having been blown out on Saturday, I decided to make the mist of the good forecast for Sunday. It did not look a promising morning, but at least it was not cold. We made a prompt start and followed the tide from Levington down the Orwell to Shotley. This was a beat, but we were soon reaching up the Stour. With ms in, staysail and genoa, we made excellent pace- 5kts over the ground against the tide. There was plenty to see as we made our way through the busy docks and into the more rural section of the river- cargo ships unloading, ro-ro ferries, dredgers and even a few yachts 😉
The tides were on neaps, so the low tide was not especially low, but my curiosity to see the N shore of the river was rewarded with a few scraping sounds to remind me how shallow the water is, despite its wide expanse. Fortunately, with a quick lift of the plate and a course correction, we easily got back on course. We passed Wrabness, but decided not try for Mistley, as there is nowhere to go ashore, and there definitely was not enough water for Manningtree. So it was we borrowed a mooring back a Wrabness and enjoyed the emerging sun whilst we had lunch.
There still seemed to be plenty of time, so we returned in the somewhat more lively and gusty conditions back towards Harwich. We raced a trio of shrimpers, which was interesting; I did not use the genoa as the furler was jamming, and when there was plenty of wind, they could not catch us. However, when the wind dropped down, we became underpowered and the shrimpers caught us up. The turned into the marina and we made our way back up the Orwell.
By now the tide was rising again and the wind right behind us, so we flew up river and managed to avoid a gybe even though we were very deep. The day by then was very bright, sunny and warm, so we decided to press on upstream. I had the idea that we would make the Orwell road bridge just before high tide and then not have to fight the current when we returned to Levington. It was a very busy afternoon on the river, with all manner of small boats out and about. The dredger was very active too; we met it just before Levington and so I moved just outside the channel to give it room. To my shock it rotated on its thrusters through 180 degrees and proceeded to follow us back up the river! This was a bit disconcerting as we had little room for manoeuvre sailing almost dead downwind with shallow water either side and lots of moorings and traffic to avoid.
We reached the impressive high road bridge in good time and almost immediately turned about to reluctantly return to base. A few tacks were needed initially, but soon we were on a fetch down the river, alternately using the strong gusts to lift us when we needed to or else easing the sheets and taking the acceleration. The tree-lined shores seemed to offer the more gusty conditions but it was most enjoyable to watch the woods and fields slip by.
By the time we reached Levington, the wind had freshened considerably, the sails were dropped and we picked up our berth in the marina once more. Although this had not been a passage as such, it had been a lovely day’s sail and we clocked up 30nm and averaged 4kts overall.