………..and that was the east coast!

The east coast has presented a very different problem, to everywhere else we have been. Most ports are very tidal; you either have to cross quite shallow water to get to an anchorage, or you have to lock-in to ports – which all makes the timing of your arrival quite critical. In turn, this leads to another problem – where to hide when the weather is bad. On the west coast there was always somewhere you could hide, as most ports/anchorages were accessible 24 hours a day. So as we left Whitby under spinnaker, and clear blue skies, we had no clear plan as to where we would make our next stop. True to form, the wind didn’t hold, so by the time we reached Flamborough Head we turned to our trusted, but over-worked, mechanical friend. There was no better forecast for the coming night so we decided not to opt for the 30 mile detour into, and out of Grimsby, but instead pressed-on. We could have made Wells by 5am. but would then have had a 5 hour wait for sufficient water to get in; so we reluctantly pressed on to Lowestoft. The night watches across the Humber estuary to the Suffolk coast seemed to pass quickly, as there was so much traffic you didn’t have time to feel tired. As daylight broke the wind re-appeared, so we were able to put our engine to bed for the last 6 hours into Lowestsoft. On arrival I must admit to feeling a bit flat – when we left Whitby I hadn’t really anticipated a 160 mile journey from Yorkshire to Suffolk, missing-out a vast chunk of the coastline, but there we were. The only small comfort was having rounded the last cardinal extremity of mainland Britain – Lowestoft Ness.

After a day’s rest we were faced with a similar decision; it would have been nice to pop into Southwold, just 10 miles down the coast, but we would then be struggling to make either the Ore, or the Deben in the tidal window. So for better of worse we opted to make straight for Felixstowe Ferry, on the Deben. A good day’s sail, albeit a beat, along some pleasant coastline with the added delight of a very tidal entry across an ever-shifting sandbar at the entrance. Felixstowe Ferry is a very lively place; lots of hustle and bustle; boats of every shape and size to and fro throughout the time we were there.

Felixstowe Ferry







From here we could have opted to motor up to Woodbridge, return north to Aldeburgh, or head south towards London; and with the prospect of seeing our daughter, Sally, for the first time in 5 months, it was really no contest!  We had figured the journey up the Thames would be about a tide, so we wanted to start somewhere as close as possible; and really you can’t get much closer than the Medway. So after an overnight stop in Harwich (where we bumped into Timothy Spall),

The Princess Matilda







we faced up to the challenge of crossing the Thames estuary; a task made more difficult by shallow water, shifting sandbars, traffic restrictions, and the odd sunken WW2 ammunition boat!








Thankfully we had fair weather and relatively light winds, so the journey down to Queenborough was completed with most fingernails (mine, at least) intact!

Sadly, the following morning did not break fair; it was hammering down as we left, eventually relenting to become constant mizzle – as you leave the Medway, there is a prominent 800 foot power station chimney on the Isle of Grain – we could just make out the first 30 feet! Not the weather we would have chosen for a trip up the Thames, but I guess we can only hope for better conditions on our return journey, where we might be able to take some pics. As expected, the  lower reaches are very industrial, and very busy with large ships to contend with, from both directions; but eventually you reach Woolwich, and the Thames Barrier (very exciting!), where industry is gradually replaced by housing; and what a surprise! The Thames waterfront is just stunning, virtually all the way from Woolwich to Tower Bridge. Yes, it is sad to think that there is little remaining from the days when this was perhaps the busiest port in the world, but the redevelopment of the entire docklands area has been done in such a tasteful manner. In fact, we sit here in a marina, in what was once part of the old Surrey dock;

Vela in London







and next door there is a dinghy sailing centre on the old Greenland dock; all surrounded by what looks like some fairly expensive property, where the bright young things of this fair town rest their weary heads. In the mornings you see them all, suited and booted, scurrying off of to the city; and late in the evening they all return, ties in pockets and Tesco carrier bags in hand.

The main point of this diversion was to see out little baby; and it has been a wonderful place for our reunion. A celebration drink in the Wibbley Wobbley (floating pub!), and a big catch-up on all the news gossip and scandal! As we plan to be here for few days (where else could you get accommodation in London for two people at £25 a night?!) we will have plenty of opportunity to become a more extended family for a while.

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6 Responses to ………..and that was the east coast!

  1. Becky says:

    My father was chatting to a couple, in Ramsgate harbour, and was told about the previous boat of the owners of a sigma 33. They chatted about the hunter impala they used to own. It was only when he left that he noticed the name of the Sigma…Vela! I used to race with Dave and Helen on Vela in the Solent about 10 years ago. Vela, well loved, well used…as it should be!.r

  2. hugh cripps says:

    It was good to have a natter whilst you were moored next to Sunbird in Ramsgate – it was only after we were leaving that I read Vela’s name on the transom! My daughter used to crew on Vela during the early 2000’s as bowman and I believe they were one of the top sigma 33’s on the Solentat that time. She says that her skipper was meticulous (obsessive!) in his maintenance of the boat. She also says that there is probably some of her blood still on the Spinnaker pole! The very best of wishes on your final leg of your round Britain adventure.

  3. sharon pears says:

    loved the photos of Northumberland -made me very homesick! apparently you sent me a text Louise and i have not responded -sorry but did not receive any texts. Sounds like you are having a great time -just wish the weather was better for you xx

  4. Donna Gray says:

    Hi M & L
    Still loving your blog and pleased to hear you have been welcomed wherever you have been. The last time I sailed in the Thames was on a barge called the Zylonite with 14 girl guides and 4 leaders. We picked the boat up at Limehouse for four days together with “A man and a boy” we tacked out of the Thames round to Queenborough and then sailed back dropping the hook outside Greenwich for a row ashore and a trip round the maritime museum. It certainly kept the girls busy! I do hope you get lovely weather for the remained of your trip – it must seem a long time since 4 April! Take care xx

  5. Julie and I have been watching Timothy Spall making his way around the country and Julie seems much more interested in the emotions evoked by journeys across the sea since our week in the Astus trimaran in Cardigan Bay. 🙂 Great to see Timothy dropping into places I know well, like Porth Dinllaen, to and from which I sailed with you in Vela in April. Seems long ago now, does’t it?

    I’m now planning a week long trip starting in Penzance and stopping at as many places up the southern coast as possible starting Sept 5th. Doubt we’ll get to Southampton though as it will be too interesting down there and we’ll have to catch the train back to Penzance to pick up the trailer.

    You’ve had some shocking weather on your trip. Can’t imagine that it is always this bad. I think you’ve just been unlucky.

  6. Bryony says:

    The Wibbley Wobbley is a great name for a pub!

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