The motley crew of Stratos 6 sits and munches sandwiches in the twilight. The wind has died away completely and it looks as if our night passage will need to be under power rather than sail. We are not allowed to set off until the Wrabness Point north cardinal starts flashing. We watch silently as men quietly dig in the mud away to the east of us. Presumably he's after bait.
To the north, we speculate which building is Griff Rhys-Jones' house and which is the Hospital School. Not an easy guess.
To the west, low cloud, brightly lit over a mirror-like Stour at Mistley.
"it's lit" someone says, and immediately we finish off our coffees and teas and turn to the task if getting under way. We slip the mooring just as the tide starts to turn and we depart on the first fo the flood towards the floodlights and noise of Parkeston Quay.
We look ahead for the next buoy and plot our course carefully, solemnly ticking off each waypoint.
The orange and brilliant white lights are passed slowly as is the hulk of Radio Caroline, and we are approaching Shotley Point. A massive, floodlit dredger is also on the move and we are hopeful he has seen us. We cannot turn past Shotley Horse because of our draught and need to keep close to the main channel, which is now being excavated in a flurry of pumps, pistons and sprays. Up close, it's a real mechanical monster.
We are able to turn - at last - and scoot away from the big ships and find the quiet of the Orwell much more relaxing. We quickly pass the home base of Levington and continue up river towards Pin Mill. We are surprised by the number of craft out at night, but hope to avoid any departing commercial vessels as the channel narrows dramatically below the Orwell bridge.
A few missed buoys cause some concern, but soon enough we are under the great concrete bridge and approaching the old port of Ipswich. Ahead we see the lock and a quick call is all it needs for the gates to open and allow us in to the inner harbour.
Another successful exercise completed. We hope to celebrate, but Ipswich seems to close early so we settle for a beer or two onboard.
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