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.
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.