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.
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.
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 …