Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Tuesday, 5th July

It’s rock and roll here tonight while anchored in the outer harbour of Dover. One other yacht of Belgium flag, named ‘Shalom’, dragged her anchor. Her skipper responded to my warning hoot with the fog horn. Because his yacht is about three or four times bigger than ‘Bumper’, the single-handed skipper had a hard job of re-anchoring, but I’m pleased to say his anchor is now holding.

The rain is bucketing down, and has been since 1800, when we were south of Folkstone. Whenever you approach Dover you can expect it to be bumpy and today was no exception, but then the ride all the way from Brighton has been lively.

We left Brighton at 0600 under engine, because there was only a whisper of wind. Within half-an-hour there was a good force 3 south westerly – just what the doctor ordered. Throughout the morning the wind strength freshened until there was a force 6 on the tail. ‘Fred’, the self-steering, could not cope, because I hang on to rather too much sail; I’m glad I did, because with the tide in our favour we touched 7 knots on one occasion.

Rounding Beachy Head was an experience; being close inshore I had a good view of the lighthouse, which is at sea level, well below the high chalk cliffs behind. Dungeness was a good 30 miles away, on a bearing of 046 degrees true; the sun was shining and the sailing exhilarating. Unknown to me, my friend Richard was sailing his classic wooden yacht, ‘Callidus’ in the opposite direction, having left the Eastboune marina at 1000. When ‘Bumper’ was south of Eastbourne I had a feeling that he could be doing that very thing, as we had hoped to rendezvous in the region, but somehow we had not been able to make contact. When I arrived at Dover and turned on my mobile phone I read a text message saying Richard had left Eastbourne at 1000.

Because the wind was so strong throughout the day and because I chose to have more sail than perhaps I should, it was necessary for me to hand steer most of the way from Brighton to Dover. Now and again I was able to make ‘Fred’ cope for a five minutes at a time while I quickly found food and drink, or went to the toilet. I also hove the boat to a couple of times to prepare hot drinks.

All in all, the ‘voyage’ was a challenge, especially to complete the 60 miles before nightfall. It could never have been accomplished without the strong wind pushing the boat hard against the adverse tide throughout the afternoon and evening.

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