Back in August 2005 at the tender age of 78 Charles Stock, realising that he did not have many years of sailing left, undertook a voyage to revisit some of the further reaches of the Suffolk and North Essex Rivers one last time. His plan was to visit the heads of navigation of the Alde, Deben, Orwell, Stour and Walton Backwaters in one trip and he documented this trip in his article entitled "Goodbye Suffolk" on his website.
In 2025 it will be twenty years since that voyage and what better way to celebrate that by attempting to do something similar in Naiad. That gives me two years to prepare by visiting each of the rivers and scouting out the areas which would have been very familiar to Charles after 40 years of sailing the East Coast.
Whilst the head of navigation for these rivers may have been accessible back in 2005, the very nature of the East Coast may mean that some of these have silted up and are no longer accessible. If this is the case then the aim will be to travel as fas a possible along the same route.
Dylan Winter sailed to the same places during the early years of his Keep Turning Left cruising series but these are undated so I've no idea when he made the visits. At a rough guess it will have been around 15 years ago.
Still, a search on the InterWeb suggests that all the heads of navigation that Charles reached in 2005 still have water at high tide but it remains to be seen if they can be reached in Naiad.
I have an advantage over Shoal Waters in that Naiad is accessible for a greater range of tides than she was and Naiad is 2-3 hours further up the coast, however, that does cause other logistical issues that I will have to work on over the coming years.
The route Charles took is as follows:
Day 1: Left his mooring at the Blackwater Sailing Club around noon, 2 hours before High Water and sail up the coast to Hamford Water where he anchored for the night.
Day 2: Sail further up the coast to cross the Ore Bar just as the tide turned and thence up to the Snape, then back to moor overnight in the lower reaches of the Butley river.
Day 3: Sail down the coast to catch the flood over the Deben Bar and up to Wilford Bridge, then back down the Deben to spend the night on the mud on the Western side of the river opposite Ramsholt.
Day 4: Sail down the coast to Languard Point and up the river Orwell to the dock gates at Ipswitch. The night was spend just below Pin Mill where he "beached for the night below Pin Mill in traditional style and after a walk, had a meal at the Butt and Oyster".
Day 5: Sail down the river Orwell and around Bloody Point where he anchored west of the marina channel for breakfast and once the flood had set up he sailed up the river Stour to Manningtree. From there he sailed down the river, out into the sea and thence to Walton where he moored for the night on soft mud towards Dunmore Creek.
Day 6: He moved over to Walton Stone to walk over the golden sands before breakfast. Then to the club to go shopping and to fill up the water cans; then back into the Twizzle and across the Wade to Kirby Creek, thence Hamford Water and on to Landmere. From there he sailed to Beaumont Quay Then back to the Bustway where he moored for the night.
Day 7: He left Hamford very early to be able to cut close round the Stone Point instead of going right out to the end of the Pye Sand, then down the coast to the Blackwater and up river to his mooring.
All told a 7 day trip covering "about one hundred and ninety nautical miles in just over sixty hours under way; having visited the head of navigation at each of the five Suffolk and north Essex estuaries.".
Recreating this trip exactly will be nigh on impossible and for a number of reasons. I don't have the 40 years of sailing experience along this coast that made this an easy trip for Charles, he knew the area so well that he probably did not even have to use his charts. It is also unlikely that the weather conditions will exactly match the weather that week in August 2005. Nor it is likely that I will be able to take the time off work at very short notice should the weather conditions and tide coincide. Charles, after all, was retired when he made this trip. Perhaps I will be able to do something like this in 2030 at the 25th anniversary of this voyage. Or even 2035 at the 30th anniversary should I still be hale and hearty. This one would be particularly poignant since I will also be 78 in 2035.
As a result 2025 will see me attempt to visit the same places as he did, just over the season rather than in just 7 consecutive days.
One of the many things for which Charles was renowned was to change his sailing destination to suit the weather. He thought nothing of setting off for one place only to turn around and go somewhere else if the wind changed. He tried to get to his destination but was not fixated upon it and always tried to use the wind and tide to his utmost advantage. He didn't have an engine, not even an outboard, and I remember well his admonition that "if the tide is against you, anchor and wait until it isn't". Now that have an engineless boat this way of sailing is something I have to adopt. Most of my sailing life has been in vessels with engines.