London to Lowestoft

The two weeks spent in St. Katharine Dock were great fun and Paula and I walked to near exhaustion as we tried to make the best of the wonderful central London location. Among many highlights was a visit from Helen and David Harbour who are the editors of the Southerly Owners association magazine. The Association have very kindly awarded me the John Manley prize for contributions to the magazine in 2013 for the serialisation of my Email missives sent during last year’s cruise. David and Helen came on board for a very convivial evening and made the presentation of a fine, engraved Cross pen. Thank you David and Helen and thank you SOA ! My mail updates were not composed with the SOA in mind but everyone will have to suffer another season of delete button exercise as I am now inspired to do it again this year!

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

The 4 day Easter break heralded the resumption of my cruise and I was joined by my son Oliver and 4 of his mates. We left early on the afternoon ‘lock out’ which meant that we plugged the tide past the scenic and interesting London panorama at a sedate pace and flushed past the more industrial eastern outskirts.

Galleons Reach
Galleons Reach

Unable to find the changeable entrance to Ray Gut off Southend, the light Northerly wind allowed us to anchor off, with only the wash from the passing shipping to disturb a quiet night. Our passage up to Burnham on Crouch was notable for a good sail and Burnham Yacht Harbour was a welcoming destination with the charming Town only a short walk along the foreshore. The weather was so poor the next day that it necessitated contact lenses and navigation lights. We were not in the mood for taking our time in the rain and gloom so, having been given a ‘last orders’ deadline in the Harbour Lights restaurant in Titchmarsh Marina behind Walton on the Naze, we pressed on under engine alone and enjoyed a good meal after an uninspiring day at sea.

The pontoons in Titchmarsh Marina have loops instead of cleats and it must be difficult to quickly apply friction to control a yacht in a blow. It turned out that this is where the previous owner of my yacht (it was then called Katalian) suffered an awful accident and I can quite understand how it might have happened. It was spooky to be told that we were in exactly the same berth!

With my son and his mates departing to get back to their careers, I was joined by Dave Cooke, a retired Merchant Navy Captain. Our passage north took us through the commercial hubbub between Felixtowe and Harwich and we then ghosted up the river Orwell under jib alone with the flood under our keel. Picking up a mooring buoy at Pin Mill for a brief lunch stop, I learned another lesson and that is never to operate the bow thruster approaching a mooring buoy. An unseen pick up line was pulled into the thruster effectively securing us by the bow thruster propeller. Once secured as intended to the ring on top of the buoy, a short swim freed the line but the bow thruster fuse was blown. A call to the helpful Fox’s marina chandlery located a replacement (I will carry them in future) and a brief free (!) stop restored operation.

Neptune Marina Ipswich

A short passage upriver allowed us to lock into Ipswich Harbour on ‘free flow’ to spend a peaceful night in Neptune Marina after a few beers in the Dove, a quirky specialist real ale pub.

Moored at Bawdsey

Updated survey details for the Deben entrance proved invaluable as we conned our way in at low tide and a pleasant drift up stream in little wind was interesting but not as picturesque as the Orwell. A peaceful night spent back on a mooring buoy at Bawdsey inside the entrance prepared us for our passage north to Lowestoft in still airs but with the tide assisting our modest speed.

Sizewell Nuclear Power Station

The passage was only really notable for another encounter with the dreaded fishing nets. On this occasion they were patrolled by fishing boats and did not present a problem which was just as well as these did not have the line of floats to distinguish them.

So, Lowestoft achieved and a mooring in the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk secured for the week, it only remained to repair the generator (faulty exhaust sensor) and clean up. Train tickets booked in advance (Senior Railcard) for £15 will enable a return home for a family wedding and to put a cut on the lawn.

Underway around the UK

31st March to 7th April – Chichester to St. Katharine Dock

With the exception of a malfunctioning plotter (Raymarine are replacing it FOC), Hejira was in good shape for the departure at the end of March. A great deal of work has been done over the winter and I have to thank Barry Locke-Edmunds and Bob Haywood for their valued assistance.

01 Northney Chichester
Hejira on her berth in Northney Marina, her home while in Chichester Harbour

The Hejira ‘shake down’ for this year is to make an anticlockwise circumnavigation of the UK with a number of different crew joining for the various legs but taking a liberty with the purist’s view of ‘round the UK’ by using the Caledonian Canal.

The nature of passages ‘up channel’ is that one has to leave at low tide to carry the best of the stream and, following the winter storms, this was to present us with some challenges.

At low water springs, the pontoon alongside our berth in Northney dries at a drunken angle and the depth sounder was only showing dashes.

Hejira in her Northney Marina mud berth

 

I am sure that we pushed off through soft mud to leave the berth and we crept out very gingerly with disconcerting depths until over the Chichester bar and away with a light South Easterly allowing only the occasional indulgence of unassisted sailing as we tried to maintain our speed to make Beachy Head before the tidal stream became too adverse.

Having caught up with some old sailing friends in Sovereign Marina in Eastbourne, we were looking to lock out about 1 ½ hours before low water and having checked the recent survey in the Marina office, we knew it would be shallow as the shingle bank had been swept across the entrance and the depths greatly reduced but the duty lock keeper considered that we should have sufficient depth.

02 Eastbourne
Sovereigns Marina in Eastbourne

Monitoring the lock channel as we prepared for our lock out, we were surprised to hear a departing fishing boat report the depth in  the channel of ‘less than a metre’ The lock keeper was clearly concerned with this intelligence and suggested we wait until the flood which seemed prudent. We were understandably surprised to hear two other fishing boats looking to lock out and decided to follow them out hoping to use their advance soundings, fully prepared to turn around and lock back in. Explaining this to the lock staff, they accepted the philosophy and we proceeded into the lock.

I asked the larger charter fishing boat if they would be kind enough to radio the depths in the channel on their way out and told them that I actually draw less than 1 metre with my keel raised. He unhelpfully said ‘Bugger you mate, I’m not hanging around for you, you’ve got no chance of getting out in that’ When I asked, he told me he drew 3 foot 3 inches! We successfully crept out with sufficient water and that is probably where we should leave the subject.

 

04 White Cliffs
The White Cliffs
03 Dungeness
Dungeness

 

 

 

 

Our passage to Ramsgate was notable for an experience in the Ramsgate Channel inshore of the Goodwin Sands past Deal. We spotted two ‘lobby pot’ markers and a load of seagulls on the water between them. As we approached, the seagulls seemed rather regimented and resolved into a line of floats marking a 500m long net on the surface! We successfully negotiated this unexpected hazard only to see another half a mile further on.  The flood/ebb hiatus occurs in this area and it is possible to experience a favourable flood followed by a favourable ebb. The tidal stream across the Ramsgate Harbour entrance was very strong and it was unexpectedly turbulent. Ramsgate has a certain charm and we enjoyed our stay with visitors for dinner on board but it was disconcerting to find ourselves connected to the French mobile network !

I have been past the Thames Estuary several times but never ventured into the Thames from the sea. Intending to leave Hejira in St.Kats for a couple of weeks (Paula’s Easter Holiday from School) I was looking forward to taking the Swale inside the Isle of Sheppey. Taken on the flood, this presented few issues save for the railway bridge. The pilot book suggests that this can be a problem if it has been opened previously as the motors overheat and need a rest to cool down. In the event we had a half hour wait for a train and then carried the tide up to Queenborough where the pilot book indicated there was an all tide, walk ashore pontoon. The reality was that the pontoon had been disconnected for ‘health & safely’ but it was still a welcome overnight mooring.

05 Ramsgate
Ramsgate

 

The Swale Railway Bridge
The Swale Railway Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

A leisurely start for the tide ‘up river’ allowed for a decent breakfast on board but it was very worrying to see an all but submerged 40 gallon steel drum float past the pontoon.

Queenborough
Queenborough

Once under way, we kept a watch on the bow and had to manoeuvre to avoid the very same drum, dead on our course. We maintained our watch at the bow and later, up river, identified a 10 inch square 15 foot long wooden beam adrift in the channel.

The Thames is very industrial up to the Barrier when it becomes considerably more interesting and after a very pleasant overnight in Limehouse, the allocated berth in St Katherine Dock, directly outside the Dickens Inn has proved to be perfect for two weeks exploring the delights of London.

 

 

 

St. Katharines's
St. Katharines’s
Limehouse
Limehouse

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