A voyage, but not quite the grand one… Friday 10th June  – Tollesbury to Walton Backwaters


Heydays is still waiting for full size water tanks to be fitted so the grand circumnavigation can’t start just yet, but she is just asking to be taken out on the water and to feel a decent breeze in a full sail again. So this is our mini tour for now, of the Essex and Suffolk coast and rivers and who knows…maybe we will properly start for Scotland in Early August.

As always we are trying to fit too much in to our lives. John is up in Tollesbury on Thursday evening around 8pm and is still up when I arrive at 1am, but sadly we need to get over the marina sill around 4! A very short sleep is rudely shattered at 3-30 and we cling to the last vestiges of warmth in our duvets for just a few more minutes.

There is already some light in the sky as we slip as quietly as possible from our birth accompanied by the early waders on the marsh… and the hacking cough from our friend the builder in the boat next door. He’s known only to us as Boson’s (the dog) owner and he also needs to be up at 4.

It’s difficult to describe this trip down the creek without lapsing in to so many clichés so I’ll let the pictures do the talking. No matter how often you do this, the gradual lightening in the sky in the East and then the actual moment of sunrise over Mersea, lifts the spirits like few other moments. Both of us are wishing that our wives were here to witness the moment, but both of us also realising that they would probably still be tucked up making zzs and waiting for their first coffee of the day.


We motor out past the Nass leaving the Blackwater behind and head out into the Wallet Spit-way. The wind turbines on the Gunfleet sands are turning very lazily and make an interesting juxtaposition with the old Bradwell power stations now being decommissioned (over 10 years). As we start to turn North the breeze eases slightly and we turn off the “iron topsail” (as the old oyster smack skippers probably never said). Heydays is finally sailing free for the first time this summer and we sit back and bask in a weak summer sun with water chuckling past the only sound this early in the morning.

Soon Walton-on-the-Naze pier is off the beam and it is time to start to look for the very narrow and inscrutable channel into the backwaters. The pilot books are full of dire warnings about shifting sand banks with the consistency of concrete, so it is with just a little apprehension that we put the motor on once more and head for a seemingly impenetrable coastline. We have our paper chart, our pilot book, our main plotter and a tablet to guide us in – no chances will be taken this time. With a depth of 1.6m and a whole 30cm (1 foot in old money) we scrape over the bar and into the untold joy of 3m of water. The east coast really does have a completely different understanding of “deep water”.

By 10.30 we have anchored with half a dozen other boats in Hanford water – part of the Walton Backwaters and have reunited ourselves with our pillows for ‘forty winks’! We spend a happy afternoon playing with a few charts and bits of rope and wood as (some) sailors are wont to do. A take on a Portuguese Caldeirada finishes off the evening.

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