'Greensleeves', Roy Hart's Memory class gaffer entering the Yacht Harbour
Bridgemarsh Marina astern
Bridgemarsh Island to port
One of many yachts and motorboats that passed by while I was having lunch
A Squib heading upriver
A Rannoch two-man ocean rowing boat
'Pike' being put to bed in her boathouse
When it comes to having a sail, good weather makes a big
difference. Yesterday’s was perfect, and the most important aspect was the
character of the wind – its direction and speed. The wind was
generally from the north and never more than a Force 2, which was ideal for
exploring Bridgemarsh Creek, a backwater where I seldom sail, on account of it
being shallow and because the prevailing wind is from the SW. It is best done when the tide is making, so that if
the boat gets stuck on the mud she will float free.
Burnham high water
was at 1140, and by arriving at the eastern entrance of the creek at 1015 I had
ample time for a leisurely sail to the exit at the other end before the ebb. The flood tide enters at the eastern end, and on
approaching the creek I felt the speed of water increase. ‘Pike’ was being
lee-bowed into the narrow orifice from where I could see the masts of yachts
poking up above the muddy bank of Bridgemarsh Island.
I was amazed at how quiet it was - the only sound I could
hear was that of tiny wavelets slapping ‘Pike’s’ bow. These happy, chuckling
notes, resonated by her bow chamber, lifted my soul; as did the dancing peak of
her tanned sail that jigged to and fro before an infinite, azure, cloudless
sky. Around the corner, two scruffy buoys marked the channel, and there ahead
lay many yachts berthed at pontoons that straddled the creek. Uncertain if
they were linked to the northern shore by walkways, I chose to glide through a
gap to the south of them. I wove a course between clumps
of motionless weed floating on the surface, and I occasionally glanced
astern to see if any had lodged on the rudder.
This was an adventure. Having no chart and no GPS, it was
back to basics. Deeper water was generally to be found closer to steep-sided
banks, but I came to a point near the end of the creek where there appeared to
be an island, one that I could not remember being there on previous excursions. To starboard and
beyond it, I could see a high bank along which runs a footpath from North
Fambridge Yacht Station to Bridgemarsh Marina. A choice had to made, which side
of the island to go, and I chose the wider stretch of water to the SW, beyond
which I could see what looked like the exit leading to the Crouch.
Once again, back on the river, I was free to take a break
and to have an early lunch. I brailed the sail and left ‘Pike’ to her own
devices. She very slowly drifted towards the Fambridge moorings while I relaxed,
munched and took in the many comings and goings of yachts and motorboats. I was
reminded that it was a Saturday, and like me, all of us were there seeking what
pleasure we could find. Therefore I could not grumble when my little boat was
tossed like a cork on the wakes of gin palaces, of which there were several,
seemingly taking part in manoeuvres resembling a naval exercise. They proceeded down river in convoy to a distant buoy and returned to the Fambridge moorings.
As I made sail and got under way for Burnham Yacht Harbour the
wind veered, causing ‘Pike’ to be close-hauled, but the sailing was delightful.
I lay on the floor of the boat with my feet facing forwards elevated on the
thwart; I held the tiller with my raised right hand and the sheet in my left. I
felt the wind on my cheek, inhaled the fragrant air and thanked God for His
love and kindness to me.
Back at the Yacht Harbour I skipped past the queue of motor
yachts waiting for fuel, and the boat came to a gentle halt at the
slime-covered slipway, the tide having fallen several feet. Getting ‘Pike’ on
her trolley past the green sludge without sliding and landing on my backside
required patience and tiny steps taken with caution.
Just before leaving the Yacht Harbour for the journey home,
I had the privilege of meeting Charlie Pitcher who was there helping someone
launch a two man rowing boat manufactured at Charlie’s yard.
The Ocean Rowing Company
Battlesbridge (Where I first saw ‘Greensleeves’, a Memory