East Coast: Ramsgate to Grimsby
Five days after setting off we came into Ramsgate, this was our first milestone of the trip as it meant that we had cleared the English channel and were now on the East Coast! As it turned out, we ended up stuck in Ramsgate for a day due to headwinds, although we could have tacked into them, my next leg was a big one as we were crossing the formidable Thames Estuary which has some very tricky navigation around sand banks and shipping so I wanted a favourable forecast to get it right. Soon though our day in Ramsgate had passed and Alchemy and I were ready to get moving again. Due to how the tide was working, I once again was going to have to leave in the dead of night, this time even earlier at 11:30 pm! This I really wasn’t looking forward to but it had to be done and at ll:25 pm we slipped our lines to take on the Thames Estuary.
As we left the Harbour the night appeared clearer and we had good visibility so I was able to pick up the channel markers which would take me clear of the sandbanks around the harbour. Although I was aware of the very strong tides around this area and was prepared to alter my course to account for them, I hadn’t quite realised how quickly they would catch on, because as soon as we were outside the harbour a strong cross-tide began to push us outside of the channel at an alarming rate. At this point I was only just starting to pick up the channel markers, and by the time I had realised we were off course and were within metres of a cardinal buoy (indicates a danger) which was marking a sand bank! My heart felt like it was about to bash a hole in my chest as I swung the rudder (the boats steering) over to correct my course. Following this we were soon into open water and got the sails up with no more sand banks in sight for another few hours. The rest of the passage turned out to be very slow and tiring, we were dodging shipping all night whilst trying to wind our way through a number of sandbanks which meant that I was constantly having to altar our course and monitor our position, depth, speed etc to make sure we were in the right place, which demanded immense concentration and was very tiring after being up half the night. Finally, thirteen hours after leaving Ramsgate though we came into Shotley Marina after what I felt was one of my most challenging legs yet. I think this is why it was whilst I was stopped in Shotley, that the realisation of the challenge that I was trying to take on and how little I had already done hit me. This knocked me down a bit as I started thinking about my upcoming legs, which were going to be some of the longest legs of the trip.
The following day we were off again, this time we were headed for Lowestoft. The forecast looked pretty full on so the adrenaline and nerves were fired up again for the day! Soon we were flying along though as we were reaching along at seven knots which then increased to nine with a maximum of 11.5 knots that day! It was a huge amount of fun and feeling the boat moving along like that in perfect balance was amazing. Taking the sails down proved to be a whole other ordeal as we were being absolutely drenched in water and tossed about the place making it nearly impossible to stay in one spot for more that 5 seconds. That night it took a while for the adrenaline to wear off as I thought back to the amazing moments we had had that day.
My next leg was the longest leg of the trip from Lowestoft to Grimsby, 100 miles with no places to stop in between and a large number of hazards like windfarms and sandbanks. To do this I wanted to ensure that I had the best weather window possible and unfortunately that didn’t arrive until over 6 days after arriving into Lowestoft. Although the wait was frustrating, I was happy with where we were, just over a week after leaving Hamble.
On the 29th July we were ready to go again and I was looking forward to finally getting on with the passage. This long leg had been consuming my thoughts for days now so I was happy to be slipping my lines that afternoon. As I left I was quite nervous, there are so many things that can go wrong at sea and since there were no places to take refuge on this passage it raised the stakes even higher. The nerves proved to be temporary and soon subsided as I became swamped with tasks to keep the boat moving in the now dying wind and light. “The sun’s just beginning to dip under the horizon now, its beautiful!” I recounted in my video diary that evening. It really was beautiful though! Not even the clouds could stop the sun on that night as it lit them up with its orange haze too. All too soon it disappeared and Alchemy and I were in the dark.
Looking back on it the following morning was a relief to me more than anything, as It meant that I could recuperate after what proved to be a fairly hectic night.
Firstly, at around midnight, we had our closest call with a lobster pot when it came within a metre of Alchemy’s bow (the front of the boat). This proved to only be the start as my second event of the night arose. ten minutes after our pot encounter we endured a total electronics failure where I lost vital navigational equipment which I needed to help me safely navigate and pass the large number of other ships around. It was in that moment, when my world turned black that I froze, like a deer caught in the headlights. In my head that was it, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was panicking. Although this state of emotion only lasted for a moment it felt like a lifetime! It was only a moment though and soon a humongous shot of adrenaline hit me and I jumped into action. Assess the situation, find the problem, fix it. So that’s what I did and soon the electronics were back and I could safely carry on with seventy miles still to go to Grimsby.
At 1700 that afternoon Alchemy and I motored into Grimsby Royal Dock exactly 24 hours after leaving Lowestoft. I had completed the longest leg of the trip and I was beginning to feel much more confident that I could make those critical decisions which decide the fate of so much.
I could now reap the rewards that Grimsby had to offer – Fish and Chips and a hot shower!