Jess from Inclusion Ventures taking the gasket off of the topsail

You left us anchored in the Colne after a debrief in the rain with Ian Harris and his group. That evening the torrential rain was joined by an unexpectedly strong south easterly. With the wind direction due to box the compass by morning we were anchored in the middle and when the ebb came away there was an unusual sight from aft in the normally sheltered river of the bow rising and falling three feet. At dusk we watched out anxiously for the return of the crew from Hardy anchored nearby on her way to the Swale Match. They included our trainee Ben experiencing some Summers and Payne design as a change from Horlock and being keen to visit the Pioneer facility they had rowed ashore earlier. They made it back safely and we continued clearing up for our guests of the morrow before indulging in a fine Tesco carbonara before bed.

Friday dawned much improved though with a threat of showers, thunderstorms, calm and later wind. It all came to pass and turned out to be a memorable day in all respects. Having collected our crew for the day from Brightlingsea, where only car parking charges dented their enthusiasm, the conversation in the tender included mutual congratulations as these were the first young people to join us afloat this year. We had planned a major project with Inclusion Ventures potentially funded by SELEP to take eighteen young people and support staff over three weeks to culminate in those who wished to return independently for several weeks in the summer holidays. Covid put an end to all that until at least next year, but to keep the flame alive we were honoured to welcome Jess, Laci, Ruby and Sarah aboard as a test of our covid alertness.

As soon as they were aboard they entered immediately into the spirit of working together. They shortened up the anchor cable and when asked who wanted to go aloft to take the turns off the topsail two hands shot up. Jess was first and later Laci was out on the bowsprit unwrapping the jib. As we ran down Brightlingsea Reach a thunderstorm passed over the land so the topsail was rucked in case, but it missed us. There was a nice westerly at the Inner Bench Head and the barge was sailing fast under brown sails and jib.

It was not to last and we turned back at the Bench Head just before low water as we sensed a calm which indeed arrived. The barge never quite stopped but the jib was dropped and anchor cleared away in case we drifted over the bar. Oli was threatening the sweeps when the lightest of airs from the south took us back to anchor on time at the Creekmouth buoy.

Had rowing been necessary, I am sure the girls would have taken that in their stride as they had done everything else. As it was they learnt some knots on the run in. At the debrief it was really great that everyone said they wanted to come again. With such excellent ambassadors for Jaywick and West Clacton we are looking forward to our next sail with Inclusion Ventures.

The rain started as we said cheerio and the wind turned to the NNW and increased. Indeed there was a possibility of gales later. Oli and I reckoned we had time to get back to Heybridge before the worst came as it was a fetch most of the way and would be in smooth water. So as soon as he returned from taking the group ashore we got under way and ran down to the Molliette setting up bobstay and jib as we did. This meant that as we hauled in sheets at the beacon at 1740 the barge had enough sail set for balance and speed, and go she did. The Nass Beacon was abeam 15 minutes later, and that distance is 3.2 miles albeit with a knot or so of flood in favour. At the Nass a motor boat overtook slowly to windward and then went into West Mersea. If they took any photos they would be welcome. The breeze continued to build and progress slowed when the topsail was rucked. Even so the time to Osea Pier was 55 minutes from the Molliette. Simon Wakefield took a photo from his window at Stone.

There turned out to be enough water to reach the mooring and after snugging the barge down for the wind just time to reach last orders in Maldon.

Richard Titchener