Sunday, 21 September 2008

Back Home

Robinetta floated level at 0430, and we were tempted to just go to sleep properly for a bit. However we needed to get home, and we would ground again within the hour, so it was get up, and engine on. We were away from the dock at 0505.

It was very dark, overcast so there was no moon or star light, and slightly foggy. Luckily we had brought our hand held GPS with us, and used it yesterday. It does not have any charts on it, but it did record our track. I helmed while Julian took the GPS to the foredeck and used it to identify the lit channel markers and tell me where to steer.

We picked our way down river carefully, keeping an eye on the depth gauge, and had no problems. The scary thing was that at least two other boats were following our lights....

We got the sails up at Osea Island and started motor sailing, but the fog got really thick just after that and going past the moorings off the Marconi Sailing Club felt dangerous. Luckily the wind increased soon after and blew away the fog giving us a good sail the rest of the way out of the Blackwater.

The wind dropped again later in the morning and we had to put the motor on at 1050. The autohelm came into play again and we ate lunch as we motored past Clacton Pier. We were motor sailing past Walton Pier at 1400, and a soon as we cleared the pier we turned the engine off and sailed into Harwich Harbour.

We were back on our berth in Shotley by 1640, having taken over 13 hours for the trip. Maldon feels like a long way away....

Saturday, 20 September 2008

The Maldon Regatta

No wind for most of the morning. We thought we were quite near the start line when the gun went - then it took 40 minutes to get past it!

Thanks to Robin for this photo!

The course was shortened after an hour since no one was going anywhere, and we just headed for the finish line by the shortest route. We crossed the line at Osea Island at 1238; a motor boat came racing over and threw us a gift pack of Maldon Salt!

We dropped the anchor for lunch in the middle of a crowd of other gaffers.

The Parade of Sail "Race" started at 1435, and there was still so little wind that everyone just drifted up river together, Robinetta right in the middle of the pack. Julian tried poling out the jib with the whisker pole, but it ended up falling into the water. Much to my own surprise I just put the helm over and went straight back to it. One of the great things about Robinetta is how easy it is to pick things up from the water.

The wind picked up a little after that, and for a brief moment Robinetta actually sailed past other boats! They soon overtook her again, but it felt like a proper race as we rounded Hilly Pool Point.

We kept all our sails up as we entered Maldon, even the top sail, only lowering them after we turned back down river having nearly reached Fullbridge.

We had not booked a berth, and ended up docking against a fixed pier. There was supposed to be a mud berth there (which used to belong to Sea Eagle), but as the tide went out it became painfully obvious that we did not fit in it. Robinetta leaned horribly, coming to rest with her shrouds against the pier. Going to bed at an angle was an interesting experience.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Heading to the Blackwater

We drove to Shotley on Thursday night, to spend the night on Robinetta before heading for West Mersea tomorrow morning. I had drawn up a careful navigation plan as this was our first long trip by ourselves, although a lot of the Old Gaffers we had got to know on the August cruise were also heading in the same direction.

We went to the fuel dock and put in 11 litres of diesel and were out of the lock by 0935, an hour after low water. It seemed to take a long time to sort out the sails, and we spent most of the day motor sailing in very light winds. It was our first time heading past Walton-on-the-Naze and down the Wallet to the Blackwater, and the conditions were annoying. There was a swell running, and not enough wind to keep the main sail on one side of the boat so it flogged about. One of the main sheet shackles came off and we lost it over the side, but luckily we have a good supply of old spares.

We sheeted the main sail right in and motored, used the autohelm for the first time. It's no fun steering under motor for long periods and the autohelm proved its worth.

It was a real relief when the wind rose slightly. We passed the North Eagle cardinal on track and sailed up the Blackwater. The chart made it obvious that we needed to navigate with care, and it was nerve wracking as we passed the Nass beacon and entered Mersea Quarters under motor. There is no marina, just a lot of moorings. We called up WM Yacht club as advised in the pilot, and they directed us to take the first vacant buoy we could find in Salcot Creek. We were moored at 1655.

We saw the yacht club launch, and asked about going ashore, to be told that this was the launch’s last trip, and we would not be able to get back to Robinetta. Not to worry, we have food on board!