Cruise in Company- Chatham 26 Jun 2019
RCYC Cruiser Fleet
Cruise in Company to Chatham
21st, 22nd and 23rd June2019
At 0715 hrs Friday morning ‘Zelda’ (Chris Nolan) and ‘Tamarisk’ (James Napier) left the Club pontoon (see photo above) and took the last of the ebb motor-sailing in a light WSW wind. Progressing through the Whitaker Channel, taking Inner Whitaker and Maplin Approach buoys to Starboard and turning South, the wind direction unkindly denied us the fetch we were hoping for and so motor-sailing with low revs became the norm for the rest of the journey.
Middle Deep, West Swin and The Warp took us into a busy River Thames. The flood, now in full force London bound, reduced the number of tacks necessary to make the entrance to the River Medway. However, finding a gap in the deceptively fast moving ships to enable us to cross to the south involved some more manoeuvres.
At the entrance to the Medway, the eerie superstructure of the ammunition ship ‘Richard Montgomery’ sends a chill down the spine as we and some of the largest ships in the world pass within a few hundred yards of the wreck.
An error by those on Southend Pier charged with such responsibilities told the ship to anchor in a place incompatible with its draft and on a spring tide on the night of 20th August 1944 it became stranded on the Sheerness Middle Sand. The brave crew of a Tugboat from Chatham (our destination) and Dockers in Lighters removed over half of the 8,687 tons of bombs and detonators in an attempt to refloat her. Being an ‘American Liberty Ship’, built in five days with welded seams instead of rivets, she soon broke her back making a rather loud crack and the rescue attempt was aborted. After the war, many ship wrecks were cleared from our coastline but this was thought to be best left alone. As can be seen in Chris Nolan’s superb photograph of the wreck, James sails ‘Tamarisk’ to the north of the wreck while we pass to the south.
‘Tamarisk’ is a 29’ timber yacht built in 1961 by Percy See of Faversham to a design by Fred Parker for one Mr Elliott. Mr Elliott had two sons, John and Chris, one of whom resides in America and the other sails a Westerley in the Medway. John and Chris visited James and Corinna on board ‘Tamarisk’ during her restoration in the RCYC Keelboat Park, sharing memories of what was in the sixties, their family yacht and giving their seal of approval to the thorough restoration. As we gently sailed up the River Medway, a Westerley came along side ‘Tamarisk’ to fulfil a pre-arranged rendezvous and the Elliott family now have some up to date photographs of ‘Tamarisk’ sailing. Only wooden boats sustain this much passion.
As the Medway winds into the Kent countryside, there are many interesting historic buildings, forts etc and indeed the entrance to Chatham Marina is opposite Upnor Castle which sits at the waterside amongst the trees. Entry into Chatham Marina is easy in slack tide but could get interesting if a tide is running across the narrow entrance. The journey from Burnham had taken eight hours.
Saturday at the Historic Dockyard: Again referring to Chris Nolan’s superb photographs we see the last submarine to be built in Chatham and other ships that can be inspected inside and out by visitors to the Historic Dockyard. It actually takes a full day to experience the entire site thoroughly and so alas to the writer’s absolute distress there was insufficient time to do the ‘Call the Mid-wife’ tour.
The magic of timber boats struck again in the marina as James recognised the Fred Parker scroll in the cavita line of a stately ketch rigged motor-sailer the owners of which were on board and new friends were added to the timber yacht network.
As luck would have it there is a distillery within one hundred yards of the marina and so it took but a few seconds to debate where to meet for Saturday’s pre-dinner drinks. Inspection of local restaurants persuaded us that the Italian enjoyed the evening before could not be improved upon.
The obvious discomfort of an 0500 hrs start was mitigated by the superb scenery as the sun rose (see photographs) to welcome us to the new day which in true cruising tradition brought with it a 180 degree wind shift to ESE F3-4 requiring the same difficult beat that brought us to Chatham and an awkward dead run into Burnham.
The journey home was scheduled to take nine hours, one hour longer because of the reduced time spent in favourable tides heading up the coast. It actually took us ten and a half hours due mainly to enjoying the beat up the coast and as a result only employing the motor after the tide had turned against us. Both boats that had cruised within sight of each other for the entirety of both journeys tied simultaneously to the RCYC pontoon at 1530 hrs on Sunday.
‘Zelda’ – Westerley Fulmar – Chris Nolan, Steve & Katherine Barham
‘Tamarisk’ – 29’ wooden sloop – James Napier and Corinna Gardner
Cruiser Fleet Captain
25th June 2019