London to the ruins of Ramsgate
St Katharines Dock, London
In all we stayed in St Katharines Dock, London for eleven days although it seemed like far longer with everything we fitted in. We really would like to name all those old friends we saw in Chesham and on our boat but there are many. I would however like to say a special thank you to the De-Souza’s who kindly put us up for the night (or is that put up with us) in their caravan. As Sea Gypsies we felt right at home and I don’t apologise about the missing lead from the church roof. Michelle cooks a mean breakfast and the family are excellent company.
London was, well London. Expensive, crowded, and busy but it is still easy to get intoxicated on the atmosphere.
Cygnus in St Katherines Dock
When we first arrived we could not believe how people constantly rushed around seeming to have no time for each other. A smile and good day from us would bring a grunt or puzzled look as they choked over their Starbucks early morning fix. This changed petty quickly when a near neighbour in the marina (Paddy on Conachair) stopped by to say hello. This was followed by a drink then another and another until it was all gone. Well at least by then the Dickens pub was open so we had to adjourn to there.
Paddy would you believe is Irish and totally understated. He has crossed the Atlantic twice single-handed and spent four years living around Brazil and the Caribbean. If you ask him about it he will tell you he just followed someone else or it seemed like a good idea. Any other sailor will tell you what he has done takes a special person, especially alone in a 33 ft. boat. Paddy also recounted the time when as an Olympic cigarette smoker he decided to quit. He believed the best time was coming back from Antigua to the UK, a journey of several thousand miles. Once under way he took out his last cigarette and got a tot of whisky, determined to enjoy the moment. As he lit up for one last time a wave crashed over the boat soaking everything and killed the celebration. Paddy became a good friend to us all and we have a lot of respect for him.
In St Katharines Dock
We expanded our vocabulary in London by adding the word “Gongoozlers”. These are the people, usually “land lubbers” who just stare at everything you do. Cleaning the boat becomes akin to feeding time at the zoo and getting the sails out to check them becomes a frenzy of people fighting for the best spot to watch. Because of the walkway next to Cygnus we were totally at their mercy and were Gongoozled at every opportunity.
Leaving London to go up the Thames
Cygnus III and Tower Bridge
We departed the lock in London on Sunday 26th June 2011 and motored in glorious sunshine up a deserted Thames the 33 miles to the Medway and Queensborough, where we picked up a buoy and had a peaceful night’s sleep.
The following morning we left for Ramsgate. The wind was pretty much on the nose as they say so we could not do a great deal of sailing between the mud banks and wind farms of the Thames estuary round North Foreland.
London to Ramsgate
We got into Ramsgate harbour at low tide which leaves very little room for manoeuvre in the shallow entrance. Cygnus’s motley bunch is now learning to become a crew and in unison we are beginning to work together and understand what is needed without asking. I the designated skipper feel proud when this happens and we bring her in with the minimum of fuss.
Ramsgate Kent, has a wonderful harbour and old Victorian type town perched along the sea-shore. From a distance and in the evening when it is all lit up it beckons you. Do not be fooled! Keep that distance between you and the town. I am sure it was once a wonderful place and between the off licences, fish and chip and charity shops there just might be somewhere quaint and nice. It is just that we haven’t found it yet. The shops reflect the people of the town, although to be fair we may have come at a bad time. It is as if every approved school in Essex is having a week here on crack. You do not fit in without tattoos, a baby in tow, being able to whisper at 150 decibels and curse with the best of them. Angelina has asked me to add that the above is my opinion and not hers but then again she can always see a rainbow on the darkest of days.
Tomorrow we are looking to make an early start and head for Eastbourne, some ten hours sail away through the Dover straits. Before we go we will check Cygnus over and make sure that the locals of Ramsgate town have not been down, stripped Cygnus III and left her on bricks!