Monday, 29 July 2019


Today's activity was new to us, although it had been part of the East Coast Summer Cruise for a few years. We were supplied with a start line and finish point, and given five hours to make out way from one to the other. We did not have to start at any particular time so could make the best use of the tide to make our way between the two via any route. On the way we needed to plot a course past a selection list of buoys/ navigation marks, each of which had a value between 10 and 50 points. Those with low values were close to the direct route, while the more distant or difficult to reach ones gave more points. The draw back was that each minute taken over the 5 hours lost a point.

There was another prize for the best "selfie" taken as we passed a mark.

Julian and I opted for a very conservative course, crossing the start line at Bateman's Tower to broad reach up river to the Colne no.17 buoy, then beating back down again and into the Blackwater, past Colne no.8 buoy, then across the Mersea Flats. We were aiming for the Nass beacon, but the wind went very light, and there were several dinghy races going on in the area under the control of the West Mersea Yacht Club. We were asked to keep clear, and Julian reluctantly put the engine on for a couple of minutes. We were racing too!

It took an agonising 20 minutes to get close enough (2 boat lengths) to the Nass beacon to get our points. We took a photo, then sailed slowly against the tide up river to Osea Island. We reached the finish mark ten minutes late, so our 30 accumulated points went down to 20. Faster boats had an advantage (although I was told there was a handicap correction), but the most important factor was working the tides to collect the high value points in the least possible time. It was great fun, and it scattered the boats all over the rivers and estuary. I heard one boat collected 60 points, then was 50 minutes late at the end mark, while another collected the same and was 50 minutes early (no points were added for early finishing)!

We dropped the anchor at 16:25, very close to low water, in 3.7m, feeling we were as close to the shore as it was sensible to be. A couple of the boats that had arrived earlier had rigged their tenders to sail, and younger members of their crews were racing each other through the anchorage. This was the first time we had regretted not having our own tender with us.

The beach at Osea is mostly shingle and gravel, but below half tide this is covered in layer of mud and weed, so we waited on Robinetta until we saw people beginning to land, then phoned and asked for a lift ashore. Twilight, the new smacks boat had just landed her mother ship's crew ashore, and was dispatched to collect us.

Nearly the whole fleet of 27 was at anchor off Osea during the barbeque, but as the party died down and people returned to their boats many moved. High winds were forecast, and the anchorage was a lee shore, so some took moorings down river at the Marconi sailing club, while others moved to the other side of the bay. We decided to stay put, having confidence in our anchor and a feeling that the winds were not going to be as strong or as early as expected. A select group of 7 or 8 of the smaller boats stayed put too, and spent a quiet night.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

2 rivers race

Neither Julian nor I were sure we would race today. Even anchored clear of all the other boats we had had a disturbed night with uncomfortable swell. The race was scheduled to begin at 09:30, and we only decided to race at 09:10. We were still anchored and it took Julian longer than expected to haul it up. Then we had to dodge other boats sailing around us while we got our sails up.

Robinetta was last but one over the line and we were not sure if My Quest, the other boat, was even racing. She overhauled us by the time we were passing Thurslet Spit, then we passed her again... Meanwhile the fleet ahead were slowly drawing away.

Having My Quest to race against, and still being able to see the rest of the fleet all the way to the finish line made for an enjoyable trip. We even had a nail biting finish, racing My Quest all the way to the finish line where she was half a boat length ahead.

We moored up on the Brightlingsea visitor pontoon, and were glad to be back there after 2 disturbed nights at anchor. We had to raft up though, on Hussar, who lay outside Cygnet of London. Then My Quest came along outside us. It was a good distribution on boats length and weight wise.

Ostara had gone to fill up her water tanks, and failed to get on to the water pontoon on her first attempt. While going round to try again she ran aground and was soon high and dry. Her skipper tried to set up her beaching legs to keep her upright, but the slope meant that it did not work and she suffered some damage as she lay over, although she came up properly when the tide came back.

The "safari supper" was an interesting exercise in getting to know people. I volunteered to provide a main course, and as they were short of starters Julian offered a starter, so we spent 2 courses on Robinetta. I tried to use the Thermal Cooker to make Jambalaya, but it was not a huge success as the recipe was for 6, and it turned out I needed a larger version of the cooker for that...

Saturday, 27 July 2019

East Coast Race

After a disturbed morning we did not get an especially good start to the race. I could not concentrate and kept Robinetta well up river of the start line so the tide did not take us over.  At least we started in the middle of the fleet, but as normal a lot of boats came past us. Luckily the weather was Robinetta friendly (NW 4 or 5, increasing 6 around 13:00 when we were still racing) and the strong wind helped us keep our place in the fleet of 40 boats.

The race went from Stone to Bench Head on a good broad reach, then we had to tack past Colne Bar buoy and round the Colne Point buoy before returning to Colne Bar then back to Stone. The tacking towards Colne Point was very hard work. There were a lot of boats doing the same thing, against wind and tide, and inevitably we lost time and sometimes distance when we had to avoid boats on Starboard tack. We could hold on into the shallows longer than the larger boats, but it was not much of an advantage, and as we finally approached Colne Point on what should have been our last tack we had to give water to a bigger boat, and failed to round it.

The sail back towards Stone was much easier. I handed the helm to Julian and while we had to tack a couple of times as we headed up river it was nothing like as hard work. We could see other boats not too far ahead, and there was at least one behind us.

After finishing the race we anchored at the far end of the Stone YC Moorings, away from all the other boats. We did not want a repeat of last night. Then we went ashore for the prize giving. To our surprise we won the Yachting World Rose Bowl, rather an impressive trophy, as fastest (on handicap) in the "slow" gaffers class. It turned out that there were only two boats in that class, and My Quest was being single handed by one of her new owners. It still felt like a good result!

Anchoring shenanigans

I woke early, having had a disturbed night. The water was flat when we went to bed, but as soon as the tide turned we started to roll and Robinetta did not want to settle to her anchor. I had set an anchor watch alarm on the chartplotter, which did not go off, but I woke several times and looked to check we were fine.

When I heard a strange noise at about half six I got up again. There was a boat only 10 yards away, much closer than any yesterday evening, that must have come in and anchored after we went ashore. I had not spotted it in the dark when we came back aboard last night. I went down to pull on some clothes, and heard the odd noise again.

As I went back on deck I had to fend its bowsprit off Robinetta's cabin top.

I hailed the other boat, and a rather bleary eyed person appeared (not the skipper). We had anchored first, and definitely not dragged, but Julian decided that the simplest thing to do would be to haul up our anchor and get out of the way. He went forward, while I got the engine on and kept us clear.

Julian could not be bothered to pull the chain all the way up, so we motored into as clear a spot as we could find and dropped it again without looking at it. In less than an hour we were dragging. On went the engine, and up came the anchor again. All the way up this time.

The chain had wrapped itself round the stock, so the anchor had been acting only as a mud weight. Not the best way to set an anchor in a crowded spot, with notoriously bad holding.... We should have made the other boat move.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Brightlingsea to Stone

There was a lovely sailing breeze today, with no remnants of yesterday's squalls. We were heading for the Stone Sailing Club ready for tomorrow's East Cost Race, but there was a race today too.

The passage race to join the East Coast OGA summer cruise was self timed, so we worked our tidal calculations to take advantage of the best tide, and came off the pontoon at 11:25. We raised full sail as we left harbour, then turned up the Colne to use the Colne Yacht Club line as our starting point for the 10nm race to Stone. (not a long passage, but what we had to work with). Julian helmed.

After cutting across the Mersea Flats at slack water low (watching the depth gauge carefully) we took the rising tide up river, passing the finish line of Thurslet Spit due north at 15:21.

The anchorage at Stone is notorious for its poor holding, so we did not want to be too close to other boats. We ended up anchoring in the fairway, with 30m of chain, and spent an anxious half hour watching until we were sure Robinetta would not foul any of the moored boats.

After that we called the free water taxi (laid on specially for the gaffers) and went ashore to register for tomorrow's race.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Hamford Water to Brightlingsea

The tides were at civilized times for traveling down the Wallet from the Backwaters to the Blackwater, so Julian pulled up the anchor at 08:40, and we headed out through the entrance channel under sail. The morning's forecast was for light winds, but getting rather nasty (force 6-7 with thunder storms) in the evening.

The light winds were in a good direction, Easterly/South Easterly, so being used to slow travel we kept sailing at 2.5 to 3 knots even when all the boats around us put their engines on and over took us. Slow or not we arrived at Brightlingsea before 16:00, having taken just over 7 hours, with less than an hour of engine.

The weather was oppressively hot and even after a shower in the yacht club I could not persuade myself to head up to the high street to shop. Julian and I ended up eating at the Harbour Bar, since it had air conditioning...

We were not expecting the storms until 22:00, but they arrived two hours earlier, with an amazing display of lightening. We headed back to Robinetta in a hurry!

As we were relaxing on board we noticed a yacht trying to moor on the other side of the pontoon. A single handed sailor had just arrived, exhausted, after a trip down the Wallet in wild winds and thunderstorms that had knocked his boat Tomboy down. We helped him moor, then headed back to Robinetta, glad we had managed to time our trip down the Wallet to avoid he bad weather.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Anchored in Hamford Water

We decided on a very lazy day today, and just stayed put, enjoying the quiet and spotting the occasional seal watching boat heading up Oakley Creek. We did get visitors though. Rosie, a Pilot Cutter 30 that I had sailed on last October and that we had hoped to head to the Netherlands in, motored past Robinetta, turned round, and came and moored up along side us.

We entertained skipper Geoff and his crew with coffee and had a long chat about Rosie and how Geoff was feeling. After an hour they motored off to put Rosie on her pontoon at Titchmarsh marina before driving home, leaving Julian and I to our quiet day.