Saturday, 13 August 2005

Calais to Ramsgate

Friday dawned bright and early with an alarm call at 06:15. The weather was noticeably on the turn. Despite it being still lovely and warm, the clouds were somewhat different, the high cirrus disappeared, and replaced by a cloud I didn't recognise.... The wind was blowing in the marina at about 12kts, so nothing too serious.... I was a little nervous as the Metoffice forecast had suggested Force 3 to 4, with possibility of 5 or 6.... but Meteo France was definitely in the Force 6 camp. So a blow was a distinct possibility. We were forced into a departure a bit earlier than ideal for the tides by the need to lock out of Calais on the last bridge opening at 06h49, and we motored out of the Bassin de l'Ouest along with about 15 other boats into the Arriere Port area to see a sedt of reds on the IPTS. Everyone waited as expected, except one British boat, flying a blue ensign, who seemed to ignore the traffic lights completely, and motored merrily into the main harbour. he received a very blunt command from the harbour master for his ignorance. We waited about 10 minutes before being given green white green, accompanide by a broadcast on the VHF with permission to leave, and a gaggle of boats shot out of the harbour entrance and scattered in different directions. We'd previously had a look at the tidal heights, and decided that we could sail straight over the top of the sand bar outside Calais, which has only 1.9m over it at LAT, but with the tide near high water, and not too rough a sea, it looked pretty safe.... which it turned out to be... no problem... went to 5m under the keel, but not too lumpy, so safe enough..... It was tight on the wind, with 20kts, so Maggie was well heeled over, and SWMBO, with her limited experience, was looking decidedly nervous.... me however, with a bit of sail tweaking to balance her up, was revelling in it..... she was flying.... as we got about 2 miles off shore, the swell was starting to build, yet the sun was still out, so we had classic upwind deep sea roller conditions.... marvellous stuff...... We had to pinch a little to clear the bow of a large crude carrier anchored just outside the shipping channel, otherwise it was a tack, or a large freeing off to pass under her stern....but we cleared her, and entered the shipping channel..... We needed to steer 316 degrees to cross the channel at right angles, and this was dead into the wind (seems to have been the story of this week!).... so we were forced to motor sail across the TSS. The wind had been steadily building, now reaching 25kts, gusting 30kts, or F6 gusting 7!.... SWMBO was definitely looking a little nervous.... but the kids were loving it!..... We'd found some sea sickness tablets a few days back at a pharmacy in Boulogne, and they seemed to do wonders for C..... a few days agao, she'd been sick in a F3 and gentle swell... yet today she was fine in a much larger sea, right on the nose, and a strong wind. The TSS was quite busy, with several ships passing close by. We didn't have to alter course, but has 2 or 3 containers make minor changes at long distance to avoid us... good stuff... and no real concerns.... The bigger story was how Maggie was handling 30kts of wind.... with just the main up, and motor sailing, she was great... I'd only stuck a single reef in, and every time I freed off and the main filled properly she was right on her rails, so if we'd been across the wind, I'd have needed at least one more reef, and possibly going to reef 3.... but I didn't..... the sea state made motor sailing a slow affair, and it was gone midday by the time wed popped out into the inshore waters zone on the UK side, having dodged all sorts of ferries, container ships, and crude carriers..... We'd had a pretty wet passage... Maggie is a classic IOR design, with very flat decks, and no coamings.... so every time she'd stuck her nose into a wave, the entire lot had sluiced back along the decks.... and besides that, we had a fair bit of spray over the spray hood.... I was a little bit salted up.. with crystals in my eyebrows.... it was about now that I remembered that I had left a sail bag 'trapped' inside the foredeck hatch to cut the light out for the kids at night... I ran down to have a look below, and sure enough, the forepeak was dripping wet.... no harm done, but the kids sleeping bags could have been wrung out.... bugger. I had been looking forward to reaching the UK side, as it was a chance to tack over, and get onto a reach through the Goodwin sands and onto Ramsgate..... As we approached within a couple of miles of the white cliffs, the sea state had flattened considerably under the lee shore, so a reach was going to be a ball.... especially important as the tide was going to be against us... enforced by the need to lock early out of Calais..... But our darned luck.... the wind shifted, and yet again, we were almost dead into the wind.... With the engine being pushed a bit harder than ideal, and a strong foul tide, we made a miserable 2 kts over the ground... a lot more when I freed off a bit, but poor VMG... and with the kids on board, beating into 30kts was decidedly off the menu......... So yet again, we motor sailed... this time I could keep the main filled, so that helped... I tried unfurling a bit of genny a few times... and it would be OK for a few minutes, and then the slightest shift, and it was flogging or backed.... with the passage through the Goodwin sands being reasonably tight, and with a crew not really ready for regular tacking in 30kts, it was too much to beat with both sails, so we kept motor sailing. Against the tide, it was painfully slow, and we made poor progress, creeping past SW Goodwin, then Goodwin Fork followed by Brake, and finally, as the tide started to turn, in towards the channel into Ramsgate harbour at about 15h00. We dropped the sails... dead easy with the autpilot in charge of the steering, and motored the last quarter of a mile into the harbour, and then marina.... no delays, 3 greens all the way in.... we called the marina, and got permission to find a berth. This proved easier said than done..... Maggie is 11' 10" wide, and several attempts had to be aborted due to insufficient space... we've found before in Ramsgate that the berths are quite narrow. Finally, we find a spot, and slip in and tie up, and at last, cut the engine.... thank god... peace and quiet.... Ramsgate is pretty busy... its Sail East regatta this weekend, followed by Ramsgate week... so the marina is full of various bits of exotic equipment, many many X Yachts, and various other less common vessels, along with a wide selection of heavily tanned 20 something males, all polishing, tuning, and to our eternal amusement, in one case, donning a dry suit and mask, and under water scrubbing.... Its a very early start tommorrow..... 04h30 for the tide, heading back to Ipswich..... so off to bed now, at 21h00....
Miles logged today 22.7
So far this trip 142.7
So far this season 430

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