trip logs

Trip log: squally ride home


Our last day dawned breezy and we set off from Titchmarsh at low tide and with the wind behind us. We hoisted reefed main with difficulty in the narrow channel and made our way out onto Hamford water easily enough. There was very little water in the channel and sand banks were sticking out of the water. 



As usual, there was a .ot of bird life to see (low tide, as always the best time). The highlight was seeing some of the resident seals, which Alice took great delight in watching with binoculars. It got harder to stay in the channel sailing as deep as possible. The wind really started to pick up and I could see a squall approaching from astern- the Walton backwaters rapidly disappeared- so we took the chance to round up and drop the main, sailing on with staysail only (with wind and tide behind us, still making over 4kts). It was just as well, because the squall was much more violent than I was expecting, with some really fierce gusts. At one point, the visibility dropped to less than a couple of hundred metres, and we could see none of the channel matters; I knew we were on a safe track, so we held course until one of the Orwell channel markers came into view. The wind, still very strong, had sheared round and what ought to have been a fast reach up the Orwell was pretty much on the nose. We tried beating with two reefs in the main, and staysail, but even then the big gusts were making progress very difficult. I was glad we were on the river and not in a more exposed place. Reluctantly, we fired up Henry and dropped the sails. As we turned upriver, past the docks the wind was blowing straight down the river and knocking up a pretty unpleasant chop. We motored doggedly on and watched the dredger, which we had seen picking up in the harbour, dumping its load on the bank just upstream of Fagbury point. Rather cold and wet, we came into Suffolk Yacht harbour for a welcome hot drink and shower.


The time had come at last to recover Aurora at the end of this trip. Even though the tide was still quite low, the wire hawser system at the marina made light work and we soon had Aurora on the hard for a much needed scrub and tidy. We also took Henry Honda off for a well deserved service.


10.6nm, avg speed 4.1kts(!). Trip total 130nm in 9 days.


trip logs

Trip log: Titchmarsh

There has been a high pressure system parked over England, so we have had quiet weather for about a week now. The trouble is that it has brought a strange mist with it, so a.though the sky is largely clear, the sun has seemed cool and hazy. Given the light winds, we chose a short journey for our last passage of the trip and decided to head for Titchmarsh Marina in the Walton Backwaters. The crew for this trip comprised myself and Niki, and Alice, which was a welcome surprise when she asked to come along. 


We had a beat on genoa, staysail and main against the tide down the Orwell. There was a lot of activity in Felixstowe harbour, though that did not prevent us from making a few beats quite close the dock. It was slow progress, but very enjoyable in the hazy sun. Eventually, we were able to bear off Pennyhole Bay to pick up the safe water mark which is the first in the chain which leads into “Secret Water”. We managed to sail all the way to the Marina entrance before motoring to a berth at this peaceful marina. We then spent the rest of the afternoon in the cockpit, drinking tea and watching the world go by.

11.7nm; avg speed 2.8kts.



trip logs

Trip log: On the Orwell

Returning from her three nights away, Aurora has had some irritating problems. Firstly, the main was not working, secondly the masthead lights were not working and finally the furler on the bowsprit was jamming frequently.  There was little wind, so Aimee and I sat in the cockpit, she reading and me trying to sort out these problems. A short spell with multimeter and soldering iron fixed the electrical problems. I fiddled with the furler, but I’m not sure I effected any permanent solution. 


Nonetheless, the sail needed testing, so we nosed out into the Orwell with Aimee at the helm. The tide was rising rapidly and we sped downwind; I had been hoping to reach Royal Harwich Yacht Club, but I was concerned about how long it would take us to return uptide and upwind.


I can report that the Genoa worked perfectly and we an enjoyable beat. It was quite a misty day, but close to Levington, we sailed into a fog bank which reduced visibility to less than 50m. It was quite disorientating, and I was glad we were only a few hundred metres from the marina approach.



trip logs

Trip log: Waldringfield

After a quiet night on our mooring at Felixstowe Ferry with the lapping sound of the current passing under the boat, Jeff made a brief sortie ashore for water and we sailed on the rising tide up the River Deben. This river is a most beautiful place, but in the flat grey light, looked rather bleak. We passed Ramsholt and arrived at Waldringsfield with the waterside Maybush pub. We had left Aurelia inflated, towed behind, so that we could pop ashore. I am pleased to report that there were several well-kept real ales and that the weather had warmed enough for us to enjoy our drink al fresco.

Returning to Aurora, we had a quick lunch and deflated Aurelia. Returning to the mouth of the river, we tried valiantly to sail upwind against the incoming tide,but soon had to admit defeat and motor. The flood was very strong by now and Henry had to fight hard against the current. We reached the safe watermark expecting the gusty breeze we had experienced on the river to be a good sailing breeze. However, as we were sailing downwind, there seemed to be very little strength to it. We did make good time on the last of the flood and soon reached the entrance to to Felixstowe.


I had watched the AIS to see if there were any large ships on the way in or out. It is amazing how quickly these monsters appear over the horizon; knowing one was coming (the outgoing tug boats were a clue!) we put sails down and motored towards the channel at low revs until it had passed and than crossed the channel as quickLy as possible. Turning up river was a reach, so we were able to put the sails up and use the light breeze to sail all the way back to Levington.

21.8nm; avg speed 2.5kts.


trip logs

Trip log: Into the River Deben

Tuesday morning dawned calm and very misty. When it was light, I stuck my head out of the hatch and could not see the other side of the river. It was very still and the only sounds were those of the birds around us. Gradually a light breeze arose and gently cleared away the mist and the morning grew warm in the sun. 

We had to wait until the top of the tide to get out of the river, so Niki and I passed a leisurely morning watching the wildlife around us before lifting the anchor and making our way downstream. The aim was to leave the Ore and enter the Deben on the same tide. The flood was still strong as we made our way out of the Ore and we motor sailed to the mouth. We needed all the beans Henry could give us to get out of the river, but we popped out into Hollesley Bay with little drama. 

Overnight the wind had swung round to the SW, so it became a beat to reach Felixstowe Ferry and the mouth of the Deben. We made good time along close to the shore, flying main, staysail and genoa and beat around the headland . We  could see remains from two centuries of fortification of this coast against potential invasion, with chains of napoleonic Martello towers and rather less elegant concrete WWII pill boxes visible along the shore. The most recent invasion threat was from the sea though, and there were several places where steel and stone had been used to prevent the sea from eating into the shore and jeopardising the properties behind. As we drew nearer to the next river mouth, we could see Bawdsey Manor and its single radar mast. During WWII, radar system had been developed at nearby Orford Ness and put into operation at Bawdsey Manor. It’s now a private school, but one radar mast remains.


A mile or so from the safe water mark, we admitted defeat with the sails and motored directly upwind. It was tempting to cut the corner off, but I knew that even at high tide there is not a great deal of water at the Deben entrance and a large shingle bank stood between us and the channel. I could see the buoys were in different spots to last year and there was an extra port hand buoy; with the tide ebbing, we took no chances and passed close to the buoys. The ebb tide was strong, but it was easier to make the entrance than I expected and we were soon in Felixstowe Ferry. The ebb was very strong over the moorings and it took some careful manoeuvring before we picked up a buoy.


We had arranged to meet Drew, a local sailor and fellow Cape Cutter owner, and he got the harbour master to bring the ferry boat to us, as it would have been impossible to row the tender even the short distance ashore. We dropped Aurelia ashore, ready for the return trip and retired to the Ferry Boat inn for a meal and some beers. Drew was good company, and we discussed possible arrangements for the gathering of Cape Cutters next month. We were later joined by Jeff; Niki drove his car home , leaving Jeff and I to row back to Aurora (fortunately now a very short distance across a very modest current) for a nightcap before retiring. 

Distance travelled 12.8nm. Trip total 108nm.


trip logs

Trip log: River Alde

It was a cold clear night with a beautiful sky, but the next morning was rather uninspiring, with a brisk NE breeze and low cloud. We set off with high hopes to sail up to Snape Maltings, but it soon became clear that we would be head to wind a lot of the way, so we reluctantly fired up Henry. Even with the rising tide, Henry struggled a bit against the wind and it became rather a slog making progress up the river. We soon felt pretty cold and I was getting a little concerned about our low fuel level, so we decided to stop after 4nm at Aldeburgh.

The Yacht club at Aldeburgh has a pontoon, and we moored gratefully to that and went into the clubhouse. We were made very welcome there and soon had hot drinks, hot showers and hot meals, in that order. The rest of the family joined us, which was just as well because there was no petrol station in the town, the nearest being five miles away. Jeff happily drove me to fill up Henry’s tank, and I took the opportunity to resupply the larder too. Although the day had brightened up considerably, there were no takers to sail up river, so we wandered around Aldeburgh. This is a very attractive town, and the buildings are well maintained. It seemed there was lots of money about and the town was very busy on this bank holiday. 

Time and Tide wait for no man, and it was soon time for us to set off again. Alice wanted to join us, which would have been great, but she did not have enough warm clothes, so we promised her a sleep over the next night instead. We followed the tide back downstream on staysail only and had a most enjoyable run. There was much wildlife to see, the highlights being avocets, marsh harriers and a hunting barn owl. We were very soon anchored in Abrahams Bosom and watching a glorious sunset. 


trip logs

Trip log: River Ore

I had decided that today it was all or nothing. I had been keen to get into the river Ore, which undulates its way inland thorough beautiful Suffolk farmland, past two interesting towns from its improbable mouth and is navigable to Shape Maltings, famous for its Henry Moore sculptures, classical music and expensive tea shop. I was keen to reach the navigable head of such an interesting river and this provides two for the price of one, because the river which is called Ore from its mouth, changes its name half-way, to become the Alde further up.

The problem was the weather; the wind was forecast to be NE for most of the holiday and I might waste too many days waiting for a favorable wind. To make matters worse, the river is best entered near the end of the flood, which gives a foul tide in the hours leading up to then if you want to travel North-east along the coast to get there. Today was forecast a Northerly, but light and sunny so the sea would be calm and the weather warm. Niki wanted tho join me on this trip and I even managed to persuade her to make the early start needed for an 8 am ropes-off at Levington. 

We departed on time, and the weather was sunny, but there was hardly a breath of wind. Sails were hoisted as a decoration more than anything else and we motored down past the big ships in Felixstowe. We had plenty of time to wonder what cargo was carried aboard the new arrival, eight weeks at sea from Mumbai, before we exited the harbour onto a calm sea. We shampooed  a course as close to the shore as possible to minimise the tide against us and Henry chugged happily for a total of about four hours to reach the safe water mark outside Orford Haven. The mouth of the river was invisible in the shingle banks; a chart is helpfully provided by the east coast rivers web site, but this stated that the boys had been removed for winter. We were pretty relieved to see that they had in fact been replaced and so we followed them in. Their course took us straight over a bank shown on the chart, so evidently the shingle had shifted during the winter. Getting into the river was easy enough, and we were welcomed by a friendly seal, who popped his had out of the water to smile at us as we entered the river. We passed through the narrow gap between the shingle banks and through a curiously turbulent patch of water, where presumably the outgoing river met the incoming tide. 


The river then runs parallel to the shore for some way, behind an impressive shingle bank, forming a long shingle spit. The while area is brimming with bird life. We motored around the N side of the Havergate Island, a breeding ground for waders; it’s an important site for Avocet breeding, and I scanned the grasses with the binoculars but saw nothing but nonchalant Black Backed Gulls and Canada geese. Landing there is not permitted, but we dropped anchor for lunch and rested in the sun.


We then moved upstream past the old government research facility at Orford Ness, with the pagoda-like structures, which were used to test the detonators for Britain’s atomic bombs. These were designed so that an uncontrolled explosion would blow the walls out, and the roof would drop down like a lid, protecting those in the surrounding area; fortunatelycircuit don’t think this concept was ever tested. A bend in the river then led us to Orford itself, a pretty little village with attractive houses, a prominent church and an impressive castle. Picking up a visitors mooring, we chatted to the harbour Master, who told us the buoys marking the river entrance had only gone in this last week. We told him that their positions were different to the chart and he asked us if they were all in a straight line, which they were. The buoys are the responsibility of Trinity House, and apparently they like their buoys tidily in a straight line! 


It was then time to inflate Aurelia and try not to perform a comedy routine rowing to shore. The current was strong, but the distance short, so we made landfall dry and without mishap. We met the rest of the family here and passed a pleasant afternoon wandering around. When the others went home, Niki and I enjoyed a pleasant pub meal and then retired happily to Aurora for the night.

19.2nm; avg speed 3.4 kts. 


trip logs

Trip log: Moored at Manningtree

Anyone who enjoys water sports is a hostage to the weather. Sailing can accommodate a wide range of wind speeds, but the direction is all important; if you want to make passage, the wind determines wether this is a pleasure or a slog. So it was today; I really wanted to travel up the coast, but the wind would be “on da nose”, so a different adventure was called for. With the full moon bringing spring tides, a trip to the navigable limit of the rubber Stour was called for. Last year, I sailed with Alice as far as Mistley, but I decided it would be fun tho follow the tide further, to Manningtree. Here we could moor and enjoy a (swift) pint at the local pub.


So it was with guest helm Jeff we set off with wind and Tide behind us. In fact, with staysail and main, we were swept downwind at almost 7kt. This put us in danger off teaching the head of the river before high tide, so we dropped the main and carried on with staysail only.


 The channel narrows dramatically near the quay at Mistley and we ghosted past the boats, machinery and heaps of stone on this working quay. It then came time to start up Henry Honda too weave the last mile to Manningtree. We picked our way between the moorings and made a pass of the concrete quay. This confirmed mooring was possible, so we fixed warps and fenders, turned back around and came alongside. We had timed high tide just right, so we had time for a swift pint and some lunch before setting off back downstream.


Reversing our course was easy enough, as we could follow the path of our inbound track and we put sails up on reaching Mistley. As we had run up the river, we now had to beat back down it. We made great time most of the way upwith the starboard tack giving a track nearly directly along the river, with main, staysail and Genoa powering us along. 


However, nearing the mouth of the river by the ferry terminal at Parkestone, the wind shifted right on the nose. At this point, I decided discreet was the better part of valour and fired up Henry again. The sun came out as we made our way up the Orwell to the Marina, making for a very pleasant end tho an interesting day.

27.8nm, avg speed 4kts.  

trip logs

Trip log: back to base

it was an uninspiring morning which greeted us. The forecast rain was a few hours later than expected and started at first light. Aimee and I had a leisurely breakfast in the cabin and I had a mooch in the chandlery. The rain finally abated and we nosed out of Titchmarsh against the rising tide. We hoisted the reefed main straight out of the harbour, but it proved to be a bit of hindrance as the channel is narrow and the wind dead downwind. Rather than drop the sail, I scandalised it until we turned into Pennyhole Bay. We then romped into the mouth of the Orwell, scarcely dropping below 6kt on reefed main and staysail. 


A few gybes past the container ships later and helped by the rising tide, we dropped the sails and took a berth back in Levington. A lovely sail after an unpromising morning.

10.2nm, avg speed 3.8kt


Cooking aboard, trip logs

Trip log: Levington to Titchmarsh

A smooth launch, a leisurely sail and a sunny sheltered marina made an auspicious beginning to the sailing season. The Easter break marks the first trip of this season for Aurora and we chose Suffolk again this year. It can be very cold at this time and not everyone wants to be on the boat full time in the spring, so the attraction of Suffolk is the proximity of grandparents to provide an alternative to sailing.


We launched from Suffolk Yacht Harbour, which is unusual in that their slipway has a wire which is used to lower boats down the slip. This may be unfamiliar to many, but we nearly always have to launch Aurora from a rope, so we got on well with this arrangement. I travelled with Aimee and rigged the boat yesterday. It was “blowing old boots” yesterday, so today was quite a contrast with light winds and much sun. 

The launch was easy, but there was quite a bit of faffing to do to get the trailer safely stashed away. Consequently, we did not sail off till midday.

The wind was blowing almost straight down the Orwell and Aimee and I took it easy as we were carried out on a light air and a strong ebbing tide. We took the opportunity to check all the sails were properly rigged, that the furling worked properly and, where nevcessary, to adjust the rigging. 

This season, I have decided to use the genoa instead of the yankee. The latter is quite a bit smaller and more manageable, but when the breeze picks up, it soon needs to be furled. On the other hand, there seem to have been many occasions when conditions are very light for the yankee. Thus it seems as if the genoa would provide more power on very light days and yet seldom be a hindrance, compared to the smaller yankee. 

 And so it proved today, at least. The wind was light and variable, swinging from fetch to run. On one occasion, Mr Honda was brought to life and a few puffs provided some excitement, but overall our progress was rather slow. Still, it was a nice day, and the combination of sun and sailing downwind was most pleasant.

We watched Felxistowe docks and saw large container ships come and go. We watched the beach huts of Harwich drift past and saw the hidden entrance to Hamford water open up as if by magic as we followed the buoys. By this time the wind had died almost completely, so we motored slowly up Twizzle Creek to Titchmarsh marina.

Titchmarsh marina
Titchmarsh marina

This marina is well tucked in behind the seaside resorts of Walton and Frinton. With the tide out, the boats appear as if they are sunken into the marsh. An embankment surrounds the marina and provides shelter, so after a (longish) walk to Walton, we enjoyed tea in the cockpit. As the sun drew near to the tops of the reeds and the almost full Easter moon rose, the chill in the air sent us down in the cabin. 

 I was pleased with our evening meal- Moroccan lamb cooked in the thermal cooker (Aimee’s choice). It was easy to prepare; tinned tomatoes, butter beans and linguine added to lamb, garlic onion and herbs. Aimee garnished hers with feta, but I passed on that. 

 Distance: 10.1 nm, avg speed 2.8kts