2023! Closing Out the Year.

3rd October

3rd October Orford to the Orwell

Back at sea again today.  I can’t believe winter is approaching although we do have, inbound, a very warm October weekend.

I was on board yesterday and ashore again this morning for a sailing club meeting before going back out to the boat again, mid morning, courtesy of our wonderful Orford Harbour Master Matt Smy.

In strengthening westerly winds we had a beat to Languard from Orford Haven.  Five tacks under double reefed main and stay sail before finally sailing into the port of Felixstowe and on in to the Orwell.  We are anchored inside Orwell PH Buoy close to the bank as the westerly winds, although decreasing, will continue over night.

3rd October at anchor in the Orwell

Tomorrow morning we go to Suffolk Yacht Harbour and then drive home.  My chum Tim, Mr Stainless, is going to help me mount my Hydrovane on Thursday.  I’m going to construct a stubby vane myself just to see if it will work.  The standard vane might be too high.

15th October

On the 5th October the Hydrovane was fitted and I mounted the Hydrovane rudder.  The stubby vane is not required after minor alterations to the gantry rigging.

5th October my chum Tim, Mr Stainless

7th October after some alterations to the gantry rigging

On the 7th we left the Suffolk Yacht Harbour at dusk and anchored again in light westerly winds just inside Orwell PHB.

9th October

With very windy weather on its way over the next few days we had a play with the Hydrovane on the 10th.  It is going to take some ‘learning’ to make it work on ‘Talisker 1’.  And every boat will be behave differently with this system.

10th October we had a play with the Hydrovane

10th October the Hydrovane did work well on both tacks to windward with 10-15 kts over the deck

It’s obviously critical to get the boat balanced.

Even a slight over canvass and the Hydrovane struggles.

It has also enormously altered the handling both under power and under sail. The boat was extremely manoeuvrable under power in tight spaces.  I’m now reminded of medium to long keelers I’ve owned and sailed!!

She rounded up in a gust on auto helm (Raymarine Evolution with Linear Drive), that would normally have been easily controllable, all be it with a fair amount of weather helm.  The Hydrovane vane pin was in and the ratio knob was in neutral.  The rounding up was certainly caused by the Hydrovane rudder, which prevented her from keeping her course, despite being in neutral.  We were sailing on a beam reach with 10-12 knots across the deck with gusts of plus 20 knots for several minutes.  I would be putting a 1st reef in the main at a constant speed of 20 knots and depending on wind direction, furling the genoa and setting the stay sail.  I had to furl the genoa to regain control.  Without the extra rudder wind of that speed would normally be controllable under full main and genoa and the electronic steering would cope easily.

In very light airs off the quarter the vane just did not respond.  I need to find out how light the airs need to be for the vane to stop working?  In light airs the vane seemed a little stiff to move.  I’m about to WD40 all moving parts anyway.

The Hydrovane did work well on both tacks to windward with 10-15 kts over the deck.  But I failed to get her comfortable on a beam reach with 10-12 kts over the deck.  ’Talisker 1’ would expect to make over 6 knots through the water in those conditions.

So lots to learn.  The ship certainly behaves very differently with the Hydrovane rudder on.

After our play with the Hydrovane we sough shelter in our storm hole, Titchmarsh Marina, and stayed until yesterday morning.  It blew very hard indeed on the 13th.

13th October it blew very hard on the 13th and rained cats and dogs …

I had removed the Hydrovane rudder as I wanted to see what adjustments need to be made.  When the rudder is locked it’s not quite lined up with the ship’s rudder and this will be easier to do when ‘Talisker 1’ is hauled out.

14th October we sailed round the Cork Sands

15th October at anchor at sun rise over the docks

We sailed round the Cork Sands in WNW 5’s and returned to the Orwell and anchored for the night before sailing back to Orford this morning.

15th October return to Orford from the Orwell

15th October Orford mooring

5th November

I’m on board, in our berth, at Suffolk Yacht Harbour.

The weather has been atrocious …

30th October very light winds, a big tide and a late departure meant we had to motor the majority of the way from Orford to the Orwell against a foul, very big tide …

30th October it was a relief to get into the Orwell

We grasped a small weather window last Monday to leave Orford for our winter home.  Very light winds, a big tide and a late departure meant we had to motor the majority of the way from Orford to the Orwell against a foul, very big tide.  I never do that!

1st November in her winter berth

20th November some TLC for my Orford Dabchick Ten Footer ‘Dolphin’ at Larkman’s Ltd

16th December checking on ‘Talisker 1’ with brother David

26th December

What with one thing and another it has been the strangest of years at sea.

The weather is becoming more and more challenging, and the years and years of constant reliable summer winds seem to be behind us.  For the most part 2023 has either brought too much wind … or not enough.  Is this climate change?  I rather think so.

It is also depressing that yacht insurance companies have become more cautious.  Pretty awful for those of us who have never made a claim in decades and tens of thousands of miles.

More and more people are sailing beyond their limits and not doing the knowledge first.  Folk are also being inspired by irresponsible social media.  Perhaps the insurance companies are noticing these changes and are reacting accordingly.  I say switch GPS off and see if crews are still quite so keen to push their boundaries.

I sailed alone out of circumstance and by accident.  My wife does not sail and my free time did not fit in with potential sailing partners.

I listened to skippers saying they could not go sailing because their other half did not like to go to sea in over a Force 4! … OR that ‘Eric’s’ let me down this week end, I don’t have a crew … so I can’t go sailing.

I found myself quite often alone gently venturing out to sea.  For a social animal ashore, I surprisingly found myself liking being alone with my boat.  It eventually became a way of life.

29th December

Storm Gerrit has been wreaking havoc around the UK.

On that note I will end 2023 on a high and a low!

The high first!  The one great highlight of 2023 for me was to watch SV ‘Sentijn’ and the young Pennington family complete a remarkable voyage when they sailed the North West Passage from east to west.  There are no sailors I admire more than them.  Absolutely the right boat and crew for this extremely arduous cruise.

‘Sentijn’ 2023 return to the Pacific Ocean!

‘Sentijn’ sailing in Greenland waters …

Before anyone takes inspiration from ‘Sentijn’s’ long voyage, take very good note of John Pennington’s experience.  John said the constants were very extreme cold, very very poor visibility, frequent gales, not to mention the permanent danger of the surrounding ice.  Charts were not always accurate.  Add to that one must not forget the considerable time pressures of a very small window to get through before the passage is blocked again for the winter by ice.  The four or five boats who completed the passage this year could never stop for long.

A rare day of good visibility for ‘Sentijn’ but it’s still blowing a gale …

The low to end on is the passing of George Collins, the Ramsholt Harbour Master.  George lived to the very great age of 93 and only retired very recently.  So one must celebrate his remarkable longevity in life as well as his work.  It is the end of a special era.  George took over from his father in 1983 having worked on the river since the early 1960s.  George was always very kind to me.

George Collins

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas.  Happy New Year.


  • candy m says:

    Dearest James,
    Sorry to hear about your friend, Mr Collins. Though I never met him, I love that river and I think the sailors and fisherfolk who know the river, the sandbanks and the Wallet are some of the most accomplished mariners in the world. Good for him to have aged gracefully enough to keep working, helping visitors and locals alike with his local knowledge! In a way it probably kept him ” young”!
    Happy Holidays to you (a bit belatedly) I never sent a single card or even a newsy update by email either…all my correspondence having been suppressed by a busy fun holiday season with my friends and relatives on both coast!
    Best love to Sally, KLS, J Robi and all our mutual friends ❤️xx

    • Hiya Candy

      How lovely to hear from you. Dear old George Collins was a friend to anyone visiting the Deben River provided they were polite around his moorings and on his foreshore. To think that his Dad, also George, was HM before him too.

      Hope you have had a lovely Christmas. Happy New Year.

      Much love from us all at Oakwood x

  • John says:

    Happy holidays, James!

    Great post, thanks for the kindly mention at the end.

    I’ve never used a hydrovane before, but I think you’re on the right track. I think you have an extra element, since you can adjust the main rudder angle as well, before you lock the helm?

    For what it’s worth, we usually sail a little slower under steering vane, balance being more important than speed, and it’s usually more difficult to use when sailing coastal where the breeze isn’t as reliable.

    Fair winds,


    • Dear John

      I’m so pleased you did not mind my mentioning you at the end. I was about to mail you and ask if it was ok! Thank you very much for the beautiful card. I hope you’re receiving post in Alaska.

      Your quite right about the Hydrovane and I’m certainly not going to use it unless I’m travelling far. The certainty is that I can’t be over canvassed. Balance is everything.

      I’m glad Dean liked the poem Sally wanted him to have although I was pretty certain his Dad and Mum would have read it to him already!

      Much love to you all from Oakwood

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