Passage 01, Burnham to Felixstow

Cripes! This was a baptism by fire. Me and my wife got to the boat by 9:30am on Saturday and I had to get a load of jobs done.

Then a photographer from the Essex Chronicle newspaper wanted to take snaps of me waving goodbye. Which I did in liberal quantities while motoring the boat back and forth in the marina. I smiled as hard as I could.

I needed to catch the tide and so I got away somewhat hurriedly at 1pm. Ideally I wanted to leave a little earlier.

It was windy. Very windy and blowing from the exact direction in which I was headed (NE). I was double reefed and hunkered down for an invigorating sail. Since the tide was with me for most of the way I actually went pretty fast, albeit in a zig-zag fashion. Although the sun was shining, the wind was very cold. So I had my full  sailing gear on, though in my haste to leave I had chosen not to wear extra layers and boots. Consequently, towards the end I was getting cold and wet - especially my feet!

The sea was heaving and I was getting bucketfuls of the stuff coming over the decks into my face. Every time that happened I would duck, but sometimes they got you.

The wind was F6 for most of the time (a yachtsman's gale) and as I was approaching Felixstowe the tide ran out and it went against me. I got the motor going and we were ploughing through heavy seas at 2 knots. This was very unpleasant but after 2 hours of misery I reached the protection of Felixstowe. The sun had set a while ago so the navigation lights were on and I was watching the big ships come in and out with their lights and noting all the flashing buoys.

It's actually quite fun at Felixstowe because you can be comparatively quite close to these huge ships as they are docking but know you're safe as the channels are very clear. Anyway, I made a beeline for Shotley marina, locked in and was on my pontoon by 10:30pm. Getting the boat alongside a pontoon on your own when it's pitch dark isn't easy and I had to have a couple of goes to get it right.

Phew, very relieved to be in port. Quick message to my wife to say all well then 1 hours clearing up and sponging out all the water that had ended up in the cabin.

Summary:
The trip took a little over 9 hours and I sailed for large majority of it. The winds were NE F5/6. The sail was at first invigorating and ended pretty nasty. On the whole, bearable.

Lessons learnt:
  • Make sure you have enough time to prepare properly. I had not provided enough easy access food & drink, had not warn my boots or extra clothing (i.e. had underestimated conditions). In rough sailing conditions a single hander can do very little else than to sail the boat. The auto-pilot is not "intelligent" enough to cope with the immediate challenges and wind and sea.
  • When sailing, don't get too close to an approaching buoy. I nearly hit one today because the wind behaved erratically when I as near it!