As an example - here are details of our planned Cruise in the Summer of 2004
Previous cruises have been to the Scillies in 1999 and 2003, then we stayed around the Solent in 2001 to be present for both the Portsmouth Festival of Sail and the fantastic 150th anniversary of the America's Cup Regatta. The most ambitious trip was a superb two month cruise to Brittany, the Loire and the Gulf du Morbihan and all the way south to La Rochelle, the Charente river and 15 miles up that river to Rochforte in 2002.
This summer I would like to suggest we catch the 05:30 flood tide on the 17th July from our Medina river mooring, past the Nab up the East coast as far as Southwold calling at Fecamp, Dieppe, Boulogne ( to stock up with cheap, good quality wines and beer), then Ramsgate past Whitstable into the Swale to Faversham (home of Shepherd's Neame Brewery), Conyer, Upnor and up the Thames to arrive about July 30th at St Katharine's Marina next to Tower Bridge. Spend two or three nights here, a good place for crew changes and visits to Chinatown for some sumptuous food at one of my favourite restaurants (whole crab in its' shell cooked with fresh ginger, spring onions in a superb sauce for just £8 followed by Singapore noodles which are slightly spicy to finish off an excellent meal). Followed perhaps by a show in theatreland. Anyone who wishes can visit and take a trip on the London Eye ferris wheel on the South Bank. We can visit Brick Lane, now the new centre of London's Indian cuisine, and the Prospect of Whitby pub in old Docklands where I used to go singing in the '60's on Sunday evenings after dinghy sailing at Burnham with my late friend Francis Elkin who died in 2002. After three days go down river on the ebb tide and anchor off Holehaven or Leigh on Sea and on the last of the flood tide go east to make the Havengore lifting bridge at high water into the river Roach. If they will not open the bridge for any reason, go around the outside of Maplin Sands to the Whittaker bouy and head into the River Crouch on the flood and anchor off Paglelsham in the river Roach (August 5th/6th), row ashore and walk the one mile to the local pub. Next day explore the river Crouch up to Battlebridge, go ashore at Fambridge for a drink, very popular with the Burnham yachties on Sundays. Visit the bustling town of Burnham on Crouch where I have many, many friends we can meet up with. I sailed Hornet, Solo and Toy dinghies (a 15 ft scow single-hander with a sliding seat which I raced in 1962 across the Straits of Dover to Sangatte in a Force 7, a reach all the way across - great fun) also Soling and Squib keel racing one designs for many years here. Burnham-on-Crouch has a rail service to Liverpool Street station. You can change trains at Wickford off the Southend train. There is no delay a Wickford on through services via Burnham on the Southminster line.
Leaving to go north approx August 5th from the mouth of the Crouch through the Rays'n (short for Raysand) Channel past the ancient chapel on the wall, St Peter's, which dates back to 700 A.D.. You can walk to it from Bradwell marina on the south of the Blackwater estuary which we could visit. Next into the open waters of the Blackwater estuary with its old traditional port of Maldon, main centre of Thames barges, Tollesbury Marina, West Mersea, Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea, the three latter towns a bus or taxi ride from Colchester mainline stations - all three are busy yachting centres. Many of the local fishermen formed the professional paid crews of the old J Class Americas Cup contenders in the Solent in the latter part the 19th and early part the 20th century. The senior more successful professional crews managed to move out of rented accommodation and buy their own houses in several Essex coastal villages for a couple of hundred pounds. These houses today change hands at ££150/ ££250K but they have forgone the outside privy and portable tin baths and have modern kitchens and bathrooms.
Leaving the Blackwater estuary on approx August 10th-the weather could delay us? Heading north-east, passing Clacton-on-Sea, Barrington and Walton on the Naze to port, we arrive at the entrance of the lovely Hamford Water past Stone Point and Horsey Island forming part of the Walton backwaters, (August 13th/ 14th), a haven in bad weather and a beautiful peaceful anchorage. This was a favourite anchorage of Arthur Ransome, the children's novelist. There is a convenient Marina further into Walton itself for food shopping, change of crews etc.
The third week in August we go six miles further north, passing Harwich to enter the river Stour with Holbrook Bay, Mistley and Manningtree at the end of the navigation. All good, quiet anchorages, depending on wind and tidal conditions and worth a visit ashore. Returning east down river the lovely river Orwell comes into view on the port side where Levington Marina, Pin Mill (the Butt and Oyster pub where in the mid-1950s I succeeded in pinching the wheel which to this day is still there. I was part of a youth crew on a 50 ft typical East coast oyster fishing boat turned into a sailing charter boat from Sadds of Maldon, with a 15 ft bowsprit and stern overhang. The skipper persuaded us to return the wheel the next morning to the pub which we did without the landlord knowing it had been taken). Wolverstone Marina and Ipswich Docks (another good crew change venue with direct rail link to Liverpool Street station) offer secure moorings to leave the boat, explore ashore and go shopping.
On about 19th August going out of the Orwell, past Felixstowe Docks, we have to keep clear of the many commercial ship movements on VHF and head five miles north-east past Felixstowe passenger ferry into the river Deben with its delightful anchorages at Waldrinfield and the head of the navigation at Woodbridge where pontoons are available for ease of going ashore to visit this ancient town.
About 23rd August the next river to visit would be the Ore which runs parallel to the sea with a 50 yard wide shingle spit separating each other for about 11 miles until arriving at Slaughden just south of Aldeburgh, another good shopping town with superb eateries and pubs. We can visit Aldeburgh Boat yard where Peter Wilson still practises the art of wooden boat-building. Having built a Dragon O.D.'s he's building a new 8m. this year I am told. Further up the river you can go to the head of the navigation at Snape where in high summer concerts are given and other such musical events take place at the Aldeburgh music festival. There are many good anchorages in this river.
Providing Delta has a full complement of three pre-booked competent crew to bring the boat back from Burnham-on-Crouch to the Solent ( September 1st to 8th), we would contemplate going further north from Aldeburgh in the 4th week August to Southwold and the River Blyth. We have first to retrace the 11 miles south-east down the river, parallel to the shingle spit to exit the river Ore. It is then 30 miles north to the entrance to the river Blyth so it would be sensible to anchor the previous night near to the mouth of the Ore to reduce the amount of time needed to reach the river Blyth in open sea taking the ebb tide up the coast, as it would be sensible to arrive in daylight. Walberswick is to the south of river Blyth entrance, a charming village well worth a visit, and Southwold one mile north of it. Easy walking distance from the boatyard anchorage inside the entrance. Southwold is the home of Adams Brewery and offers many superb pubs and restaurants for those wishing to imbibe ashore.
Anyone wishing to visit these latter rivers from the Deben up to Southwold and not able to a join us earlier in the trip, could join Delta at Wivenhoe or Brightlingsea (a bus ride from Colchester main line station), Ipswich via Rail / car or a taxi to Woodbridge (no train service here from Colchester) spend 10, 14 or more days on Delta and leave the boat on the return journey at Woodbridge or Harwich with good connections, via Colchester for their homeward journey.
I then require a minimum of two but ideally three crew to help me bring the boat south, using Burnham as a crew collection point on or about 1st September. Burnham Week will have just ended so there'll be plenty of spare moorings. Then head south across the Thames estuary around North Foreland calling in such places as Ramsgate (good rail connections to London), Folkestone harbour, where you can buy fish and crabs direct from the fishing boats and the lovely Cinque Port of Rye, three miles up the river Rother from the sea. We can only enter this river 1 1/2 hours before high water. The river dries so we rig our Yachtleg to remain upright and if alongside a shore pontoon,walk one-and-a-half miles to the beautiful, unspoilt town of Rye itself. Progressing further west we can reckon to easily get to Sovereign Marine at Eastbourne or if the wind is fair with an ebb tide which which it would have to be to get out of the river Rye, perhaps make Newhaven or Brighton Marina in one day's sale. It would be another day's sail into Chichester harbour where we could offload any crew wishing to leave the boat on the mainland at Itchenor, where buses can be caught or a five mile taxi trip to Chichester with its excellent rail connections or meeting friends arranging car lifts for the crew?
From Chichester harbour I can easily sail the boat alone back to Delta pontoon
mooring at the Folly Inn on the Medina river.
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