Northward bound: Orwell River to Lowestoft and then some

Sunday, May 3, 2015

One thing that is a constant in cruising is you’ll never know when you’ll really be able to leave somewhere to go somewhere. Such was the case as we sat out the winds and current over our first weekend after leaving Ipswich Haven Marina. Fortunately, forecasts are available but there’s still no guarantee that what was predicted for two days out will be occurring even one day later. On the eastern coast of the UK this posit seems to be even truer.

Moored on the Orwell the weather was still unfavorable for heading out, but not so for the hard Brits. When down below to avoid the rain we noticed some masts going by JUANONA . Hopping up we peeked through the portholes and spotted some boats prepping for racing.


Man, it looked cold and ugly out there but the sailors on those boats didn’t seem to mind.


Snapping some photos we caught two racers duking it out. Their hi-tech sails only added to their speed as they whooshed down wind.


Later we watched more boats plying the river as the sun began to come out providing a spectacular viewing from the confines of our cockpit.


We also espied one poor soul whose spinnaker almost capsized him.


Seeing these boats go up and down the river was akin to sitting on one’s front porch watching traffic go by.

Even though it appeared to be clearing up some, all we had to do was look to the west and still be thankful we weren’t heading out to the sea just yet. But, the dramatic clouds sure did make a beautiful sight.




Monday, May 4, 2015

Fighting one knot of current and not too much wind, we ended up motoring for an hour just to get around a point. From then on, the tide changed, wind picked up, and we were able to enjoy a sail up to Lowestoft.


In addition to being our first sail of the season, the excitement for the day was being approached by the English Border Force. I had noticed the mother ship passing us, then stopping, and looking at us a tad menacingly. I said a loud ‘uh-oh’ to Max below pointing out that an official-looking ship just stopped fairly close by. Sure enough, a rubber tender was off loaded with a bunch of comando-dressed guys.

They headed our way as we continued to sail at 6-7 knots with the wind and current. Coming alongside they announced who they were and asked permission to come aboard. Not a good time to say ‘no, I don’t think so’ and three climbed aboard while one kept their tender fairly close.

Asking for JUANONA’s registration papers and our passports, two stayed in the cockpit while one ducked below where Max was.

They were very polite (what do you expect from Brits?) and professional. We asked why they chose us and they responded they boarded most foreign vessels. Then, one of the guys mentioned they had just finished a joint exercise up in Aberdeen with the Socttish Navy. The biggest drug bust (£800 million worth of coke) had just occurred up there thanks to a odd-looking tug being watched as it headed north.

They also said they had boarded a boat at midnight the night before. That would have scared the bejesus out of me, seeing some bright lights and a rubber dinghy full of dudes outfitted in black rubber suits clambering aboard.

After fifteen or so minutes, they graciously thanked us and left. Prior to their hopping off we asked if it’d be okay to take a pic. The leader said once they had gotten off and headed away it’d be fine. So, off they went to the mother ship and we started snapping.


Tuesday, May 5 &  Wednesday, May 6, 2015

After an easy day sail from the Orwell River we landed in Lowestoft at the working marina just inside the jetty’s entrance. Surrounded by fishing boats and wind farm vessels we hunkered down for the forecast strong winds. And, they didn’t disappoint us. At times we felt we were heeling/tilting due to being blustered about even as we sat moored to our pontoon.

This town was a fishing port and resort village attracting many beach-goers when the train service began in the 1840s. Fishing is still an industry although what’s really driving the economy here is the boom in wind farms. There’s a singular wind turbine fondly called Guliver next to Orbis, the company servicing many of Guliver’s kin sitting out in the ocean, which we dodged heading north.


With winds still high on Wednesday (30 gusting higher) we decided to stay put with the exception of checking out England’s furtherest point East. The winds had whipped the ocean into a frothy lather, and, spray shot out from the jetty rocks.


A compass design was embedded in the walkway, and after standing in the center we walked around finding  compass headings for celestial events.



Then we walked into town to run an errand, passing by a 16th century home.


Back on JUANONA Max finished off another boat project, this one being a protective box around a vulnerable knob of our diesel heater. We’d hate having THAT not work when sailing further north.


Thursday, May 6, 2015

Based on some other cruisers’ excellent notes from last year, we hopped on a bus for Southwold. Less than an hour south of us this seaside village kept its quaintness thanks to the railroad stopping service in 1929. Thus, this English Georgian beach resort is like stepping back in time.

The last stop was right at a pier where Max noted how some fences running perpindicular to the beach were keeping sand from eroding to one end of the beach. Knowing how Joanne, our geologist friend, takes her students to Georgetown to observe a similar phenomena, we snapped some photos.


Colorful cabanas stretched off from the pier.

Seeing these wee wooden cabins reminded me so much of the Overman’s one at Virginia Beach.  Painted a variety of hues and colorfully named, these wooden houses could have evolved from the Victorian times when they were rolled out into the sea for the bathers inside to step out and dunk themselves. Although still portable (most, if not all, are moved back off the beach in the winter), the cabanas stay put during the summer months while hosting those catching the early spring sunshine.


Some were more decorated than others…


while many would have benefited from our artist friends’ talents.

All had some sort of name, and I kept taking photos as Max asked if I was really going to snap pics of each one? I’ll spare you the result but share some of the fun ones…


ending with two of my favorites:


We stopped to talk with a guy who was sprucing up a cabana, only on the inside.


It belongs to his boss who wanted to redo the interior. The cabin doesn’t have electricity or water, yet it’s still a wonderful little front porch to escape from the sun while watching beach strollers and a wet-suited swimmer.


After reaching the end we walked up the hill to the meandering village streets,


passing a beach-clean up sign that reminded us of our friends off on s/v DOLPHINS who recently began a similar effort, Operation Beach Clean (check out his FaceBook page for more info and to see some friends with whom we spent the winter at Ipswich )


Glancing at the brick homes as we strolled down one of the main streets we passed one with an inviting chair whose owner could look out at those looking in


and another whose kitchen window sported a wise reminder of just how we should be living.


stopping for a coffee at a popular bakery, which had a pretty clever menu, and to pen a local artist’s card to Max’s mom.


From there we scouted out the 15th-century church dedicated to Edmund, the last East Anglican King and Christian martyr. St. Edmund reputedly was executed by the Danes in 869/870 C.E. because he refused to denounce Christianity. He was beaten, shot full of arrows, and beheaded, which must have hurt like hell.


Unfortunately, the structure was undergoing a huge renovation, so we saw very little of the magnificent stone and woodwork.


We were able to see part of the interior where services were still being held along with some of the magnificent stained glass


and medieval graffitti.


then walked around outside where Max couldn’t resist checking to see if there was another way in,


in spite of a sign saying otherwise.


We ate our packed lunch in the tranquil green next to the church.


Wandering around this little park I saw camellias, which reminded me of the ones Mom grew at home when we were little. They’d bloom during January, always a welcome surprise in the midst of winter.


There’s a brewery, Adnams, established in 1872, whose brand name is all over the town, from its labeled beer to its shop to a cafe to the actual brewery to that beach clean-up sign shown earlier. You couldn’t help but find the brewery due to the intense yeasty smell wafting over that block of the town.


We opted not to go for a tour but did spot Adnam’s symbol:  Southwold Jack o’the clock perched on the side of its building. Dressed in the uniform of a soldier from the War of the Roses, this rare mechanical figure use to strike the bell on the hour. The original is at the renovated St. Edmund’s Church.


Ready for home we made it to the bus stop and caught the next one back to Lowestoft as the rain started to pelt the windows.


Friday, May 7, 2015

Today we were off to Great Yarmouth, north of Lowestoft, again by bus. We are really enjoying the public transportation England offers. They make it so easy to explore their country.

Great Yarmouth was our destination due to reading about Horatio Nelson’s ties to this town. Later, we found out Charles Dickens wrote DAVID COPPERFIELD while staying here and the another 19th-century author, Anna Sewell of BLACK BEAUTY fame, was born here.

Getting off the bus at Market Gates we walked towards the beach in search of the Tourist Information office. Ironically, it’s not the easiest place to find but we did locate it after stopping in at the Scroby Sands Wind Farm visitor’s center. The center was built by E.ON, one of the UK’s leading electricity and gas companies investing in alternative energy. After sailing by all the wind turbines (one route being when we crossed the Thames last summer)


it was fascinating to get a glimpse of the inner workings of these windmill giants.

E.ON installed 30 of these turbines, using a ‘Jumping Jack’ barge to drive the pile 30 meters into the sea bed. Driving each pile required 15 people working two hours (Max found this remarkably fast). Two separate columns were then fitted into place onto the pile. Atop the columns the nacelle hub (the brain of the turbine) was placed. The hub, called ‘bunny ears’ with its two blades, then had the third blade attached by matching up 90 holes. One assembly took 12 hours with two turbines assembled every three days. Cable was laid buried three meters under the seabed, testing was done, and voila, alternative energy started flowing.


Every six months regular maintenance of each turbine is performed. Due to the North Sea’s weather pattern it can get pretty dicey heading out to these farms even when so close to shore. I can just imagine the tossing and tumbling riding in one of those service vessels let alone hauling yourself up to one of the boat landing platforms. Once inside many, but not all of the turbines, have lifts. Otherwise it’s a pretty long climb to the top. Claustophobia and fear of heights would do me in before I even began any climbing.

With a better understanding and plenty of respect for the wind farms and their operators, we set off for the Tourist Information office passing plenty of honky-tonk offerings along the boardwalk. So far, Great Yarmouth wasn’t living up to our expectations of a historical port.


However, this town quickly redeemed itself once we actually were along the old quay. Here we entered the Elizabethan House built by a wealthy merchant (those with money built or purchased homes facing out towards the riverfront; those with less money lived in the Row Houses, which faced inward and, thus, had less light and ventilation).


Each room was filled with careful descriptions of how the owners lived and used the space.

 The kitchen showed the progress from the Tudor to Victorian, including butter paddles, which I remembered my mom having, to a hand-operated vacuum cleaner.


Climbing to the second floor we stepped into a room with curtains drawn to protect the beautiful wood panels and white plaster ceiling.


In this parlor King Charles I’s death warrant was signed in November 1648 during England’s civil war by disgruntled officers of the army. Cromwell himself supposedly visited here several times being a friend of the owner John Carter (one of Carter’s sons, Nathaniel, actually married Oliver Cromwell’s granddaughter).


It was a bit unnerving standing in this darkened room where a group of men had plotted the removal of King Charles’ head.

The mood lightened when we migrated from that room to one showing a 19th-century nursery with squirrels sitting around a formal dining table.



Heading back outside to more modern times we walked the plank to Lydia Eva, the last surviving steam drifter, built in 1930.



Powered by a steam engine this boat was a hybrid constructed to be both a drifter and a trawler to catch herring, the important fish crop of the area. Again, the information provided as we wandered below the deck was extraordinary. The dioramas explained everything you’d want to know about herring fishing, beginning with the description of the fish itself:  dark steely blue backs to camouflage themselves from seabirds hunting from the sky; silvery-white bellies to appear as part of the sky to predator mackerel and haddock looking up from the sea bottom.

A crew of ten would leave in the afternoon to catch the herring as they rose to the surface to feed off of plankton, catching the mature fish in the nets while the younger ones would swim through. The boat would return the next day having been gone roughly 18 hours.


Since herring don’t keep well, it was a mad rush back to port to offer the freshest fish on the market.


The boat’s owner would get 57% of the revenue, the skipper 8%, and each subsequent crew member getting various smaller percentages based on his position.


Photos accompanied the explanations, one showing the fish being pushed into the hold and then into barrels for lifting onto shore. I can just imagine the slime and the smell coming off these fishing boats. Fortunately, it’d been awhile since this boat had gone fishing, and I really appreciated getting a glimpse of life aboard on of these boats. I also appreciated the ability to be on deck in the fresh air.


We stopped for a bite at the East Coast Cafe then headed back to the water front.


We found the Nelson Museum and peered at the exhibits this small building housed. The first floor was dedicated to Nelson’s naval battles


while the second floor covered his personal life.

Some of his furniture was on display, such as a table used for planning one of his famous battles,


even some embroidered bed curtains.


Having read a bit about this man’s victories and tragedies from our time in Portsmouth last summer it was still amazing to realize how Nelson (1758-1805) became immortalized. From his contemporaries’ descriptions Horatio Nelson was an unlikely naval hero.


The museum also asked visitors to decide if Nelson was ‘a vain, conceited attention-seeker, or a humble man overwhelmed by his fame’. Frankly, he was human; and, I think he summed it up himself in a letter to his wife after the Battle of Cadiz in 1797: “I have had flattery enough to make me vain and success enough to make me confident.”

IMG_7977 (1)

His personal life was a true mess, eventually leaving his wife, Fanny, and daughter to live with Lady Emma Hamilton (April 26,1765-January 15, 1815) and their daughter Horatia (January 29, 1801-March 6, 1881).

Upon his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and despite Nelson’s personal plea to the British government, Hamilton and Horatia were refused a pension. However, Nelson had bequeathed her their home, Merton Place, and an annuity. This inheritance along with one from her first husband, Lord Hamilton, should have been enough. But she lived way beyond her means, eventually being arrested for debts in 1813. She fled to France in 1814 with Horatia and died January 15th, 1815.

What is really bizarre is Lady Hamilton’s refusal to acknowledge she was Horatia’s mother. Evidently she gave birth to twin daughters. Horatia was given to a foster mother, Mrs. Gibson, while Horatia’s sister, called Emma, was given to a nurse. The nurse was instructed to send Emma to the Foundling Hospital at Holborn after two months. The pretense by both Nelson (he alluded to Horatia as his god-daughter, adopted daughter, and sometimes his child) and Hamilton (Horatia’s guardian) was pretty stupid and didn’t fool anyone, but knowing society’s condemnation of children born out of wedlock, this blatant deceit allowed everyone to pretend not to see.

You couldn’t make this stuff up. And, I felt this small museum gave me a much better picture of Nelson and his family than the much larger one in Portsmouth we visited last summer.

Back outside we hurried to one of the Row Houses on exhibit.


Unlike the sites we’d seen earlier in the day this one was pretty disappointing. It was set up as a WWII home but not much was there.

One interesting display was the rations allocated per family of four.


However, we did see where the Herring Girls, Scottish lassies who followed the herring trade in the late 18th-century, might have rented a room from the earlier owners of these row homes.


Unfortunately, we were only able to tour one of these 17th-century properties since both closed at 4 pm and it was 3:30 by the time we reached the first one; but, we still thought we might be able to get in.


Our last visit was a ship, Kamper Kogge, that had pulled in while we were below Lydia Eva. We had stopped off to ask about it


and were invited back after the captain and crew had a debriefing of their passage over from the Netherlands (approximately 100 miles from Great Yarmouth).


The Kamper was a reproduction of an old trading vessel, the kogge. Ships such as this one plied the waters between Northern Europe carrying herring, cereals, timber, beer, wax, tar, pitch, copper, furs, and amber. These goods would be traded with Western and Southern Europe for salt, wool, wine, cloth, oil and coal. An international league of merchant associations called the Hanseatic League became one of the most powerful trading forces during the 1200 to 1500s.

A wreck discovered in 1980 provided the model for this kogge’s construction. Beginning in 1991 with a foundation this reproduction was built over five years, from 1994-99.  It had a high, fenced-in platform over the stern, which we were told served as a look-out and defense from pirates who roamed the waters (we saw this design on other ancient ships).


Below it was pretty sparse but was outfitted with some minor modern conveniences; yet, you could imagine how cold and damp it could be. When building this ship they kept to what they think was the original construction, meaning no insulation and some rather large gaps where water could seep in below. Like the LYDIA EVA I knew I would not have particularly enjoyed roughing it on either of these two boats in spite of some modern comforts.



Thanking our crew guide, we headed for our bus stop. Seeing one as it was leaving, we ran but missed it. However, while we were looking around for the bus stand, a young boy came up to me saying that bus you were running for just stopped over there. With that I whistled for Max and we ran to hop on. Thanks to that young man we didn’t have any wait at all for our trip back to Lowestoft and JUANONA.


4 thoughts on “Northward bound: Orwell River to Lowestoft and then some

    1. margaretlynnie Post author

      Thank you for the vote of confidence but I sure don’t feel it’s good! Not compared to letters I’ve received from you :) Speaking of that, I’m looking forward to reading your posts on Nepal. WHAT an experience. Not one anyone I know has ever been through. Hope re-entry is going well, xox

  1. calla crafts

    This is a great blog Lynnie Louise.. I love the little cottages pulled up on the boardwalk. I want one. What a hoot to spend the summer there!!! Did you offer the feds a cosmo? Probably would not have had one on the job, but may have loosened them up a bit!!
    I am at the lake, first night here with Pixiegirl( my kitty) It is nice to be here.
    Sending you tons of love and hugs and kisses..

    1. margaretlynnie Post author

      hi, calhoun! So glad you’re at your lake cottage. Must be so wonderful! Iain (Cam & Carmen’s oldest) and his wife Sarah are arriving today for a week. Will be great to have them aboard. Just hope weather cooperates for some good sailing (difficult to get at times here!) and some sunny days. Thinking of you and will be sure to offer any boarders a cosmo :) xox


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