What a glorious day to start a course from our Essex base at North Fambridge. Force 4 to 5 winds in the right direction and off we go to Southwold. Cruising under sail does not always go according to plan and forecasting isn’t an exact science, so when the wind died and then resumed its huffing and puffing but from the opposite direction we changed plans and diverted to Shotley, just over the Essex border in Suffolk.
Entering the lock at Shotley (the old HMS Ganges Naval Establishment) was a new experience for two of our Competent Crew candidates and none of our Coastal Skipper candidates had seen a Moire Light (directional light) before.
Day two began with some berthing practice in what can only be described as challenging conditions before we exited the lock and headed for Southwold. It was an uncomfortable passage with wind almost on the stern. Because, like many East Coast harbours, the water is shallow we prepared a tidal height calculation and had to reduce sail to slow down. Arriving too soon would mean that we wouldn’t be able to enter this lovely Suffolk watering hole. The uncomfortable passage was soon forgotten after we moored to the jetty and went to the Harbour Lights for fresh fish and chips washed down with either Adnams or some other rejuvenating liquid.
Southwold is a beautiful harbour and not often frequented by sailing schools as has extremely fast tides and no floating pontoons. Crews have to moor up using springs and breast ropes, ensuring that the boat can rise and fall with the tide safely. We used fender boards between the fenders and the jetty piles to ensure we didn’t damage the vessel. Again our crews, who don’t normally sail in the South East, found this a new skill to learn.
Day three saw us waiting for the tide to rise, so we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before sailing for the River Orwell and a return visit to Shotley. A meal of freshly made chilli and rice on the journey meant we were prepared for a truly awe inspiring night entrance past Felixstowe Container Port. Thankfully we had a Yachtmaster Instructor on board, as deciphering the lights against the mass of port lighting was almost impossible.
Day four began at 0500 with tea and sausage sandwiches and the exhilarating beat down the Essex Coast to Brightlingsea. We met force seven headwinds, but the tide with us meant we made good progress … and spray all over the bow. Once safely moored up, and having some refreshment ashore, the roast dinner cooked by our skipper was superb.
Day five dawned and we woke to glorious sunshine, force 3 to 4 winds and scrambled egg with bubble and squeak for breakfast. The journey back to Premier Sailing’s base at North Fambridge in Essex was a sailor’s dream – good winds, clear weather and fair tide – what more could we ask for?