Yachting is full of contrasts; one minute there’s a fight against wind and tide to round a headland; next, the tide is with you and away you go. That was my experience rounding North Foreland at 0700 this morning. Both the tide and the northerly force 5 conspired to keep us roughly in the same spot, near the Longnose Buoy, but when we were a mile further to the west, the flood tide gave ‘Bumper’ a much needed push. From there on, ‘Fred’, the self-steering, took charge, and with two reefs in the sail we started to make good progress along the north Kent coast.
I needed to be vigilant, because after passing the South East Margate Buoy, to the west there’s a sandbank called Margate Hook, marked by a south cardinal beacon. On the rising tide, it was just covered by breaking waves; a deviation of course to the north could have had dire consequences. The sands actually protected us from larger waves caused by the northerly wind on their windward side, for which I was grateful, but once we were clear of the sands by the East Last Buoy, we felt the full impact of the waves, especially as the depth of water from there on was on average only 20 feet.
‘Bumper’ was most of the time, slightly free of being hard on the wind, and as the seas became larger, I made full sail, to drive her hard, so as to prevent her from being stopped in her tracks by the breakers. A dark cloud advanced from astern, bringing with it some drizzle, which did not last long. As we romped along like a galloping horse we counted off landmarks along the coast to the south; there were Reculver, Bishopstone, Herne Bay, and Whitstable. From the last mentioned, there’s a boulder causeway pointing northwards towards Whitstable Street North Cardinal Buoy, which was our mark for turning south west into the River Swale.
Trying to find the starboard hand green buoy, named Pollard Spit, was not without difficulty, because my spectacles were covered with salt from the sea spray, and the buoy was camouflaged against the green background of Leysdown Marsh, which is at the eastern end of the Isle of Sheppey. From there on I became disorientated; I needed to steer south west, but intuitively I wanted to steer to the west, because that’s the way we had been heading for several hours.
By using the echo sounder I was able to keep ‘Bumper’ in the deep channel leading to Sand End Buoy. Soon I could see the next starboard hand mark where I was to lay a course north of west to the moorings by Harty Ferry. There I thankfully picked up a visitors’ buoy and immediately prepared lunch before sorting the boat out.
The distance from Ramsgate to the River Swale is 20 miles, but because we had to buck the tide around North Foreland, I guess we must have sailed a good 30 miles, taking 8 hours before arriving at 1330.
I started today’s log by mentioning contrasts found in the activity of yachting; being here at this wide open East Coast river, where it is so tranquil, with only the sound of gurgling water and the call of marsh birds, greatly contrasts with the congested and noisy marina at Ramsgate. Here there is a feeling of isolation and lonesomeness, which could never be experienced at a marina, but this also brings a sense of freedom and independence, as opposed to claustrophobia and dependence.