01/4/17

Ditch-crawler is asked to advertise the sad sale of Finesse 24 Dream of Baloo…

A Finesse colleague called and asked if I could advertise the sale of his treasured Finesse 24. It is something that will surely come to me, eventually.

The owner wrote: I am reluctantly putting Dream of Baloo up for sale and wondered if her details could be added to the For Sale list? Due to a change in circumstances I do not have the time to use her, and feel such a lovely little ship needs to be used.

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Dream of Baloo…

Her basic details are:

Sloop rigged Finesse 24.

Built 1979.

Thousands spent on refurbishments between 2012-14, with full surveyors report available (2014).

Nanni 13hp twin diesel.

Centre plate with stub keels.

Spirit stove.

New VHF, compass and sounder.

Tan main and jib.

Lovely condition.

All over cover included.

Lying ashore at Wareham, Dorset.

Phone Trevor Scowen for details: 01308 423563

Here are a few more pictures of this lovely looking little ship…

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The Varnished cockpit.

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And below…

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‘Baloo’ afloat near Wareham, Dorset.

If interested, do call Trevor and he will discuss… She’s a treat.

 

01/1/17

Ditch-crawler says farewell as 2016 falls astern and looks forward to 2017…

Farewell 2016, you have been kind to me, the Mate and Whimbrel this last year. But, I know it hasn’t been the same for all sailors: this last year we lost a good sailing friend a keen and long standing Finesse 21 owner, Terry. May Terry sail upon a sister on a sea perpetually soft, with a breeze to match and a quiet creek to enjoy. God Bless you mate.

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Terry’s Penny now owned and sailed by his son & daughter…

Our year began early with a lift out to do bottom and paint topsides – and a small matter of a survey too – and we were off into the Medway over the early May Bank Holiday.

At the end of May we spent a glorious weekend down in Cornwall to witness the launching of the sailing barge Blue Mermaid built by Toms Ltd of Polruan. She’s been built as many of you are probably aware for the Sea-change Sailing Trust to allow all year round work with clients. Later, in July, we attended the vessels blessing at Maldon…

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The Blue Mermaid slips into the water…

During June we joined my sister and family and friends in a group of eight aboard the Eda Frandsen for a week’s sailing around Skye, sailing 184 miles taking in some fantastic anchorages and ports. It was fabulous…

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Aboard the Eda Frandsen.

The Finesse Rally began by Whimbrel’s crew some seasons ago now has gone from strength to strength and become a calendar event. This year the rally came back to Chatham with a good turn out – the weather on the Friday made it difficult for northern sailors to get down, but some came by road.

Rally organiser decided that instead of ‘holing up’ in Stangate we went up to Chatham on the Friday.

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Whimbrel photographed by Shane Hoadley from his ’24’ Seaden in Long Reach on the Medway.

This last season we didn’t sail ‘up the coast’ but stayed around the Medway, Swale and Thames, up to Limehouse. That said, during the summer period we clocked up over 650 miles…

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The Reminder dwarfed by a cargo ship in Gravesend Reach.

Our trip up the Thames was brilliant with stops on the way making it a a voyage of several days. The last time I did this route we had little forays into Mucking and Cliffe creeks. On the way home after a wonderfully hot spell in London we had a grand thrash down to Erith where we rested. It was planned for I’d a long term plan – a visit into Dartford and Crayford creeks. We had been by road to a wharf at the head of Crayford Creek during the spring and I’d got permission to berth … so that was that. We did!

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In Crayford Creek…

Leaving the creek we made passage for The Ray, staying out on a buoy to berth the following morning. It was a splendid end to our summer cruising. But, of course, it wasn’t the end of our sailing for there were weekends on the Medway and Swale during September and October…

One of the joys was a new event organised by the Queenborough Harbour Trust – previously written about. Others were sailing with family and friends aboard. This last year my brother Graham who was over from Canada had a decent stint aboard with my friend Graham (What a pair) sailing together…

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The two grinning ‘Grahams’ …

My sister and two friends, other brother Andrew and his partner came for a sail. Finally Andrew and friend Graham … it the ability to take family and friends afloat to enjoy the salt, marsh and mud that gives as much pleasure as sailing with my Mate. She, fortunately, is ‘happy’ to give up her rightful place too. Bless-.

So, to close, here is a picture that will soon be mere history … Kingsnorth Power Station has entered its sunset moment: soon it’ll be ‘dropped’ like Grain’s was this autumn…

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Kingsnorth Power Station – notice the light through rhs building. It was nearly all gone!

Lastly, good sailing for 2017 to you all.

 

 

12/14/16

Ditch-crawler enters into the Christmas season…

It comes but once a year … Christmas. Some hate it, others love it, but it should be celebrated for all the right reasons.

For nearly 15 years one of the chaps who attends our local church has given ‘us’ the top cut from a tree felled in his ‘tree field’: he used to grow trees for sale, but has stopped, but still has the trees! This year the church’s tree came from an alternative source. Bah humbug. What was I going to do…

Ah, yes, my saviour came. The chap knocked on the door some days ago bearing a Christmas gift. He presented us with a 6′ of tree for the boat. He’s not a ‘sailor’ but has enjoyed the thought of a tree going afloat – of course I have related the tradition to him. The chap has often seen the boat sailing past or away to the east of Two Tree Island below the Hadleigh and Leigh hills. The off-cut has been fed standing in a bucket of water for a week…

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Tree safely up Whimbrel’s mast…

Yesterday the opportunity came for a sail. The tree was soon hoisted into its traditional ‘ship’ position aloft.

There was a gentle breeze wafting from the outer Sea Reach zone, not enough to tack against the tide, so, against the grain, I puttered east for 20 minutes under power before shutting the wee beast down.

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Whimbrel wishing all and sundry a Happy Christmas…

The wind was light and passing a race buoy used by the Essex YC the boat’s wake left barely a ripple. It was ‘misty’ with a hint of light drizzle at times and at others little patches of blue opened above. In its own way it was enchanting. The Kent hills disappeared too and passing ships became fuzzy…

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‘Quiet today…’ it sighed!

On a reach in towards the Chalkwell shore a seal popped up several times to say ‘hello’. It dived a few times coming up successively closer until it became bored and continued hunting for its lunch.

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Seal!

Sailing along the shore I passed by a little boat often seen. But, more on this later… Approaching the Essex Yacht Club’s club ship I got a text from a friend who said, ‘We’re watching you … keep warm.’ I was toasty! However, I spotted the vessel’s red duster at half mast.

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A member is remembered in time honoured tradition…

Passing the Essex YC, I dipped, as ‘they dipped to bottom in response. Calling up to one, a Mr Chapman, and asking if a member had passed onto the Elysian sea, I was told, ‘Yes … chap was a 100 and still a member…’

Bless him and let’s all hope his seas are now always blue with pleasant breezes  too…

Before long I was passing the waterfront public houses along the Leigh shore, filled with happy lunch-time revealers. Time to head away into the tranquil mistiness towards the Ray channel again, and thence homewards.

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Paddle boarder…

On the way a paddle border gently drew across the bow with loads of clearance and we both waved – two nutters out on the water, surely! Then, out of the mist, two apparitions appeared, from eastwards, motoring hard with the last of the flood. ‘Blimey’ I said, ‘It’s my mate Dick … and his mooring neighbour…’ And surely it was. Dick has been ‘flitting’ about in his centrally heated cat for a week or so around the coast…

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Out of the mist…

As I approached the creek again, the mainsail was stowed and I slowly made way inwards. Ducks, Brent, waders and others were nosing the saltings and hard edges which seemed to ‘float’ on the oily looking surface. I was mesmerised, for a little while: for fenders and such needed my attention (The Mate was at home enjoying a coffee and natter with a friend…), so I was alone…

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The flooded saltings off my own mooring. There is a ‘something’ about the saltings when flooded to this height and the mistiness added to the picture…

Sailing into my creek I had time on my hands to look at a few of the vessels passed by. Boy, are they in a mess. I wondered what visitors must think as they also sail in. The condition of some craft up and down the coast is something club officials and mooring managers must concern themselves with from time to time.

The boats had the same look as the one passed earlier…

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‘Abandoned’ off Chalkwell?

The above boat has a broken fore stay and the boom has gone ‘walk-a-bout’ and the mast is held aloft only due to a pair of forward angled stays… She is begrimed and clearly unloved.

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Three ‘abandoned’ craft in Smallgains Creek…

The three craft I passed by, which ‘hit’ visitors entering my creek have sat and sat and sat. The motor boat doesn’t even have an engine any more… Decks are coated in a slime of green algae, their topsides too. I feel embarrassed by the sight, but, sadly it’s a sight so often seen…

So, with my good wishes to all as  Christmas approaches and 2016 draws to a close, my fervent wish is that these poor unloved vessels will yet again feel the caress of a swab or broom. The touch of a human hand patting them as they again give fun as a loved one frolics across the estuary’s chop…

Santa, PLEASE … PLEASE … PLEASE…

12/7/16

Ditch-crawler completes final edit of next book…

I have been ‘quiet’ for a little while, and apologise to readers.

A little sailing has been enjoyed, testing Whimbrel’s new canvass, but on the whole, I’ve been wrapped up in a major task. Editing…

It has been a long ‘stressful’ job this: I’ve had to reduce wordage which has meant a ‘line by line’ edit almost. Its taken nearly four weeks!

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Now, all I have to do is put it all together as a single document and send with illustrations to my publisher. Wonderful!

There then begins, after an interval, of editors corrections and minor changes, before finalisation, a pdf galley copy check, then onto publication. Joy Oh Joy….

11/19/16

Ditch-crawler’s Whimbrel gets new sails…

A year or so back I realised that I was wearing the boat’s sails out. She had a new set from W-Sails of Leigh-on-Sea when she was 21. That was 12-13 year ago. So, I cast about and mused on where to get these done. W-Sails was closing down and not into ‘big’ stuff. Our dinghy sails were made by Wilkinson’s of Conyer and I had been into the loft which some years ago moved to Faversham up opposite Front Brents.

So, it was arranged that we would sail up to Faversham and stay alongside the wharf there whilst the sails were measured and other checks made by the sail maker. We then spent a further few days alongside, soaking up the atmosphere of Faversham and enjoying its offerings.

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Whimbel up by Wilkinson’s sail loft, Faversham in early August.

During our summer cruising the quote winged its way via the internet with a 10% autumn offer. We were in Limehouse Basin by then. After a couple of questions, the deal was done and the deposit paid – ah the wonders of internet banking!

Well time travelled on. I wasn’t expecting the sails until the New Year, but Alan, the sail maker and his machinist found ‘time on their hands’ I was told – bad sign or good sign! They were ready for collection some two weeks ago, so off we jolly went enjoying a pootle around town and along the waterfront to Iron Wharf and coffee. We enjoyed a trip to the Edith May on way back for lunch and a chat with her owners, Geoff and Jane Gransden (busy) too.

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Alan showed me the sails and demonstrated the batten pocket design and fitting procedure!

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They were soon aboard Whimbrel ready for changing the mainsail, but after an unusually dry autumn it had become autumnal and damp! Eventually the day came and I was able to get the mainsails changed … the day started damp and drizzly, but as the tide slipped away the sun came out, a little!

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New mainsail with colour coordinated reef lines to match down hauls.

Tuesday this week just ending, I was able to beetle down to Smallgains Creek and get away. There was no ‘messing about’ setting the mainsail in the creek, not the first time. But the jib was run up and I ghosted out feeling elated!

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Whimbrels’ third ever owned jib pulling her out of Smallgains Creek…

The main, when pulling, looks a treat. I’ve some fiddling about to do and await the Mate’s boarding for a run to allow this.I sailed back into the creek on a hard reach to see how the main ‘felt’ and looked hardened in tight. With the jib backing a little on occasions, the main was not flustered…

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Sailing past two sisters, Calluna of Dorset and Gypsy – my mooring neighbours.

Next job, test the Genoa…

 

10/29/16

Ditch-crawler enjoys an autumn sail…

My Mate, Christobel, has had a bad week ‘man’ flue has caused some distress and she’d been looking forward to getting out for an autumn sail up Benfleet Creek to appreciate the colours and bird-life. ‘Off you go…’ she said. So what was I to do…

It started off somewhat misty with grey cloud above. The breeze was a sweet south-westerly though. Sails were set as soon as the boat was clear of my mooring, hoisting as she forged ahead up the creek. Spinning her I ran with the breeze of the flood. Across the flats beyond the moorings dozens of Brent dabbled and poked amongst the cord grass edges. ‘Which way…’ I murmured. ‘Benfleet,’ I thought.

Scooting across the shallows rather than run out further than was needed I then headed round the deep water channel. On the approach to Two Tree Island hard I began to tack and it was a case of back and forth all the way from then on.

I passed two boats flying plastic bags strung around their stays – I do wish… From another boat with a dinghy tethered astern I saw an arm pop above an awning in salute. Passing Bird Island it was thick with Brent and a myriad of other waders. Some lifted off, most weren’t bothered apart from much ‘barking’ and twittering. This island will soon have its first sprouts of grass: water was in amongst it on Marks Marsh island and a good 20cm of mud was showing. The PLA ‘denies’ this island’s presence other than it being a mud bank!

‘Gosh’ I thought as the kettle hummed at me from below, ‘the sun’s coming out…’ It had too, ragged blue openings were widening above. On the hills the castle was lit up. In the distance trees and shrubs had a heightening of colour in their autumn dresses. I grin, happy, but sorry my Mate wasn’t here beside me to enjoy it.

Approaching what is commonly called the cross-over round a mud bulge, which, incidentally, has a shallow swatch running close by the saltings edge on the north shore – close by a white BYC dinghy racing buoy. A motor boat, seen earlier waiting on a mooring off Smallgains, was seen coming up astern. I luffed up for her and was expecting her owner to come round me, but instead he used the swatchway, raising a hand as he went. I returned his salute. As I approached his wake, two little grebes popped up from amongst the wash. Both shook themselves and for more than a moment, for they’re hard to catch ‘afloat’, they sat motionless before diving… I’d left my camera at home – silly boy! So, I’ve no pictures.

Once in amongst the BYC’s moorings I started the engine: there are too many boats ‘cluttering’ the navigable waters still. A stiffer breeze and use of the jib makes this sort of thing more tenable – I’m not quite the absolute purest!

Passing the Benfleet slipway where a boat was being manoeuvred onto its trolley – trouble was being experienced and a second go was in progress. Several of the ‘old’ boys up on the slip waved and hollered at me – one I seemed to recognise without grabbing the ‘bins’ so i just waved lots.  I turned at the Dauntless pontoons and began the run and reach back over the still flooding tide. On the club pontoon was a Leigh boat and owner I knew – we had a brief chat as we passed by. The boat, a striking red Snapdragon 29, has just returned from a week away over on the Medway and Swale, I assumed. We had a few moment chat, and I was past.

Now that the sun was beating down from a sky nearly full of blue and with more time, I was really able to study the autumnal dresses ashore. The hills were green, in places,golden to copper in others with patches of russet too. These hills are always quite spectacular from the distance from the water – the sea wall too when walked. Along the bottom edges of the sea wall above the saltings line patches of common orache with their trowel shaped leaves were showing up as deep rust red. Beautiful. I love this shoreline through all the seasons, it has everything…

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The Hadleigh/Benfleet hills – as seen early autumn 2015.

I didn’t see a seal that has been coming up into Smallgains as I approached, but ‘he’s’ been around, I’m told. Sails soon had to be stowed and ‘we’ puttered into our creek and Whimbrel was soon tucked up again…

Aboard another Finesse 24 on a neighbouring mooring, her owner was busy about the deck doing jobs. Good man he is: he announced that he has been working on preparatory planning for a finesse Rally next year in Brightlingsea. ‘Yippee…’ I shouted!

10/10/16

Ditch-crawler has a wonderful time at Queenborough Harbour Trust Traditional Boat Festival

Some while ago I entered Whimbrel onto a list of craft wishing to take part in a first for the Queenborough Harbour Trust. These good people decided  to hold a festival for such craft. This was done purely on speculation in recognition of the number of traditional boats that berth within the harbour during the sailing season. The festival was supported by the Medway and Swale Boating Association (MSBA)  – a web site East Coast sailors should monitor…

By the time of finalising the details, some twenty-two craft had been entered. A number of other craft pitched up for the weekend as well.

I’d had a double book event booked for the Friday preceding and could not get away as I’d liked to have done on the Friday afternoon tide … the boat was aground by the time we got to her. We slept aboard with everything ready to go for an 0500 departure. That blinking alarm is a cracker… There was a surprising amount of small craft movement out of Smallgains, Hadleigh Ray and from the Leigh/Chalkwell front – there were club meets across the way too.

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Dawn breaking as we approached Grain Fort.

On the way into Sheerness Harbour my good Mate produced bacon rolls (and hot coffee – well its no good cold is it!) and these were munched as we clipped along comfortably stemming the ebb.

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A bacon butty…

We were so early the harbour office was still closed … our calls went unanswered. Knowing where we were being berthed, we slipped alongside at the old All Tide landing. It later transpired that a motor vessel wasn’t coming and we were to be outside her. We got the best of it as I’ll explain later…

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Gaff cutter Crow; a Dauntless 20, Linnaea; and a Kestrel clinker sloop. Whimbrel can be seen beyond.

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Whimbrel looking spic and span…

Most of the craft had arrived on Friday evening but others were still arriving as I was dealing with flag hoist and top side tidying whilst, below, Christobel, ship’s Mate,  was hard at it doing likewise. A little one of designed gaff cutter berthed alongside us – my only gripe were ‘his’ begrimed fenders – however the crew were the nicest of chaps.

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This is us…

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Five Farthings – I believe a Griffiths design. Beyond are two old motor tugs  and a stem tug.

Three retired tugs operated by preservation societies as ‘yachts’ were included too. The Barking, a steam tug designed for Thames river work with lighters at the Beckton Gas Works. She was built by Pollock & Sons, Faversham. The motor tugs Kent and Touchstone were the other two.

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The Finesse 24 Seaden doing a turn round the harbour…

Around the harbour there were vessels moored at points as close as possible to the centre of the event based around the floating pontoons.

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Doris a Leigh bawley and a smack yacht, the Lucie B.

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Swanti, a Dauntless gaff cutter, and two other traditional craft.

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The Barking under steam with a ‘crew’ of punters for a trip around the harbour.

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The Bwlch, a gaff cutter, alongside Whimbrel.

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Two visitors stayed for a coffee as well as purchasing a book from me – fine people… The chap next to Christobel is the owner of Doris.

Visitors were soon crowding along the pontoons looking at berthed craft and going aboard those that were open. I have never known so many visitors aboard Whimbrel – I lost count, failing to keep a record. A number of them were greatly interested in my various books asking excellent questions – relieving me of a number of copies too.

As the afternoon wore on, I was ordered forward by my Mate, to try and get a few minutes rest – sleep even. I must have gone ‘out’ for another visitor came and went… After getting up early, it was tiring. My good lady told me I was on an adrenaline high!

The day was capped by the trust staff laying on a BBQ for all visiting crews. This was a superb gesture and it was also very well organised and we all enjoyed sufficient fodder to keep hunger pangs at bay! Thank you, all of you, from Whimbrel’s two crew, especially… There was even a tray of home produced cup cakes to finish with.

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A glorious Sunday morning…

Come Sunday morning and craft soon began to disperse to reach home ports. The tides being morning and evening made this whole weekend well balanced.

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As we said our goodbyes to Kent, the sky looked ominous indeed…

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Ahead, towards the Essex shore, all was well and Whimbrel just loved it…

Thank you Queenborough Harbour Trust, this was an excellent event. Please do it again…

 

 

 

10/6/16

Ditch-crawler is pleased to hear of new edition of East Coast Rivers…

Well yes, I knew this: I have been helping Janet Harber keep up to date details of the waters in which my dinghy trails astern of Whimbrel on her travels around this coast for a great number of years. This help has been provided by many people around the rivers and creeks, including Judy, Janet’s sister, and Judy’s husband before he sadly died. I met the family up at Snape some years ago now, the pleasure was all mine.

East Coast Rivers is a fantastic pilot book to have aboard, it is my only pilot book, apart from annotated charts and what is stored in the grey matter I have aloft…

This new edition comes out on the 60th anniversary of Jack Coote’s first pilot book, which followed in the footsteps of  Irving’s Rivers and Creeks of the Thames Estuary published in 1927 and the earlier East Coast Rivers by Messum published in 1903. Jack’s baby was taken on board by Janet following his sad, yet natural, death. It is a volume I have been familiar with all my life: it was my father’s sailing bible too…

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The book will obviously be in stores, chandlers and on web based book sites, however, you can go along and meet the author at Fox’s marina chandlery (Marine & Country) at the marina on the edge of Ipswich overlooking the Orwell.

This is to take place on Tuesday 1st November from 6 pm.

I’m looking forward to my copy and my battered (last) copy can be rested awhile on a shelf. Awhile only, surely, for Like many of my coastal books they’re on and off the shelves often!

I hope you all feel likewise…

 

 

 

09/30/16

Pusser’s warms the cockles as autumn arrives in Ditch-crawler’s patch…

Yes, autumn has arrived. Two things tell me this, other than the shortening of the days, and these are the arrival of Brent geese on the Leigh and Canvey Island saltings, and the sudden disappearance of terns.

Autumn offers something else too, but we’ll come to this. Not that you need to feel the nip of autumn to…

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A common tern. This one was ‘captured’ in front of the Erith YC a few weeks ago.

I was out sailing my patch last week, the 20th I think, and did not see any Brent geese. It was on that sail that I noticed the absence of the terns which are often seen around the outer stretch of Smallgains Creek. I learnt from a contact that the Brents came in on that day, but probably later on the tide.

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Sailing out of Leigh Creek.

My trip had taken me up Leigh Creek up to the Leigh Motor Boat Club where I ‘spun’ the boat by nosing against the mud edge, with someone ashore shouting that I was in shallow water … I knew this! The day was what can only be described as absolutely gorgeous for the day before the autumn equinox.

The following day, escaping from my electronic slate, I popped out for another sail. This took me up Benfleet Creek turning before the BYC moorings. On the way out past the eastern end of Two Tree Island, I spotted the unmistakable movements of little groups of Brent nosing amongst the marsh edges. The saltings hasn’t yet settled into autumn yet, but soon those colours will come too.

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Brent nosing the marsh edges…

Leaving these behind I spotted in the distance, away to the east towards Southend Pier low ‘black clouds’ against the generally grey sky. ‘Brent!’ I exclaimed. Several groups landed over the flats off Leigh, to the north of the Ray Channel, darkening the surface. Some almost immediately took off, setting all the others on the move again. The arrow-like flight headed for Hadleigh Ray, saltings and grass lands, food clearly needed.

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Autumn arrived…

 

 

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Crew enjoying the conviviality of Whimbrel’s cockpit… But, note the hats: it’s autumn!

The arrival of autumn is not a signal to give up sailing though … either for a few hours on the tide, and over night or a weekend. Last weekend (Jolly Boys) saw me taking my ‘kid’ brother – he’s 55 soon – and my friend Graham, an old hand on these jaunts. We enjoyed a pleasing sail over to Queenborough, initially thinking it would have to be a motoring trip: the Thames was like glass. Then a breeze sprang up and before we knew it we were bowling along at 5 knots obliquely across the Thames channel. Cutting inside the Fort on the nose of Grain we made a single tack to clear the entrance into the West Swale … stowing sails and mooring a few minutes after high water. Wow, what a sail.

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The sun was setting as we set off ashore around 1830…

During the summer I had been awarded the position of Star Letter by the editor of Yachting Monthly with a prize sponsored by Cellartrends.co.uk with a bottle of Pusser’s Rum. Rubbish is an important issue, as is the care of our sailing environment, and I take issue with purposeful environmental vandalism.

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Letter about waste being deposited into the sea by pleasure sailors.

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Returning aboard after a convivial meal – coffee, liberally laced with Pusser’s Rum, to warm the cockles!

The next day we enjoyed a sparkling sail down to Faversham Spit round the Swale before sailing to the South Deep. I’d booked a berth at Swale Marina: The Ship does a wonderful plate of fish and chips, amongst much more. The evening was finished off with a further Queen’s ration!

We slipped away from Conyer a little before high water. Although it was a little after 0700 the saltings was devoid of  bird activity – too early for them perhaps.

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Sunday’s sunrise over the disused brickworks site alongside Conyer Creek.

The day was decidedly autumnal. Bright start before clouding over. Some rain was talked about by the forecast lady on BBC Essex, but the Gods were smiling: we had none. Before long long periods of sunshine bathed our passage home…

Ah yes, I can’t wait to get out there again.

09/8/16

Ditch-crawler wanders into Crayford…

Many years ago during a passage up the Thames I detoured into Dartford Creek but only as far as the barrier. At the time I hadn’t any information as to what lay beyond (The Mate was surprised at the time when we turned about and sailed away…), but I’ve long harboured a wish to go further!

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Sailing in on my earlier ‘visit’ in 2011…

For several years now a fledgling trust concerned with the tidal sections of the Darent and Cray (Dartford and Crayford creeks) has been operating through a facebook site.

See: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1493013297641232/

This has primarily been aimed at rejuvenating the locks below Dartford and bringing boating back to the town, something planners have foresaken. Although this interests me, historically and for its good, my interest lay with the other creek up to Crayford: this could be visited by masted yachts whilst Dartford cannot due to a low bridge traversing the creek just avove the juncture of the two creeks.

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Disused barge wharf just above the Bob Dunn Way road bridge – a little way upstream near distant warehouse is a filled in drydock where concrete sections were built for the building of the WW2 Mulberry Harbour.

Crayford has fine wharves which lay dormant. With vision and access (via a boatyard perhaps) it could be useful for local boating and visitors. The drawback is the barrier. When built it was given a limited air draft of around 12.5m at MHWS. My air draft gives me a mathematical 2m breathing space…

The tidal headwaters have a fascinating industrial history going back several centuries, however, as time passed by and coastal shipping increased in size the practicality of the ports lessened. Industries included, bricks, milling, manufacturing, timber, explosives, ‘chemicals’ and barge building to name but just a few.

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Dartford Lock.

Up in Dartford the lock was abandined and left open. There are plans to have it brought back into use but tides flow arcoss the top at times their top height being lower than the ‘shut point’ for the barrier. These would need to be raised sufficiently, presumeably. The road bridge is the biggest bugbear: the height is limited indeed.

Boats are going up though and berthing above the lock. Currently this on a cleared patch of bank where silting up has left a flattish reed covered edge. For sensible use this would need to be dredged – this costs money…

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‘Our’ wharf… 

On a road visit to the place I intended to take Whimbrel and her Mate, we spied out the terrain and spoke to several operators on the wharf tops. Dugdale, a hard core ‘milling’ operator who has his business atop the lowest wharf said, ‘Yes, come up whenever you like … just let us know…’ The manager calls me, Nick the sailor…

Since our road visit a couple of craft have been up to Crayford and stayed. One a yacht at a wharf fron just below a railway viaduct – ‘It was somewhat noisy…’ the chap told me. Another, a inland waterways narrow boat went into a disused mill basin above the rail line. This is all treed to one side as the fresh water Kentish stream trickles by. The other has useful wharf fronts with no ‘public’ access.

Anyway, there we were just a week or so ago, at Erith. We’d tacked down against a fresh easterly the previous day after an enjoyable week esconced within Limehaous Basin.  Departing with the tide on the flood we sailed gently down to the creek#’s entrance. Outside seals basked upon the mud banks and a male (we thought) swam up and down patrolling the edges. It kept coming up along our side, looking and ‘blowing’ at us…

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I’m watching you…

We went in with the tide at 4.3m – Tilbury at 0900 – under main and jib. Once within the creek, I dropped the main to ensure some proportion of astern control if needed at barrier (Even though I’d done thre maths!).  It was a sureal experience as we crept past the barrier into a different world – truly ‘betwixt land and sea’ taking a cue from a story in Salt Marsh & Mud, one of my earlier books.

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Entering…

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& under…

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And so into Crayford Creek…

We were in a world of land birds mixed with more usual critters. Duck and diving grebe abounded. Overhead, skylarks warbled. The world was a-twitter with sweet song. There were some fast flashes across the creek top too… Soon we turned into Crayford Creek – I had a map taken from the PLA map of the creek with a ‘path’ drawn in from looking at google, but the ‘blue’ line on our GPS map we have proved to be extremely accurate. Deviate and it shallowed!

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The reeds closed in around us…

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The Mate maintained a ‘watch’ forward… The Stanham River trickles in to the portside, here there was once a barge yard.

Passing the entrance to the Stanham River I went to starboard into the last reach up to Dugdale’s Wharf, once the domain of Rutters, brick makers, barge owners and builders. Ahead I could soon see ‘our’ wharf with the paraphenalia of concrete crushing on its top – it was bank holiday Monday, so all would be quiet! Sail was finally disposed of as the land influences mad sailing impossible…

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‘Okay’ I called, ‘dump the jib…’

The stream had all but started to run against us. We found the same when toddling up to Alresford Mill off the River Colne a couple of seasons ago. The tide had an hour and half to run (lift) too… Passing the waharf, well it is a long run on past the rail viaduct, we nosed into the reeds and turned round.

Soon after berthing in total quietness: all was stood down for the holiday, I was away in the dinghy to search out the tidal head waters

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Whimbrel safely moored.

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Crayford’s last mill house being dismantled… Beneath it sit the old tidal sluices.

During the early evening one of the ‘trusts’ key members popped by, on the opposite bank, to say hello. This chap has for a number of years been driving the Northfleet Harbour Trust where MDL have been carrying out an appraisal for Kent County Council on the reopening of the old harbour as a marina, an interesting proposition indeed…

See: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=northfleet%20harbour%20restoration%20trust

and, http://www.northfleetharbour.org.uk/

Later, sitting in the cocpit, a brightly coloured flash shot across the water’s surface and seemed to career into a distant wharf crevice. Surely a kingfisher…

The next morning, as soon as the boat had floated and after saying farewell to our host, now back at work, but surprisingly quiet we thought, we departed, under sail with the engine ticking over.

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Through the barrier under full sail…

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Departing the creek.

Some hours later after a beat down river (apart from round past Tilbury) we sailed serenely up the Ray to moor on the Island yacht club’s waiting buoy where we spent a pleasant night to punctuate our summer sailing…

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Sunrise on our last morning. This picture is the essence of our sailing summer – one of the best we can remember, and boy, we’ve had so many during this past decade…