A truly eclectic mix: the OGA on the Deben, May 2024

By Beverley Yates

On Bank Holiday Friday evening, 24 May, 2024, a total of 36 boats arrived by road, sea and river at Waldringfield on the River Deben. Why were they all converging on this quiet village to moor up and sleep aboard or set up camp in the ‘top field’ above the Boatyard? 

The East Coast OGA (Old Gaffers Association) had teamed up with Woodbridge & Waldringfield Boatyards to host a joint rally with three main purposes:

  • to celebrate 100 years of the Deben Cherubs being built at Woodbridge Boatyard (formerly Eversons); 
  • to host the postponed Teamac OGA Gaffling 4.1 Championship;
  • and to run a series of races for four classes of traditional boats.

As the ‘fleet’ gathered on buoys, on the beach or on trailers ashore for the weekend it was clearly representative of what the OGA really stands for. There was a truly eclectic mix of traditional sailing boats in all shapes, sizes, rigs and construction materials. The 60 or more members, family and friends gathered to enjoy a holiday weekend ‘messing about on the river’ with a bit of racing, cruising, chatting and most importantly having fun.

Arriving by trailer (one from as far afield as Wiltshire) were two smacks boats ‘Papa Stour’ and ‘Joy’, three Gaffling 4.1 dinghies ‘Essling’, ‘Suffling’ and ‘The Shrimp’, two small dinghies ‘Molly’ and ‘Sine Nomine’, two Drascombe Luggers ‘Millie’ and ‘Truant’, a Heir Island Sloop ‘Songbird’ and the Canoe Yawl ‘Dotty’ embarking on her maiden sail.

The Essex smack ‘Transcur’ towing her smacksboat ‘Happy Days’, a Tamarisk ‘East Breeze’ and Cape Cutter 21 ‘Minnie’ left the River Orwell in company on Friday morning, having anchored overnight in the moonlight.

Also making their way up the coast and over the Deben Bar to join the Rally were the Winkle Brig ‘Philomena’, Cornish Yawl ‘Sonamara’ towing his smacksboat ‘Ettie and the motor launch ‘Stardrift’.

Several boats arrived under sail or tow from their usual moorings along the River Deben: the Albert Strange Yawl ‘Mist’, Laurent Giles Ketch once owned by Arthur Ransome, ‘Peter Duck’, Clovelly Picarooer ‘Agnes May’, small dinghy ‘Little Auk’, Deben Luggers ‘Ruddy Darter’ and ‘Deben Lugger’, five Deben Cherubs ‘Ariel’, ‘Jubilee’, ‘Lindy Lou’, ‘Lynette’ and ‘Cherub’, two dinghies built at Woodbridge Boatyard ‘la Mouette’ and ‘Cariad’, a Drascombe Dabber ‘Sula’, an Ian Oughtred Guillemot ‘Cachalette’ and last but not least two Shrimper 19s ‘Joelle’ and ‘Grebe’. 

Whilst not entrants, the following boats also supported the event: 1937 Everson’s one-off ‘Black Cat’, Everson’s-built Aldeburgh One Design ‘Thalassa’, Frank Knights-built clinker launch ‘Mistress of Orford’, Fairey Huntress ‘Loyal Huntress’, historic Dutch tug ‘Else’ and 1900 Dutch sailing barge ‘Trouwe Hulp’.

After an evening briefing, a provisional start time for racing on Saturday was proposed as 1100, weather permitting as the forecasts seem to be very unreliable at present. Saturday dawned with little wind and drizzle in the air as those intending to race gathered at the start line between the Committee Boat ‘Oystercatcher’, kindly lent to the OGA for the weekend by the 5th Woodbridge Sea Scouts and motor launch ‘Stardrift’. The race was timed to reach Woodbridge Boatyard for a 1230 celebration lunch in the ‘Phoenix Works’, probably dating back to c.1912 when the original structure burned down. This is where ‘Cherub’ was built, the first of the Deben Cherub class, in 1924 when the yard was then called Everson & Sons Ltd. The current staff of Waldringfield & Woodbridge Boatyards surpassed all expectations with an excellent buffet lunch of sausages in lovely crusty rolls with fried onions and plenty of relishes washed down with a choice of tea or coffee.

At 1430 the second race was against the tide back to Waldringfield for an evening barbecue, live music, a briefing for Sunday and ‘interim’ race results. The weather on Sunday was much better than forecast. With low water at 0900 the race started at 1000 in more drizzle with strong winds forecast, to sail downriver to a turning mark below Ramsholt returning to finish at the Rocks. By the afternoon the sun was shining for lunch on the beach before sailing back. Some ate aboard or in their camper vans whilst others enjoyed supper at the local hostelry run by Deben Inns ‘The Maybush’. Later, as the Race Officers crunched numbers quietly on their laptop, there was a campfire to enjoy for an evening of sailing yarns, passing the port and camaraderie.

Beverley Yates

 Beverley Yates is editor of The Eastcoaster, news letter for the Old Gaffers Association. To find out more about this club please visit OGA.org.uk .




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