After a hectic year it was with some relief that we were able to slip out of South Dock on a late Sunday afternoon tide with two weeks of sailing ahead. There were no exciting voyages planned just a bit of gentle sailing around the muddy waters of the Thames Estuary. The tide kicked in as we waved goodbye to London’s Canary Wharf.
One tide will get a small yacht down to Southend so long as you don’t hang around. The flood will then help you into the Medway where Queenborough awaits as a handy overnight stop. I hadn’t realised that the all tide landing had been revamped so we picked up a buoy. The Sheppy launch came over to collect £12.00 from us (£18.00 alongside). We intended to stay the next day but a poor weather forecast prompted us to whizz across the estuary to Pyefleet to avoid getting “holed up” for a few days. The Thames was empty, not a yacht in sight, which is amazing considering it is so close to London. Once again the late tide meant a night time arrival and inevitably it involves scraping over the swatchways with little water under the keel. We entered the River Colne and dropped the sails off Brightlingsea. I prepared the anchor as we crept up the creek under power, there being too little water to attempt entering Brightlingsea. Stupidly checking the little illuminated chartplotter rather than the dark chart led us promptly into a very sticky mud bank while in theory being surrounded by 2.2 m of water. Nothing would shake Sumara out so we pumped up the dinghy, threw in the aluminium Fortress anchor and a long warp and I tossed it over in deeper water to avoid the brisk breeze blowing us further onto the bank. With a bit of time and a bit of winching we eventually swung around and began to float. I hauled up the kedge, found a bit of deeper water and laid the Rocna out for the night.
Pyefleet is a very peaceful spot, well it was once we had stopped frigging about. Even with many yachts it seem very remote. We spotted what looked like a Twister hauled out on the south bank. After breakfast we waited for a bit of flood before mooching into Brightlingsea. We were here last year and it was a bustling little town with children lining the jetties crabbing and people swimming in the outdoor pool and the sea. There were queues at the ice cream shops and the chippies but this time there wasn’t a soul around. Apparently the schools haven’t broken for the holiday and until they do the town remains on standby. I preferred it busy. The weather wasn’t great so we went for a drizzly walk along the river bank. it occurred that it might be nice to walk to Wivenhoe. We asked directions from a lady being walked by her dog who told us it was not possible to walk to Wivenhoe. Armed with her inspirational answer we marched onwards determined to prove her wrong. Sadly she was right but that wasn’t going to stop us. We diverted up along a creek until we hit a main road and then walked along the pavementless road for what seemed like 8-10 miles. Why is it so many country roads don’t have pavements? We almost caught a train at one point but pushed on to eventually arrive at a splendid pub by the river at about 7pm.
East coast boats certainly have more “character” than those on the South Coast. We admired some of them over our beer before catching the bus back to Brightlingsea.
The next day we set off for Wrabness. The wind died en route so we started the engine. By some weird fluke I decided I would have a look at the engine, something I often do when motoring through calm patches on ocean crossings but not normally on little trips like this as I always check the engine before setting off. I lifted the cover only to find the diesel fuel pipe had come adrift and was squirting diesel onto the hot exhaust. It only took a few minutes to repair but I wonder why I decided to look at the engine just then? Our friend Peter has a caravan and his yacht at Wrabness. The caravans come with a mooring and a very fine mooring it is too. We picked up a vacant one having been assured it has been empty for ages. For years Wrabness has been a quiet sleepy place loved only by those who live there or happen to be lucky enough to have a beach hut or caravan there. That changed slightly last year when Grayson Perry built his special house in a nearby field with beautiful views across the Stour.
Despite its new fame Wrabness remains a wonderful place with gorgeous walks along the river and through the woods. We visited the community shop which has a café and on some evenings a bar too. Inside the café are works by the local art group on the wall. They look like paintings that people have really enjoyed doing as part of the community. Next to the shop we were admiring a little railway garden when we met the artist who created a “Four Seasons” painting to brighten up a corner. It would be nice to think that the new famous artist has maybe inspired the locals to enjoy their painting. If you moor at Wrabness be sure to visit the garden and shop. I picked up a book called “No need for a Boat” by Peter Caton about tidal islands. I instantly bought the book because I enjoyed his Essex Walks book so much. A great shop.
To be continued – Wrabness to Woodbridge