As the weather just sucked for two days with no real sign of letting up - high winds and lots of rain - and after listening to the recycling centre relentlessly piling up scrap metal just across the water for too long - it was just time to go, regardless of the weather.
We do our best to avoid the worst of the weather by ducking into marinas and sailing in between all the waves of bad weather that seem to be occurring right now, or it might just be that it's called winter, but sometimes I think we just have to accept that this is just how it is now, at this time of year.
But sitting around when you know you should be moving isn't ideal, and Newhaven seemed alright - but we were just keen to get moving again. By the second day a weather window was to open up for us, 25-30 knots for a 24 hour period, as opposed to the 40-45 we were getting now...
I think getting caught out in 30 knots winds is wiser than going out in 30 knots of wind, but we really must get moving, every day in a marina costs money, and if there's a chance of getting out and around Dover we're going to take it...but I wouldn't recommend it, but if you and your boat can handle it, it sure is fun!
As, what I thought, was the predicted lull in the weather arrived I called Port Control to confirm the actual conditions outside the harbour, 20-25 knots of wind - at the same time, I got clearance to leave the harbour. We were just about to untie the lines, but we immediately had to stop and wait for a ferry to leave the harbour.
The harbour lights returned to green, and we were again given clearance to proceed.
I did think, the water looks calm enough where the ferry is, but as we approached the outer breakwater - I won't lie - I was having second thoughts.
I decided to get well clear of the harbour before trying to get the mainsail up, I had considered setting the double reef in the mainsail before heading out, and had kinda planned on doing that, but as we passed the breakwater - I realized I had forgotten to do that....hmmmmmmmm
The wind picked up almost immediately as soon as we passed that breakwater, but there was no turning back now, we're out here now, and we're just going to deal with it.
What was not fun was trying to put a reef in the mainsail in 35 knots of wind, dealing with a huge sail in high winds is, again, not ideal but after getting slapped in the face about 50 times by the flapping sail - I finally got the lines tied in for a double reef.
As soon as I got it tied a big meaty wave just surged over the bow and sent a wall of water down the deck, I watched as my shoes disappeared in about two feet of water, and now my feet were now soaking wet - this wasn't a great start, but I knew it wasn't going to be so - I finally got the boat pointed in the right direction, and we were off.
Getting a picture of those cliffs wasn't easy, these waves were pretty big, and we were definitely getting thrown around a bit which makes taking pictures kind of annoying as they all just come out a blurry mess.
I would try and take a picture and then a wave would just photobomb the picture or it would just be too blurry...the struggle was real for a few minutes...
For the next few hours would be some pretty wild sailing as the winds were a sustained 30+ knots gusting up to 43 knots! (highest we recorded, some places were higher!) This was not the weather we were expecting, but with a reefed main and the autopilot doing most of the work it wasn't too bad. The wind, waves and current were all in our favour, but had we been going in the other direction...these would have been awful conditions to find yourself in - I think.
The waves were just incredible, I haven't quite figured out a way to photograph them properly, as you really don't get a feel for the scale of these things, and these waves are by no means the biggest around, but for our little boat, they were a little chunky.
We were passing Beachy Head and there was a lighthouse on the beach, or so it looked anyway, I tried to take a picture but waves made it challenging, again...
I managed to get my soaking shoes off, rinse them with fresh water to get the salt out, and wring out most of the water before propping them up in front of a vent and switching on the central heating to dry them off.
Having only one pair of shoes, I had to revert to backup footwear - flip-flops. Sailing in the North Sea, in November in flip-flops is an added twist I hadn't expected...
Later, we were passing quite close to the traffic lanes in the English Channel, as it got dark and conditions remained the same, the VHF provided some light entertainment.
During the night there was a German Sub U33 in one of the lanes telling a British ship to keep their distance, all very polite but there was some irony in hearing a German Sub, in the English Channel no less, telling a British ship what to do, I dunno, I just thought it was kinda funny.
We are, in fact, the tiny grey ship symbol just to the North of the mark on the map.
Passing Dover in the dark was a bit disappointing as I have always heard about the 'White Cliffs of Dover' - seen lots of pictures, seen them on TV, and they've been the backdrop in many films but, at night, they're just cliffs.
As we passed Dover I did check in with Port Control just to make sure they could see us on AIS and that we weren't going to be in anyone's way as we were crossing the busy traffic lanes going in and out of Dover.
They confirmed that they could see us, we were advised to maintain a minimum distance from the harbour and to maintain our speed and heading and not to change course until well clear of the harbour. Things are strict around here and also very busy - I got the feeling that Dover Port Control is run less like a harbour and more like an air traffic control-type of operation - just soo many ships coming and going, the radio chatter was almost constant.
We did as instructed and got clear of all the traffic and as we got out of range the radio quietened down a bit and the weather seem to ease and the waves were certainly relaxing the further we got away from Dover.
Once we were well past Dover, we were officially, I think, back on the East Coast and heading North for the first time in what seems like a while!
Arriving in Ramsgate in the early hours of the morning in the dark was a pain in the ass, there were just too many lights, not too many navigation lights, but there were too many background lights on shops and bars in the background - kinda makes seeing the actual navigation lights difficult - not impossible, but difficult.
After a brief chat with Ramsgate Port Control, we were directed to a pontoon and got tied up...then, after having a coffee, I thought I heard a noise outside...
If Chloe sees all of them, she will lose her mind...but 200 seagulls sleeping is one thing, but I know that pontoon will be a 'bird crap obstacle course' in the morning.
Our next port is supposed to be Brightlingsea, a mere 65 meandering miles across the Thames Estuary - not looking forward to this one...it should be interesting, but lots of shallow water to consider...however, the weather should hopefully be less aggressive, so...that, at least, will be a nice change.
But until we get out of here and about 50nm North the weather is going to remain, unpleasant, and the next 24 hours will be no exception...
It's still a bit weird to be almost finished with the UK Circumnavigation, we only have a few more stops, and it'll be complete. The Circumnavigation wasn't the plan, it's just what seems to be happening just now, and I figured why not just do that - just complete something, for once.
I wish I knew what we were going to do after that, but, that's kinda the fun part, not knowing - things have a bizarre way of working out, usually in unexpected ways - but we will need to stop somewhere for a little while, although at this point - we still have hundreds of miles to go before we can even consider stopping...