Ramsgate to home waters - Sat 4th June

Our Facebook page announced that we had made Ramsgate and friends were kind enough to send "welcome home" messages. It is certainly a psychological boost to have crossed the Channel (or North Sea) and be back in England but there remains one more significant hurdle before we can really claim to be home and that is the Thames Estuary.

Thames Estuary with North Foreland at the bottom and Harwich Harbour almost at the top

There are sailors in the south of England who nip back and forth to France without a care but who speak in hushed tones of North Foreland with its rough waters and the Thames with its strong currents, sandbanks, gutways and wind farms.
And the forecast today, whilst fair in all other respects, does include the threat of fog banks.

At 10.30 am it is indeed very bumpy off North Foreland and the visibility decreases considerably until the ships anchored in the Margate Roads are only visible at very close quarters. We have electronic data (via AIS) and we have the radar but it is still very reassuring when the fog lifts and we have a proper horizon.

12.30: The cloud is low again so we are quite close to the London Array Wind Farm by the time the rows of turbines emerge from the gloom. Whilst another yacht out here takes a more circuitous route, we head for Foulger's Gat which allows us to keep the tide in our favour and steer an almost direct course for home.

Readers of our previous blog in 2013 may recall that "real" charts are useful here as our waypoint for crossing the Sunk Sand is the "S" in the word Sunk on the paper chart, and Foulger's Gat takes us directly there, but I am not sure whether in that previous account I shared Howard's favourite rant. It's a sort of ritual at this point of the crossing for him to launch into a tirade against the "beep beep" designers of this "beep beep" wind farm who gave no thought to small craft users and placed one, if not two, wind turbines slap bang in the middle of a very useful gutway which was always much used by yachts.
I won't labour the point any further although Howard will gladly give a full account to anyone patient enough to listen - and if you have nothing better to do then while you're at it you could also ask him what he thinks of the design of junction 10 of the M40 where the A43 starts. But only if you have time to kill.

I try to distract him with tuna sandwiches laced with parmesan and white pepper which is reasonably effective, and from lunchtime onwards the weather improves. We gradually shed our waterproof layers, boots and fleeces until by 3pm when we are coming into the wider Harwich harbour area we are in shorts, T-shirts and sunglasses. There are yachts everywhere! Suddenly it's like that kids' song about Camp Granada:

"Wait a minute, it's stopped hailing,
Guys are swimming, guys are sailing
Flying topsails, gee that's better
Muddah Faddah kindly disregard this letter"

Bonify's home berth is in the so-called "pond" at Walton-on-the-Naze but there won't be enough water for us to get there now unless we stay up till the early hours so we anchor at Stone Point for the night and enjoy the sunset.

At anchor in Walton Backwaters - Arthur Ransome's "Secret Water"

Gus rigs a riding light in his Bawley "Gladys"


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