Fitting out club boat -  2 May

Report from Mark S.

Merganser is now back on her usual mooring at Paglesham and available for sailing.Thanks to Clem, Frank, Gerald, Geof and Bill who turned up to help.We (minus Clem who got called away to sort out wheels falling off his son's car) enjoyed a fitting-out lunch at the Plough and Sail followed by a walk from Paglesham East End to Paglesham Church End and back along the sea wall - the last a bit of a struggle into a strong SE wind.


Semaine du Gulf 12 to 16 May

John and Josephine went to the Semaine du Gulf sailing festival - account here


Egret Cup - 14 June

Mark S. reports:

Two HSC members took part in the RSA dinghy race last Sunday - Mark S in Merganser who finished first and Clem in tender to Chirp who finished last. Neither of us got a place after handicap which seemed especially hard on Clem who was pleased to be at both the start and finish points for a change!

Note to anyone racing with RSA in Merganser - to win on handicap you need to be 20 minutes ahead of the fleet in an hour long race - best chance is when course includes a long beat against the tide in light winds. It was good fun on a nice day though and as a bonus we finished in the Plough and Sail and inspected some of the local gardens - it was Paglesham Open Gardens Day.

PS - Merganser now has a new bow strop after the last one frayed through 2 of its 3 strands.


Potton Island Trophy - 4 July

Mark S. reports:

Two HSC boats - Susie with Gerald and Ian and Merganser with Julia and Mark S took part in the rescheduled RSA race around Potton Island . Conditions were gusty with most boats reefed. Merganser was first to the bridge (we were very pleased not to have to wait for it to open) and first to finish in 75minutes but not fast enough to get a place on corrected time. Both Susie and Merganser had a bit of trouble getting boats back on their moorings. Merganser made it more difficult by stopping to take sails down at the RSA jetty then trying to row to the mooring with strong tide and wind both pushing her fast towards the Thames . Mark T joined us in the Plough and Sail after the race having driven from Mersea Island .

I understand that Paglesham boatyard is now under new ownership - the yard is now almost clear of laid-up boats. We are waiting to see how the changes affect the HSC.


HSC BBQ - 25 July

I hear from Richard that this event went well with fine weather. The venue was on the bank for the River Lee in Hertfordshire, thanks are due to Mark S and Esin for arranging and hosting the event.


Lifeboat Cup - 13 September

Gerald reports:

I had not properly left my mooring when the gun went, so I was chasing the fleet of 9 boats. It was a run up to Barton Hall buoy and back in a light wind, I had the board up with all 3 sails drawing which meant I was on a dead run, a point of sail I loathe but I soon managed to get into the middle of the pack. At the turn point it was a bit of a scrum ( pass to port ), 2 boats had gone through heading into the advancing fleet, I chose to round the mark much wider so as not to lose any bits of the rig, which meant I lost some ground but I had more room to tack& manoeuvre, which also meant clearer air, and began to overhaul other boats, 'Apple' lost her jib, (inexplicably, it come undone ) I was left with 3 boats to catch, I passed 'Buttercup', an Essex smackboat, with a stonking long Bo'sprit and did my best to catch and pass a skipper 12, I think, to finish 3rd over the line, best I have ever managed so far.

Results were Makedo 3rd ,Winks 2nd and Buttercup 1st on handicap. I think Susie needs a a better race crew, or maybe a look at how she is rigged for single handing, to get line honours, but then she isn't a race boat - she's a Drascombe.



Medway Cruise - 18 to 22 September

We were late making plans for our summer cruise this year, it seemed even harder than usual to find a week to suit everyones' leave arrangements and holiday plans, but towards the end of the summer we did manage a long weekend on the Medway in Kent.

There was a DCA rally earmarked for the Medway on our planned weekend and Dave J. who coordinates the eastern area DCA rallies was happy for us to choose the Saturday evening meeting point and make this effectively a joint HSC/DCA event. The original plan discussed among HSC members had been to sail over the Thames estuary from Paglesham to the Medway, as we have done in the past, but with only a few days available for our cruise we decided to road trail our boats to the Medway area so as to ensure that we could keep the rendezvous with the DCA members.

There is a rather limited choice of public slipways on the Medway estuary so we made contact with the Medway Yacht Club at Upnor and they helpfully allowed us to launch our boats from their own club slipway for a modest visitors fee. We did need to arrrange this in advance since their slipway would not have been available to us had they had been running a big sailing event at the time. The staff of the MYC were very helpful, its a big club with excellent facilities.


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Alongside pontoon at MYC - first tryout for Gerald's boat tent on 'Susie'


We launched Gerald's Drascombe and John and Josephine's home made boat on Friday afternoon and moored overnight on the MYC pontoon. This was the first time that Gerald had spent a night with a boat tent on his boat so it was a bit of an experiment for him. As pictured above, his boat tent is an off-the-shelf backpacking style tent with hoop poles but it actually fitted rather neatly on his Drascombe Dabber, complete with both the flysheet and inner tent. Gerald had prepared for this trip by sawing planks of wood to fit accross the footwell of the Drascome to make a base for the tent and for an airbed to sleep on. There were quite large gaps between the planks and I did wonder how well the tent ground sheet and the airbed would span these gaps but Gerald reported a comfortable night so I assume that the arrangement worked reasonably well.


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Dave sailing his Roamer


DCA members Dave J. and Peter M. arrived at MYC on Saturday morning, Dave with his home built Roamer dinghy and Peter with his Gull dinghy. We departed MYC at about high water, sailing down the estuary in warm sunshine with a very light following wind, nice weather for the time of year. Dave's Roamer still does not have a rig designed for the boat, he was sailing it with the lug rig that had been fitted to the smaller boat that had been his previous home build. This lug rig was clearly too small for the Roamer but even so it mostly kept pace with the others in our fleet. Dave has made many variations to the original Roamer design and has produced a very practical cruising dinghy which is considerably lighter than the original design but it does have water ballast tanks which can be filled to increase the displacement for breezy conditions.


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Landing at the jetty of Lower Halstow Yacht Club


In advance of this trip we had been in contact with Lower Halstow Yacht Club and, like MYC, they were most helpful, allowing us use of their landing stage and permission to place small tents on their premises if we needed to. As we sailed up to Lower Halstow, DCA member Tim A. joined our fleet with his Gull dinghy, a Bermudian rigged Gull whereas Peter's was gunter. Tim had launched his boat earlier that day at LHYC and he already had his tent ready for the night on the lawn outside the clubhouse. Lower Halstow is one of my favourite places on the Medway estuary, there is a barge quay at the head of the creek, a church among the trees nearby and a small village with a nice pub, the Three Tuns, a few hundred yards inland.


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 Typical scenary looking accross the marshes to the west of Stangate creek - left to right - Gerald, Peter, Dave


The barge quay at Lower Halstow is now the base for the restored sailing barge Edith May. I remember admiring this particular barge when I used to explore the Essex coastline by bicycle back in the '60s - in those days she was in peak condition and winning barge races with special aerofoil shaped leeboards which I believe were considered a bit questionable by competitors. She fell into disrepair but on an HSC cruise a few years ago we noticed her laid up in the creek at Lower Halstow for a major refit and now she is fully operational again - see Edith May website.  

Another sailing barge currently at Lower Halstow is the Westmoreland, but this one appears to be in a pretty sorry state of repair. The Westmoreland was based at Lower Halstow during her working life having been built for carrying bricks from Eastwoods brickworks at Lower Halstow. The Westmoreland is currently kept afloat at Lower Hastow by being piggy backed on top of a moored steel lighter but the plan is to get her up alongside the quay so that she can be rennovated. 

The picture above shows us sailing up Stangate Creek on the way to Lower Halstow. To the right of the picture is Kingsnorth power station which is now closed and awaiting demolition having failed to meet European emisions standards. To the left of that, there is a derelict building just below the corner of Dave's mainsail and also a nearby brick chimney standing on the marshland, although this is not visible in this photo. I wonder if these were something to do with brick making which was a major industry in the area during the 19C, although the main brickworks was near the quay at Lower Halstow and has now been demolished and the land converted to a nature reserve.

We all spent Saturday evening in the pub at Lower Halstow then on Sunday morning the falling tide forced us to make an early start to sail to Queenborough. It was another warm sunney day and to begin with so calm that there was no point trying to sail so once we were clear of the LHYC jetty and in slightly deeper water we anchored for the breakfast that the early start had caused us to miss. As we had our breakfast the Edith May departed the quay under power, presumably having taken a new charter party on board. Our sail to Queenborough was slow at first but the wind was picking up when we arrived at mid-day. Just as we had all tied up to the big floating pontoon we were asked to move since we were in a spot that might possibly be needed by a regular berth holder. At that point the DCA contingent decided to start their journey home, whilst Gerald and ourselves moved our boats as instructed then walked around Queenborough high street and back along the quay where fishing boats tie up. We had a nice breeze for the sail back to LHYC and HSC members Richard and Barbara came by road (from Devon) to join us for an evening in the pub.


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Passing Darnet Fort on the east side of the Medway below Gillingham, it dates from around 1860


On Monday the weather had changed - there was a fair breeze blowing with rain forecast for the afternoon. We started back towards MYC, beating up river against the ebb which was slow going for Gerald's Drascombe. We took a mooring bouy off Gillingham for a mid morning break and ended up staying on the bouy until lunch as we waited for the flood to start. We then sailed on with the benefit of the flood tide but now beating into heavy rain. I had thoughts of landing at Rochester for a meal and possibly spending the night there but by the time we reached Rochester bridge we had had enough of the weather and turned to run back to the security of the MYC pontoon for the night.

We got our boats back onto road trailers on Tuesday morning then before seting off on our journeys home we visited Upnor castle - well worth a visit and as with many such attractions these days audio guides are provided to tell you more of the history which in this case included the raid on Chatham dockyard by the Dutch in 1667. Upnor castle and the other dockyard defences failed to repel the raid and Samual Pepys was grudgingly admiring of the Dutch sailors who managed to capture English ships and sail them away down the estuary under conditions that he reckoned would be too difficult for even the best Chatham pilots.

So we did have an HSC cruise in 2015, albeit a short one.


AGM weekend - 21 to 22 November

Another HSC AGM attended by almost our entire membership. The meeting was kindly hosted by Julia and Ian at their home in north east London, so thank you Julia and Ian for such generous hospitality, including accommodation for those of us who travelled from afar.

On the financial side we approximately broke even this year, so our subscription rates will remain unchanged for 2016. Our club constitution includes a requirement for our Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer to stand down after three years, not simply to stand for possible re-election. This year we needed to change all three officers - Clem becomes our Chairman, John (who is writing this as website editor) becomes Secretary and Julia Treasurer.

We also discussed the future of our second club owned boat. For many years the HSC has owned two Wayfarer dinghies. Our flagship, Merganser, is kept on a mooring at Paglesham during the summer and the second boat is kept ashore nearby so that it is available for members to road trail to distant sailing waters. This second boat has not actually been afloat for several years, I think the last time it was trailed to a distant event was when we had it at one of the Seafair events in Wales. The meeting agreed that we should now consider options for disposal of this second Wayfarer dinghy. We would certainly be interested to hear from anyone who might be interested to aquire the boat, contact can be made via the contact form on this website. The boat is much used and has some faults, we would not be expecting a lot of money for it.

Following our AGM meeting Ian and Julia arranged a takeaway to be deliverd. Almost the entire membership of the HSC was able to squeeze into their dining room for supper, a good festive occasion. The plan for Sunday was to visit 'Queen Elisableth's hunting lodge' near Chingford then take a walk in Epping Forest. Some of our members were intending to travel to Chingford by train, they got as far as Liverpool St Station then found that all trains to Chingford had been cancelled for that Sunday. Just five of us managed to meet at the Queen Elizabeth hunting lodge at Chingford which is right at the southern extremity of Epping Forrest. It was a bright sunney morning, ideal for a stroll in a forest so a pity that the others were not able to join us.

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Our party at the Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, at Chingford, Essex

Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge was built to the order of King Henry VIII and completed in 1543 as an open grandstand for royalty and guests to watch hunting and archery taking place on the open space to the north. So something like the grand stands at motor racing circuits, roofed to keep off the rain but open at the front for a clear view. Later on, the walls were closed in all round but with expansive windows (by Tudor standards) so there would still be a fine view to the north. According the website linked above, there is no certainty that Queen Elizabeth 1st ever did visit the building. 

After looking around the museum housed in the hunting lodge we took a short afternoon walk following one of the waymarked routes that starts from near the hunting lodge.  I have to say that the free map we got from the visitors centre confused us - we headed off on what we thought the right path but the color of the markers on guide posts along the path was red, the map sugested that they should be blue for our route, red for another route. We carried on with some anxiety since I know it is quite easy to get very lost in a big forest and daylight does not last long at this time of year!  Eventually we consulted with another party of walkers and were told 'dont worry, they are always changing the color of those markers!