Last leg - left

‘This will be my last northbound journey back to the boat’ I thought to myself as I headed from work to King’s Cross following my nightshift. I was again in high spirit despite lack of sleep from working. I was due to meet Jim from GYC who had actually, not just volunteered to come sailing in December in a leaking boat, but had taken leave from work to do so! How could I not be happy with such friends?
We found Ardent as I had left her. Having missed the tide for that day we relaxed with a Chinese take-away. I was glad to have Jim as company, not just for his great companionship but also because the coming sail would undoubtedly be a long haul and staying awake and alert for 24 hours would be hard work on my own. We also had the benefit of meeting up with three members of the sailing club there, who advised as to the best times to hit the tide and informed us of a good stopping point at Lowestoft.

The morning saw us leaving through the open lock at 10:30 being so much easier to navigate in daylight. Humber VTS, who had been most helpful in advising ships of my presence on the way in, similarly kept in contact as we left. It was again apparent that our AIS signal, although seen by the coastguard, was unseen by the majority of ships who seemed only to have AIS transmitters! In my first communication with Humber VTS I realised that yachts with transponders must still be far and few between as they had assumed us to be a ship.

By lunchtime we were nearly 20 miles off land and halfway across the Wash. We decided not to dilly-dally, as we could not guarantee how long this break in the weather would hold. At 02:00 we were approaching Lowestoft and quickly located the waiting pontoon in the harbour. Being unconnected to land made it a safe roosting place for a population of gulls who were put out by our late night arrival. Six hours of sleep revived me enough to cast off again, much to Jim’s surprise as he emerged to find us leaving harbour with no chance to change his mind and escape! Within 36 hours of leaving Grimsby we had made good progress across the Thames estuary and were negotiating the wind-farm by the Isle of Sheppey. Punching the tide into the Swale, I not only felt on home ground but knew that I had at last closed the loop of the circumnavigation and that even if we sunk at this point my mission would have been accomplished! Anchoring at Harty Ferry gave us 3 hours rest, and while still in the swing we set off at high water to meander through the channel to Queenborough. I was glad to have made such progress as the weather talk from the coastguard had made me very aware of the strong winds that were following us down from the North. Once past the Thames safe water mark I felt confident that the weather was unlikely to stop us and indeed, having waited a couple of hours for the tide at Queenborough we made excellent progress up to Greenwich, reaching our voyage’s end at 16:30 at GYC.