Strong winds are still forecast around the whole of the British Isles. After 48 hours of strong winds/gales the wave height around North Foreland might be challenging, and so we decided to wait another day. It is the last big “corner” we have to tackle before getting home and we don’t want to ruin our record for careful planning and keeping out of trouble…
A boring day. It was too windy to go ashore safely, and even the birds were keeping out of the way so there was little to watch. We just stayed on board, eating and reading.
We wanted to move on today but, with a gale forecast, there wasn’t a lot of choice about where to go as we didn’t want to go to a marina. However, we realised that The Swale would be well sheltered in south westerly winds and, again, we were lucky with the tides. High water was around 09:00 UTC. Round the south of the Isle of Sheppey the channel gets very shallow and so needs to be navigated around high tide. There is also the “hazard” of the Kingsferry Bridge, which only opens, or more accurately lifts, on request, if it does not disrupt the train schedules too much.
We got up early and, before taking the anchor up, rang the bridge to make sure that it wouldn’t present any problems. It was fine. We got our timing just right and motored round for an opening at 08:10 UTC. That gave us just under an hour to get through the narrow channel of The Swale listening to the gale warning for Thames on the Coastguard MSI broadcasts. We dropped anchor again at 09:30 UTC at Harty Ferry just as the wind was beginning to get fierce.
Storm clouds gathering as Thames Barge Greta goes past
The wind was up and down all day. By mid-afternoon it was a full gale but our anchor held well. The wind moderated a little in the evening and we were confident by the time we went to bed, although a further front going through at around 1.30 am had us both up to check everything.
The way the tides work on the Thames, you get 7 hours of flood, but only 5 hours of ebb, so when our 08:00 UTC departure from Limehouse was slightly delayed because the lock master was late for work, we were worried. There was no need to be. With wind, tide and current all with us we went really fast. As soon as we were through the Barrier we unrolled the genoa to motor sail and raced down the river. Going under the QEII road bridge we even touched 10 knots. As the river widened at Gravesend we put the mainsail up and sailed the final few miles in 15-20 knots.
We returned to the same anchorage, Stangate Creek in the Medway, for the night, and were well settled there by 14:45 UTC. We have been so lucky with our trip up the Thames. The timing of the tides meant that we could do the whole thing in daylight, and managed to find dates when it was convenient to see both children. The whole thing was a really positive experience, and much less stressful than the pilot guides implied.
The wind rose during the afternoon and evening and, while safe, it wasn’t the peaceful anchorage we had experienced 3 days ago – especially when two larger yachts tried to anchor and then raft together too close just as it got dark. It was annoying when they had the whole of the rest of the creek to chose from, and worse, their anchor(s) dragged fairly quickly. Poor Richard had to spend a long time in the cockpit after dark, using a flashlight to get their attention and make them move.
Harvard in Limehouse Basin
A great day. Limehouse Basin is at the end of the Regent’s Canal, and so is predominantly a marina for canal boats which gives it a very different feel. Early on we did a couple of jobs on Harvard’s engine and some shopping. We couldn’t face doing real tourist stuff in London, but it was such a lovely day that once Tom met up with us again we decided to walk along the Limehouse Cut, an extra leg of the canal that joins it to the Lee Valley. That meant that we could walk all the way to the Olympic Park without seeing any traffic or crossing a major road. There weren’t even many people – just a few cyclists- and lots of moorhens, swans and coots.
Aquatic Centre in Olympic Park
We came back on the DLR, which gave us just enough time for a drink at the Prospect of Whitby. It is at Shadwell Basin, and advertises itself as the oldest waterfront pub in London. Richard has been wanting to go there for ages, so that was another “first” to tick off the list.
Then on to meet up with Charlotte to see her new house. A lovely Victorian terraced property near Kennington. It has loads of potential, but she and Prem will have a busy few years renovating it. We took the opportunity to try out what will be one of their local pubs for supper, and very good it was too.