Friday morning was the day for our return to the Crouch from Brightlingsea. The original plan had been to make the trip on Thursday, but the weather had other ideas. Whereas there was a brisk Southerly on Thursday, the forecast for Friday was for moderate Southwesterlies.
We wanted to cross the Ray Sand around three hours before high water, so we would still have the rising tide helping us by the time we reached the mouth of the Crouch. Thus, a 7am departure from Brightlingsea was called for. Unfortunately, when I got up at 6am, the incoming tide was only just dribbling over the marina cill – clearly we would not be away by 7am!
The tide rises surprisingly fast and by 7.15, Tystie was the guinea pig and successfully crossed the bar. She was soon followed by the rest of the fleet. We initially made slow progress against the flood on the Colne, but as the got into the head of the Blackwater, the wind freshened and we picked up speed on reefed main, staysail and “intermittent” foresail. The south-westerly gave us a reach and we increased speed even more out of the tide, off the Dengie Flats.
The fleet stayed close together and reached the Rays Sand North buoy (confusingly called Ron Pipe) by 9.15, and we passed over the shallows with more water beneath us than on the northward journey.
Once into the channel into the Crouch, our course became a beat and we were glad of a little assistance from the last of the flood (we still had a little over an hour before HW). The fleet tacked between the shores of the river (some of us with a little help from the engine); the final tack was into the Roach and then back into the Crouch. This leg of the passage meant that we had passed into all four rivers in one day – Colne, Blackwater, Crouch and Roach.
At this point, the curve of the river was enough to be able to sail past Burnham without beating. In the shelter of the river, the breeze was very modest and it was an interesting challenge to sail in the restricted waters, against the now ebbing tide. Wadudu led the fleet and Tystie was having a lot of fun with their Genoa. Meanwhile in Aurora, I decided to shake out the reef in the mainsail, unfortunately a manoeuvre which cost me a lot of ground. This was followed by a sequence of tacks across the river gaining only a few feet in each crossing, but eventually, rounding the corner we were able to make good progress up the river. After eight hours and 28nm (quite a few tacks!), we reached Fambridge Yacht Haven and took the sails down for the last time on the 2019 rally.