EAST's summer cruise

With our new EAST battle flags hoisted, the fleet of six yachts set off from Suffolk Yacht Harbour on Saturday, 15 July for what we hoped would be eight days of good sailing. It rained most of the day but we still managed to sail the Orwell and Stour before heading up the coast to the Deben where we planned to spend the night at Ramsholt. Several crews made it to the Pub by dinghy while others decided to stay onboard. Despite the miserable weather throughout the day, the evening was calm and still – a beautiful place to spend the night.

The next day, bright and early we headed out of the river and up the coast to Lowestoft. We believe this was the first time the annual EAST cruise has gone that far North!! The Royal Norfolk and Suffolk YC were very welcoming and we all enjoyed an evening sitting around, chatting about the day and getting to know each other.

Monday was another early start in order to catch the tide into the Blyth at Southwold. The wind was not favourable – 'on the nose' but most boats still managed a sail, although somewhat brisk. One of the boats, in a very casual fashion announced on the VHF that they had 'anchored for breakfast'. This raised some suspicion amongst the other crews and we discovered later that the anchor from that nameless boat had fallen off and they had come to a very abrupt halt!!

The Blyth was a delightful discovery although it is quite difficult to negotiate. The tide runs very fast so a lot of skill was called for when the boats were coming alongside and securing lines. As we were not far from 'The Harbour Inn' it seemed a good idea to meet ashore and have a meal together. This was followed by moving on to the Southwold Sailing Club for a quiz arranged by Julian Garner and Simon Coates. Great fun and lots of laughter! And the winning team............the crew of Rosabella, skippered of course by our Chairman Tim Thomas.

Barbara, our Coordinator and Ian, the Admiral of the fleet had arranged a visit to Adnams Brewery for Tuesday so we knew we were staying put. Our guide at the Brewery was very knowledgeable about the processes necessary for brewing beer so this made for a very interesting day. It was also helped along by the tasting and free samples. Some also managed to do a wine tasting which apparently included a wine that tastes like chocolate (can't imagine what that is like). In the evening we met again in the Sailing Club for a curry meal which was cooked by a crew member on one of the boats.

The following morning it was evident that the weather was not in our favour and that leaving Southwold would not be an option. The winds blew (F5/7) and the rain fell and we did not venture out. On the bright side it gave us all the opportunity to explore Southwold and Walberswick – in the rain. But we were a resilient bunch and not at all despondent so gathered together in the evening again, firstly onboard Margarita for drinks and nibbles and then at the Sailing Club for some fun games which created a lot of laughter – again organised by Julian with the help of his lovely assistant, Julie Crapnell.

Thursday dawned, the wind still blew and our early planned departure was delayed. However the morning brightened and we decided to head for Shotley. The planned stop was to have been Aldeburgh but the state of the tide meant this was not an option so, after a brisk and squally sail down the coast we settled into Shotley Marina for the night. With the crews in good spirits we met up in the 'Last Anchor' for drinks and a social.

With anticipation our Skippers watched the weather pattern. Friday – no wind but sunny, so a lovely day to head back up the coast to Aldeburgh. Once in the Alde after a slow motor/sail we were able to raft up on moorings which was very sociable. Here we were able to use the Yacht Club ferry to go ashore and visit Aldeburgh town. The evening was spent aboard the yachts where we entertained the surrounding boats with a sing song – not together or in tune but nevertheless great fun! Sadly none of our musicians were with us this year so it was all unaccompanied.

Saturday again! Not much wind but a bright and sunny morning. Around 0600 hrs a couple of the yachts slipped away under their genoas and gently drifted down the river under a whisper of wind and a chuckling tide! A great opportunity to watch the bird life on Havergate Island!

Once out of the river it was a very light wind that carried us back to the Orwell although one boat did manage to fly their cruising chute albeit for only a short time. One boat also managed to 'go foreign' and rounded the Roughs Tower (aka “Sealand”!) before heading for Suffolk Yacht Harbour.

So, for the final evening we gathered at The Waterside Centre for fish and chips and the presentations of the trophies. The Knoll Knockers trophy is awarded to the Skipper of the yacht that makes the most interesting, spontaneous unplanned manoeuvre. This went to Rosabella for 'anchoring for breakfast'. The Martine Paelinck Memorial Shield, which is awarded to the person considered by the Visually Impaired crew to have made a big contribution to the social aspect of the week, was awarded to Carol Bloyce, for making the curries.

Sunday morning, with the sun shining – a perfect day for sailing we said our goodbyes and the crews disbanded with good intention to come again next year.

Our sincere thanks go to Barbara Dutch for coordinating the crew list – not an easy task and to Ian Jewry for being such an admirable Admiral.

Of course, these trips would not happen without our visually impaired crews who also have something to say about the week – from Simon Daws, 'Great sailing, great company, great hospitality and most importantly, great FUN!! What more could anyone want than to go on the EAST VI Cruise week! Fantastic and Thank you!!

And, from Michael Coleman, 'A trip in a yacht is like a microcosmic home, slithering through the waves, propelled by the wind, being well nourished both emotionally and physically and I had an excellent vegetarian lasagne!

What more can we say.

Carol Bloyce