The end of May saw us once again in Boat Festival season.
I was very fortunate that my old friend Steve was in need of crew to attend the Oostende voor anker festival, so I took my berth on the good ship Valonia and we set off from Cuxton on the river Medway towards Ostend in Belgium.
Ex Pilot Cutter Valonia worked the south of England UK waters from i think 1969 onward. She has twin 200bhp Cummins diesel engines which when new could push Valonia through the water at 25 knots, She probably manages 20 knots these days if pushed.
The weekend before was absolutely lovely, the sun was cracking the flags without a breath of wind. I drove down to Kent with the soft top down and met Steve at the boatyard.
An evening meal at the White hart and a few sherberts later saw us aboard and ready for the morning....the weather report didnt look good.
Sure enough, the next morning saw an overcast sky and a vicious North Easterly Wind gusting force 4-5 occasionally 6.
This is never good news for a run along the North Kent coast on an outgoing tide. The reasons being, the tide flows easterly and a North Easterly wind means the tide pushes against the wind making the sea rather choppy....(understatement of the year)
We knew that we wouldnt get to Ostend this day so a run to Ramsgate was the order of the day.
The construction of valonia means that you have to spend all of your time in the wheel house as both engines are located forward of the wheelhouse which means the forward accommodation is cut off as it would be rather dangerous to try and attempt to enter the engine room when under way due to the boats movement. (too many hot exhaust pipes)
The River medway itself is very sheltered so we made good time heading down river to the thames estuary,
As we passed Chatham I caught a good look at my tub Emblem, She looks a little tired but I understand she is due for dry dock later this year.
The sun came out as we approached the mouth of the Medway but the wind continued to blow as Strong as ever.
We ventured forth into open water, ie the Thames estuary and headed east along the inshore passage towards Ramsgate, As soon as we left the sheltered waters of the the River, the waves came at us in regular and irregular intervals. We only had appx half revs on the engines in order to save fuel so instead of riding on the waves at cruising speed we ploughed through the waves, The bow digging deep into the crests and then scooping up the water collected on the deck and tossing it back over the wheelhouse as one would do with a shovel of sand.
the first time it happened I said to Steve "we're going under" it seemed to take an age for the water to clear the screens and our only view was a pale green watery mass while the boat shuddered and thumped her way through the trough.
Passing The Northforeland was interesting, it looked like we had indeed become a submarine as we dipped and scooped our way round the Kent Coast.
It was with much relief that we finally arrived at Ramsgate after 6 hours of bouncy bouncy and what a nice surprise awaited us.
It was the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation and our old friends on the Dunkirk little ship Mary Jane cracked open a beer and refreshed or flagging souls.
more to follow