DAY 20 – Monday 9 May 2022 – Sovereign Harbour (Eastbourne) to Dover

Miles logged: 47
Total miles logged: 641
Days since leaving Fleetwood: 20
Days at sea: 14

We enjoyed a relaxed morning on our berths at Sovereign and had a chat with the owner of a beautiful, gleaming, nearly new, very large Jeanneau who had himself done the circumnavigation a couple of years ago. He had used the Caledonian Canal because the weather did not allow a passage via Cape Wrath. Mike and I really want to do a true circumnavigation so I hope very much that the coastal route is open to us by the time we arrive. The plan was always to reach the North of Scotland in mid-June when there is the most daylight and the fewest storms. We are on course for that at the moment.

Sovereign is a superb marina whose sole inconvenience is the fact that entry and exit are locked. There are two locks, allowing one to be open for those wishing to depart to assemble in order to await the next locking (the locks operate every hour and half-hour) and the other for those wishing to enter from sea. We decided to lock out at 1200; this would mean punching a little tide on our way east but it would allow more time to reach Dover in daylight should we be unable to sustain our usual cruising speed of 6.5 kts.

Our lock-out went smoothly and once in the tidal outer harbour we had to negotiate ourselves around the dredger which was working in the channel just outside the locks. Out into the bay it was obvious that, once again, there was little wind to complement the gorgeous warm sunshine. There was a little haze though and it wasn’t long before the visibility of the coast, with its succession of Martello towers, was quite significantly reduced. We raised our sails and they just about filled but it was necessary to motor-sail in order to achieve passage speed. As has been the case on several other legs, a run with limited view of the coast was punctuated by a welcome, very close encounter with a promontory; this time we passed within a cable or two of Dungeness Point. In the limited visibility the first we saw of Dungeness was the outline of the now-closed nuclear power stations. They were very close to the tip of the Point. Closer in I was struck by the scale of the operation that will be required to decommission such a vast nuclear complex. I guess that the work will be contracted to overseas firms; sadly that seems to be how things operate nowadays. 

Pagets Lady passing close in to Dungeness

We went in close but were astonished to see a yacht passing within stone-throwing distance of the shore. There was evidence of a lonely fishing fleet at the tip of Dungeness. It is a remote place and completely exposed to the weather.

After Dungeness we continued on towards Dover. Our next major challenge is to cross the Thames estuary and for this a start from Ramsgate, not Dover, is preferable. We considered making for Ramsgate today but it would have been a long run under engine; by the time we closed in on Dover there was absolutely no wind at all to speed things up.

The immense harbour of Dover – the busiest in the UK – emerged from the mist and appeared from a distance to emerge from sheer chalk cliffs. Further in we could see the large ships inside. Because it is so busy the process by which one secures permission to enter the harbour is a bit of a palaver and two radio contacts are required, one at two miles out and a second at 200m out. We obtained permission and I was chuffed to see the traffic signals at the entrance to our busiest harbour change to green-white-green just for Pagets Lady and Bubble. Once in, it was a fair way and more radioing before we arrived in Granville Dock. In contrast to the scale of the harbour proper, the marina was a haven of calm. We berthed up and settled in for a quiet evening.

Dover Harbour. Approaching the Western Entrance
The ship signals to the left of the Western Entrance confirm our permission to enter Dover Harbour
Following Bubble into Dover Harbour. Note the mill-pond conditions
The route to Granville Dock

I am in contact with Roger Gaspar, the author of the definitive pilot for crossing the Thames estuary, and will discuss his advice with Mike in the morning. We have to decide whether to make for Ramsgate or to try to cross the Thames estuary from here in Dover. We will need to consider the weather for the next few days; if it is to deteriorate then I would prefer to remain in the peace and calm of Dover rather than in Ramsgate, which is known to suffer from swell in certain conditions. 

The two yachts safely berthed in Granville Dock, Dover
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