Friends Martin and Sue arrived evening before and after dinner, did a dry run of plans for the following days. All onboard sleeplessly excited but realised an early start will be called for so we retired.
Morning saw hurried breakfast “coffee” with the girls promising bacon butties all round when we were underway.
The RNLI boys waved us good bye as we executed a flawless exit from the mooring heading down river on an outgoing tide, already crew settled and our VRIJHEID takes us off to LONDON.
Two and a half hours later we pass West India Docks calling Sue King to say hello. Tide still on the ebb and now close to mooring for the rest of the day and evening (Cory barges at Galleons Reach / Margret Ness. Thanks guys – mooring always appreciated and it use is respected)
M.V.ANGELUS – Edward and Pamela arrive and tie-up along side to convey with us tomorrow.
First mate and Galley boss (Caroline) has suggested a BBQ. Something to keep us boys busy we suspect. Great evening on the water, good comapny, great food and afterward much wine and playing music (Martin acoustic guitar, Sue electric base and moire on harmonica’s). What a jam session – WOW. All to bed agreeing life should be like this every day….!
29th July, 2005
Easy trip is this buoy hopping down the Thames, past Tilbury Docks and on out to the sea reach buoys and on to the entrance to the Medway River. Later with the entrance to the Swale insight we travel around the back of Sheppy to Faversham Creek entrance to drop the hook off Faversham Spit cardinal.
Martin and Sue own a traditional UK narrowboat and have never been this far out of into the Thames estuary. Its a blinder, with plenty of space. Suddenly one appreciates how small an otherwise large 28m barge is out here. Weather beautifully sunny,the sea slight and little to no wind. Vrijheid is treating us royally as she always does, with the exhaust burble clear and even. Angelus looks a real picture off to our port side. Two sweet old ladies (ships) out playing on the Thames. Engine and all systems running to spec. The girls decide sunbathing on the foredeck is in order. So the boys starve for a few hours!!
Positioned outside Faversham Creek and ready to let out one of the anchors. With most of the Thames Barges already here and so evenly spaced turning in harmony together with the tide and wind we had best keep to the high standards and follow suit. Wind getting up a bit and the current is not helping but we manage to hold position allowing the ship to glide backward as they pay out approx. three ship lengths of chain. Caroline and Sue stow the lines and fenders while the ship settles on the anchor. No drag so engine off. Immediately ones ears are met with an earsplitting silence, a rare treasure living in London. No planes overhead, no trains, no hordes of people, no cars. In the distance a few sandpiper are twittering their lonely cry, caught by the wind rushing past my ears, a great welcome to the Swale, once more. It is that cosy warm feeling I seem to get every time I’m here. Does it for me – there is a God in Heaven. We eagerly await the w/e to begin for us and the ship, sharing the water in such classic company of these irreplaceable majestic Thames Barges and Smacks. Oops! Bit of a deep moment there – sorry but this place gets my vote every time.
30th July, 2005
Day cloudy and windy. Crew up at the smell of a greasy spoon breakfast and fresh coffee. PJ sit out in the Wheelhouse with knees as a table eating a classic full English enjoying the best view point to catch all the action of Barges and Smacks weighing anchor purely undersail and majestically coming about to head out to the race start line.
There have got to be at least 30 boats out today, what a turnout. Sues’ digital camera batteries are definitely not going to last the distance in her efforts to capture as much of the action as possible. At least she can download the data onto the ships server and take them home on a CD. So shot away Sue.
We are all invited aboard Angelus for the day out among the sailing fleet. Vrijheid is left at her mooring looking sad and very much about the only vessel in the bay. Rather pointless taking two “stinkpots” out among such lustrous company.
The wind has really got up now, a pleasant change from past years where it was so calm some of the later races in the day had to be shortened with many retirements. What a fantastic day. With every inch of available sail up the fleet are fair steaming along. We follow the last of the gaffers turning for the mooring outside Faversham Creek entrance. Aboard for a cleanup and change of clothes, into the dinghy for the trip up the creek to the Shipwright Arms pub at Hollowshore for the evenings festivities and prize giving. The sunset caps the day off beautifully. What a wow of a day.
After the obligatory homemadeburger, a meal in itself as well as french fries that resemble potato wedges and that first welcoming beer (Shepherds Neame/Spitfire of course) we eagerly await the prize giving. Soon our ship name is called, with non of us registering until it was called again. Hell, we have won the Jenifer Perks Cup for Best Turned out Historic Vessel. Cannot believe it and suddenly embarrassed to be lime-lighted. Caroline jumped up to take receipt. We also received a converted Kentish Sail Association bargie which will be hoisted proudly to the top of the mast head on our return. What a grand bunch these people are at the Kentish Sail Association.
All agree it being close to dark and bearing in mind navigating the creek is hazardous, let alone at the mouth it is no picnic so we begrudgingly say our good byes and head for the dinghy and back out to Vrijheid to be followed by another great jam session onboard, lots of wine, good company and a day to remember.
31st July, 2005
Called Whitstable Habour Master asking permission to enter the harbour. We left Angelus behind at the mooring, they were intending to go up the creek today. Close to the top of the tide we headed for Whitsable, a small harbour about an hour and a half away toward Herne Bay. Infamous for its Oyster Festival and fish markets it is a very busy harbour at present with most of the vessel fleet working on the new build wind farm in the mouth of the Thames sheltering here during the weekend. We are informed they can “squeeze” us in so we turn to starboard and negotiate the buoyed bar entrance and moor against the seawall. All lines available are used to contend with a 7m rise and fall of the tide.
Time to investigate the shops and fish market before heading off to the Old Neptune Pub late afternoon to catch the Brendon Power Gig. The man is a real master, the band is excellent as is the beer which is going down a treat. Back onboard for a meal, all slightly subdued in the knowledge we leave tomorrow morning for the “real world”!
1st August, 2005.
OK sort of a day though the wind is picking up by the hour. Weather forecast offers 2 / 3 with scattered showers and sunny intervals. Best we go before the wind gets up. Out with the charts and pick our course back to the creek, through Swale to the Medway and on up the Thames. Outside in the harbour the wind is really getting up with the white horses chasing us. Turning into the Thames at the Medway mouth presented some hairy moments but as soon as we had rounded the spit and were on our course up the Thames with the wind at our backs everything settles down on board. Sue shot some fantastic photo’s of the Sea coming over the bow showering the deck with spray sometime up to the wheelhouse – WOW.
Arrived back at the Cory Barge mooring at Galleons Reach early evening tired. The girls had been busy cooking a great hot meal on route so we eat and faded to bed, light out. Long Day.
2nd August, 2005.
Breakfast in the wheelhouse, this is becoming a habit. We slipped our mooring heading up river on the incoming tide passing Greenwich and on through the pool of London for Chiswick. Reached Hammersmith Bridge passing under with a metre to spare (this is the lowest bridge on the river and still gives me the heebies).
Arrived Chiswick Pier slightly early so moored on the main pontoon to wait the turn of the tide to slip into our mooring. Job done all secure engine off. We are home again.
Shuffled Martin and Sue off as they had to drive back to Robin, we stow all the kit and went to bed.
Another Swale Match over and for the first time home with some sliver – what a result.