OK maybe not that frightening. Actually it was all very exciting once I’d got over the initial ‘won’t we die if the boat gets struck?!’ phase… We set off just after 8, leaving the from the East entrance to Dover port in the beginnings of a thunder storm. This in itself was exciting as the East entrance is the ferry entrance, so little us were even further dwarfed by the massive passenger ferries coming from France. Also, apparently Dover is the busiest port in the UK. This is saying a lot as the Solent (where we started last weekend) is one of the busiest bodies of water in the world. Anyway, it meant we hovered by the entrance for about fifteen minutes waiting for permission from the Harbour Master to leave, me in awe every time the lightening lit up the port with the cliffs and castle behind (Gareth a little worried every time the massive wall next to us came into full view). And then we were off on our second attempt to get the boat to Ipswich.
This impromptu trip was to take advantage of a gap in the heavy winds that seem to have taken us from a lovely mild October to a bitterly cold November. The Force 8 we saw Sunday morning had blown through and the next one wasn’t due for at least 24 hours. This time in fact there was comparatively little wind. And it was from the North, which if you don’t know English geography, is the same direction as Ipswich is from Dover, which essentially means we had to climb our way upwind to get there. So, for the first part at least, we motored along at 8-9 knots over the ground with heaps of tide carrying us towards the Thames estuary. In all honesty, this area is pretty rubbish for sailing even in the best conditions. On one, sometimes two sides, are massive shipping channels, which are best avoided. We went inside the Goodwin Sands, an area notorious for shipwrecks and strewn with the remains of ancient, unlucky seafaring souls (Gareth – ‘don’t tell them I said that’). From here we passed by the wind farms. The biggest one was the Thanet Array off Margate. It took us a couple of hours to motor past it and all you could see were lines of red lights that would blink every time the arms (blades?) crossed in front of them. At this point we were both quietly hoping for some massive lightening bolts to light up the farms as they really are a spectacular view. Plus it was a good distraction from the rain. 3 hours in, already drowned and in great spirits. What better way to spend a Tuesday night?
After a midnight dinner, we started a semi-watch system, which gave us each about three hours sleep. We got the sails up for a couple of hours around the same time and beat between the shipping channel and a wind farm. I tried again, probably a bit optimistically, for a twenty minute reach when the shipping channel turned left briefly. This wasn’t particularly successful but it made me feel better about motoring all the way to Ipswich. We arrived at the mouth of the river Orwell around 6am. This is a massive industrial area but there wasn’t a lot happening when we went past. Harwich was the first port we passed and opposite it is Felixstowe. However from these two ports up to Ispwich is next to nothing – apart from beautiful Sulfolk countryside of course.
We arrived at Fox’s Marina at 7:50am and luckily someone was at the office early to tell us where to go. At this point I think we were both too tired to make any good decisions so we just set to work, removing sails, taking down electrics, derigging everything to get Hal ready to come out of the water and drop the mast (more on this from G another time). Every time a big job was done we thought – shall we have a nap? But there was always one more thing to do first. Finally it was lunchtime and I lay down and two hours disappeared like magic. I woke up to Hal being lifted out of the water!!! Gareth fortunately was a bit more on the ball – he was up and helped the “yardies” move the boat to the giant sling they use to lift her out. We stepped off and watched as they hauled her out and power washed the hull. Okay Gareth watched, he thought it was the coolest thing ever. I had a shower, but he took some good pictures!
Now the next sensible thing would’ve been to catch the first train back to London and get an early nights sleep. However I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see my lovely Godmother and her daughter Jo for supper. So I dragged Gareth round to their house and somehow, even after being awake for almost 36 hours, he managed to pull out all his charm and we had a lovely dinner with lots of wine before catching a late train home. It was an exhausting two days but Hal is tucked safely away near Ipswich for the winter. She will be back in the water around February. However we will try to keep adding blogs through the winter with our upcoming plans, reports on the work being done and so on so watch this space!!!!