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.