Dover back to London

That was the plan….but it didn’t happen.

I took a super early train down to Dover and worked (day job) from the boat. Ironically I’m developing an ocean themed website at the moment for a client, which is quite apt.

The plan was to bring scally back home to London for the winter, which would consist of an over night 16 hour slog to St Katharine Docks.

The weather had been quite fickle leading up to the weekend. I spent my days in the office watching the forecast swing from good to bad and back again. The final forecast was not great, but like all best laid plans doomed to fail, the urge to race the bad weather and get home was far too much of a temptation.

The weather forecast was force 5 to 7, perhaps gale 8 at times, and would be mostly on the nose after we rounded North Foreland and headed into the Thames Estuary.

I hoped we’d make it well into the Thames before the wind piped up, and from thereon in we’d just slog it out.

Because the forecast wasn’t great, I cleared the decks and made sure everything on the boat was strapped down. Inside was the same. The forepeak becomes a dumping ground for everything that can or will go flying. Electric kettle, heater, fishing rod, cushions and fenders. Everything has to be packed away when sailing.

Wet weather gear, and warm clothing were then heaped in a pile. Thermals, gloves, and silk inner gloves (very important).

One by one, Trina and Ollie came down. We had a quick bite to eat in Cullens Yard, whilst being stared at by a family on another table for reasons unknown.

Back at the boat I did my skippers briefing which always makes me cringe. I know I come across like a doomsayer, but it’s important that everyone knows the plan, the route, weather etc. Talking everything through reassures everyone, including myself.

We planned to depart 2-2 1/2 hours before HW Dover, so we got a bit of kip in.

We departed at 02:30, arrived at the Eastern entrance bang on 03:00.

The night was super calm, the sky was full of stars and we pottered along. It was very hard to imagine the weather would change, at that moment it was very benign and peaceful. Trina spotted the first shooting star of the evening, and then headed below and slept.

We were called up on the radio and asked to stay 500m away from a dredger as we sped through Goodwin Sands, but other than that it was a quiet night.

Trina slept til 6am, when she awoke to the commotion of foot stomping on deck. We had reefed once as we neared North Foreland, and then again after as the wind picked up from the west as we rounded North Foreland.

I thought it would be a good time to get an hours kip. When I awoke the winds were blowing from 20-30 knots. We knew we’d be punching the tide around North Foreland until the tide turned, but I hadn’t anticipated we’d be at a standstill, or even worse, drifting back with the engine going full pelt. We smashed and flounded, rocking like a rocking horse, but never feeling unsafe.

Finally a decision had to be made, progress was dismal. Either we waited for the tide to turn and see if we could make some headway, or turn back to the nearest marina which was Ramsgate. But by the time the tide would turn, we would only have 4 hours before the winds increased to force 8. With that in mind we turned around and made for Ramsgate. We tried, we failed, but each outing instills more confidence in both ourselves and the boat.

We were all a bit cold, and a bit sea sick. We mused as to why anyone would want to go sailing on days like these, were concluded we were sailing masochists? Thus the term Sailorist was coined, at the same time another cold wave came into the cockpit and splashed OC.

 

Ramsgate marina was empty, and the staff were nowhere to be seen. I guess they don’t get many boats coming in over winter. Once tied up we had one more navigational danger to contend with, in the form of Kentish seagull shit, which covered the entirety of the surrounding pontoons. I’ve honestly never seen so much bird shit, what made it stranger was there were very few birds to be seen.

Drained of energy, we stumbled over to the Belgian cafe for apple pie which has turned into a bit of a tradition, in our bird shit encrusted wellies. Ramsgate was in full Halloween swing.

We had a midday nap, and in the evening visited the famous Royal Victorian Pavilion which has been converted into a Wetherspoons. The Guardian even wrote an article about it ‘Shark in minnow pond’: Ramsgate locals split on new Wetherspoon pub The building is pretty impressive in itself given it’s size, but unfortunately it’s devoid of any soul, but then that’s probably no different to any other Wetherspoons in the UK. One girl came up to our table, leaned in and slurred “Would you like my white wine spritzer. I’m fucking pissed” and stumbled off. Nothing surprises me in a Wetherspoons!

When we got back to the boat, it was evident all the seagulls in Kent had come home to roost. All 500 of them.

There was one final potentially nasty surprise at the end of the night, when my phone charger cable decided to melt.

The next morning we ate, we cleaned, we packed, we left.

The weather looks better next week, so I’ll take advantage of the lull, and try again another day.

Fingers crossed for a poop free poop deck when I return…

Trip stats
Departure date: 28/10/2017
Departure time: 02:35
Tide departure details: Departed 2 1/2 hours before HW Dover
Departure port: Dover Marina
Destination port: Ramsgate
Arrival date: 28/10/2017
Arrival time: 12:00
Distance Traveled: 37nm
Route: Departed Granville Dock. Left Dover via the eastern entrance. Goodwin sands. North Foreland. Floundered half way between Elbow and the Princes Channel. Turned back and docked in Ramsgate marina.
Author: Tim Butler

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