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.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Across the Thames and Queenborough : Saturday 18th June

Having got up at stupid O'clock, we weighed anchor at 04:45 and headed off to cross the Thames with the intention of stopping at Queenborough in the river Swale. Avoiding Foulness sands requires quite a trip in the 'wrong' direction and we motor sailed down the Crouch for nearly two hours with only a few seals on the sands for company before eventually turning into the Thames at 'Inner Whitaker' south cardinal buoy. 

Foulness sands just visible with seals at the waters edge.

At 06:40 we had switched off the engine and were sailing with a fair tide.  By 08:30 the wind dropped out again so more motor sailing, but were now only about 2NM from the Medway FWB.  
LNG tanker headed for the Isle of Grain.

We had to slow down slightly to allow a large LNG carrier and it's fleet of attendant tugs to maintain course  towards the Isle of Grain LNG terminal, then crossed the main shipping channel and entered the small craft channel just to the south.

Medway VTS at Garrison point, Sheerness.

We followed the channel, passing the Medway VTS facility at Sheerness and into the Medway, keeping close to the east shore we then turned into the Swale at Queenborough spit and at 10:05 picked up a visitor mooring at Queenborough harbour. The mooring looked very substantial, and we found out later that it was designed to take up to four rafted boats! 

'Norman James' on the 4 boat mooring!

The harbour staff run a water taxi service form the moorings to the walk ashore pontoon which we used in the afternoon but we came to the conclusion that although it was a good staging point, Queenborough was not a terribly attractive place in a sort of post industrial decay sort of way. 

The walk ashore pontoon at Queenborough harbour.

One of the entertainments on offer was the steady stream of fairly large coasters moving up and down the Swale near high tide with the channel going straight through the moorings!

 Coaster sailing through the moorings.

In addition to the visitor moorings and the all tide pontoon, the harbour had a concrete barge moored in the river which was available for boats to moor against, this was fendered with short lengths of (very) heavy hawser draped over bollards on the deck.

Alternative mooring facility.

After a night on the mooring we spent the next day exploring the local creeks and heading up to Chatham Marina.

Fambridge and back to the River Roach, Friday 17th June.

After filling up with fuel in Burnham Marina, we headed up river to explore the upper reaches of the Crouch and have a look at Fambridge where there is marina at the head of a nearly drying creek. It took an hour to motor up to Fambridge, where we entered the marina to tie up for lunch. 

Fambridge Marina.

'Norman James' moored next to the marina dredger.

After lunch and with a threatening sky brewing we decided to have a walk through the village to the all tide walk ashore pontoon in the river. The village was extremely attractive with many desirable properties along the road to the riverside. Having had a look at the pontoon and boatyard, the heavens opened and the crew of the good ship 'Norman James' got a good dousing. 

Fambridge Yacht Haven, the walk ashore pontoon in the river.

View of the marina from 'Norman James'.

Once we had dried off, we left the berth, and motored back down the river to the Quay Reach anchorage in the entrance to the River Roach where we anchored previously. We were now in position to cross the Thames estuary and explore the Rivers Medway and Swale. In order to maximise the benefit of a fair tide, we needed to leave our anchorage by 05-00 in the morning, so it was early to bed then (very) early to rise!