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Cornwall to Scotland days 13 to 16

Day 13 – Two days of living and sleeping on land is about what it takes for us to get our land legs back and for the world to stop bouncing about. Then we return to Ramsgate Harbour to find Cirrus still leaping about wildly along with all the other boats in the harbour, so our legs have to learn all over again. 17July2011A full gale is blowing now. Even the cross-channel ferries have stopped running, and it takes a lot for them to give up and go home. Catamarans don’t, of course, lean over, but the monohull yachts in harbour are all leaning one way just with the pressure of the wind on their masts, as if gravity has taken leave of its senses. The forecast chart shows that the depression giving us this weather, currently centred over Middlesbrough, will move eastwards over the next few days and eventually things will calm down. When it does then there will be a mass exodus of boats, everyone who has been pinned down in port trying to move on at the same time. Summer gales like this are not uncommon and it may be windy but it is not cold so we just have to sit it out and amuse ourselves, keeping our heads low for a while. It is a good time to sit around and read some of the books we have picked up on our travels. Many marinas have a few book shelves tucked away in a corner somewhere which function as a library operated by an unseen and unwritten set of rules. Travellers simply deposit books they have read and take away those that interest them, no tickets needed, no librarians and no fines.

Day 14 – Still in Ramsgate, we spend the day shopping and tidying up the boat. The strong wind continues to blow and by late afternoon we check the forecast model once again to see whether the wind is doing what it should. The noise in the rigging has not abated and dark grey clouds are still marching across the skyline. We note that by midnight, if the prediction is accurate, it will finally quieten down. It helps us to believe in this.

Day 15 – The morning is quiet, as predicted, with just a light southerly breeze, which is not quite as forecast but is fine for us, for we are moving north. But not before we have some serious waving to take care of. First of all there are Chris and Chris who have come over to Ramsgate armed with white hankies. Cirrus waving farewellThey nearly miss us there but by the time we reach Broadstairs they have moved onto the pier and are waving away again. At Stone Bay we get a mobile telephone call from Richard telling us where to look onshore so we can wave at him, and there he is, standing on something or someone tall gesticulating madly. We thought we were done then but just as the coast turns east and we start to move away offshore across the Thames estuary there are Chris and Chris again, arms going like semaphore. We collapse on the deck, our arms exhausted from all the flapping about, but thrilled to think that we have had such a marvellous send off for our journey north.

Hours later we are still glowing as we negotiate the complex of channels and shoals that lie in our path en route to Suffolk and hear a message on the radio saying there will be a ‘Controlled Detonation’ of a mine at a position somewhere near the Gunfleet. We rush to the chart to plot the position to find ourselves only ten miles away, but nevertheless at a safe distance. In the end we did not hear the explosion above our own engine noise but Chris told me later that he did from all the way south in Broadstairs.

We had thought we might miss Essex completely this time round but after six hours under a scorching sun, mostly with the engine thumping away but latterly with our spinnaker drawing us along nicely, we are closingSunset in Hamford Water Pye End buoy off Walton-on-the-Naze and decide to head into the Backwaters for the night. Two miles up stream we drop our anchor into the mud of Hamford Water just as a seal slithers from the bank and heads off for a night’s fishing. Fairy terns hover excitedly over a shoal of fry and up above us a large raptor glides by, eyes peeled for prey. We cannot identify him for certain but we know the Brent geese who are wading in the shallows and the noisy oyster-catchers who screech by us. This spot is just heavenly and to cap it all, the sun puts on a show for us at the close of the day.

Day 16 – Our aim today is to sail north along the Suffolk coast to Lowestoft, not because we particularly like the place, but more because of the forecast northerlies coming our way in the next day or so. But the peace and quiet of our anchorage holds us like glue and whilst chatting with the seal first thing this morning he did seem to be expressing the view that he liked having us here. Maybe he will wave us off.

We leave around midday, which is before the tide turns in our favour and therefore by definition, early and once across the busy shipping lane which feeds Felixstowe we raise the spinnaker and there it stays for the next thirty eight miles. We fly along with the wind right behind us and once past Orfordness, the tide starts going our way as well so we are moving even faster. We shoot past Aldeburgh doing eight knots (over the ground), people standing on the beach can barely turn their heads quickly enough. Sizewell’s dome shaped nuclear power station appears then disappears behind us and Southwold’s windmill flashes past too. By six o’clock we can see the lone wind turbine that sits on Lowestoft’s pier and we are in harbour by seven, temporary members of the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club with access to their showers. which we make liberal use of.

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