Hadleigh Temple Band percussionist John Willson, decided to do something different to raise money for The Salvation Army’s Big Collection. He offered to take people for an afternoon on the Thames Estuary in his motor cruiser “Sarah K”. His boat, a Cleopatra Flagship make, was built in Upminster in 1985, and has been continually updated by John. It is propelled by two powerful engines which can drive the boat at speeds of up to 25 knots. It can sleep up to 8 people. John has had the boat for around ten years and took it across the channel to Dunkirk a couple of years ago for WW2 remembrance.
Several people took up the offer and we met on what started out to be a very wet afternoon in Benfleet. Jenny Willson turned out to be a very good stewardess and welcomed us aboard with a hot coffee and biscuits. After a quick run-down about the boat it was time to cast off.
We went along the coast past Two Tree Island and John pointed out what was left of the Hadleigh Pier which was built in 1895 to accommodate barges that took bricks made by the Salvation Army brickworks on the adjoining land up to London.
We went along the coast past Canvey Point on the starboard side and Leigh, Chalkwell and Westcliff on the Port side, almost up to Southend Pier. Then it was time to turn round and head back. We were fortunate then, as the sun came out and we were able to raise the side awnings, and enjoy the use of the open flybridge, located upstairs. This allowed us to further enjoy the experience.
On the way back, John kindly allowed people to steer the boat, and they did it well (so John said!)
All too soon we were back in the moorings at Benfleet enjoying more hot drinks and biscuits. We had time to chat and discuss what a great time we had.
John has raised approx £200 at the time of writing and our thanks are due to him and his crew for a great afternoon.A first-hand report from Malcolm Wilson