Autumn in Burnham-on-Crouch

Idun is now within easy reach on the river Crouch. This is familiar territory as we kept our previous boat here for a few years. Huge thanks to Daniel and Toby who helped Dominic get Idun down here, which has made it possible for us to enjoy our second home this season, and been a huge boost to me personally!

I drove down to Essex on 26th August, which was by far the longest drive I’ve done since March, so that felt like a real achievement. Dominic had cleaned and laundered and I had a lovely welcome – so nice to be on our boat again! We walked along the river, and into town. Got provisions and shackles and a river licence. And a gentle sail downriver and anchored in the Roach for lunch, where a seal popped up its head to say hello.

Here are a few of the outings and highlights of our autumn of marina life in Burnham:

29th August – A day in Southend

Saturday was not a good sailing day so we decided to use the car and went to Southend where neither of us have been before. We parked along the seafront and wandered up towards the pier, passing the rather lovely cliff lift going up to the old hotels. We left the funfair for others to enjoy. We walked into town, but it was crowded and no one was really distancing so it didn’t feel ok. After a bite to eat we had planned to enjoy the world’s longest leisure pier, but the rain was pretty constant and no visibility whatsoever as the photo proves, so we drove back to the boat. We tried Southend, what else is there to say.

31st August – 1st September: Anchored overnight near Fambridge

On the Monday we enjoyed a gentle sail up the river. I really appreciated seeing the riverscape and the birdlife. There were a few other boats on the river, but not many. We anchored just past Fambridge and sat outside until sunset. Very calm, quiet and stunningly beautiful. It was nearly full moon, and we could both see and hear the birds feeding on the mudbanks at low tide. We also had the company of quite a large common seal all evening. And, I saw him catch a bird wading in the water! I didn’t know seals ate birds. The next morning we got the canoe out; I just tried it but Dominic set off for a proper paddle.

5th – 6th September: Sailing to Osea Island with Emma and James

Emma and James joined us for the weekend! They arrived 10:30ish and after a tour of the boat we set off at noon for a sail to the river Blackwater. James had never sailed before, indeed never been on a sailing boat, but he seemed to genuinely like it. We sailed down the Crouch and had intended to go out to the Swin Spitway, but when we got to Raysands Dominic decided it was safe to cross over which saved us hours of going out to sea and coming back in again. We had reasonable wind and tipped up quite a bit when tacking, which James loved, Emma not quite so much! We were anchored by Osea Island before 5pm and it was time to try out the kayak but it was soon clear that the tide was really too strong to make it enjoyable. So instead we enjoyed homemade curry out on deck with the odd glass of wine, admired the beautiful sunset over the island and just about managed a game of Scotland Yard before we fell asleep.

We all got up in good time the next morning while the tide was amenable for playing on the water. Emma and James got the hang of the kayak quickly and elegantly swooped around the boat and over to the island. Dominic was already on the mudflats having rowed over in mini-me and they went off to explore Osea Island. We had a lovely and sunny morning so we got the sun loungers out up front and had a leisurely brunch in the sunshine, yum. Though it was slightly delayed as the gas tank ran out! After an uneventful journey back, Emma and James headed off home. What a lovely weekend!

In fact James liked sailing so much that they joined us again later in the month for a day on the Crouch. We had quite a lively sail up the river with James helming some of the way. He’s keen on learning which is really nice for Dominic. James also tacked a great part of the way back, and quite clearly enjoyed the challenge! Dominic tacked by the moorings in Burnham, keeping out of the way of two sailboards in the very strong winds. We very successfully moored up on the pontoon despite the wind pushing us off.

After this we deserved the bottle of red that Emma opened up!

Saturday 12th – Tuesday 15th September: Visiting the River Orwell

We had quite a fast sail going north up the coast, 10.5 knots max speed which we hadn’t expected. Along the way we admired the many beach huts in Clacton, Frinton and Walton-on-the-Naze and soon arrived at Harwich. I remember Parkeston Quay from where we used to catch the car ferry to Sweden when the children were young, then the ferry only went to Denmark, and now not near Sweden at all. Shame really. As it was a nice and windy day, there were plenty of dingies and yachts around as we went up the channel, passing the huge containerships and the spectacle of cranes in Felixstowe harbour. We went up the river Orwell to Woolverstone and found a nice berth at the hammerhead of the Royal Harwich Yacht Club.

We woke early the next morning and really enjoyed the beautiful setting. We had the perfect position overlooking the river and the landscape on the other side. We saw a seal gulping down a very large fish last night. There are shags and plovers in their summer plumage, swans flying by. Toby popped over for lunch on the boat which was really nice. Then we took a walk on the path by the river and through the woods to Pin Mill. Dominic and Toby inspected the barges being repaired in what looks like a boat graveyard. Luckily the Butt and Oyster pub was open for take away drinks and we enjoyed ours sitting on the nearby field.

We sailed down the verdant Orwell on Monday morning, again passing the busy and really rather noisy Felixstowe harbour. Our voyage was sunny and we started out in just t-shirts and shorts even out at sea! We sailed a lot of the time but had to motor a couple of hours. We went across the Swin Spitway with not much water to spare, watching the seals resting on the mudbanks by Foulness Island, on the long approach to the Crouch. It was getting dark so we decided to go up the Roach, and anchored just as the sun was setting at 7.10pm. A long day at sea. On the Tuesday we woke from the deafening sound of shelling from the military training ground. Surprisingly the birds seemed to hardly notice. We spent the morning sailing up the Roach to Paglesham, which apparently is a very desirable location but from the river it looked desolate and bleak even in full sunshine. We tacked back through the moorings and down to the Crouch and then jibed up to Burnham. A lovely, gentle sail back to the marina.

Saturday 19th September: Catching up with Anne and Mark along the Crouch

After a few false starts it was very nice to welcome longtime friends Anne and Mark to join us for the day! We sailed up the Crouch with just the foresail up, which made for a very pleasant sail in the quite strong winds. Mark has a lot of dingy sailing experience and has done a couple of courses on yachts and happily helmed both on the way up and tacking back. We anchored near Fambridge and had a lovely long lunch sitting in the sunshine in lee of the wind, happily chatting away, catching up on family and life. What a perfect boating day!

Friday 25th – Sunday 27th September: Mattie joining us on board

We picked up Mattie and drove to Burnham on the Friday evening. We had planned to spend the weekend sailing, but the winds were far too strong. So instead we went for a bracing walk on Saturday morning into town, and Mattie and Dominic played several sets of very competitive chess and scrabble, in jovial squabbling sibling style. And Mattie was very privileged (ha ha!) to help Dominic assemble and try out our brand new electric outboard! Let’s hope for better weather next time she joins us.

Thursday 22nd – Friday 23rd October: the last sail of the season

It was a nice day on the Thursday, so we decided to go out for a sail. The winds were good, and we enjoyed it so much so we decided to keep going up to the Orwell again. There’s nowhere to anchor in the river, so Dominic rang the Yacht Club and they said it was ok to use their pontoon but there would be no services. That’s ok, we’re self sufficient.

We sailed east of the Gunfleet Sands windfarm and avoiding all the shallows. After a while the wind almost disappeared, which was weird, so we had to turn the engine on. Once we’d passed the old lighthouse and the remains of the shallows (with alarming amounts of wrecks showing on the chart!), we again sailed, heading to Harwich and Felixstowe. Not many yachts about this time.

We set off smartly the next morning to get the help of the tides and we had a good sail back. The wind was against, but Dominic tacked expertly on the shoreside of the windfarm and we crossed the Swin about 2pm. The first half of the sail was warmish with sun and cloud, but the late afternoon was colder and we had some rain as well. Luckily we have sailing gear to cope with a bit of weather. We got to Burnham in good time before dark and tied up carefully as it will be very windy tomorrow. A lovely couple of days sailing in late October! Will this be it for 2020?

Having so much downtime on the boat this autumn has meant we’ve been able to work on what we’ve noticed we didn’t quite get right for us and our way of travelling when we first equipped the boat, and other little jobs that needed doing. Such as: reconfiguring the RIB to be much lighter and it now has a removable electric engine, rewiring the solar panels to piggy back off the wind turbine regulators, installing a clever netting platform in the rear storage cabin on which we can lay all our cockpit cushions while still being able to access items on the floor below.

We’re now in Lockdown 2.0 and Idun is safely tucked in for the winter months. It seems fairly unlikely that we will be able to get back before Christmas, but here’s hoping that we can get a sail or two in during the winter months.

So this was not the sailing season we had envisaged, but did that matter?   Dominic and Daniel had a really good week together in Oban and on the Caledonian Canal.  Dominic got to sail hard and fast going down the East Coast with Toby, in a way that I just wouldn’t have been comfortable with.  And then Dominic and I spent the autumn months living a very comfortable marina life, having friends and family with us on the boat, with wonderful walks, interesting outings by car and several really enjoyable sails exploring a little of the East Coast. So no, it wasn’t the season that we had planned but it turned out just lovely!

Firebird over the River Orwell

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