A Heat Wave, Thunder Storms and Sailing in Light Airs

11th August

11th August. Under the watchful eye of Suzy the young have fun on the water. Brilliant

11th August Orford to the Orwell

We are outward bound. The Church and Castle beyond Haversgate Island

Trying to get down river against the flood. We had to motor to the river mouth

We are at anchor off Trimley Marshes in the River Orwell in very light north easterly winds.

I rejoined ‘Talisker 1’ last night and had a lovely night on our mooring. But it’s an agony to see that the Orford Ness Light House is no more following demolition. I don’t know enough about these things but there have been lights since 1637. The LH just demolished was built in 1792. Why some things are protected while others are not is a mystery. It might have cost a bit but perhaps the creation of an artificial reef off the Ness might have worked? If the Light House was going to be saved it needed to be planned quite some time ago.

On my first relatively long sailing voyage in 2016 the greatest memory was seeing the Light House growing ever more distant as we sailed north. Then there was the joy of my first sight of the Light House on our return to Suffolk a few months later. It meant we were nearly home. The Light House has been my constant companion from our mooring at Orford. The Ness will never be the same again.

Today we had a nice sail down the coast to Languard in light east and then north easterly winds, goose winged under full main on a preventer and a poled out genoa. I’d even got the cruising chute ready but settled for the genoa. Under a clear sky visibility was down, at times, to about a mile and half.

Passing Woodbridge Haven in light airs … barely 5 knots apparent …

A slow sail to Languard

Jibing on to starboard we had a lovely sail in to the river before furling the genoa in Lower Reach and gently sailing up to anchor before then dropping the main.

Passing Shotley inbound to the Orwell

Winds look light over the next few days. We might do a bit of drifting with the tide. I’m aghast at running the engine to do anything.

It’s been hot today.

12th August

12th August The Orwell to Pyefleet Creek

It’s a lovely day but there is a weather warning of severe thunderstorms tomorrow and Friday.

This morning I hoisted the main and then lifted the anchor in very light north easterly wind. We slipped quietly down the Orwell with the last of the ebb. Six tacks got us through the Port of Felixstowe.

Six tacks got us through the Port of Felixstowe

We were able to bear away towards the Naze as the wind decreased.

A goose winged rig, a full main on a preventer and a poled out genoa slowly helped us down the Wallet with the flood tide.

Light airs in the Wallet

For much of the time wind speed was 4 to 5 knots apparent, so the flood underneath us was giving us a considerable lift. Closing in on the Colne the wind veered slightly to the east and increased in strength. I furled the genoa and jibed the main on to starboard to sail powerfully up the Colne under main only.

We pass Mersea Stone Point under main only

We are anchored in the very lower reaches of Pyefleet Creek nervously thinking about the coming Whizz Bangs and where they might hit. The wind apparently will veer south easterly over night.

At anchor and looking west in to Pyefleet Creek

The boat is working beautifully.

It was stiflingly hot down below today. We are head to wind with the sun off our stern. The hatches are open and a nice breeze is blowing through the saloon. Time for a 0% beer! I think we have earnt it :-))

‘Pioneer’ on her mooring inside Mersea Stone Point, River Colne

13th August

Daughter No 2’s birthday. I cant believe she is 37!

I’ve wired the forestay to the anchor chain and also dropped wires in to the water port and starboard, which I’ve attached to the shrouds*. I’m ready to disconnect the batteries if the whizz bangs get too near. Doc’s advice of course … and he should know having survived a lightning strike on ‘Tuesday’. ‘Whizz Bang’ is also Doc’s expression.

Preparing for the lightning …

It’s a beautiful morning in the Colne.

* Doc suggested that wires should run off the forestay and the back stay and not the spreaders.

‘Pioneer’ & another pretty classic yacht off Mersey Island

‘Talisker 1’ … business like. I’m very proud of her. A return in the dinghy from Brightlingsea Creek

14th August

Rain and overcast this morning. Thank goodness it’s cooler. Last night I watched the thunder and lightning. Out in the Wallet and beyond the Gunfleet Sands the storm flashed and rumbled but nothing came too close to us. I’d noticed that ‘Talisker 1’ was not the only boat trailing wires in to the water from the rigging. Thanks Doc! I was also able to watch the storm live on lightningmaps.org thanks to another Doc suggestion.

13th August approaching midnight

I was not the only yacht with wires in the water …

A nanosecond of brilliant light at midnight!

15th August 0630 Rain rain rain

16th August

15th August The Colne to Orford

The previous owner of this boat told me she would not sail in light airs. It could not be further from the truth.

I think back to my earlier cruising boats and the pressures of a deadline to get home and to go to work! With ‘Talisker 1’ we do not have to worry about such matters. I strive to sail at all times.

Tides wait for no man and so timings on our east coast river bars, at the mercy of weather too, are important. I’ve only had twenty two years of thinking about tides, since buying my first cruising boat in 1998. I can’t really count the impatience I felt as a small boy with the tidal window in the drying Folkestone Harbour when waiting to launch the Pearly Miss. I remember we were late for tea with my Grandpa, known to all as CST! My mother tried to explain this having apologised.

“It was the tide Tommy!”

CST would allow no excuses for lateness and most certainly not the tide. He was speechless with rage.

But the tide has controlled my boating life for some time now. I lie in bed on a winter’s night and imagine the conditions in the Medusa Channel and wonder if an inanimate object like the Medusa Starboard Buoy would be cold and lonely on a ferocious night. Long Sand Head, Black Deep, the Wallet Spitway … are all familiar friends to me now. Lashed by the weather and the ebb and flood tides.

So to return to Orford from the Colne yesterday would necessitate an early departure, as light airs were forecast and it was most certainly going to be sailed.

Hoisting the main while still at anchor we were able to slip down the Colne at HW Brightlingsea, under main only, in light north easterly winds. Once the anchor was stowed I set the staysail as we passed Colne Point. For a few hours or so the wind was just strong enough to make good progress close hauled under full main and stay sail.

There was enough wind early on … another yacht heads up the Wallet

Then the breeze veered a tad and decreased, and after the third tack, I furled the stay sail and set the genoa.

It had been a muggy overcast morning. Now the sun was trying to break through and the visibility was improving. I had woken to heavy rain.

At 1330 we tacked on to port just a half mile from the end of Walton Pier. The east north easterly wind was down to a gentle breath and the sea was flattening and starting to look … well … almost blue.

There were quite a number of boats heading up the Wallet with us, with the usual number of sailing vessels motoring and still with their sail covers on, but quite a few were sailing.

We edged past the Naze as I cajoled ‘Talisker 1’ to keep going. On our port side a sailing boat accelerated as her engine was started and her genoa was furled. And then the yacht in front did the same.

The pots off the Naze are appallingly marked and difficult to spot even in flat water …

Approaching Pitching Ground on a starboard tack the massive MSC Mirja was making her way past Languard outward bound. Shortly she would turn hard to port.

MSC ‘Mirja’ leaving the docks and about to round Languard

We tacked on to port and watched as all 398.9 metres of her sailed slowly past us before resuming our course north. These leviathans of the sea get increasingly bigger. 400 metres is a staggering length.

We tacked on to port …

All 398.9 metres of her

Pitching Ground … we have resumed our course north

I’ve learned to wait. A breath of wind here, a slight gust of wind there and you can keep moving. There is a lot of skill required to sail in light airs and I’m working hard to get better at this dark art. Despite sailing this boat for thousands of miles she still continues to teach me new tricks.

Woodbridge Haven

We would have a foul tide for the last few miles to Orford Haven. Every extra puff of wind was pounced on. Even our heavy duty ocean spec sails can be made to work in these conditions. It’s harder with the heavy stiff cloth, but work they will.

A slight gust and we move well …

8 knots of wind and 4.8 through the water but the flood is against us now

The wind remained east and east north east right up to Orford Haven and the entrance to our river. We seemed to crawl the last two miles to the haven buoy when finally, in touching distance, the wind strengthened and backed north east. It had taken twelve hours to sail 45 miles over the ground.

Coming through the moorings at Orford

Doc was on board ‘Tuesday’ as we approached our mooring. We chatted briefly before picking up our mooring. A perfect end to a long perfect day.

Light air sailing is by far the most demanding. And for quite some time, cajoling my ship in these conditions, has given me more than a little satisfaction … but I do have a very capable boat.

16th August PM

Visibility was down to half a mile this morning.

Visibility was very poor this morning. ‘Tuesday’ is visible through the gloom

Doc motored over in his tender and we chatted for an hour. Doc remained in his dinghy. Social distancing is easy for us single handers.

My friend Peter Buchan is making his way up Channel having circumnavigated the UK via the Caledonian Canal. Peter has been predominantly single-handed for this cruise. This was a terrific effort during the pandemic.

The Doc and ‘Tuesday’ just doing jobs

All tucked up. ‘Talisker 1’ will fend for herself as I go home for a few days




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