To the Isles of Scilly – Medway to Studland

Yet again Scandinavia and the Baltic will have to wait for another year as the complications of Brexit and Covid and the un-known of how Birgitta will cope with the sailing healthwise, are more than we’re prepared to deal with. There are hardier people than us that are still trying, but we decided we’ll head for a place neither of us have been to: The Isles of Scilly. Our aim is to get there reasonably quickly, stay a week or two, and after that we’ll see what we’ll do.

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Monday 31st May: Sheerness to Ramsgate

We had a calm overnight stay in Stangate Creek near Sheerness; a better anchorage than we had expected.  Turns out there were about a dozen boats anchored in this creek that night. As the light fell in the evening, Dominic noticed a feeding frenzy on the river, birds massing to feast on some sort of fish congregation. The sort of film footage you expect on an Attenborough tv production!  This was just what we needed really, as we both felt a bit low, leaving family and friends behind.

We set off at 7am as per Dominic’s detailed plan, heading down the remainder of the river Medway and took the ‘overland route’ to Margate and then on to Ramsgate.  This ‘overland’ route means you go over some shallow flats and sands, and as we were travelling at low time springs, it was particularly important to get it right.  And he did – the lowest recorded depth we got was 2.9m when we draw 2.2m.

It was a fantastically sunny day, so different to what has become our norm, but the ambient temperature and ENE winds meant that it was still pretty cold until lunchtime.  We had made good progress and anchored for lunch, eating and relaxing in the sunshine.  Getting to Margate and round the corner to Broadstairs took a bit of time as the wind slowly died down.  So our ‘rush down to Ramsgate’ never happened, instead we ended up motoring.  And I felt a bit seasick and the tablet I took as a consequence made me feel woolie in the head.  But we got to Ramsgate just after 5pm, having got permission to enter the harbour from Port Control, and berthed on the hammerhead of pontoon E as a visitor for the night.  While motoring we had heard on the radio about a yacht with engine failure, and she was towed into Ramsgate by the Lifeboat and secured behind us.  

We went up to pay for our berth, and took a walk up into the town, but it was very full of motorcycle packs and revelling Bank Holiday Monday crowds, so decided to not join the very long queue for the chip shop and had a nice meal on board instead.  I fell asleep on the sofa in no time, ha ha!

I saw the head of a common seal once.

Distance 46.5 NM, underway 8hrs 13m, average speed 5.7 knots, max speed 9.7 knots

Tuesday 1st June: Ramsgate to Eastbourne

The night at Ramsgate was quieter than expected, and although one vessel woke me up when leaving at 5am, most traffic didn’t start until 6am. We left on the dot of 8am with much less wind than expected so motor sailed most of the way to Dover passing Sandwich, Deal, Kingsdown and St Margaret’s Bay.  It was really nice to see the White Cliffs appear, the huge ships coming to and leaving Dover harbour, including a DFDS ferry and massive P&O cruise ship.  Dominic called Dover control up to warn them we were crossing (particularly because of a threatening incoming ferry) and they were happy to hear us and said they had seen us on radar and all was fine. In Dover Strait the wind picked up and we had a fast sail all the way to Eastbourne, 6-8 knots with the wind straight behind us, and sunshine galore. Though we didn’t feel the sun much after Dungeness as it was covered by the mainsail.  Dominic spent quite a bit of time lying on deck by the bow, enjoying the sunshine and pondering the world.  And he saw three dolphins!

Dungeness has two nuclear power stations.  Dungeness A, a Magnox power station which was connected to the National Grid in 1965 and has long since reached the end of its life.  Dungeness B is an Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor and construction began in 1967. It was to be the first of a new wave of UK nuclear power stations and has a design not copied anywhere else in the UK fleet. The plant connected to the electricity grid in 1983. As of 7th June this year, it was announced it would move into the defuelling phase with immediate effect.  This is the the first stage of decommissioning a nuclear power station. Just days after we sailed by.

We locked into Eastbourne Marina and berthed on the pontoon which had bollards as well as cleats, which threw me when I jumped off to tie on. We were right next to yacht Amazon which had also come from Ramsgate today, just like at least three more boats.  And quite a few of them are on their way to the Scilly Isles so we are bound to see them again in the next few weeks. The marina here is a regenerated dock area just like Chatham and it looks a very nice place to live.  We started off on a walk to Asda, but realised we had forgotten our facemasks, and just went back and had dinner.  It had been another long day and we were getting up early in the morning.

Distance 62.9 NM, underway 10hrs 10m

Wednesday 2nd June: Eastbourne to Chichester

We had decided to go for the 6am lock but as we were both up and ready, we went at 5:30am with 3 other boats – all of us keen to make the most of the tide going westward.  Eastbourne Marina have two large locks which are very easy to use.  A real doddle now that we’re used to Chatham!

We set off and once again the wind was less than expected (and it was early!) but after only 45 minutes when we were in the bay by Eastbourne town, we decided it was more important to sail properly than try to keep up with the neighbours who were clearly powering their sailing with more than the wind.   We had a lovely but long day – of which 7.5 hours was fast and pure sailing.  We had the foresail up and tied to the side, trying to goosewing, when possible.  When we went past Brighton we had very good wifi and even spoke to Sophie in Australia by WhatsApp!  The wind abated by and by and when we got to the Looe Channel it got cloudy and we had a bit of light rain.   Dominic got us safely through the channel, though he had to turn the engine on to beat the strong tide against, and over the Chichester Bar. (Birgitta’s hand pains got very bad and with the meds she fell asleep sitting on the seat!). We anchored off Longmere Point in Thorney Channel, just up from Pilsey Island where we’ve been twice before. We were both pretty shattered after three full days of sailing. We’ve done very well using the easterly winds; 166 nautical miles from Medway to Chichester.

Distance 56.6 NM, underway 9hrs 57m, average speed 5.7 knots, max speed 8.6 knots

Thursday 3rd June: In Chichester Harbour AONB

A day of catching up, both with bits of work, home finances, photos, correspondence, boat jobs etc but also to rest body and mind.

In the afternoon we took the RIB over to East Head, near West Wittington where lots of yachts are anchored by a beach.  It’s easier to beach the RIB now that we don’t have the heavy outboard, and the steering module has been taken out too.  And we can lift out the mid seat/cupboard while carrying the RIB up the beach, so all in all much easier.  We had a lovely walk on the sand out to West Wittering beach and paddled through the surprisingly warm water on the way back.  The engine wouldn’t work so Dominic rowed back, luckily with both wind and tide.  When we got back he worked out that the cables have to be screwed back on very precisely.  Good to know for next time.

Friday 4th June: Chichester Harbour to Haslar Marina in Portsmouth

It was rainy all morning but luckily we had not planned to set off for Portsmouth until 11am.  The rain continued lightly most of the way, so we were both in full sailing gear.  We motored all the way, average speed 4.5 knots so not fast.  Had a strange shuddering moment from the engine when motoring in from Boyne to 4 Bar buoys, and once across the Channel Dominic reversed and we hope that whatever it was, had loosened itself.  Took 2hrs 40mins to get to Haslar.  Quite a small pontoon, but we fitted in snugly.

We’ve gone here to welcome Barnaby & Shelly tomorrow for the day, and to go out sailing with Mike & Meena Sunday – Monday. The afternoon was spent cleaning the boat inside and out, food shopping and generally preparing.

Distance 12 NM, underway 2hrs 41m, average speed 4.5 knots, max speed 6.1 knots

Scrubbing the decks!

Saturday 5th June: Barnaby and Shelly visiting in Gosport, Portsmouth

Barnaby and Shelly arrived around 11am in their lovely new electric VW car bringing with them gorgeous sunshine and edible treats!  We immediately asked Barnaby to take Dominic to Arthur’s Chandlery as we had found out they had a delivery yesterday of the very hard to get hold of Calor Gas Butane 4.5kg bottles that we need for cooking. What a relief that was!

We had a lovely day chatting, eating picnic style lunch and crumpets and cake later.  Dominic and Barnaby went off on a jaunt in the dingy, checking out the marina and Portsmouth Harbour.   Lovely day of catching up on family news. And we had rather a surprise when in the afternoon a member of marina staff came up to the boat offering us a glass of Prosecco each!

Sunday 6th June: Mike & Meena visiting

We stayed another night in the lovely Haslar Marina, and Mike and Meena arrived 11ish on Sunday morning.  After coffee we set off out into the Solent, and we did try to sail, but ended up putting the engine on until we got to Osborne Bay east of Cowes where we anchored for a long picnic lunch, including some very tasty mangoes and Prosecco that Meena brought. We are being spoiled! The sail from IoW started off with no wind, but later we really got going with over 8 knots over the shipping channel and on towards Chichester.  Suddenly we saw sea fog, and very quickly we were pretty much engulfed.  Birgitta was on ship and buoy watch, and we had a close encounter with a commercial angling vessel which quite frankly showed bad seamanship.  The mainsail came down as we approached the Bar, and we wafted in with just the foresail into the harbour and anchored by Pilsey Island.  Pretty good sail, especially in the sense that Mike & Meena got to experience quite an array of what it’s like to sail ha ha! We spent the evening talking and eating and the odd glass of wine.  Gorgeous sunset.

Distance 20.6 NM, underway 4hrs 50m, average speed 5.3 knots, max speed 8.9 knots

Monday 7th June: Dropping off Mike & Meena and to Isle of Wight

Birgitta got up early sitting on deck listening to the birds, though the morning was misty.  We had a hearty cooked breakfast outside, courtesy of Dominic before setting off at 11:15, another sail at good speed.  Mike and Meena both seem to really enjoy the sailing!  We dropped them off on a hammerhead at Haslar, said tearful goodbyes (they’re off to live in USA again on 15th June).

We went out through Portsmouth Harbour, got the sails up by 2.30pm, but there was no wind, again!  We very slowly moved south west, occasionally helped on by the engine, abandoned plans to get past Cowes, and anchored overnight in Osborne Bay right in front of Queen Victoria’s beach.  We were both tired after an intensive few days and spent a long time sitting up on deck in the gorgeous evening sunshine and later sunset.  Dominic thoroughly enjoyed seeing a humongous tanker coming down Southampton Waters being pulled around the corner by a tugboat on a stern line, into the Solent and then setting off past Portsmouth. What a lovely long weekend!

Distance 18.4 NM, underway 5hrs 45m, average speed 4.9 knots, max speed 8.5 knots

Tuesday 8th June: Osborne Bay to Newtown Bay, Isle of Wight

Sunshine all morning, breakfast of fresh mango, bagels and coffee on deck, watching a fishing boat lifting his pots, and having a friendly conversation with a nearby anchored yacht who had clearly anchored on top of one of his line of pots.  Not that they could have known!

We set off at 11:30, in large tacks with the tide helping us along.  Cowes came into view pretty much immediately.  Only a few tacks and 1 ½ hrs later we anchored off Newtown Bay, in front of Hamstead Point.  We got lunch ready and were soon joined by a lunch crowd of 13 yachts!  Later we took the dinghy in to the entrance and saw the many boats anchored in the creek, and the long row of boats on buoys on the river.  No room for us in there.  We also saw an unfortunate yacht grounded just by the danger mark buoy at the entrance to the creek…. poor people!  Luckily the tide had just started to rise and we saw them leave not much later.  We lifted the dingy up the shingle beach and walked towards Hamstead Point.  On the way back I checked out the abraded tile and pottery (and the odd bone!) that was nestled in among the shingles.  I was looking for signs of their age, and wondered whether this natural harbour could have been good for trade. So I checked and found that Newtown was established by the Bishop-elect of Winchester and its charter sealed in 1256. The archaeological importance of Newtown is more to do with its failure rather than its success: ‘Newtown’s archaeological significance lies in the fact that it is a rare example of a medieval new town which failed economically, so that it has not been built over and redeveloped, and therefore much of the original ground plan survives.’ More on Newtown can be found here:

On returning to the boat I was considering a swim, but up to the knees was as far as I got.  Freezing!  A very calm evening, spending a lot of it sitting on deck looking at the setting sun.  There were masses of terns feeding across the bay, near their perfect nesting grounds in this AONB.

Distance 10.6 NM, underway 1hrs 39m, average speed 7.0 knots, max speed 8.7 knots

Wednesday 9th June: Newtown Bay, Isle of Wight to Studland Bay, Dorset

After a calm morning on board, we set off from Newtown Bay at 12 midday.  The departure was timed to coincide with the running high tide and we literally whooshed west out of the Solent, past Yarmouth and Cliff End Battery on one side, and Lymington, Keyhaven and Hurst Castle on the other.  We tacked by Hurst Castle at 11.3 knots!  Though Dominic said he’d hoped for 12 knots.

With The Needles and the white cliff edge of western Isle of Wight behind us, we went down the channel past Milford on Sea, Highcliffe and Chewton Bunny (!), over the Christchurch ledge where there wasn’t a shortage of pot buoys.  The wind changed as we neared Bournmouth so Dominic’s well planned single tack turned into several tacks before we anchored in 4m well away from the planned no-anchor zone on the south side of Old Harry Rocks.  3.5 hrs tacking with the tide, past numerous pot buoys, at an average speed of 7.5 and max speed 11.3 knots.  We ran the watermaker for 3hrs but only gained 26% fresh water which was a bit disappointing. But our renewables were fantastic and we came in to Studland with equal amount of power as when we left despite the power consumption during the sail.

I was intrigued about the place name Chewton Bunny that we’d come across and found out that Bunny is a local name for a valley. Presumably a valley full of cute little rabbits?

Distance 26.4 NM, underway 3hrs 32m, average speed 7.5 knots, max speed 11.3 knots

Thursday 10th and Friday 11th June: Studland Bay

We had a pretty wonderful afternoon walk. We dinghied over to Middle Beach and walked up to Studland village and found our way to Godlingston Heath.  The heath is wonderfully undulating from dry to boggy, and the path we followed slowly made its way up to the hill crowned by the 400 tonne Agglestone Rock. The views from here are amazing, sweeping down to the shores of Poole Harbour and out to sea. According to legend, the Devil was sitting on The Needles when he saw Corfe Castle being built. He was so offended by the beautiful white tower of the Norman keep that he threw his cap at it: the missile fell short, however, and became the Agglestone. Or: this 17-foot rock is an eroded relic of iron-cemented,Tertiary sandstone, the Agglestone Grit.

Dominic had to climb the rock, obviously, but was rather hampered by his large walking boots.  Which I was quite glad of to be honest as it’s always more difficult to get down again, as we all know! We joined the trail past the rock, down and up along the heath, saw sea fog rolling in but luckily it didn’t get to us.  We ended up back in Studland, found a small village shop which was perfect as we could do with filling up on supplies.

Studland Bay is very shallow a long way out, and when we returned to the beach the dingy had ended up quite a long way from water and it was a bit of a job to drag it the rather long way through the sand and seaweed and then through shallow water until we could row.  The next day was spent hoping to solve this difficulty with the dingy. After an early lunch we went across to Middle Beach with tools galore etc.  Dominic started today’s job of putting the wheels on the RIB – he was the only person who had brought a drill and tool box along! I went up to dispose of rubbish and recycling and then sat on the sand doing a crossword.  It took Dominic a while to get the wheels safely on, and to give the sealant time to dry we took a nice long walk down the beach, dipping our toes before setting off back to Idun. 

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