Workprep Windbound

The Workprep Course from Colchester Institute at the end of a windy five days aboard Reminder. Pictured are eight students, leaders Karen Hosier and Paula Mills, Richard and Hilary with Amelia Hall taking time off from her usual duties as an Able Seaman on Norwegian square-rigged sail training vessel Christian Radich to sail as Third Hand.

Monday night found us snugly anchored with all the chain out of the box in the River Colne for the expected southerly force eight gale from an “unseasonably vigorous depression” centred over the UK. After high water at midnight the actual force nine with torrential rain created a maelstrom of wind over tide and the skipper was called to witness the Pyefleet Spit port hand buoy steadily moving past as the anchor dragged. Seven fleets of chain later with Paula and Karen helping on the handles, we motored back to windward, avoiding the motor boat dragging slightly to leeward, and reset the anchor, this time with two shackles of chain in the water, which seemed to do the trick.

Tuesday continued just as windy and we moved under power up to Alresford under the trees where all was calm and it was possible to climb the rig and go ashore on Wednesday morning for a treasure hunt on White House Beach.

The group’s long list of achievements whilst aboard

As the judging was taking place the Bert Prior passed with 300 tons of sand for London with an improving forecast, taking thirty lorries off the road. After a hundred years of taking sand from Fingringhoe to London by water, Priors have run out of planning permission to quarry and the operation is winding down. The Brenda Prior is now berthed inside the seawall at the ballast quay and looks forlorn like a children’s theme park, while just two of the once-six-strong fleet are working. And no one seems to have remarked the change. As one who lay in bed as a child in Brightlingsea listening to the distinctive engines of one after another of Prior’s barges wafting up the fields, I for one feel the loss. Generations of local people have made a living from this steady and unassuming trade and now it is ending. Meanwhile new sand pits open near tidal water and lorries terrorise country lanes.

As the weather improved we had an evening sail down to the Bench Head and back on Wednesday, and Thursday saw a steady force westerly force six and a long foul tide beat up to Osea.

A good time was had by all despite the weather.

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