It's all about
finding the calm
in the chaos
Image "Vashti at dawn"
Winter 2016. Aged 31 and a half.
With barely enough wind to move the device at Lillibullero's mast head we had to use some diesel power to safely slip away from her mooring and into the channel of the River Orwell before a bear away to port and run up the river towards Ipswich.
Lazily a full mainsail was hanging from the gaff and the jib we call "the biggun" was swaying in front as if being hung out to dry. Floating along with wind and tide we were surprisingly making around 3 knots over the ground occasionally overtaking the apparent wind. This effect forced the gigantic gaff mainsail to slowly weather-cock and creek over to the centreline of the boat threatening a fateful end to the ensign staff astern.
As we came past the Royal Harwich Yacht Club and closer up to what little wind there was Lillibullero began to reach and it was time for the staysail to get off its backside and do some work. With Deer Park Lodge to our North the unmistakable Freston Tower poking up through the mist over the bow and the Orwell Bridge in the distance we were making good speed over the ground in this very light breeze.
The tide still had 45 minutes to flood and we still had tuna sandwiches and beer to consume so we picked up the last mooring before the Orwell Bridge and gave ourselves a break for lunch. Furling the biggun and dumping the staysail Lillibullero sat happily with the mainsail rigged laying to wind and tide.
I made myself comfortable on the side deck, in the lee of the cool breeze blowing over the coachroof. The sunshine was penetrating Lillibullero's dark afromosia deck and I could feel the heat from this beaming sun on my face as I laid back and nodded off for a few minutes. The sound of the cars heading along the road to Shotley Peninsula was actually quite relaxing.
With the tide approaching somewhere around slack water after a brief snooze, I set and sheeted the staysail and the biggun and let Lillibullero's mainsail run free. The freshening light air took her bow away from the mooring and off the wind before I began to heave in that big mainsail once again and sail close up to the wind. For the next 20 minutes we were still fighting a flood tide in a very light wind but only drawing 1.5 metres meant we used the full width of the river to our advantage and put in long and short tacks through the moorings both sides of the river hoping someday to reach Woolverstone.
Backing both headsails a little we tacked as efficiently as we could in such light airs and the only ripple on the water was the wake from our small but meaningful bow wave, this was truly rewarding sailing. We managed to lay Deer Park lodge an hour or so later and the tide had slackened off in one tack and turned in another. Now on every tack between the moorings I had to pick the other side of the gap between boats or risk being washed down onto someone's beloved moored boat.
Once at No6 it was time to start stowing all the gear it takes to sail Lillibullero and the engine was used to bring us up to the mooring at Pin Mill. As the sun began to set behind the trees to our south the mist started to lift and the air became very cold. This very localised but delightful sail had taken us quite a few hours but who wants to be in a hurry sailing a gaffer like this on a sunny, fresh, winters day...
Clive Robertson, sailing all sorts since 1990.
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