Saturday 3rd August finds me on a train to Plymouth, with a dream forecast for the days ahead, to join Tom and Daisy in bringing Cherubino back to her home port. Plymouth Haven marina, which won the prize of best marina showers of the entire trip (they even had a bath!) had requested that we leave by Sunday as they were hosting the Fastnet race fleet who’d started on Saturday. They’d have a fairly long wait though as even the biggest boats were all still on their way out to the rock on Sunday morning, a pretty impressive sight on AIS.
Purple blobs are sailing yachts!
This is the 40th anniversary of the tragic 1979 Fastnet, in which many sailors drowned and several boats were lost completely. As a 9 year old I was taken to the memorial service held in London for those lost. I remember so clearly, when we sang Eternal Father Strong to Save, it felt like the roof would lift off and then the walls crumble. This year’s fleet should have had a much more forgiving race.
We left the racing boats behind and continued west through drizzle and fog with occasional glimpses of white cliffs of Sussex. Once at Royal Sovereign the weather started to lift and we picked up the ‘magic carpet’. If you time it right you can get fair tides of up to 4 knots and hold it all the way to Dover, then round the corner the tide sweeps you into the North Sea and right up the River Orwell.
We made astonishingly fast progress. We hardly had time to savour our last hours on passage and it was far busier than we were used to. Sluicing through Dover at 10 knots whilst dodging three ferries coming in and out of Dover doing
20 knots required plenty of attention. The navigation in the Thames estuary is more intricate than mid Atlantic, with sand banks, wind farms and shipping all to be avoided. Saturday evening had us fetching up outside the Goodwin sands with the sun setting in to the sea, which isn’t a sight you expect on the East coast.
Keeping a careful eye on those ferries
We arrived just off Felixstowe at around 11pm and because Tom is very familiar with those waters, we made our entry in the dark. It’s really hard to pick up the navigation lights with the bright lights of Felixstowe dock in the background and we had a container ship and the Stena Hollandica ferry to dodge. Finally with Daisy on the foredeck with a powerful torch we found the safe water mark buoy at the entrance to Levington marina, then we crept in between the posts, Daisy’s torch swinging side to side to illuminate them and all breathed in as we squeezed into the inside berth where Cherubino set off from last October. Then we breathed out and had a glass of wine!
Cherubino leaving Levington on 14 October 2018. Those boats in the background were still in the same place on our return. Had they moved at all during our nearly 10,000 mile odyssey?!