On our way at last

The first leg of our planned voyage was from Shotley Marina to Ramsgate, a distance of around 50 NM. We had no idea of the average speed of Ruby Tuesday, but guessed it might be about five knots. That would mean a passage time of 10-11 hours, the better part of a day. We also had to take into account the tidal race around North Foreland near Margate and try and catch the flow as it turned southward to avoid a battle against the current. The further complicate matters, we couldn’t exit from the sea-lock at Shotley Marina within an hour each side of low water.

Doing all the calculations meant that we had to leave around 0530 in the morning. Not able to sleep much that night due to the excitement of our impending trip, we rose early, only to discover that we were surrounded by thick fog rolling in off the Channel. Worse still, according to the forecast, it would stay around for most of the morning. Even though Ruby Tuesday had radar we were not too keen on taking a boat new to us though heavy shipping lanes in the fog, so our passage plan now in ruins, we decided to wait until the next day and try again.

Leaving Shotley Marina sea lock.

The fog went in the afternoon but returned overnight, and continued this pattern for the next three days. By this time we had explored most of Shotley and Ipswich, and were becoming more and more frustrated. Luckily, Saturday morning arrived with no fog to speak of, so we decided to set off. It turned out a beautiful day, warm and bright, with a good steady breeze from the west, and we really whizzed along at 8 knots, trying to find the right route through all the sandbanks of the Thames estuary, following quaintly named channels such as Black Deep, Fisherman’s Gat and Knock Deep. The biggest worry was keeping an eye on the massive container ships that would zoom past us at 20 knots, and getting out of their way if they were heading towards us, as they can hardly manoeuvre.

Container ship passing us rather rapidly in the Black Deep channel.

Then, as we were nearly into Ramsgate, we had a problem with the foresail furling mechanism which seemed to have jammed, preventing the genoa from rolling away. Try as we might, we couldn’t get it working, so had to roll the sail away by hand, and limped into Ramsgate under power. At least we had made our planned destination, and within the estimated time period as well! Hopefully we would also be able sort the furling problem out there.

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