Well after 6 months in Limehouse and zero sailing, last weekend we moved the boat back down to Swanwick. I say weekend, actually it was 4 days in total Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
We left Limehouse at 5:30am and waved goodbye to our London berth, thinking that we would return in October for the final UK winter – in fact the more the miles ticked by, the less like returning we felt – but more of that later.
The trip down to the QE2 bridge was done at a speedy 9 knots thanks to the Spring tide giving us a boost. That meant that we arrived at the Overland Passage a little earlier than we intended to but on a rising tide and with not much wind we felt confident to go where many a motorboat won’t go and took the inland route close to The Isle of Grain, Sheppey, Whitstable and Margate. It’s called that for a reason but we navigated the numerous wrecks, sandbanks and eddies with no problems. North Foreland was totally different from the last time we rounded it – just a little bit of wallowing. We were happy to arrive off Ramsgate at about 4pm after a long and fairly boring trip and I went out on deck to fender and rope up in the approach channel.
Steve picked up the radio – he’s taking a long time to ask for permission to enter the port I thought, when he shouted over – Helen, there’s a Coastguard helicopter on its way that wants to do exercises with us. Cue a lot of squealing from me. It was awesome and you can see Steve’s video and best shots below.
It was also really great experience and it’s fantastic to know that people will risk their own lives to help you out when you are at sea.
The next day we punted round to Eastbourne in a long and uneventful day, before setting off for Brighton to meet up with friends for Steve’s birthday on the Sunday. With the sun out and a smooth sea we found ourselves sailing for the sake of it in completely the wrong direction – Allegrini seemed like she was clearing her throat after the long London winter. It was fantastic and we reluctantly turned back towards Beachy Head motor sailing directly into the wind when DUNK. The throttle juddered, the boat stopped and the engine protested.
The engine was checked and then cautiously used again – and it was clear we had picked something up on the prop – we had no drive at all in either reverse or forward. The rope cutter has triumphed before though and Steve gave it a good old go but to no avail. The sails came up, we tacked out and I phoned Brighton to see if they could help us out when we got there – if we needed to be lifted out we wanted to do it somewhere we know and where friends could help out. They were as supremely helpful as ever and refused to come out and attempt to tow us in the entrance in a flat calm sea with plenty of water.
After a bit of a sail but with the wind dying by the second we were looking at maybe having to turn back again to Eastbourne where we could get in whatever the state of the tide or Newhaven – neither of which filled us with joy. But it seemed the forward motion had helped a bit as Steve tried the engine a few times again and we got it to the point where we had forward drive – and just lots of banging on the hull in reverse.
We made it in to Brighton safe and sound – no thanks again to the marina who decided to call the Coastguard without telling us leading to them calling us on 16 and they tracked us all the way in, asking us to give them a shout if we needed any help. Our friends, Ray and Sarah, having heard what was going on, also came out to meet us in a sports cruiser to see if we needed a hand – Brighton mates are the best.
After a rather drunken birthday Italian we tracked down a diver who we sneaked into the marina – it was that or wait at least 4 days for a lift out. He fished out a load of old rope with some spinners on which had wound itself round the prop like a squid. We felt vindicated we hadn’t run over a lobster pot and Kevin the diver was an absolute star.
As the prop was completely clear we then made a break for Swanwick and got in after dark and very satisfied. We had pretty much decided by Eastbourne that we must be mad to think of sailing all the way back and further away from where we will end up. With the sun shining on the cliffs all the way to Brighton we had felt like we were saying goodbye to them and the closer we got to the Solent the happier we were.
And that is where we will be staying until we leave Blighty in little over a year. Great to be back on the river and looking forward to a great mix of sailing, jobs and prep over the next 12 months