Wednesday, March 17, 2010

'Apple Charlotte', part 7

Up River Yacht Club boats at Ramsgate

Wednesday, 5th August

With a persistent ridge of high pressure from the Azores to Scotland, there was every chance the weather would remain fine. Indeed, from early morning to sunset there was precious little wind. However, according the Shipping Forecast there could have been a chance of thundery showers, but my feeling was that if they were to occur, they would more likely take place inland, rather than at sea. We weren’t in a hurry to get out on the water, because the tide wasn’t due to ebb northwards from South Foreland until mid-afternoon. Therefore we took things easy, and, as there was almost a dead calm, we set about tidying the boat, including scrubbing her decks.

Shortly after 1300 we prepared the yacht for sea. On retrieving the anchor, I was amazed by the large amount of weed there was clinging to it. For the next quarter-of-an-hour we motored around in circles to the east of the Prince of Wales Pier until the signal was given for vessels to leave the Harbour. An officer aboard the Duty Launch instructed us to remain where we were until after the Hydrofoil had made her exit. As soon as this high-speed shuttle had zoomed off into the blue, a handful of yachts followed her at a slower pace. Shortly after leaving the Harbour we continued to the northeast, but we had to take great care when approaching the eastern entrance because numerous ferries were entering and leaving the Port. Altogether we counted five! The experience was exciting to say the least, as there was always a possibility that the outboard may let us down, which I’m pleased to say it didn’t.

Archive photo - White Cliffs of South Foreland

The white cliffs of South Foreland looked pretty impressive. Perched atop them were the old lighthouse and the Coastguard Lookout. The wind briefly sprang up from the northeast, which caused us to tack offshore to clear a ledge that ran out to sea from the base of the cliffs. By 1500 the wind had petered out, but the tide assisted us northwards towards Ramsgate. The seaside town of Deal and its distinctive Pier was to port. Inland, further north we could see the cooling towers of Richborough Power Station which were situated by the banks of the River Stour, north of Sandwich.

We had chosen the deep water route via the Gull Stream in preference to the inshore one, but by adhering to it there was the possibility that the ebb may swish us beyond Ramsgate. As usual, the Up River skippers did their own thing. John in his Atalanta followed the two metre sounding along the Kent coast. This made sense because his boat was equipped with twin lifting keels, and if she were to touch bottom he wouldn’t have a problem. He had the added safety factor of the ebb taking his boat directly to Ramsgate. Ken Phipps and his crew aboard his Westerly Centaur could no longer be seen, because he had forged ahead at the outset. No doubt he was already snug in port, perhaps ashore having afternoon tea at one of the cafes overlooking the harbour.

Twenty minutes before our arrival at Ramsgate a very noisy Hovercraft came close to ‘Apple Charlotte’, and she continued towards the Harbour. I must say the proximity of the Hovercraft caused us great concern, to the extent that on its approach I climbed on the deck and held the radar reflector as high as I could. Normally, the reflector was only deployed when there was poor visibility. My practice was to hang it at the crosstrees, but just then there wasn’t time for me to attach it to a halyard and haul the thing up. Unexpectedly, the wind sprang up again, which was helpful, because it gave us more speed for counteracting the tide as we entered Ramsgate Harbour. There we were invited to come alongside a Dutch Contest 31. Later I moved ‘Apple Charlotte’ to raft up to the Up River boats.

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