Hello Crazysails followers,
Can you believe it? Last night was our 100th night on board since we embarked on our Round Britain sailing challenge for the National Autistic Society! It’s been and continues to be a fantastic experience and we’re still making progress, still flying the flag to raise awareness of autism and still blogging.
Today’s blog is about the ‘good the bad and the ugly’! The ‘good’ is actually the excellent news that we are now over 96% towards achieving our fundraising target for The National Autistic Society. The ‘bad’ is that here we are, still sitting in the pouring rain in Ramsgate, Kent. We arrived last Thursday and knew, that due to various arrangements and catch ups we had organised, we would be here until Monday but today is Friday and, unfortunately, we are still here in berth C34 in the inner harbour.
I say ‘unfortunately’ because it appears we missed a possible weather window in the couple of days after arriving and the ‘ugly’ is that the winds now look strong and westerly, which is the very worst direction for our travels, for the next week. As we were hoping to be back on Sunday 10th and me at work on Tuesday, this is not the best situation to be in however it’s much better to be stuck here, where we have a good berth, friends in the area, local shops and restaurants, a good yacht club, the internet (crucial to me) and (crucial to Simon) emergency dental treatment (oh dear) rather than, for example, at Dover.
For non-sailing friends, the reason we need to have a change in weather direction and strength is due to the fact we need to head west and go around several headlands Dungeness, Beachy Head and through the Looe Channel and tackling these in strong westerly winds makes for a very difficult and rough crossing. Leaving when the forecast is as it currently is, means setting out into hours of weather similar to that which we experienced off the Mull of Kintyre, Stonehaven and Whitby (previous blogs), where unpredicted winds blew up and brought with them strong wind against tide battles.
Having some time here is a good opportunity to bring our blog up to date, reflect on our travels and catch up with some work – as back to real life is coming ever closer!
So, let’s return to our journey from Wells in Norfolk to the SE tip of England and share with you some of the high and low lights of our last week of sailing.
Wells-Next-to-Sea to Lowestoft Monday 28 to Tuesday 29 August
We left Wells as soon as we could get down the creek on the morning tide. We could have anchored off the previous evening and leapt on the start of the tide to really get the most of it as it flowed southbound but we wanted an enjoyable last night in Wells and felt we could get enough of the tide to get us most of the way to Lowestoft if we left as soon as we could get out of the creek and so it was that we made our way from Wells in the morning sunshine. It has to be said it was a lot easier coming out than it had been getting in in the dark a couple of nights earlier. It was another lovely day and a busy stream of people carrying buckets and spades, lilos, towels and picnics, were already moving purposefully, like an army of ants, down the coastal path to the beach. Others had already taken up residence outside the brightly coloured beach huts or were actively creating construction sites in the wide expanse of beautiful light golden sand. Backed by trees, the beach and bay at Wells, was truly a picture postcard sight as we passed by and back out into the Wash.
With light winds blowing north easterly, we popped up the mainsail and set off for a 57 mile trip around the hump of East Anglia, past Great Yarmouth (which didn’t look very ‘great’) and into Lowestoft. Other than a couple of lifeboat ‘maydays’ to search for a diver missing off the coast of Great Yarmouth and someone else near Lowestoft who was stuck in the mud, the journey was uneventful. Sadly, it appears the diver has not been found, despite three lifeboats and a coastguard helicopter searching for two days. It does, however, once again, make us value the time and efforts made by volunteer lifeboat crew. Across the country, wherever we have been, we have seen investment in lifeboats and at times we have also seen lifeboats both out on practice and real life emergencies and it really made us appreciate what a vital service this totally voluntary organisation and the people who volunteer within it, provide around the shores of this country – thank you to all of them.
As we arrived at Lowestoft, we saw someone signalling madly from the pontoon in the yacht club marina. He was indicating a berth on an inner pontoon behind a boat called Mistral. At first, we thought he worked for the Marina but when he indicated to berth behind Mistral, we realised he must be Robbie, Rear Commodore Sail at Conyer Cruising Club and friend of our friends, Nigel and Gill and Carole and Chris, who are also members there, indeed Nigel is the Commodore at Conyer. Gill had told us to look out for Robbie and his wife Nicki and Tallulah, the dog, so it was a great co-incidence to find a berth right behind them. We had a lovely evening chatting over dinner with them in the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, which was a very nice club with an original and very unusual male toilet – see photo, not taken by me, I hasten to add! Apparently this toilet is a bit of a visitor attraction and even ladies request entry to have a look – needless to say, I resisted this but am happy to share the photo to show it off. The following morning we said farewell to Robbie and Nicki we headed in different directions.
Lowestoft to Levington, Harwich Tuesday 29 to Thursday 31 August
The sail southwards to Harwich took us a further 45 miles down the North Sea coast. The forecast had suggested it should be sunny with NW winds but as we approached Harwich the clouds gathered, the sky became black and torrential rain came down – aagh, hoped we had said goodbye to rain.
The coastline itself was low lying and not terribly interesting however we did pass the Sizewell Nuclear plant with its large dome standing out against the cloudy sky. We also passed the pretty town of Aldeburgh situated on the River Alde and at the end of a long shingle spit which extended down to Orford Ness. Orford Ness itself is now a nature reserve managed by the National Trust but it was an eerie place to pass, with what looked like a mix of bunkers and Japanese buildings on the shore. These buildings are registered under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act (1979) as buildings of national importance. Why? Because this was the site of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment Test Buildings and Associated Structures and was particularly important during the time of the cold war in the 1950s and early 60s.
We made our way through the main Harwich harbour area at the mouth of the River Orwell past huge cranes and large ships unloading and loading cargo in colourful crates. The rain was still coming down so we were glad there were no announcements on the radio which would slow down our progress to the Royal Suffolk Yacht Harbour at Levington, which is a short way down river on the north (Felixstowe) side. We have stayed here before and knew that the lightship in the marina was also a bar/restaurant, so we moored up and then made our way there for an early evening drink. The following day was spent doing general bits around the boat, enjoying rather swish showers in the very nice new shower block and a mooch around the sale rail in the local chandlers, followed by a rather long hike to The Ship, a gastropub in Levington village – not sure how far it actually was but estimates vary between ¾ mile (Mike Brand) and 3 miles (Jo Brand) – lovely meal but think Jo was closer about distance!
Harwich to Ramsgate Thursday 31 August to?
This passage marked another key landmark as it was the last large stretch of water we had to cross before being back on the south coast and close to completing our circumnavigation.
When we left Harwich the sun was shining brightly and though it was tight to the wind we put up the mainsail and managed to motorsail, making the most of the light south easterly breeze. A couple of hours into the 46 mile crossing I looked at the sea and thought ‘not sure I like those sparkly bits before my eyes’ and with reason, yes this was the start of a migraine. A short rest with eyes closed and lots of migraine tablets and I felt a bit better but was very conscious of a nagging headache behind my eyes, which persisted for the next couple of days – boohoo!
We passed a couple of windfarms including the huge Thames Array and a few ships heading towards Harwich but a couple of miles off the land ahead which marked the most SE tip of England, we saw black skies ahead and realised, there was no way we were going to avoid the torrential downpour on the horizon. So, yet again, it was on with the waterproofs and into the black!
As we passed the tip of North Foreland we saw flashing headlights and received a message from our friend, Jo Brand, who was ‘flashing’ us through the rain from the cliff edge; she and Mike live almost on the tip and while Jo was communicating with her headlights we were messaging Mike, snug at home, wishing him a very happy birthday – Simon took to the whisky – just a wee dram, to celebrate Mike’s birthday from our rain sodden cockpit. We also gave a wave to his childhood home as we passed by Broadstairs and could just make out the house he grew up in up the cliff through the rain and cloud.
Half an hour later(ish) we arrived in Ramsgate and were greeted with a clearer sky and calls of ‘Kairos, Kairos’ from the shore and there were other friends, Chris and Carole, who had come to welcome us in. They came through the lock with us into the inner harbour – so not they can say they have done a little bit of our trip with us. We also saw Chris Higgs, a fellow liveryman from the Joiners and Ceilers. He pulled onto the pontoon behind us for an overnight stay.
Since our arrival, we have been lucky enough to catch up with lots of friends and it’s been lovely to see you all (Carole and Chris, Doug and Chris, Nigel and Gill, Past Master James de Sausmarez from the Joiners & Ceilers Livery Company (himself a former Broadstairs boy too), Bob and Bibi and other friends at the Royal Temple and of course Mike and Jo (special thanks to Jo, who also did a mercy mission to take Simon for emergency dental treatment). Simon even got a chance to have a go on some other racy boats when he brought Mike and Jo’s new boat Foxy’ into the inner harbour (with Jo) and helped Andy (Royal Temple Commodore) bring in his rather large boat ‘Principessa’ in too – I was shore based to take their lines. Tomorrow, we look forward to seeing Mike and Elaine and that should complete our Kent reunion activities. Early next week, I have to jump in a hire car and return, briefly, to Chichester to do some work at college and then, everything crossed, we will be on our way homeward from next Thursday.
We can’t believe we have just celebrated our 100 days on board birthday. Kairos has been brilliant, performed well and been a cosy home for us BUT we must confess we are now looking forward to getting home (which is being well looked after by wonderful neighbours Lesley and Paul & Chris and Alan) and to seeing our precious and much missed family (Mama, Coggers, Davy’s, Marsdens & Andersons), our home based and sailing club friends and our garden again.
Hopefully, our next blog will take you on our homeward journey. Until then, thanks for following and donating. Chat soon Crazysails friends, until then…