Saturday, April 5, 2008

Walton-On-The-Naze to Ramsgate - 29/03/08

OK so first things first, we were supposed to get to Dover on the first hop but it didn't quite turn out that way.

It all started quietly enough, the first shot is us gently motor sailing out of Walton Backwaters with most of the Genoa up at 06:30 having dropped our lines at 05:50. You can just see the cranes of Harwich in the distance.

A very gentle sea state at this point. We managed a cup of tea on the go and were settling ourselves in for a long but hopefully uneventful passage. Although cold, it was a bright morning and we had the "windows" folded up for visibility and started to make some good progress as we pushed out of the backwaters with the Ebb tide with us.

We turned South at the High Hill No4 buoy and headed for the Medusa Buoy still motor sailing. By 08:30 we were skirting Gunfleet Sands - leaving them to port with a keen eye on the depth sounder.

The latest weather we had was predicting a SW F5-6. Which was far from ideal but we knew we had to make a start and should not be impossible to manage in our "new" but very seaworthy boat.

Only about 3 hours in to the trip did we hear a F8 Gale warning come over the radio. Great, we thought, should we turn back ? By now we had made a good 3 hours of progress and it seemed so quiet out here, what could possibly go wrong ?

By 10:00 the sea was just starting to build but things were only minor at this point and we were still making cracking progress: with motor, main and genny, we were making 7 knots over the ground and were reluctant to give up our good progress.

So we plugged onwards...

By 11:00 we turned more South headed for Fisherman's Gat.

By 12:00 the seas and wind had really got up (F7/F8 I think) and we were just winding in a bit more Genny when disaster struck and it ripped along the leech. It was only a small rip but we knew we needed to wind it all in to prevent further damage. So up went the Stay sail but our boat speed dropped and hopes of Dover disappeared. Being the first time we had ever rigged the Stay sail and the prevailing conditions, we struggled to get the halyard all the way up resulting in the diabolical shape in the picture below.

With this reduced speed the tide turned foul on us as we were approaching St Margarets and we realised it would take forever to get to Dover so we diverted to Ramsgate and were safely tied up at 18:30: a long and eventful day but no-one got hurt and I didn't even ding the boat getting into the finger pontoon. Mind you, the marina was empty !

This presented one tiny problem - Ramsgate marina (being anal, inward looking and discriminatory) doesn't allow dogs which is why we had planned to avoid it in the first place. So guess what that is inside the rucksack that Tamsyn is carrying !

We stayed there two nights and poor Pippin had to be "smuggled" along the pontoon for every walk ( 5 return trips!) - poor thing. We won't be deliberately returning to Ramsgate in a hurry. Mind you they did only charge us £36 for two nights. We did tell them we were a cat and as far as I can work out they did surcharge us 50% but then only charged us one night. We did ask for two nights.

We also found a broken kite on the beach from which we salvaged a thin plastic tube to turn into a fuel tank dipstick. Can't beat that make do and mend spirit.