Tuesday 1 August 2017

The Journey's End

Just after I posted the previous entry from a very noisy pub in a wet and windy Ramsgate, I had a call from Mick asking if I would like crew for the last leg to Chatham. "Yes please but I'm planning on leaving at 0800 to catch the last couple of hours of the ebb" was reply. The earliest he could get to the Marina was 0930. I checked the tides again and decided that given the fresh south west winds  we were due to have we should have enough time to round the North Foreland before the tide turned against us. And so Mick arrived at 0930 the next morning. He doesn't really do mornings so I was impressed that he got up at 0530 in order to join me.

We departed within minutes and after a further 30 had crossed the entrance channel to Ramsgate and were on our way to the North Foreland across the shallows off the coast. The strong winds didn't materialise but there was enough for us to make 3+ knots over the bottom under full sail which is the speed I had based my calculations on for rounding the Foreland before the tide turned foul.

The sun was out and the water for the most part was flat and so we enjoyed a pleasant broad reach/run up to the Foreland. On rounding the Foreland  we commenced beating towards the Swale. The water is fairly shallow in these parts with numerous sandbanks and some narrow channels between them that we had to get through to avoid going aground. I've taken this route a number of times before and so knew we would have some lively beating ahead of us. Having access to a chart-plotter on a Tablet makes the the pilotage much easier but one still needs to keep a careful watch on the depth gauge because the sand-banks round here are liable to move around a bit.

I planned to rendezvous with my friend Alan on The Swale in his Junk Rigged schooner. He would be there to watch the annual Swale Barge and Smack  Race. I was hopeful that we might see the tail end of the action but by the time we arrived at 1730 it was all over. The  organisers had shortened the course due to the poor weather and so the boats got back in early.

We met Alan and went ashore for the prize giving, some food and beer. Both of which were excellent.
The weather however was decidedly miserable!

The next morning I cooked a hearty breakfast

which was enjoyed by all the crew and then at low water we upped anchor at 1230 and headed up The Swale. As expected we went aground after an hour in the shallowest section of the river and had to wait for the tide to rise enough to float us off. We got going again at about 1415 after a few other yachts who had been more patient passed us. One of them still went aground shortly after passing us however. With the help of the Genoa, we followed them up to KingsFerry Bridge and got there just behind them. We all had to wait 15 minutes for the bridge to open. Once through we unfurled the genoa fully and were soon speeding along and passed all but one of the four boats that had been in front of us.

Just passed Queenborough Spit we set the fully reefed mainsail put two reefs in the genoa and commenced beating up the Medway for Chatham in a very fresh wind. It was a lively but enjoyable final leg to Arctic Smoke's Atlantic Cruise.

We locked in at 1830 during which and I rather embarrassingly rammed the side of the lock with the Anchor and split one of the wooden uprights! We were tied up in the marina 15 minutes later.

Arctic Smoke moored up in Chatham once again

And so we had reached the journey's end, two years and four months after Arctic Smoke left Chatham in March 2015 and 8 months after leaving Gran Canaria in November 2016.

Sharon arrive shortly afterwards and we undertook a quick tidy-up of the boat, loaded our gear into the car and set off for home.


The sort of boat Sharon likes

Sunset over Chatham

Mick prepares for departure

A happy Sharon
Now I've got to get used to a normal life again, including finding work to pay for it all!