And so to the final leg of 2023 Summer's adventure.
In total contrast to our arrival into Ramsgate yesterday, the day dawned clear and calm. Blue skies and glassy sea saw us leave Ramsgate Harbour with permission of Harbour control on CH14, and head out in a northerly direction, quickly passing Broadstairs and Joss Bay.
The tide in the Thames is quite a force to reckon with, so we had timed our ropes off to ensure we caught the tide as we turned westwards again into the Thames Estuary. The Thames looked like the Mediterranean, with wall to wall blue skies and waters. Sailing out into the middle of the estuary, the tide whisked us along at around 7 knots close to the Kentish Flats Wind farm. Watching with interest as 3 workers had supplies dropped to one of the turbines by a support vessel ...a trip to Brighton to visit the Wind Turbine exhibition was planned to understand more about their technology as the pure scale of them close up is quite staggering.
The entrance to the Medway beckoned and we entered the river exactly at High Water - great timing to have made the most of the Thames tide. A poodle up river with the main sail helping against the now out going tide and we arrived at Gillingham around 16.00
Safely in our new berth - 34, a quick rinse off of Dipity ready for packing up tomorrow and it is definitely wine o'clock!
Planning to stay on Serendipity at the marina for a couple of days to catch our breath and get some sleep after our marathon Torquay to Gillingham 6 day passage. Then it's time for packing up and returning to life on land.
Blog complete for 2023.....watch this space for next year's adventure.....there are a few ideas being bounced around.......!!!
Another day of evolving plans and early starts! Part of the reason for our long passages this week are the early morning tides moving in our direction; with the days shortening, we need to maximise daylight hours, so with another 6.30am alarm, we were off again as the tide began to rise.
Today's objective initially was to get to Dover, but looking at the weather forecast after Saturday, there are horrible winds building up for the next 10 days or so ... with home almost in sight, we again changed plans as we progressed and opted to sail on to Ramsgate.
Once the murky morning cover burnt off, the sun came out again, but with easterly winds on the nose and the dreaded wind over tide it was a bouncy, uncomfortable ride across Normans Bay, Rye Bay and Hythe bays, passing Dungeness before reaching familiar Folkestone and the white cliffs of Dover.
The Coastguard and Channel VTS ( Vessel traffic services) were giving hourly messages to watch out for small boats of migrants as many had apparently been spotted overnight. Border Force were visible and we heard of one rescue but fortunately we didn't spot anything untoward; the advice is to give the boats a wide berth and radio to the Coastguard on CH16.
After playing ferry dodging round Dover Harbour entrance, the decision to progress to Ramsgate didn't seem like such a good idea. The Easterly winds picked up, as did the waves, and whilst the wind helped us make steady progress, the 1-2 metre waves were side on making us rock , with waves crashing over the bow and spray even making the cockpit occasionally.
Keeping our minds positively focused on the final leg home tomorrow, we dug deep and finally arrived into Ramsgate in at least Force 4 gusting 6's winds. Wind whistled around the marina and berthing was a challenge with the boat being pushed off the pontoon by the wind; thankfully 2 kind chaps came to our aid securing us to our berth.
Pleased to have made it this far as the tides from here again tomorrow morning are favourable, we have a berth allocated in our home port of Gillingham, Kent for tomorrow night for the winter season.
It's been quite a week and a test of our stamina....229 miles covered in 6 days from Devon, and 44.5 hours of mainly motor sailing; but home is in sight and conditions have thankfully been largely sunny and calm.
Last leg tomorrow.......
A daybreak ropes off, a beautiful sunrise and a close encounter with a massive P&O ferry started the day!
It was an ever evolving passage as Plan A - to go Brighton Marina, progressed to Plan B - to go to Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne, to Plan C to anchor off Eastbourne pier and avoid both the locking in and out time and the cost of just 12 hours in Sovereign Harbour itself!
A stunning day with blue skies and sunshine as we sailed past the Witterings, Bognor Regis and Shoreham before Brighton seemed to be approaching and us passing it for hours! The knitting and sun cream came out and all was well :)
There is a 3 day weather window in the SE until Saturday eve....so as the passage was going well, the seas were slight and the sun shining a decision was made to drop a stop (and a walk and ice cream on the prom and pier at Brighton) and push on past the South Downs and Seven Sisters rounding Beachy Head to Eastbourne.
Anchorages are marked with an anchor symbol on our charts and with one indicated, we dropped anchor in 2.8 metres of water near the pier. Looking to shore, and arriving at low water, we realised there was going to be quite a rise in the tide.....and as we are on spring tides there certainly was to a depth of 8 metres! Having marked the anchor chain and rope when in Plymouth, we had measured out 25 metres to allow for the rise of tide and were spot on with the 3 x rule.
Unfortunately a slightly uncomfortable night ensued with a swell on the incoming tide and rolling as it went out again! Dave was on anchor watch and got up 3 times through the night....but the pier looked fabulous lit up and the winds were very light so overall a good decision made. Maybe not a regular place to consider using but it did the job this time.....though we got some funny looks from other boats who clearly hadn't considered the anchorage previously. Perhaps we will have started a trend!
Miles travelled 58.7 in 11 hours 39 mins.
Waking up to a beautiful calm Beaulieu river with views across to Buckler's Hard was slightly surreal this morning. The facilities at the marina are first class and even had access to a plug for hair maintenance - believe me this is a rare treat!!
Making the most of the opportunity for a brief New Forest experience, we took the 2 mile well established path through the Beaulieu Estate walking through ancient woodland adjacent to the River. A fellow boatie had recommended Steffs cafe, which was within a hidden garden centre. A delicious breakfast with locally produced fayre and a good Cappuccino went down a treat.
A quick walk up and down the main Beaulieu village road, before we hot footed it back the 2 miles to Serendipity for ropes off before our Noon 'checkout' with 10 mins to spare!! Some great boat manoeuvring skills by Dave saw Serendipity rotated through 180 degrees in a tight and fairly shallow channel, then we bode farewell to the New Forest and were pleased to have taken the time to visit.
Leaving just after High Water, we left the engine on tick over and drifted down River admiring the beautiful properties, boats and wetlands as we headed towards the sand bar to cross back into The Solent.
With the sandbar easily navigated this time, we hit the powerful tide nose on, so had a slow hour whilst it slackened, before passing Southampton Water, Bramble Bank, Stokes Bay and turning into Portsmouth Harbour and back to Boatfolks' Haslar Marina.
We were delighted to welcome Kathy on board for Prosecco and chat in the late afternoon and early evening sunshine, whilst Dave kindly cooked us dinner. So lovely to have some time together.
Early start again tomorrow as we progress eastwards towards Brighton.
What better way to start a day than with a videocall to sing Happy Birthday to your Grandson! Clearly relishing the birthday vibe, Ollie was in chirpy happy birthday and holiday mode!
With the rest of the morning spent passage planning for the next 10 days or so, looking at options for best days and conditions to complete the heavier legs of the journey, we have decided to jump quickly along the coast in the next 4 days to make good ground to Kent. With the nights drawing in and the weather becoming more changeable we are restricted with tides in daylight hours; we will forgo a visit to the Boat Show and Portsmouth and hopefully make Eastbound by the end of the week.
Our next passage today, however, was to Bucklers Hard Yacht Harbour in the Beaulieu River; the New Forest has a special place in our hearts and it was surreal to arrive to Bucklers Hard by sea rather than on our bikes!
A tricky navigational day; with a quick videocall to Katie enroute, we timed our passage to enter The Solent as the tide began to rise and with quite a strong SW wind behind us too, we made 7.5 knots as we passed the Needles and Hurst Castle. The entry to the Beaulieu River was a challenge as it required passing over a sand bank, then passing between marker boys and withies (sticks in the river) to remain in the dredged channel. As Bucklers Hard and the 'on river marina ' came into view, we passed to the inside of the Visitors Pontoon at the direction of the helpful harbour master who was also there to catch our lines and help us to manoeuvre into a tight mooring.
A pretty location with great facilities, we are disappointed to just be here for 1 night.......definitely another 'we will be back' location!
And so our summer travels come to an end and we begin our journey home. After some discussion over medium term weather and tide forecasts, it was decided we'd tackle a long first leg to cross Lyme Bay and head to Dorset today. Plan A was to get to Portland Harbour...with a plan to carry on further to Studland Bay if conditions and time allowed.
With an early 5.30am alarm, and ropes off at 6am just before sunrise, we left Torquay in light drizzle, but for once with the tide and wind behind us. Rolling along with the waves and with the rain clearing, we were lulled into a false sense of security, with Rosie even getting her knitting out for a couple of hours!! As we approached Portland Bill everything changed, with the tide having turned and Serendipity hitting the turbulent waters of the 'race' around the headland (which seemed to have moved further out to sea than we had anticipated), we rock and rolled in the waves.
The weather was grey and overcast, with rain showers threatening most of the day. Dave was in salopettes and wellies, and for Rosie it was a 4 layer kind of day! The only saving grace was the frequent appearance of dolphins.
As we were around 3 miles offshore, it was as easy to carry on to Studland, than turn to approach Portland Harbour...... we decided to grit our teeth and continue our passage on to Studland Bay. As before, Lulworth ranges were active, but this time we were far enough offshore to avoid a telling off by the security boat and luckily the firing stopped at 16.00 before we needed to cross back towards the shore.
13 hours from ropes off and under really quite challenging conditions at times, we turned around Old Harry Rocks into the beautiful sanctuary of Studland Bay around 7pm. Too tired for anything other than a snack( we had enjoyed a left over party Pastie on the way) and a quick drink, we were in bed and asleep by 21.15......exhausted, but delighted to have made such a great first leap on the way home :)
Once again the Government's '£2 bus rides' came to good use, as we travelled from Torquay to Exminster using the 22 and 2 Stagecoach buses via Teignmouth on Saturday afternoon after a Morrison's Delivery for re-provisioning first thing.
Making full use of facilities at The Buntings (!) the washing was done by the time Rob, Jade and Ollie arrived home on Sat afternoon from a prior social engagement. Always such a pleasure to spend time together, we enjoyed Ollie time, before an evening catch-up with R&J.
Sunday was party day - Both sets of grandparents and his Auntie Hayley and cousins Jude and Win, were joined by his little friends Freddie and Olive and their parents for lovely food and playtime in the garden (thankfully the rain passed in time!!)
A great time was had by all as we celebrated the first year of a very special and much loved little boy!
R, J and O left as we did late Sunday afternoon to go to North Devon for further birthday celebrations as a little family, and we retraced our steps to Torquay by bus to prepare to start our journey home to Kent tomorrow.