Archive for October, 2013

The Thames

Thursday, October 24th, 2013
Passing Cranes along the Thames

Passing Cranes along the Thames

Sea Reach

Sea Reach

20th October 2013

The alarms rang simultaneously at 0500 and I poured a splosh of meths into the saucer to preheat the burner for a quick coffee before we set off. We quickly donned our wet weather gear although it wasn’t yet raining and didn’t look too bad under the full moon. The tide was ebbing out of the Medway so we let go the warps and set off. Ironically there wasn’t much wind although it had been blowing over night. We motored past Garrison Point and hoisted the yankee soon to be followed by the main with a couple of pre-emptive reefs tucked in. We waited to clear around the stern of a ship before heading north to Grain Edge (unlit!) and the crossing of the shallow water before joining the Thames for real. Another ship was unusually leaving the Thames and heading for the Medway. I wasn’t really expecting to be dodging so many ships so early. The wind had now kicked in and I was glad of the small main. In all of Sumara’s thousands of miles sailing she has only been knocked down twice – both in the Thames!
Sailing up the Thames has certain challenges. On a spring tide, like today, there is a fair bit of current. If the wind is slack great care must be taken not to be swept into jetties or against moored barges. Sailing at night can be deceptive as there are many unlit mooring buoys and dim lights that blend into the city back scatter. When short tacking the frequent ships add to the fun especially near Tilbury but the biggest danger to my mind are other yachts who often seem oblivious to their actions.
In the Sea Reach great foreboding clouds came across and strong winds forced the lee rail under. A dredger seemed concerned that we would run aground and called up VTS on 68 to express their concerns on air. We tucked in a tack to calm them down but actually had enough water to sail on for another 100 m (unless the dredger knew something we didn’t!). The wind now decided to shift to more south westerly so more short tacks were tucked in before we could just make Tilbury. Here we came across a large dredger underway called Victor Horta. We heard him call up to say he was going to berth starboard to at Tilbury. I called him to ask if he wanted me out of the way and he asked if we could pass to the south. We hardened up but as he slowed and we sped up I was getting very close to his stern with a lot of prop wash it was getting a bit hairy so I applied a bit of engine to clear out of his way as fast as I could.

We then enjoyed the brisk and by now wet sail further upstream until we came upon a whole fleet of yachts. Well about ten of them, which is a lot for this kind of weekend in October. As we approached the barrier we were going to need a final tack but a small red yacht came bearing down on us. I hardened up but there was no way I could clear the moored barges that we were being swept towards. Our predicament was pretty obvious but the little red yacht ploughed on. I shouted out but they just came on. If I tacked I would have definitely rammed them. The 30 second warm start on the engine was going to be touch and go but I reached for the starter in the hope it would kick in a bit earlier as Sumara went into irons being unable to tack.

With the moored barges coming towards us at a couple of knots the engine did eventually start as the little boat sailed past seemly totally unaware of the situation. Maybe they would have got out of the way at the last moment but it seemed very thoughtless to force a hard pressed yacht into moored barges for the sake of a minor course charge.

We passed through the barrier under power and sail but the wind was so gusty and with more river traffic we deicide to call it day and motor the last few miles to South Dock and what is now our home.

 

The Medway

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013
Moored Queenborough in the shelter of Sheppey

Moored Queenborough in the shelter of Sheppey

Power Station en route not sure which one!

Power Station en route not sure which one!

19th September 2013

We dashed down to Gillingham after our Residents Meeting in the hope of getting Sumara out of the locked basin before the tide slipped away. Helped by the new HS1 speedy train service we arrived in the early afternoon with a few hours to spare. Poor old Sumara had weeds around her waterline and I felt very guilty for her neglect. After an hour or so we had the sails hanked on, the waterline scrubbed and the engine fired up. I was pleasantly surprised at the invoice we had to cough up before exiting the lock. Obviously they had kindly charged monthly rates, unlike some marinas. I rather like Gillingham, the staff are friendly and on many of their berths you moor bow to between wooden withies. Although it means you have to climb over the bow, the poles do secure the yacht so you need not worry about fenders jumping out. As it happened there was also finger pontoon alongside my allocated berth.

It has to be said that the weekend we chose to sail up the Thames was not chosen on the basis of weather but simply it was an available weekend. The forecast was for wet and blustery winds starting from the south but gradually working their way west. We slipped out of the lock into the Medway and motored past a small cluster of racing yachts before hoisting the yankee. As we drew away from the hills behind Gillingham the wind increased and soon we were sailing at 6 kt under foresail on an ebbing tide. An hour or so later we rounded Queenborough Spit cardinal buoy and were motoring hard into the wind to pick up a buoy for the night. There weren’t many yachts around, a couple from sailing schools still braving the elements and the odd yachts on a mission. It wasn’t the weather for a pleasant weekend sail. We used the Daveys bronze boot hook to grab the buoy against a strong spring tide and tied off with two stout warps and went below to heat up some pies and carrots. We found an opened bottle of red wine that we bought in France and it still tasted ok. After a warming meal we worked out the best time to leave in the morning and went to sleep. At slack tide the Good Ship decided to sail forward and bump on the buoy, I strapped the helm over and it stopped for a while only to recommence at the next slack in six hours time. Nevertheless a pretty good nights sleep was had and we were looking forward to an exciting trip up the Thames.

Henley Half Marathon

Sunday, October 13th, 2013
Laura surveys the wet scene

Laura surveys the wet scene

Alasdair running past a Flint wall or Alasdair Flint runs past a wall

Alasdair running past a Flint wall or Alasdair Flint runs past a wall

The Team relaxes at Gordon's warm house.

The Team relaxes at Gordon’s warm house.

John showing that he has lost no fingers so far

John showing that he has lost no fingers so far

The Team before the start

The Team before the start

13th October 2013

A 7 am start from London got us to Henley at about 8.20 in time to park without any hassle. It is not a good idea to leave this run too late as the traffic really builds up. The summer weather has faded away and cool drizzle was the order of the day. Gareth and Laura from the world famous “South Dock Running Club” (established 2013) were to join me and John. John’s friend Rob and Tim were running too. The run is like a butterfly with two loops of about equal length. One is used for the 10 K race which kicks off a few minutes before the half. There didn’t seem to be many runners but there were over 1,200 finishers so it wasn’t exactly empty. Funnily this race seems to suit me although I don’t like roads and I do like hills. The first few miles felt very smooth and effortless. I just tucked in behind someone who I felt was running at a steady pace and enjoyed the scenery. It seemed that I was going quite fast despite aiming for a negative split. On returning over Henley Bridge there are a couple more flat road miles before swinging left up a 1.7 mile hill climb. It is a pretty gentle slope but it normally catches some of those who ran too fast at the beginning and I went past several people walking. Hills are my favourite so I mouched past about 15 runners on the way up before it flattens off and eventually turns hard leftdown a steep hill. At this point I stupidly thought I was going fast. I had a slight muscle pain in my right leg so decided to nurse it a bit with a marginally slower pace. Just before the Fair Mile I tripped on a pothole and twisted my ankle heavily but continued running. I really felt I was in for a personal best as I continued to overtake runners down the Fair Mile and put on a full sprint around the rugby club.
Sadly despite my feeling of comfortable speed it was a rubbish time of 1 hour 50 minutes 22 seconds. That was about three minutes slower than the previous year. Must try harder.
We all met up, scoffed a few snack bars from the Lidl Goodie Bag (thanks Lidl) and went for our cars to head up to Gordon’s house. Gordon had invited us all for a barbeque and kept his word despite the awful weather. Warmed up after a much needed shower we were fed, and fed, and fed until we hit the 1,400 calories we had burned on the race. Then we ate a bit more just in case. Finally we relaxed, after a bit of technology struggle, to watch a video of the Northern Lights.
Now that brings us neatly onto our next adventure. Russia here we come!

Thanks to Henley Rotary and all their volunteers who stood cheerily in the rain to make another great run and thanks to Gordon and Josie for looking after us so well afterwards.