2023.09.29 - Autumn Voyage to Heybridge Basin

The last weekend in September/First weekend in October was booked as a Cruising in Company trip to Heybridge Basin. Although the weather forecast for Friday indicated that the wind would be a bit stronger than I would like, I decided to go anyway since I needed to get used to sailing Naiad in conditions that I would prefer not to sail given the choice.

I set off earlier than I had first planned as the tides for the weekend were very high, the highest for the year, so I'm told, and setting off at my original time would have me waiting at the Strood until the water had receded and vehicles could drive over. As a result I arrived well before High Water and still found the water lapping the edge of the road at the top of the hard. With such a short distance between the dinghy park and the water's edge it didn't take long to get the dinghy into the water and loaded.

Once on Naiad I started preparing her for the weekend trip including finishing some jobs such as the sealing of the new solar panel and the removal of the bent copper nail under the bridge deck. I forgot to bring a suitable drill bit for drilling copper and since the head of the bent nail broke off and I couldn't use the same hole, putting in a new nail will have to wait until my next visit when I bring a metal drill bit of the correct size.

Having done all that I returned the carry bucket of tools and other paraphernalia that was not wanted on the voyage, rowed back ashore, to the Hammerhead thins time, parked the car in the City Road car park and then stopped at the Blackwater Pearl Café for a cup of tea and a flapjack.

Once back on Naiad I had the choice of either going out and spending the night anchored in the Blackwater allowing me to set sail just after the tide turned at 07:30 or to stay on the mooring and leave around 4am to get through the narrows and then stooge around until Low Water before starting the trip up river.

The wind was still quite strong and gusty but I decided to go anyway, put in two reefs before setting the mainsail and sailed out into the Estuary.

It was a very interesting few hours and I learnt a lot about Naiad in that time.

This is Naiad's track from setting off to the point where I anchored. As you can see, the first part of the trip we spent just tacking backwards and forward, making progress on one tack up the river only to lose it on the other tack. I tried two reefs, one reef not reef, both headsails, no headsails and each individually but it didn't seem to make a great deal of difference. The main factor in this was the angle at which Naiad was sailing relative to the waves. Where she made progress she was sailing at more than 45º to the waves and where she lost ground, she was sailing less that 45º to the waves.

Once I had figured this out we started to make progress as I sailed in the shallower and more protected parts of the river and shortly after that the tide turned and despite the wave increasing in size as a result (wind over tide) we made good progress to where I wanted to spend the night.

The wind died overnight and when I awoke at 06:30 and the sun rose a little while later over a calm sea, very picturesque.

In the above photo you can see the track we made from the anchorage to Heybridge Lock. It was a nice sail although the wind did drop for about an hour, but on the way I decided to try out a self-steering arrangement.

Finally, however, we arrived at the lock.

This is a view of the approaches to Heybridge Lock when the tide is out. You can see why the lock is only open for about two hours at High Water.

I had a great visit but on the Sunday the wind was howling through the trees and rigging and I did wonder if it would be possible to sail back to West Mersea. I put in two reef whilst still tied up to the quay and then moved into the lock where another boat offered me a tow out past the pontoons on the left of the lock as seen in the aerial photo above. That worked well and as soon as I was cast off from the tow I hoisted sail and had an amazing sail back to the mooring.

This is the track we made going home, I took the short route to the North of Osea Island and kept close to the shore once in the main river.

Naiad looks quite small compare to the other boats that were also on the cruise.

But she looks so nice and I am really enjoying the sail home. With the wind mostly from behind a lot of the power went out of the wind and it was not at all uncomfortable sailing.