"COME RAIN OR SHINE THE 'VIKING' SAILS".

The Essex Chronicle, Friday June 4, 1948.

Article written by 'BLACKWATER"

 

This is a delightful and descriptive account of this reporter's moonlight trip aboard the Viking.

He only ever refers to her as the "Viking" and not the "Viking Saga" which confirms Noddy's theory that although she was registered as "Viking Saga" that was not Sonny and Eric's desired name and that the name board was originally 'VIKING" but "SAGA" was added at a later time.

 

 

Last Wednesday, deciding it was time I got better acquainted with that river whose name I borrowed a couple of years ago (without so much as "by your leave"), I took a trip down the Blackwater on Maldon's "Viking".

 

It was the third of this season's evening trips from Maldon Promenade to a point off Mersea Island.  When conditions are right the Viking sails by moonlight.

 

On Wednesday, with the moon on the wane, we started at 7.30, got back home by 10.30.  It wasn't the best of days for the job.  On and off all day the stiff west wind had driven rain before it.  Just before departure time it rained again.

 

Skipper Eric Albert surveyed the muster.  It was hardly a pay-load but two or three of the brave had come all the way from Romford; yet two more were faithful regulars.  "Rain or Shine", it's advertised.  "If there were only two aboard we'd sail", said Mr. Albert.  And sail we did.

 

As we left, the sun, soon to sink behind the darkening ridge of Maldon town hung over St. Mary's squat brick tower, bright under the black clouds.  The deserted waterfront echoed out loud-speaker's song-about April showers.  There was a rainbow over Northey.  Because the channel runs due East and West and the sun was setting behind us, we seemed to head straight through its perfect double arch.

 

As we skirted north of the low green island, I followed the skipper along the deck, down into the tight and cosy little for'ard saloon. The Board of Trade certificates on the wall showed that the Viking could take 161 on the trip to Mersea, 99 to Clacton or Brightlingsea (she is the only boat on the river with a sea-going ticket). with a crew of two.

 

 

Beam-on to the making tide, the Viking rolled as we went close in to inspect the bisected wreck of the "Helena Modjeska", broken on the Goodwins last year.  It was our first taste of rough going.  An eel-catcher, more properly a frank-heron, flapped across our bows.

 

In the gathering dusk, we turned and headed into the stiff westerly breeze.  Wind against tide brought the spray over the deck and the chill drove us down to the bar.

 

Here in a space that looks hardly big enought to swing the proverbial cat but proves, in fact, ample for the drinking, burly, Lincolnshire Cyril Dixon and partner Derrick Roberts dispense beer and excellent ham sandwiches to satisfy sea-air-sharpened appetites.

 

Over a drink, Skipper Albert told of his plans for a summer - when it comes.  Once a fortnight, beginning on Sunday, at 3.30pm., he takes a trip to Clacton, giving an hour ashore there, getting back by 10.  Evening trips are now a fixture and in the first week of August, when the tides (and the weather too, we hope), are right, the Carnival will benefit from the profits of just such trips as Wednesday's.

 

As I stepped off the Viking at 10.15, the ebbing water rippled silver in the darkness. The ridge of Maldon crouched black and speckled with lights against pale green darkness where the sun had been when we started.  

 

A thousand years ago, other Vikings had seen the same sight.

 

 

Back on deck we found the crew, cosy in the wheel-house:  Helmsman Sam Wright ("Emma to his friends"), Engineer Sonny Cardy and Rene Kirner who "looks after the women" occasionally enlivens the proceedings with a gramophone record or a tune on her piano accordion.

 

Sam Wright has been on the river 40 years or more now, "knows every stone in its bed", says Mr Albert.  Steering the Viking is a spare time job with Sam, who started on the river at the age of seven, has skippered boats ever since he left school; is one of the seven fishermen brothers.  Engineer Cardy once a machine tool fitter ("always around engines") took to the water three to four years ago, prefers it now to dry land.

 

I took a quick look at the two 65 h.p diesel engines, not much bigger than the tin trunks that went under beds when I was a boy.  They shift the Viking through the water at close on 10 knots.  They also made it necessary for Mr Cardy to bawl the answers to my screamed questions.

 

Back on the bridge I talked to the back of Sam's weather-browned neck about the prospects for the summer.  "There'll be another 18 or 19 days of this yet", he said, as the wind and the rain beat against the glass.  "There'll be a change about the longest day.  Not before - not with that moon".  I turned and looked at our dark green and silver wake.  "Means dirty weather," said Sam, cheeerfully, eyes intent upon the channel.  We passed "the Osses" roughest water in the river (off Stansgate), so called on account of the white horses that crest the waves, came in sight of the merchant hulks and Tollesbury Pier.

 

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