Anyone who has organised a cruise in company will tell you it is like herding cats!  Until the day of departure arrives, one is never quite sure about the numbers of boats that will turn up.  At the same time, the harbour master(s) at the destination port(s) want to know the number of boats and their size, in order to allocate berths, and if venues and tables are to be booked for a meal ashore, then the number of participants has to be known.  It is a stressful time for the organiser.

There is also the issue of how to secure participation. Contact with past participants is easiest, but does not help with attracting new participants.

In addition there is the uncertainty of the weather and every skipper’s decision on whether it is safe to go to sea, and get back.  As the day of departure approaches, the weather forecast is studied with increased frequency.

The cruise on the weekend of 14/15 September had been in the RBYC cruising programme since its announcement in the spring, but had originally intended to go to North Fambridge, with the certainty of benign conditions that would allow the smaller boats to participate.  But with The Ferry Boat Inn remaining closed for restoration, an alternative had to be found.

A check on the tide table quickly confirmed that Brightlingsea would be a suitable destination.  With spring tides and HW around 1330, there would be plenty of water over the Buxey Sands to make the passage from Burnham to Brightlingsea via the Ray Sand Channel.  KORINA had visited Brightlingsea in the summer with the Bradwell Cruising Club, which provided the opportunity to pick up some ‘local knowledge’.

As the 14th approached, the forecast was for light winds, sunshine and daytime temperatures above 200C.  And there would be five RBYC boats participating, with Barry and Mike in KITTIWAKE, Fiona and David, ably assisted by seadog Jackson in EXCALIBUR, Liz and Douglas in CAPELLA, Jean, Valerie and Jan in KORINA and Andrew in his Parker 21, FOOTLOOSE.

With boats of such different sizes and speeds, it can only emphasize why each skipper has to plan their own passage.  I think we have all seen the motor boat club outings where all the boats follow the lead boat in convoy at speed, the only boat with a chart, it is claimed! Obviously, we are all too professional for that!

CAPPELLA, a Coaster 33, left Burnham a day earlier and went into Bradwell for the night before going to Brightlingsea, where they stayed an extra night, while FOOTLOOSE spent Friday night at anchor in the Roach before arriving in Brightlingsea and an additional night in the Colne, reflecting the traditional East Coat way of cruising.  However, with light winds, not much sailing was done.

KORINA crossed into the Ray Sand Channel 2 hours before HW and was soon passed by KITTIWAKE and EXCALIBUR, the two Fairey Swordsmen, once in the deeper water of the channel.  All five boats were guided by the ever helpful Brightlingsea harbour master to their berths on the Heritage pontoon, directly opposite the town hard and water taxi stop.  All 10 participants (plus 1 dog) gathered for a welcome drink on board KITTIWAKE in glorious sunshine.  What could be better?

As well as the pleasure of taking one’s boat to sea and entering a delightful port after an enjoyable voyage, the nice thing about these events is that they are an opportunity to make new acquaintances and reinforce old friendships.  When in the clubhouse, we tend to mix with the members we know, often based on the fleets we race, or have raced, in.  Being a member of a club should provide an opportunity to make new acquaintances with shared interests, otherwise why join a club?

After a siesta, it was time for drinks and canapés on board KORINA before getting into the water taxi to go ashore, where a carvery meal was to be served at the Colne Yacht Club, which had been pre-arranged.  RBYC members were made very welcome by Rear Commodore Bruce and other CYC members.  A delightful meal was had watching the sun go down over the boats moored in Brightlingsea Creek.  The water taxi ride back to the boats was undertaken in the light of the full moon.  Unfortunately there is no electrical power on the pontoons in the creek, but by use of a generator and an inverter it was possible to watch, and sing along with, the Last Night of the Proms on TV on two of the boats.  Rousing stuff!

On the Sunday morning we awoke to even more sunshine and warmth, so much so that a swim suit came out for some sun bathing.  FOOTLOOSE was the first to leave to take the flood up the Colne to Wivenhoe, followed by KORINA who took a relaxed passage back to the Ray Sand Channel, the Crouch and Burnham, arriving back at 1400.

All in all, this was a most enjoyable weekend, and one which I hope all participants would like to do again.  But cruising in company is not a new thing.  It was popular in the past within the RBYC and included cruises abroad.  If members would like to participate in such events in 2020 and have some suggested destinations and itineraries, they should let the Club know.  Only then will it happen!

Jan van der Schans