Sailing home



There are no mountains in Essex. Apart from clay cliffs that run along its southern part which borders the River Thames and a fast-eroding ness at Walton-on-Naze which you round to enter Harwich Harbour, it is as flat as the tide that slithers over it. And around the rivers Crouch and Roach the land literally peters out into the North Sea. When dry, Foulness sands reflect mysterious aerials used by the MOD: the tallest perpendiculars for many miles.

Because it is so low lying, Essex, from the sea, seems a lot further away than it really is. And it was with a sense of returning home that I turned into the River Crouch passing the lonely Whitaker Beacon, to port, and up through the sunken Buxey where seals, soaking up the rays of the setting sun, croaked in astonishment at the sudden appearance of a perpendicular (the shadow of my Contessa 32’s mast).

The River Roach opened up at last and I sailed into the empty waterworld of Brent goose, curlew and egret, all thriving in the creeks spared development by the sinister goings on of Army weapons testing and more recently rising sea-levels.

And there was Paglesham: just a slowly collapsing shed (Shuttlewoods old boat-yard where many a yacht and barge had been built years before) , a few trees, a crane and a muddy slipway.

It is Minstrel Boy’s new home. And I share the moorings with a motley collection of craft which include, an Ovni 42, an Oyster 52 as well as a ferro-cement smack, a home-made gaffer and a handful of fishing boats.