Sunday, 7 September 2008


After a rather boring train journey down to Dover (but at a bargain basement price), we arrived at the marina (well, via RCPYC for a pint with Barry!) to find Morgana safe and well in the sheltered Wellington dock.This is very very sheltered, but pays the price in terms of a gate which only opens HW +/- 1.5hrs...And I was somewhat unsurprised, yet still oddly dissapointed, to find the wind howling through the rigging, and gusts swirling viciously across the water.It was 22h00 by the time we'd stepped on board, and yet I had to start the engine, just because I could..... ah the joy of a running engine, with no strange metallic graunching noises.The forecast for Saturday was little better, so again, it was unsurprising to hear squalls working their way through all night. I'd left the wind instruments on, as they can graph the wind speed. By morning its screen made depressing reading.We already decided that there was no way we'd be leaving at the morning HW, in the wee small hours, so the next chance was 15h00ish.... so we spent the day fettling and fiddling, and finally walked out along the sea front to have a look out to sea.I am in half minds as to whether I regret, or thank my lucky stars for this walk...We watched a ferry coming in, listing 15 degrees either way, and eventually, calling for tugs to get it through the entrance safely.... it was out past the eastern entrance to Dover, and even at over 2nm range, we could see the waves exploding on the bow and soaking right the way up to the bridge deck..... this was the resuly of nearly 48hrs of F7/F8 with a fetch the length of the English channel...Of course, this made me realise that the late afternoon opening was a non starter.... even if the wind moderated (and it wasn't forecast to until gone 22h00), the sea state would be dreadful.. so we made the decision to leave it until Sunday morning, and see what happened... this did however, mean a very early start, so we decided to lock out, and enter the tidal marina beyond the gates, and also take the opportunity to grab some fuel, which otherwise wouldn't be available very early or very late....We then spent the next few hours in a combination of three activities.... searching the net desperately for updated forecasts, reading books to chew up some time, and fretting about whether leaving was sensible...Eventually, at about 22h00, when the wind had moderated to 20kts, we decided to turn in for the night, and leave it until 05h00 the following morning to make a decision. With alarms set we went to bed. Funnily enough, despite my concerns, I slept soundly, and was awoken from deep sleep at 04h45...I was immediately up on deck to assess the conditions...... there was around 14kts in the marina, the barometer had risen (suggesting the low was moving away), and the wind had shifted a bit more westerly... another good sign....So we took a deep breath, and decided to poke our noses out and see what it was like, with a decision planned to either bale out and return, or to stick at it once outside of the safe confines of the harbour....Leaving the shelter of Prince William dock, the wind rose to 18kts, and the radio comms with the Port authorities was straightforward enough.... so we edged out of the harbour..... we had both clipped on, and I was pleased we had, as the confused sea outside the eastern entrance had us rolling from rail to rail..... we quickly set a scrap of genoa to stabilise her a bit, and headed towards South Foreland...Funnily enough, once clear of the harbour walls, the sea state was much better, with the seas rolling instead of breaking, so we agreed that we'd carry on, and review our situation off Ramsgate, some 15nm up the coast....The wind had moderated dramatically, and it was only 15kts, but with a big sea right behind us, and the tide shooting through the Dover Straits, we scudded along at some 8kts over the ground....In fact, as dyalight appeared properly, and it warmed up a bit, we actually appeared to be enjoying ourselves!It, inevitably, wasn't to last.Off Ramsgate, the decision was obvious... we carry on. We'd made fantastic time up the coast, the wind was perfect, the sea was even starting to flatten. However, we left North Foreland in our wake, and suddenly the weather changed..... the horizon turned black, and just 20mins later, we were under heavily reefed genoa, with the engine on to test the gearbox properly, torrential rain, and 30kts of wind.... the sea was building and sloppy due to the change of direction.... and thus it continued.....We bounced our way down to Foulgers Gat, and squirmed our way through this shallow and narrow passage, and popped out into Black Deep, which at least afforded us the luxury of being enclosed on two sides by snadbanks, and therefore much flatter water.... but the wind remained, both strong, and squally, and the rain.... oh the rain.... it was monsoon like.It seemed to take an age to get to Sunk Head, and then on to Gunfleet, and for a while the clouds parted, and we saw Harwich.... a sense of relief swept over us, not because we were worried, but because we were soaked and fed up!Naturally, the wind had shifted, so the last few miles were too fine to sail comfortably, so we swapped the genoa for the main, and motor sailed the remaining few miles into Harwich.... with squally gust still hitting the high 20's and cloud bursts soaking us to the skin....However, it was still only lunch time when we entered Harwich, and then Shotley, locked in and tied up with 65nm over the ground in just a tad over 8hrs..... excellent...we'd averaged over 8kts for the journey, including a good few miles upwind.... the spells under just reefed genny at 10+Kts had helped!Our home berth was occupied (a long story - with a much more expensive problem for one boat owner than ours), so we were offered a nearby berth, which we gladly took.... and were delighted that with just two of us on board, our team work was spot on, with inch perfect placement in both the lock and the pontoon...The trip hadn't been much fun in most respects.... the wind was very very squally, and a bit more than I would have liked even in the lulls, and the rain was just downright miserable.... but even with this, we were out on the water, rather than stuck at home watching TV like so many of my colleagues at work seem to do.So.... Morgana is back home.... we can stop paying for a berth away from home.... we can weekend sail again... and best of all, we'd left the engine running the whole way, and most of the way in gear (albeit at low revs), and the engine and the gearbox had not missed a beat.... and when I opened the engine compartment in Shotley, the leak from the overflow had clearly stopped, and the compartment temperature seemed a lot lower than previously... the new impellor must have helped... The good few hours of usage had restored my confidence in the engine/gearbox, which is important, as its very easy for these kinds of events to damage that confidence, which can spoil the whole experience of using your boat....Next weekend, its off to Cherbourg, with friends, so really looking forward to that.... and thankfully, the decision to go, has made that trip possible again.... if we'd got on the train home, it would have been abandoned in favour of trying to get Morgana home next weekend, and avoiding another weeks mooring fees..... and I don't like letting people down, so would have felt very guilty.Anyway.... normal service resumed!

Miles logged 53nm
Miles this season 742nm
Miles since this blog started 3,689nm

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