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Erm? They're Clive and Les aren't they?
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Queenborough 1st July
1st July, 2005
At last we have returned to the sea, well, the river anyway.
Ballast has been moved again. Water tanks have been flushed and refilled and it is bizarre that London water is better than Lincolnshire water, after all, London water has been through at least 25 people before it gets to Limehouse. VAT returns have been posted. Bilge pump seals have been replaced. And the essentials of life have been replenished.
Did you see the London weather yesterday? We are so pleased that we made the executive decision to wait until Friday to leave. It rained all day yesterday. It was horrid.
But this morning dawned bright and clear. The forecast was for southwest to southerly winds, force 4 to 5 easing to 3 with showers in the afternoon. Such a great improvement on yesterday.
So from 7.00am I was emptying perishables from Mad Hatter, vacuum cleaning the floor, washing out the fridge and loading my seventeen steamer trunks of clothes aboard Quintet (actually it is just two soft bags really, but pretty big soft bags! And a suit carrier. And a hat box. And a backpack of little luxuries. You see, I've learned to travel light at last). And at just after 10.00am we furled our lines and motored round to the lock which was ready and waiting our arrival.
It took a couple of tries to get lines on as we were a bit away from the dockside. I blame the skipper. He blames me. This is democracy in action.
The water levels were, well, levelled! The bridge was swung and we motored out into the tideway.
We passed the beautiful Maritime museum and the old hospital buildings at Greenwich with the towering masts of Cutty Sark in its dry dock beside the river. Clive described the intricacies of Greenwich power station as we motored past its grim, sheer walls and lofty chimneys. Then I have a blank period of little recollection. Was it the heat or the effect of too much booze and a late night yesterday. I think, on reflection that it was just the effect of Clive describing the intricacies of Greenwich power station! The River Thames is so big and grand, majestic even. Why do we let local and national governments put the monstrosities on it which they do? Did you know, for example, that the Millennium 'Tent' looks even worse going down river than going up.
We called London VTS and were cleared to pass through the Barrier (now that is impressive architecture!). Then we followed a pusher tug and his crane barge down the river.
Once past the barrier, with a freshening wind, we hoisted sail and switched off the engine. Our impressive speed dropped and infinitely small amount and in relative silence we continued our heady rush downriver.
We eventually overhauled our pusher tug and crane as we sailed under the bridge at a speed noticeably faster than the traffic overhead.
As the river broadened, the wind picked up. We rolled a bit of the main in and continued our race towards the estuary. But it was getting late. The original plan to make Ramsgate was reviewed and we decided to do Queenborough instead. So, as we followed the buoys along the Kent coast we took further rolls in the mainsail, dropped the staysail and prepared to beat into the Medway.
For an old lady, Quintet sails very well. Her huge main requires one to reef earlier than one might on other boats but even with sail area reduced by half she was making four and a half knots into the Medway and tacking through just a little more than 100 degrees.
We had a bit of a panic as we tacked towards the Isle of Grain. Water depth showed in excess of 20 metres and suddenly plummeted to just 8, 7, 6. And by the time an urgent tack was happening, the depth sounder was showing just a tenth above one metre. Not so much a shelving bottom as a cliff!
We motored in to the Swale and picked up the visitors' buoy nearest to the jetty ready for a run to the pub and dinner. The wind and tide made it a little too exciting for using our tender to go ashore but we had read that there was a tender service, provided by the yacht club at weekends.
I am impressed. Within 5 minutes of mooring, a boat arrived and a man asked for money. It usually takes at least 15 minutes. He assured us that the tender taxi service was available, today, from the yacht club.
Well, we have called the tender service, and phoned the yacht club. We have listened to the plaintive cries of other yachts calling too: Thirstquencher, Emily 2, Rosebud; but no answer came the stern reply! (Does anybody know where that expression comes from?).
So dinner tonight was salami, mushroom and potato frittata with a mixed salad. Probably not too unhealthy either, compared to bangers and mash and eight pints in the pub! We won't mention the two bottles of beer, a scotch, a gin and tonic, two bottles of red wine and a port, or three that followed it.
The expression 'sleep tight' seems to be appropriate.