Saturday, July 18, 2009
Unexpected pleasures are the best, and today I found this to be so. I had hoped to sail my boat with my nephew and his son, but the wind was gusting to 32 mph - that was according to the Burnham-on-Crouch weather station - and I didn’t fancy taking the ebb towards the eastern end of the Maplin Sands where there would be no shelter. We had wanted to see the seals that laze on the sandbanks at low water, but commonsense prevailed. Instead of sailing, I took the car to the Yacht Basin at Heybridge from where I walked along the old canal towpath. The last time I had seen the canal was two years ago and I noted that new shingle had been laid for pedestrians and cyclists. There was also a new outdoor refreshment area by the free car park. Food and drink can be purchased there from the proprietor who has a hut and a floating pontoon for rowing boats for hire. I observed that as usual Moorhens and Mallards swam between yachts and motorboats moored beside the reedy banks. Further along the canal, seated by the water’s edge in spaces between marsh grass and bushes, there were a few fishermen with their very long carbon fibre rods and submerged landing nets. Shafts of sunlight emerging from gaps between white clouds reflected off rippled water to highlight golden water lilies and tiny stones lapped by the clear water which nearly overflowed the towpath. Apart from the soothing sound of the pulsing wind through the branches of overhanging trees and dense hedgerows there was a wonderful quietness that made the sharp calls of moorhens sound harsh by contrast with the inner peace if felt. I savoured the clean moist air as the west wind cooled my cheeks while I strode along the path. A couple of cyclists swished by and I met a man and women with their white husky dog.
Back at the Basin where the canal enters the River Blackwater, I took photos of a gorgeous wooden ketch named ‘Black Rose’, and while conversing with her shipwright owner I discovered she had been made from Siberian larch overlaid with veneers of another wood, the name of which I can’t recall. Continuing my walk, I took the path to the Blackwater Sailing Club where I chanced upon ‘Shoal Waters’, Charles Stock’s tiny yacht he has cruised locally over many years. Charles is a well-known sailor on account of his book. (http://shoal-waters.moonfruit.com/) On my way back to the Basin I briefly sat at a wooden seat strategically placed where there’s a view overlooking moored yachts. Attached to the seat there’s a bronze plaque dedicated to the memory of Bru Nichols who had been a commodore of the Blackwater Sailing Club. The short epitaph engraved into the plaque informs the reader that Bru was a man who had a great sense of humour and a zest for life. I wondered what words my nearest and dearest would choose to sum up my character and life.
After crossing the narrow bridge over the lock gates I walked a little more to a sheltered spot below the river wall from where I had a view over the mud flats; there a single Redshank searched for its lunch, while further on, Black – headed Gulls noisily vied with one another, and overhead a flock of chattering Tree Sparrows zoomed by. I ate my picnic lunch as the wind-blown clouds scudded overhead and I knew my decision not to sail had been right.