We awoke to bright sun and a fresh westerly breeze. Our objective today was Heybridge Lock, almost at the head of the Blackwater, just downstream from Maldon. We would not be able to get in there before 7.30pm on the afternoon tide, but to get there, we needed to leave Tollesbury on the morning high tide.
We bid goodbye to Meisje, who were returning to Bradwell Marina and haul out, for their return to Yorkshire.
We decided to run on the ebb to Brightlingsea, to have some lunch and in my case to collect more crew. It was a lovely three-sail reach over the shallow water off West Mersea, and we were soon all rafted on the pontoon at Brightlingsea. I met Niki and Alice here, and after they had loaded their gear, we went ashore for lunch.
The forecast was for rain to pass through in the morning and for the wind to swing round to the East. Other than a brief shower, the former merely threatened, whilst the latter fortunately did take place.
We set off from Brightlingsea at 3pm, with the wind and tide behind us, but we could see rain all around and it was not long before the visibility shrank to a few hundred yards, the wind dropped and for about half an hour the rain hammered down. We ran on engine to keep the boat moving (we had a restaurant booking to keep!), but left the sails up.
The rain soon passed and the skies cleared, leaving us to sail up the river in golden late afternoon sun and we wound our way upstream. I’ll draw a veil over the couple of brief groundings as the channel narrowed and the depth fell but we all arrived safely at the moorings outside Heybridge Lock.
This is an impressive structure connecting the Chelmer and Blackwater canal to the tidal waters. It’s operated by Grant, the (very friendly) British Waterways lock keeper and accessible only an hour either side of HW. In our case even less, as we were on neap tides.
The lock easily fitted all six boats and we were soon raised a few feet up to the basin and moored in a line (like ducklings, Grant described it), with one other visitor and a mixture of local yachts and canal craft.
The tide was later than forecast and it was 8pm before we tied up and we rapidly repaired to the Jolly Sailor, who had fortunately kept their kitchens open to accommodate us.