A late entry!
From our home mooring in Barking Creek, we joined the Thames River to be swept toward the sea on the outgoing tide. The day was nothing to write home about with an overcast sky and a wind gusting from the North. At least we were warm and cosy in the wheelhouse tucking into our second round of Carolines’ wicked bacon butties arriving up from the galley accompanied by a big mug of hot tea.
As with most of our outings we have extra crew. Sharing the ship seems to add to the fun and this time it was no exception. We again invited Katherine onboard. She had recently passed her French Canals proficiency certificate and bought along her GPS to get in some “real-time” chart practise. Traveling this part of the Thames is very much a bouy hopping excercise though it is always good insurance should a sea fog rolls in.
Katherine never needs her arm twisting to join the ship, she is good fun and enjoys ship life, besides this special weekend with the Kentish Sailing Associations Race would be her first of hopefully many especially when she owns her own barge.
Never requiring an excuse to “go sailing” in VRIJHEID, though an excuse is better than none, we decided to join the Kentish gang again this year to return the cup we won the previous year as the best turned out traditional vessel. (Thanks guys, the hours of painting and care suddenly becomes worth it)
Seven and a half hours later with anchor holding, engine off and the first of the day in hand we sat in the wheelhouse to enjoy the peace and tranquillity that the Swale always delivers. We decided to moor in the lea of the Isle of Sheppey directly off shore of the Harty Ferry PH to hide from the Northerly. All change, lower the dinghy and off to Hollwshore up the Faversham Creek to the skipper meeting for 1730hrs.
Saturday arrived with a beautiful sunrise, clear skies, little wind and the sound of distant voices the crews busying themselves on deck preparing for the race day. Over breakfast we could hear the sweet sound of the anchor winches in operation inviting the cameras out to start snapping. It still chokes me up to see these majestic vessels being helmed by skippers who can control a vessel from anchor without using the engine, WOW.
We put in to join other crews on the day but only one boat arrived and Caroline “jumped ship” to sail with a well restored classic sail boat for the day. Katherine and I decided after the fleet had gone we had missed our sail so Vrijheid joined the fleet. The light aires proved ideal for the old gaffers encouraging as must sail the locker could offer to be hoisted. On the home leg even the aft dinghy davit was loosened to catch extra puff..
Back to our anchorage we waited for Caroline to return, showered and changed, into the dinghy and off to the prize-giving and party again at Hollowshore. What a day. It just gets better every year especially after a few pints of Shepherd Neame (generous sponsors of the day). Prize-giving over and with fading light the band set the tone for the next faze of the evening. We decided with an early start in the morning we should depart so made our way back to the ship for an early night.
0530am, engine warmed up and we were off up the Swale to catch as much of the incoming tide as possible. We had to be in the Creek at 1130hrs or miss locking through the barrage. Punching the tide for the last 10 mile made us 30minutes late though we did get in – just.
To all our friends, to all the crews a BIG thank you for the invite, it remains a very special event in our yearly calendar onboard Dutch barge VRIJHEID.