We survived the high winds in Ramsgate on the 10th August 2014 and have a video clip to remind us of the effects in the outer marina in the inner basin.
The snacking of the pontoons in the first part of the clip perhaps gives best indication of the swell.
Our thoughts turned to where we might next go, and Harwich seemed to be a fair option, the direction of the wind was not fair, the weather unsettled, so there was no rush – other than the Ramsgate marina fees which were in excess of 30 pounds a day.
We decided to explore by land and took the bus to Margate.
There appeared to be little Margate could offer in terms of refuge for a deep keeled yacht but it was a pleasant town to visit.
The crew had a taste for land (cant think why), and a 5 mile sea walk to Broadstaires and back was presented as a plan. The walk was comfortable, and there was some kind of celebration at Broadstaires.
It always good to see how the other half live on the land side of a beach, though not one that appeals on a regular basis.
Having walked the five miles we anticipated the effects would have most impact the following morning, and thoughts turned to how we would get out of our bunks with the aching muscles, a night-cap would help.
It was so nice to be in a bunk which was still and facilitated sleep.
The following day arrived, and strangely there was no problem in rising from the bunk – for a large crunching sound shuddered through the boat – we were hit – the command of the English language faltered, and the fore hatch opened to see a yacht reversing back.
Clothes were thrown on and an inspection made of the bowsprit – the only obvious problem was the anchor was now wedged into the bowsprit. The owner of ‘Esprit’ a Moody 31, approached – it’s an awful feeling when you bump a boat – so there was no point in shouting – so I invited the skipper to see the problem from the deck. He tried to free the anchor, but it was wedged solid – he suggested it might be shifted with a crow bar – he then looked at my face – and offered his name and address – I said that would be a good idea.
He returned with his piece of paper and I thanked him for his honesty.
Our resilience to challenge was to be tested further – for ‘Esprit’ was set to depart again. It is no exaggeration to say the boat went full speed astern and then full speed ahead. To be clear this was full speed ahead, not full revs ahead and astern to turn the boat within its own length. Each time the boat moved to and fro it came within centimeters of boats on each row of pontoons – it was a fifty chance of which row was going to take the hit – and yes it was us again – crunch. Screams from the wife of the skipper and glass flying everywhere from a shattered navigation light – a change of luck is was not ours but his. I am not sure what happened next but it was some relief to see the stern of Espirt disappear off to sea, minus a nav light. I dug deep and consider it was fortunate I had managed to put Cariad into the berth stern to else there would surely have been fibre glass damage rather than scrapes to stainless steel.
The rest of the day passed without event – and a serious night out was called for and enjoyed.
We planned our passage to Harwich, and had two options an early start for a day light arrival or an afternoon departure and a night arrival.
The afternoon departure was chosen because the wind was forecast to be from the west backing southwest, which gave us a fair wind until the last couple of miles.
Before departing the marina filled with boats for Ramsgate Week, It was interesting watch how boats with crew (3 +) struggled to moor up, and one might think a boat flying a blue ensign which was not defaced, might be humble about their mistakes – but no. Anyway now was not the time to comment as it was our turn to leave the berth – dividends for the stern to berthing were reaped – we gently motored through the gaps and sought permission to leave for sea.
The wind was a force 4 – 5 south-westerly, which meant we were on a broad reach. Not to worry it would make Harwich fairly straight forward. We had a reef in the main, the smaller Yankee and no staysail as the wind was forecast to be 5 to 6.
As we headed north up the minor shipping lane, the wind veered W and increased. The next weather forecast now suggested the wind would be west 5 to 7, and possible gale 8 later. This should still allow us to get to Harwich.
The wind increased and Cariad seemed to be quite hard pressed, though we were making over 7 knots over ground. Time to swap the Yankee for the Staysail – a crawl along the deck ahead – I looked at the small Yankee and reconsidered my thoughts of buying a third Yankee in between the large and small one – the small one looked quite large – that being because it was the large one – ‘b**** ***l’ its a bitch taking this large sail down in anything above a force 4. It was not the most elegant sail change with the crew safe below. It was interesting seeing, from the foredeck, the bowsprit disappear into the waves, but once sailing with just the staysail and the single reef in the main Cariad was much happier.
With the westerly it was not possible to sail the next leg of 18 miles to Harwich, having promised the crew Harwich it was time to put pride aside and try motor sailing closer to the wind. Cariad was to assert her will to sail, as motor sailing only achieved about 2 knots given the sea state. Coming off the wind gave 4- 5 knots. 20 nautical miles 2 knots 10 hours – with the possibility of stronger winds – I don’t think so.
The route for Lowestoft was already in the chart plotter from the outward passage, so it was just a case of adjusting to the revised destination – and informing our land contact of the change to the passage plan – there was no phone signal in the middle of the Thames – so the HF radio and ability to send an email came into its own.
The wind did gust force 7, and if I was honest we should have put another reef in the main, but I convinced myself it was better to have the extra speed and get safe into Lowestoft before the gale.
It’s clear a tradewind 35 only really starts to sail in winds above a force 4. I now have the confidence of sailing in a force 6 – 7, and am not fearful of a gale 8 – though most certainly respectful of the same. That confidence assumes no problems, which hopefully is the reward of putting the work into the boat.
I find the worst hours to be those between 01.00 and 04.00, especially as the nights grow longer. Morale is raised with things like hearing Humber Coastguard, a packet of wine gums and last but certainly not least the sound bytes that come from the crew including the offer to provide some respite – alas the stronger winds and amount of shipping preclude the feasibility of accepting.
We approached Lowestoft at 8 knots over the ground at some points, and whilst pleased to get there before the winds got stronger, making passage through the entrance was interesting with the strong tide, and the possibility of engine failure does not bear thinking of. Whether we should have reefed earlier and arrived closer to slack water is a possible alternative, if the winds had reached gale force 8 we might have had to stay at sea – but the water is not always deep in the North sea. I suppose Holland might have been a possibility.
Those who do sail single-handed may truly understand the benefit of having crew that come to life to put fenders out, turn the boat into the wind to drop sails – and I should add can now take a sail down in lighter winds.
Anyway we enjoy Lowestoft – so we have time to reflect and plan for next year.