Bottoms Up


Vrijheid resting at her residential mooring, Gravesend, Kent.

Vrijheid resting at her residential mooring, Gravesend, Kent.

Possibly one of the most unsettling experiences a ship-owner repeatedly self inflicts is the act of which can, in a single stroke, rip the lining out of both trouser pockets, after of course eating all your hard earnt savings! Probably action landlubbers would understandably judge as highly irrational behaviour. We repeat this self infliction every four years.  What is this act of so called irrational behaviour? Instruct a marine surveyor to report your ship as having a clean bill of health. The Ship Survey Report.

An out of water survey is more extensive and expensive, as it should be. On this occasion however for the first time it will include grit blasting to a standard height above the wind waterline, application of a two pack anti-foul, probably new anodes all round and the hope upon hope to avoid the budget busting expenditure of double plating. We decided to stay local this time and elected to, after our surveyors strong recommendation, opt for the dry dock services of  The Port Medway Marina in KENT, UK.

Both David and Neil (David’s son) run a most professional yard and at reasonable prices. The quality, care and attention paid to grit blasting old hulls reached highly recommended status with our surveyor John Heath – FIIMS who complete our previous survey. During our visit we found clean well organised amenities to include the usual ablutions of shower and toilets with gated access to ample car parking space and all within a short walking distance of the moorings.

The moorings themselves are arranged in an orderly fashion following the natural bend in the river. Clean and well maintained pontoons, offer complimentary water and metered 16A electrics, all within easy reach of our allocated mooring on the holding pontoon. The pleasant surprise however was a smart multi-machine self-service laundromat on site (No washing of wraps please!). We can now better appreciate why the yard came so highly recommended by our surveyor. It was more than just the high standard of workmanship, but the offering overall. Well it ticks all of our boxes, so far.

We were warmly welcomed by Neil and David, quickly gaining confidence that their workmanship was as claimed and then further confirmed after we were invited into the dry dock to view a vessel currently progressing through the stages of which we were intending (to be honest as “strongly” recommended by the surveyor on the last out of water survey) to inflict on our now aging ladies nether regions. It became self evident Neil was proud of the care and attention he and his staff pay to working with “old steel”, especially the riveted kind. This was refreshing as we have encountered nothing but disappointment with the somewhat complacent and somtimes downright rude attitude we experienced when approached other yards over the telephone earlier.

Time and tide wait for no man as the saying goes and so the planning for our journey from Gravesend was to be no exception. Finding the better weather and tide window of convenience for leaving our home mooring along with our destination arrival in readiness for dry docking were the three ducks in line success to set a sailing date for Saturday 17th August.

What a great send off from The Embankment Marina, Gravesend. Chris and Sharon (marina owners) were there to provide support, Andy (marina manager) opened the gates and with the assistance of some of the local boat owners with Keith ( taking control of proceeding by roping us into the lock (most controlled method in tight spaces)by  easing us through the fully open lock gates until the walk bridge was opened.

Saying last good byes and thanks for the help and send off, engine up to temperature and the clock showing 0905hrs with all crew (Caroline – 1st mate, Keith, local boat owner) on-board we set sail for the Medway River with an hour’s jump on the tide (prediction 1040hrs).

The weather forecast was for Southerlies to South-Westerly’s 4 or 5 increasing to 6, with a sea state of smooth building as the day proceeded to slight to moderate, best we crack on then to bet the inbound weather.

Settling into the passage, aided by Caroline’s refreshments arriving in a constant supply from the galley, our buoy hopping exercise began in earnest once passing West Blyth, Mid Blyth and by 1105hrs, near as top of the tide, arriving at Sea Reach #5.  All goes well on VRIJHEID with the hourly engine room checks including the stern gland oiler all A-OK.

Sea Reach #7 “arrived” 25 minutes later followed by Mid Swatch, North Swatch and after turning into the Medway No11 (G) we encountered the ebbing tide of the Medway River slowing our of pace considerably.

The weather was holding up well to prediction with the sea state remaining moderate, the sun managing to show itself from time to time, though the wind was freshening giving the waves white caps. The ship’s bow RNLI  flag was now starting to flutter in earnest, but as the wind was on our bow we comfortably pushed on.

Bacon sandwiches, more tea, tray of pork pies and of course great banter made time pass more quickly and with North Kent and Victoria buoys now behind us it was decided a mixture of pushing the tide and VRIJHEID’s dirty bottom was starting its toll on our slow progress. The buoy counting became more of a long winded affair.

By 1513hrs we said goodbye to 31 (G) passing Chatham Historical Dockyards and soon to face Rochester Bridge just around the next bend. Our depth sounder was now showing the low teens and falling.

Rochester Bridge cleared a Keith and Caroline fought with the anchor winch as the helmsman (moi) did his best to reduce the pressure by edging forward under power. Huffing and puffing from the bow over and anchor secured, we gingerly edged forward under the M2 road and rail bridges to be met dead ahead by a welcoming site, the pontoons of Port Medway Marina.nd now nearing Stroud Cruising Club we ran out of water. No choice but to drop anchor, use the waiting time enjoy more of Caroline’s refreshments and wait for the start of the flood. What was that about tide waits for no man?

Moored, engine off and all secure by 1830hrs it was agreed to have been a beautiful day of great company, lots to see and talk about but the suggestion of a roast dinner overshadowed all else so made a beeline for a local public house to Gravesend then afterward drop Keith back at the Embankment Marina.  Return to the ship, double check lines, thence to bed in the satisfaction a mission accomplished.

Vrijheid at Cuxton
Vrijheid awaiting entry to dry dock 17.08.2013