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.