Several posts really belong together here as they are simply different aspects of the same trip where we made the long drive north to the lake district for a few days at camp then an even longer and more tedious drive south-east over to the Norfolk coast and then south again, first to Essex, the Solent and then home : a lot of driving and some good time spent camping and walking. The circular nature of the trip came about because it made sense to drop in on my parents in east-anglia while also trying to fit in as many boat viewing opportunities as possible : 2 boats in Essex , one in the Solent and hopefully one in Poole. Of course it didn’t work out as well as that and mainly because it wasn’t easy to predict when we would get to a given point given the problems and endless driving delays , parts of the M6 for example were closed for 6 or 7 hours on the way north due to an accident and entailed a long detour through parts of Lancashire, amazingly right past places where i sailed for a while.
The Essex section was all about going to see 2 boats : the Dehler 25 on its trailer at Tollesbury and hopefully a Sadler 25 at Wivenhoe, both boat types being on my ‘to see’ list. We found the Dehler ok in a brokerage at Tollesbury but the Sadler owner never got back in contact and i didn’t want to spend hours searching boatyards on a wet and miserable day when we were trying to get to the Solent by the end of the day to see the GK29 in Portsmouth. I don’t know what it is about Essex and boats but i find the place and the boats somehow quite sad and depressing, ok so every time i have been to see a boat in Essex its been a dull, grey and wet day and the boats i have been to see haven’t been as interesting as the odd stuff seen in the yards and creeks…even the broken down buildings have had more appeal . Not so long ago i made the long trek east to see the first of 2 Hunter Liberty’s somewhere near Burnham on Crouch and it was a horrible road trip with delay after delay and that ended up as some 12 hours sat in traffic jams. What made it a lot worse was being absolutely stung for all the unseen ‘extras’ where i stayed (parking etc) and the hard-faced nature of the Essex towns. On this trip i found Colchester utterly depressing with a low point of nearly having to step over some poor homeless person crashed out in a sleeping bag in a urine smelling stairwell of a multi-story car park.
Having enjoyed the writings of sailors such as the late Charles Stock (Shoal Waters) and Maurice Griffiths i thought i would enjoy the Essex marshes and the whole idea of secret shallow creeks and saltings but after Norfolk it all looked grey and dismal under a low grey sky. At heart i guess i am a blue-water sailor although i have really enjoyed the shallow rivers and creeks of the west-country so far : maybe i like the contrast there because the shallow stuff is so close to the deep blue/green waters of the bolder coasts of Devon and Cornwall. On the other hand I do like the look of many of the odd boats that i have seen in the creeks here even though some of them seem rooted in the mud !
The area reminds me slightly of somewhere that i sailed and raced occasionally when i lived over in the north-west (Preston) near Fleetwood. For a while i crewed on an offshore boat that raced a winter series in i think the lune : the offshore boats all lived moored against pilings driven into the deep mud and it was usually my job to wade into the thick gloop to scrub as much of the keel as we could before each race….in winter too so you can imagine how much fun that was. One of the more competitive owners was known as ‘motormouth’ for his contiuous shouting and berating the crew : i sailed with him once only and nearly took a winch handle to his head that first and last time.
Red Rum :
The main event for us in going to the Essex coast was getting to see the Dehler 25 (Red Rum) as being a strong contender for ‘next boat’ and i must say that superficially the boat and its trailer are in good order and even the broker said hat the owner spent most of his time cleaning and polishing the GRP ! . This potential boat idea comes from my long connection with IOR race boats and this is really a quarter-tonner with a lifting keel so it should sail quite well. My first impression of boat and trailer was good but i liked the boat less and less the more i saw of it. In short i have excluded it from the list mainly for being fussy and over-engineered but also not having a very useable interior : i can imagine it working ok for a couple with children and as a weekender but the pair of us couldn’t get comfortable really anywhere inside from ‘double’ forepeak berth to the fold-out cabin bunks, nor did i like the odd sliding galley arrangement or the ineffectively small chart table. For a boat longer and wider than my own it didn’t feel as though it had useable space for a longer term cruising boat. It all seemed fussy and over-engineered and as though the designer had tried to pack in too many clever features and maybe i just like a simpler and more rugged boat. If anything it was a useful exercise in that i can now exclude the type as a potential choice for a larger boat.
As i say i had a lot more fun poking around the oddities parked and/or abandonned in the other boatyards nearby : from the dying folkboat with a hopeful ‘offers’ sign to a suspiscously ‘junk’ like object under a tarp and this very strange looking chine/planked gaffer. I always imagine this area as being the haunt of the infamous ‘old Harry’ and his old gaffer (the late Des Sleightholme i believe) : maybe this area grows on you (like seaweed perhaps). I could have back-tracked a bit and tried to find the Sadler 25 in Wivenhoe but the timing was such that if i could get across the Thames crossing and around the M25 then there would be a chance to see the GK29 before the end of the day so rather than poking around muddy Essex boayards all day we high-tailed it away.
Nice folkboat (not the dead one).
Peter Cash wrote : “Great essay, really like your style.
Me….embarrassed as i think i am a carp writer.