“Marilyn, do you fancy sailing this weekend?”
“Well it’s the race to Erith YC this weekend”
“Do you think we could do that in Morning Song?”
And so the nerves set in, the furthest I had taken Morning Song, a Hunter Horizon 26’ twin keel, before was a trip out to Southend, with my able Father as Crew, Roger Best (just in case you didn’t know). I’m quite happy to potter around The Medway, sometimes sailing, sometimes motoring, generally she is my floating escape!
I decided that I should complete a passage plan. Firstly I purchased a chart for the area as unlike some larger vessels….CoCo…I have no chartplotter. I sat on board for some hours listing all the marks and course to steer along with the return plan. I published this fact on face book and was given some useful hints like ‘just keep the land to the left.’
And so the weekend came. Saturday 1st June 2013. On board with my able crew Marilyn Stewart. I was all for setting straight off to get a head start, but was instructed by a seasoned racer that I must complete the start line. So we made our way to the start line, my stomach was in a knot, all jostling for a good position and with Marilyn’s instruction we got a good one! 1100hrs we were off and very quickly overtaken by just about all the fleet. Well Morning Song is only little. I was worried that we would not make it to Garrison by low water but in less than two hours we were at Grain Edge.
We were sailing well, enjoying our packed lunch and sensibly not consuming alcohol, we were saving that for later. On approaching a North Cardinal by Cliffe I was being followed by a larger yacht, also from the club and could not work out why he was not overtaking me, but then realised he was studying his chart in the cockpit. I found out later they had not completed a passage plan and were relying on me to show them the way!
On approaching Gravesend a rather large container ship was looming up behind us complete with two tugs. I heard on VTS him stating that two yachts were in his way. I am fully aware of the need to keep to starboard on The Thames and had gone far enough over, so as to not lose the wind in my sails from the moored ships and piers. He gave me one hoot stating he was going to starboard, I assumed to moor alongside, so I decided the best course of action would be to move to port to allow him to go underneath me, I moved out to the middle of the river, with that the PLA Harbour Master arrived in his launch, shouted at me to keep to Starboard, to which I shouted back “I DO KNOW THE RULES.” He ushered me back across in front of the VERY large container ship, who hooted at me again. I lifted my hands at the harbour master in dismay. I think at that point he realised his error. Now forced up against a pier with no wind in my sails, a humble harbour master approached me, enquiring about my journey and being ever so polite!!!
So we had to wait then for the container ship to dock at Tilbury and the only way was to turn 180 degrees and stem the tide!
On we went, with a worried phone call from our organiser just to check on our welfare. We had a lovely calm sail up to Erith and crossed the finish line at 1810hrs. Total of 37.9nm and max SOG of 7knts.
We cracked open a bottle of well-deserved bubbly and went ashore for a lovely meal, and a few more beverages. Not to mention the lovely bottle of wine we won for the race. I felt like I was walking on air with the achievement but it may have been cider. Eventually we were thrown out and had to walk down the muddy slipway for the last trot boat, we had great intentions of going ashore in the morning for a good fry up.
Well the morning came far too soon and with groggy heads we realised we were too late for breakfast. Again I would have been happy to just go but there was a start line to be done! 1000hrs we set off with a start sequence courtesy of Erith YC.
We started off with wind 3-4 and recorded a massive 8.4knts SOG by Greenhithe with one reef in the main. That must be a record for Morning Song. The wind there on decreased to 2-3 so aware of the need to keep with the tide, I put the engine on and we motor sailed right round into The Medway, from there we had a lovely sail and crossed the finish at MYC 1658hrs 35.9nm.
A truly fantastic weekend. This would not have been achieved without the excellent sailing abilities of Marilyn Stewart, and all those of the cruiser class committee.