But back to the last week or so and our passage from Ipswich to Brighton. I returned to Capraia in Ipswich a week ago last Sunday without a crew, but with strong winds and the daunting prospect of negotiating the Thames Estuary with its array of sand banks, shipping and turbines single-handed. Keen to leave the marina we headed down the River Orwell to Felixstowe then up the River Stour to Wrabness to await quieter weather and perhaps a ship-mate. This was a relatively short but highly energetic and exciting sail involved putting in one and then a second reef with the wind gusting F6 as we tacked past container ships in Felixstowe Docks willing Capraia to stay on course as the skipper/crew pulled and heaved to reduce sail!
Wrabness is a small, secluded boating and beach hut resort opposite the imposing buildings of the Royal Hospital School. Founded in 1712 as part of Greenich Hospital, it became Britain's largest school of navigation and seamanship. In 1933 the school moved to its present location and maintains its maritime heritage providing bursaries to children and grandchildren of seafaring families as well as giving pupils the opportunity to attend their Sailing Academy.
Happy on our mooring at Wrabness there was a chance to explore ashore and walk along the rows of beach huts that characterise this river bank.
The village of Wrabness is a short walk inland with its community run village shop, railway station and church, the oldest building in the village. The bell tower of All Saints' Church, which dates from around 1100, collapsed in the seventeenth century, and the bell was moved temporarily to a wooden bell cage in the church yard. The bell cage remains to this day!
Despite throwing the net for potential crew far and wide there is no response and as the wind abates and other gaffers leave the river it is time for us to head South again. Plans to visit Brightlingsea, Maldon and Burnham will have to be put on hold for another visit.
Up and away at first light for our 12 hour passage, we motor down the channel and eastwards into the wind to take the safer, outside route across the Thames Estuary. Once past the northern end of Cork Sands we turn southeast and are able to sail. Event free apart from a strange visitor who must have been attracted by the smell of the sun cream!
We past well clear of two huge wind farms, which appear ghost-like out of the haze when the sun-reflecting blades first show over the horizon. One can't help wonder about the cost effectiveness of these ugly invaders offering only a meager contribution to our National Grid.
Capraia was one of the first to arrive in Ramsgate's Inner Harbour but over the next few days others arrived to join in the weekend's socializing and exploring. We are joined by our next crew, James, who will help us get to Brighton. Before that though there is a brisk walk along the coast to Broadstairs, Charles Dickens' favourite seaside resort; a visit to the Maritime Museum to learn about Ramsgate's heroic role in the evacuation of Dunkirk and a visit to the Sailors' Church which looked after the young apprentices, known as Smack Boys, off the sailing smacks when they were ashore. The Church also provided food, clothing and shelter for the hundreds of sailors rescued from their wrecked ships on the nearby Goodwin Sands.
Ramsgate has the only Royal Harbour in the Country, so named at the request of George IV in recognition of the hospitality the town had bestowed upon him. We can certainly say that Ramsgates hospitality lives on as we were invited to an informal reception with the Queen's Representative, the Lord Lieutenant!
The Round Britain gaffers huddle together in the Inner Harbour; Bonita, Toucando, High Barbaree, Moon River, Capraia and Witch in the foreground.
At 3.00am on Tuesday we set off with several others, successfully negotiating Goodwin Sands in the dark, and the ferry traffic at Dover just after dawn.
Witch and Transcur make the passage even more interesting!
Around Beachy Heasd on a favourable tide and onto Brighton Marina.
We will wait in Brighton until the weekend to visit family in London and welcome new crew on Saturday. Thanks James for joining Capraia on this short leg - not much sailing but great fun!