24th August 2013
We had enjoyed our evening meal at The Zetland Arms in Walmer The Zetland Arms was named after a wrecked ship but when we browsed through the various maps in the Ramsgate Maritime Museum knowing only this wreck by name we were unable to find it. More research is need here.
We were lucky in that the tide wouldn’t run North until lunchtime so we had time to organise the boat. There wasn’t much wind but with a spring tide who needs wind? Everything was shipshape ready for a bridge swing from Wellington Dock at about 1200. Dover had been quite expensive but they offer cheaper deals if you book by the month. The staff were very helpful and friendly and the boat is super safe in Dover (unlike Ramsgate).
We radioed up Dover to get permission to leave Eastern with all the ferries. It is one of the busiest ports in the world but there is no problem getting a space between the ships. The harbour welcomes yachts nowadays. I remember entering using morse from an Aldis light in the seventies. They hated yachts then but that was before they built the Channel Tunnel . Now yachts are an important part of the town’s economy.
We hoisted the sails and accelerated to about 1 kn. Just enough for steerage but with the tide we were zooming along at 4 kn. It is pleasant enough sailing slowly when you only have 15 nm to go but great care needs to be taken to ensure you don’t get swept onto the buoys. We went up the Gull Stream and soon arrived at the entrance channel to Ramsgate and found ourselves motoring hard to avoid being swept past. We entered the outer harbour and headed for the rusty drain pipe on the wall. The entrance silts up on the eastern pier head so it is important to hug the western wall. There were plenty of free berths in the visitors area of the harbour despite a large part of the harbour now being used by the Wind Farm Service Boats. Ramsgate lost its ferry service a few years back so this new work is welcome to them. There are hopes of re-instating a ferry service one day but I have got to buy a nice ship first.
I like Ramsgate. Lots of people don’t but I do! It is a real port, it has decent a swimming beach, a very friendly Yacht Club (unlike some) a selection of good restaurants, a little Maritime Museum and good access to the continent. Smeaton died in Ramsgate working on the impressive construction. It is not a great place to leave a boat unattended as the outer harbour can get boisterous in certain wind conditions and the inner harbour is now full with local boats.
We paid our £23.00 for the night and brewed up some pasta on board as we studied the slightly dubious weather for tomorrows sail.
We decided not to sail. The strong northerly would have proved a struggle to get around North Foreland. It was a Bank Holiday Weekend so we spent the Sunday savouring Ramsgate’s delights and set off at 0300 in the morning to catch the powerful tide to improve our boards as we headed North to round North Foreland. By the time dawn arrived North Foreland light was abeam and we were able to ease the sheets to head for the Princes Channel. The sun came out and with the wind abaft the beam it was a delightful run up the estuary past the old gun towers and the Montgomery Wreck into the Medway. We locked into Gillingham Marina just before high water on Bank Holiday Monday. A very pleasant sail.