Thursday, 23 June 2016

River Stour, River Orwell, and Ipswich : Saturday 28th May

Lines were slipped from Titchmarsh Marina at 13-30, and we had an uneventful passage back to the River Stour, where we anchored near Holbrook at 17-00. 

Anchored off Holbrook.

In the morning we sailed up to Pin Mill and almost to Mistley Quay before running out of water. On turning back we had a good sail with a impromptu race with a Thames barge. 

Good sailing on the Stour.

Catching a Thames barge.

After anchoring for lunch in Erwarton Bay we turned into the River Orwell at Shotley point, past the container port at Felixstowe, Which really gave a good impression of how vast some of these container ships are.  

The 'Thalassa Avra' registered in Singapore

Heading up the river we passed a number of large marinas including the Royal Harwich Yacht Club marina which protrudes into the river.

The Royal Harwich Yacht Club.

 Eventually we past under the Orwell bridge, got the boat ready for mooring and called up the Ipswich lock for a lock in to the huge marina complex which is very close to the centre of town.

The Orwell Bridge.

We were given a finger berth which turned out to be very tight, and the following morning we moved to a much larger one to secure 'Norman James' for a week or so while we took the train home.

Ipswich Marina.

'Norman James' ( centre ) secured for our time at home.

Walton Backwaters : Thursday 26th May

We weighed anchor and motored back down the Stour as there was no wind. There was a little excitement as we approached Shotley when a PAN PAN was called from a yacht which thought he had lost drive from his engine and was in danger of being stranded on Shotley spit, it turned out that his depth sounder was faulty ( saying 5.3m ) and he was actually aground in about 2m of water. Another yacht had tried to help but backed out when his sounder was approaching 2m. In the end the stranded yacht managed to wriggle off the spit  and broadcast a very sheepish apology as the PAN PAN was cancelled. 

On the way into the Walton Backwaters we saw our first Thames barge sailing out of the backwaters, towards us.
Beautiful Thames Barge.

We picked up a mooring we had kindly been offered by a couple we met in Wells aboard ‘Moody Blue’. This was a lovely spot adjacent to the entrance to Cormorant Creek. 

'Norman James' on her loaned mooring.

dinghy expedition to find a suitable landing placed was in order, but in the end this turned out to be only about 50m where a rail guarding a sluice provided a secure point to tie the dinghy up whilst we walked.

Above and below, views from the sea defence berm.

The beach outside Stone Point.

After following the sea defences near Stone point for a while we turned down the coast making for the Naze tower. We walked up the not inconsiderable number of spiralling steps, and were rewarded with some marvellous views from the top.

Views from the top of the Naze Tower.

We then walked through the outskirts of Walton on the Naze and back along the sea defences to where the dinghy was waiting patiently for us.

'Norman James' with some of the salt marsh in the foreground.

The dinghy at high tide with 'Norman James' behind.

On Friday we moved up river to Titchmarsh marina where the wind was gusting to ~20Kts. With limited options for walking from Titchmarsh, we decided to move again on Saturday and back to the Stour to explore the upper reaches of the river before heading up to Ipswich to leave the boat for a week or so.

River Stour : Wednesday 25th May.

After two nights in the Tide Mill we decided to move on down the coast to the River Stour and after a fairly short passage we anchored in the river a few miles upstream of Harwich and opposite the Stena Ferry terminal which provided some entertainment, watching the Ferry docking and unloading, then setting to sea again. 

Motoring into the River Stour with Felixstowe container port in the distance.

 Stena Line ferry through the window at our anchorage.

In the morning another short passage was planned to the Walton Backwaters.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The River Deben : Sunday 22nd May

On Sunday we did a little provisioning and got the boat ready for the next passage, 45NM from Lowestoft to Harwich. In the end we made such good time with a spring tide under us that we were able to make the River Deben FWB at HW-2, the ideal time to enter, and motor up to the Tide Mill marina, about 8 miles up river. 

The Deben was on our list of places to visit but we didn’t think we would make the entrance in time from Lowestoft, and had planned to come back north from Harwich, so this was a bonus for us. 

The entrance is complicated by outlying sandbanks ( or Knolls as they are known locally ) which are always moving. Fortunately we had very good visibility and an up to date entrance plan posted by the harbour master. Even with up to date information, the entrance was ‘exciting’ with lots of breaking water close to the north. 

Breaking water north of the entrance channel.

Once past Felixstowe Ferry we followed the marked channel along foreboding sounding places such as ‘Troublesome Reach’ and eventually scraped over the cill at Tide Mill Marina at Woodbridge. 

The Tide Mill, and marina ( Below ).

The marina cill at low water.

We stayed a couple of days at the Tide Mill, and whilst there we took the dinghy for a run up the river into areas not accessible in 'Norman James' . Passing under two (very) low bridges and into an area of gentle meanders and reed lined banks which was truly delightful. 

Low bridge on the upper Deben.

Peaceful, reed lined river.

To top out the experience we also saw a kingfisher flashing away from us with the sunlight glowing on it’s plumage. The dinghy trip also tested out our new electric outboard which made the run much more pleasant with very little noise to disturb the wildlife, and after 1 3/4 hours still had 20% battery life left. Woodbridge itself was very attractive with lots of independent shops and easy access to a supermarket for provisioning. 

Sunday, 5 June 2016

New Season : 2016

New Season 2016.

We had a good overwintering at Amble Marina, a very friendly place, with shops and several cafes within walking distance. In fact we have been based at Amble for 10 months, since finishing our UK circumnavigation last June. 

'Norman James' in her berth in Amble Marina.

Amble Marina.

The last of the off season jobs, replacing the steaming / deck light combination lamp with an LED unit, was finished in April. The bottom was scrubbed while beached on a very convenient basin near the entrance to Amble; this turned out to be a great success as we changed the anodes, greased the propeller, and cleaned the topsides during the time we had dried out. 

'Norman James' on the beach at Amble.

The Bosun aloft.

We left Amble on Tuesday 10th May slipping our lines and setting out on the 46NM passage to Hartlepool ( having already decided to head south this year in search of some warmth ! ). 

After a couple of nights in Hartlepool we moved on to Scarborough where we were told that the visitors pontoon had been reserved for the competitors in a P1 Power Boat racing regatta, fortunately there was a vacant berth in the residents marina. We had three nights at Scarborough to allow some strong winds to go through, in fact the racing was cancelled on Saturday as the seas were too rough. 

Other entertainment was provided by Jet Ski racing, and a display of Jet Boarding which was truly amazing. To those not familiar with this sport (I wasn’t) Jet boarding involves balancing on a what looks like a snow board to which two downward facing jet nozzles are attached, this is in turn attached to a large hose pipe fed from the output of a fairly powerful Jet Ski. The overall effect is that of flying on two powerful jets of water with lots of aerobatics - it looks a bit like hard work to me but it was really impressive! 

Ace Jet boarder at Scarborough.

The sea state was due to subside by Sunday 15th, and we left at 09-40 bound for the anchorage at Spurn Head. After a 54NM downwind passage we anchored, and had a quiet night on the hook. Bed beckoned early as the following leg to Wells-next-the-Sea required a 0600 start to get to the entrance to Wells an hour before HW. 

Monday 16th was the day after the neap tide which didn’t leave much depth in the approach channel even at HW! The least depth recorded in the channel was 1.8m and by this point the keel was well retracted to give clearance. Wells was one of the places we really liked on our way round the coast in 2012, so we were quite happy to have a three night stay here before moving on to Lowestoft on Thursday 19th. 
 Guided down the channel at Wells-next-the-Sea by the harbour launch.

Whilst in Wells we were joined on the pontoon by Moody Blue and her crew who were heading north from the Walton Backwaters. Their knowledge of Walton and the nearby Harwich Harbour was eagerly taken in for future reference, along with spare current guides which they happened to have on board.

'Moody Blue' and 'Norman James' in Wells.

Another early start on Thursday 19th May was required to make the most of the fair tide, leaving Wells at 0530. There was patchy fog in the forecast but the weather seemed fine as we started out from the visitors pontoon, however, past the lifeboat house the fog descended very suddenly and required a sharp lookout from the bow to move from buoy to buoy, eventually finding the West Cardinal buoy which marks the seaward end of the channel. 

Once clear of the channel we turned east and with the aid of AIS and radar had a good run along the north Norfolk coast, with fair tide until we were six miles south of Happisburgh. The tide then turned foul and we had a frustratingly slow passage from about 10-30 until we arrived at Lowestoft where we moored in the Hamilton dock marina run by ABP. 

The following morning we moved over the harbour to the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club to fill up with fuel, this involved dodging traffic coming through from lake Lothing (through the lifting bridge) and also liaising with harbour control and a large dredger ‘Orca’ which was working in the vicinity of the entrance to the RNSYC, this procedure then needed to be repeated for the return journey to our pontoon. 

Saturday was forecast to be wet but the rain came through early in the morning leaving quite a pleasant, though breezy  day, so we took a taxi to Oulton Broad and had a good walk around the shoreline and sat watching the sailing club racing on the water. 

Racing on Oulton Broad.

Lowestoft is one of our favourite destinations because it is a busy port with many different ship movements; whether it be dredging of the harbour, the coming and going of the wind farm  support vessels  and the routine traffic in and out of the Broads. The town is handy (Marks and Spencers is perhaps a bit too close for comfort as Sue satisfies her "shop until you drop") and it is a nice holiday destination. For us it also represents a good port of refuge after several longer passages heading south.

Wind farm support vessel 'Iceni Venture' at her overnight mooring next to 'Norman James' 

We have now revisited  the  ports we stopped at during our circumnavigation in early 2012, and for the rest of this season we intend to explore one of the areas we bypassed in 2012, the Suffolk and Essex rivers, The Medway area and the inner Thames estuary.