Dinghy Cruise to Shipwreck Beach By Tony Smith
A SOUTHERLY wind was blowing as we readied the 12 foot Cormorant dinghy for its first cruise on the river. Manoeuvring her well found bow into the wind while on her trolley made the task of lacing her tanned gaff main sail a little easier. The small boat had sat patiently for months among the many dinghy's fronting the beach, today she would come into her own. Placing the unstayed wooden mast into its through deck seat, the business of attaching the boom and high peaked gaff came next followed by roving of halyards through the deck blocks which are led aft, to the roomy cockpit.
High water would be in half an hour which hastened the stowing of the day bags beneath the forward deck space. At the same time we rolled her gently down the short stretch of deep shingle beach that is a feature here at The Stone. She floated off her trolley into the tide rode water all set.
I stepped aboard first followed almost immediately by her skipper, who gave a thrusting foot-off as we drifted away from the weather shore and climbed aboard.
We were heading into the main channel, through the many large yachts that lay here swinging at their moorings. I lowered the lifting rudder, an essential piece of kit for any serious dinghy cruising and took the helm to guide us through the seemingly over sized yachts. As the skipper raised the yard, racing Catamarans and jet ski bikes began criss crossing our path causing us to gybe in a flurry of activity.
The Cormorant's single cat style rig began filling nicely, quickly gathering pace as we headed up river to more 'quieter' waters.
Being a Sunday lunchtime the river was dotted with fleets of racing dinghy's from the surrounding clubs chasing the thrills of the cans, we had other plans as the Cormorant with its sturdy build and comfy seating arrangements would be cruising at a more sedate pace.
With the now rising gusts from the south we took it in turns on the helm, gaining a feel for this ideal estuary ditch and creek crawler, even standing at the helm, which is nice to do every now and then when cruising in ideal conditions. Enjoying the sail we had soon neared the tranquil shores along a quiet stretch of river, and our intended destination, "Shipwreck Beach", one of my favoured hidden gems on the river to land at.
The tiny stretch of golden sand shone brightly in contrast to the dull clouded sky. The beautiful Shipwreck Beach was directly in front of us as the skipper lowered the yard and we drifted the 20-30 feet or so towards this idyllic salty shore.
After raising the centre plate I climbed onto the foredeck just as the boat gently came to a halt on the soft sand, stepping off into ankle deep clear blue sea. We pulled the Cormorant up the soft sandy beach to lay just below the wreck.
Like a few other secret hidden gems on the river this place is a mere trice of sea miles away from the busy hustle and bustle of the nearest towns streets, but yet a whole world away.
After some beach combing and soaking up the tranquil setting we eased the Cormorant into the clear blue sea and climbed aboard. This was almost a repeat of the earlier launch but without commotion and gybe. We headed further up river, the wind coming over the port bow giving us plenty of opportunity to tack the Cormorant, beating across the river making an extra couple of tacks to go round the Ford Creek buoy just for the fun of it.
Sailing past the pier remains on a close reach we took the Cormorant into the fast ebbing, rippling currants of the narrows below Stansgate Abbey where her relatively heavy lay up gave a smooth ride. We were able to sail on a comfortable reach back down river, passing the many moored boats on this stretch and back towards The Stone.
Although only a small adventure the Cormorant had proved herself to be a good dinghy for this type of cruising. There is heightened sense of adventure one gets from cruising in simple small dinghy's and similar boats which she gives in abundance with crew or single handed.