A Week to Remember.

A Week To Remember 07/06/2019 – 14/06/2019

Back in March, at the 80th birthday celebrations of one of the COA’s founder-members, my father Robert Jones, Peter Coy asked me if I wished to sail with him on “Amazon Countess” in the Countess Owners’ Association’s  rally in June. I needed little encouragement.

The plan for the rally was to start with a meal at the Royal Harwich Yacht Club at Wolverston on the River Orwell on the Saturday and then a flotilla of boats would head up the coast to Southwold. The eventual boats taking part were Peter Coy’s “Amazon Countess”, Denis & Linda Bennett’s “Orion B” and Robin Traves’ “Pepsand”. The rally had been largely organized by Tony Kerry and it was, therefore, very sad that he and Pam were not able to participate up the coast.

Peter and I had arranged to meet at Titchmarsh Marina at around 7:30 on the Friday evening. After a meal in the Essex Clipper in Frinton late that evening we awoke to the all-too-familiar clattering of halyards against boats’ masts. A full gale had blown up overnight and I was relieved that the skippers concluded that it was too rough to sail / motor round to the Royal Harwich Yacht Club. My slight reservation in accepting Peter’s invitation was the fear of being sea-sick. Having been sailing since I was two weeks old, this had rarely been a problem for me. However, since moving back to Sheffield in 1999 my sailing ventures became infrequent and, when I did get on the water, I found my sea-legs were not what they were and I became quite ill sometimes. Admittedly, going straight into non-stop crossings from Levington to Ijmuiden was not the best way to ease oneself back onto the water!

Tony kindly offered to drive Pam, Peter and me round to the Royal Harwich. We arrived to see a spanking new club house since I was last there. The weather had moderated a little since the morning and teas on the short-cut grass looking out over, arguably, one of the country’s most beautiful rivers, was very satisfying. My parents joined us for the rally supper and we had a pleasant walk down Memory Lane through the woods to the timeless Pin Mill and a pint in the Butt & Oyster. When we returned the party had been joined by two of the newer members, Derek and Trish Ovenden, who had beautifully refurbed their Countess 33 “Lady Louise”. They had made such a good job of it that they were awarded the Ian Anderson Trophy for the previous season, but had not been at the AGM to collect . It’s great to see people taking up sailing later in life and to welcome new members to the COA.

On Sunday the weather had improved and we had a lovely passage up to Levington. We had only just got out of Titchmarsh when Peter handed me the helm. This was both encouraging and reassuring as I had not been on the water for years. When we sailed into Harwich Harbour, it was hard to believe it was around fifteen years since I had last sailed there; where has the time gone? As usual, there were around five or six huge container ships being loaded and unloaded. Levington was the last marina where we had kept our Countess 33 “Saebryght”; so, again, it was nice to visit it and see the changes. Those most appreciated were the new showers with heated seats!

At Levington we were joined by Robin and his friend Yvette who had sailed their Countess 28 “Pepsand” up from the River Medway. This boat had been fitted out by one of the COA’s founder members, Peter Major. Sitting below for coffee one evening after a meal ashore reminded me of my childhood sailing days in the family’s Offshore 8 Metre “Miss Moppet”, also in the River Medway; though I was a lot smaller then! The following day the three boats headed up the coast to Southwold. Sadly, it was a motoring job with the sails only offering some help to “Amazon Countess”. Entering Southwold was tricky and we scraped the bottom in one part as we negotiated our way into the rather old-fashioned harbour, which lives about a quarter of a century behind most of its counterparts on the East Coast.

The following day we had a tour of the famous Adnams Brewery. I sensed that they must be the biggest employer in Southwold, though our guide said no one working the brewery could afford to live in Southwold! The weather took a turn for the worse while in Southwold and we had to stay on an extra day. One of the great appeals of sailing for me has always been that it often takes one to places one would not visit from the land and provides the chance to explore. This weather-change gave Peter and me the chance to really ‘do’ Southwold. We visited the large, splendid church of St Edmond; a clear indication of the importance of Southwold and its port in yester-year. The Museum, Reading Room and Amber Museum were all worth our visit. When we got back to the harbour we visited the RNLI Museum and the immaculately restored old life boat. It was quite harrowing to think of operating such a boat compared to today’s powerful craft.

Our trip back down the coast on Friday 13th was testing, having to motor against the wind and tide in heavy seas. My fears of becoming sea-sick were raised and I stayed on deck throughout the passage, keeping a look-out for buoys, lobsterpots and other shipping. It is when in such seas that one really appreciates having auto-pilot; to steer in those seas would be very tricky and tiring. “Amazon Countess’” sprayhood was regularly taking on green seas and the protection was appreciated. We never had such protection in “Miss Moppet”, but one knew no different in those days. The seas did ease a bit at Aldeburgh, but our passage was brought to a sudden halt when the engine died on us. Peter calmly found that we had been using more diesel then expected and one of the make-shift fuel tanks had emptied. Somehow, in those turbulent seas, Peter managed to refuel and we resumed our passage. Once into Harwich Harbour we were able to set the sails and cruise comfortably to Levington at a faster speed then when we were motoring.

Our sail back to Titchmarsh on Saturday morning was smooth and comfortable and a lovely conclusion to my reacquaintance with sailing. I am indebted to Peter and his generosity and can see why Titchmarsh Marina and its surrounds are popular with several COA members.

Aidan N W Jones

Postscript.

The crew of Pepsand had left Southwold on the Thursday, since Yvette had a singing engagement in Chichester Cathedral on the Saturday. We endured a soggy but smooth ride to Harwich and then on to Ipswich and the Haven Marina. Here a train ticket back to Kent was obtained. Yvette duly left on Friday morning and was home for tea. Leaving Ipswich at midday I dropped down the river to moor opposite Levington to wait for the strong SW wind to drop.

As per forecast it did calm down by midnight, and a peaceful and uneventful night return was made to the Swale and Conyer Creek, arriving an hour before High Water. An hour later I was home, and an hour after that I was playing tuba at the Ticehurst Fete! Wotalife!

RHT

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