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" Offshore Sailing on the River Blackwater "

Date & start time: Saturday 8th August 2015. 10 am start.

Location of Start : The End of the Jetty, West Mersea, Essex.  ( TL 998 125 )

Places visited : West Mersea, East Mersey and Brightlingsea via the Blackwater.

Walk details :   25 mls,  4 metres of ascent (the tide came in), 6 hours including a long lunch.

Highest points : The weather, the sailing, the lunch and the sun tan.

Walked with : Alan and Sarah, Richard and myself.

Weather : Clear blue skies and warm sun all of the day.

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved. License number PU 100034184.


Something rather different today as Richard, my son-in-law, had organised a day's sailing with friends.

The rucksack was swapped for a small kit bag, minimal extra clothing and a small contribution for lunch.

We made an early start and drove to Colchester and then over to the Blackwater Estuary

where Alan and Sarah have moored their boat.

Unusual warning signs at the entrance to the pontoons.
Alan met us ashore and took us to his waiting dinghy.

Despite the 10 o'clock start there were people gathered on the jetty with their families,

the children already dipping lines into the water in an attempt to catch crabs.

We climbed aboard Alan's rubber dinghy, started the outboard and headed out through the moorings.

The blue work-boat was the local ferry

providing an alternative means for folk to reach their boats should they not have their own tenders.

One of these yachts would be our home for the day.

Sarah was already on board and greeted us as we came alongside.

Their boat is a Sigma 33, an ocean going 33ft single masted sailing cruiser . . . going by the name of "Gwili".

Greetings exchanged, bags stowed, we were underway.
Alan fine tunes the jib as we head out into open water.

Richard was able to take the helm as we made our way out, tacking back and fore against the easterly breeze.

Wind speed approximately 3-4 on the Beaufort Scale (scroll down to the base of the weather page for explanation).

We followed this Moody sail boat out to sea.
Passing several outer port-side markers on the way.

The northern shore of the Bradwell peninsula sports a large set of wind turbines, also revolving well in the breeze today.

Further out we meet a more classic gaff-rigged sailing boat which has made passage up from Burnham on Sea or from the Thames.

Visibility is good today . . . those mast-like structures are down on the Thames Estuary, some twenty five miles south of here.

Re-hydration is as important on a boat as on the fells . . .

so Richard samples some local Adnam's Ales, this time in a practical can rather than in the more traditional pint glass.

Best introduce you to the 1st Mate . . . Sarah
. . . and the Skipper Alan.

Many thanks for the hospitality today.

Another large wind farm again, this time offshore on the Gunfleet Sands.

Here we pass the Colne Point buoy and it is time to turn to make a northern run towards Brightlingsea.

The waters out here are not that deep and we kept an eye on the depth gauge readings which never really exceeded 10 metres below the keel.

If it fell less than 2 metres of free water on the instruments an audible warning sounded . . . Sarah !

Running down wind past the Sandy Point buoy . . . in the channel leading to the town of Brightlingsea.

We moored up on the opposite shore which was in fact the eastern tip of Mersea Island.

Alan ferried us ashore in the dinghy, not onto the mud but onto the adjacent pebble beach, shown as 'Mersea Stone' on the chart.

Supplies for lunch were brought ashore as we fired up the barbecue and opened the picnic hamper.

Our arrival coincided with a busy time on the water, possibly a local sailing regatta or race of mixed boat classes.

As we relaxed on shore we were treated to a carnival of small boats . . . here a Lark and a Scorpion.

A racing Fireball heads towards us under spinnaker . . .
. . . closely followed by the Lark again.

This B14 fast racing dinghy had outrider wings that the crew or helm could sit out on.

A more traditional clinker-style of hull (probably fibre glass).
The RS Tera design . . . single handed sailing for younger people.

Close up as one of the 'C' class (Brightlingsea One Design) boats which passes close by the shore.

A fast F18 catamaran with enough breeze for the crew to trapeze.
" Sail away "

A sunny day, good company, a barbecue and sea-based entertainment . . . what more could you ask for ?

Well . . . an unexpected shore based group of visitors.

. . . taking their exercise along the foreshore . . . check out the pink sunshade / fly screen !

With the tide turning and all the food eaten

it was time to contemplate our return to the boat.


- - - o o o - - -


Mooring so close we had been able to row inshore

but it was against a slight breeze

that we had to paddle back to the boat.


- - - o o o - - -


Still it was only a short distance

and soon we were all safely on board.

As the Gps track at the head of the page shows, we headed back out past the inner River Colne channel markers then turned for West Mersea once again.

We left the open ocean of the North Sea to the others . . . but I managed this zoomed in shot of the distant wind farms along the way.

Not too many other photos now as I was offered the helm for the return trip.

Our next sea mark was the jetty that held the outflow pipes of the cooling water from the old Bradwell Nuclear Power Plant.

The power station is closed now and the facility is being mothballed for a hundred years to allow the radiation to subside.

I can remember sailing out past this jetty many years ago

when I took part in a week long sailing holiday from college.


- - - -o o o - - -


It seems a long time ago now

but memories of traditional sailing boats 

and those Adnams Ales still holds good !


- - - o o o - - -


On our approach to the moorings at West Mersea

we drop the sails and went in under power.

The narrow channel and busy moorings

are no place to complicate matters

when you don't need to.


Alan navigating, Richard waiting to pick up the moorings and myself at the helm, we motor our way back into the river.

Busy places and loads of people demand a level of security on the water as well as on land.

Through the moorings . . . passing old barges . . .

. . . and more modern power craft.

Past the Oyster Sheds . . . they seem to be hosting a celebratory party of some sort today.

A gentle turn into wind,

a quick flick of the wrist

and the mooring rope is on board.

We are secure once again.


- - - o o o - - -



Alan and Sarah are staying on board

then sailing on this evening

to Maldon at the head of the river.


Before then, Alan drops Richard and myself

back at the pontoon at West Mersea.


Power gives way to sail . . . and that sailing boat is bigger than ourselves,

especially now as we are in the little rubber dinghy on the way back to the pontoon.

Five o'clock and we've had a good day on the water.

The holiday makers line the jetty in the afternoon sun, small mud crabs galore in their buckets, many a morsel of bait lost in the muddy waters.

Still it is not the size of the crabs that matters, they'll all be tipped back, it is the thrill of the youngsters in catching them that counts.

- - - o o o - - -

Fortunately there's still some space left for us to come alongside and disembark.

Time then for us to drive back to Pin Mill to meet up with Cathy and family at home.

After our goodbyes we leave Alan to return to the boat.

 - - - o o o - - -

May I say a great big thank you here to Alan and Sarah for offering Richard and I a great day out on the water today.

- - - o o o - - -

In the evening the family group has grown in number with the arrival of our grandsons Sam and Jack.

After a wash and brush up we all adjourned to the Red Lion in Chelmondiston for an excellent evening meal.

Alexander took this photo as he sat at the head of the table.

- - - o o o - - -


Technical note: Pictures taken with my Canon 1100D Digital SLR.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

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Previous walk - 8th August 2015 - Our Pin Mill First Walk

A previous time up here - Thurs 5th August 2010 Sailing out of the Orwell River

Next walk - 9th August 2015 - Holbrook Walk