Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sunday, 10th July

After a good 800 nautical miles of coastal cruising between Burnham-on-Crouch and the Scilly Isles, ‘Bumper’ has returned home to her mooring at Rice and Coles. She’s an able boat for her size, but like all sailing craft, those who crew them must learn how to get the best out of them.

Over a period of two months and eight days, my Virgo Voyager has become my second home. If she has a soul, then I’m tuned into her. Working her has become second nature. Everything has become automatic or reflexive; I intuitively know if she is not performing her best. Her every movement means something; the amount of heel, the rhythm of pitch, the feel of the tiller or the flutter of the luff. I know her strengths and weaknesses, and accept her for what she is. She’s a small boat with a big heart; she has more inside her than you would imagine.

The clock alarm was set for 0300; bleary eyed from a poor night, I prepared and ate breakfast before donning my waterproofs. There was complete darkness outside the cabin, except for the lights of Southend and the pier. When I lifted the anchor, surprisingly there was no mud on it, for which I was thankful, because cleaning ‘ughy-ughy’ in dark while using a light attached to my forehead would not have been much fun. Leigh Buoy, marking the entrance of Ray Gut creek, was not lit. With the engine on, we set off and I made a guess as to where the buoy was; five minutes later its dark shape loomed out of the darkness about half a cable to starboard.

By 0500 there was sufficient daylight for me to turn off the navigation lights. Within a quarter of an hour we were being whisked past South Shoebury Buoy by the fast ebbing tide; to starboard there were some ships at anchor, one having a pilot put aboard. I was searching ahead for the 5 second, green flash of Blacktail Spit Buoy, when I became conscious of the early morning chill which could be felt through my two sweaters and waterproofs. I pulled up my hood for some protection from the sharp, but slight north easterly wind. Our speed over the smooth water was 5.5 knots. If only we could keep this up until reaching the South Whitaker Buoy, our turning point for the River Crouch, we would be home and dry.

So the morning progressed, as we worked from one marker to another. Two miles from our turning point we were overtaken by a flotilla of swish yachts bound for the Spitway, perhaps en route for Brightlingsea or Maldon. As we started our run for the River Crouch the sun broke through the overhead haze and before long I shed my protective outer garments until being clad only in a shirt and trousers. ‘Fred’ obligingly steered while I brewed up. Motor yachts, sailing yachts and rod fishing boats were all on there way to sea against the incoming flood tide. Only four seals were on the exposed sands of Foulness, unlike the time before my cruise when I was testing the boat, there were thirty-seven!

The familiar waters of the inner Crouch were teaming with racing yachts and others out for Sunday sailing. For me, there were mixed emotions; I was sad the cruise was coming to a close, but I was pleased to be nearly home, safe and well, especially wanting to kiss my wife, give her a big hug, and tell her I had missed her. Late this afternoon I did just that, when my youngest daughter, Lisa and her husband Dave brought June to Burnham in my car. We loaded all the gear into the boot and tied the Seahopper dinghy on the roof rack; less than three-quarters of an hour later we were home.

“Ugh! Look at all those weeds in garden……… but more exercise will do me good.

Here ends the Cruise Log of, “‘Bumper’ to the Scillies and Back.”

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