If at all possible when coastal cruising, it always pays to work tides in your favour. On the morning of Monday, 30th June tides could not have been more perfect. High water at Sheerness was at 0932 BST which meant that the ebb would be with us along the North Kent coast as far as North Foreland, from where we would take the beginning of the flood tide to Dover. Bear in mind that the flood tide flows in a southerly direction in the North Sea; on reaching Dover it continues down the English Channel as far as Dungeness where it meets the flooding tide coming up the Channel.
I had a leisurely breakfast before attending to my personal hygiene. Maintenance of ones personal hygiene is important for good health and optimum performance. Regular meals conforming as far as possible to those eaten ashore help provide energy and alertness. Seasickness is often caused by eating intermittent meals, which in turn my cause constipation, itself a factor contributing to a queasy stomach. For my general wellbeing I like to have a freshwater shave every day and to brush my teeth twice a day. When out on the ocean, seawater suffices for cleaning most things. Dishes and clothing can be cleaned with seawater, providing sufficient detergent or washing powder is added to the water.
'Speedwell' rigged as a ketch
Before casting off from the visitor’s buoy at the River Swale I double-checked the passage plan and consulted the weather forecast. The ship’s barometer registered 998 millibars and there was a north-westerly wind of Force 2. That was ideal for beam reaching along the Kent coast. We first had to motor sail out of the Swale. At 0835 I made sail, turned on the engine, checked that cooling water was coming from the exhaust and cast off. An hour-and-a-half later ‘Aziz; was rounding Whitstable Street buoy, north of the ancient smack port of Whitstable. I was mindful of when I was skipper of the ‘Speedwell’, the famous Whitstable smack built in 1908. I had the privilege of being in charge of her between 1985 and 1986 while in the employ of the Discovery Dockland Trust. (See link below)
With the combination of wind and tide, my trusty yacht was speeding along at 6.1 knots. Navigation was a matter of counting off the landmarks to the south. When a very tall water tower was due south of us at Herne Bay I knew we had little more than 3 miles to go before arriving at the East Last port hand buoy. This marks the western end of the Gore Channel where there is a very good secure anchorage, protected by Hook Sand to the north and the Kent coast to the south. Just make sure you display a riding light at night, because this route is in frequent use by yachtsmen and fishermen.
The coastline here is not terribly interesting, since it is rather flat and there is nothing of note, apart from beacons marking the Gore Channel. Further to the east there are the remains of what was Margate Pier which was severely damaged by a ferocious gale in 1978. Attempts were made to demolish the structure completely by using explosives, but in the end the demolition team had to admit defeat.
Margate behind us and with a westerly of Force 3 swishing us along, we rapidly rounded North Foreland. In the lee of the white cliffs the brown swirling water trundled us southwards past North Foreland lighthouse. A black and fluorescent orange Ramsgate pilot vessel sped to the north where a number of cargo vessels were at anchor. East Brake buoy marked the beginning of the dredged channel that runs due west into Ramsgate Harbour. There I made the decision to continue south and take the first of the flooding tide to Dover. We were to follow the deep water channel, the Gull Stream, leaving the notorious Goodwin Sands to port. Deal Pier and the three cooling towers of Richborough Power Station beyond Pegwell Bay are excellent aids to navigation.
The old square riggers of long ago would have anchored there at Deal Roads, awaiting fair winds, being well sheltered from the prevailing westerlies. I’ve been tempted to do it myself to avoid paying harbour dues at Ramsgate or Dover, but never found the opportunity on account of northerly and easterly winds. You need to anchor as close to the shore as possible to avoid strong running currents. From beyond Deal the chalk cliffs increase in height until reaching their highest point at South Foreland. Along that stretch of coast the sea is always agitated by the frequent and rapid rushing of waters at the beckoning call of the moon’s gravitational powerful influence. Tidal tables around the UK are based on tides at the standard port of Dover. If you have a table of constants you can work out tides for other places based on Dover tides.
I do not know why, but I am always excited when entering Dover Harbour. Perhaps it’s because of having to dodge the frequent ferries that come and go, or maybe just because of the business of the place. There’s always something going on. Well, instead of anchoring in the outer harbour where one suffers from constant rolling of the yacht, I berthed at pontoon B No 65 where I could walk ashore and take a shower. I note in the log that I had to pay £12.60 for one night, but it was well worth it.
Text for the Day
2 Thessalonians 3:10 ‘For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.’