The wind had gone through 180 degrees and was westerly Force 6 today. We didn’t fancy beating into that, especially as it would have meant another early start, so spent the day looking around Shoreham.
Shoreham Harbour consists of a western arm which is the mouth of the River Adur, and a short eastern arm made up of the Southwick Canal. Our marina, the Lady Bee, was in the canal and so very well sheltered, but not very scenic. We decided to go and look at Shoreham-by-Sea itself which is about 1.5 miles away up the western arm. We had heard that The Sussex Yacht Club there was particularly friendly: and so it was. We had a quick look around the town and its beach and then hurried back to the Club for lunch in their bar, looking out over the river.
After two pints of beer Richard spent the afternoon asleep!
Rather boring shingle beach at Shoreham
We both got bitten all over by mosquitos in the very short night so we didn’t get much sleep. At least it made it easier to be ready at 01:00 UTC. The marina is open to the sea about 3,5 hours either side of high water and as there is so much light pollution around Dover we left with no problems. Once away from the port It was a beautiful night. There was no moon and no wind, but a very clear sky so you could see all the stars.
Dawn at Dungeness
There was no point in even putting the sails up, so we just motored through the swell that always seems to exist around Dover, and headed for Dungeness, arriving there during a beautiful dawn. We had calculated that if we punched the tide for the first few hours, we would be able to make the 45 miles to Eastbourne fairly easily.
Lighthouse at Beach Head
What little wind there was was behind us. It seems to be quite unusual to get easterlies in the channel, and most of the pilot books and almanacs talk about playing the tides on the east-going passage. It took us a while to work out that you can play the tides a bit on the west-going passage as well – by keeping in close to the shore around Beachy Head. Suddenly we found that we could get considerably further than anticipated. We ditched plans for Eastbourne and we headed for Shoreham instead.
The wind gradually increased during the morning. We put the mainsail up, but after a couple of hours found that we had too much weather helm so the auto-pilot couldn’t cope. We had to hand steer and eventually we took the main down and continued just on genoa. We were still doing over 7 knots with the engine helping us along with much less weight on the tiller.
Tom Cunliffe’s comments about Shoreham are that it is a “refreshing change on a coast where consumer interests strive with increasing vigour to expunge the original seafaring character”. It sounded like our sort of place! It is a commercial port with much of the waterfront taken up by wharves so it isn’t particularly appealing at first. Also, getting in with an on-shore wind was tricky, especially as the lock used for small craft has a fierce surge but, once safely through, things calmed down. We had a good welcome from the lock keeper and the local chandlery that manages the marina, and finally felt we could relax. It was 14:15 UTC when we turned the engine off, but the rest of the day is a bit of a blur …
There was a lot of swell in Ramsgate Marina, not helped by the wash of all the wind farm support vessels which use the eastern end. While sheltered and safe, it was not particularly comfortable, so we were keen to push on. However, going west along the south coast is problematic in that you only get a few hours of favourable tide, so it seemed pragmatic to do the short hop to Dover before tackling the longer leg to Eastbourne.
We spent the morning shopping and looking around Ramsgate – which Richard named “dog shit city” as it was difficult to keep your shoes clean. In spite of that the beaches are good, the waterfront interesting and the Victorian architecture around the port is impressive. It is another seaside town that owes some of its prosperity to the arrival of the train in the 19th Century. It also has the last Benedictine Abbey to be built in England, St Augustin’s, designed by Pugin, so there is plenty to see, but the high street had little to make us want to stay.
White Cliffs of Dover
We left at 15:00 UT and, once again, after an hour trying to sail, we had to motor sail in light winds. We arrived at Dover at 18:00 UT entering in through the eastern entrance. A lot of “improvement” work is being done so it was annoying that you are not allowed to anchor in the outer harbour at the moment. We had to go to the marina and raft up on the waiting pontoon until 20:00 UT when there was enough tide to allow the gates to be opened into the inner harbour/marina in Granville Dock. As we intend to leave again at 01:30 UT it all seems a bit excessive, and at £26.75 for such a short stop over, very expensive, but we had little choice.
Everything calmed down during the night and we were eager to get going, but the tide didn’t change until midday. It was frustrating because we were surrounded by yachts and dinghies enjoying some Sunday morning racing and, by the time they had all gone off to lunch, the wind had dropped even more. We were expecting a run all along the Kent coast, and Richard spent some time setting up our heavy spinnaker pole to keep the genoa out if we were goose-winged. It turned out to be unnecessary as, after a nice sail out into the Thames estuary, we had to motor sail for the next few hours. At least it was in hot sunshine with a favourable tide.
On rounding North Foreland the wind came up and we sailed the last few miles, keeping close to the shore and enjoying the views of the white cliffs around Broadstairs. The sea turned blue after weeks of being brown and it really feels like we are on our way home.
Ramsgate was quiet and we had no trouble getting a space in the marina. Within minutes of tying up the wind came up much more and the skies started to look threatening. We were fine, but watched the lifeboat towing another yacht in, so perhaps were lucky to have had such an uneventful day.