey, winter really is here! Winter seems to make 90% of British sailors take shelter on land and with so many boats taken out of the water the rivers feel wider and more expansive and this brings another level of peace and a feeling escapism so I love winter sailing too!
Once at Pin Mill there are loads of mooring buoys but I didn’t want to pick one up because not many of them look very new or substantial so I decided to lay to my own gear and chucked the anchor over the front. In actual fact this wasn’t quite as easy as I have just made it sound. The Orwell is very wide at high water but it dries for a long way on both sides at low tide leaving a fairly narrow channel down the middle. This channel is dredged for the commercial ships that go all the way up to Ipswich and there really isn’t much room either side of the deep channel. A few years ago the captain of a big ship took a slightly wider turn than he should have done. His stern swung out of the main channel and took out a few moored yachts in the process! I was careful to find a spot to anchor that was away from the mooring buoys so I wouldn’t catch my anchor on any of their chains but I also needed to be far enough away from the channel so I couldn’t swing into it with changing wind or tide and yet far enough away from the shore that I didn’t dry out at low tide thus allowing me access to shore at all states of the tide. This type of operation, I am ashamed to say, can sometimes mean two or three attempts of putting the anchor down, seeing where you swing to and then trying again if it doesn’t look good. Either because of practice or more likely a little luck, the first attempt was a success.
On Sunday my sailing/biker friend Richard and his wife Claire drove up from Essex and we met for lunch in the Butt & Oyster Pub. The tide was so high when I went ashore that I literally parked the dinghy next to the pub although when the tide turns it is as if someone has pulled the plug out and a few hours later I had a very long drag with the dinghy out to the deep water.
It was great to catch up with Richard & Claire and despite tempting fate’s hand by getting married back in the summer it was a pleasure to see them looking so very happy, relaxed and content! Despite cynicism from bitter experience it is excellent to see that for some, marriage doesn’t spell the end of everything good! Although to be fair, the end of mine spelt the start of the best 10 years (and counting) of my life so far so in a strange reverse kind of way, I am a fan of it!!!
I stayed anchored off Pin Mill for three nights using Doris to go ashore and my diesel heating to keep warm. My Webasto diesel heating system is excellent although it does use quite a lot of battery power to heat the glow plug and run the fan so I have to ration it’s use. I try to resist pressing the button until I can see my breath inside the boat. This usually happens at around 4pm when the sun goes down and the temperature really drops and at that point, sitting inside under a duvet with a hat on I feel I have waited long enough so on it goes! Ahhh, that’s much better! I do have quite a lot of solar power and also a wind generator but, no rocket science here, if the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow then I easily pull more out of my batteries than the sun and wind put in.
The forecast told me that some strong wind was on the way but being anchored close behind some tall trees meant that I got good shelter most of the time and my only disturbance was the wash from the ships going to and from Ipswich which passed a couple of hundred feet from where I was anchored. Hearing the ships at night is quite eerie though. Laying down in bed with your head by the waterline you hear the hissing of the ship’s propellers though the water from quite a long way off and it gets louder as the ship nears. It’s rather like how a train track hisses as the train approaches but in the dark of the night when this hissing gets louder and louder it can make you scramble up top in a panic to make sure you haven’t drifted into the channel! There was no need to worry, as usual the anchor held firm!
Once I received warnings of 50 mph winds from the Met Office via their weather app I decided to up anchor and head for the shelter and safety of a marina. That marina was Wolverstone Marina which is another firm favourite of mine and again somewhere that I spent many happy times on the original Fiesta with my family. Like Woodbridge, I can never tire of the place but there was something else drawing me in which might sound quite trivial but really, it’s not!
After a few days away from land or following a cold day on the water what your average salty sailor really wants is to warm up in a decent shower and Wolverstone has always ticked this box! I do shower on Fiesta but in order to have hot water, the engine needs to have run and although my shower is hot, it’s not very powerful and I don’t carry enough water onboard to be able to have a decent long soak. Marina’s always have shower facilities and the quality of the shower is one of the main things that I remember a place by! This is unfortunate because it tells you that a good shower is a rarity if that’s what ends up being one of the significant trigger points for a happy and memorable marina stay!
I’ve encountered far too many sh*t showers to mention on this trip so after a chilly day on the water I fantasise about a properly decent shower although far too often this leads to disappointment. All I want is one that is hot, powerful and one that you get out of to cool off! I don’t think this should be too much to ask but apparently it is. Sometimes you can walk into facilities that are unbelievably dated but actually very good but what happens more often than not is that the facilities look great but in fact they flatter to deceive. Several times I’ve heard harbourmasters proudly say ‘We have brand new facilities with state of the art Eco showers’….
Ok. Stop right there because you’ve already lost me! ‘Eco’ is a word I have learned to fear as it is hardly ever associated with good times. Being on an economy drive is not conducive to a good night out, economy food mean’s that you will inadvertently end up eating Shergar, a car in Eco mode will make you fall asleep at the wheel and a girlfriend in Eco mode is built for comfort, not speed. It’s rarely much fun and when the word Eco is associated with a marina shower it is code for ‘We are saving energy, the planet and (unsaid but truly the real reason) our own pennies’. What it means is that you end up waving something, usually your hand, at the sensor on the wall to make sure the last three red lights are lit up, falsely indicating that you are about to get scalded by venturing into the dangerous hot water zone only to find that the water is merely warm, definitely not hot and you emerge underwhelmed with cold arms, cold sides and some other bits still shrivelled by the cold! This is followed by a mad rush to get dressed before you become colder than you were when you went in. No, no, NO! I want to be pinned to the floor by water pressure whilst emitting lots of satisfied grunts and groans, the sort that will make your fellow facility users fear there is a Broke Back Mountain moment in progress in cubicle three! The fact that quite inexplicably I seem to break out my very limited German dialect of Ja, Ja, das ist sehr gut, oh Ja, Ja, JAAAAA whenever I am under really hot water on a cold day makes the Broke Back Mountain scenario seem even more plausible to my fellow washers! After the deluge I want to get out, gasping for air with red skin and enjoy standing there slightly slumped over with steam streaming off me as I gratefully cool down and everything hangs loose. Too much to ask? Well it seems so. Of the 40 or so marina facilities that I have used on this trip only five have delivered this experience, the owners having actually grasped the joy that a hot shower delivers to a cold sailor.
Anyway, Wolverstone Marina is one such marina that has always delivered an excellent shower experience and I have been looking forward to that certainty for a while now. The last time I was here the facilities were looking good by any standards so imagine my surprise when I walked though the door to the brand new and only just reopened wash shop. However, this was not immediately a happy sight for me as the words ‘new eco showers’ started filling my mind with worry and fear at the prospect of disappointment. Thankfully, praise to the Lord (and to the company that owns the marina) I had nothing to worry about and 30 minutes later, I picked myself up off the shower floor, red, hot, totally un shrivelled and I exited the cubicle a very clean, happy man. Fantastisch baby, ja!
Thank you Wolverstone Marina. What a great welcome back. You never disappoint!
I enjoy visiting a nice Church and love it when the Lord shows you he is protecting your ass!
Entering Harwich Harbour
Anchored just off Pin Mill and close to the ships!
Another favourite, Wolverstone Marina
Continuing up river under the Orwell bridge and into the lock for Ipswich Dock