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A day on the Orwell

A day out on the Orwell

22 August 2023

I hadn’t sailed with Adrian since his assessment for Mate, last year. He and Judy had sailed with me some time before that, when they first became members of the Trust.
So Tuesday was simply a day out on the estuary with friends and members.

And what a lovely day it was!

At 0900, as I was putting the kettle on and preparing the boat, the sun was warm and the wind was gentle. Adrian and Judy arrived before the kettle sang, and we were under way before 1000.
We struggled a bit with the mainsail because the reef points were still tied in, and Adrian had to run back and forth on the coachroof. Then we settled to the gentle S’Westerly and made slow progress against the flood.

Pin Mill gave us the expected downdraft and, by now, Adrian was beginning to change from racing mode to cruising.

There was an ambitious pilotage plan which involved rounding Shotley Spit SCM and cruising to Stone Point. There was also an alternative out into Pennyhole Bay or perhaps North past Felixstowe.


By midday it was clear that we might not reach Shotley Spit let alone Stone Point but, as happens so often, there was a good Westerly breeze out of the Stour and we able to make 2 short and one long board up to a mooring opposite Ganges. Adrian suggested mooring under sail, but I chickened out; A decent breeze against the middle of the flood didn’t appeal to me. Over lunch the wind piped up to a good F3.

Then, for the first time in my sailing life, the owner came to reclaim his mooring! He was very decent about it and we slipped as quickly as safety allowed.

Downwind toward Shotley Spit called for 2 reefs in the mainsail. Then, as we turned Nor’West we shook one out and heeled to a good wind helped along by the last of the flood.
With Adrian on the helm that backing S’Westerly carried us well into Butterman Bay before the turning tide forced a couple of short tacks.

The failing wind and the strengthening ebb overcame us at Pin Mill and we handed the sails.
We were aware of the ship coming down from Ipswich (We’d listened to VTS and he’d given someone a long blast at the bridge!) and as he came past Cathouse he sent us the same heartfelt message. But by then we were safely among the Pin Mill moorings, under engine and preparing the boat for Woolverstone. I hope my friendly wave cheered him up a little.

I can’t imagine what it’s like on the bridge of a biggish vessel, constrained by its draft, negotiating a narrow, twisting channel full of yotties. It must seem that we all want to cross the channel ahead of him, and he must worry that we haven’t seen him. What a relief it must be to find the deep water channel out of Felixstowe.

On a previous assessment sail in Nancy Blackett I had waited to cross the deep water channel while several container ships came and went. Then, as we began to cross, another had appeared from behind Landguard Point. To my astonishment, we heard, over the radio, VTS ask the ship to slow down while we crossed.

At the end of a lovely day and a wonderful sail Nancy Blackett slipped into her mooring. I dropped a line over the after cleat and Adrian took a turn ‘round the forward. We took our time snugging the boat down and locking up.

The A14 was not busy, Margaret had supper in the oven and her company and a glass of wine made a perfect end to a perfect day.

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