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Monday, August 21, 2006

Windy Weekend

We didn't have any firm plans for this weekend, and the forecast was grim, so when we were invited to a 4th birthday party we decided to go along, enjoy the morning and then I would take the kids over to the boat and let Gesa have a much needed 24 hour break at home.

The party was very enjoyable - our very sensible friends decided to invite just four of their daughter's friends, plus Max, and provide rather nice food for the parents too. We all enjoyed a very relaxed kiddies birthday party - other parents will know how rare that is!

The August weather has been far from welcoming this year, after our heatwave in July it has been very unsettled and as I dragged a very unwilling Issie and Max down the pontoons in the driving rain and near gale, it didn't promise to be the most fun evening ever. However, once below, with the cooker on and some warmth in the cabin, things were more comfortable and we had a nice evening, with the kids going quietly to bed after supper and letting me relax and read my book.

Sunday was quite nice weather, so we fished for crabs i the morning, catching a good bucket full of the little snappers before releasing them to run along the pontoon in the weekend's prime time crustacean high dive contest. Back flips were the order of the day. As the sun made an appearance, we packed up and headed home by the road less travelled, to a beautiful village called Long Melford, with a Tudor hall where we made the most of our National Trust membership and the kids ran around the garden playing hide and seek.

In the end, an enjoyable weekend, but please, just give us a few days of settled sunshine and we promise not to complain about the heat...... Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Going in Circles

You might recall that when we sailed to London, I reflected that Max might have been just as happy with a travelcard and a day on the tube. Yesterday, we tested that hypothesis.

Gesa had an appointment in London, and I needed to look after the kids. The easy solution was to go with her on the train and amuse them in the city for a couple of hours, especially as my Network Railcard means that it's only another ten quid for all of us to go.
So we cycled down to the staion and caught the fast train to Kings Cross. Gesa wanted to have lunch somewhere 'like a pavement cafe' so I suggested we went over to Liverpool Street. It's four stops on the circle line, during which I hatched the crazy plan to ride the whole circle line and show Issie and Max each mainline rail station that we went through. Max thought Liverpool Street was cool, so this plan just might work...

First, lunch, and in the office complex just outside the station, there is an arena area where someone had set up a dirt circle and were giving animal shows. We saw Western Cowboy horse riding and some bizarre dog show where the trainer and dog do a synchronised dance routine to 'Cotton Eye Joe'. You had to be there - we'll show you the video if you come round.

After lunch, Gesa headed off across town, and we rode on. We had already passed, without stopping, Farringdon and Moorgate, but they are just Thameslink stations so it dosn't count. After that, we stopped at any circle line station that had the old BR logo - the red double arrow - signifying a mainline station.

So that was Canon Street, Blackfriars, Victoria, Paddington, St Pancras and Kings Cross.Max had a lot of fun, especially standing next to the super-noisy HST 125 as it revved up to leave Paddington. Issie was less convinced, as the pictures show. She'd insisted on shoes without sockes, and had paid the price with a blister on her foot. By the end of the loop, she had to be carried up and down stairs. Four year olds are not light weight.

We made our rendevouz with Mummy and caught the fast train back to Cambridge where the rain was falling steadily as we arrived, so it was a wet cycle home to collapse in front of a movie (Max chose the Polar Express - it has trains in it) Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Motorised watercraft – the good, the bad and the stupid

As a ‘rag and stick’ man, the temptation is to scorn the ‘others’ who like to burn vast quantities of fuel in order to get from A to B, or often just out and back to A again. However, about half our neighbours on F pontoon are ‘stinkies’, and they are the half we find the most friendly, so it’s hard to maintain the prejudice.

Wandering down to the riverfront at Brightlingsea, Issie and Max are drawn into a large, smart new shed with about six gleaming sportsboats on their trailers. Uh-oh, keep the kids away from the dark side – but it’s too late and we follow them inside where we meet Alan, the owner of the dealership, and his family. Once again, what a friendly chap, even when it was clear that we were never going to be customers. His daughter and our kids got on so well that, the next morning, they came out in their boat to see us at our anchorage. The kids fished for crabs, they admired our floating cottage, we liked the look of the leather seats and the sleek lines of the Maxum sportsboat.

Alan runs Global Trade Partners, a business importing second-hand motor boats from the US and sorting out all the certification and import issues before selling them on. Yet again, any prejudices we still held about motor boat owners were rapidly being eroded. We even smiled when Issie asked for, and got, a ride in their boat. ‘It went fast, Daddy’ said a grinning little girl afterwards.

Whilst Issie was out on her ride, we were ‘buzzed’ by a jetski, the rider seemed to be using the anchored yachts as a slalom course. Not unusual, sadly, and he zipped off to screech through the bathing area off the beach with a ‘look how cool I am’ approach to his day. With a body like that, who are we to disagree.
Having attracted everyone’s attention, he failed to notice the 60 foot police launch coming over at full chat, huge bow wave, blue flashing lights, sirens, the works. ‘What, me guv?’ Seems like the boys in blue had a quiet word for about 15 minutes before he was released to go on his way, somewhat more slowly and doubtless appraised of the location of the nearby water ski and high speed area.

So that’s the good and the bad, but it was all capped by the stupid. Lying at anchor in Pyefleet creek, enjoying our coffee, a small motor boat approaches slowly, so we stand up to say hi. There are two chunky looking Essex chaps on board, and the driver calls over ‘Which way should we go, mate?’. We let Alan, our motorboat expert, handle this one. ‘For what?’ ‘Well, for a bit of food and a pint’. ‘Well, you can try Wivenhoe, it’s very nice, good pub up there’ ‘Just been there mate, got stuck on the bottom, like’. ‘Well, you should have plenty of depth, just stay between the buoys and you’ll be ok.’ ‘OK thanks mate. Er, which side of the buoys d’you mean?’. They’re driving around in a 10 grand boat and don’t even know what the channel markers mean.

It takes all sorts, we reflect, as we haul up the anchor and weave our way out of the river, stopping and diverting for all the various racing dinghies who all wave their thanks, which is nice. Once in open water we hoist full sail and have another splendid broad reach home, only turning the engine on as the wind faded just off Felixstowe. Three wonderful days of sunshine and fair winds, it just doesn’t get better than this. Posted by Picasa

More photos from Brightlingsea beach

Just couldn't resist posting a few more, it really was a beautiful evening.

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Brightlingsea, Essex

One’s view of Essex is somewhat tarnished with the thought of the M25, dreary towns like Brentford and Essex boys entertaining the local girls in over-revved Vauxhall Corsas with excessively large exhausts

Brightlingsea and the surrounding coast is a revelation. This sleepy side of Essex has interesting beaches, colourful beach huts and the traditional waterfront retains many old fishing and trading barges, mostly converted to private use, but still with gleaming varnish, tan sails and frighteningly long bowsprits. The modern world is coming, with new apartments and a marina, but the awkward journey into London has prevented this place becoming an overpriced commuter town.

We arrived here after the best sailing we’ve had all season – a beautiful force 3 to 4 from the North sped us down to Walton on a gentle run, then round the corner onto a wonderful broad reach. I sat reading my book, with the autopilot minding the helm, and just enjoyed the day. Ty Dewi was revelling in the conditions and scooting along at 8 knots, a creaming bow wave and happy gurgling noises as the water ran past our stern under my comfortable perch on the aft platform.

Gesa and the kids had long since gone for a well deserved afternoon nap when the buoy for the Colne River hove into view and it was with sadness that we furled the sails, turned on the engine and motored up the river to find a berth. A little discussion with the harbour master finally required me to be honest and admit that yes, we were more like 52 feet, not 48, what with the davits and all that, but this common negotiation was done in good heart and they happily found us a double space at one of the pontoons, helped us turn in the narrow gap and took our lines. Excellent service, and all for £12 a night. Solent yachties, eat yer heart out.

Dinner was followed by a trip ashore for the family, whilst our crew, Thea, had sometime to herself and minded the boat. We pootled off in the dinghy to the nearest beach and had a happy hour and a half wading in the sea and watching the sun go down. Just perfect.

The evening stillness and moonless night brought stars galore, and I watched a lonely satellite traverse the sky above me. The calm was only broken by the plaintive calls of the gulls and oyster catchers, and the distant flatulence of some local boy’s Vauxhall Corsa on the seafront.
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Guy and Sophie come to stay

Been a bit slow writing up the logs – spending too much time out enjoying ourselves or up in Scotland working again (sigh)

Guy and Sophie came to visit a few weeks back, so we naturally dragged them along (not too reluctantly) for a trip aboard Ty Dewi. We spent the first part of Saturday down at a kid’s fair in Cambridge before heading over to the boat mid-afternoon and sailing off to our favourite anchorage in the Walton Backwaters.

Guy steered us most of the way, clearly enjoying the experience. However, I really must learn to pay more attention to the tides on this coast, for as we sailed down the channel into the bay, there is a shoal patch and it was full low water – in fact the lowest tide of the year! We bumped the muddy bottom a few times but I knew this was the shallowest bit and we carved out own little gully through the unseen mud, leaving some crabs swearing in our wake before making it safely to Hamford Water

With an easterly breeze blowing, the usual anchorage is a little exposed, but at low water there is no way we could get into the more sheltered channels. With the wind forecast to ease off overnight, and Ty Dewi being no lightweight, the choppy water wasn’t a problem and we fetched up to our anchor nicely and opened the wine.

The next day was sunny and warm, so we headed over to the beach and spent a happy morning playing in the sand, walking on the dunes and generally pottering. Very nice. Homeward bound in the mid-afternoon, a troublefree trip and easy mooring marked the end of another happy weekend on the water.

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