0040 - Ramsgate to Brightlingsea

Ramsgate was supposed to just be another quick place to recharge, but after only a few hours sleep I found myself awake at seven in the morning and the weather had not yet changed - I figured, let just go while we can. Nasty weather is on the way, but if we can get out of here before it hits - We can get around the corner and it will miss us...


I tried to get clearance to leave but was instructed to check in with the dockmaster before departing - they want to know who you are and where you're going - and with covid - where you've been - blah blah blah - red tape...

By the time I had seen the dockmaster, it was after 10 am and the weather was now bad, and that pontoon that I was tied to was really catching the swell that was now coming into the harbour, I was going to try and move the boat to a more sheltered part of the harbour but the weather again picked up and it became too dangerous to be moving a yacht around a marina.


As I was trying to add some extra mooring lines in an attempt to further secure the yacht, two Border Control officers came over and decided this was the time to ask me 100 questions. Again, with the where have you been, going and the purpose of your trip, sir...


I can't say I've encountered too much in the way of officials in my UK travels, so far, but these dudes were just doing their job and seemed like alright human beings...I was the only visiting yacht in the basin - I suspect they were bored.


After scanning my documents, they finished their questions and left me to tend to the weather.. and the weather was super awful, all day long, and by the end of it, I had burst a fender and my best, longest rope, was now in three pieces...

Also, the most-used piece of equipment onboard got damaged - and will now need to be replaced - yet again.

I do have an elastic line that I use to secure counter-top items but you have to use it for it to work - I often forget to secure it - then it slides off the counter and into the sink and breaks...luckily this break was above the 'water-line' so it still has some life left in it...

During this trip, this is the one thing that I have had to replace over and over again - I need to find a military-grade cafetiere.


This was a miserable place to stop, in this weather - I think the place itself was interesting, it's just a shame the weather was just so very lousy, but I have a feeling we'll be back here in the not too distant future.

It would turn out that we would have to stay the night and wait till the weather eased the following day, and it didn't actually ease until the following night and we ended up leaving the harbour at about 10:30 pm, heading North toward the Thames Estuary.


I had not been looking forward to this leg of the trip, at all. There is an obvious route that you can take and miss all the shallow water 'fun' that is the Estuary, or you can cut through the banks of silt and save a lot of time off of your journey...


We were gonna cut through, I had planned on doing it in the daylight but the weather says we go now, so in the dark it is...the charts for this place are quite intimidating, there's much going on in the way of wind farms and other offshore projects out here...

The Estuary is made up of lots of little silt mountains that sit just below the surface of the water, and the depths change all the time out here as silt gets washed away and it piles up somewhere else - as luck would have it, just at the time when we need depth, it would work out that we would be going over the first cut through at low-tide.

Getting out of the harbour and heading out into the dark - toward shallow water is not a good feeling, I am not a fan of shallow-ish water - especially not in the dark, but it is what it is...


I had asked a few locals about the current state of the silting and two cut-throughs were suggested, one I didn't agree with, and one that I did...I planned the best route with the information I had, but I should've just stuck with my original plan.

Several hours after getting out we were in the Thames Estuary, and approaching the first cut-through - and it was this one I didn't like the look of - not one bit.


The locals were adamant that there was plenty of depth, at all states of tide and how everyone uses it and it was nothing to worry about...blah blah blah...I never should have listened to them - but seduced with the notion of knocking 12 miles of the trip I kinda wanted it to be true, but, we made our way in between Middle Sunk and South-West Sunk.

When I look at the above chart all I can see is the sharp shallow bank on the South Southside of the channel, next to that mark 'foul' - the depth goes from about 3m to 0.3m - our draft is 1.6m.


I kept to the Northside of the channel, and I knew it was going to be close - we were also going through here at 1-hour before low-tide - I had expected to keep 0.5m under the keel at all times, and a moment came and went where I could have turned around, but I didn't.

The depth was as expected, and we kept 0.5m under the keel, however about halfway through - not sure in which direction I was off on, but something wasn't right as we only had 0.3m under the keel and sailing at about 6 knots...

Now, I want to explain that it's about 3:30 am, overcast, no moon, no stars, just blackness. The wind is a steady 30 knots on a still-falling tide and we are about to ground this yacht.

I eased all the sails, as, if we were going to ground out, I want to do it at the slowest speed possible, it should all just be silt down there, but who knows...


The depth flashed 0.2m - It was at this moment I kinda knew I had made a mistake - I tried turning slightly in both directions and the depth dropped to 0.1m - we were in the deepest part - but then it didn't matter, it was 0.1m everywhere, our speed was a slow 2 knots - I took a step back from the instruments realizing that there was nothing else I could do - and we were about to ground out.


It's a rough moment when you realize your mistake, or just before your mistake is realized - it's an odd sensation as a thousand disaster scenarios run through your head in about five seconds as you prepare for whatever is about to happen, or what you think will happen...

It happened very slowly, a soft bump, then a few more firm ones, the boat lurched forward and then we were pretty much stopped, grounded out, stuck on a silt bank, and on a falling tide - if I didn't get unstuck soon I would be stuck here for a few hours, at least.


I started the engine, I tightened the lines on the sails and that helped heel us over a bit, enough for us to seemingly float - I engaged the engine just into tick over, just enough to give us a small push - we began to roughly bump along the bottom.


In the commotion, I had kinda lost my bearings and wasn't sure If I was headed toward deeper water or about to drive us back to shallow water, we weren't making enough headway for the plotter to give an accurate heading, so I had to look for some familiar lights and just keep the bow pointed at them and headed into deeper water...

After about 25 minutes of bumping along the bottom, we eventually got through the cut-through and into the safety of deeper water. Just having 1m under the keel was such a nice feeling, the sounds that come from the boat as the keel forces its way through silt, gravel, shells and small stones is a horrible sound, and the entire boat would shake each time we were stopped by whatever was on the bottom...


Those were among twenty-five of the longest minutes on this entire trip, but we did get through it, and it was 90 percent silt, so no problem - I'm just glad it happened here and not up in the North of Scotland, with its' rocky coastline, things might not have ended so casually...


In a few minutes, we would have 12m under the keel, we would again be on our way, and the hours would again begin to tick off - until the next cut through - but I felt ok, a bit better, about this one ...

Hours later, and still a bit shook from the last one, I approached the final cut-through but chickened out and decided to wait for another hour of tide to build before going over any more silt banks. I sailed in a big loop and returned an hour later and sailed over the silt bank with 1m under the keel all the way through. I would've been fine on my first approach but I wanted to be extra sure - I wasted an hour, I should have just gone over it the first time...


As the sun rose, we could see the wind farm we had been sailing next to for a while, quite a big site - and still expanding according to the charts...

I love seeing the precision in which these turbines are installed out here, the bigger the wind farm, the more impressive the feat of engineering...


Something about the perfect rows and watching as the blades come in and out of synchronization with each other, quite mesmerizing actually...

And that was pretty much it, after passing the wind farm we turned toward Brightlingsea and made our way there - I just wanted to sleep as I didn't get much sleep in the last place - I hoped this place would be a bit more peaceful.

We passed a few channel markers and before long we were there, passing by what seemed like too many beach huts...but the weather was brightening up a bit...

Within 20 minutes we were tied to a pontoon and I just went to sleep for a few hours, I just can't seem to get enough sleep these days - but this is the home stretch, not many stops left on this mini-goonie adventure.


The weather was definitely better in Brightlingsea, and Phoebe insisted on having a quick look around but was chased back down below after about 10 mins as it was time for some rest... Chloe was nowhere to be seen, she is usually first on deck...

I laid on the couch for a quick nap, but that turned into an 'all day' siesta - hours later I woke up, covered in cats, just in time to see the sunset...

Cats are kinda like little hot-water bottles and I don't think I would have slept as long had they not been on me - but you wake up and can't figure out why you are soo warm and cozy...

I had something to eat, fed, watered the crew, and rather than try and do anything constructive, I just went back to sleep, we would be here tomorrow - having a shower, the dishes, and doing the laundry can just wait until then...


This wasn't the biggest trip, at twelve hours, and in comparison to some of our recent trips, it really wasn't that long - but this one was horribly stressful, and I feel a lot more tired than I normally do...

At this stage, I haven't decided on our next port, but things are getting difficult as a National Lockdown has been announced and will be enforced within 24 hours - we're not sure what the new regulations will be like or how they will affect us...


But I think the next leg will have to be a big one to try and get away from the more heavily-controlled lockdown areas, but, it may be, that the next place we pull into might be our last until the lockdown is over...but the Captain has a plan...

78 views

Recent Posts

See All