Thursday, 30 May 2019

A blustery sail to Brighton

We woke to a day with a blustery SW wind, but thought that with a bit of help from the tide it would do to get us round Beachy Head.  We locked out of Sovereign Harbour and had a rather wet close-hauled sail past the white cliffs of Beachy and the Seven Sisters to Brighton marina.  As we were approaching the marina the wind strengthened and bought a persistent rain shower which was unhelpful when trying to negotiate a difficult entrance.  However we eventually tied up to a pontoon conspicuously marked 'No Mooring' and it seemed it would be alright for us to stay here, at least for a while. 

As always there are a wide range of interesting boats at Brighton, and in particular there are three Dunkirk 'Little Ships'.  All look very well cared for and in absolutely immaculate condition.  It's good to see old wooden boats being so well looked after.  The Little Ships that took part in the evacuation of the troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 - mostly small motor cruisers- are entitled to fly the St Georges cross flag with the arms of Dunkirk in the centre.

                                                            A perfect 'little ship'

To escape the persistent driving rain we took the bus to Brighton, and after a quick look round without spending any money we returned to the marina for supper in a French restaurant.  We were served by an attentive waitress who had a reasonably convincing French accent but who turned out to have come from Romania.

As always our plans for tomorrow depend on the weather; but if necessary there is still plenty to explore in Brighton.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019


The SW winds had set in and Ant had run out of time, so I left Bonita in Dover for a couple of days.  I returned on Monday with Chris and Nic who made up a very experienced crew.  Among other things, Nic has sailed in Bristol Channel Pilot cutters, and Chris has sailed round Cape Horn in a square rigger.  I we hoping therefore that Bonita would be on her best behaviour (as she usually is).

We left Dover at the beginning of the west-going tide and had a fine close reach as far as Dungeness.  We then had a mixture of calms, head winds and rain squalls but nevertheless we managed to get to Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne in time before the restaurants closed. 

The harbour is a little way out of town and when we last visited  there was not much here apart from the prospect of a long walk into Eastbourne. There has since been a lot of building and as well as plenty of flats there is also a fine choice of places offering refreshment. However with our excellent all-weather crew we hope to be able to resist these temptations and move on tomorrow.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Dover Day 2

Today Bonita, Ant and I are still in Dover. Though we woke to a nice breeze from WNW, all the forecasts said this would shift round to the SW and strengthen when we were still some miles away from any harbour and by which time the tide would have turned against us.  Deciding not to sail with an unsatisfactory forecast is sometimes a very difficult decision. Dad used to say that he got much more sailing in - and more exciting too - in the days before the shipping forecasts.

However we decided to stay and explore Dover.  We visited Dover castle where they are running exhibitions on the castles role in the Second World War.  We spoke to several people dressed up as wartime servicemen and civilians and they all seemed very knowledgeable about life then.  It being a holiday weekend there were lots of people visiting the castle, with a Spitfire patrolling over the white cliffs of Dover to add to the occasion.  I sometimes wonder if all this sanitised nostalgia for a war that happened a long ago is quite healthy.  However it made for an interesting day ashore and maybe more relaxing than sailing against increasing wind and tide in open water.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Dover Harbour

This year we hope to cruise to the West Country, although this will have to be fitted in around a number of other commitments. 

With Ant as crew we left our mooring on the Swale at high water today - around 4.40am. The compensation for this early start was watching the sun rising above a clear horizon. It was a day of light winds but we were able to carry a fair tide all the way to Dover. Entering Dover amidst all the ferry traffic is always interesting as usual there is a lot going on in the harbour and the town.

We saw several 'Border Security' boats that patrol the Channel to discourage illegal immigrants in small boats. Despite any concerns over Brexit the harbour is certainly busy. There is a constant stream of ferries, lorries, cars and coaches using the port and no doubt a fair number of migrants both legal and illegal. There is little sign of Brexit uncertainty in the Eastern end of the harbour where there is major redevelopment in progress, much of it  funded by the EU with the aim of improving communication between EU countries. This development will include a new and larger yacht harbour so many more yachtsmen will be able to enjoy tackling the turbulent tides sweeping past the entrance to the harbour.

We had a more relaxed afternoon after such an early start, and climbed the famous White Cliffs to enjoy this panoramic view of a huge harbour: