River Trader passing Blue Mermaid at anchor in Hamford Water

Having towed away from Pin Mill blocks on Friday behind Gus Curtis’ workboat Blue Mermaid lay again at the Clamp House anchorage to let the bad weather go through. It blew a gale for a short while overnight with heavy rain. Mirosa lay above us, away on their hols. On Friday a smartly-dressed gentleman with matching luggage waited patiently at the end of King’s growing (and so welcome) pontoon as the tide left. With just enough water Mirosa’s bargeboat and trusty Seagull outboard approached. As she grounded ten yards short of the passenger he was spared the walk round to the Grindle by Peter Dodds ready for anything in chestwaders vaulting into the morass to execute a speedy and successful departure. Such customer care is rare and caused some merriment in our young crew who had been forced to walk half a mile to the muddy beach at low water the previous day when they were several chocolate bars at Hollingsworth’s late on tide at the bottom of the hard.

Saturday was a dobie day and time off to visit Maritime Ipswich by bus. Mirosa continued her voyage. Picking up Rose Ravetz from her vessel Defiance on a nearby mooring, all bar Richard and Hilary made for Ipswich, live music, old boats and food stalls. The management investigated the menu at the Butt. As so often happens in this popular watering hole, a succession of friends appeared. Pete Thomas was away for his holidays launching a dinghy at the top of the hard. Chas late of the Queen’s Head Members Bar now lost to Sudbury brought visiting friends for lunch. Sharon of Stour Blue Pass Trust came for lunch hot from her return from Bali and shared tales of the growing success of that amazing new charity. Lastly, Sea-Change trustee Francis Douglas and crew Maria arrived fresh from their dramatic rescue of a yachtsman who fell between tender and yacht off Levington. They were passed twice by a lifeboat running trips on the river but were too busy effecting a rescue to call them on the radio. After three conventional attempts, the increasingly cold and tired gentleman was eventually lifted aboard using Sparky’s throat halliard.

The Ipswich contingent returned early but having enjoyed their trip and we rowed back aboard to the strains of South Australia and planned the next stage of the adventure, now with a clean bottom.

Sunday dawned bright and clear with showers promised. Fetching through Sea Reach of the Orwell with a growing SWly the barge was doing a comfortable 7.5 knots across the harbour. Across Pennyhole Bay the sky to weather darkened and Secret Water dissappeared in the rain. As the waves lapped the covering board the topsail was dropped and backstays run forward to avoid chafe. But there was more in store and with the rain came wind and plenty of it under the Naze. The squall was fierce and three cloths of mainsail were taken in before we bore away to make a lee for the jib to be stowed as well. With the worst of the squall passed, the barge tacked confidently and we headed into the Backwaters, gradually setting all sail again as conditions improved. The sun came out and she made easy work of the short tacks to anchor above Oakley Creek.

After lunch the Toppers were brought on deck and rigged. We too them to Stone Point where Reuben, Issac and Pru explored while Richard ran Brian ashore at Titchmarsh to be taken to Maldon by Iain Stubbs in return for old hands Lucian and Izzy. As we approached the marina who should appear but Jim Lawrence and his friend Trevor on their way home to Brightlingsea the pretty way from Harwich Shanty Festival.

Back at the beach the Toppers were rigged and a blustery sail commenced back up Hamford Water against the ebb. The Dawn came in and anchored above Blue Mermaid, and was carrying a deck cargo of dinghies. Maybe the next couple of days really will be Swallows and Amazons.