The Last Sail

Red Dawn IV

Red Dawn IV

I have mentioned before that we are selling our yacht ‘Red Dawn IV’, a Barbican 33. We have both been sailing for more years than we care to remember – my husband first sailed when he was in short trousers and I learned to sail dinghies in my teens. We have owned boats off and on all our married life, but all things must come to an end and my husband has decided to ‘swallow the anchor’ before we are too old and decrepit to maintain the boat properly, especially as it is a four-hour drive from home to the marina.

We have owned this particular boat for about 12 years and kept her all that time at Bradwell Waterside in Essex on the River Blackwater – not convenient for home but very convenient for sailing across the Channel to Europe as we have done many times. Having placed her on brokerage at Burnham on the River Crouch in Essex we decided to give up our marina berth in Bradwell and move her to the brokers yard. Our contract with the marina ends it the end of March so we needed to move her before then or risk having to pay a daily rate for our berth – expensive!

Frozen snow in the cockpit

Frozen snow in the cockpit

Last weekend we needed to go down to Essex for an important meeting so we decided it was a good opportunity to go on down to the boat and sail her round to Burnham. However, the weather was awful as the second instalment of ‘the beast from the east’ struck the UK. When we arrived at the boat late on Saturday afternoon it was bitterly cold, windy, and the boat was covered in frozen snow, as you can see from the picture of the cockpit. We hibernated in our cosy cabin – electric fire and our Taylors Paraffin Stove on full blast for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday while the weather slowly improved, but we were concerned that we would not get the job done before we needed to go home on Thursday and that we would have to return another time.

Wednesday, however, turned out to be milder with sunny spells and the wind had dropped so we decided to go. We left Bradwell at 10.45am, motoring with the mainsail up. It was still chilly but dressed in two of everything we were just about warm enough! After about an hour we were at the mouth of the Blackwater, drinking coffee and eating energy bars, sailing past the lovely little chapel of St Peter on the Wall (one of my Special Places) and on out to sea, noticeably cooler and several white horses in evidence.

There are two routes round the coast to the River Crouch, a long route which takes you out beyond the shallows and then back in again, or the shorter route across the shallows through the Ray Sand Channel. We opted for the short route so that we weren’t out in the cold too long and the later start fitted in better with the tide for getting out of the marina. This route, however, is something of a challenge. You have to get the tides right, arriving at the start in time to have enough water and yet to go through on a rising tide as it does get VERY shallow.

I remember the first time we went through, in our very first cruising yacht, an old clinker-built Dauntless called ‘Noom Zor Noom’. We had two of our three children with us then, a toddler and a small baby. We kept the boat on the River Roach, a tributary of the Crouch, and had been up the coast for a holiday. It was one of those situations where we had to get back for work but the weather wasn’t good. We chose the Ray Sand Channel route (probably a mistake in retrospect) for speed. We probably got the tide slightly wrong and in those days we had no modern gizmos – no Radio to call up with, no GPS, no mobile phones, no Chart Plotter, only a speed log and echo sounder. The wind and tide were pushing us off course and out of the channel – it was getting very shallow and you don’t really know which way to go to find the deeper water! It was also a bit rough, tossing us about. I was not a happy bunny, in fact I was scared (hubby now admits he was too!) and rather worried about how I was to get a small child and a baby safely off the boat if we came a cropper! It was with some relief that we made it safely through and into the river.

Red Dawn IV at Burnham

Red Dawn IV at Burnham

This time we arrived at the start of the channel at just the right time (12.45) for the tide, plus it was spring tides so we would have plenty of water, with also the benefit of the Chart Plotter to help keep us on course. It was a bit sloppy in the mouth of the Crouch due to wind against the tide, the wind also got up a bit and keeled us over badly a couple of times but I was able to make lunch as we went along. We took down the mainsail as we reached the entrance to the River Roach and motored on to Burnham Yacht Harbour in good time, arriving around 3.00pm. We then were able to tidy up, remove the sails ready for her to be hauled out onto the broker’s yard and drive home on Thursday – a horrendous trip, but that’s another story! The yard was not able to haul out this week so we will need another trip down when that happens. Then we have three months free storage at the yard while they try to sell her for us.

It was with mixed feelings that we left the boat; an enjoyable 4-hour trip round, despite motor-sailing all the way in order to keep up the speed, but tinged with sadness that this would be our last sail, unless she doesn’t get sold, in which case we will have to think again!

 

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Once Round the Bay…

…and back in time for tea – so goes the old saying about boat trips. Not that we went round the bay, but yesterday we did sail up the River Blackwater to Maldon and back. At least I suppose you could call it sailing; more of a drift really.

It was a lovely warm and sunny day and we barely had a breath of wind at first. We had to wait until lunchtime for a suitable tide to get us out of the marina and then simply drifted with the tide, although the sails were up. From time to time we did have to have a spot of engine in order to avoid other traffic as we had very little ability to control the boat – no thrust through the water so the tiller had minimal effect.

Radio Caroline

Radio Caroline

Actually the main vessel we needed to avoid was the Radio Caroline ship which is moored in the Blackwater and which we were drifting towards fairly rapidly! We noticed there was some sort of shenanigans going on, it was noisier than usual and there were people coming and going. We later discovered that it is 50 years since the advent of pirate radio and obviously some celebrations were going on. It is surprising that Radio Caroline is still going strong and still broadcasting (all-be-it only on-line now).

Despite being wonderfully peaceful we did eventually fire up the engine full-time as we were making such slow progress and Maldon is only accessible at high tide, even then there is a fairly tortuous narrow channel you have to stick to through the shallows, though it is well-marked with buoys. Stopping there is not an easy option if you wish to return the same day – we have it on authority that there is just enough time to moor up, have a swift half-pint in the pub and then set off again! We didn’t stop, just turned round and sailed back – this time with a little more wind to blow us along and the day rapidly cooling. Once comfortably back in the marina we celebrated with a warming  curry!

This was a lovely day, simply messing about in the boat. We have been down here since the middle of last week but have been busy with maintenance work, rubbing down the wooden parts and re-varnishing and scrubbing off some of the weed that insists on sticking to the bottom (which hampers progress through the water!) so this was the first day that we had been free to actually go and do what boats are meant to do.

In some ways the day was bitter-sweet as we wonder how many more such opportunities we will have now that we have decided to sell the boat. There are a variety of reasons for this decision, we are of course getting older and living so far away from where we keep it makes maintenance something of a chore plus the many other things we do with our lives meaning we get fewer opportunities to make use of it and so on. We shall be sad to see her go but we think it will be for the best.

However, apparently the bottom has fallen out of the boat market at the moment so we may well be playing with her for a few more years yet as we wait for the market to improve. Meanwhile, if any one is interested in finding out more about Red Dawn IV and would maybe like to consider buying her we have set up a website all about her at https://reddawniv.wordpress.com. Please feel free to share this link with anyone you think may be interested.

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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