Sunday, 14 August 2022


Sadly we were running out of time so we eased our way out of the marina at Pin Mill at first light and by the time we had got out of the river Orwell a moderate NE wind had developed. The persistant easterly winds day after day seem to be as much an unusual feature of this summer as the hot weather. We spent the day running with all sail up accross the Thames estuary and into the Medway, eventually picking up a buoy at Upnor in tbe last of the light. While we were off the Maplin sands we were fortunate to see the sailing barge EDME tacking up in the opposite direction, presumably to her home port of Brightlingsea. The sight of a championship barge making good speed to windward and thumping into the waves was very impressive. She soon disappeared into the distance.
On Friday morning John had to leave us to help out at a friends wedding so we deposited him on the marina waiting pontoon at Chatham at 7am and within half an hour he was on the train to London. Allan and I then tacked out of the Medway, with a bit of engine assistance against the persistent NE wind and spring flood tide. By the evening we were back on our mooring on theSwale. During this hot summer there seems to be much more growth of seaweed and sea grass than usual, and there seems to be more of this on the Swale than some of the other rivers we visited, though I gather there is a lot in the Solent as well. We had only left our mooring for a short week but during that time it had collected a huge mass of waterlogged weed. We were quite unable to lift the buoy aboard due to the weight of weed until it had been cleared off with the boathook. We hope to get in a few more days sailing in cooler weather later in the year, and with luck resolve the IT issues to add a few pictures.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Pin Mill

We got up at first light and left Walton Backwaters as soon as we felt the tide was high enough. We had hoped to get to the Deben, but our progress against wind and tide was too slow: you have to get through the narrow entrance to the river Deben before high water, and it became clear we weren't going to make it. Sometimes the best answer to a frustrating sail is to redefine your objectives. 

We decided to have a look at the rivers Stour and Orwell instead, so we eased off the sheets and had a fine sail with a moderate NE breeze. We anchored in the Stour for lunch then sailed up the very pretty Orwell as far as Pin Mill. 

We had booked in for supper at the renowned Butt and Oyster pub and took a visitors mooring buoy off Pin Mill. However we found it was too close to the next buoy, and with a wind over tide situation only constant attention with the boathook prevented the boats colliding and causing damage. The man on the next boat sounded apprehensive. It would have been a long row to the pub. So we dropped our (free) visitors mooring and instead took a berth at the nearby Woolverstone marina. We were still able to get to the pub on time - packed out on a Wednesday evening.

Coming into the marina Bonita was ably helmed by Allan - more challenging than usual as the new propeller doesn't seem to have the same power the old one had. While this is an annoying problem that needs to be fixed, it is good to have discovered it early when it can, I hope, be fixed relatively easily.

Tuesday, 9 August 2022

A Thames Estuary cruise

  The recent very hot weather brings its own problems for wooden boats. Below the waterline the weed grows more luxuriently and there is the worry that various types of destructive worm might set up home in the wood. Above the waterline there is the concern that the heat will cause the planking to dry out excessively and shrink. A berth on a swinging mooring is a definite advantage here as the boat swings round with the tide rather than having the sun always on the same side. We are also fortunate that local owners of various high powered craft like to travel at speed through the lines of moored boats on hot sunny days. Usefully this helps to keep the topsides moist. I keep looking forward to the time when diminishing commitments in life ashore will give more time for sailing. That time is still to come. However with John and Allan we have managed to get a few days sailing in local waters. On Monday we sailed accros the estuary against a light NE wind and ended up in Brightlingsea. The most interesting part of Brightlingsea is the river where there are a number of old fishing smacks in various stages of decay and preservation from the immaculate to the barely afloat. The size and strength of all the gear on these boats is most impressive and makes you respect the fishermen who sailed them in all weathers. 

Little has changed in Brightlingsea since our last visit several years ago. Getting a meal  can be a challenge as the eateries confidently recommended by the locals always seem to be closed. Eventually we had a fine meal in the Indian restaurant, as we have on several previous visits.

Today we left in misty weather and had a gentle sail against a light easterly wind to the magical Walton Backwaters. We sailed in over the sands an hour or so before LW neap tides with only about 1 m under the keel, which was a bit concerning. However we anchored in deeper water off Stone point, where we took advantage of one of the hottest days of the year by swimming ashore from the boat. We are miles from any civilisation here so had supper on the boat. No photos today due to poor internet access: - will try to do better tomorrow.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Swale Race 2022

 A couple of weeks ago Allan and I painted Bonita. It was one of those very hot dry days: we put her on the scrubbing dock at about 2.30am, and by 9am the job was done. Allan was able to go to do a days work while I waited for the rest of the morning for the incoming tide to refloat her.

Yesterday was the 50th Swale race, the first having been held in 1972. The Swale race is always fun with a large variety of traditional boats. Bonita has taken part in most of the 50 races with variable degrees of success, and sometimes getting a prize. We did once get the Seamanship trophy when D retrieved the big jib from the water after the halyard had parted as a result of hanging on to the sail too long.  Many improvements have been made to the gear and sails over the years in the hope of improving her performance in the Race.  Most years the Swale race is held in August and there  is often not really enough wind. This year we had a fine SW force 4-5 that made many boats take in a reef. We had a reef in the main for the manoevering at the start, but soon shook it out and sailed the race under full sail with some spray on deck - Bonita likes this sort of weather and does well in it - as do many other boats of similar size.  We had a tried and tested crew of Toby, Allan, D and Ant. We did not use any light weather sails, and the one boat that we did see hoisting a light jib on the downwind stretch seemed to be having so much trouble for so little reward that noone else was tempted to try the experiment.


At the prizegiving we got the Sand End trophy for coming 3rd in our class. The picture shows Allan and Toby with our prized trophy.  Toby looks dressed for bad weather and indeed shortly after this photo was taken there was a tremendous rain squall, bringing the evenings festivities to a close and sending everyone running for shelter. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Signed up...

 I went down to the boat planning to do a bit of painting and varnishing, but it was such a lovely day with a warm moderate breeze, and wind over neap tide that I felt I had to go for a sail instead, Its important sometimes to remember what the boat is actually for. We sailed out into the Thames Estuary within sight of, but not actually to, Herne Bay pier. 

It was in these waters that the pioneer aviator, Amy Johnson was lost on a cold January night in 1941. Johnson was tremendously famous in the 1930s being the first to achieve several long distance solo flights. When the war came, women were not allowed to fight the enemy, but experienced pilots such as Amy were employed delivering planes from factories to front line airfields. Its never been certain what happened to Amy: she may have got lost and run out of fuel, but more likely it seems that she was shot down by 'friendly fire' after she was challenged and failed to give the correct password. Although she had film star status during her lifetime not everyone had such a high opinion of her. Her contemporary and fellow pilot, the redoubtable Marion Wilberforce (who died of old age, well into her 90s) is said to have thought Amy was a poor flier, prone to panic.

Amy Johnson

This month the booking opened for people to 'show an interest' in the Old Gaffers Round Britain cruise next year to mark the OGA's 60th anniversary. There has been a very encouraging response at this early stage. Some of the entrants are old friends who went round in 2013, but so far I think Bonita is the only old boat entered. Last time there were 4 or 5 centenarians so it would be nice if there were a few more this time. 

In any boat there's quite a lot of preparation needed for this sort of cruise as the wear and tear on the gear ( and the skipper) is the equivalent of several seasons normal sailing. Time spent inspecting everything that can reasonably be inspected on a boat is rarely time wasted. The picture shows the belt driving the engine cooling water pump- this was still working perfectly well until I decided it was time I checked it over.

Time for a new one...