VARUNA II The Tomahawk Travels Thames Estuary and on – June 2014
Yes it’s another season and sailing to some where is on the cards so let’s fill the boat up with fuel + water and go somewhere to start with and then make up our minds when we get there. Mike and I agreed to meet at the boat on Monday the 9th of June and load up with some food and other essentials and sail it down to West Mersea for the night before setting off to Dover the next morning. The tides on Tuesday were HW Dover at 1030hrs most people would like to depart on the ebb but I don’t like going across the estuary on a falling tide so decided to set a time to leave at 0600hrs. A bright morning greeted us and we left the mooring just 1826about right and although there was not much wind we were making about four and half knots over the ground on engine this speed quickly took the boat to the Bench Head then through the Spitway to our first obstacle the Sunk Beacon which used to be visible and was used during the second world war . Since then and about four years ago it was blown over in a gale they think that its position is still on the sands but at a lower latitude. Although you can’t see the beacon as a mark to cross the sands we had two plotted positions on the chart which gave us a bearing of 112 degrees from the north to cross the sands. It was now quite late but there should still be lots of water over it. The depth sounder was giving us at one stage 100 feet so when it went down to 30 feet I did not think it too bad but it kept going down until we were looking at 10 feet still right on track but not much water.

The boat kept going and although our shallowest point was 8 feet we got through and into Fishermans Gat where there is plenty of water. It was then just a point of plotting a course to North Foreland and then on to Dover,820 it was sunny and I think we thought we were home and dry but as we sailed past Ramsgate the wind increased to a Force 5 to 6 South Westerly right on the nose with the wind now opposing the tide it got quite rough and we did think about putting in to Ramsgate but with only a couple of hours to reach Dover we stayed on course. I radioed port control on VHF channel 74 and unfortunately they had two ferries coming out and two going in so we had to hold on outside the main harbour for twenty minutes it was quite rough but we got in and decided to stay that night plus another day to recover from the 12 hour trip. The weather was still from the South West and our charts were showing that to go along the south coast would be a battle so after another day in Dover which was good we decided to go to Dunkerque and then on to Gravelines in Northern France. The trip to Dunkerque was quite uneventful as the wind had died down and we just had the tides to play with. We got into the marina and tied up then realised that we had no eros we thought it would be easy to just walk up to the bar in the marina and pay in pounds or credit card no sorry we only take cash but we needed the number to get back to the boat . So a walk into town found us a cash machine and then back to the marina restaurant and bar we looked at the menu and decided to just have a drink and as Holland were playing Spain the atmosphere was great I think we had more than one beer, then back on board to cook. Saturday 14th Looked good to go to Gravelines with a F4 NNE wind yes it had veered 180 degrees but a great sail along the coast. We paid the marina fee at Dunkerque and left at 1030hrs to be at the entrance of 1840Gravelines Marina lock by 1430hrs the lock gates open 2 hrs before and 2hrs after hw so we had plenty of time and moored up straight away. Sunday and wind still from the north stayed another day. Monday saw the wind at F5-6 NNW so we looked at the charts, tides were going the right way and the lock gates were to be open at 1330hr perfect the only problem that I could see was when to put the sails up and reef them down in the sort of seas that were waiting for us once we had come out from the canal linking the north sea with Gravelines. The other thing seen from the boat as we were coming along the canal was a dredger that was waiting to come in and start his work. We were in luck he had spotted us and had hove to outside the main canal so on we motored until we were way out it was rough because we were going straight into the wind and waves. I waited for the right moment then went up on deck and hoisted the sails it was great to be back in the cockpit so that the boat could now bear away and sail on a reach, with the sails reefed down the boat performed well and still managed 7-8knots over the ground and we were in Dunkerque by 1435hrs a windy trip but a good sail.

Today Tuesday 17th cold and still windy F 6- 7 so we had a walk into the main town and payed a visit to the tourist office and ended up at the beach, trouble was it was so windy and coming from a northerly direction the sand was blowing every where.1867 It was getting near lunch time and a cafe by the beach looked good and it was excellent not expensive but good. Then thought why not try the French buses and one came along quite quickly they are double the size of our buses but they don’t take a bus pass still we were soon back on the boat and getting ready to go out the wind looked as if it would slow down a bit so it looked like we could get back to England the next day. Sure enough we woke up to it being a F 4 NNE So the boat needed to be at the harbour entrance by 0910hrs great news not an early start and a sail all the way to look forward to. Started good outside dunkerque the wind was in a good position for us to put up the sails and follow the buoyed marks along the French coast we were hoping to catch the north going tide mid channel but because of departing a little early and making good time the tide did not go north until we had reached the south Goodwin buoy so I looked at the chart again and it was decided to go inside the Goodwin Sands this turned out to be a good idea as when we saw the entrance the tide was rushing past and you could have missed it as it was we had to use the engine as well as the sails to hold the boat on course and into the port a call to the marina gave us a berth and we were tied up by 1730hrs. The sun was shining on us and it felt good to be back in England. Next day was sunny and warm so we thought a lay day in Ramsgate would be a good idea and looked for a cafe that1875 might do a nice breakfast so after using the marina facilities showers and such we came out from the marina and saw a cafe under the arches overlooking the marina perfect they work so hard in there but it was a great breakfast. A walk round town was in order and then a bus ride to Broadstairs to look round the town it turned out to be their Dicken’s week and the people were all dressed up in clothes from the late 20th century and the children from the local schools were all singing their songs in the grand stand, a good day and now to find the bus back to the boat. The people are very helpful and we were soon on our way. When we got back I knew that I wanted to look at the charts for the route back and to look at times of departure I came to the conclusion that an early start was on the cards, however we were having a cup of coffee when there was knock on the boat it was Hillary and Derrick Gardiner they were on their way to Holland and saw us come in so they came onboard and I put the kettle on we sat there a minute then another knock on the boat it was Danny from West Marie so he joined us as well and we had a good chat and all met up at the Temple Yacht Club for drinks a good night. We had an E T D of 0430hr but we seemed to drift past that time and did not leave until 0600hr a little late but still in time to catch the tide going up past North Foreland. With Danny as company we were all going well and motoring into a chop it smoothed out when we got to outer Fishermans. We now had to do the cross sunk sands with the tide now on the ebb it was a bit daunting but we had the coordinates and plotted across the sunk sands it was sunny that always helps but when we saw some breaking rollers in front about 100 metres away it was abit scary but we tried to keep calm and I radioed Danny and told him that we might have to spin round and follow a reciprocal course this he understood so we carried on the sounder was now reading 30feet and falling 20 15 10 8 6 4 feet we draw 3 feet so we were very near the bottom I guess we could have turned round then but carried on it started to climb 5 6 10 15 20 we were though I don’t think I would go that way again. I think Forgers Gap is a better bet I know it’s through the wind farm but it is marked now. The time we departed Ramsgate was a bit late but we made good time and were back on the mooring by 14 30. Another great trip on the Tomahawk it really looked after us again.

Roger and Mick