The End of the ‘Scilly’ Season

A Sunny Sail from Eastbourne to Ramsgate – 23rd September

The White Cliffs of Dover

It turned out it was a very good decision to wait for better weather before we left Eastbourne. After a few days at home we arrived on Wednesday evening ready to set off first thing on the Thursday. We were ready for the 8 o’clock lock, but when we talked to the lock keeper he said to wait another half hour as it’s low tide springs and the outer harbour is quite silted up at the moment. We followed his advice and had no problems getting out, and were soon ready with mainsail up and the gennaker sail out. Little Gull and her friends flew by to wish us bon voyage.

Clear skies with good visibility, sunshine, Force 4 winds going WSW and the tide with us, and we whooshed off up to 9 knots in no time! We had to do one gybe but that was ok. After an hour’s sail taking us further out into the channel we changed course to head straight for Dungeness going directly downwind and so changed to mainsail only and sailed at a steady 7-8 knots. I thought I saw a mine bopping near, but it turned out to be a wave monitoring device – thank goodness.

What a lovely morning! I stood there in the sunshine and marvelled at what I saw around me: a line of cargo ships along the Shipping Channel to the south, Dungeness power station ahead with massive pylons stretching along the coast, wind turbines all over Rye Bay, the steep white cliffs at Beachy Head behind us, a dolphin following in our wake, and gannets elegantly flying very closely over the boat and diving into the sea.

Skipper checking the wind, Dungeness power station disappearing behind us

By 12:30 we left Dungeness behind us and soon came alongside Folkestone. At this point we could see France on the horizon – what an amazing day when we can see that far. The waves were getting higher and the sea choppier but it was ok. The White Cliffs of Dover were showing by now and it didn’t take long until we were right by them. A ferry refused to acknowledge Skipper’s call of asking their intention whether to go in front or behind us, but they chose to ignore us and steamed ahead in front.

It’s hard not to think of Vera Lynn when going past here, and cry a little inside when you take in the words.

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see

There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after.
Tomorrow, when the world is free

– Walter Kent, Nat Burton

Once we passed Dover and started north the wind got changeable. We put up the downwind sail again but only 15 minutes later changed it for the foresail as the wind veered round against us, but continued our fast passage up to Ramsgate. By 17:15 we were moored up on the visitors pontoon, put everything away and after a necessary cup of coffee settled in for the evening. A very fast and successful sail!

Distance 62 NM, underway 8 hrs 25 mins, average speed 7.4 knots, max speed 11.1 knots

Saying goodbye to the White Cliffs and enjoying more sunshine – 24th September

We set off at 9am after a very disturbed night; the ageing floating pontoons were creaking, the pile next to our cabin scraped and banged to the point that we went out to check that no boats were being damaged. The whole pontoon structure was heaving; due to wind? spring tide? who knows.

If feels very strange to sail back to where we started off this year. We don’t normally return, just keep going. But it’s also really nice to see the same places go by. It stirs your memory, and you notice different things to the previous time. This morning I remembered how I felt seasick when we motored down to Ramsgate, wondering whether this was how it was to be this season, but no, I’ve hardly been seasick at all! We both also commented on how little we’ve used our sailing jackets this year. We’ve been so very lucky with the weather. And so we were today; full sunshine all day!

The last of the white chalk cliffs, with Kingsgate Castle in the middle of the photo

We knew we’d be sailing on a broad reach and against the tide up to North Foreland, but it wasn’t too slow at all, and despite PredictWind saying we’d have a dearth of wind after rounding the corner, this turned out not to be the case. In fact we tacked very nicely at 7-8 knots on the ‘overland route’ passing Margate, the Reculver Towers, Herne Bay and on past the Isle of Sheppey until we reached the drowned remains of The SS Richard Montgomery, and tacked up the Medway and in to Stangate Creek.

Reflection in the water of Idun with foresail and mainsail

It’s been such a long time since we anchored and it’s lovely and quiet here; no creeking ropes, no people talking loudly walking by in the marina, no warning alarms from the locks about to open, but instead we have the sounds of birds and just the very slow rumbling of something industrial. We are in fact looking right over a cargo port on the Medway, but from here it looks more like the Manhattan Skyline! It is now quite dark, and we can only see the other anchored boats by their anchor lights, but I can hear someone singing a folksong!

Our own ‘skyline’

Distance 43.8 NM, underway 6hrs 42 mins, average speed 6.5 knots, max speed 8.7 knots

Wistful morning in the Mist and a rendezvous in Chatham – 25th September

It was nice to wake up at anchor and I stood on deck just enjoying being in middle of the mist for quite some time, listening to the water, and the birds. I will miss this.

We motored up to Chatham after lunch, went on to the big boats’ pontoon this time right by the bridge over to St Mary’s Island. We chatted with some people we last saw in Eastbourne and it was nice to see them again. Had a lovely pizza feast of an evening with Emma and James, and I even managed to get a few answers correct in the Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit!

Last passage of the season – Back to Burnham-on-Crouch – 26th September

Morning sun over the Medway

We were in the lock by 7am and no one was stirring apart from us, and the lock keeper! We’re going back to Burnham today, where we started off at the beginning of May. We saw a little seal jumping out of the water a couple of times which made me very happy!

We had a choice of going early with the tide but with less wind, or punching 2 knots of tide later in the day. So we went early, motored down the river but soon after passing by Sheerness and on to the misty sea we had enough wind to sail. We made good speed with the mainsail and the gennaker up for a bit, then motorsailed until we could turn west having passed all the sandbanks, heading for the Crouch, tacking fast all the way right up to the entrance of Burnham Yacht Harbour. We were allocated rather a small space with a tiny pontoon that it was quite difficult to get off from, but luckily later in the afternoon someone left and the Harbour Master let us nick that space on the larger alongside pontoon – much better in every way.

As the week ahead is promising strong winds and lots of rain we got on with removing the canvas immediately. It was hard work and we’re both very tired, but the mainsail, sail cover, gennaker and foresail are down, all battens out and cars taken off and all is packed away in their huge bags and are taking rather a lot of space in the cabin. The boom and mast are looking rather spare!

Distance 45.7 NM, underway 7hrs 8 mins, average speed 6.4 knots, max speed 9. knots

Busy Bees in Burnham 27th – 30th September

At the end of the season in Oban two years ago, we had a pretty awful time packing away and getting the boat ready for overwintering. Dominic was ill, we were both very tired after the season and particularly the endless storms in the past few weeks. We really struggled to get everything ready in the two days we had. So we made a promise to ourselves not to repeat this. This time we’ve got four whole days, and we have access to the car, and we’re doing all the end of the season laundry at home. So although we’ve been busy, it’s been nice busy. And we’ve had a chance to action all those small fixes you find and remember when you tidy cupboards and clean.

Dominic took the train home to collect the car and bring the ladder we’ll need when Idun is on the hard. He has many projects planned for the winter months! We dropped off the life raft for its 3-year service, took down the spray hood and brought all the canvas to a local collection point for the sailmakers that will clean and service it all, scrubbed the boat inside and out, went through our food stores and had many strange meals using up the jars from the bottom of the fridge! Weather-wise this is most definitely time to go home. The rainstorm on the Monday brought autumn, and it’s been rainy and cold all week.

So for our ‘Scilly’ Season, starting when we left the anchorage in the Medway on 31st May to getting ready for lift out on 1st October, the stats are:

Distance 1,310.95 nautical miles, underway 225 hours 36 minutes, max speed 15.4 knots

Lifting Day 1st October

We arrived by the lift at 8am as arranged, Dominic having tried to ring them a couple of times, but nobody answered. When we got hold of them they were ‘oh we didn’t realise you were coming this early’. A bit annoying. With the strong wind it was difficult for them to get Idun into the sling but eventually she was lifted – Dominic looking on with bated breath.

It took many, many hours (thank goodness for the on-site cafe and that the stormy rain was less wild than expected) but eventually Idun was put into her winter cradle and moved to her spot in the yard. Dominic was very happy with the placement near a shed which affords a bit of wind protection. We’ve got a pontoon structure behind us so only half the ladder needs extending and it’s very easy to get up onto the boat. We got the power working, turned on the humidifier and did a few other winterising jobs. With any luck we’ll be able to come at any point this autumn and winter (Covid restrictions allowing!).

Idun safely on the hard – phew

We got a lift in the launch to Burnham yacht harbour where our car was waiting.
Then the journey home took 4.5 hours which is rather a lot longer than expected, due to accidents and roadworks. We had 4 ambulances and a police car coming past us as we were not so patiently at a standstill on the tarmac. It turned into a very long day, but Daniel had ordered a curry as a treat for our supper, and all was well!

So this season we didn’t get to the Baltic, again, but to be honest we’re more than happy with how it turned out. We both loved the Scilly Isles and would happily go back for another extended stay. We’ve really enjoyed visiting the beautiful southern counties and in particular Kent, taken some amazing walks, and have seen so many stunning and interesting places both inland and by the coastline. We’ve had the privilege to sail and meet up with so many wonderful members of our extended family and met so many friendly yachties along the way. It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable summer!

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