Nancy Blackett had a busy Autumn between her Dutch Adventure over the summer and the 80th Anniversary Marathon Reading of “We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea” in October, writes John Smith…
At the end of September, Nancy Blackett had a truncated weekend cruise, with a Saturday sail in a gentle breeze from Woolverstone down to the Walton Backwaters for lunch. Sunday’s sailing was cancelled due to a severe weather forecast.
On 3rd October Nancy Blackett received a school visit from Year 4 (age 8-9) pupils of Brandeston Hall School, where they use the heavily-abbreviated Oxford version of “We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea.” They were divided into four groups of eight and rotated through four activities, each about an hour long – a visit to Nancy, flags and signals in the Neptune Centre, a mile’s walk along the coast path to or from Pin Mill, and a session exploring Pin Mill (with a one-way minibus link to sort them out). They enjoyed their day, and the school was as usual appreciative and supportive. And one child turned out to be distantly related to Arthur Ransome.
The following quiet weekend saw two day-sails. On an overcast and gusty Saturday, Nancy Blackett and her crew sailed gently downstream, passing the container berths at Felixtowe and turning into the Stour. A sumptuous lunch was kindly provided by the crew off Shotley Pier. The wind eventually dropped and rain started towards the end of the afternoon. The Sunday sail started out in calm conditions, sailing with the tide downriver to Harwich, with lunch on a mooring in Bathside Bay. Altogether a lovely day in great company.
14th and 15th Oct saw the last weekend cruise of the season, with Nancy Blackett and her crew mostly beating their way in windy conditions to the Walton Backwaters, before doing some exploring down ‘Goblin Creek’ as far down as ‘Bridget Island’. After spending a night on a buoy in the Walton Channel, Sunday saw glorious sunshine and they reached or ran all the way back. A lovely way to finish the season.
The end-of-season Autumn Cruise started on the Monday, with an enjoyable a meal in the Butt and Oyster, a few hours of sailing out on the River Orwell before the weather deteriorated, and a passage to Secret Water on Tuesday.
They did have a surprise when tackling the Walton Channel in ‘Secret Water’, about an hour before low water – managing to run aground in the mud. Later chart analysis suggested that the channel is shallower in places than when charted. It did, however, give an opportunity for some “Swallows and Amazons” type activities, including taking some depth soundings in the dinghy while Nancy Blackett settled in the soft mud. Once freed, the night was spent at Titchmarsh marina, before returning to Shotley on Wednesday.
Dinner in the Shipwreck at Shotley on Wednesday evening was made more exciting by the very thick fog that settled in across the water. Thankfully it had mostly cleared in time for locking out early on Thursday morning.
Nancy Blackett and her crew arrived safely in Woodbridge later on Thursday, well ahead of the forecast Storm Brian, after an excellent passage from Shotley marina in limited visibility some of the time. The new AIS proved invaluable, particularly when crossing the foggy shipping channel. identifying a mystery stand-on vessel, the OYT sail training vessel James Cook, appearing through the mist quite close by, just north of the approach channel.
Over the Laying Up Weekend (21st/22nd October), with the Marathon Reading of “We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea” taking place at Pin Mill Sailing Club on Saturday, the volunteers who prepared Nancy Blackett for her winter stay in Robertsons boatyard completed the main unloading tasks by Sunday afternoon, with around a dozen going on to enjoy a very convivial annual supper in the Cherry Tree. Our thanks to all those who attended and gave such great help to get all the work done.
Additional reporting by Peter Willis.