Sunday, 11 June 2017

WIP River Orwell - Drascombe Association Rally

Coasters: Daisy II, Robcat II
Luggers: Jimbo, Rita May
Winkle Brig: Cockle.
plus a Mirror Dinghy!

We haven't been back to the River Orwell for a Drascombe Association rally for several years and, as this was supposed to be a 'grand fleet' event in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Drascombes, Suffolk Yacht Harbour at Levington seemed the perfect venue.  For some reason, our fleet was somewhat smaller than expected, but no less enjoyable for it.  The select company had two splendid days of sailing in some quite testing winds and made the most of this delightful river.

We gathered on Friday and Saturday morning.  Levington Marina, as it is often called, shows few signs of the austerity which has afflicted the rest of the country.  The latest edition to several impressive new buildings is a shower block with marble effect fittings, heated seats in the showers, and fancy lights which fire up when one pulls at the soap dispenser.  Still, the Haven Ports Yacht Club continues to offer good fare and we ate well and in good company each evening.

Winds throughout the weekend were strong and quite gusty - F5 gusting 6 at times, from the south on Saturday with more of a south westerly feel on Sunday.  Nonetheless, it was pleasing that all  confronted these challenging conditions, well reefed,  participating in the sails each day.
On Saturday, we made our way upstream with the tide, and returned to Pin Mill for an HW picnic lunch on the green,  Kings boatyard kindly allowed us to raft up on their excellent pontoon.

On Sunday, we sailed against the tide up into Harwich harbour and anchored to take a look at the ever imposing and incredible container ships, before returning to harbour to take out boats and return home.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

End of May cruise

Rocna 6 doing its job!
Half term wouldn't be half term without a cruise.  This one has often been done but is no less enjoyable for it.  Exploring the three estuaries comprising Harwich Haven presents plenty of variety both in terms of sailing and scenery.

28-30th May; Rivers Orwell, Stour and Walton Backwaters: 52.0nm
Sunday 28th May: Orwell to Walton Backwaters
Woolverstone Marina did their best to make life unpleasant.  Apparently, it isn't allowable to launch from there and then return three days later - one can only do day trips.  When questioned about this, the gentleman offered no explanation but merely repeated that it wasn't allowed.  I'd like to abide by the rules, but wasn't being helped on this occasion.  Maybe I should launch over at Titchmarsh where they are far more welcoming.  It's a shame, because Woolverstone for me is the most convenient albeit rather pricey option.

Once Daisy II was set up, I sailed with the ebb against the SE breeze out of the Orwell and into Harwich harbour.  Somewhere off Harwich shelf, the breeze diminished so the engine was employed for the trip across Pennyhole Bay to Landermere Creek in the Walton Backwaters.

The forecast was for thunderstorms and some wind.  After dark, the wind turned into a NE, so I moved anchorage further on round the corner, in the lea of Skipper Island.  That night, I was awoken by lashing rain, thunder and lightning and a flogging mainsail which I carelessly hadn't lashed down sufficiently well.  You live and learn.  This was not a comfortable night at anchor...

On departing the next morning, another yacht had dragged its anchor from Hamford Water and ended up aground against Skipper Island - and had to wait until HW in the afternoon to refloat.

Storm clouds gathering over Felixstowe

28th May: River Orwell to Walton Backwaters: 17.1nm
Monday 29th May
An early start heralded calmer seas.  The night's storm had passed through leaving a dwindling NE breeze.  I punched out of the Backwaters under motor, bound for the Stour.  Once I had rounded Harwich Shelf, sails were deployed and the outboard was rested.  Winds were exceptionally light as I drifted upstream with the flood.   
I stopped briefly off Sutton Ness to catch up on some kip, and also to check out the new oars, Daisy II's latest kit acquisition.  These are 270cm in length and work exceptionally well.  I know of some coaster owners who prefer the 10ft variety, but stowage is so much more difficult and I was very happy with the way these 9ft ones behaved.

Daisy II waiting patiently off Sutton Ness on the River Stour.  Note the new oars.

View towards Wrabness
 After a few snaps, I continued to Manningtree, and then turned round against the continuing flood for the long return beat to Harwich.  At some point, flood turned to ebb which made for a larger tacking angle.  Three other Drascombes joined in the fun - as described below.  Winds had turned to more of a SE direction.

Three other Drascombes came out to play: this Dabber, a lugger pictured above and a Drifter which is moored at Wrabness but which I didn't manage to picture.
Once I was round Shotley point, and entering the Orwell, the wind became less helpful and, although I persisted under sail for most of the trip up Lower Reach, and then motored briefly around to Colton Creek for then night.
River Stour: 32.5nm
Anchored (at this point dried out) for the night off Colton Creek on the River Orwell
Tuesday 30th May
Rising at 4am, I had to return to Woolverstone to pull out before water left the slip.  By 7.30am, I was towing Daisy II on her trailer, out of the marina for the long trip home.
30th May: return to base; 2.4nm

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Replacement mast crutch

Easter project: yet to be varnished replacement mast crutch
Improvised splint supporting previously broken mast crutch
The issue was really to do with varnishing.  I just put it off and, after time, the thing weakened and subsequently snapped during transit. The main lesson to be learned: look after wood, particularly where it supports other structures.  Also, one tends to look after spars more so than less glamorous but equally vital pieces of supporting timber.

On the return from the Easter cruise, whilst driving through Braintree, I noticed the irregularity of the mast flailing around as I negotiated another mini-roundabout.  I pulled over, assessed the problem and then improvised for the remainder of the trip.  If nothing else, the experience offers a good reason for keeping several items, particularly lengths of rope, aboard - not for everyday usage, but always there should the need arise.  The supporting structure involved sandwiching the broken section between two pieces of timber, and repeatedly wrapping the whole in two lengths of rope.

Hence, this brought on an Easter project: fashioning a replacement.  The only purchase was a piece of timber from B&Q: 21x67x2400 for £6.  The remaining costs were varnish - in this case, existing stocks of epoxy resin used as a coating - and time.  I recycled the top 'cradle' end of the previous crutch along with five brass screws.

The first job was to cut off two lengths, roughly 37cm and glue them to either side of the remaining piece.  I used Gorilla Glue which is excellent for bonding wood.  Once dry, I used a power file to shape the base of the new structure.
New base fashioned using the sadly neglected previous base as a template.
I then cut from the existing crutch the top 'cradle' end - which is made from 10mm 3-part plywood.  Having trimmed the edges and sanded it down to remove existing coatings, this was glued to the new support, again using Gorilla Glue.  My judgement was that, despite the lack of attention it has received over the years, it was basically sound and worth recycling.  The opening photo in this blog article shows the new crutch, yet to be varnished, sitting in the mizzen slot.  In support of the glue, there are five existing holes for brass screws which will be re-inserted in due course.  Here's a shot of the bottom end.
Snug fit in the mizzen slot.  This was fashioned to the match the dimensions of the old crutch which used to offer some 'give' when moved laterally in the slot.   Once varnished, this new one will hopefully be up to a millimetre or so thicker on each face, so slightly more secure in the slot.
Currently, the crutch is being coated - and I'm taking no chances: three coats of epoxy with some extra around the key sections, such as the top end of base structure shown above - which is where the old one finally gave way.
Between coats of epoxy

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Easter Cruise, 4-8 April 2017

Mundon Stone Point, Lawling Creek
Easter cruising has been in Daisy II's repertoire since I purchased her in late 2006.  So, this year sees the eleventh incarnation of the event.  Last season's early Easter yielded a launch date on the last day in March at Bradwell Marina and a lovely cruise within the confines of the Blackwater Estuary.  This season, musical commitments up until 1st April somewhat delayed proceedings.  I then needed a few days of recovery before spending 3rd April putting things back on the boat and preparing for launching the next day.
The forecast for the week was dominated by a high pressure system moving slowly across the UK.  This presented an opportunity too good to miss and the chance to do some coastal hops.  I would like to have gone south, perhaps back to Kent and could well have done so, but would have needed afternoon tides to achieve this and it's really good to make use of mornings.

Tuesday 4th April
Afloat once again at Bradwell Marina slipway.
Bradwell Marina was once again the selected launchpad for the season's shakedown cruise.  Tides were right to drift off to Osea Island for an evening anchorage on the south side of the island.
Light winds on the way along to Osea Island
 Wednesday 5th April
Tides were right for an early start and a trip up the coast to the River Deben.  Winds were, as promised, from the north-west and a pleasant F3 was good for sailing up to the pier at Walton.  At this point, the tide was slack and, to speed things along with the wind now on the nose, I used the motor for the trip across to Landguard Point.  Once across the shipping channel, I went close in to shore and sails were set once more for a sail past Felixstowe.  The motor was employed once again to negotiate the sometimes tricky Deben entrance before a pleasant beat with the tide upstream against a fading breeze to a quiet evening anchorage just short of Methersgate Quay.
Evening anchorage near Methersgate Quay (well, actually, I think it's the next morning...)
Detail of tacks up the River Deben

Thursday 6th April
The first task today was to pop up to Woodbridge for some shopping.  As is so often the case, there was little early morning wind so the motor was used.
Briefly tied up at Tide Mill Quay, Woodbridge.  
 The tide had now turned so I set sail for a trip back down the Deben, out to sea and south west to the Walton Backwaters.  I sailed rather close in to Landguard Point by which time it was close to LW and I clumsily scraped the centreplate on the shelf there.  Winds were turning more westerly as I reached the channel into the Backwaters.
Lugger entering Oakley Creek
I then found an afternoon anchorage on the north side of Horsey Island for some early supper during which time a green lugger with several passengers aboard made its way from Landermere and up Oakley Creek.  Closer inspection through the binoculars showed a remarkable colony of seals at the entrance and I resolved to pop up there myself later the same evening.  I wasn't disappointed.
Seals in Oakley Creek
Detail of track in Oakley Creek
Friday 7th April
Low tide was at 4am and I resolved to rise at 3am in order to be off the Naze Tower ready to hitch a lift on the fresh flood tide.  Unfortunately, I miscalculated and found the boat high and dry.  So, it was back to the bunk for a couple of hours.  At 5am, Daisy II was afloat and I departed, taking in breakfast along the way.
Sunrise off the Naze Tower
 Unfortunately, there was little by way of a meaningful breeze, so I had to put up with noise from the engine for the trip down The Wallet.  By 9am I was pulling in to Brightlingsea.  It would be good to pull in there, one day, and find an open cafe. Yet again, I was disappointed today.
So, I anchored up the Pyefleet Channel for a bite to eat.  Later, I sailed out of the Colne and as far round the Mersea Flats as I could before the ebb overpowered the effect of the sails.  Then, engine was once again deployed for a trip in to West Mersea for mid-afternoon fish and chips.

Finally, an afternoon breeze took me up to an evening anchorage off Mundon Stone Point in Lawling Creek.
Mundon Stone Point anchorage

Saturday 8th April
The morning brought on sea fog, so it took longer than anticipated for the planned return to Bradwell Creek.
The final piece of excitement was a broken mast crutch somewhere in Braintree!  So, I improvised a splint consisting of two pieces of wood and lashings of rope - which, having had a winter clearout, if nothing else made it clear to me as to why it is necessary to have copious quantities of rope aboard.  It also drove home a good reason for keeping pieces of wood well varnished...!
Improvised splint supporting the broken mast crutch.