West Mersea Rally 29th April-2nd May 2016
West Mersea, The Company Shed, West Mersea Yacht Club, John Davison and the finest sunset in Britain. It has them all.
Four boats juggled the tides, shifting sands and weather to converge on this timeless island, the most easterly in Britain which is inhabited, on the edge of the Blackwater.
The Little Ship Club’s east coast fleet came from Dover, Ramsgate, Brightlingsea and The Orwell. Plans to sail on Friday 29th April were prudently discarded as the northerly airstream and associated low conspired to make for unpleasant lumpy conditions so the boats converged on the Saturday. Lindsey Gill and crew (Robin Young, Karen Birleson –outward only, and Drummond Robson) on Ocean Dancer were obliged to get up early to leave Dover by 0515 if there was much chance of arriving in time for Club Supper. The weather proved to be useless for much sailing but great for coastal sightseeing from the White Cliffs and east Kent towns of Sandwich to Ramsgate and North Foreland to the engineering feats/hazards of the Estuary’s languidly turning blades of 250 turbines in its various mute wind farms. Jonathan Hague and his larger crew on Avventura appeared on the Estuary’s milky water from Ramsgate to coincide with the navigational challenges of shifting sands such as The Sunk Swatchway. We found ourselves in 7.1 metres of water even though Navionics and the chart plotter showed us sailing across low lying land of South West Sunk. That’s The Estuary for you. Ocean Dancer used the deeper keeled Avventura as a pilot to safeguard against grounding.
Shifting Sands: The evidence of alleged and actual depths near low water
After following the entrance buoys to the Blackwater we found moorings in the quiet creek refuge at the end of the Island. A narrow river pontoon was offered to Ocean Dancer and was eagerly accepted since it was closer to the action of the Town and meant that the dinghy could be used more easily to go ashore, rather than being too dependent on the services of the boatman in the beautifully maintained clinker water taxi with the call sign YC1, now on its seventh engine.
West Mersea Yacht Club
It wasn’t until drinks o’clock that we caught up with Silver Pearl’s Pete and Nicky Hampson and Oliver from Brightlingsea and Chamois’ Iain and Tina Pickard while mingling with other LSC visitors and members of West Mersea Yacht Club, including The Commodore and his team, now custodians of a Club with a 117 year history. The Club have been in these delightful waterfront premises since 1934.
After welcomes by The Commodore Michael Wheeler and West Mersea resident John Davison – who is also HPO - Ron offered some entertainment in the form of spooky disappearing bottles of red wine which are transformed to empties or wander round the room in a shroud. Hmmm.
Dinner was worth waiting for and came in the form of Grilled cream cheese and dill topped haddock with cranberry and red pepper marmalade, followed by two dishes with a decidedly European flavour: Pan roasted rump of lamb Provençale, Noilly Prat jus (vegetarian options available) and Brioche and butter pudding, laced with Baileys, crème Anglaise. One of the mouthwatering brioches found a second home after a certain lady elected to consume half only – as with LSC catering some people can never be satisfied however good it is. The best sunset in Britain was no idle claim - here it is:
West Mersea YC. Supper Sunset from the Long Room
10.30pm: Late launch return to boats in the Club Launch YC1 at unsurprisingly heavy taxi fees. A good evening.
The Company Shed. Waiting for it to open.
The Company Shed. 1001 Sunday
For most of us sound sleep brought us to a sunny Sunday to share the simple breakfast pleasures of fresh Bram Haward grown gigas oysters, cockles, crabs, prawns, green lip mussels, roll mops, smoked mackerel paté and fish with balanced supplies of prosecco and wine. (Sadly? there were no winkles). The Company Shed is a rare find. John Davison’s organisation ensured that we had the best seats in this well known and heavily overbooked quayside restaurant.
Jonathan Hague and John Davison ready for the off.
Suitably content it was now time to visit the Chandlers, tidy the boats or explore the Island before returning to the West Mersea Yacht Club to enjoy lazing in the sun and to check up they were still selling alcohol.
West Mersea is a little frozen in time, sometimes cut off from Britain by a flooding causeway, it offers waterside delights from crabbing to exploring saltmarshes, the hulks of dying boats and quiet Essex history at its best. The Romans, came hotly pursued by Boadicea – at least as far as Colchester – Edward the Confessor gave the place away to the French for a bit and the West Mersea Yacht Club came to dominate the Waterfront as the hub of the ever changing Creekside.
The peace was somewhat broken by the news that the weather was on the turn with growing headwinds and that if we waited until Monday we would have rough crossings of the Estuary – all right for the East Anglians but not if the destination was Ramsgate or Dover. So at around 1500 we left this peace and quiet in favour of beating to windward and close encounters with windfarms. Avventura was tucked up in Ramsgate by supper time, while Ocean Dancer was back in Dover by about 1130 on the Monday in time to catch the Marina lock gates.
Houseboats, Hulks, Saltmarsh and Beach
Pete Hampson, Olly, Vicky, Charlie Quayle, Robin Young, Jill Moffatt, John Davison - we were just about to have a quiet drink, what is Drummond doing?
An unaccustomed position at the bar?