Today I woke up at 4:45am! madness sheer madness but sailing it dictated by the tides to a large degree.
Here’s a few journey stats
HT (Sheerness) 04:53 LT (Sheerness) 10:42 Distance calculated to Whitaker East Cardinal 21.4nm
My aim was to leave around 05:30 just as the tide starts flowing east, and the trick is to get to the mouth of the River Crouch as the tide starts to flood and flow back into the river.
I prepped a flask of tea, did my engine checks, had a decent breakfast, slapped on some sun cream and was ready to roll by 6am.
There wasn’t much wind, and as the boat was already facing into the wind I raised the main and slipped off the mooring buoy with a little help from the engine.
Even at 6am it was heating up pretty quickly. I motor sailed along the edge of the Medway Channel to the No.1 buoy. I then headed north towards Sea Reach No1, which is at the edge of the Oaze precautionary zone which looks like a roundabout for tankers and other very large vessels. My aim was to slip across the Yanlet Channel (the main channel that runs into London for large vessels) near the precautionary area at a right angle. I saw a sailing boat play chicken with a tanker, who sounded his horn with annoyance. I decided to hang back and wait for Goliath to pass. Once the tanker came closer I made a bee-line for his behind lol, knowing that by the time I got anywhere close he’d be gone.
I quickly got over and started making my way up the West Swin Channel and Middle deep avoiding places known as Maplin Sands and Foul Sand, a vast expanse of sandbanks that stretch far out from land, only visible at low tide. Realising I was ahead of time I swung around to find a spot to let the boat drift whilst I had a cup of tea. The boat that had caused the tanker to vent his fury had been dilly-dallying around beforehand in front of me until I passed him, then as I swung around he decided to change direction, and shout out in his thickest white man van accent “WHERE YA GOIN”, “any bloody way but where you’re going” I thought. For 20 minutes I let the boat drift, had a cuppa and a biscuit, and christened the fishing rod. Didn’t catch a sausage, or a fish 🙁
As I left, Excalibur came under attack from the military, shells fells short of Excalibur, smoke and debris appeared over land in the distance, luckily I was out of range. I kept a good distance from the Shoeburyness artillery range, and for good reason.
I was fed up of flappy sails, so didn’t bother putting them back up, the wind simply wasn’t there, but the sun was and it was roasting!
I arrived near the Whitaker buoy when I wanted to be smack bang on time, slack water. The water shoals, and is very shallow in places, so it’s not possible to just hang a left and a left again to enter the river, you have to head out further north east, and then back again south west but in the channel. I watched a different sailing boat ahead of me go for the short cut, and then stop and continue parallel with me. Slightly suspicious he had bottled his short cut, and was copying me, my suspicions were confirmed when I decided I had passed the shallows and turned to port, he did exactly the same. Silly guy I thought, never copy me I’m a complete beginner!!! I took the Whitaker Channel in.
Typically the wind now started to pick up as I headed into the wind. Sails down, 30 knots of wind on the nose, couldn’t be bothered to beat, lets just get in as quickly as possible I thought.
I managed to view the famous seal colonies just off to port through the binoculars.
I made my way along the Crouch a lot easier than I had imagined. Reading the East Coast Pilot book I had visions of it being a complicate affair, but really it’s not Formula 1 and everything happened at a leisurely place, well it did today anyway.
I stopped outside Burnham Yacht Harbour and readied as many fenders as possible around the boat and set up my lines. I couldn’t raise the marina by VHF or by phone, until I found a different number off Google and got through straight away. I was to be met at a pontoon where someone would help me with my lines, which I was very grateful for. Typically they wanted me to go in port side, remember this is not my best side.
As I got in, the berths were empty but the wind was blowing me off the pontoon, and I drifted to the next set. I just couldn’t get Excalibur up along side the pontoon with the wind at 30 knots blowing me off, so I eventually drifted onto a starboard pontoon. No damage done, and luckily I had a couple of fenders on that side AND a midship line on there too. I’ve learnt it pays dividends to expect the unexpected and just fender and set lines of both sides to cover all eventualities. I’m definitely going to continue this going forward! For the sake of 5 extra minutes, a little bit of prep goes a long way! Phil already had my bow line and was directing my bow, the wind blew me onto the pontoon, and as I already had a midship line rigged, I was able to take that line and secure it so Excalibur wasn’t going anywhere! Yay!
All in all a successful trip. I didn’t get much sailing done, but I made my first solo passage, a whopping 41 miles! I’ll take that! I arrived at 13:30 so the journey took me 8 1/2 hours. I went on the basis that I would be doing 5 knots, so this works out perfectly given my tea break and my faffing around the entrance to the marina.
Trip Stats Miles: 41 Total Miles: 101 Expenses Lunch 10.40 Summer trip total expenditure £969.91