Monday 22 July 2019

Poole to Hoo, the Journey's end

Another summary written on my phone.

I started writing this post at Anchor in my favourite spot on the Medway  - Stangate Creek on Sunday night and completed it on Monday night, back on my mooring at Hoo after two months away.

My plan had been to stay in Poole until Monday to pick up Mick and Basty for the final legs to Hoo. However, as Mick pointed out on the phone on Friday, the then currently blowing Westerlies would soon dissipate as high pressure started to dominate the weather and it could therefore take many days to get back to the Medway.

With considerable regret I therefore decided to press on single-handed without my new crew the next morning.

The alarm went off at 0445 and I dropped the mooring on a grey morning to catch the ebb out of Poole. It was a beat out of the harbour in a stiff breeze and I almost messed up big time by accidentally cutting across a mud flat. I noticed  the echo sounder reading of 0.3 metres just in time and headed back into deeper water.  A close call. Going aground on a falling tide means being stuck for 6 hours before the tide comes back up!

The wind initially dropped after leaving the harbour and so I shook out the reef. Then it increased over the next couple of hours and the reef went back in. An exhilarating down-hill sail over the next 24 hours followed that with a brief lull off Dover, took me all the way to the North Foreland.  When we had the tide with us we were clocking 8-9 knots over the ground. Even when the tide was against us our speed rarely dropped below 5 knots.

Mick provided a nice touch as we rounded Beachy Head. A shared location notification appeared on my phone. Mick was up on Beachy Head watching our progress although it turned out that to start with he was tracking the wrong boat. After chatting  on the phone he 'found me' complaining that my boat was very small indeed!

On rounding North Foreland the wind died away considerably and we barely stemmed the tide that was against us for the next three hours. Our chance of making Hoo by high water that afternoon disappeared at that point. That was a disappointment and one which affected me much more than the delays experienced during the Jester Challenge. By the time the tide had turned in our favour the wind had made only brief and fickle appearances and we simply drifted for the next few hours. Finally, with two hours of the flood left, the wind returned - dead on the nose and so we had to beat up the quaintly named 'over-land' route. It did back later into the South West which enabled us to make our final approach to Garrison Point on one tack. By this time I was deliberately sailing across mud flats to avoid the worst of the ebbing tide. Annoyingly, we were forced to slow down to allow a ship to enter the port ahead of us. On rounding the point we met the full force of the ebbing tide which forced us sideways across the narrow entrance. For a while it seemed as if the tide would be too strong to stem. Indeed on occasions we were going backwards. However, we clawed our way in via numerous short tacks seeking shallow water as much as possible to avoid the full force of the tide. It took two hours to cover the two miles to Stangate Creek despite creaming along through the water at a good 6-7 knots.

After a delightful evening in my favourite Medway Anchorage, and a much needed good night's sleep, we beat up the river with a favourable tide. It was a great sail and a fitting end to the trip. As previously arranged with Howard, he very helpfully came out in his boat Latitudes, to help me pick up my mooring. The area is pretty crowded and I didn't fancy risking colliding with moored boats that attempting to pick up the mooring under sail would entail. Nonetheless, rafting-up mid river and threading the two boats through the crowded moorings required considerable skill on Howard's part.

We then spent a most enjoyable afternoon together catching up and yarning as all sailors are prone to do. Lunch and then dinner with modest liquid refreshments were included and by the time Howard and Latitudes headed back to Gillingham, we had sorted out all the world's problems and reinforced our belief that sailing was the remedy for all the ills of the human condition.

Journey over!

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