The Saga of Pas de Deux, Chapter 16: Seaside Diversions – Westwood Sails and Walton-on-the-Naze

With only two weeks to go before we leave the comfort of Ipswich harbor behind, we have quite list of chores to do before Pas de Deux is entirely seaworthy. The list is long and daunting and maybe impossible to complete. So, what to do when confronted with a series of insurmountable tasks basic to our future survival?

We immediately give ourselves a day off and take a little trip to the seaside.

Walton-on-the-Naze, looking a bit glum.

Well, it wasn’t all fun in the British (lack of) sun, since the day did start off with some serious and important sailing business. The foot on the yankee was horribly decayed, and, not yet being very handy with the awl and needle, we had to find a sailmaker to do the repairs.

Poor little foot!

We will be eternally grateful to the friend who referred us to Westwood Sails and Covers, located not too far away, right outside of Manningtree. After 35 years at a well-known and reputable Essex sailmakers, Steve Westwood became fed up with all of the yachty snobbery and high prices and decided to venture out on his own, opening his own sailmaking operation in an industrial park on the grounds of a beautiful old mill. From the moment we walked in, I had no doubt we had come to the right place, for there sat Mr. Westwood, plugging away on the very same model of Pfaff sewing machine that I owned in Germany! It was a marvellous old thing, better than any modern sewing machine I have ever used, and it broke my heart to give it up once we moved onto the boat. Seeing it (or one like it) being used to such great effect filled me with both an awful nostalgia and an instant affection for Steve Westwood.

Mr. Westwood at work.

He is exactly the kind of man you’d trust with your sails; big and brawny and covered with tattoos, he’s spent most of his life on fishing and sailboats and has no desire to ever set foot on one again. He has lined the walls of his unit with boards he made himself featuring old sailmakers’ hand tools, Victorian advertisements, reproduction scrimshaw, and a real rhino horn found washed up off the coast of Africa. He repaired our sail using a treadle machine rather than an electric one and proudly showed us his giant pile of antique Singers just jumbled in a corner of his workshop. He explained to us what a Liverpool bowline is. He is the best guy ever.


Our proud and happy sail.

Mr. Westwood fixed our poor little foot in less than 10 minutes and charged us…£5. £5! You can’t even buy a sandwich in the UK for £5. We asked him about replacing the entire sail, but after some examination, he deemed our yankee in good enough condition to last us another 4 or 5 years and said that if our other sails were comparable, we wouldn’t need to replace them either. Not replace our sails immediately? Since when has a marine professional ever told you that something on your boat did not need immediate replacing at extortionate cost? When we did want new sails, however, he told us that we could just come over and use his machines and he’d show us how to make them ourselves…for free. Free? Since when has anything that goes on a boat ever been free? See? He’s really the best guy ever.

The public hard, Walton-on-the-Naze

We then spent a half hour or so talking about classic cars (I was not really involved in that part of the conversation), sewing machines, and pubs, and promised to buy him a pint if we ever saw him out and about in Brightlingsea. If everyone in Brightlingsea is like him, then there’s certainly no reason not to visit just go there and moor up forever. (Just kidding.)


Afterwards, we were off to Walton-on-the-Naze, which we heard might have a nature reserve good for temporary anchoring. Walton is a typical English seaside town — a bit dreary and a bit down-and-out, but still full of pleasant Victorian holiday charm and happy dogs and children playing on its sandy beach. There are a few arcades and a sad sort of pier and plenty of chip shops. We stopped at one, which we do every once in a while to remind ourselves of why we never eat fish and chips. Fuji was happy to share in our dinner and, believe me, we were happy to share it. All of the antique shops were closed, which is bizarre on a Friday afternoon, but probably lucky for Pas de Deux, who is getting tired of being weighted down with all of our stupid, pointless stuff.

IMG_1000Afterwards, we drove back through Mistley and Holbrook to Pin Mill for a pint at the Butt and Oyster. There is not much to do in Pin Mill besides walking through the forest and looking at the boats and having a pint at the Butt and Oyster, but it is still one of the best places on earth.

Plenty of fun in the sun.


Seaside amusements!

This being the end of the winter season, we’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of lovely friends who are off in search of better climes and less Ipswich-y places. Goodbye to Nic and Neil (we still owe you a couple of bottles of white wine!) and to John and Kara and their extremely adorable 1-year-old son, Dean. It is sad to leave people right when you are getting to know them, but luckily we can follow John and Kara on their blog and, if the lonesomeness ever gets too unbearable, read the book they wrote about their travels, Orca, which you can find on Amazon by following this link in the US and this one in the UK.

Walton resident relaxing in the sun

By the way, if you do buy their book (or any other thing on Amazon), you will not only be helping John and Kara fund their sailing adventures and diaper purchases, but you will also be helping us out. Since we’ve joined the Amazon affiliates program, anything you buy there after clicking one of our links will result in a tiny little kickback for us, which we will use to buy dog food and maybe a wind generator. So, thanks!

Shopping in Walton

Next, I suspect that we’ll actually have to get started on some of the tasks that we’ll need to get done before we leave.  The next time I write, it will be from somewhere else entirely: maybe a placid, sunny anchorage in the Stour valley, maybe a marshy mud pit on the Essex coast, maybe dry land, to which we will have fled after sinking our boat and losing all of our worldly possessions.

Adventure awaits!




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