And so the day dawned, after a cold night aboard; time to make our maiden voyage on Goshawk of Møn.
The day began with a warm shower in Titchmarsh Marina’s newly refurbished shower block, followed by breakfast aboard. It was at this point that I realised that I had failed to buy bowls in my hurried trip to Sainsbury’s, so cereal was eaten out of mugs, tumblers and even sauce pans.
Whilst faffing (something that I excel at) we were visited by Roy, a fellow member of the Westerly Owners’ Association who I had ‘met’ through the association’s Facebook page. Roy has a Discus at Titchmarsh, and, as well as admiring Goshawk, he was able to give some tips and advice over tea and coffee aboard. I’ve been really impressed with the Westerly Owners’ Association since I bought Goshawk back in September; they really are a kind, friendly, helpful and supportive bunch. Membership is well worth £15 a year!
A little later my cousin, James arrived. James is an experienced yachtsman and yacht racer, and I had managed to persuade him to help me with my maiden voyage. This turned out to be an excellent idea!
James was able to open the water tank cap so we filled it up and added a hefty dose of Milton, which we allowed to work its magic for thirty minutes or so before flushing the tank through a couple of times.
Meanwhile, an engineer from French Marine Motors arrived to check over the engine and to run it in for a a while. Thankfully no issues!
Then it was time to pack away, bid farewell to Claire, my wife, and daughter Lily, who were not accompanying us on this epic voyage (someone had to drive the car around to Wrabness after all), before cranking up the engine and departing.
We managed to leave at 13.15, just fifteen minutes after my planned departure time. This gave us plenty of water to navigate through the narrow channels of the River Twizzle and the Walton Backwaters whilst eating lunch. My mind instinctively went to the adventures of the Swallows and Amazons in Arthur Ransome’s classic, Secret Water, set as it is in the Backwaters. It’s also one of those books that I instinctively turn to when I need something warm, gentle and reassuring in those periods when life gets too stressful. I was also able to point out Stone Point to my son Daniel, where many years before I had camped as a child with some of my friends from Wrabness.
We continued underway by engine until we passed Pye End buoy, where we put the boat head to wind, and raised the sails. Sails up, we cut the engine and began sailing Goshawk. And what a tremendous experience that was! Goshawk’s sails are in excellent condition, and she sailed really well, better than I had expected and could have hoped for. With James to take the lead, to advise and to coach, Daniel and I felt in safe hands and were able to enjoy sailing our new boat without any of the worry that I would have had if I had attempted the trip without him.
As we rounded Harwich, I got a text from Claire to tell me that she and Lily would be waiting for us on the Ha’Penny Pier, so we sailed in as close as we were able (the wind shadow from the Navyard Wharf prevented us from getting too close), and we were able to wave to each other. Claire was also able to take some great action photos of us.
Daniel had been feeling a little unwell since we had put the sails up, but as we entered the Stour he began to feel much better, and was even able to share some of his classic jokes with us (most of which have the punchline ‘poo poo!’ There’s nothing quite like the sense of humour of a five year old boy!
As we approached Shotley Gate, I sent a quick text to my Grandmother, whose back garden rolls down to the estuary, to let her know that we would be passing her house soon. We were able to see her really clearly waving a tea towel at us as we passed, and we waved back. Her next door neighbour was also able to get some excellent photos of us as we passed.
By this point we were well into the Stour Estuary and I was reminded quite how long Parkestone Quay is. It just seems to go on and on and on forever! Eventually, however, we were able to leave it behind us as we pushed on past Erwarton and Harkstead on the north bank.
A good, steady breeze from the south west meant that we were able to sail up the Stour estuary in one tack, and before we knew it we had reached Wrabness. We sailed past a good cluster of boats moored off the east shore before heading to wind, starting the engine and dropping the sails to head for our mooring. James was keen for us to approach under sail, but not having the first idea which was actually my mooring, I thought that this might be unnecessarily difficult. It transpired that we would be the first boat to arrive on the west shore for the summer, which made it even harder to recognise my mooring, In the end we gave up and picked up a random mooring, which turned out to be my brother’s, at about 17.00.
We managed to pack away fairly speedily and Claire dutifully rowed out to pick us all up.
All in all, a really great day’s sailing. I could not have been more happy with how Goshawk performed. I have read mixed reviews of how well Centaurs sail, but based on my experience on this day, I have absolutely no complaints.
As we rowed to the shore, I was able to appreciate Goshawk’s beauty. It is always far better to judge a boat’s appearance when she is on the water rather than on the hard standing, or even alongside a pontoon. And she really is a beauty.
Thanks to James for helping me with the sail, and to all the photographers who took such great pictures as we sailed.