Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Adventures new and old.

I have been amazed and somewhat overwhelmed by the response to the tales our our journey around Britain. It has attracted readers from around the world. I hope you have all enjoyed spending time with Catabout.

My personal adventures have continued, and for those who wish to find out more, you can read about them on Into the Unknown

If there are any of you out there who shared adventures with Catabout prior to 2007, either as owner or along for the ride, we would love to hear from you.

Fair winds.

Monday, 6 September 2010


So here we are, back on dry land again. A house has so many rooms. So much space.

We are getting our land legs back and the weather seems to be heading for autumn. My body held up, although it was a close run thing at times, but perhaps our next adventure will  make a difference with that. And we survived two months living in a confined space without killing each other.

Both of us have our own special memories of the trip, but I think we are glad to be home. Once more round the island? Not for a while. On the other hand, going over to the continent seems attractive......

Over the next few days I'm going to tidy up the blog, putting in the missing photos, and create a page of highlights and low points. Come back and look if you wish, otherwise thanks for reading, and I hope it gave you as much pleasure as it did to me in creating it.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Home again, home again, jiggetty jig

We are back in Tollesbury! We did it. A week later than planned, but hey, who's counting.

Robin arrived back in Dover by train on Friday afternoon, so in the evening we left the marina. Outside Dover harbour the sea is quite confused because of the meeting of water flows down the North Sea and up the Channel. However this is Neap tides, where the flow is at its lowest, so it could have been worse. Neap tides are also popular with Channel swimmers. I saw one come in when on the seafront that morning, and many more were making their way across the 22 miles.

 Once we had dodged our way through the numerous ferries leaving and entering Dover harbour, we caught the tide up the channel to Ramsgate, anchoring for the night in Pegwell Bay, in the shelter of the harbour there.

Saturday morning saw us rounding North Foreland for the Thames Estuary crossing. The estuary if full of sandbanks, with shipping channels inbetween. Imagine spreading out your fingers and then pressing your hand firmly into damp sand. The resulting pattern is similar to that of the bottom of the estuary. Add in the big shipping that also uses these channels and the movement of the banks after every gale and you have the potential for a 'fun' time. The combination of wind and tides can lead to some very uncomfortable seas in a yacht.

We were lucky. A sunny day, neap tides, and light winds made a pleasant day's motor across. The sand banks and channels have some wonderfully evocative names: the Sunk, Knock John, Black Deep, Barrow Deep. We even got to do a little sailing as we approached the River Blackwater. Timewise we were under no pressure as the cill at Tollesbury did not have enough water over it until at least 7pm.

Picking off the local landmarks that said "home". First Gunfleet Sands Wind Farm. Then the now redundant Bradwell nuclear power station. The saxon built St Peter's Chapel on the Flats. The colourful beach huts at West Mersea. The traditional Thames barges out for a weekend sail from Maldon.

And suddenly there we were, going up the Fleet, and Woodrolfe Creek, back to Tollesbury, where all this began.

We did it.

Monday, 30 August 2010

White Cliffs of Dover

Had chance to mooch about Dover today, before Robin gets the train back home. The seafront has obviously been recently redone and looks very good. The Castle is English Heritage and looks like it's well worth a visit. As well as the medieval keep, there is a roman lighthouse and the Napoleonic cliff tunnels.

The town museum has a 3000 yr old ship that was dug up, and nearby are the remains of a Roman villa. Should be plenty to keep me occupied.

Robin went for a quick recce round the castle and took this shot looking down from the battlements:

Sorry about the colour, but the light was fading.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Gale warnings issued.

Sitting in Dover waiting for the gales to wear themselves out.

We set off this morning from Eastbourne, hoping to make Ramsgate tonight, with a view to crossing the Thames Estuary tomorrow.  No such luck. As we approached Dungeness, the radio beeped out a message from the coastguards: Gale Warnings.

Thames, issued on Sunday 29 August 2010 at 0350 UTC
     Northwesterly gale force 8 expected soon, veering northerly and increasing severe gale force 9 later
Dover, issued on Sunday 29 August 2010 at 0946 UTC
     Northwesterly gale force 8 imminent

Force 7 is bad enough in a yacht, 8 and 9 is beyond a joke. We had hoped to make it before the storms hit, but it wasn't to be.

So Robin is getting the train home, and I'm staying with Catabout until next weekend, when hopefully we can take her home.

 51 07.233'N  01 18.661' E

Saturday, 28 August 2010

So near and yet so far

Out of Chichester Harbour at 7am this morning, and off further east down the coast, motoring all the way. We made good progress with the tide and it was a sunny day, so were feeling optomistic. We crossed the Greewich Meridien  at 2pm. But Catabout hasn't quite got enough boat speed to get us all the way passed Dungeness before the tide turned. As the Dover Straits are where the North Sea tides and English Channel tides come together, the timing is crucial, or you can find yourself going backwards.

So having rounded Beachy Head, we looked for somewhere to stop for the night. Rye, one of the Cinque Ports of old, but now silted up and available for a limited time each tide, was out of the question. Hastings is only suitable as an emergency anchorage, so we were left with Eastbourne Marina.

So we turned in towards the coast, passing large numbers of racing yachts, flying through the water at full speed. It turned out to be Eastbourne Regatta this weekend. The marina is entered by a pair of locks, big enough to take several vessels  at a time.  Once inside, the development is huge.

With just 100 miles to go, I don't now if we will make it in time to complete the circuit within our 58 days. Tomorrow's weather looks good, but Monday when we need to cross the Thames Estuary to get home is looking bad, with strong winds from the north west - just the direction we need to head in.
Fingers crossed.

50 47.474' N  00 19.563' E

Friday, 27 August 2010


We escaped Portland on a gap in the weather in the afternoon and made for the Isle of Wight and the Solent. Motoring all the way, we made good progress, arriving at St Alban's Head at the change of direction of the tide, so as to minimise the problems going over St Alban's Ledge, which is notorious for overfalls and eddies.

As we neared, another yacht radioed us to check which was the best route, as he was unfamiliar with the area. Robin was able to reassure him, based on both the official almanac information and his own previous experience, that close in plus this state of the tide was the best option. It was a little rough, but not too bad.

We carried on passing the Jurassic Coast and Durdle Door, debating the point in the film, Far From the Madding Crowd, where Gabriel Oak's sheep went over the cliffs. The sun went down and we continued towards the Needles, where the tide caught us and we flew into the Solent. Trying to pick out the correct lights was confused a little by a firework display on the coast. We anchored off Yarmouth for a few hours rest, while the tide changed.

In the dawnlight we set off along the Solent, which is a very busy area. Southampton and Portsmouth ports , the naval base, ferries in all directions, and huge numbers of yachts all use this stretch of water.
We picked our way through, and passed the midwater forts and underwater barrier, to go to Chichester Harbour. This is a very pretty location, and we went up to Chichester Marina for the night. Robin went off to investigate Chichester, while I slept!

50 48.173' N  00 49.019' W