It's all about
finding the calm
in the chaos
Image "Vashti at dawn"
Summer 2008. Aged 23 and a quarter.
At this early hour there was no human activity to be seen, only the distant sounds of wildlife were travelling across the River Stour and into Holbrook Creek. Without words needing to be exchanged Nick slipped the forward mooring and I let go astern. In barely a puff of wind Spindrift's Genoa slowly rolled out of bed and we silently crept out of Holbrook Creek in the darkness.
With daylight starting to show towards Harwich we picked up a sturdy looking mooring buoy at Wrabness and each slipped into a warm sleeping bag for a few hours. We had managed to escape Holbrook Creek for the day and that was our primary objective.
What felt like 10 minutes later, I woke to the whistle of the kettle and sunlight streaming through the companionway gently warming my face. It was around 9am and in a few moments I was passed a hot cup of coffee. A glance out of my port side bunk brought Wrabness into view and confirmed Spindrift laying to a strong ebb tide as a southerly breeze gently rocked her in the lee of Wrabness cliffs.
Still in my pijamas I dropped the mooring warp off the bow and walked back to the cockpit to untie the roller reefing line. The wind had increased a little with the daylight and in a swift thud the Genoa was set and blew our bow away to Holbrook while the tide carried us bodily eastwards. Nick lay in his bunk below so engrossed in his book and coffee that I don't think he even realised we were under way.
A line lashed Spindrift's tiller while I spent a few minutes untying the mainsail cover and sail ties, and sent them into the small cabin for stowing. While setting the mainsail Spindrift rounded up and just before losing all her boat speed the Genoa was sheeted once again and brought her bow away, back on course.
We passed the oil pipes that lay floating on the south side of the river like sleeping giants and crossed to the northern side for a close quarters drive by on the beacon at Erwarton point. The order of the day was a lazy Sunday sail and between Erwarton and Shotley I eventually mustered up the desire to get dressed and make breakfast.
The gas hob stood to attention for boiling a kettle once again but when it comes to a toasting set piece he's out of his depth. I appeared to burn 16 slices of toast for every single good slice and to rub salt in the wound this ratio was compounded by an unopened loaf of bread floating past us at Parkestone. I like to think of the possibilities of how this item finds itself in the river? Is someone else out here also having a frustrating time cooking their breakfast? At that moment in time a small fire broke out in the galley fuelled by another two slices of burnt toast. Perhaps I was responsible instead of the stove, for not paying enough attention.
As we passed ha'penny pier at Harwich and began to beat south out of the harbour we still had a favourable tide underneath us. Just around the corner the Walton Backwaters lay to our starboard side, safely guarded at the entrance by the Pye End buoy.
Where we were going neither of us knew but we just fancied a lazy sail out to sea and therefore on we sailed. In a moderately light breeze and on a sunny day there seemed to be no-one else sailing on the water. The usual regular movement of ships in and out of Felixstowe was once again like clockwork and for that reason we stood clear of the shipping channel.
Heading into nothingness the sky was blue and the water changing from brown to blue as we sailed on, at the horizon the two were joined by a soft haze presenting us with a real life watercolour painting. After a time a dark object appeared over the bow as far as the eye could see. Taking a hand bearing Nick soon came to the conclusion this was the "Stone Banks" buoy, with a course set and a tiller lashed it was Sunday lunchtime and time for beer and cards.
It didn't take long before the lonely old chap called Stone Bank was passing us by, he surely doesn't see many Holbrook Creek souls out here, so far south of the shipping channel. We would give him a second visit on the way home at least.
Once again pointing for nowhere in particular we held our course and a bit like the road signs that simply direct you to either "The North" or "The South" we were headed to "The Open Sea". The next buoy to make itself known to us was "Medusa". Far in the distance we picked her up in the binoculars and again adjusted our course accordingly.
I started to wonder if this was the furthest from home Spindrift had been. On the chart it doesn't seem far, but on the open water it felt like we were on a real adventure. This little 22ft boat was built in Lowestoft for coastal cruising and although she's very seaworthy I don't think many would want to go too far out for long, I certainly had never taken her this far from home.
The wind picked up a little, Spindrift was sailing close hauled quite fast and it was surprising how quickly we found ourselves within throwing distance of our mark. I had only seen the Medusa buoy once before and that was on a similar day trip with my dad some 15 years before sailing a 42ft fast Bermudan yacht called "Layla".
As we came past the big green Medusa buoy it clearly made the other half of the Stone Bank. I thought of these two as some kind of tragic love story...out here on their own having a lonely existence they make a pair of navigation marks so far apart they only just see one another. It's the makings of a romantic advert that starts going through my mind before I realise I'm thinking about work at sea.
A check on the time revealed late-afternoon and it was our time to head for home. We noted our position and put the helm down on Spindrift. Looking out to sea one last time I recalled the adventures of John, Susan, Titty and Roger, and wondered how much further we could have made it...another adventure for another day
Clive Robertson, sailing all sorts since 1990.
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