The plan was to take open boats out onto the tidal Estuary from Beeleigh Link and paddle through Northey Island and back again off the water by 16:00, 17:00 at the latest. That was the plan! After an initial muddy start Kevin and I headed off on a lazy paddle along the tidal Estuary, with the Ebb tide doing most of the work. There were some big fish tracking our progress, every now and then they’d make a huge splash and you would see a very fast V shaped wake appear in front of you, along with plenty of bird life. Maldon came and went, with large mud flats forming either side of us and the ships all high and dry. Passing Brian, better known as Byrhtnoth Statue at the end of Maldon promenade put us into the main Estuary of the Blackwater.
Northey Island was now high and dry . so we decided to circumnavigate it. With the distinct lack of water Northey Island became huge, we eventually got into Southey Creek and tracked it almost to the causeway at the western end stopping on a mud bank for a cup of tea.The mud was deep and sticky but the water was clear, so we sat in our boats enjoying the solitude. We then rafted up and drifted across to Osea Island landing on the mud banks about 100 metres short of the solid beach. Mud banks everywhere. We had about half an hour before low tide (16:30) so made a slow easy paddle towards Maldon with nothing but the sound of the birds to keep us company. Absolutely beautiful, with the tall ships making haunting silhouettes against the blue sky.
However, a distinct lack of water and the supposed tidal flow made hard going from Hilly Pool buoy. From here on in, this started to become an endurance test.
We were paddling in 2 inches of water, the mud too thick to get out and push so it was punting, pushing with paddles and grunting off the sticky soft mud. Every now and then a bit of relief came as we passed over slightly deeper water. Brian was a welcome sight, but the sun was starting to go down and the tide was still draining out! We had some water going through the Hythe passing Maldon, but soon had to get out and pull the boats through the mud, luckily there were some hard spots to stand on, but get it wrong and you went deep. So it was paddle,punt push all the way to Beeliegh. The estuary with no water and low light looked fantastic. Pulling the boats out at Beeliegh finished me off and I had to sit down, absolutely knackered. Brilliant paddle, great being out on the sea in an open boat, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but wish the tide had helped us get home. Thanks to Kevin, my paddling partner and to Maldon Golf Course grounds manager for coming back to let us out (The car park was closed). 19:00 off the water, it was dark, he wasn’t very happy, but we were very grateful to him.
Submitted by John H 211018