2023.10.07 - Voyage Towards the Ballast Hole

With the Vernal Equinox now past and the daylight hours getting smaller overnight passages become harder and harder to carry out, so it was some satisfaction that I noted that this weekend was forecast to be reasonable for sailing. I contacted my friend Tim with Rabbit a Voyager 14 and we decided to make a trip towards the Ballast Hole up the River Blackwater, near Hilly Pool Point and next to the Blackwater Sailing Club.

With that in mind I drove down on the Saturday afternoon, a mistake as it took more than 30 minutes longer due to the traffic, got onboard, finished a couple of tasks that needed to be done before sailing, took the tools and thing not wanted on voyage back to the car, returned to the boat and settled down for the evening.

I had quite a good night's sleep not unusual for me on the mooring but before it got dark I was treated to a lovely sunset.

The next morning put all our voyage plans in doubt but Tim was already on his way so we would decide what to do when he arrived at around 9am.

Tim arrived a little early so we put Rabbit into the water and moored her on a vacant mooring whilst we put the cars and the trailer into the City Road car park and repaired to the Blackwater Pearl Cafe for a cup of tea. No photos of video footage of launching Rabbit since I was wearing chest-high waders and up to my waist in the water getting Rabbit off her trailer.

We decided to take Rabbit out to the mooring and since we didn't want to leave until between 11am and noon, we would take it easy there until that time before deciding what to do. As it happened, just before out schedules departure window opened, the wind got up a little and we got ready and sailed out through the narrows and started up the Blackwater against the remaining two hours of neap ebb tide. 

Then the wind dropped to virtually nothing for a couple of hours and we drifted along, now with the flood tide.

As you can see from the sea state in the above photo, it was nearly calm but we did make a little way through the water. I took this photo as it shows one of Rabbit's fin keels. Rabbit is lighter than Naiad and sails a bit better in the light winds and soon she had pulled away a little.

The wind did get up a little later on and Rabbit sailed away into the distance but even so, there was no chance of us getting up to the Ballast Hole before dark and soon Tim & Rabbit sailed back to Naiad and myself to see what we were to do next.

At the time we had three choices. We could head up into Thirslet Creek and anchor there for the night, we could continue on and see if there was a vacant mooring off the Stone or we could go back a little and spend the night in St Lawrence Creek. After a brief discussion we decided to do the latter, turned round and ran down wind to the entrance to the creek.

Finding the entrance was easy as the tide had not risen enough to cover the mud on either side but it was rising and the North Easterly leg of the creek was aldready under water and that was our slight undoing.

Let me explain.

This is a photo of St Lawrence Creek at low water taken from google Maps and you can see the two legs of the creek, one going to the North East towards Bradwell Marina and the other going to the South West towards St Lawrence Bay. Because the entrance and the first part of the creek are narrow, the tide rushes in even at neaps and then splits into two and goes up both legs. The trouble is that at the time we entered the creek the leg to the North East was only just under water and since we stayed to the Northern side of the creek as we entered the tide tried to take up up the North Eastern leg we went aground before we even realised that there was a problem.

We both put down our anchors and then the sails and since Naiad has a centerplate I heaved that up and used the quant to pole Naiad around in the water until I found the deeper water of the South Western leg. By that time the water had risen enough to cover the mud and the current slowed to a crawl allowing Tim to paddle Rabbit over to the deeper water and anchor.

It was another very pleasant evening and we were treated to another glorious sunset.

The following morning we were away just after 7:30 and had an uneventful trip back to the mooring.

Having picked up the mooring buoys I set about putting Naiad to bed, there was no rush which is good since I tend to forget things when I'm in a rush. When all was done I rowed and Tim sailed Rabbit back to the vacant mooring buoy by the quay and from there we rowed to the Hammerhead and brought the cars and trailer down to the hard. It didn't take long to get Rabbit on her trailer, as before no photos or footage of that since I was in chest-high waders again, up to my waist in the water getting Rabbit on to her trailer. 

After that it was a case of getting her ready to be towed back to her home by taking down the mast and stowing everything either in the cabin or in Tim's car.

We had a final drink at the cafe before the return trip to our respective homes.

So an unsuccessful voyage since we didn't reach the Ballast Hole but a very successful voyage in that we had a good sail, two lovely days and visited St Lawrence Creek.