In the River Blackwater there are not many places to hide from the strengthening winds. N and S are OK, but E and W are very exposed unless your boat can dry out on the mud flats. Also, all the marinas and many protected moorings can only be accessed near High Water.
Bradwell marina, while good protection had no working wifi and no cell signal, so it was a communication wasteland. Not much for grocery access either, so not a place I want to go back to.
…So with the strong winds coming in, Layla and I decided to go to London!
18 Sept, we headed out of Bradwell Marina just after High Water and carried the ebb out of the river very nicely. Unfortunately once you are out of the river, the ebb current runs north, so we were fighting current all the way down. 2 knots SOG (Speed Over Ground) and wind west about 8 knots.
Just south of the River Blackwater is the River Crouch. I had hoped this might be a place we could go into, but it turns out he mud/sand flats extend at least 8nm out from the land. Being the ebb we would have been fighting the current all the way up and no way would we have reached it before dark. Too far off our course.
Instead we simply sailed south until dark and anchored out of the channel, amongst the many bars off the E of England. Disturbing to be in 20ft in the North Sea nearly out of sight of land, but as close to it as we can get. Light winds forecast, so no problem, just a little lumpy.
19 Sept, we woke to find commercial fishing boats dried out on the banks not far away at Low Water.
We sailed on down, and this time with the flood current helping us we made the River Thames just in time to catch the flood all the way up into London!! I had not expected to fall in so well with the tides, so we went in straightaway. I’d always heard about how much ship traffic there is on the Thames, but we had no problems. About a 1-3 knot current helping, but wind was light so we relied on the engine a lot. It is illegal to have sails up when going through the Thames Storm Barrier, so we rolled up before that and motored the rest of the way.
We were stopped by London Port Authority and entreated to keep to the right side of the Thames and warned of heavy commercial traffic ahead. (I was cutting the corners pretty freely, but there was not much traffic.) At least they were friendly and gave us a (relatively useless) brochure.
We had hoped to go to St. Katherine’s Dock which is the “premier” marina next to the Tower of London. Very popular…and expensive. Unfortunately (or fortunately) they were reconstructing docks and had no space. Lime House marina was also full so we ended up reserving a slip at South Dock Marina, just past Greenwich.
The river was very industrial to start, then nearing South Dock Marina, we passed the Greenwich Maritime Museum, which is very impressive.
The marina warned me the current runs very strong and to compensate when entering the lock. Several boats, I was told, had hit the quay when entering. They were full of shit. I did have to compensate for the current but that was no problem. After getting into the tiny lock however (felt like a bathtub) I hit reverse to stop the boat and bring it alongside. Not sure if it was my prop wash or a wave entering the lock, but suddenly and unexpectedly the wash slammed the stern against the wall. Talking later to some other people they all experienced the same thing. I think the lock is so small that it was my prop wash and the act of reversing spun the water around, so wait 20 seconds and it pushes you sideways. Very strange.
We met a nice couple on SV 20/20 Osprey, a British man and American woman that sailed across from USVI about a month after I did last year. We were anchored in the same cove in USVI, but never met. They skipped Bermuda, and spent 45 days in Azores, whilst I spent only about 30. They loved the Azores too.
Funny thing. I was tied up behind SV Geronimo in Horta. Tony Arrow was the captain and its a school vessel. He was head of rigging on the “Master and Commander” movie. The captains of two of the masts were Ian McIntyre, my old Captain/owner on the Hawaiian Chieftain. The other mast captain on the movie was Andrew Mckee. He was 17 years old and Bosun on the Hawaiian Chieftain when I was engineer in ’98-99 on our winter tour down the coast of California.
Osprey tied up right behind Geronimo when they got there, so they must have been in the same spot I had just vacated. Small world!
Very cool to meet them and lots to chat about.
They are British flagged, so I still have the only Stars and Stripes we’ve seen this summer in NL and UK.
About 43quid/night and a great place to visit London from.