We departed Gosport as planned on the 15th August, bound for Brighton. The winds this year seem to have been fickle and challenging for the forecasters. We had the opportunity to try out the new double Yankee – which was effective but very heavy to hoist – and more practice is needed to use twin poles. The wind dropped and so we even tried to use the cruising chute, not even enough wind to fill that – but the practice was helpful. The engine was started, then some wind came from behind again – it started to get stronger so a preventer was rigged by the crew to avoid unwanted gybes – the work on the foredeck for the crew was a challenging experience. The wind then picked up some more so a couple reefs were put in the mainsail …. we were not cracking along which was good and bad, good because it was nice to be sailing bad because we would not get to Brighton in time for the last opportunity for entry before low water and would now have to wait three hours for sufficient water. The wind dropped again and we effectively arrived at Brighton on the first opportunity to enter after low water, we radioed up and made our way into the entry into Brighton .. as we were making our approach so did a lifeboat towing another Yacht. The lifeboat was actually making better progress against the tide than we were with the tide and a potential collision situation arose … the lifeboat had right of way under the collision regulations, and they took that right of way with 5 blasts on their horn to indicate they were unclear of our intentions. Altering course to starboard avoided the collision and put us uncomfortably close to the wall, at least the lifeboat was near. We managed to swing back round into the channel to enter the channel again … the life boat had now stopped to bring the yacht along side it rather than towing, so there was no room to pass we just had the little challenge of standing off whilst they sorted themselves.
In contrast to last year, Brighton had staff working at night and we even had someone help us into our berth – which was much appreciated. They had also taken delivery of a new notebook computer.
We departed Brighton on the 18th bound for Rye, and once again the Marina staff excelled and kindly offered some help from their work boat to nudge our bow round when exiting from the berth – I still can’t believe the customer service, in contrast to last year – well done Brighton.
Now, before setting off to Brighton the Notice to Mariners were consulted, and it was noted a dredger might be working in the marina advising mariners to pass on the correct side of the dredger. To be honest I had to check the correct signals carried by a vessel dredging, I drew a picture in the logbook, two diamonds by day and two green lights by night indicate the side you should pass on. So as we were exiting the marina and found a dredger in the fairway I felt relived to see two diamonds and with confidence made a course for that side of the dredger, it felt uncomfortably close to the edge of the channel, but diamonds it was … we came abruptly to a halt as we went aground. No worries we were trying to get out as early as possible and we were on a rising tide. Another Yacht approached to exit, strangely they went the other side and got through. A wave of shame passed over, I must have got it wrong and all these on lookers would know. I looked up and saw two green lights on the other side and remembered green for go, the crew then kindly said you have a lot to work out on each passage – comforting words but it was a knock to the confidence. The crew then said we just needed to remember balls are round and you go round – brilliant. We continued on our passage, again not the wind forecast but we pressed on. The shame was still taking its toll, and I went to check the log book, I had even written diamonds down how could this be, I cant even transcribe information now. I checked the Reeds almanac, and my heart lifted, you should pass a dredger on the side showing diamonds. Now for anyone disbelieving take a look at the picture below.
We were bound for an anchorage either on the West or East side of Dungeness depending on the wind. The wind did pick up and we had a nice sail and happily rounded Dungeness in the dark perfectly to find some shelter off Lade Bay, the anchor was dropped and it was time for some sleep. It’s a lovely feeling to drop the anchor in the dark and look forward to the curtain of darkness to be lifted revealing the shore, even better if some sun shines – we felt chilled. The crew took to their bunk and I did some final checks on the tides for the following day, I heard a sound like a rope falling on the deck and thought shall I take a look – and decided against and carried on working. Now hold this thought its pitch dark, your in the middle of nowhere, when several load knocks are heard on the hull … I muttered several expletives along the line of ‘ what the heck is that ‘, I rushed to open the hatch to see two well built men dressed in black with storm trouper helmets on …. ‘Hello’ one said we are border control – the voice was friendly but the attire was not. You have to appreciate these men were already on board and had not waited for any invitation; they searched the boat looking for migrants. I found some amusement seeing them man handle the sails looking for anyone hidden – I took some relief they were not using a pitchfork for the task. Passports were checked and questions asked and answered – they made every effort to be friendly and polite. I thought about the two lockers in the cockpit that I often have to climb into to get at wiring etc, these were unchecked, but I thought better of making a clever remark such as you haven’t checked everywhere.
Their visit was a timely reminder that we live in a world with only a very thin veneer of civilisation to it.
Yesterday we sailed up to Ramsgate with the promise of a fair and strong wind which never really came. A warm welcome from the marina at Ramsgate, with the greeting of welcome back to Ramsgate from the berthmaster.