Yachting Monthly|July 2020

Nick Ardley helps a New Zealand expat relive some of his memories of sailing along the Thames Estuary as a boy
Nick Ardley

‘I ’ve never seen Iken Church from the water,’ Paul Mullings wrote in an email, long before he arrived from down-under for an English summer away from a New Zealand winter. I gave him a slot with favourable tides to enter the Rivers Ore and Alde and it was booked into Whimbrel’s family summer sailing calendar. Paul is a seasoned sailor, downsizing to a Farr trailer-sailer. He’s part of an active group around New Zealand’s North Island. Essex born, he reappears now and then. On his last visit in 2017 he caressed the time-worn stem of the famous spritsail racer, Veronica, in her marshland grave at Bedlams Bottom, Stangate Creek, and sailed the Medway’s inner passages. This voyage would be far more adventurous and weather dependent.

On a glorious Friday morning, late August, Paul’s lovely wife Shona delivered him to Bradwell. After coffee and chat, the girls departed just before noon to visit Bradwell’s air force memorial upon which New Zealanders are named. Boat briefing over, we slipped the lines and were away.

Our Finesse 24, Whimbrel was under sail before clearing Bradwell Creek and we enjoyed an uneventful sail to Brightlingsea, marvelling at the stately spritsail barge Centaur inbound for Maldon. The tender’s bottom needed scrubbing, once done we had tea. Later, over a beer we toasted, ‘Iken or bust!’ It was a glorious sunset, rowing back after supper ashore.

Our planned departure was earlyish, so after ensuring morning readiness, the bunks were soon listening to our slumbering snores.

The screaming alarm woke me the following morning and I put the kettle on. Outside there was no wind. I shortened lines and streamed the tender astern. I called ‘Tea!’ to Paul and he swiftly appeared, grabbing a mug. A brief discussion and we were away, clearing Brightlingsea beacon shortly after 0600. We sneaked round Colne Point, my usual route with enough tide. We motor sailed for five hours. Our only disconcerting moment was when a large yacht chased up our stern and raced by on autopilot.


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July 2020