Category Archives: Boating

Wind Power 2

Sailing By

A few more peaceful images for your Sunday morning… (click for larger versions)

Boats on the swinging moorings at the Royal Harwich Yacht Club wait for the day to begin, and the tide to come in.

A cormorant dries his wings as the sun makes its appearance. But the fields are still shrouded in mist.

We head out in our little boat to see what the day will hold.

At Harwich, a row of lightships is moored in a line across the estuary. I wonder why they’re there; they aren’t even lit at night. It turns out they are brought here, from all over the country, for servicing. This is the MOT bay. Men go across from the white ship and change the lightbulbs.

Radio Caroline. No longer rocking. But still gently rolling.

That evening, the sun goes down over Harwich church.

A view from the gents’ loo at Shotley Marina.

All night, a gentle whirring and clunking reaches across the water, as the port of Felixstowe does its best to keep supplies coming into the country. (And exports going out.)

At dawn the following morning, the work is still going on.

Wind Power

Passers-by, just off the Essex coast.

I’ve just spent five days living on a small boat, in order to gain a certificate from the Royal Yachting Association that describes me as ‘Competent Crew’. I guess this is the modern equivalent of ‘Able Seaman’.

It was a splendid experience, which I’ll write about soon, when life is less hectic. In the meantime, I offer a couple of soothing pictures.

The Road Home: This the channel out of Bradwell Marina, just after dawn. A very East-Anglian sight at low tide. About 20 minutes later we had enough depth to creep out.

The sound of bubbles

Late last summer we were in Cornwall and spent a delightful day on the Helford river in a boat we rented for the purpose. It had a motor, which was very convenient, but having driven an electric car for the last 6 years, I was very conscious again of just how much noise a combustion engine makes, especially when it’s in the form of an outboard sitting right behind you. Since that day, I’ve been desirous of an electric-powered boat.

Well, today we were able to try out a couple of recent purchases. Our new vessel, Tiddler, is an inflatable that comes somewhere between a RIB tender and an inflatable kayak — and we paired it with an ePropulsion electric outboard, which is a marvellous thing that can be put in the back of the car without any risk of petrol spills. In fact we can just about get the boat, the pump, the engine, the battery and the oars in the boot of our saloon car without needing to fold the seats down.

It took some research to find a combination that would do that, but I was keen to try because it turns out that Teslas are ridiculously dependent on their very low drag coefficient for their range, and doing reckless things like putting something on a roof-rack or towing it behind has quite an impact, so keeping things inside is a good idea if you can.

Anyway, we had a rather idyllic but high-tech day, zooming from our house to the little harbour just over an hour away, along a highway that took us almost all the way, so the car did the vast majority of the driving. Then pottering around the estuary mostly in sunshine and mostly in silence, mooring near a famous waterside pub that we knew to serve excellent fish and chips, and then heading back home the same way. This simultaneously proved two things to my satisfaction: firstly, that most forms of transport can be improved with the addition of a good battery, and secondly, that despite all this technology there’s still nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.

Anchors aweigh

It came to my attention, when renting a small boat last year, that I didn’t really know much about anchors: how best to use them, how long the rode (the cable) should be, and so forth. The little dinghy I sailed in my youth had a mud-weight, but a proper anchor? No, I’d never really had to use one of those myself, certainly not in any situation where it might matter. This gap in my knowledge was brought to mind again today as we listened to the audiobook of We Didn’t Mean to Go To Sea. Connoisseurs of quality children’s literature will understand the relevance.

Now, the wonders of modern life allow you to find out all sorts of things in all sorts of situations, and so it was that, relaxing in the bath after a hard day’s domestic labour, my thoughts naturally turned to things aquatic. I had my trusty iPad to hand, and so was able to watch a range of YouTube videos from people in exotic parts of the world explaining the different kinds of anchor, how long the rode should be for a given depth of water, why it’s important that the bit that attaches to the anchor should be a chain even if the rest of it is rope, and so on. Time passed, and I became simultaneously cleaner, more relaxed, and better-educated.

Finally, feeling that the bathwater was getting a bit cool, and it was time to move to a different berth, and I was now equipped to handle most anchoring situations I was likely to encounter before bed, I sat up, reached for the plug-chain, and gave it a tug. It seemed to stick for a moment and then came free, and I wound it in, only to discover a situation for which none of my training had prepared me…

The plug had remained in the murky depths. There was nothing on the end of the dangling chain.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser