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Date: 17 Jul 2009 10:01:00
Title: Eastbourne home


50:51.84N 1:15.64E

10.00 17th July

Amy arrived on schedule and the first mate excelled himself with a fine
dinner while we caught up with each others news but the next morning we were
harbour bound with strong winds. We were not alone, there were plenty of
boats waiting to head west , the majority of them from Holland and Belgium.
We used the opportunity for a bracing walk in to Eastbourne. None of us had
visited before and found ourselves thinking it may be some time before we
were back, except for an excellent fish shop on the beach that produced crab
claws and gurnard fillets for a fine supper.

We did not need a very early start because of the tide but we awoke to find
every berth around us empty - those westward bound had beaten us away. In
contrast to yesterday it was a fine sunny morning with only a gentle breeze
so it was motor sailing for us. On past the ugly power station at Dungeness
the weather was still fine and sunny with little wind but the forecast was
promising much more for the night together with thunder and rain. Amy takes
up the account ....

I thought it only fitting to join Dad for the last days of his voyage to
ensure that he was delivered home, safe and sound and in one piece. You see,
they DO say that things are likely to go wrong closest to home AND when you’re
least expecting them…..

With that idea furthest from my mind and with a few days off from work, I
decided to joined Dad and Uncle Richard on this final passage and trained it
down to Eastbourne (funny old place, won’t be rushing back there any time
soon!) on Tuesday evening to be greeted by a Beef Strog feast and a glass of
red wine….they know me so well! A windy day had been forecasted for
Wednesday so the plan was to spend another day in ‘Retirement on Sea’ and
then continue to Ramsgate and beyond on Thursday. Well, after a late
breakfast, lazy morning reading the papers, long walk along the beach and a
delicious supper that evening of fresh crab claws followed by pan-fried
Gurnard a-la Uncle Richard we were tucked up in bed at a reasonable hour
ready for our onward journey early the following morning.

Thursday turned out to be a glorious day and we all lazed around in the
sunshine reading our books, stopping only to peek out of the cockpit
occasionally to look for passing ships. By then the forecast was showing
rain on its way in the early hours of Friday morning, so we made a group
decision to press on through the evening all the way to our final
destination so that we would be tucked up and safe to avoid any bad weather.

After another delicious feast I took to my bunk for an after dinner snooze,
only to be woken at night fall by what looked like flashing lights in the
cockpit. I popped my head up to see Richard bathed in light from a flash
from the electrical storm which appeared to be all around us. Dad piped up
“I think rain is going to be here sooner that we thought!” Well that couldn’t
have been more of an understatement! Not more than half an hour later, after
bringing the sails in, we were all wet weather geared-up within an inch of
our lives with water drip, dripping from our hoods onto our noses. As we
watched to see even more rain heading our way on the radar, we peered out
into sheet rain which was preventing us from being able to see the marker
buoys, we so desperately needed to guide us in. This, on top of the fact
that it was low tide across the Thames Estuary and up to Harwich, with only
a mere few feet under the keel made it even more nerve-racking. Oh and did I
mention that there was fork lightening all around us, a really big swell and
pitch black!

Well it wouldn’t have been right if Dad’s final voyage home lacked drama and
adventure, I mean he hadn’t sailed around the world for nothing! So after
trying the skills and expertise of the less experience Goldsmiths in the
crew, navigating our way up through a narrow channel with sand banks popping
up all around us, dealing with a sudden squall and steering near blind
through boats on their moorings, we were eventually moored up ourselves and
able to rest easy for the night as the wind whistled through the rigging. We
toasted a safe arrival and Dad’s birthday at 2.00 am on Friday 17th July
with a dram of whisky. HE HAD MADE IT and was only a mere few miles from
Wivenhoe.

The following day, Richard and I got back on the train to London after a
leisurely birthday lunch (washed down with a bottle of prosecco!) and Dad
said goodbye to St Barbara and his 6 year adventure, and headed home.

And Richard's account ....The final passage to bring St Barbara back to
Essex was a day of extremes. We woke to find almost all the foreign boats
had left earlier, presumably to go West. We motor sailed initially against
and then with the tide. Numerous foreign boats were sailing West. The sun
shone and the winds were light to moderate, sea state slight. In these
conditions, at Ramsgate a unanimous decision was made to press onto Essex.
Forecasts had suggested we would arrive before bad weather from the south,
and otherwise there was the prospect of strong winds on Friday. Halfway
across the Thames estuary, we could see dark clouds and lightening
approaching from the southwest. It was clear that it would arrive earlier
than forecast and it did. As darkness came, so did lightening, thunder and
rain in equal measures. We approached Harwich in torrential rain, lightening
overhead and shallow water with poor visibility. The choices were to anchor
above Felixstowe and move south in the morning or attempt to enter the
shallow inlet leading to Titchmarsh marina. We chose the second option which
was successful though a little stressful. The prize was to pick up a
suitable and secure mooring close to the marina, as the wind rose. It was
now well into the 17th July so drinks were poured and a toast made to the
skipper’s birthday. Morning found us in sunshine but with strong breeze. A
delicious breakfast from the second mate restored our strength and we were
off to the marina for a pontoon birth. A quick tidy of the boat and a
delicious lunch with bubbly, again from the second mate completed our
rehabilitation. St Barbara had returned to Essex! With its skipper! Thanks
are offered to the skipper for getting us there safely and on his birthday.

No more to be said except to say a big thank you to the crew who were
marvellous in the face of adversity. Richard put it succinctly when he said
he had been outside his comfort zone and that also, I am sure, applied to
the rest of the crew. At least it gives us something to talk about when
recounting our sea stories!




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