Sunday, August 23, 2015

Two Day Cruise – Part 3 (Bradwell to Burnham)

Goodbye to Bradwell Power Station - literally it is being taken apart

Skipper at the helm

The skipper checking 'Ladybird's' mooring before leaving

Goodbye and thank you 'Ladybird'

A planned short coastal cruise may not be straightforward on account of the weather. Would there be enough wind? Would there be too much? Would we be able to sail the boat back to Burnham according to the navigator’s plan?

The 48 hour forecast at the start of the cruise predicted that the wind would be from a southerly direction between force 3 and 4. In which case, we would be on a reach for the first leg from Bradwell Marina to the Swin Spitway, and after tacking through the Spitway we could expect a long fetch with the wind coming from a point forward of the beam.

In practice, that is how it nearly panned out, except we arrived a little too early at the Spitway. Instead of being there shortly before low water when the ebb would have been almost stationary, the tide was still ebbing into the Wallet. In order to make over the ground, we had to have help from the engine. At that point, just when we did not want the wind to head us, it did! However, we were able to make 240 degrees while lee-bowing the ebb.

There are two passages between the Buxey Sand to the north and Foulness Sand to the south. We chose the northerly one marked by Swallowtial port hand buoys. The alternative passage was through the Whitaker Channel, but had we taken that option, the tide and wind would have swept us away from Burnham. The better tack was with the wind coming from the port hand side.

At the outset, on leaving Bradwell Marina, the sky was grey, and there was fine drizzle, which was not at all inviting. No wonder only two other yachts were under sail, each of them considerably larger than Ladybird, and as usual, the larger ones sailed faster. For us that was helpful, because we could see where they were heading which was in the direction we wanted to go, i.e., towards the starboard hand Bench Head buoy. From there we would continue to the N W Knoll buoy and the Eagle before arriving at the Spitway.

The sky began to clear, revealing bright blue openings between clouds to the SW. The wind increased to about a force three. Instead of sailing at two knots, the yacht was doing over four. We should have reduced sail to slow us down, for arriving at the Spitway as planned at 09.45 – just before low water. Low water at Burnham was at 1016, but out at the Spitway it was earlier. The further north you go on the North Sea, the earlier high water is. That’s because the flow or flood travels from north to south, and consequently the ebb moves in the opposite direction earlier than in the south.

The advantage of sailing at neaps is having deeper water at low water than at springs, because the range of water between high and low is less. For us, this was helpful because sailing on a south-westerly heading we could avoid the ebb by creeping over the shallows in the vicinity of the Swallowtail buoys. Beyond and in the Whitaker Channel, the flood made itself felt by lee bowing the yacht on both tacks – short when on starboard tack, and long on port.

On approaching Foulness Sand, south of the Sunken Buxey shoal, we drew close to seals basking on the sandspit. There you can sail very close to the sand in the proximity of Buxey No 1 buoy. Seals are not daft; they know were they can catch fish more easily -that’s where their prey have less room to pass between narrows; in this case, Sunken Buxey shoal to the north and Foulness Sand to the south.

Here we came to the highlight of our cruise. Conditions couldn’t have been more perfect – smooth water, sunshine, beautiful cloud formations, sparking water, fresh air, and a perfectly trimmed boat. Ahead, lay our destination. Seven miles away, we would have to stop sailing, tidy the boat, pack our gear into the tender, and call it a day. We did not wish our time away. Instead, we wanted to continue.

One thing I forgot to mention was the wonderful hospitality of the skipper. I never once had to prepare food or make a drink. He did it all! I was entirely spoiled and mollycoddled.

Thank you, Captain for a great time.


Two Day Cruise – Part 1

Two Day Cruise - Part 2 (Burnham to Bradwell)

Bradwell Power Station

Wild Foulness

Ray Sand Swatchway


Unknown said...

Hello Bill, it sounds like you had a lovely time. Im very pleased for you.

Stephen Mundane said...


So glad to read that you enjoyed the trip -- I learned a few things from your account.