It's all about
finding the calm
in the chaos
Image "Vashti at dawn"
Autumn 2013. Aged 28 and three quarters.
Motoring out of Holbrook Creek I was equipped with a fishing rod & reel, 3 lures, a compass, a watch, many layers of clothing, a can of southwold bitter and an additional 2 litres of engine fuel. There was not a single drop of wind so today I would be fishing under engine.
The fog had cleared slightly during the day and I could see the next 2 withies marking the channel to the creek quite clearly. It was now approaching 1430 and while the sun started to fade away on this autumn afternoon the fog began to thicken once again
I passed the rigging buoy only yards to my port side and he soon disappeared in the smoky air as if to say "you're on your own now son". While taking a back bearing of my track every few minutes I managed to keep a mental note of roughly where I was on this mile wide stretch of the River Stour.
Plodding along at engine idle speed there didn't seem to be much weed to foul my fishing gear towards Harkstead but I would've preferred to be somewhere near Stutton in the shallower water. So I turned to starboard 90 degrees and started heading south for a few minutes before switching off the engine and drifting on the west running tide to the north of the shipping channel.
There was an exciting, eerie sense about what was going on around me. Surrounded by a small circle of water and a thick bank of fog I could hear voices in the distance but no engine noise at all. I was surely the only person out here and the voices would be those on Holbrook beach three quarters of a mile to my North. How strange it felt to potentially be lost on such a small piece of water which suddenly felt so vast.
My thoughts were broken as I glanced at my watch and I had been drifting for 20 minutes. With a tide running at a guess up to 3 knots dead reckoning put me one nautical mile up the river from where I started. Setting a course due North would give me an estimated position around halfway between Holbrook and Stutton with the tidal flow still carrying us up the river. So I put the helm over and started the engine on this small boat due north for my native side of the river, Suffolk.
A few tantalising moments on the fishing line turned out to be weed induced and having let out what felt like 4 miles of fishing line it was quite a laborious task to wind this all in to no avail. As we drew closer to the shallows the weed increased and I decided to head back towards Holbrook essentially having drawn a big square in the middle of the river with only this side left to fill in.
Reeling in for a final time I could hear a lot of bird noise over my shoulder and as I turned to look forward I found myself metres off a recognisable small island halfway between Holbrook and Stutton. I turned hard to starboard and set a course due east however a little worried at how far inshore I had brought myself.
At this point I believed I would be approaching the remains of a Saxon fish trap that make up a long line of wooden stakes protruding from the water. I momentarily questioned myself as two very big trees made their outline known through the fog on the shoreline masquerading as those on Holbrook and Harkstead beach, but I was sure I hadn't landed this far to the east? While I questioned myself the end of the fish trap faded into view 50 yards off the port bow and confirmed a satisfying fix on my position.
I spent 5 more minutes packing the fishing gear away and finishing my drink before consulting the compass and evaluating where we might be by now. Then out of nowhere, our good friend the rigging buoy made himself known and as the tide washed past him still flooding at this point he nodded towards Holbrook creek guiding me home. I knew I should head just west of north to pick up the channel that leads me home and the first withie seemed to walk towards me through the fog as if to shake my hand at finding him. I was now home and dry.
Clive Robertson, sailing all sorts since 1990.
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