Sailing ‘Dura’ & Oostende Once More in ‘Talisker 1’

12th September

On Friday 6th September I joined my great friend James Robinson in Fox’s Marina.  James had been out sailing with Bill Hughes on James’s Westerly Storm ‘Dura’.  Bill had to jump ship and get home so James was going to get the short straw!  He was going to have me to help sail ‘Dura’ back to Orford.

‘Dura’ Ipswich to Orford 7th September

If I’m going to sail with peoples, let it be with James Robinson or David Foreman.  It is always a pleasure to sail with them and I have yet to sail with any peoples better or more relaxed than them.  Graham Bush is another I’m very comfortable with.

David and Jill Robinson were also at Fox’s in their Moody ‘Caveat’.

‘Dura’ & ‘Caveat’ Fox’s Marina

We had supper in ‘The Outlook’, the new facility at Fox’s.  I hope my friends Ivan and his delightful wife Slavka, who run ‘The Outlook’ will do well after their sad departure from The Lightship at Levington.  It was good to see them.

On Saturday we sailed back to Orford in strong northerlies.

‘Caveat’ in the Orwell

Master Mariner James Robinson at the helm of his ship.

I was not surprised by how well ‘Dura’ sails.  A smaller version of my Typhoon but with a masthead rig, the Storm is a fast ship.  Peter, Wendy and James have organised her very nicely indeed.  She would give ‘Talisker 1’ a run for her money.

My shoulder is troubling me again.

15th September

Out in small boats on the river.

Perly Miss ‘Audrey’ & ‘Talisker 1’

Out by the Orford Haven Buoy. James Robbie, Dominic and Candy.

A day off from playing my Dad in ‘The Life I Lead’. Actor Miles Jupp me & daughter Hannah at the Haven Buoy.

My beautiful daughter! A big tide at Orford.

23rd September

Me and ‘Talisker 1’ are in Oostende.

I had lunch with Pieter today in the Royal North Sea Yacht Club.

Me and ‘Talisker 1’ left the Crouch yesterday morning with a promise of the light south easterly winds veering south westerly with some strength in the early part of the afternoon.

The night before, anchored in the Roach, I’d been bricking it!  Perhaps I wouldn’t go to Oostende again this year.  It’s late in the season.  I found myself scared and full of self doubt.

Yesterday morning I woke up slightly late and we got under way fairly quickly.  No time for thinking about it!  We would take the last of the ebb out of the Roach and in to the Crouch and see how I felt. But pretty soon I realised we were going to sail across the North Sea one last time this year.

22nd & 23rd September the Crouch to Oostende

But I was still worried nonetheless which perhaps is healthy.  It’s a non stop concentrated 12 to 14 hours with plenty to think about and if it got breezy it would get lumpy.  My shoulder was sore.  Was I up to it?  Would I be able to negotiate the TSS’s and communicate with the ships?  Then I was thinking about the fishing boats, particularly south of the TSS’s on that last thirty miles to Oostende.  How many times have I done this?  Deep down I knew I was ok.

A thousand miles off shore in the ocean there is not the same pressure with obstacles, depth, land and traffic.  Crossing the southern North Sea is a serious test.

There was not much wind heading down the Crouch and it was a slow sail over the top of East Barrow and through South West Sunk.

North side of the Crouch looking over Buxey Sand & to the Raysand beyond at low water.  Lots of seals as usual.

South side of the Crouch estuary looking over Foulness Sand at low water & of course Seals.

South West end of the Gunfleet Wind Farm

I could see the clouds darkening towards North Foreland and out beyond in to the Straits of Dover and by the time we were half way through Fisherman Gat the winds strengthened and veered southwest with rain.  The wind increases as it funnels through the Straits of Dover.  I furled the genoa, a second reef went in the main and after a few minutes I set the stay sail in a now lively sea state.

And it rained hard and at times the visibility was poor but we were doing something together we understood.  It was now just routine.  Set the ship up and let her do the work.  This is what we do.

Across the North Sea

I was mostly staying dry under the spray hood, keeping watch and checking for targets.  Meanwhile ‘Talisker 1’ with a perfect sail plan and barely healing did her job and just thundered along at an average of 7 knots just doing what she does … very well indeed.  Winds were 15 to 20 knots and gusting 25+.  The occasional wave slapped in to her top sides and exploded upwards but barely a drop made it in to the cockpit.

Darkness descended and by 2000 visibility was good, the rain had stopped and there were few close CPA’s.  The closest at 4 cables was with ‘Cosco Shipping Rose’ who I’d called.  Her delightful watch officer responded immediately addressing my vessel ‘Talisker 1’ (not the usual ‘sailing vessel’), called me Sir and told me to maintain course and speed and that he had us on radar and AIS and that everything was under HIS control.  I was wished a good watch, which I reciprocated.

‘Cosco Shipping Rose’

Finally out of the TSS’s the seas flattened as we neared the French and Belgian coast but there was no let up to our speed.  It was a lovely last four to five hours watching the lights on the horizon getting brighter and brighter.  The odd fishing boat passed close by but they were well lit and all transmitting on AIS.

23rd September 0147 the lights of Oostende

Pretty much ideal.  Just after arrival.

We furled the stay sail and started the engine just before the entrance to the harbour and we’d almost rounded the last starboard fairway buoy when the brightest white light flooded ‘Talisker 1’ and blinded me.  A fast Pilot Boat was overtaking and speeding in to Oostende.  Not satisfied with just carving us up, the operator of the light continued to shine it at us until they were well and truly through the harbour entrance.  Pieter told me later that the vessel was doing 20 knots through the Pier Heads.  The skipper is a complete menace.

Going back four days!  I boarded my ship last Thursday but did not leave the Ore until Friday.

20th September from my mooring at Orford

21st September Orford to the Blackwater

Sailing in to the Blackwater. Bradwell ahead …

We had a lively sail to the Blackwater and in strong south easterlies anchored in the lee of Bradwell.  It was a windy night but it was a good spot.  Two other boats were anchored close by.

Anchored in the lee of Bradwell

Anchor Watch … windy night

Morning of the 21st at anchor

And our neighbour is underway before us!

The following day we tacked out of the Blackwater.

21st September

Running in to the Crouch under main only

23 tacks got us through the Wallet Spitway, whereupon we sailed gently up the Crouch before anchoring in the Roach.

My shoulder is still sore but I’m feeling that perhaps I’ve not yet lost my nerve completely.

1st October

Me and ‘Talisker 1’ returned to Orford today after a marvellous night at anchor under the trees in Buttermans Bay.

Returning to Orford 1st October

Leaving Buttermans Bay.

I will go home tomorrow.

2nd October & I’m ashore. A big tide at Orford.

Today is one day after Springs.  In SSW winds we sailed down wind under main only from Languard Point, entered the River Ore and sailed up river to our mooring.

We were met in Ore by very heavy rain and it continued for the rest of this afternoon.  The deck was literally pressure washed by the rain.  Attaching the mooring strop to ‘Talisker 1’, normally a mucky job, the strop and deck was washed clean within seconds.  Holding my hands to the heavens, they were washed too.  I’d worn my second set of oil skins today, the others being still wet from the North Sea crossing the day before.

Orford soon after picking up our mooring

The Atlantic pressure charts have been a spectacular sight for the last few days.  And now with the effects of hurricane Lorenzo now inbound, it was good to get back to our home port.

Looking ahead at the weather now safely back in Orford.

Me and ‘Talisker 1’ had one small window to sail back from Oostende and it was yesterday.  Walking along the sea front in Oostende a day earlier the onshore winds had been very strong and then it really blew during the night and the Royal North Sea YC basin is not a good place to be.  I did not sleep very much.

Windy Sunday afternoon … Oostende.

Willy Kreitz’s Memorial to the Fishermen. Oostende.

Royal North Sea YC basin on the 27th September

Nice to see the Russian Frigate ‘Schtandart’ again

The turbulence in the basin was terrible and I spent some time doubling and trebling my lines in the very early hours of Sunday morning.  It was not helped by a very high tide.  At 0100 hours I stood on deck level with quay looking out in to the North Sea.  The Jeaneau next door was slightly too much of a free spirit and extra fenders were needed on my port side.  There was nothing I could do.

Bad night in the Royal North Sea YC Basin! Are we really going back tomorrow? The gusts!

The wind …

Wonderful Harbour Master Simon Munters greeted me early on Monday morning with

“Here is somebody who did not sleep last night.  You should have gone in to Mecator!”

Simon had been off for the whole week end.  In retrospect … Simon would have moved us.

The north westerly wind was forecast to drop in the early hours of Monday morning and slowly back throughout the day.  Some of the winds would be quite strong.  The shipping forecast said occasional 7’s.  So … it would be a challenge.  It would be westerly for departure.

30th September Oostende to the Orwell

At 0945 local time we were passing through the pier heads of Oostende Harbour in to the quite strong westerly winds and sea state.  The sea had moderated by the time we got underway but it was still very lumpy for the first few hours as it invariably always is, leaving those shallow waters.  Did I want to go?  Probably not!  My shoulder was sore.  Turn back?  Go home on the Eurostar?  Pieter and Simon will look after ‘Talisker 1’.  I was searching for a good excuse!  Lunch in the Royal North Sea YC would be lovely …

No!  I’m not leaving my ship behind.   This is what we do!

If I stayed I would be there at least another week.

With the main double reefed and flying the stay sail ‘Talisker 1’ took on the weather without complaint.

We are underway … ‘Talisker 1’ leaving the Belgian coast behind.

We were fairly settled when we got a call from the Wandelaar Pilot vessel asking our intentions.  The Pilot requested we sail to the west of vessel ‘Morning Chant’.  We tacked on to starboard for 20 minutes before resuming our course on port.  Just before midday the Tanker ‘May’ asked us to make way for her as she was drawing 15 metres.  Again, we tacked on to starboard for a few minutes before tacking back on to port and passing astern of her.


The sail to Long Sand Head was pretty much routine and plain sailing.  The weather was good, the wind was backing and we started to free off the sheets.  It was lovely sailing conditions and I even shook the second reef out of the main.

2nd reef shaken out of the main


Nice to get across ahead of 5 ships. Noord Hinder S TSS northeasterly lane

But from Long Sand Head to the Orwell via the Medusa Channel we had to work hard.  By then, it was very dark and strong southerly winds combined with very heavy rain made the last 15 to 20 miles quite demanding.  ‘Talisker 1’ passed Long Sand Head at 1920 and arrived Languard NC at 2200.  Felixstowe Docks, Harwich and the lower reaches of the Orwell were untenable in the weather so we made out way up river to Pin Mill.  It was pitch black.

I knew that once under the trees in Buttermans Bay we would be completely sheltered.  We crept in under the trees.  It was suddenly like another world.  Like going through the wardrobe and arriving in Narnia.  Even the rain stopped once the anchor was down.  I got my torch and shone it on all sides of the boat.  Not a ripple stirred the surface of the water, yet just a little further down river …..

Anchored Buttermans Bay River Orwell

It was very dark when we dropped the anchor.

With the anchor ball up and riding light lit I was quickly in to a deep sleep.  The bliss of safe peaceful anchorages in our rivers, creeks and estuaries is wonderful.  I have learnt much from David Foreman.

On two fairly demanding sails across the North Sea I’d managed an injury very well and done no further damage to my right shoulder.  I must have done something right!  My left arm has operated the winch handle.

Track of our late September cruise


  • John says:

    Thanks, James. Exceptional seamanship under a challenging combination of weather, traffic, tides, and the shoulder injury. Hope it heals up this winter!

    • The shoulder is a problem. I’m now forcing myself to exercise every morning! Hope your preparations for a snug winter berth are coming along well. Oh and you guys are the exceptional. Jx

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