2023.06.16 - Heybridge Basin Cruising in Company Weekend

The Cruising in Company section of the West Mersea Yacht Club had organised an event over the weekend of 17/18 June. Members would sail up to Heybridge Basin on either Friday (16th) or Saturday and there would be a BBQ on Saturday evening.

Since the long-range weather forecast indicated that this would be a decent weekend I added my name to the list.

The tides meant that I drive down to the mooring on Thursday evening and had plenty of time to unpack and get Naiad ready for an early start on Friday. Early in this case meant getting up at 04:00 and I left pretty much as soon as I had dressed and made a cup of tea. Getting off the mooring was easy now that Naiad is in the channel and with the wind more or less behind her, Naiad slipped out of the Besom Fleet only touching the mud a couple of time on the way into the river. 

After that the wind was on the starboard quarter virtually all the way up to Hilly Pool Point and despite the wind being light I put in a reef soon after setting off since we were moving fast enough to arrive far too soon. I shook that out a bit later on as the wind died a little and we sailed up river under full sail.

I spotted Shoal Waters nestled into the mud on the South West side of Osea Island sitting there, as Charles Stock used to say, like a fat contented duck. She had the aft part of her cockpit tent up and I could see her second owner sitting in the cockpit enjoying the beautiful morning.

On arriving at Heybridge Basin I sailed Naiad onto the soft mud and put down the anchor but soon changed this and simply used a paddle every so often to work Naiad closer to a vacant mooring every time she floated again on the rising tide. Once I had Naiad moored to the bouy I simply waited until I was cleared to move into the lock and then paddled Naiad in. Soon after that I was moored against the wall in the basin out of the way of everyone else. 

The plan was that since Naiad was the smallest boat in the basin I would be put on the very outside of the boats rafted up but when the time came, Paul, the lock keeper, asked me where I wanted to go and I replied that I had no preference and would go wherever he wanted me to go. He then asked if I would mind staying where I was and I agreed, of course.

I walked into a shopping centre just on the outskirts of Maldon after that going along the towpath and on my return I spotted a sign for the East Coast Path. I realised that this could not lead back to Maldon and must, therefore head towards Heybridge and I took that path to get back to Naiad.

This is a view of Maldon over the saltings from the East Coast Path.

The path itself is well maintained and obviously well used. This is looking back in the direction I had just come ...

... and this is the way onwards.

Now something about Heybridge Lock and Basin. Ask you see, the lock is only accessible at certain states of the tide. You might be able to get a canoe out at low water, possibly.

When the wind is blowing into the lock getting out for sailing craft without an engine is made nearly impossible by this set of pontoons on the North of the lock entrance...

...and the other pontoon and moored boats on the South side.

Interestingly, someone has been walking in the mud. I wonder why they didn't get stuck.

On arrival at the basin I found that the Heybridge Basin Regatta was being held this weekend, a very pleasant surprise.

Standing on the seaward mortice lock gate looking out to the river. The new sliding gate can be seen in the picture and this means that the length of the lock can be used if there are very large vessels moving through the lock or a large number trying to get in or out in a short tide window.

Looking the other way is the main lock and the inner mortice lock gate.

After the smack race on Saturday five of the eight smacks berthed in the basin as you can see here.

This is where Naiad was moored and she is just the right size to fit into this otherwise unused space. 

After a really nice BBQ on Saturday evening Sunday arrived with a bang in the form of a thunderstorm at 2am. The rain had mostly gone by the time I got up at 6am but it was a little damp under foot and since I don't have a cockpit tent as yet, I needed to bail out the cockpit a little.

By the time we started locking out around 11:30 the wind was blowing into the lock so I was given a tow by one of the smacks out into the main river. After that it was a wonderful sail back to the mooring. The first part was a beat pretty much all the way to Osea Island and not long after rounding Hilly Pool Point I had to heave to and take in a reef. 

Naiad sailing past Hilly Pool Point taken by Brigitte, one of the WMYC members who also attended the Heybridge Cruise.

Another photo taken by Brigitte.

I sailed on under reefed main and the staysail with the centre plate pulled up a little to balance the boat until I got just past Osea Island when the wind really got up and I hove to again and took in the second reef and furled the staysail. Under fully reefed main alone Naiad sailed down river aided by the tide and we eventually arrived back on the mooring at 16:10.

I had just started to pack the dinghy before leaving Naiad when I really started to rain. I didn't bother with the bird netting, just the cockpit cover and then pulled for the shore. I got drenched. Still, I had a spare set of dry clothes with me so once the car was packed and the dinghy stowed I was able to change into the dry kit for the drive home.

An excellent trip and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Time for a cup of tea.