Round Britain – Lowestoft to Brightlingsea

We wanted to visit some of the east coast rivers, having heard there are some lovely places along here.

 Mysterious military constructions lurk along the shoreline, apparently testing sites for nuclear blasts…

The Ore has an anchorage with the irresistible name of Abraham’s Bosom, tucked in behind an island bird sanctuary, so we motored carefully in past the buoys marking the entrance to spend a very peaceful night well tucked-up.

Exiting the next morning on a falling tide was altogether another experience. The sandbanks frequently shift and the whole entrance looks quite alarming as there is sand in the water quite a distance offshore. We went over one patch where the sounder showed 0.9m (we ground at 0.8m!) but got away without mishap.
The Deben is only a few miles further south, so we had a similar problem of negotiating the sandbanks, if anything it was even trickier. There is a phone number for a local man who can give advice, and he reckoned we should be OK drawing only a metre. But as we approached the shallowest part the sounder did not give me confidence, so we turned round and went a little way off to anchor and have a cup of tea while the tide rose. Ian’s Strider draws even less, so he went in first, and although I had the rudders ready to release and kick up we got over the bar with an inch or two to spare!

The Deben is about 6 miles long and very pretty, so we motored gently up towards Woodbridge. Unfortunately we had failed to appreciate that the tide is about an hour later at the top of the river, so the approach to Woodbridge across Troublesome Reach was another will-it-won’t-it experience. And there didn’t seem to be much water closer to the town either, so we thought it might be a good idea to grab a mooring buoy before going any further. There were some promising looking buoys off the sailing club, but as soon as we picked one up we seemed to be sliding away upriver and then got stuck in the mud! Thank goodness it was a Monday, so our little embarrassment was not enjoyed by the club members!
After ten minutes (seemed like much much longer) of Andy fending off and me trying to heave up the starboard rudder, we finally floated free only to be drifted by wind and tide backwards up towards Woodbridge. Frantic engine control twiddling and another panic when the tiller arm twisted up and jammed the steering…. then at last we wrestled her round to face into the wind and tide, miraculously having avoided denting anything except pride. I am afraid the delights of Woodbridge eluded us, as we scuttled off downriver and found a nice clear safe spot to anchor for the night and calm down.

Setting off just after HW the next morning gave us  the benefit of the tide to help with the distance back to sea, and the shallow entrance bar was well-covered this time. Next stop Harwich and the River Stour. I did enquire about going into Shotley Marina, but it has a lock only 7m wide, which would have been a squeeze (Nellinui is 6m wide) and anyway did not have room. A reasonable sail that day had us crossing the shipping channel and skirting round its south and west side.

 Ian then revealed that both his engines had stopped working, so was anxious about getting in safely. We were just running downwind towards the entrance of the Stour and reckoned to reach round the corner to find an anchorage, so were able to reassure him that he should be able to sail in OK, and we could be on hand to assist if necessary.
Once round our thoughts turned to where we might get petrol. There are some moorings just beyond Harwich itself, so we took up an empty one that looked reasonably robust, and Ian managed to sail almost up to the moorings before losing the wind and chucking the anchor over. He was at least able to do his repairs knowing that we could come and help if needed, and once the engines were functioning again he got onto another mooring and joined us for supper. Phew!
Andy and I decided against doing another Humber-style raid on Morrison’s petrol station, as we still had about 30 litres of fuel. We would stock up at the next place.
Out of Harwich we motored southwards, then the wind filled in to give us a lovely reach round towards Brightlingsea, finally a dead run up the channel. A majestic Thames barge was tacking out.

The visitor pontoon was clear, we got instructions to come in port side to and even our lines were taken on arrival. What great service!
Brightlingsea is a really active yachting and sailing place, with lots of pontoons, a couple of marinas and a good hard for drying out and scrubbing. We arrived during the Colne YC’s kids activity week, so there were dozens of kids having fun on the water. With a blowy few days on their way this was a good spot to pause before attempting to cross the formidable Thames estuary.