We have been back in the UK three months now and have decided to spend the winter in Leamington Spa so over the last week we have moved into a flat. We hired a van and filled it, we could not belive that we had so much stuff stored on the boat. We will need to spend some time in Burnham on Crouch as we need to carry out some maintenance and prepare the boat for next years adventures.
We spent the first month in Eastbourne, the weather was good and our quarantine passed quickly. We had daily calls from the NHS track and trace team and Graham had a visit to check he was where he said he was. We had been a little concerned that we might have been told we could not stay on the boat but this did not seem to be a problem.
The only problem we had was with covid tests. The company we used failed to provide a result for one of the tests or respond to any emails asking for updates. This seems to be a common issue with a number of companies taking your money and failing to provide the service.
Once our quarantine had finished we took the opportunity to go and visit the family. It was good to see our grandson who had arrived the day before we left France for England. It was also good catching up with the rest of our family.
Once back in Eastbourne we had friends visit which was great. Eastbourne had been a holiday destination for Graham when young. We visited Beachy Head and the town. We went to the Sunday afternoon band concert. Eastbourne claims to have the country’s busiest bandstand and I believe that would be true looking at the program they had for July and August.
The Eastbourne all weather lifeboat is based in Sovereign Harbour. They have a tough job as many of their calls are to assist with recovering bodies from the sea. Beachy Head is sadly a suicide hotspot and they were called out a number of times during the month on such calls. It was right next to our berth If we were on our boat we always knew when they were leaving due to the roar of the engines as they started them up.
We decided to take the train to visit Brighton. We took our bikes which was a good thing as it allowed us to see more. Brighton was busy, probably due to everyone taking their holidays in the UK this year. We cycled along the seafront from the station to the marina and spent time walking around the lanes. Brighton is full of small shops and cafes as well as the beaches and the pier so you can see why it is popular with day-trippers.
Time came to depart and once again the weather decided we should stay a few more nights. Finally, we headed off to Dover.
As we approached Dungeness a safety boat was running around as the Lydd range was operating live fire. We had always planned to give this a wide berth anyway, a motor cruiser was asked to change course to keep outside the range area.
We made good time towards Dover and had read carefully about the right procedures for arriving. Dover is the busiest ferry port in the county and all craft have to contact Dover port control to get permission to enter the harbour. The tide was running fast across the western entrance as we arrived and it took a while to get in but we made it through the entrance and proceeded to the marina.
Dover has built a new marina but it is not yet open, they have had issues with surge in the marina and need to ensure they are resolved before opening it. We made our way to the Granville dock, this had a tide gate so is not accessible at low tide.We enjoyed a few days here. Dover is a place we normally pass through to get a ferry to France. The harbour is large with plenty of history, the area around the town beach has been regenerated and looks smart. The Royal cinque yacht club has a clubhouse overlooking the harbour and welcomes visitors for lunch. The other must-see visit is the castle high on the famous white cliffs. We walked along Dame Vera Lyne way (of White Cliffs of Dover fame) on our way to the castle. The town museum is also worth a visit.We only stayed two nights as the tides and weather meant we needed to head off to Ramsgate. Leaving Dover we saw first hand the reality of the current migrant crisis in the English Channel. A border force vessel had just arrived with around 50 migrants standing on the deck. A lifeboat had arrived shortly before with 45 passengers on board according to the messages on the VHF radio. We had seen the small rubber inflatable boats in the marina being moved to storage and it is hard to imagine crossing the channel in such a vessel crowded with as many people who will fit, no experience and no navigation equipment.
At Ramsgate we saw more activity and on one beach a deflated dinghy was still waiting for collection. One of our fears travelling along this coast was that we would come across a struggling migrant boat and it would be difficult to assist in a meaningful full way, beyond calling the coastguard on the VHF for help. Fortunately, we did not encounter any boats at sea despite the coast guards continuous warnings advising us to look out for “small boats” in the channel.
We had a great sail from Dover to Ramsgate following the route close into the coast, there is a sandbank offshore here the notorious Godwin sands. You have to decide which route you are taking and stick to it. Ramsgate is another marina where they want you to contact port control before entering although there are no longer any ferry services from here. The main traffic is pilot cutters and boats servicing the local wind farms in the Thames Estuary.
We stayed in Ramsgate for 7 nights, the marina was a bit bumpier than we had experienced for a while. We were able to meet up with our nephew who came over for lunch on Sunday. There were also some good paths along the coast so we were able to get the bikes out and cycle to Broadstairs and Sandwich.
We had to carry out a repair to the gooseneck where the boom attaches to the mast, a split pin had rusted away and needed to be replaced. We only discovered this when cleaning the decks and finding a washer lying on the deck. It would have been a problem if the cotter pin had come out whilst at sea and the boom had become detached.
After a week it was time to tackle the Thames Estuary crossing. We had purchased two pilot guides to help us with this and a chart whilst in Eastbourne. Again there are treacherous sandbanks and great care needs to be taken when crossing. Large ships need to go almost as far as north as Harwich before turning south to enter the Crouch. With care however a small boat can pick a route between the sandbanks and save a few hours on the crossing. We have navigated through narrow rocky channels, you can see the rocks and avoid them. This was totally different as you cannot see the dangers. As the depth of water under the keel dropped to 3 m in the middle of the sea it was a bit unnerving but the charts agreed and we passed safely over the sandbank and started our approach up the crouch. This took a little longer than planned as the tide had not turned and was still flowing out. Eventually, we arrived at Burnham Yacht Harbour. The wind had picked up and it was difficult to turn the boat we ended up berthing stern to, something we are reluctant to do as the boat does not steer well in that direction. In the morning the wind had dropped and we moved the boat and berthed bows in as we prefer.
We chose Burnham as it has good transport links and also Graham’s sister lives nearby. She was having a party to celebrate one of her sons 21st birthday. This made Burnham -on -Crouch a very convenient place to stay. We have decided to keep the boat here for the winter.
Burnham on Crouch is a popular sailing area with two yacht clubs and a sailing club. There is always something going on on the river. We were there for Burnham week and there were many boats racing on the river. We were both brought up in Essex so it was good to explore the local area. We went for walks along the river and also visited the local history museum and a nearby railway museum. Burnham still has a small cinema so we also found time to visit this.
As well as finding somewhere to stay for the winter we also needed to get the boat ready for the winter. We found that the sails need to be repaired or replaced this winter and also the sail bag needs to be replaced. The boat should be coming out of the water in the next week or so and then we can go back and make a start on some of the jobs.
We will be back next summer with another trip and will update you after Christmas once we have made a plan.