As things turned out we stayed in London for almost a week; and had a very busy time. The good thing about London, is that it’s all there – the cultural centres, the shops, the food, even some sunshine! We spent a day at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and another at the Tate on Millbank; and came away from both feeling we had only really scratched the surface (not of the paintings!). Transport in London is always easy, and I must say the Thames Clippers are really exciting – zero to 30 knots in a matter of seconds.
Since deciding to come to London we have been trying to buy some decent charts of the area. That usually means finding a decent chandler – not easy on the east coast – we really are spoilt for choice on the south coast. Although we have electronic charts, I really do like to have decent paper copies; but I’m ashamed to say our journey across and up the Thames was completed using Reeds and an AA book. So another day was spent, in the capital, putting this right.
Sally had joined us on board for a couple of evenings, and on the Saturday we arranged to meet her in town at Borough Market – if you haven’t experienced this, do try it. It’s a covered market somewhere north of London Bridge where they sell food and drink from the four corners – so make sure you haven’t eaten first! We were joined on board, for the evening, by Hannah and Steph, two of Sally’s dance friends who kept us talking long into the night – left to our own devices we’re usually tucked up by 10 pm, so this was a supreme effort!
We had intended to leave the following day, but what with the effort of rousing 3 twenty-something girls (who refused to budge before being fed bacon sandwiches and tea in bed), and the warm sunshine, things just didn’t pan-out. So Bank Holiday Monday eventually saw us retrace our steps down the Thames, this time in clear weather so we saw all the sights, down to Thurock where we picked up a mooring c/o Thurrock Yacht Club. Over the last few months we seem to have got mooring buoys off to a tee, so I duly left Louise on the bow to ‘do her stuff’. The combination of heavy mooring lines and a fierce spring tide produced a quite stunning result – Louise was covered from head to foot in thick Thames mud – the only pity was that it had got too dark for me to capture it on film!
From Thurrock, it was a pleasant morning sail (motor!) up the Medway to Chatham, where we planned to spend a day at the historic dockyard. At the risk of repeating myself, if you haven’t done this, get there! It is a fantastic place; a lot of the (very) old buildings are still standing, and the exhibitions are superbly done.
One of the main purposes of our visit was to see the ropery – a quarter mile long building where the navy made its rope. Rope making is still carried out in the original building, as a commercial concern, and we were treated to a short practical demonstration. The number of everyday sayings which seem to have their origins in the humble art of rope making is truly astounding; some obvious, others less so – now I know the true significance of ‘letting the cat out of the bag’!
There are also 3 ships you can tour – Cavalier, a WW2 destroyer, Ocelot, a submarine, and Gannet, a 19th. century sloop. Gannet is probably more famous down our way for becoming TS Mercury between 1914 and 1970, after which she was towed to Chatham and restored to near her former glory.
After another overnight stop in Queenborough, we faced the Thames’ final challenge – the Margate Sands – on our way to Ramsate. This turned out to be another landmark day; the fifth consecutive day without rain – the longest spell of dry weather since 4th May!
Ramsgate is a typical seaside resort, and a useful place from where to explore Kent. Yesterday we took the train to Canterbury, where you just have to visit the cathedral – truly awe inspiring.
Tomorrow we may take the train to Whitsable, because as I speak, I can hear that old familiar sound of gale-force winds in the rigging – now where have I heard that before?!
Still having fun – more photos posted