Wandering from Waldringfield to Woodbridge via Walton-on-the-Naze


Tom Loosemore, Mike Madgwick, Wanderer 917


8th – 10th July 2005


Friday 8th July 2005: Waldringfield to Felixstowe Ferry


We arrived at Waldringfield as dusk fell. Despite the gathering gloom, the wind was fair, and we both sorely needed a sail. The five miles saunter downriver to Felixstowe Ferry provided the required tonic. We whispered along as the colours faded to monochrome, and the geese flew low along the river.


We hauled W917 as high as possible up the shingle adjacent to the small boatyard at the Ferry. I prayed that the overnight high tide would not jam stones inside her centreboard case – my faith in our slot gasket being limited.


Photo: Felixstowe Ferry in the dark on Friday… by Mike Madgwick



We had big plans for the Saturday; it was to herald our first serious coastal cruise, a return trip across the mouth of the Orwell and into the Walton Backwaters.


Saturday 9th July 2005: Felixstowe Ferry to Titchmarsh Marina, and back


Returning to Felixstowe Ferry at dawn the next morning, we tried to ignore the grey skies and swiftly rigged up so as to cross the bar at low tide. Thankfully, the slot gasket had done its job. The centreboard swung down freely– at least this time…


The entrance to the River Deben has something of a reputation, but the perils of an oft-shifting bar are much alleviated by the up-to-date sketches, buoy positions and aerial photos to be found on the locally-funded www.DebenEntrance.com website. I can’t praise this initiative highly enough. Without it I would not have felt confident enough to risk a long day sail starting and ending at such a notorious Bar. A sister site offers the same information about the entrance to the River Ore, five miles up the coast.


My wrist-borne GPS made navigating the doglegged entrance easy, and we punched through the choppy, confused waters at the bar with something approaching relish. We turned south and, with a steady F3 breeze blowing from dead astern, made excellent progress down the coast past Felixstowe’s seafront. The previous summer I’d come ashore on the steep shingle next to Felixstowe pier. Not a mistake I was going to repeat - the closely spaced groynes made for a hazardous lee shore launch. The many lobster pots and buoy fishing gear along this stretch demand a constant look out.


The wind freshened as we made for the buoys marking the deep-water channel used by shipping into the ports of Felixstowe, Harwich and Ipswich. The GPS proved invaluable in helping to identify the recommended yacht crossing (it’s marked on the charts), and after looking to port and to starboard we hurried across the shipping lane, often touching 8 knots surfing down the backs of waves.


It was with some relief that we spotted Pye End buoy, heralding the entrance to the Walton Backwaters. As we passed by I glanced astern to see a vast container ship looming through the deep-water channel across which we had just dashed. Not a place to forget your Green Cross Code.


The sense of relief and elation endured as we buoy-hopped down Hamford Water, past Stone Point’s resident seal and into the Walton channel. Just after 10am we moored up on the pontoons outside Titchmarsh Marina and smiled.


Photo: Tom is all smiles at Titchmarsh Marina near Walton on the Saturday morning. by Mike Madgwick



We’d sailed more than 10 nautical miles in just over two hours. After hitching a lift the mile or so into Walton proper, we felt we’d deserved our second breakfast of the morning.



That afternoon’s return trip was upwind all the way, but the clouds had cleared and our spirits were high. Aside from being briefly becalmed in Hamford Water, the wind was steady F3 and the sun shone all the way.




Photo: Perfect conditions tacking back past Felixstowe on the Saturday… by Tom Loosemore


It took three and a bit hours to tack back up the coast, but what a sail - close to perfection, with scores of other yachts and racing dinghies sharing our enjoyment of a glorious summer afternoon. Crossing the Deben bar with the flood proved uneventful, and we tied up at Felixstowe Ferry in the same spot as the previous night.


We were both fast asleep before 9pm.


Sunday 10th July 2005: Felixstowe Ferry to Woodbridge


Sunday did not start well. The fierce tide and shingle had conspired to jam stones between the centreboard and its casing, despite the slot gasket. Of course, we only discovered this after we’d rigged up and set sail. We swiftly beached, de-rigged, decanted gear, tipped W917 over and set to work on the errant stones with a long screwdriver. Lady luck was with us, but I can easily see how this problem could thoroughly ruin your day.


Photo: Sunday morning stone-clearing at Felixstowe Ferry… by Mike Madgwick



The weather was perfect, but we knew our return to London precluded another epic day, so we sauntered across the Deben Bar and pottered around outside. Mike had a helm in the gentle F2 and after toying with a home-made Polynesian catamaran we decided to tack back upriver, aiming for lunch in Woodbridge.



Photo: Mike helming off the Deben bar on the Sunday morning… by Tom Loosemore


The River Deben is W917’s home, and every Wanderer sailor should experience its allure on a summer’s day. It is a memorable ten miles from Felixstowe Ferry to Woodbridge, passing fine waterside pubs at Ramsholt and Waldringfield. Both hamlets have slipways, albeit only usable for an hour or so either side of high water.


It’s probably best for visitors to launch at Felixstowe Ferry slip, though the tide can be fierce. We were spotted and photographed by a fellow Waldringfield Sailing Club (www.waldringfieldsc.com) member on rescue duty.





Photo: Tacking upriver near Waldringfield on the Sunday… by Robert Whitehouse



On arrival at Woodbridge, we moored up at the visitors’ pontoon roughly midway between Deben SC and Woodbridge Tide Mill. It’s only usable for a two hours either side of high tide, but trust me, you don’t want to be in Woodbridge at low tide. The mud… the mud…


Photo: W917 moored up at Woodbridge on the Sunday.. photo by Mike Madgwick



Woodbridge is, however, a fine small town, with a couple of chandlers near the waterfront and some good shops. We ate well in the Station Café (no, really!) then sped downwind back to Waldringfield to put W917 away. We finished off a fine weekend with a celebratory pint at the Maybush – blessed with memories which will sustain me through a grim London winter.




Photo: River Deben salt marsh near Waldringfield… by Mike Madgwick