Cruising the Rivers Ore, Butley, Alde and Deben, July 19th to July 21st 2006

Wanderer W917

Helm: Tom Loosemore Crew: Mike Madgwick


Wednesday 19th July 2006



After a long, hot journey from London, we launched W917 from Orford sailing clubÕs wide ramp at around 1730. Orford SC is a small, friendly club whose members had shown considerable kindness to this stranger a couple of weeks earlier when, after sailing around from W917Õs base on the River Deben, a rapid worsening of conditions at the Ore bar had left me stuck in the wrong river. This slight misfortune had the beneficial side effect of choosing this yearÕs cruising grounds for us. The RiverÕs Ore, Butley and Alde are a dinghy cruiserÕs dream, offering sheltered sailing, interesting places to moor and visit and a variety of scenic backdrops.




Under blue skies, Mike and I headed downstream from Orford against the incoming tide, aiming for the upper reaches of the little-visited Butley River, where we were hoping to find somewhere quiet to pitch tent. Wind was a nice F3 to 4 from the NE, and we ran down the southerly channel around Havergate Island, an RSPB bird sanctuary famed for its avocets. Separating the river from the sea were the eerie atom bomb test pavilions of Orford Ness, now a National Trust property and well worth a visit. Nipping round the toe of Havergate island and into the entrance to the Butley River, we cut the corner and bumped over an unhelpful mud spit, duly shearing a tiller fitting. The evening had turned glorious, and the wind dropped as we beat upriver towards Chillesford with the tide. Our progress was halted due to lack of water at a small private quay, the owner of which kindly took leave of his family picnic to guide us up the final reaches of the narrowing channel using arm signals. We enquired after a suitably quiet place to camp, and, after a quick call to ask permission, we wafted back downriver to Butley Ferry where a foot ferry has operated for more than 500 years. You now book thje ferry via a mobile phone number! We beached W917 as high water and sunset collided in perfection, pitched tent on the foreshore and cooked a cous-cous supper using the Kelly kettle. Distance sailed: 8 nautical miles.




Thursday 20th July 2006



Set off around 0900 in a F3 SW breeze, the grey morning flecked with drizzle. We stopped briefly at Orford to swap tillers, whereby I thanked my lucky stars that the previous owners had acquired a spare. With the breeze stiffening under clearing skies, we ran upriver against the tide past the BBC World Service aerials to Aldeburgh, where the Ore metamorphoses into the ancient River Alde. We moored on Aldeburgh SCÕs jetty and wandered into town for newspapers, a languid lunch and an enjoyable mooch around the modern Lifeboat station.



We returned to the dinghy at 1600, shortly after low tide, and enjoyed a rather unique and athletic sail up to Snape Maltings. This involved several hundred tiny tacks as the tide was still low and the channel both twist and very narrow, typically less than 10 metres. We can confirm that the Wanderer will happily beat upwind with only a third of the centreboard down. What a boat. We very nearly made it under sail all the way to Snape Maltings, and were disappointed when the encroaching reed beds blocked the wind and we were forced to resort to oars for the last 300m.




Wonderful sailing. Set long springs alongside Snape Quay, and soon two sweaty, somewhat shattered sailors clambered up the quayside ladders to the mild consternation of assorted concert-goers in their posh frocks. We hitched a lift a couple of miles to Blaxhall Youth Hostel, and enjoyed a well-earned pint in the company of the eccentric landlord of the local pub. Distance sailed: 16 Nautical Miles.


Friday 21st July 2006



A big day. We were greeted by fabulous blue skies but no wind, meaning a sweaty row until the sea breeze kicked it around Iken Chuch. Thereafter we enjoyed a fine beat with the tide past Aldeburgh to Orford. Here we stopped for lunch enjoyed a fish and chips lunch in the Jolly Sailor.



Trepidation set in as we beat down to the entrance of the River Ore, replete with its notorious bar, the cause of my travails a couple of weeks earlier. We crossed a low water but an onshore F3 breeze caused the odd moment, including a couple of steep waves over the bow. The spinnaker chute duly sluiced several dozen litres of water back into the boat. Happily the self-bailers soon had us dry, and our reward was a perfect sea sail down the coast past Bawdsey Manor, where RAF boffins had perfected radar before the Battle of Britain. We enjoyed a stress-free crossing of the Deben Bar at 1600, followed by a brief stop at Felixstowe Ferry.



Sadly, the wonderful cafe had already shut up shop for the day, so no tea and cakes to celebrate our crossing the two bars. Mike then took the helm in a steady F2, and ran us upriver past Ramsholt to Waldringfield SC and the end of a wonderful three days afloat. Distance sailed: 27 Nautical Miles.


Total cruise length: 51Nm

More Photos & GPS tracks: on Flickr