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‘Dipper’ on the Deben

At the end of May, 2022 I decided that the time had come to take ‘Dipper’ to Suffolk. This decision was in anticipation of our house move there from Somerset. As I write in December, this has fallen through, but we continue to try! Being just 16’ long and less than 500kg, ‘Dipper’ is a joy to tow compared to other larger boats I’ve trailed previously. It was a little over 200 miles door to door but surprisingly relaxing due to the fact that most of the journey was undertaken at a leisurely 55-60 mph. The timing of the trip coincided with a family wedding on 1 June. Most fortuitously for me, this was the day before the East Coast OGA Jubilee Rally on the River Deben. Early on the morning of 2 June I towed ‘Dipper’ to the slipway at Bawdsey Quay. I launched single handed, and not without incident. It was to be the first of many ‘incidents’ that took place during the weekend, that I won’t detail here.

As I sailed upstream on the flood tide, ‘Dipper’ was joined by ‘Transcur’ and ‘My Quest’ sailing round from Pin Mill and Harwich Harbour. Having rendered the outboard useless on launching at Bawdsey, I had to sail onto the mooring allocated to ‘Dipper’ at Waldringfield, immediately in front of the packed garden of the Maybush Inn! All went to plan thankfully, and just as I prepared to do so I was rewarded by the sight of the Jubilee flypast which had formed up somewhere over the North Sea, before making its way to London to salute the Queen. It was one of those magical, never to be forgotten, moments. In all nearly 30 boats took part in the weekend activities, which commenced on Thursday evening with a most enjoyable barbecue on Waldringfield Quay. On Friday the fleet set off down river with the prospect of fish and chips for lunch and convivial chat at Felixstowe Ferry. We enjoyed a great sail down to Felixstowe Ferry in the morning, propelled as we were by a stiff breeze. 

The return journey can best be described as exhilarating. A gusty force 5 was dealt with by taking in both reefs of the mainsail and half rolling the jib. Thankfully ‘Dipper’ proved sure footed in the conditions, although I did quickly discover that one doesn’t cleat the mainsail on a Yachting Monthly Senior. She is definitely more ‘dinghy’ than ‘yacht’. On Saturday the fleet sailed upriver to Woodbridge Boatyard (formerly Everson’s) to celebrate the 100th birthday of ‘Clytie’, a 30’ gaff cutter built there for Clifford Paterson in 1922 and now owned by his great-granddaughter. I was directed to a vacant buoy by one of the boatyard team before being ferried ashore by a kindly East Coast Gaffer (I met many over the weekend). The visit to the boatyard also provided the opportunity to celebrate the launch of a lovely 11-foot clinker sailing dinghy newly built by traditional methods to the lines of an old Everson design. This was the first new, traditionally-built, wooden boat built at the yard since the 1960s.

‘Clytie’ celebrates 100 years, 2022 Photo: Beverley Yates

I was able to stay at the celebration just long enough to be able to toast ‘Clytie’ and ‘her’ family before asking to be ferried out to ‘Dipper’ once again. I needed to ensure that I reached Bawdsey Quay with sufficient water to recover her to her trailer and return home. It was a glorious sail down, almost the entire length of the river, and was a fitting end to a most enjoyable weekend.

Keith McIlwain