When things go wrong…..
Whilst Clive spent the weekend with his family in Somerset, catching up on stories about Florence, his mum, with lots of laughter and tears, I stayed on board Distant Drum at Ha’penny Pier being looked after by the lovely guys, Nick, John & Mike who between them manage all the visitors yachts and cruisers, the fishing boats and the Shotley / Felixstowe / Harwich Ferry. Live music locally and seeing good friends helped the weekend go by well. The generator kept working, though I had to clear weed from the sieve a couple of times, and I managed to keep the freezer frozen, the water hot and everything chugging well.
Clive was back on Monday just in time for the pump impeller to go again, sigh! I timed how long it took to repair, about two hours start to finish including some general maintenance on the generator. Just when we thought we had it all nailed, the trigger switch in the grey water tank clogged up, then clogged the pump (another pump, the boat is full of them) and another dismantling the bowels of the boat took place, Sigh again. As with all odd events, if they happen twice, there’s going to be a third, and even a fourth, fifth, sixth…..
We went to fetch our Avon rib with the intention of raising it onto our newly superdooper strengthened and adapted Davits (the things that hang at the back of your boat to lift your dinghy). This wasn’t as easy as we hoped. The battery was flat for starters. I got it onto the charger at the Harwich & Dovercourt Sailing Club and did an overnight slow boost, then put it back into the rib at the weekend. On Tuesday we got the petrol tank reconnected and lowered the rib into the water, and it started beautifully.
Clive whizzed off in a straight line and kept going in a straight line. The steering had seized! Using a combination of rowing and motoring, he managed to return to the pontoon. We craned the rib back onto her trailer and I towed her over to Seamark Nunn in Trimley for an overnight repair.
Collected the next day, we waited again for high tide then relaunched the rib – third time lucky… She started and went beautifully. We got her round to our yacht and put into action our lovely davits. The rope inside was all snarled up – another hour of shunting and undoing and dropping things and pulling and pushing and tweaking and swearing mildly, then swearing less mildly, and ropes were all back where they should be. This still didn’t work – too much rope for the davits and we couldn’t raise the rib high enough. Clive turned to me and said, “we better sell the rib, it’s just too big”. We left the rib on the ropes and I went to play Crib for the Globe against The British Flag, a friendly match and another story all on its own.
When I caught up with Clive afterwards, I heard one of the sooperdooper strengthened davits had snapped in half, dumping the engine end of the rib into the sea. Sigh! All retrieved and now back with the engineering company who ‘strengthened’ it in the first place. Definitely a good decision to sell the rib, even though it is lovely. Just too heavy and too big for what we need.
Anything else? I hear you ask…. While Clive was in Somerset I tried to start his old Jag which had been idle a couple of months. I couldn’t get the doors open with the key fob. Then after opening manually, I couldn’t lock them again. I couldn’t get the boot open either to take the battery out for a recharge. This all had to wait until Tuesday and I’m glad to say after much more shunting and mild swearing it all got sorted out and Max the Jag now runs like a dream once again.
After our week of mini disasters, we aimed for a change of scenery and a proper sail, and set out for Lowestoft up the east coast. It was lovely though a bit of a cold breeze. We sailed past the River Deben, the River Ore (which turns into the River Alde at Aldeborough), Orford Ness where the military used to test nuclear type weaponry and is now a nature reserve run by The National Trust, past Aldeborough, Thorpeness, Leiston Nuclear Power plant, Southwold and on up to Lowestoft. We realised en route that this was our first proper sail together on Distant Drum, with no extra crew, and we got on just fine without death or serious damage, always considered a success in maritime terms.
As we turned into the harbour entrance in Lowestoft, the Royal Norfolk & Suffolk Yacht Club came into view on our port side. A welcome retreat where we could plug into the mains, fill our water tanks and base ourselves for the weekend. Other sailors had just arrived and they helped us berth. I referred to them as midwives and it is great to have midwives on hand when you’re berthing! The clubhouse is a fabulous Grade II Arts & Crafts building dating from 1904, excellent beers straight from the barrel and the reputation of the men’s urinals is known far and wide, all pottery and porcelain (I of course took a sneaky peek and even took a picture). The ladies on the other hand were nothing to write about.
Lowestoft was once a hugely busy seaside resort as well as shipbuilding port. It got bombed to hell and back in both the first and second world wars and went into a major decline over the last twenty years. It now seems to be on the up. There’s something tangible happening along the seafront and in the town. The old department stores have managed to survive and there’s a friendly vibe about the place. We got Clive’s sunnies repaired at the opticians for free too, which all made for a good weekend. An old friend of mine Roy from college lives in Lowestoft and though he complained constantly about the short notice of our arrival, we met him and Steve (his partner) for an aperitif before walking to Pakefield, south of the town, for dinner at The Jolly Sailors and back along the beach. I don’t normally walk that far unless I’m being sponsored. And the length of the boys’ legs meant I had to quick walk to keep up!
On our last evening here, we took the bus out to Pakefield again to visit a pub called the Trowel & Hammer, the oldest surviving pub in Lowestoft, built in late 1500s to feed and water the stone masons and builders of the unusual thatched church next door. It was showing its age, and the pool table was thoroughly medieval!
Back along the beach we met a fellow sailor, Anton, as we returned to the yacht club, who promptly swept us up through the town to an old place called The Triangle. Great music, lots of real ales, a modern newly covered pool table, and clientele with more body piercings and tattoos than a fairground workforce. Anton, who looked just like Hagrid only shorter at 6’, proved to be a bit of a character downing pints of Ripper Ale, 8.8%! For those not beer aficionados, this is heavy duty, tasting like barley wine and rendering you legless after the first half. Not Anton!
We managed to escape shortly after midnight, before getting up at 6am for our sail back to Harwich. Managed to spring out the stern and reverse past the life boat before heading out towards the harbour mouth and into the north sea. We had a fab sail back south, averaging 8 knots in a 20 knot gusting 24 offshore norwester wind (reaching 9.8 during the gusts) with a fully reefed mainsail, our stay sail and the foresail. It was windy and the north sea is lumpy and shallow, and the sail was brilliant! Arrived at Ha’penny Pier just before five where we were met by Mike Dougan, aka Dougie.
Now Dougie used to live in Hatfield Broad Oak a few decades back, and I was brought up in Bush End, which is the next village. When we met Dougie last year in Harwich I told him this and he said, “David Davies, my solicitor, lived in Bush End”. “That’s my dad!” I replied. Small world.
Whilst we had a good sail yesterday, a Dutch couple who got here towards dusk had taken 24 hours to get across the sea with the wind on their nose and the tides on their beams the whole journey. Coping with four tides, the husband was on the helm whilst the wife spent the entire passage throwing up. We felt really sorry for them. They headed up the Orwell this morning to Ipswich where there’s no swell at all and they can have a stationary few days safely behind lock gates.
It’s the start of the Harwich Festival tonight www.harwichfestival.co.uk, and we’re invited to the art private view at The Swan Gallery, then a brass band on the LV18 Lightship and Jazz at The New Bell. We’re going to take advantage of the Festival tomorrow before heading to Somerset for Florence’s funeral. There’s a free 1 hour concert in St Nicholas Church featuring Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker (BBC Folk Award best duo 2015) and the children’s carnival parade at 1.30. We trust this will put us in a light mood for the frazzling A12, M25 & M3 journey westwards to Frome tomorrow afternoon. With Glastonbury on this weekend, we can guarantee two things, the traffic will be dire and it’s going to rain – rephrase that, pour with rain!
More next week…..
Water feature in Lowestoft – children and quite a few adults spend all day running through it and getting soaked, brilliant!
Thames barges, Hydrogen and Thistle, arrive in Harwich