As we approached North Foreland the sky darkened under a bank of heavy cloud and the promised deterioration soon arrived with a freshening wind from just west of south and the onset of rain. Not much fancying a dead plug to windward down to Dover in these conditions and with some hours until the tide would turn fair we revised the plan and made into Ramsgate instead.
I’ve always liked Ramsgate, a port of call from my earliest sailing days, but the berth in the tidal harbour is not a comfortable one with any weight of onshore weather from north through east even as far round as south west, and the boat rolled and the lines creaked and groaned during three days of frequently strong conditions from the latter quarter.
25. Ipswich to Ramsgate, 20th June
Shipping forecast: 20th June, 05.20: Thames, Dover: variable 4 becoming SW 5 to 7; rain later; good becoming moderate or poor.
This next leg, across the Thames Estuary with its extensive and dangerous sand banks, requires careful planning and reasonable weather. The East Coast pilot warns that the sand is hard as rock. Unless taking the long route right round outside the banks, transit must be made through shallow gats within them, and this should be in sea conditions no worse than moderate and obviously with sufficient rise of tide.
The plan was to make this the final leg, finishing at Dover, but as on a number of previous occasions, it was a matter of completing the passage before bad weather once again set in. Strong winds from the south west, accompanied by rain and poor visibility, were forecast to arrive by early evening on the 20th following a brief window of settled conditions.
We sailed from Ipswich at 09.15 this giving us the best run of fair tide over the period of the passage and sufficient depth by the time we reached the shallows en route . Winds were light and with an eye to the clock, the tide (waits for no man!) and the approaching bad weather, we cracked on under power, though, as on previous days in light conditions, with periodic attempts at sailing soon abandoned through slowness of progress.
The route chosen was southeast between the Cork and Gunfleet sands, across the Sunk Sand in the vicinity of Barrow No 2 port hand buoy and Long sand via Foulgars Gat, the latter already now becoming obstructed by work on a new wind farm.
The Royal Harbour of Ramsgate has been much developed over the years and yachts now berth in the newest area of pontoons on the west side of the tidal harbour. The large drying area of the East Bank however, seen on the right of the picture, remains in place to catch the unwary and skippers should be careful also of the drying bank off the East Pier obstructing the starboard side in the entrance.