Monday, August 18, 2014

Welcome to our holiday cottage

The iconic Landguard radar scanner
Last week we were looking forward to a gentle sail with our friends Alex and David. Alex sailed as a child with her dad, and has occasionally been out since; David doesn't have much sailing experience but knows about climbing and is also a world-class bird expert. So generally they are useful people to have on board, as well as being extremely good company. Camilla had a commitment in Norwich on Sunday, and Alex had to be back home by Thursday so we were fairly constrained in the days we could spend on board.

Sadly ex-Hurricane Bertha had other ideas, and having passed to the north of us on Sunday, lurked out in the North Sea for several days keeping the winds well up above a gentle pootling level. So we decided to stay on board anyway and use Kalessin as the basis for a bit of land exploration. We also had a chance to listen to the wind in the rigging, which although not incredibly strong - a maximum of 20 knots or so in the shelter of the SYH marina - was incredibly steady, and was whipping up a pretty nasty sea in the entrance to Harwich Harbour and outside on Monday and Tuesday.

We have sailed past Landguard fort and Landguard point hundreds of times without ever visiting it, and this seemed to be a great chance. The fort is originally Tudor but most of what you see nowadays ranges from the Napoleonic wars up to WW2. It's an English Heritage site, run by volunteers, and is more-or-less accessible to wheelchairs downstairs, although to get upstairs there's a choice of several flights of 20 concrete steps which Sam decided not to undertake because the view, surprisingly, was very mediocre. For a while we wondered why we we there, but it kind of grew on us. Almost every room is open and many are helpfully labelled. It appears that Landguard rarely did anything much, apart from accidentally firing on a few Allied ships in WW2 when they showed the wrong lights, but it was evidently a good deterrent. In the late 19th century it managed a minefield in the harbour - in those days mines weren't set off when a ship hit them, but by an observer on the roof sending a signal below to someone to press a button and send a detonation current down a lengthy electric wire, powered by banks of batteries. It sounds like an action just waiting to go wrong. None of us could remember who we might have been at war with while the minefield was active - they discontinued it in 1905, just as Imperial Germany started to become a threat - so perhaps it didn't matter if it didn't work very well.

Landguard Fort viewed from the nature reserve
After a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea (thank you Douglas Adams) and some biscuits, we ventured out into the Landguard Nature Reserve. This did have excellent views, out into the harbour, back up to Felixstowe Docks, and out into the sea, and also had a reasonable complement of birds to keep David happy. It is also criss-crossed with concrete tracks which meant we could get Sam out almost to the water's edge and feel pleased that we weren't sailing in the extremely choppy conditions.

Click the image to see if you can spot Sam pretending to be an Anthony Gormley statue
On Wednesday we left Sam on the boat and walked down to Trimley Marshes. Conditions would have been fine for a sail with a strong crew but very gusty, so I was still glad to be on land given our modest crew capabilities. Alex and David strolled slowly looking at birds (this is David's normal walking style) while I opted to do a big loop, down to the Felixstowe docks barrier at Trinity Quay, along the extremely boring and hot 1.25-mile track around the edge of the docks, and then back along a very pleasant series of tracks and paths, mostly semi-wooded.

After Alex & David headed home I thought I should take a look at the underside of the rope clutches to see if I could remove the broken one. There were two major problems with this:
  1. Westerly headlining, once foam-backed, degrades over time to produce one of the most disgusting substances known to man - black, sticky, gets in your eyes and hair, and the headlining flops down and gets in the way of everything
  2. Naturally one of the bloody bolts is glassed in. And turning the other one didn't appear to be doing anything - I couldn't tell because I couldn't be in two places at the same time. Guy and I will go down tomorrow to see if we can make some progress.
Yes, the bolt I need is the one you can't see, bottom right....

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