On Thursday I prepared to leave Woodbridge and to go back down to Felixstowe Ferry, ready for the trip up to Lowestoft. Ian travelled down from Lincolnshire to join me for the trip and as soon as he arrived we cast off. There was a stiff breeze blowing me on to the quay, so I sprang off the stern before reversing away, and needed a couple of bursts with the rudder hard over to keep the stern out. Just before we left a small tug had delivered a fishing boat into the marina and as he was heading back past us he indicated if we wanted a push on the bow. We accepted and he gave us a gentle nudge round, and with a wave and shouted thanks we headed down river. Ian had not been on the Deben before and, like me, he was struck by the beauty of the gently rolling, wooded hills on both banks. The river was not as busy as the previous Saturday but there were still a few yachts and motorboats out. We had a peaceful and unhurried trip and I was able to point out places we had anchored previously and various landmarks. As we approached Felixstowe Ferry there was a strong tide running and I decided to turn and anchor well above the moorings there. We let out plenty of chain and once we had checked all was well, Ian and I went down below to catch up on what had been happening up on Humberside and what we had been doing since he was last on board. We also looked at the forecast for the following day, which was for 4-5 south-westerly winds. We checked the forecast again in the morning and it was very similar but with stronger, more westerly winds overnight on Friday. I decided that we would go, on the basis that we would have the wind behind us and we would have some good sailing. With the benefit of the wind and the tide we would be in Lowestoft well before the winds blew up stronger and shifted to the west. We spent the morning lashing down everything on deck and getting the sail ready. We also made sure everything was stowed down below, and after lunch we hauled up the anchor and set off about an hour before high water. There were several other boats going out at the same time, most of which overtook us. We could see breaking waves on the shoals around the entrance, but they did not seem that different from when we had entered the Deben. However, as we went past the green buoy, it was clear we were not going to have an easy passage out. The south westerly wind and the set of the tide across the entrance kept pushing us across towards the shoals, whilst the very short seas combined with our shallow draft resulted in the propeller not getting much bite. This meant we had to keep heading across towards the deeper water and were making very little progress in the direction we wanted to go. We knew that once we got out to the Woodbridge haven buoy and turned away from the wind we would be much more comfortable. The amount of rolling was quite dramatic and at one point the stern dropped into a trough and a wave broke over me. After half an hour of trying to keep on course, I decided that with only two of us on board it was wiser to head back. I waited for a gap between the waves and turned. As soon as we had the wind behind us things were calmer and it only took a few minutes to go back to the buoy we had spent over half an hour trying to get away from. We passed back over the bar and into Felixstowe Ferry where it seemed positively peaceful. As we motored back towards our anchorage the harbourmaster came over to tell us that someone on the shore had called the coastguard to report a sailing barge aground at the entrance to the Deben. The coastguard had called him and he had told them we weren’t aground, but once we were back at anchor I called the coastguard to reassure them that all was well. We will now wait until the much calmer weather forecast for Monday and still hope to be able to make our planned meeting with Albion on Wednesday.
On Saturday 23rd August we took up the anchor and headed further up the Deben to the historic town of Woodbridge. On reflection Saturday was not the best day to do this. The Deben is full of yachts moored to buoys on both sides of the very narrow channel. As you might expect on Saturdays a large number of these boats are taken out for a sail and so we had to pay careful attention as we wound our way between the vessels by moored and moving.
All went well and we were pleased to see that the Tide Mill Quay was empty and we were able to come alongside. We had arrived just before the top of the tide but there were plenty of people around to take our ropes and over the next twenty minutes we pulled her in closer to the quay. The local harbourmaster came to greet us and make clear the arrangements for mooring on the quay.
We immediately attracted a lot of interest amongst both local inhabitants and visitors to the wonderfuly restored tide mill. We set out our information board and the NHSUK leaflets and found ourselves telling people about Daybreak and our voyage. We had met local artist and traditional boat enthusiast Claudia Myatt in her studio at Waldringfield and she had given us useful information about Woodbridge, where she lived on a boat. She called round in the evening to invite us to a barbecue on a small beach adjoining the local residential moorings, which made us feel very welcome. Claudia and her friends continued to look after us during our stay.
Later in the afternoon we went around the tide mill and were able to see the wheel in operation. As well as being beautifully restored the trust have also created a really good educational resource for visitors. When not chatting with visitors we explored the town with its enormous range of interesting buildings.
Sally took the opportunity to go back to Staines to visit her Mum. While she was away I witnessed an unusual local custom as a group of people crossed the ancient causeway between Woodbridge and Sutton Hoo.
The following morning we launched the inflatable and went ashore to visit Robert and Pearl Simper, who live in a beautiful house overlooking the Deben. After coffee, and lots of talk about traditional boats and their range of family enterprises, we were were taken on a guided tour of the processing plant for the Deben oysters and mussels. This is a fairly recently established family business using traditional wooden fishing boats. We left with a large bag of mussels, which we cooked for lunch.
We had planned to meet them again in the evening for a trip up to Waldringfield and dinner at the Maybush Inn. However when getting ready to leave we realised that our anchor was dragging. We have always been so confident about Daybreak’s ground tackle that it took a while for us to accept this had really happened. We quickly went ashore to explain to Robert and Pearl what had happened and then came back and started the engine. Sally kept us clear of the boat anchored nearby, while I raised the anchor. Having raised only half of the 20 metres of chain we had out the anchor appeared with a bight of chain looped around one fluke! While Sally held station in the river I worked with ropes to take the weight of the chain so I could undo the loop and take in the excess chain. We then motored over to the other side of the channel where there was better holding and reset the anchor very carefully to make sure it did not happen again. Having set out the appropriate amount of chain I then motored astern to make sure the anchor was well dug in and there were no loops in the chain. It wasn’t how we had expected to spend our evening, but we hope to meet up with Robert and Pearl later.
I got up a couple of times in the night to make sure we had not shifted, but all was well. The following morning we motored up to Waldingfield and dropped anchor again at the Tips. Wary of being too close to another anchored yacht we positioned ourselves in shallow water, which meant we would go aground at low water.
The next day Ian and Hilary had to leave, but as there was a break in the weather, Sally and I decided to take ‘Daybreak’ round to the Deben on our own. As the bar at the entrance to the Deben is rather notorious, I checked and rechecked the timings to make sure we arrived about half tide on the rising tide. Once we got down to Harwich we followed the recommended track for yachts. It was still quite nerve wracking crossing the main shipping lane as when we arrived at the recommended crossing point, a ship hove into view and we had to decide whether there was enough time to cross in front of it. We decided there was and opened up the throttle to get across as quickly as possible. Even with the winds 3-4 it was on the beam and we still rolled in the relatively shallow waters off Felixstowe.
We arrived at the Woodbridge Haven buoy at just the right time and made sure we stayed in the channel between the buoys. Even though we had downloaded the most up to date chart of the entrance we found a small extra buoy had been added, presumably because people were not heeding the warning about the strong set of the tide across the entrance. The sand banks and breakers were quite dramatic, even on the relatively calm day, and this is not somewhere I would try to go in bad conditions.
Once inside all was calm as we motored between the wooded banks of the Deben. Even though the river is surprisingly wide after the narrow entrance, there are quite strong tidal flows. We motored up as far as the Rocks where we turned and dropped the anchor. We had been advised where to anchor by Robert Simper, who had visited us at Pin Mill and who owns the land alongside the Deben at this point. Once safely anchored we sat on the aft deck with a drink and watched another glorious east coast sunset.
We wanted to give Derek and Lisa a trip before they left and so we made an early start on Monday morning. It was still not early enough to catch the free flow, but we had a trouble free passage through the lock, with a very cheery lock keeper who hoped to see us back next year.
We went back on to the buoy to which we had moored when we first arrived at Pin Mill, and went ashore to meet our new crew, Ian and Hilary. We all went for a walk in the cliff woods and had lunch together in the Butt and Oyster before saying goodbye to Derek and Lisa.
Unfortunately it was too windy for us to make the planned passage to the Deben, except for an hour in the evening when I took Ian and Hilary for a sail in the cog boat and the wind dropped away entirely. The next day, the forecast was still for strong winds so Ian drove us over to visit Sutton Hoo, where there is a magnificent exhibition of the Anglo Saxon grave ship. On the way back we called in to see Jonathan and Lynne on ‘Melissa’ in Ipswich to say goodbye and thank them for all their help and kindness during our stay at Pin Mill.
On Sunday we caught the train back to Ipswich in time to catch the last part of the festival, which seems to have been a great success. Derek and Lisa had spent a lot of time talking to visitors about Daybreak and Humber Keels and Sloops in general.
There were many historic vessels present including the puffer ‘Vic 96’ and the tug ‘Kent’ as well as several Thames sailing barges. That evening there was a magnificent firework display over the dock and we were invited to a party aboard ‘Melissa’.
We arranged to leave Daybreak moored to the piles at Pin Mill to go back to Staines. Jonathan kindly offered us a trip to Ipswich on his spritsail barge ‘Melissa’. As well as being much better than catching the bus this also gave me a chance to see where Daybreak would be going for the Maritime Festival the following weekend.
We had planned to collect the car and drive up to South Ferriby and join in the celebrations for the Humber Sloop ‘Amy Howson’s’ 100th birthday. As it turned out we got back to find major leaks in the roof of the summer house in which we stay while ‘Daybreak’ is away from the mooring and so spent the weekend carrying out repairs. Once the We drove the car back to Pin Mill on Sunday and I did some painting on the cog boat while Sally explored more of the local area.
We decided to take Daybreak up to Ipswich on the Wednesday. We left as soon as we were afloat and went downriver a little way until we found a gap in the moored yachts and then turned up into the channel. Having seen the ships going up and down past Pin Mill, we kept a good lookout and listened to the radio. As it happened we passed one going down river just as we approached the Orwell Bridge. After the bridge we called up the lock and we told that it would be on free flow and we could pass straight through on the green light.
Once through the lock it was not far to Orwell Quay where we turned around before mooring just in front of the Thames Sailing Barge Trust’s ‘Centaur’. They were already setting up the amusements for the festival on the quayside and in keeping with the traditional theme we were alongside a a old fashioned carousel and a helter skelter. We had some time to explore Ipswich, where we found many interesting old buildings amongst the much newer developments. The old docks have been revitalised with a large marina and boatyards on one side and on the other a mixture of refurbished old warehouses and new flats and offices.
Melissa arrived on Thursday and as there was limited space available we were moored alongside her. Unfortunately the Ipswich Maritime Festival clashed with wedding of Jessica, the daughter of two of our oldest friends. Fortunately Derek and Lisa had agreed to come and look after ‘Daybreak’ for us for the weekend. They were an ideal people as they are key members of the HKSPS and know lots about keels and sloops. They arrived on Friday afternoon, and I had chance to show them around and brief them on how things worked before leaving early on Saturday morning to meet up with Sally to go to the wedding. (The wedding was a wonderful event held on a small un-inhabited island in the Thames, with guests delivered by a Thames Trip boat. Sally played and sang.)
On Sunday we caught the train back to Ipswich in time to catch the last part of the festival, which seems to have been a great success. There were many historic vessels present including the puffer ‘Vic 96’ and the tug ‘Kent’ as well as several Thames sailing barges. That evening there was a magnificent firework display over the dock and we were invited to a party aboard ‘Melissa’.
Pin Mill is a delightful place with lots of interesting walks nearby. The walk past the houseboats and up the wooded hillside offers views over the river.
There is a constant coming and going at the hard with both local and visiting yachts. The splendid Butt and Oyster pub is also a popular venue for visitors by road and water.
With Sally back on board I raised anchor for the relatively short trip back down the Stour to Harwich and then up the Orwell to Pin Mill. The timing was tricky. We wanted to catch the last of the tide down to Harwich and then the rising tide up to Pin Mill, but if we left it too late there would not have been enough water to get off our anchorage. All went well and keeping well out of the ship channel we rounded Shotley Point and the headed up the Orwell. Another gloriously sunny day the Orwell was teeming with sailing yachts of all shapes and sizes.
As we approached Pin Mill we passed two Thames sailing barges at anchor. Once at Pin Mill we picked up a large yellow buoy and went ashore to check out the scrubbing posts where we were going to moor for the next few days.
The Stour is a beautiful river, but there are not many places to stop. We motored up as far as Mistley but the quayside did not look very welcoming with its grey steel fence. I was so busy looking at the wharf-side that I managed to run us aground. Fortunately we were still on a rising tide and after half an hour we managed to get off. As we left we noticed the red buoy we had missed, mounted on the side of a rusty container at one end of the quay. We then motored back to Wrabness and dropped anchor just up river of the boat moorings there.
We took the inflatable ashore to the intriguing community of shacks on the shore and walked with Ian up to the station so he could catch a train back to get his car in Brightlingsea. The following day Sally and Pamela left and I was left to get on with some painting and enjoy the striking sunsets.