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.
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),
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;
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.