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First Time Going To Sea

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Hi all,

So my wife and I have been enjoying our first boat, a 35ft sports cruiser, on the Broads this summer but we're both itching to make the next step and try her at sea.

Whilst I appreciate a RYA course would certainly be a good idea, talking to alot of fellow boaters it seems most have not bothered and advise in good conditions, with pre-planning and respect we shouldn't be too nervous on having a little out and return from Great Yarmouth, possibly down to Lowestoft or Southwold to get a feel for it.

I realise this weekend would probably not be ideal with springs and early LW. We also have an airdraft of 9'6" so have to plan Haven Bridge accordingly.

We have VHF, GPS chartplotter, paper charts and recommended safety equipment less a liferaft. I have an aviation background which has helped my understanding of various elements but realise there is still alot to learn.

I'd welcome any advice on this or whether it would be plain crazy to go ahead without any formal training.

Also, if only transitting through GrYarmouth Harbor will any fees be due?

Look forward to hearing your thoughts, thanks in advance.

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Weather wise watch for wind going opposite direction to the tidal stream as will make it a good deal harsher for the same wind speed, wind with tide smooths it, wind agaist makes it short and sharp, and check for the weather window home before leaving.

At 9'6" you should get under haven bridge LW +- 2.5 hours, I like 9' and rarely get close at LW +- 3 hours.

Fuel is the biggy to consider, when did the boat last go to sea and have the tanks been checked, diesel bug can go un-noticed for years on the rivers but a bit of a chop can kick up lots of crud and block filters very quickly and even the best conditions are normally choppy on the way in and out, tidal rivers interact with tidal streams and the water gets confused, add to that the fact that most boats have been under used for the last 18 months due to covid means lots of tanks are harbouring old fuel and sludge, when people say about a rough crossing on breydon they are normally meaning a slight ripple in comparison to what you may find.

If you can cruise at 15-18 knots southwold is an easy 1 1/4 hour run from the mouth at yarmouth and accessible at all tides in a mobo but call first to make sure they have space, don't be tempted to coast hug get out there into the bouyed channels and it will be easier and safer, stay half a mile out and approach at 310 degrees and you will miss all the sandbanks, once in through the piers hug the north side past the lifeboat shed and drift back to the middle of the river after.

Cruise with carers (sorry I mean "in company") takes a lot of the achievement away compared to planning properly yourself and going for it.

Did I metion fuel? Yes it needs more than just the one thought and is probably one of the biggest lifeboat callout causes.

windguru.cz is a superb site for wind forecasts and can be homed in to lowestoft.

Check the vhf well and remember a radio check with humber coastguard isn't the best test as they have masts all over the place so will hear a dodgy setup most of the time, let yarmouth radio know once under haven and call again by the lifeboat shed before proceeding, the lights will be traight ahead of you at that point, and call in before you enter from sea as well.

Yarmouth and southwold are on CH12, lowestoft are on CH14.

And don't forget to check the fuel........ You will use a lot more at sea speed.

Did I mention fuel issues? It really is the most likley cause of problems.

Now get out there and enjoy it.


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Thank you for all your advice. Much appreciated.

The boat was in use on the south coast until I bought and moved her up to the broads by road in July so hopefully the fuel is ok. I’ve put a couple of hundred litres of fresh fuel through her since and the engine and boat filters were clean when I replaced them a couple of weeks ago.

I’m now considering going out/in for a couple on hours on Saturday via Lowestoft, is there anything else I should be aware of other than booking the lock/bridges? Is there anything memorable to see other than tear arsing up and down the coast? Somebody mentioned seals!? Are dolphins ever encountered?

Will there be any harbour charges due other than the lock fee?


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Yarmouth harbour dues are waived for vessels vising the broads so effectively no charge, I've never had any mention of a charge through lowestoft either but don't go that way often.

Plenty of seals on scroby sand which is a short trip out from yarmouth, I've seen the odd harbour porpoise around the east coast but never a dolphin, seen a few beached whales in lowestoft but they were walking on the promenade eating donuts.....

There used to be a pontoon in the trawl dock at lowestoft for waiting for the bridge but no land access, I assume it's still there.

If you do one of the cruises with carers I would suggest always have your own passage plan, I spoke to some in southwold once that didn't seem to have a clue what times and routes they were aiming for just following the pack, that is a bad way to do things.

For the east coast rivers the east coast pilot is a superb book written by locals with a well updated website https://eastcoastpilot.com/, they release entrance chartlets for the ore and deben early most seasons on the website, if going further south http://www.crossingthethamesestuary.com/ is the equivalent with lots of useful chartlets, it's worth buying both books just to support the websites.

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