International Cape Cutter Week 2015 Day 5: Secret Water

It is a testament to the design of the Cape Cutter that it sails well with two reefs. And that was just as well, because today was much windier that we had so far experienced this week. We have been very lucky with the weather; the night in RHYC berths had been very peaceful, but the wind built up during the morning and was already topping the 20kt gusts which had been forecast. Several boats decided to stay in the Orwell, given the conditions, but five boats chose to cross out of the river mouth and into the Walton Backwaters, to stay at Titchmarsh marina.

  Three of the boats were single handed (myself included, as the girls had all gone to the Suffolk Show) and we set off down the Orwell with staysail only. We made good progress with wind and tide both behind us, and raised double-reefed mainsails in the lower reaches just above the docks. We then made fine progress out of the harbour on the sea, looking for the safe water mark at the head of the channel into the Walton Backwaters.

The Cape Cutter sails really well with staysail and refused main, feeling stable and balanced. We were making over 4kts over the ground and the occasional really big gusts did not overpower us. We made a fine sight in the bright sun, against the green sea, blue sky and scudding white clouds.

Secret Water (as Arthur Ransome called it) is a good name for the Walton Backwaters, as the entrain is not obvious from the sea and a great deal of the wide area of sea is very shallow, even for a Cape Cutter, as we found out. In places there is only a narrow channel between the buoys and at one point I strayed to far to the edge. The first I noticed was the gentle scraping sound of the centre plate dragging on the sand. The plate is easily lifted, but tacking back into the channel was more difficult, so I ended up using Mr Honda to escape my irons.

Once into the fairway to the east of Horsey Island, it was a comfortable reach and then a convenient section of heard to wind, which we used to drop the sails and attach warps and fenders before entering the lovely little marina of Titchmarsh. The forecast is for worse weather tomorrow, so the plan is to have an early dinner, followed by an early night and a dawn start, in order to get back to Levington before the worst of the weather. Watch this space…

12.7nm, avg speed 3.7kts



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