Yesterday we paid a visit to Dover Castle and saw the underground tunnels where there was a preserved military Control Station for operations involving the evacuation of Dunkerque and the D-Day invasion. We saw a huge wartime underground hospital which was comprised of tunnels, and we saw a similarly constructed barracks for soldiers at the time of Napoleon.
The early morning forecast for Sunday, 8th May was reasonable: Westerly 4 or 5, occasionally 6; veering North West; weather mainly fair; visibility good.
We set off at 0600 from Dover Marina and a short while later at the Outer Harbour we were given permission by Harbour Control to make our departure from the Western Entrance. Usually, the sea near the harbour is a bit chaotic, but it was unusually smooth as we made our way to the west. Gradually the wind increased and the seas correspondingly built up with breaking wave crests.
Because we only had 3 hours of favourable tide we wanted to make the most of it by using the engine for extra speed while beating to windward.
There were many ships going up and down the channel and several ferries crossing to and fro. When we were a couple of miles to the south of Folkestone and over the Channel Tunnel we saw several hot air balloons crossing the Channel towards France. It was a spectacle of colour.
Shortly after this unexpected display Gordon succumbed to seasickness and remained comatose until our arrival at Brighton early on Monday morning. While crossing St Mary’s Bay the wind increased to a force 6 partly, because of the effect of the tide being against it. As the seas were quite steep and breaking we continued using the engine to help us make good progress to windward.
Near the tip of Dungeness peninsula there is a huge nuclear power station which can be seen for miles and it took us an hour or so to fight our way against the flood tide around it. By 1100 we were 2 miles to the south east of the more recent Dungeness lighthouse. Our progress could be judged by observing the transit between the old and new lighthouse.
Lydd firing range is to the west of the Dungeness Peninsula and it was there the Range Launch ordered us to proceed to Rye Fairway Buoy. Although we followed the request, subsequently we were told via the VHF on channel 37 to motor south before going west so as to avoid live firing. The launch was kept busy dashing here and there in an effort to prevent yachts straying into the danger zone, which is not precisely marked on the chart.
During the afternoon we passed Cliff End and Hastings to the north and by late evening we were south of Bexhill near Pevensey Shoal. In the dramatic evening light of a setting sun we could see the Royal Sovereign light tower with its helicopter platform looking a bit like a gigantic bird table stuck in the sea.
As the sun disappeared behind the nearby cliffs the double flash of Beachy Head lighthouse suddenly came into view and stars began to multiply in the darkening sky above.
Monday, 9th May.
After rounding the precipitous cliff which has a lighthouse at its base we motor sailed the yacht on a course of 291 true, parallel with the coast leading to Newhaven and Brighton. A brightly lit passenger ferry departed from Newhaven and proceeded to the south west for a couple of miles were she anchored.
By 0100 on Monday morning we passed half a mile to the south of Newhaven breakwater where I did the fifth refuelling of 5 litres which is sufficient for 4 hours running of the engine. The GPS was enormously helpful to locate the entrance of Brighton Marina because it was difficult to pick out the flashing lights on the moles.
Mooring to the visitors’ pontoon was a bit tricky, as it was difficult to see what was what owing to many lights causing semi-blindness, and since I had to do it without the help of Gordon who was still very ill because of his seasickness. I felt sad he had not been able to enjoy the wonderful stars of that fabulous night sky and that he had been so poorly.
Because of his repeated seasickness and because he was feeling a little homesick he decided to leave for home today, which means I shall no longer have him for company and to help in times of difficulty. Somehow, I think he will enjoy the sort of sailing that does not entail long rough sea passages, but instead is confined to protected waters. I think we will enjoy dinghy sailing.
If conditions are right tomorrow, I shall take ‘Bumper’ further to the west.