Mud pattens – a tempting idea

Charles Stock and Dylan Winter are famous for being slow-sailing exponents of the Wellington boot – that is, cruising in small shoal draft boats without a tender but with a handy pair of wellies for getting ashore or just looking around. There are well known photos of both their boats with accompanying wellies.

It’s an appealing idea – but I don’t fancy its attendant dangers. Where the ground’s sandy there’s usually little problem, so long as the wellies you’re using are long enough and you’ve got your tides right.

But where there is mud, it can be a very different story. I think this is particularly so if you sail along the coast of North Kent. The Medway and the Swale especially have the gloopiest, glueyest brown stuff I’ve seen, and there are many places where even the finest Wellingtons in the land would not tempt me out of my boat. So depending on the circs I’m inclined to stay aboard, tie up to a quay, or bite the bullet and make sure I take a tender with me.

Could tieing flat pieces of wood to your wellies as demonstrated in this wildfowler’s video be the answer?

It will surely help in some places, but I fear it could be damned dangerous in others: for example, I swear it wouldn’t work at all in Faversham or Conyer Creeks, where the mud is much worse than the relatively friendly stuff shown in the video.

Also, walking on these things might not be as easy as it looks, and will need a lot of concentration. This is likely to be a particular issue after a good lunch or dinner – and isn’t that often part of the point of going ashore? For the lone sailor going back to his boat in the dark, I fear using mud pattens in the wrong situation could lead to a very bad outcome at worst and likely a boat full of mud in the event of even just a minor mishap.

The video includes the following ringing warning:

‘Remember that you’ve got them on. The one thing that you’ve got to avoid doing is stepping one patten on top of the other. That results in an immediate collision of your face with the surface of the mud.’


PS – Here’s some of our local mud. As usual, click on the small image to appreciate the full glory of it.

PPS – For a great mud-related story about canoe yawl and Albert Strange Association enthusiast Dick Wynne, click here.

9 thoughts on “Mud pattens – a tempting idea”

  1. I’d love to see him try those out in St Pierre Pill.
    St Pierre Pill is on the Severn Estuary, the moorings for The Chepstow and District Yacht Club.
    We have proper mud, and yes I have been to Faversham and yes it is proper mud too.
    Even the Mastodon from “Secret Water” would have had second thoughts about paddling about in our ‘mud’.
    Come on Delyn I dare you to give it a try.

  2. My grandfather was a fisherman at Aldburgh; he had a similar set of mud-shoes although I remember them as being longer and used more like skis, I think. But I was a young then so they may have just looked bigger. I am not sure how the mud compares but you cannot used mud shoes on anything but FLAT mud for obvious reasons, and then it is entirely a matter of physics. The softer the mud, the bigger the shoes, up to the point that they are unusable.
    I have seen someone walk across mud quite fast in waders, when the person behind could not and sank in and had to be rescued; seemed to do with technique, strength, stamina to keep up the speed, balance, and making sure that the waders where a tight fit, and not carrying too much weight.
    The rescue involved the local marsh warden, the Coast Guard, Fire Brigade and a helicopter, not needed when it arrived.
    There was an encouraging panic element due to the tide coming across the mud, so the victim had to lose all his gear, be pulled out of his waders, and be dragged half naked back to shore.
    The other person was still fully clothed and walking on the mud without effort, but was unable to extract his friend without help. He tried and left it rather late before summoning help.
    When I found his rucksack and cammo jacket the next day, a half mile away, I could hardly lift them due to the amount of ammunition, water bottle and other stuff he was carrying.
    As you may have guessed, they were wildfowlers, one an expert and the other a novice; the expert was refused further licences for being irresponsible. The novice vowed never to go near mud again.

  3. G’day Gavin. Happy New Year. I too live on a tidal bay, the range is only about 11ft max, apart from equinoxes, but it can go out around two klms. Inshore it’s not as muddy as it was, they used to loose cows here and locals never went out on the flats without an inner tube. Further out and on the mudbanks it’s too thick to swim and too thin to walk. Quite dangerous if you don’t know. We have some of the most southerly mangroves in the world and after many years of retreat they are being grown replanted by volunteers and schools in the area. We commonly use mud shoes to do this, gum boots (wellingtons) would not be suitable at all..

  4. My Old Grandad used to supply the shops and people of Paulsgrove and Leigh Park near hayling Island with cockles , winkles and also a lot of fish in late 60’s and early 1970’s , fish from pools when tide went out.

    He always used mud patterns around Portsmouth and the harbours.

    As a kid I would watch my grandad and nan , boiling HUGE pots of hot water.
    then in kitchen would be 3 or 4 sometimes 5 hundred weight backs filled with cockles and winkles.

    I used to watch the whole process , The smell of the sea filled the street on cooking days 🙂

    He also hand built clinker boats etc the old man did.

  5. After watching the vidoe, I decided to give these a try and built my own for use flyfishing for carp. I’m walking a flats area of a man made lake with a mud bottom. I’m walking in ankle to thigh deep water with these. The mud in our region is very dense clay. You don’t sink too deep – mid calf at worst. But the mud is so dense and clingy it is a battle for every step. The nud pattens worked well. It’s not without problems: have to re-tie occasionally, you still sink and struggle a bit, etc. However, overall it’s definitely better than without.

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