JOURNAL

Generally Heading East – Sailing Milos to Suffolk

SAILING TO SUFFOLK.

After spending May travelling around the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France by bus and train, this trip marked our first big voyage in the boat this year. We had a month ahead of us, with a final destination of Suffolk where Milos will stay for six months over the winter. As usual we had no definite plans, and from Cowes, we just generally headed east.

August 2nd – Touching bottom and splashing about in Newtown Creek

Ok, so not really east (some would even argue west), our first stop was one of our favourite places, Newtown Creek, near to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. It was sunny, and calm, and we anchored up and stayed for a few days. We were joined by friends, and passed the time swimming, paddle-boarding, eating, and chilling. The perfect start to our time away.

August 5th – Walking along the marshes at Lymington

It was hard to pull ourselves away from Newtown, but eventually we did, drawn by the need for a proper wash, to feel land beneath our feet, and to restore our dwindling food supply. Just across the solent, we aimed for Lymington (yes still west).

The highlight for us, as is often the case, was to head away from the busy town and explore the surrounding countryside. In doing so, we discovered the paths alongside the marshes that run from Lymington to Keyhaven. Here we found birds and cows living in perfect harmony – yes birds with cows.

August 8th – Learning how to use pile moorings at Birdham Pool

We were soon settling into a pattern of moving when we felt the need to, and when the weather and tides suited. From Lymington, it felt right to start heading east and so we did – towards Chichester. On our way, we had to navigate through the boats racing in Cowes week, all with their spinnakers up. We also sailed through the gap in the submarine barrier rather than going around Horse Sand Fort. During the second world war, a submerged concrete barrier was built from the fort to the shore, leaving just a small gap for small craft to pass through. This was a first for us.

Also a first for us, we went to Birdham Pool marina, and just about scraped in with enough water – with one slight heart-in-the-mouth moment when we came to a halt as we touched the mud below us. They don’t make it easy to get into Birdham – shallow water, followed by a lock, and then pile moorings. Pile moorings! No-one mentioned these to us! Imagine a space for a boat with four poles – two at the front and two at the back- that you have to someone lasso and attach yourself to as you enter the berth. Anyway, we managed to get in to the berth, which then presented the problem of how we would ever get out again.

We spent time at Birdham walking and running (mainly Steve) along the river and around the country lanes. And yes, we did make it out of the berth without damage to ourselves or property.

August 13th – Hanging out in Brighton

Coming out of Birdham, we spent a night on the pontoon at Itchenor, so that we could head out of Chichester Harbour early to catch the tide going east. Our next destination was Brighton, and we continued to enjoy downwind sailing with the wind behind us, and the jib taking us along. It made a lovely break from last summer when we seemed to spend most of our time slowly bashing our way upwind.

As we got closer to the breakwater marking Brighton Marina though, the wind got up and the waves became confused and starting throwing us about. We made it safely in and ended up being pinned against the pontoon, so we stayed in Brighton for a good few days waiting for the weather to calm. It seemed a definite shift away from the glorious summer that had been with us for June and July. Still, there are worse places to be stuck and we really enjoyed Brighton. We walked around the lanes, went on a tour of The Royal Theatre; walked and ran along the beachfront, went to the pier, walked to the nearby windmill; sat in coffee shops and visited the museum. Brighton is such a fabulous mix – a vibrant busy city, with people just doing their thing. Then there is the beach, and a surprising and welcome wealth of quiet countryside within walking distance. We loved it.

August 20th – A quick stop at Eastbourne and navigating in fog to Dover

The winds finally dropped at Brighton, and all of the boats that had crammed themselves in the visitors pontoons and that had creaked and moved together, started to leave. Germans, Dutch, British, all heading in different directions, some back home, others still striving for seas further away. Our next stop was only a few hours along the coast, to the marina at Eastbourne. Having been there before and because we had spent so much time in Brighton, we decided to stayed for one night and to move on quickly.

The next morning was an early one – we left with the tide at 4.30. It was still dark, and it was a shock to find ourselves out night sailing again for a couple of hours before the sun joined us. It had been a while since we had last done this, and it always takes a bit of time to adjust. Blinking red and green channel lights led us out into the murky sea, and we set a course for Dover.

Dover, it seems, likes to make things difficult for us. We usually arrive at night, or in a horrible, messy sea. This time we thought we had nailed it – we left in good time to arrive in the daytime, and the weather and the seas were calm. Instead we hit fog, that got heavier as we neared Dover. Just what you want when you know there is a big harbour wall somewhere, along with ferries and huge cruise liners going in and out, that can’t see you in the best of conditions, let alone when there is a wall of dense mist hanging around.

It is always a formal affair coming into Dover – there is an efficiency about it, almost military in its approach. Within 2 nm, you have to contact them to let them know of your intentions, and gain permission to enter. And they call you ma’am or sir, so you feel like a proper captain. With their directions, the wail of the fog light and our charts, we made it safely inside the harbour walls and to the marina. Within an hour the fog had cleared. Typical.

As the afternoon went on, the marina started to fill. It is always interesting to see yachts arrive that you have noticed along the way; almost like we are following the same path. One yacht in particular kept turning up wherever we went, a tatty looking boat from Belgium, that was all black and with no guard rails. I wondered how they managed to stay on it, but it had obviously been sailed far and wide.

There is not much to do in Dover to be honest. We both went for a run, in opposite directions, along the seafront. I ran up and towards the white cliffs and watched the ferries coming and going, maneuvering themselves around the turning space, with a stream of cars getting on or off. We stayed for one night, deciding to press on to Ramsgate the next afternoon.

August 22nd – Eating at the biggest Wetherspoons in the country at Ramsgate

Ramsgate is only a short sail from Dover, 15 nm and about 3 hours for us. We had been there once before when we sailed Milos back to the Isle of Wight after buying her in Suffolk. Back then, the weather was foul, and we stopped just for the night meaning I had not seen Ramsgate beyond the end of a marina pontoon. This time, the sea was calm and the wind slight as we passed by the famous white cliffs near Dover and rounded South Foreland. In these conditions, we tried, and essentially failed, to get the cruising shoot out for a while around Sandwich Bay. We also lost one of Steve’s gloves over the side which may, or may not, have been my fault.

We enjoyed Ramsgate. We planned to spend a few days there, but became weather-bound as well and ended up staying for a week. This suited us though. We were enjoying taking our time on this trip rather than having a set agenda to be anywhere in particular. We had also decided we were content to stay on the English coast rather than making a crossing over to the Netherlands. Maybe we will head there next year when we pick the boat up.

Ramsgate is a mix of a place. The harbour and beach are lovely, but as we were finding on this trip, there is obvious deprivation around large seaside towns. But the people are interesting, and the history always rich. I loved the Sailors’ Church near the marina, and the old Royal Pavilion, now converted to the biggest Wetherspoons in the country. It had a big sweeping staircase and large floor that you can just imagine being filled with Victorian ladies. It was a great shelter for us on the rainy days.

We used Ramsgate as a base to explore nearby towns by bus. A Day Tripper ticket got us to Sandwich and Canterbury on one day; on another we took the ‘loop’ bus to Broadstairs and Margate. Sandwich was a fantastic little town and the highlight for us was the museum. The two guides really knew their stuff and filled our heads with stories and facts that brought it all to life. The museum has a 16th century court house, with a jury box for ‘12 good men and true’ and a stain glass window depicting a visit of Queen Elizabeth. We stayed for so long in Sandwich, we didn’t leave much time for Canterbury. Broadstairs was another favourite place. Margate unfortunately was one to miss from our perspective. We stayed for about 40 minutes before heading back.

August 28th – Discovering another favourite place up the River Twizzle

The weather and tides eventually came (sort of) of in our favour to leave Ramsgate. We had to leave just after five in the morning to get the tide in the right direction around North Foreland and pass it before the Springs tide started coming against us. The weather had promised a force 3 or 4, but in reality, there was nothing, no wind. So we motored across the Thames Estuary, for about 9 hours, which was just boring, taking it in turns to sleep and be on watch. A respite from the monotony comes from going through Foulgers Gat, a small channel that lets yachts go through part of a wind farm. I love how these big windmills appear on the horizon. You can see them from far away, just specks in the distance, and then they get closer, looming high out of the water, with their massive blades spinning. And down Foulgers Gat, you can get really close to them.

As we were nearing Shotley, our destination for this leg, we both realised we were not yet ready to end this trip. Shotley seemed too final; we had stayed there before and knew what we were getting. We wanted to find somewhere we had not been before, just for a few more days.

Just south of Harwich, we found the entrance to the Walton Backwaters on the charts, leading all the way up to the River Twizzle. What a great name, we couldn’t resist giving it a go. It was high water, so we could make it in, with few moments where we almost ran out of the water we needed. What a good decision though, we found Titchmarsh Marina and it quickly became another favourite place of ours. The people are friendly and the marina peaceful. In the evening, as the sun set, all we could hear was the sound of birds in the surrounding marshes. We walked to nearby Frinton-on-Sea and spent time walking along the seafront and exploring some of it’s independent shops. It was just what we needed, a hidden idyll, before calling time on this journey.

August 31st – Our final destination and saying goodbye to Milos for the winter

In the early afternoon, around high water, we reluctantly set off from Titchmarsh, wound our way our along the river and motored up the River Orwell to Suffolk Yacht Harbour. We had spent the previous day removing the sails and packing our belongings. It seemed strange to return here again, the place where we first saw and then bought Milos. This time we were leaving her to come out of the water and get work done on her hull. It somehow felt wrong and it was with a heavy heart that we left her the next morning, and started the journey back to the Isle of Wight in a hire car.

Still, this also provides some new, different types of adventure. Looking forward, we are house sitting for a month, and have a trip booked to go to Mallorca in November. Plus, we will come and visit Milos during her time at Suffolk, and have a winter to think about where we might take her when we get her back next year.

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