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Swallows & Amazons, 7 – 9 June, 2024

Have you seen the YouTube video of the 2015 East Coast OGA Swallows and Amazons weekend? It’s most inviting! Two of us from the eternal winter of a Northern Spring booked to take part in the event this year, June 2024. One of us from the Yorkshire Wolds and myself from the Yorkshire Dales. One towing a caravan and one towing the Andrew Wolstenholme designed (based on ‘Pipkin’) 12’ 3” Catboat ‘Inisheen’ built by David Moss Boatbuilders in 1986. 

We planned to meet on Thursday 6 June, 2024 at the Walton & Frinton Yacht Club where the event began. However, Wednesday and Thursday morning for one of us was spent in A&E, the other being helped to the venue by the AA, following failure of the boat trailer suspension. It was a great encouragement that Pete ‘the Knife’ and friends, long time attendees at Swallows & Amazons weekend, offered considerable help with the trailer. The Club was able to offer ‘Inisheen’ a berth until the trailer was fixed. A&E were pretty helpful too! The Thursday evening BBQ was set in an orchard next door to the Club owned by kind folk who have lent the orchards since the the event first began. Excellent BBQ fire and large gazebo in case of rain – it  did – the only time in the whole weekend. The weather was in fact bright and breezy all weekend though it did cloud over later in the day on Sunday. The breeze held fast in the southwest going northwest as the weekend progressed. The Walton & Frinton YC is on Foundry Reach which is entirely tidal with at best three hours of access ether side HW. The ebb starts straight after HW, the tide doesn’t ‘stand’ at all.

Friday was lovely with F3-4 SW wind forecast and that’s what we got. A great sail into Oakley Creek leading off north from the central Hamford Water in bright sunshine to see seals. I have seen seals before but not that close or so many! Back across Hamford Water, again with a following breeze and hint of wind over tide chop to the Walton Channel where the F4+ on the nose tried folks windward sailing. Great fun for most, requiring a reef for some, a trip to the lee shore for others and despite a spirited effort, the scow had a lie down. Fortunately there was back up and all casualties were towed safely home. Saturday, race day and the same sort of breeze except for more north in the wind. The race is weather permitting round Horsey Island, starting at the seaward end of Foundry Creek on the Walton Channel and ending at the Club. As folk found their feet, reefs that were put in before leaving the Club were taken out and almost everybody was on full power, closely packed near the windward shore up Walton Channel heading again for Hamford Water where there was a dead muzzler. The fleet spread out and places were gained and lost before heading south into Kirby Creek and into the wide and relatively peaceful Wade.

I have been there before years ago and ran aground but the Club racing marks in The Wade are a useful guide to the best water and there is little tide. From there we headed past Titchmarsh Marina, joined the Twizzle and back down Foundry Reach. There were no incidents and all were safely gathered in before a front went through with an increase in wind with a shift further into the north. After easing our troubled minds and bodies in the Clubhouse the race results were worked out and announced at a sunlit evening dinner in their lovely restaurant. The windows provide extensive views over the now dry creek and lonely marshes with the cranes of Felixstowe in the distance. We didn’t win our class but not for the first time in my sailing career we got a prize for driving a long way. 

Sunday was cooler with the wind from the northwest and the fleet headed up the Walton Channel again with a bash to windward just for the hell of it in Hamford Water before turning back and into the ‘Dardanelles’. If you thought this was in the Aegean, see ‘Secret Waters’ by Arthur Ransome. We found flat water before anchoring for a picnic in a beautiful tidal pool, returning to the Cub at HW after allowing their racing fleet to return. I know this area of the East Coast from yachting days where I hardly left the main channels. With our trailable boats we could ignore navigation marks as we sailed before and close to HW giving a wide sailing area and soft landings for those running ashore. The Walton & Frinton is a fine Club with an excellent modern building located beside the boatyards at the head of Foundry Reach. After 25 years providing for this event the East Coast Gaffers have got the job sorted and the welcome is truly great. I had trailer trouble and the two Petes put me back on the road. The location for campervans and caravans overlooking the ‘Pond’ is brilliant. Tents pitched in the peace of the orchard. The only issue is limited time on the water which can be extended with a favourable wind or an outboard to get you up the Reach against  the ebb. A good two hours sailing could be enough for many leaving time to explore the locale. There were a good few young folk there as well. All in all very inviting! 

Words: Tim Fenner

If you haven’t seen it before, here’s the 2015 video.