Trilobite Visits the Orwell by Chris Watts


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Weather set fair for the next week. Hot, sunny and October. Trilobite ready for her first salt water adventure. Off to the River Orwell by road on the brand new trailer.

Eventually it had all come together, the refurbishment, the new custom-built trailer and decent weather. Trilobite had been languishing on berth 30 at Somerleyton feeling a bit neglected, what with the gale force winds interspersed with absolute mirror calms!  Lifted out and balancing perfectly, we trundled down the A12 via Lowestoft and Woodbridge to Levington Marina on the North shore of the Orwell about 4 miles above Felixstowe.

The Old Bill everywhere, flak jackets, sniffer hounds, suspicious glances at yours truly. Too late to do a runner, they're on to me, I thought. No, a convoy of sirens and a Roller, brought Princess Anne down the narrow lane to the marina just as I parked up. Jolly nice of her to come and see me off, I mused. Well actually she was visiting a local project getting handicapped youngsters afloat. Good for her, she works hard, so I didn't ask her aboard, even though her dad, inspected Shrimpy in a swimming pool years before.


The slip there is very steep, so engaging the services of a local chap, we launched her a tad more rapidly than either of us would have chosen, but she relished the prospect of the water. Mast stepped, sails bent on, off we ventured into the river. Low water and an awful lot of mud showing. The channels are dredged for commercial shipping, so the depth gadget soon showed 6+ metres. A steady sea breeze, genoa and main up, off  we went speeding up towards Pin Mill on a rising Spring tide.


The Orwell is nothing if not full of things to see (and avoid, like container ships). Drifting serenely down towards the sea amongst it all was the Aldous Bawley 'Gladys' ca 1904. Magnificent.


Trilobite was assigned a pontoon berth in the main basin. Surrounded by 400  vast  Jeanneaus, Bavarias and the occasional luxury model from somewhere exotic and across an ocean.  The owners had expressions ranging from pity to secret envy (or not) as they wheeled their carts of victuals to their boats. Mostly they see very little of the open water, I like to imagine, but many went out everyday, not returning until late into the evening or the next day. The the chap next to me, Sun Odyssey 40 something, was very friendly, enquiring about the marque and the exploits of Shrimpy.

Levington Marina is enormously expensive, though visitor moorings at 10 a night were an exception to their rule. However, they are very friendly and helpful in all manner of ways, so a good base, with access at all states of the tidal range.

The weather stayed hot, dry and initially windless for several days, so the outboard got well used. Each afternoon, a brisk sea breeze sprang up allowing for perfect cruising up the Orwell, past dozens of moored yachts to the A12 bridge below Ipswich, down to the estuary and up into the River Stour as far as Wrabness. Again lots to see, including Thistle, a Thames Sailing Barge, which does afternoon tea and cake trips, mostly under power, but sometimes, spectacularly, under canvas, acres of it.
The estuary is an extremely fraught area. Vast container ships unload and reload simultaneously at Felixstowe, RoRo ferries to Holland depart on time from Harwich whoever might be in the channel and cause a huge swell and fishermen carve a swathe through the private yachts. Moored alongside Halfpenny Pier in Harwich town, Trilobite pitched and rolled alarmingly against her fenders, but somehow survived.

A flat battery left me in darkness one night, but otherwise, no mishaps!

The Orwell and Stour are wonderful cruising rivers, as fine as any, with access to the sea just a couple of miles to the East. I did see another Caprice towing a heavy dinghy, so we are well represented in the area.

If anyone would like more information, please do contact me.



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