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Friday, September 29, 2006

Home at last

Before leaving the Medway, we spent a very pleasant night anchored in Stanfleet Creek once more. A bit of passage planning made it very clear that the tide would be perfect for a trip home if we left at 4am.....

Some lively discussion resulting in a decision to get up early (4:30 was a reluctant compromise) and get going, with breakfast on the way. The trip turned out to be pretty good with a reasonable breeze and we were on our berth before 2pm.
We tidied up the boat and took a trip along to Pin Mill for a pint at the Butt and Oyster. One turned to two, turned to three and dinner as well. As the tide ebbed, I had to walk along the slipway about once every hour to keep the dinghy afloat ready for our departure 'after the next beer'

the kids found lots of playmates, and were happily occupied all the while, which is one of the beauties of Pin Mill. And, at least, it didn't bounce up and down and try to tip you out of your seat.
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Submarines are for small people

Chatham offers the chance to tour one of the navy's old diesel subs, HMS Ocelot, the last boat built for the Navy here, although they built three more of these subs for the Canadians later. (Selling our old technology to the Canuks, as usual)

It's a long time since I was inside a sub - I vaguely remember touring the one in Gosport as a kid - and the living conditions make Ty Dewi feel like a palace. The captains quarters were literally a bunk, which he could sit up on and swing down a desk unit which also covered a washbasin. Very cramped.

Of course, our two small people were well suited to this size of vessel, and Issie swung easily through the hatches, rather like a hi-tech version of tumbletots with less soft padding. Daddy carelessly bumped Max's head off some of the fittings but he recovered to take a seat at the helm.

Ocelot saw plenty of action in the cold war, and apparently took part in many intelligence missions (spying, to you and I) and details of her missions remain classified today. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ahoy me hearties - tis the pressgang for you

The historic dockyard in Chatham is an amazing place, one of England's real treasures. Closed in 1984 and since developed into a huge museum, the yard has built all manner of ships including HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship at the battle of Trafalger.

Among many exhibits, they have three ships you can tour, her is HMS Gannett, a steam / sailing warship from the 19th century.

We liked the inscription above the wheel of the ship - "Deeds not Words" Below decks, they had some typical sailors clothes in small sizes which Issie and Max enjoyed trying on, then we found a storyteller regaling the children with tales of Blackbeard the pirate, which was enjoyed by kids and adults alike. "Whaddya think pirates would eat, eh children?" she asks "Chips and Peas" says Max. So you try to bring them up on good wholesome, organic stuff and what do you get? "Chips and Peas".

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Across the wild and lonely ocean

OK, so the Thames estuary is not really an ocean in the generally accepted scheme of things, but is was wild at times, although not very lonely either.

We left Brightlingsea with a forecast of force 5-6 with thundery showers and, for a change, the forecast was right. The first few hours were a glorious reach with a couple of reefs in for comfort and the sun shining on a lumpy green-grey sea. It was fast and fairly uneventful sailing, although the lumps and bumps got the better of Gesa and Issie before too long and they headed down to their bunks.

Max insisted on having a nap on the high side, holding on to keep himself in his chosen bunk. This could only have one, predictable, ending, so I carefully moved him to the low side, whereupon he woke up, complained and crawled back to this spot.

About ten minutes later, the inevitable happened as we rolled over one particularly large wave and Max tumbled to the floor. Shocked, he finally realised why Daddy had insisted on him moving, and he took to a more suitable bunk. Leecloths are on order.

On the South side of the estuary, we had to head up towards the wind to make the Medway and our destination, Chatham. By now the thunderstorms were tracking across as quite vicious short squalls. We were close to another boat most of the time, and they told us later that they had over 40 knots of wind - that's gale force gusts. We thought it was certainly windy, but the boat had no trouble in that weather. After a grim hour and a half we finally entered the river and life calmed down nicely for a gentle trip up to Chatham.
Berthing in Chatham Marina, we were treated to some spectacular rainbows as the latest thunderstorm tracked across. We were pleased to be in, enjoyed our supper and looked forward to a day exploring the historic dockyard, now a large museum with lots to see and do. I'd enjoyed the voyage, but the family were just pleased to be somewhere where the boat kept still and the shore had possibilities for playtime. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Exploring ashore

Anchored off Brightlingsea, we decide to go for a walk ashore on Mersea Island. The pilot book promised a feast at the Oyster Company, where we could buy fresh crab, lobster and other shellfish, and a convenient walk to the local pub afterwards.

The forecast predicted a force 6, and we'd not been anchored in that wind strength before, so we left Dad on board to supervise, and catch up on some work he'd brought along. The rest of us went over to the beach, which turned out to be made mainly of broken shells, much to the interest of the little and big kids among the crew.

Following the shore path around, we eventually came to Pyefleet Oyster Company, only to find them closed. Darn. Time for a snack and a purposeful walk to the pub.

The route was not clear. However, we asked a friendly local householder, who pointed us on our way. We walked on, only to find said householder turning up in his 4x4 to offer us a lift. "No, it's fine" says Nick ,but Gesa saves the day and says "Yes please". It turns out the pub is still 2 miles distant, so the ride was very welcome. Many thanks, sir, whoever you are.

The pub serves food, but our enquiries about a small snack were not met kindly as they were rushed off their feet catering to the 3-course Sunday lunch customers. Feeling a bit like second class citizens, we finished another bag of crisps and humbly snuck out to stroll back to the boat. The walk home was along the south side of the island, where the sea is slowly, or maybe not so slowly, eating away at the mud cliffs that underlie an enormous caravan park, so there is justice in this world after all.

Back at the beach, the little bridge over a creek had been submerged by the high tide, but it was only a foot deep so you could still feel your way across it. Max, somewhat predictably, fell off the side into the deeper water, saturating his clothes on the way. He walked somewhat like a cowboy without a horse for the last few hundred yards before we called in to the mother ship and ordered up a dinghy ride.

A quick blast across the river in the dinghy procured fish and chips all round for the hungry crew and finished off a fun day for all. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Northern cruise goes South

In a change to the advertised programme....
After a steaming hot July, August came in changable and moody. As our big cruise got nearer, the weather refused to settle and the prospect of a week on the Northumbrian coast with rain and contrary breezes didn't look quite so attractive all of a sudden. So, in the best tradition of all wimpish cruising sailors, we changed our plans and went with the wind.

There's plenty of tales to tell, but little time to tell them, so a select few will appear here over the next few days. We had a happy crew of seven - that's the four of us, my parents and our friend Melissa, freshly escaped from the USofA and about to take up a job at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

Our new, make it up as you go along, itinery took us back to Brightlingsea, then down across the Thames to Chatham, back up the Medway and home to Ipswich. A good mix of sailing and more restful days ashore, with a fair sprinking of excitement along the way. The boat performed pretty much faultlessly, and we had a good week in weather from 0 to 40+ knots of wind.

More to come.... Posted by Picasa