Posted by: Ray | June 13, 2008

Shotley Marina Harwich to Wells-Next-The-Sea

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What a fantastic and challenging weeks sailing. Most who sail round the UK cross the E Coast river estuaries without visiting them on their passage. But I am pleased we took the time to explore a few on passage. The photos below tell the story.

Liz and I set sail from Shotley Marina, Harwich, on Sunday 22 June with the forecast indicating strong F7 /gale F8 for the area. No, I was not mad and taking risks, we did not go to open sea, but we decided to explore the River Orwell towards Ipswich. Even in the shelter of the harbour and river we had a very lively sail, tacking back and forwards across the river kept us busy.



But the sun came out and we enjoyed the sail, stopping for lunch close to the Orwell Bridge Ipswich and returning to moor at the Royal Harwich Yacht Club, Woolverstone.





In the evening we walked the mile along the river to Pinn Mill and had a meal at the well known Butt & Oyster pub.






On Monday the wind had eased and we set sail for the river Deben, just 10M up the coast. The entry has to be timed carefully (2 hours before HW) to ensure enough depth of water and to avoid the shallow shoals, but we had no problems and sailed up to moor for free on a vacant bouy opposite Ramsholt Quay.







The River Deben was a delight to visit; peaceful with lovely views all around us, definately not one to be missed when cruising up the E Coast.

We just stayed on board, relaxed with a meal plus a glass of wine and enjoyed the views.


My cruise has been well covered by the amateur radio magazines, so in the evening I took the opportunity to operate from the yacht, making contact with Steve G7IDD, my nephew, and several stations around the UK. I was then called by Simon, M0SUF, a very strong signal who turned out to be just a few miles further up river at Woodbridge! šŸ™‚

He had been waiting patiently to make contact with me and we had a very interesting and helpful discussion about the local area and the river Ore/Alde that we planned to visit next. This was the only opportunity I had to operate the radio during the week as we were busy planning the passage and sailing, with early morning starts on a couple of occasions. My apologies to those stations who were unable to make contact, I will be on again shortly from further up the coast.

The next day we timed our departure to exit from the Deben with sufficient water to clear the bar and that allowed us to enter the river Ore 1-2 hours before HW. We had another good sail up the coast and made our approach to the river along with two other vessels ahead of us. We had planned the approach and pilotage carefully for this river as tides are strong and the channel is narrow through the sand banks. This was far more challenging than entry to the Deben. The wind was blowing F4 on-shore and there was a strong swell running as we passed 20 metres from the shore on our port side, with sand banks visible close to on our starboard side. I did consider what it must have been like in the past for sailers entering this river without an engine in these conditions, I was certainly willing mine not to fail!! šŸ™‚



We cruised up to Orford and moored for lunch, later in the evening we headed back down river and anchored for the evening off Dove Point, a low lying island and bird sanctuary.





We came back down river to Dove Point so as to anchor close to the river entrance. There are only two opportunities a day to enter or leave the river with my 1.5 metre (5 ft) draft …. and our exit had to be made by 0400 the next morning!!




The alarms we set woke us at 0330, coffee, and we were on our way. This was our second very early morning sail to catch the tide; my sister Marg says Liz deserves a medal, I think she does also … she was a star. šŸ™‚


We braced ourselves for the difficult exit from the river, but this time it seemed easier …. it always does after you have experienced it once. At the safe water bouy we set our sails and set course for Lowestoft, 32M and 5 hours passage up the coast. Winds were light when we set out with full sails, but after a couple of hours the wind increased and we reefed down, with a fair tide we were soon moving along at 7.4Kn over the ground.

Sailing about 2M offshore we passed Orfordness with its lighthouse and masts just visible through the haze, later the dome of the atomic power station at Sizewell was a clear landmark. The skies were now clearing for a bright and breezy day.

At Lowestoft we planned to stay at the Lowestoft Cruising Club that required us to go through the lifting bridge that is only opened on request at set times through the day to avoid disruption to the traffic. We anticipated arriving in time for the 1430 bridge; as it was we approached the harbour in good time to request entry through the 1115 bridge. We dropped our sails close to the E Holm entry bouy, calling Lowestoft Harbour Control and requested permission to enter the harbour and to go through the bridge.

Permission was given for us to enter the harbour, but apparently a large ship we had seen enter before us had delayed traffic and they were reluctant to cause any more disruption to traffic. We were asked to moor on the waiting pontoon and they would get us through at 1430.

Once moored and tidied up, we decided to have an early lunch and glass of wine in the sun; we had 2 hours to kill, so we both crashed out and slept.

I woke at 1500! We had missed the bridge and later learnt that Harbour Control had been calling us …. they had not been heard!!! šŸ™‚ We apologised, woke ourselves up and made ready to ensure we made the 1600 bridge!! šŸ™‚

Just over an hour later we were safely moored on the visitors pontoon of the Lowestoft Cruising Club.

We had a lovely relaxing couple of days at Lowestoft. We visited Oulton Broads, a short walk from the cruising club and had a meal outside there one evening whilst watching power boat racing.

Members at the cruising club were very friendly; the club is run by the members who take a pride in its facilities and whose members have made/maintained most of the moorings themselves. I would certainly recommend a visit to other sailors visiting Lowestoft, a link is to the left of this page. Our thanks to John and Eric and all the others who took the time to help us and make us welcome. A club to be proud of.
We still had two days before Liz had to return for work and I wanted to progress further up coast to shorten my next passage across the Wash to Grimsby. We decided we could make Wells-Next The-Sea, a passage of about 50M.

During my passage up the E Coast I had found the Admiralty Charts a little lacking, many of the bouys marking entrances to rivers were not shown and there are many warnings that depths may not be as charted due to shifting sand banks. The East Coast Pilot and East Coast Rivers publications were very helpful during this passage. Members at the Cruising Club advised me that they were not sure about the inner passage North inshore of the Lowestoft Wind Farms as there had been rumours about work shifting the sands! This local input is valuable whilst planning a passage. I had also been told of an anchorage inside artificial reefs off Sea Palling and had also found one on the chart off Cromer a further 10M on. This gave me the option of splitting the passage into two shorter hops in daylight. The decision on the passage was mine to make.

I decided to take the inner coastal passage but planned the route carefully altering course where necessary to keep my track in the deeper charted waters, especially close to the wind farm and passing Cockle Shoal. I also noted a minimum depth below my keel (5m)with a large safety margin that would alert me to abnormal depths.

We requested passage through the Lowestoft Bridge at 1430 from Harbour Control who confirmed our booking, adding politely ‘providing you are there on time’ At least we were remembered! šŸ™‚

Out of the harbour we set our sails, reefed down as the forecast was for unsettled weather with strong wind forecast for our area. We made good progress and the depth stayed well above my 5m alert level for the passage.

It was interesting passing the Wind Farm, we counted 30 turbines; we made Sea Palling by early evening. The wind and seas were building slowly so I was not comfortable with anchoring behind the artificial reefs at Sea Palling. If our anchor dragged in the strong off-shore wind we could be blown onto the reefs.

I decided to press on the further 10M to anchor off Cromer. If our anchor dragged whilst we were sleeping we would just drift safely out to sea.

We arrived off Cromer in the dark, dodging a few lobster pots with black flags that appeared out of the dark close to. We dropped our anchor and retired for the night.

We awoke in the morning to find ourselves surrounded by lobster pots!! I pulled up the 60m of anchor chain and was releived we had not fouled any of them. We set our sails and continued our passage, it was 2M before we cleared the last of the lobster pot bouys and could relax. Wind and seas continued to build and this was the roughest passage of the week. Christine Marie slammed into the waves at times and we were soon covered by the salt spray.

We made very good time though and were soon approaching the Wells red safe water bouy ….. over 2 hours before we could enter safely. It was too rough to anchor comfortably, so I hove to (that’s a sailing term for backing the headsail, using the wind to stop the boat and just drift), but we were drifting towards the coast and shallows. So we decided to sail down wind, back from where we had come as slow as possible. This point of sail was comfortable with the wind and waves behind us, but with fully reefed eased sails we were still doing 2Kn against the slackening tide. I experimented by trailing a large bucket, but it only reduced our speed by 0.2Kn!! šŸ™‚ I will have to get a larger one or specialist sea anchor!! šŸ™‚

So we just sailed slowly up and down for a couple of hours, had lunch on deck and timed our return to the Wells bouy 1hour before HW. We had again planned detailed pilotage to enter the harbour, but following a radio call to the HM, Bob Smith, he came out to welcome us and to guide us through the narrow shallow channel.

By 1330 we were moored up alongside of the Albatros at Wells Quay, a sailing barge that is now a Dutch style cafe, bar & restaurant. We met the friendly and helpful crew and its ‘interesting’ owner Captain Ton Brouwer! šŸ™‚ With people enjoying a meal and drink in the sun this was the place to display the banners and put out the charity collection boxes.

Liz and I left the yacht on Sunday morning, I needed to sort out a water leak at home before returning to the yacht later in the week. (What is it with me and water!) šŸ™‚ Before we left we had breakfast in the Harbour Cafe opposite the quay, I have never seen such a large English breakfast as they serve there! Liz and I both chickened out and went for a bacon sani!! šŸ™‚

Jobs completed at home I travelled back to join Christine Marie on Thursday. When I arrived there was no sign of her along side the Albatros. I was quuickly able to locate her large RNLI flag further round the quay near the HM office. Apparently the Albatros had left the quay to dry on a sandbank for inspection earlier in the week, requiring the HM to move CM to the new location alongside a motorboat.

Drying out alongside a quay is something I have never done. Sure enough, later that night at LW Christine Marie grounded and leaned in against the motorboat.

I noticed that a line was tied from her mast to the quay, a technique I am familiar with to ensure a yacht that goes aground leans in towards the quay rather than falling outward on her side.

At low water there is still some water in the harbour, but not much, and only a few fin keel yachts venture in here. This is something I now experience twice each day. You are always learning with sailing. šŸ™‚

I now have crew identified to sail across the Wash to Grimsby and on the Whitby, but as I complete this entry the rain is heavy and the forecast does not look good for the coming week. Next update from Whitby when I finally get a break in the weather to sail.


Miles completed: 382 Total Hours: 93 Engine hours: 22

Ave speed: 4.1Kn M ax speed: 12.4Kn

Ports visited: 13 Nights at anchor/mooring bouy 3

Rethink Marie Curie RNLI


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A link with further information is on the left of this page. Thank you Ray



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