A sailing blog about a skipper and his yacht

An Unsatisfactory Cruise

Other commitments prevented me from getting away on the boat before July.  My plans had undergone several revisions from originally thinking of another Biscay crossing with a possible Atlantic crossing, now I just thought I might head west along the South Coast perhaps to the Scillies or even Ireland.

It took two trips out in the dinghy to ferry all my gear and provisions out to the boat.  I had charts and pilot books covering from Gibraltor to Ireland and all places in between so I was ready to go where fancy took me.

To Ramsgate and Dover

Setting out early from Pin Mill, sunrise and tides fell nicely into place. First light and the last hours of the ebb to take me down the Orwell and then to pick up the flood to cross the Thames Estuary. No wind at first but you set out hoping  that it will fill in later. Only to be disappointed on this occasion, so we motored out down the Medusa channel, across the head of the Gunfleet sand and to the Black Deep. Through the London Array windfarm via Foulgers Gat and so to North Foreland  and into Ramsgate. 

Peaceful evening in Ramsgate

Peaceful evening in Ramsgate

Next day was just a short hop down to Dover and into the new marina here. In the afternoon I walked along to and the up the famous White Cliffs

The bad news was a gale forecast and everyone was staying put. The morning was fine and I took the opportunity to walk up to Dover Castle, but I didn’t visit as was shocked by the price of admission, £29 for a concession i.e. pensioner. My thought was that English Heritage were pricing out the less affluent members of our society from our heritage. A continuation of my walk took me to the Bleriot Memorial on top of the white cliffs. The spot where Louis Bleriot landed after the first aeroplane crossing of the Channel. Gradually the wind was building and rain arrived in the afternoon. It was certainly a wild night, shrieking wind and lashing rain. 


White cliffs of Dover

White cliffs of Dover

To Newhaven

When the bad weather had passed I carried on. It was light winds as far as Dungeness but then it picked up – on the nose of course. I decided that to make decent progress I would need to motorsail. Later we had rain and mist. I had decided to go inland of the Royal Sovereign shoals. I did wonder about this decision as I had  bad visibility for this section, fortunately there is a yellow special purpose buoy  which gives good guidance although it was far from easy to spot in the conditions.  A short step took us around Beachy Head and thereafter  to Newhaven on a falling wind. Calling port control they warned me a ferry was due  but let me enter so I was soon tied up to the visitors pontoon. It had been a long day.

My sister lives not far from Newhaven so she and two of my nieces visited me next day bringing  a picnic and then we had a walk past the old abandoned village of Tide Mills to Seaford.

Leaving Newhaven

Leaving Newhaven

To Littlehampton

The forecast for the next day was not good with strong winds arriving later. I judged that I had time to make my next objective of Littlehampton it before that arrived. I set off with sunshine but later it clouded over looking more gloomy and threatening. With a strong headwind progress was not fast so I resorted to the engine for the last miles, to ensure arriving at the favourable tidal state. Tidal access to Littlehampton is quite limiting, 2 hrs either side of HW to cross the bar. I wanted to ensure entry before HW as I didn’t fancy entering on a falling tide plus having the fight the ebb. This was a harbour I had never visited before and  entering an unknown harbour is often a little worrying. It was with some relief at I got in in good time but I was a little surprised on the strength of the flood down what felt like a very narrow entry channel with about 55 minutes of flood remaining. Still I could turn that to good use by turning into the stream when by the visitors pontoon and ferry gliding into a berth all nice and under control.

Shortly after arriving drizzle and rain started. The wind and rain continued all night and most of the next morning. It did eventually stop but it stayed dull overcast and drizzly all day. Next day more drizzle and bad visibility, that and a poor forecast of SW 4-6 persuaded me to stay put. When the day eventually brightened it was of course too late for the tide but I did manage a walk along the West beach.

 Next day Saturdays forecast was SW 5-6 occasionally 7, there was early rain, brighter later but very windy.

Sunday brought no relief SW 5-7 perhaps 8 later, a miserable day of rain and drizzle with high winds

Monday was similar SW 5 or 6 occasionally 7 at first

Littlehampton entrance

Littlehampton entrance

Littlehampton to Newhaven

I was beginning to feel trapped here in Littlehampton. The long range forecast spoke of a higher than usual risk of strong winds and the weather remaining very unsettled. I had looked at the entrance channel a few time and it didn’t look inviting with strong winds. A further problem was that trying to go west, if you exited Littlehampton at high water, the best time, the tide was ebbing down the English Channel. With SW winds, not only would you have to fight the tide but it would be a wind against tide situation and so rough sea conditions. Not nice at all. I came to the conclusion or decision that I would give up trying to go west wards and return to the east. Disappointing but I later meet couple of other sailors who had arrived at the same conclusion.

Accordingly on Tuesday I decided to make  a break for it. The forecast was not promising W 5-6 backing SW 4- 6 veering W 6-7 later but at least the tide would be with me and the wind behind. Out through the channel and over the bar I put 3 reefs in the main and hoisted the staysail. I was quite surprised to see another yacht in the distance so I thought I am not the only mad one. The seas were quite rough and it was quite a wild ride. I had to hand steer most of the time due to the conditions and at time I was wondering whether I should really be out here. In the late afternoon  with some relief I entered Newhaven and tied up to the visitors pontoon.

With strong wind and rain all night and gales forecast for Tuesday I needed no other excuse to stay put. The barometer dropped from 1025 to 987 so it was quite some low passing though.

In the morning, It was interesting and slightly worrying to watch the car ferry turn around in the harbour, there is barely room for it to do so. Normally they reverse out down the channel and turn around outside, however in bad conditions with rough seas it is understandable why they do not want to do this.

Although the wind had dropped I thought to wait a day for the sea state to calm down. I walked along the west beach and then up Castle hill, good to stretch the legs and get some exercise. I sat in the sun and had a cuppa at Castle cafe where I chatted with  the master of one of the Cats that service the offshore wind farm. Turned out he was a keen sailor himself, keeping his boat in Brittany. Back by the pontoon he showed me around his service cat, lots of high tech and very impressive. Interestingly as well as electronic logs they are required to keep an “old fashioned” paper log.

A couple in a bilge keeler moved onto the visitors pontoon from a drying berth as they wanted to leave early next day to catch the tide eastwards. Had a long chat with them, they were digital nomads, living on their boat with their ships cat and slowly progressing around the UK. Later that evening we visited the local pub for a meal and a couple of beers.

Ferry turning in Newhaven

Ferry turning in Newhaven

Newhaven to Dover

Just before LW our two boats slipped away from the pontoon and out of the harbour. It was quite novel for me to have a buddy boat. We had a good sail to round Beachy Head after which the other boat headed inshore as they were bound for Eastbourne. I carried on, this time I decided to past off shore of the Royal Sovereign Shoals. The breeze wasn’t to last however and by midday I was motoring in a flat calm under increasingly gloomy skies. Dungeness came and went and then approaching Dover it was very heavy rain with very poor visibility, very undesirable for closing Dover and all the concentration of ferries and shipping. Fortunately it didn’t last too long and cleared just in time to close the western entrance and enter the harbour and thence the marina.Dover to Pin Mill 

The bad news was that more bad weather was on the way, this time storm Antonio so more time harbour bound.

I was finally able to get away a few days later. Firstly I need to refuel, the fuel berth in the new marina was not yet functional so I needed to  exit the marina and go past  the Prince Of Wells pierced tower and then transit the  Wick channel to get to the old fuel berth in the old tidal dock. the wind was still strong which took me a little by surprise as the new marina is very sheltered with high walls. I’ll confess I made a bit of a pigs ear of going alongside the fuel dock, my fenders and lines were on the wrong side and I thought I would get away berthing with the wind on my stern. Ha no way so I had to go around again and change fenders and lines to the other side and even then I struggled. Still no damage apart from to my pride and looking like a right amateur. Exiting the eastern entrance it was surprising rough but some distance away it settled down a little. Before long I was up by the Goodwin bell. I decided I would try the old sailing anchorage of the Small Downs inshore here rather than go to Ramsgate.  It was  not quite smooth here but with the hook down I thought it acceptable and could cook some tea.  

I didn’t have a bad night  and just before dawn saw me up and under way to make the most of the tide. I headed out to the South Brake and then turned up the Gull Stream and fairly soon I had the Broadstairs Knoll buoy to port. Unfortunately I was now hard on the wind and bashing into the waves meant progress was very slow. I bore it for a while but decided to motor sail to make decent progress. Closing the entrance to Foulgers Gat to pass though the London Array was particularly trying with the wind now right on the nose and nasty waves. Past the dog leg in the channel and it was better, I could sail again and dispense with the engine. Exiting the Gat conditions were more favourable, wind and waves abating, the sun was shining, it was turning into an enjoyable sail. Up the edge of the Black deep until nearby Sunk head and then cut across Sunk sand and then the head of Gunfleet sands. Closing the vicinity of Medusa it was growing gloomy but I still had a fair wind. Passing Cliff foot and Harwich entrance and Felixstowe I entered the Orwell. It started to drizzle, the wind died and then it rained hard with very misty conditions .

By the time I was back at the mooring I was quite drenched. It seemed an appropriate finish to a what had been an unsuccessful cruise.

That Cold Spell

A bit of a recap this post. I had been saying that it had been cold with persistent E or NE winds this spring and early summer, which rather spoiled the sailing. I got notified of a feature of of the Met office that I hadn’t been aware off before and I can recommend anyone with an interest in the weather to tune into this. It is called:

Met Office Deep Dive. 

Strangely I can’t find in on the Met Office site itself!! just on its You tube channel.

The one at the beginning of June had a very good explanation of why it had been cold on the East coast and included this rather striking graphic.

Deep Dive graphic

So it wasn’t just my imagination- it had been an unusually cold.

Sailing in May

Mid may and I was back to the boat. The forecast looked promising with high pressure and good weather, albeit mostly N winds. Now normally I like to get out to the boat around HW, it makes it easier but this time I got badly delayed by a closed road due to an accident so it was 2 hours late, the tide was well out so I got a bit wet and muddy getting to the boat – not a good start.

Just around sunrise next morning I slipped away from the mooring under engine. I was the only boat on the move thais early but I had wanted to catch the last of the ebb down river before picking up the flood down the Wallet. Just before Felixstowe there was some stirring of a breeze so up with the main and past Harwich a gentle breeze allowed me to set all sail and dispense with the services of the engine. After a relaxing  sail and surprising seeing no other yachts all day I turned into Pyefleet and anchored.

Dredgers at Felixstowe

Next afternoon  I waited a little for the tide to make. It was big spring tides and it can be shallow in parts. I got my line out a little wrong and found the mud so I was glad I had waited for a making tide. Soon off and a very gentle breeze wafted down the channel and to Colne Bar and Bench Head and the start of the Blackwater. Running up here the tide was stronger than the wind so the sails hung uselessly. I drifted awhile but then with no steerage way resorted to motoring and I fetched up at Osea Island to anchor here. Later the wind returned and quite strongly. Late evening and I noticed I was closer to the beach than before and also closer to the old pier. I seemed to be dragging. At first puzzled why, on lifting the anchor I found why, the chain was wrapped around the pointy bit of the anchor with a great loop of chain hanging free. Quite how that came to be will remain a mystery but I re-anchored securely and set the anchor alarm.

Sunset Osea Island


Next day it was blowing strongly but I had a mind to take the flood up to Maldon as I had never been that far up the river. A partly unfurled Yankee gave me enough drive until up near Heybridge basin when with some discrecton I furled it and putted slowly under engine. The river was cluttered with what seemed like hundreds of sailing dinghies dashing this way and that plus way of the channel was not quite plain for me to see. But slowly all was revealed, the channel felt narrow but was plenty wide enough for a sailing barge on her way downstream  to pass me. So I made it up to Maldon and turned around back downstream. I didn’t feel bold enough this time to essay drying out in the mud.


Back at Osea and the anchorage was choppy, as the wind had seemed to go more easterly still I reckoned when the tide turned it would ease out as indeed it did.

My next move I thought to visit the Mersea Quarters, a place I had not pocked my nose into before and should be more sheltered in these conditions. I had a reasonable sail down, very few other boats about.

The Nass beacon marking the entrance was hard to spot but I was aided by another boat making is way in in the distance. The beacon itself is one of those skinny ones and badly in need of a fresh coat of paint. The pilot book mentioned that although there are moorings well out in the Mersea Quarters  it should be possible to find room to anchor. Well in these conditions the sea was a little rough, anchoring didn’t look a viable option. There was also a sunken ketch, seaweed festooning its mast and rigging which was somewhat off putting.  A VHF call to the  yacht club launch directed me to a mooring I could pick up up the Salcott channel – much more sheltered up here.

Mersea Quarters

The forecast only promised more strong winds so I too the opportunity next day to have a run ashore, ferried ashore by the yacht club launch – what luxury. So I did all those things you do ashore – a long walk along the beach, looking at the house boats, a coffee in town, a little shopping ,a lunch, a pleasant way to spend the day and always amazing how much warmer and less windy it is a few yards ashore.

I was in two minds whether  to stop another day but the forecast says the winds would ease and indeed. they seemed to and by mid afternoon it seemed almost benign with winds about 9 knots so I decided to leave, mistake one. Virtually as soon as I dropped the mooring up piped the wind, mistake two was not right there turn around and pick up the mooring again. Maybe its just an odd gust I thought. Out nearing the beacon it was obvious this was not just a gust,  mistake three not turning round there. Ok I though I’ll just nip down to the Colne see how it goes. Well it was horrid beating down the channel with the tide against the wind blowing 18 – 20 knots. Oh and did I say it was cold. Just to compound my misery the anchor decided to deploy itself when a sheet flicked the capstan switch – I had forgotten to engage to the circuit breaker to guard against such eventualities. Sorted it out but much later I made it to Pyefleet where it was more sheltered and the wind dropped. 

Next day was a better day, with a lighter wind,  still from the  NE so it would mean a day of beating up the Wallet.  An afternoon departure to catch the ebb. By Colne Bar buoy I was able to hoist all sail. A long tack took me out past Eagle and Knoll towards the Swin Spitway and then a long tack back towards the coast and Clacton. So it went on tack after tack. Eventually  I cleared The Naze with a final tack towards Red Rocks and then one last tack into Felixstowe. By now the sun was setting so the new masthead tricolour got its first proper test. By Harwich shelf we lost the last of the wind but I didn’t really mind that, it would be faster under engine. The dredgers in Felixstowe port were still hard at it working under spotlights. A little later I picked up Sea Bears mooring, there was enough light from a cresent moon and the evening star to ease this. Well despite the weather and winds it had been a reasonable few days away.

April – Setting up the rig

Sea Bear was re-launched in mid April and I went down to finish setting up the rigging. First job was to ensure the mast was upright and with the right amount of rake. It is not a job that can be down with the boat ashore as that the boat is level cannot be assured when it’s chocked up in the yard. Afloat and you know the boat is level. There was no wind and the sea calm, essential conditions and I was able with the aid of measuring, a plumb bob and by eye that the mast was straight and all in order. Next step was to get the correct tension in the rig, I had invested in a Loos rig gauge to assist me with this. So slowly I went around adjusting the bottle screws a turn or two at a time. First the cap shrouds, then when where properly tensioned, moving on to the backstays, lowers and babystay, a bit at a time and checking checking. A time consuming process but one not worth rushing. Finally I was satisfied and could fit split pins to all the bottle screws. I will recheck all the tensions etc after a few weeks as as things settle in.

Another calm day saw me finishing off a few more little jobs. I really wanted a nice steady sailing breeze to check out the rig under sail as recommended but then instead we had very strong winds and whats more very cold ones, it still felt like winter, and in light of a poor forecast I went home for a bit.

Rigging gauge

A week later I returned, the winds were lighter though still from the East so cold. I sailed down to Hamford water to anchor for the night, it is always nice when you can just sail up the long narrow channel, without tacking and without the engine. I always like visiting here, it is a beautiful spot.

Next morning I left and decided to sail out towards the Rough Towers. The wind were light so a gentle sail with flat seas, very relaxing. I didn’t quite get to the Towers, perhaps a mile or so short but I had set myself a turn-around time  so  that I wouldn’t be too late back. Reaching Harwich I turned up the Stour and up to anchor just past Ewerton Ness.

The following morning I though to go further up the river, past Wrabness to anchor at Stutton Ness. This turned out to be not one of my wiser decisions. The wind had increased in strength and was blowing right up the river so the anchorage was a trifle bumpy. I resolve to stay her only till the tide turned and I could take the ebb back downstream. In the event I returned to Pin Mill. Once again the forecast was not great for the next few days so I returned home. I was a bit fed up with being so cold sailing in these E and NE winds.

A visit to the Medway

In September I took Sea Bear down to visit the Medway. On the first day I sailed down the Wallet to  anchor at Pyefleet for the night. Next day up to and across the Wallet Spitway, crossing the top of the Whitaker spit and down the Middle Deep and West Swin  to join the Thames, upriver then past Shoebury Ness until I crossed the main channel  by the Nore Swatch and so entered the Medway. I proceeded to enter Stangate creek to anchor for the night.

stangate creek

Stangate creek


On of my reasons for this Medway visit was to visit the historic dockyard of Chatham docks so I motored up the Medway to enter and berth at Gillingham marina. That evening I took a walk to a nice old pub in Gillingham called the Ship.

The Ship Inn, Gillingham

The Ship Inn, Gillingham

The next day I walked to the Historic Dockyard, it turned out to be a little farther to walk than I expected, Chathman marina is nearer .It was a very interesting day wondering around the various exhibits and I particularly enjoyed the ropemaking. The place  is well worth a visit.

Victory model

Victory model

Inside of shed roof

Inside of shed roof

knotwork frame

knotwork frame

sailing barge & dock

sailing barge & dock

 Leaving the Marina ventured further up the river to see Upnor & Upnor Castle. It was interesting to visit this spot as this was where my sailing mentor and friend Don had grown up and learnt to sail.

Upnor castle

Upnor castle

Then I  turned back down the river to once more anchor at Stangate creek.

It had been my desire to complete my trip by visiting Queensborough and sail around the Isle of Sheppy but the forecast wind was from the NW and the pilot advised that the anchorage was not sheltered in those conditions. Another consideration was the tides would be wrong a – too late in the day for completing the passage to Harty Ferry in daylight. So I left it for another day.

Instead I headed back across the Thames and up the West Swin and Middle Deep  across the Wallet Spitway and so the Pyefleet. I did briefly consider making for the Orwell directly but decided it wouldn’t be worth having to buck the tide and tiredness later, beside Pyefleet is a nice anchorage even it is a bit of a diversion. A good sail the next day took me back to my mooring on the Orwell.

The Ore & the Alde

The descriptions for entering the Ore had always seemed a little daunting, but in August I summoned up enough courage to visit. Of course conditions had to be right, this year there had seemed to a lot of on-shore winds so a visit had been put off. One difficultly of timing a visit from the Orwell is that to arrive at the Ore bar at good time to cross the bar (2hrs before high water) you have to go against the ebb from Felixstowe so first visit timing is tricky

 As it turned out, with a good wind  I arrived at the Orford Haven clearwater buoy at just about the perfect time so headed in for the bar under sail and conditions were good. Still it was a bit nerve wracking for a first time entrance as the channel is quite narrow and it didn’t help that a faster boat was on my tail and shouting at me that they couldn’t slow down. (Well they could have I thought if they had hauled in their main a little or even scandalised it). Still they managed to pass safely enough. Thereafter it was more straightforward 

I took the  channel around the back of  Havergate island where I dropped the hook in Long Gull. Lots of birds here as Havergate Island is a bird sanctuary

Next day I proceeded up the river past Oreford and further where the river changes it’s name to the Alde  up to Aldborough threading my way through the rows of moorings here and then to arrive at  Cob island to anchor again a very peaceful spot.

by Cob island

by Cob island

In the morning I reversed my course down the river next day and anchored just short of Flybury point to wait the tide.   




Martello tower ccc

Martello tower ccc




I left here 2 hrs before high water which meant I had to buck the incoming tide but its is recommended  that it is foolish to leave on the ebb and besides the tide is not really strong until you get to the bar. Here is was strong lots of ripples & eddies and you pass so close to the beach on side and the sand banks on the other , there is a side entrance as it were where the tide rushes in at you and even with engine progress is slow so it kind of prolongs the agony and suspense. It was quite a relief to pass the buoys and head out for the clearwater buoy. There I could relax and have a very pleasant sail back down the coast to rejoin the Orwell and so back to my mooring.