Monday, 22 July 2013

As we prepared to leave Bridlington last Monday evening, a menacing bank of sea fog drifted in and we began to doubt the wisdom of a night passage to the north Norfolk coast; but the prospect of another night leaning against the harbour wall in this particular Yorkshire resort tipped the balance! 

As we headed southwards, hugging the coast to avoid any shipping, the visibility quickly improved and we were treated to yet another clear night.  Spaghetti bolognaise was served at sunset and thereafter skipper and new crew, Grahame and John, adopted a two on, one off watch system with military-like discipline and fortitude!
The dawn bought news of a sea-sick ship mate who had succumbed to the uneasy motion during the night.  As you might imagine he received the sympathy afforded to a comrade in arms and was allowed extra time in his bunk to recover his strength for his foredeck duties!
We were soon in amongst numerous wind farms lying idle in the still air.  As we wove our way through the navigational minefields of shallow waters and rank upon rank of parading windmills the crew discussed the merits of these environmentally 'friendly' monsters. The conversation would continue further south as we encountered another source of energy!

By mid-morning we realised that we would be too late to have enough water to get into Wells-next-the-Sea on the north Norfolk coast, so we decided to press on to Great Yarmouth, a busy port with 24 hour access.  As we approached and checked in with a friendly Harbourmaster on the VHF, his only request was that we had a quiet night!  After our 28 hour sail (motor mostly!), this is just what we wanted!  Breakfast was interrupted by the arrival of the Cromer Lifeboat with a yacht that had run out of fuel.  We helped to secure the yacht alongside the harbour wall then hailed the Coxwain with a request for a signature!

It wasn't long before the chat turned again to energy, 'green' or otherwise, prompted by the passing of Sizewell (the only operational pressurised water reactor in the UK).  Our on board nuclear specialist gave us the raw facts which further fuelled the debate on wind v nuclear. 
On to Southwold in Suffolk, a pretty town built around its lighthouse and home of Adnams Brewery.  The beautiful day and the picture postcard sea front almost made us feel as if we were on holiday!

The River Blyth is about a mile south of the town and is equally picturesque with its fishing wharf, boat sheds, huts and yards.  We bought fresh plaice and dined on board tied up to Mr Adnam's pontoon - perfect!
The next day we headed off to the River Deben with its tricky sand bars guarding the entrance.  To the south is Felixstowe Ferry (which we got to know quite well) and to the north Bawdsey with its prominent Manor.  Now privately owned, Bawdsey Manor was a top secret research establishment where the MOD developed radar technology in the 1930s and housed a radar station in WW2.

We picked up a mooring at Ramsholt where payment is in the form of a £5 donation to the RNLI. Dues are collected by a man in a small boat who has lived here for 80+ years!  (We should have hired him as a pilot).  This mooring was particularly well placed to sample some of Mr Adnams beer in the Ramsholt Arms which I last visited over 30 years ago.

We slipped our mooring early to reach Woodbridge Marina at the top of the tide to cross the sill with sufficient depth for Capraia's 1.6 metre draught. 

The marina is located in what was once the tide ponds for Woodbridge's Tide Mill.  The records show that there was a tide mill on this site in 1170. It was owned by the Augustinian Priors for around 350 years until Henry VIII confiscated it, and for the next 28 years it was in royal ownership. Elizabeth I sold it to Thomas Seckford whose family owned it for over 100 years, followed by several private owners. In 1793 the present mill was built on the site of earlier ones. By the 1950s it had become the last working tide mill in the country, but in 1957 it finally closed. It was saved in 1968, restored and opened to the public in 1973. Recently, further protection and restoration work has brought it back into use as a fully working tide mill and fascinating museum.
The next day promised to be perfect - bright sunshine and a brisk wind - so sails up and decision made to sail, rather than motor, down the River Deben to the open sea.  What happened next, three quarters of the way down the river, is obvious from the photograph..........

No damage, only injured pride as we watched the yachts sailing past, most decent enough to look the other way and certainly no waving!  We can vouch for the lovely walk along the west bank of the Deben, the excellent Fish 'n Chips (and Adnams) at the Ferry Boat Inn, the ice cream at the Ferry Caf√©, the flora and fauna, the tranquillity, the clouds.................
We had a sweepstake as to what time we would float and the level of optimism was encouraging - less so was an admission from the helm at the time of the incident that this wasn't the first time he had run aground but since the 'boat' was submerged waiting for the tide was not an issue!  We eventually re-floated at 8.30pm and gingerly headed off for the River Orwell.

The busy port of Felixstowe kept us on our toes as we made our way up river to pick up a mooring off Levington before heading on to Ipswich on Saturday morning.  Here Grahame and John caught the train back to Yorkshire - thank you both for your humour and tolerance (sorry about the wasted day!).
Soon Capraia was engulfed by gaffers aplenty as the Round Britain Fleet were joined by about 50 local OGA members for a week of racing and socialising. 

 The skipper has returned home to Wales for a week whilst Capraia enjoys being upright!