Thursday, 29 September 2016

Rounding North Foreland and south to Dover : 12th July

We had always intended to leave 'Norman James' in the Medway area for a short visit home after our trip up the Thames and had an uneventful trip back to Chatham on the 30th June where 'Norman James' had a week or so's down time while we were back in Leeds. 

We returned on 9th July, and, having decided to carry on south, left the marina on the 11th July for a trip along the Kent coast via another overnight stop on 'our' mooring buoy at Queenborough. 

Setting out from Queenborough at 06:55 on the 12th June to make the most of the fair tide, we followed the north coast of Kent to North Foreland which we rounded at 11:10. 

North Foreland lighthouse.

By 11:30 we were motoring into a headwind but decided to bypass Ramsgate and carry on to Dover. This was probably a bit of a mistake as the seas built steadily and the boat was slamming quite hard into the wind driven waves. 


The wind was due to move into the north so decided to use the anchorage area in Dover harbour, and, after being escorted to our anchorage position by a harbour control launch, we had a couple of very uncomfortable hours before the wind veered  as forecast and the anchorage became more comfortable.

Ferry traffic in Dover harbour.

Company in the anchorage area.

Dover harbour west entrance.

View of Dover from the anchorage.

The tide allowed a civilised start the following day, weighing anchor at 09:45 and leaving via the west entrance bound for Eastbourne.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

A trip up the Thames and the London sightseeing thing : Saturday 25th June to Wednesday 29th June

The timing of the tide along with it being Saturday and the marina lock closing at 17:00 (rather than 19:00 in the week) meant that we dropped off the mooring at Queenborough at 08:00. We crossed the Medway and passed close to Grain Tower, then heading into the Thames staying clear of the Medway shipping channel and turning NW at 'Nore Swatch' port lateral mark. Our course continued NW to 'W Nore Sand' PLM then tended in a more westerly direction. 

'West Nore Sand' port lateral mark.

A little later we saw a fleet of Thames barges racing downwind towards us - quite a sight!

Two of the boats in the barge race.

We continued following the edge of the shallows as required by the Port of London VTS past Thames Port on the north bank and on to Hope Reach where the recommended track crosses to the north bank of the river.

Thames Port

'Mucking No. 5' Starboard lateral mark in Hope Reach.

Another 5NM upstream and we were at Gravesend and passing the London International Cruise Terminal........

Gravesend, London International Cruise Terminal. 

..... and a short while after we switched VHF channels to monitor Tilbury Docks VTS on the north bank.

Tilbury Docks.

By the time we reached Tilbury, the QE2 bridge carrying the M25 over the Thames was in sight and we felt we were getting much closer to London. We passed under the bridge at 12:55, and shortly afterward spotted a couple of seals on the south bank mud.

QE2 Bridge.

The weather was now threatening to spoil the day, and we did have a heavy shower just before transiting the Thames barrier with thunder and lightning to add to the excitement! Having called Port of London VTS for permission to pass through the barrier at Margaret Ness we were allocated span F.

The Thames Barrier with thunder clouds behind.

There now followed a string of well known sights including the Emirates Air Line cable car, The O2 Arena, The Greenwich Naval College, and the 'Cutty Sark', with the famous London skyline getting ever nearer.

The Emirates Air Line cable car.

The O2 Arena.

Greenwich Naval College.

The masts and rigging of the 'Cutty Sark'.

Canary Wharfe.

With the chop in the river continuing to build due to the wake of hundreds of boats of all shapes and sizes we finally came to Tower Bridge, and the limit of our trip up the river in 'Norman James'. As we approached St. Katherines Dock on the north bank we turned round and headed back down stream to our booked berth in South Dock Marina where we would stay for four nights to see the sights of London.

Tower Bridge.

'Norman James' in South Dock Marina.

Adjacent to the marina lock was Greenland Pier, a landing stage for the fast waterbus service that runs up and down the river. On Sunday morning we purchased day rover tickets, and set out to reacquaint  ourselves with London. We took the boat to Waterloo Pier next to the London Eye then walked over Westminster bridge to Westminster Palace.

Houses of Parliament from Westminster bridge.

After walking around the palace and Westminster Abbey, we worked our way through the back streets to St. James's Park where we were amused by the water birds including a small flock of pelicans. After a very acceptable lunch from a cafe in the park we walked towards Buckingham Palace and the Albert Memorial.

Pelicans in St. James's Park

Buckingham Palace.

The Mall.

Admiralty Arch.

Once through Admiralty Arch and into Trafalgar Square we decided to have a look at one of our favourite places in London, Covent Garden. We were not disappointed, with lots of acts performing outside and in.  

Unicyclist Jugglers!

The audience with Covent Garden behind.

Impromptu Opera in the basement level.

After making sure that the creperie was still present and correct we walked back to the river, along the embankment making for St. Katherine's Dock, and The Dickens Inn for something to eat.

The Shard.

St. Paul's Cathedral.

The Tower of London.

Tower Bridge.

Thames barge entering St. Katherine's Dock.

The Dickens Inn.

After a walk around St. Katherine's, and a meal in the Dickens Inn we went back to the river to catch the waterbus, just missing one boat, but were rewarded just afterwards by the sight of Tower Bridge opening to allow an enormous cruise liner through.

Cruise ship passing through Tower Bridge.

The 'Cheese Grater' ( left) and 'Walkie Talkie' (right).

The Shard.

And again sticking up through the greenery near the marina.

Greenland Pier with Canary Wharfe across the river.

We returned to the Creperie in Covent Garden the next day for lunch then caught the waterbus to the O2 arena (which was the furthest east that boat went) then after waiting about 20 minutes returned to Greenland pier and the marina. Tuesday saw us exploring the area around the marina, and marvelling at the scale of the docks; Greenland dock has a house boat marina at one end with the rest being used by a watersports facility

House boats in Greenland Dock with Canary Wharfe behind.

Greenland Dock.

On Wednesday 29th June we prepared to make the return trip down the Thames back to Queenborough. The state of the tide meant exiting South Dock Marina at 08:30, and at 08:50 we crossed the Prime Meridian at Greenwich. At Blackwall Point we contacted Port of London VTS for permission to  pass through the Barrier, and passed through span 'C' at 09:28.

Return through the Thames Barrier.

Both Woolwich ferries were running and we needed to concentrate to avoid them safely.

Dodging the Woolwich ferries.

We passed under the QE II bridge just before 11:00 with a SOG of 10.4Kts, and a maximum speed for the day of 11Kts, a good fair tide! The wind increased through the day, with a maximum apparent wind of 36Kts noted on the approach to Queenborough. We were safely moored on the same buoy we had used before at 14:20 after a very efficient passage, and an excellent adventure in the capital.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Chatham : Sunday 19th June

Today's exercise was to have a look at some of the local anchoring options ( an excuse for a lunch stop! ) then head up the Medway, past Gillingham, and up to Chatham Marina for a few days and visit the Historic Dockyard museum. We dropped off the mooring at 10:00 and motored the 2.5NM to Stangate Creek to have a look at the anchorage near the junction with the Medway. Following Stangate Creek south for another half mile brought us to the entrance to Sharfleet Creek which we gingerly nosed in to with the depth sounder giving intermittent readings due to the soft mud bottom. We anchored in a marked anchorage for lunch but with high tide approaching this spot was deemed too exposed for an overnight stay. 

The point of looking at the anchoring possibilities was to see if there were any viable alternatives to Queenborough as a start point for a trip up the Thames to London but it looked as though Queenborough was the best option. After lunch a good sail was had as far as Gillingham where the river got narrower and the concentration of boats increased to the point that motoring seemed a good idea.

Sailing up the river Medway.


Good views of Upnor castle were had before entering the lock at Chatham Maritime Marina where we were allocated a fantastic finger berth usually inhabited by 50'+ boats (a nice change from the rather meagre fingers in some of the Essex rivers marinas). 

Upnor castle 

'Norman James' on supersized finger!

River Medway looking towards the marina lock.

River Medway looking back downstream towards Gillingham.

We spent the following day getting our bearings, having a look around the retail complex that was located next to the marina, and having a pleasant meal in a local Italian restaurant where we had one of those "you've got to try that" moments when we saw deep fried pizza dough strips covered in sugar and chocolate sauce!

Naughty excess!

On Tuesday we planned a visit to the Historic Dockyard museum which is within walking distance of the marina. The highlight of the visit was the rope walk which is a quarter of a mile long and still makes traditional ropes today, and after volunteering to wind the machinery, we were given a short length of the resulting rope as a souvenir, now proudly on display in the saloon of 'Norman James'. 

Rob helping to make rope.

The main rope walk, nearly a quarter of a mile long.

Breakdown of an anchor 'cable'

We also toured HMS Ocelot, a 1960's submarine, HMS Cavalier, a second world war destroyer, and HMS Gannet, a Victorian navy sloop and finally a display of historic lifeboats which really brought home how brave the lifeboatmen are.

HMS Ocelot

HMS Cavalier

HMS Gannet

Crew quarters.

Copper bottomed.

The following day we had a walk to Gillingham to try to have a look at the marina but couldn't get past security so decided to take our custom back to Chatham when we returned from our planned trip into London. On Friday 24th June we exited the marina lock and returned to Queenborough in order to be in position to follow the tide up the Thames to London where we had booked four night in the South Dock marina at Rotherhithe.