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38 members and guests of the club assembled on Custom
Quay, Ipswich on May 19th and stepped aboard the Thames sailing barge Victor in
anticipation of a lovely day out on the Rivers Orwell and Stour. Such it
proved to be, although things got off to a slow start when we had to idle around
in the dock for twenty minutes, waiting for the lock to be free. However,
once we had the all clear, we were soon locked down onto the river and we set
off under motor towards the estuary.
Before reaching the Orwell Bridge (rather like Postwick
flyover, there didn't look to be enough height for the mast to pass under, until
you were almost upon it) the topsail was hoisted and Harriet was on the
helm. The jib was set too, followed by the mizzen; the engine turned off
and we were sailing properly. She would have taken full sail, but with the
tables set for lunch down below, it was decided crockery sliding around was not
a good idea!
Pin Mill was soon passed, with everyone on deck enjoying
the scenery and some taking a turn on the wheel as we navigated from buoy to
buoy down the channel. With the bar open, many took the opportunity to
obtain a glass of beer or wine and bring it up to enjoy on the deck. All
too soon, the container terminal at Felixstowe was reached and, with the wind
now heading us, some tacks were put in to reach the turn into the Stour.
There was quite a chop on the water too, somewhat to the consternation of the
staff below, who were about to serve lunch.
Having been summoned, we sat down to an excellent three
course meal, during which we happily missed the one heavy shower of the
day. Once this had cleared though, those who ventured up on deck between
courses were able to enjoy the space and the pleasure of what was turning into
an excellent sail, reaching up the river.
Once the tables were cleared and the boat turned around
near Wrabness, the crew hooked on the mainsheet and unbrailed the main. We
now had full sail set and had a fantastic reach back downriver in the sunshine,
with Victor registering a good seven knots through the water. Approaching
the estuary, it got a little squally and, having first lowered the topsail, it
was decided to brail the mainsail again before the gybe back into the Orwell.
We rounded the corner on mizzen and jib then, having taken
the gybe slightly unexpectedly in a wind shift, the topsail was half raised
again for the reach back upriver. We certainly got to see the many and
varied sail combinations that are possible with these barges. A few light
showers now interrupted the good weather and, with the bridge approaching and the
wind heading us again, the sails were all lowered and tied and put to bed.
We motored up the last few reaches and back into the waiting lock, tired but
very happy after a great day out.