Swale to Gravesend

We had been monitoring the weather forecasts and it looked as if there were going to be strong winds over the weekend. Tom received an email from the Kentish Sail Association, firstly warning of the possibility that the Swale Barge Match could be cancelled and then another confirming that there would be no match this year. We decided the safest thing was for us to head back upriver, to make sure that we were well inland before the really strong winds arrived. We were able to sail out from our anchorage at Harty Ferry to the end of Sheppey.


We then turned north, but decided we had better motor into the wind to make sure we made use of the tide to get us back to Gravesend, where we planned to anchor for the night. Tom managed to sail a bit further, but then chose to motor around the Montgomery and across the Medway shipping channel.


We had an uneventful trip to Gravesend, but had a bit of trouble finding the right spot to anchor. By the time Steve had lowered the anchor for the third time I felt we had better stay where we were rather than risk a mutiny. In contrast to the trip down we had a restless night and both Tom and I were up in the night checking that we weren’t dragging. In spite of this Tom still had to be up early and left before us to make sure that he made it back to South Dock at a time that he was able to lock in.


Stangate to The Swale

P1010263We raised the anchor at the much more civilised time of 0930 and prepared to sail in company with Tom to the Swale. We motored out of the Medway and raised the sail for the voyage round the top of the Isle of Sheppey, over an area known as the Cant. Once clear of the shipping lane and the Montgomery, the wreck of the WWII ship full of explosives, we raised sail again.


The wind continued to blow south westerly so we were able to sail all the way to the end of Columbine spit, with Tom and Monica in sight ahead of us.

P1010267As the day wore on the wind grew in strength and we made good progress, arriving at the mouth of the Swale at low water ready to take the flood tide in to the anchorage at Harty Ferry.

P1010273As we approached the end of Sheppey we passed the Thames sailing barge Greta with a charter party on board. They won’t have been expecting to see a Humber Keel under sail, but I am sure Greta’s skipper Steve explained who we were. Greta is based in Whitstable and seemed to be motor sailing out, no doubt looking forward to a good sail back.


As we only had Steve with us, who was new to sailing keels, and the wind was getting stronger all the time, we decided not to try tacking in. As we lowered the sail one of the tack chains came loose from the roller and we had a few exciting moments getting the mainsail under control. Eventually we got it made up to the yard and were able to finish motoring in. Heading in to the wind, we were getting spray over the bows that reached as far as the aft deck.

P1010286We dropped the hook closer to the Sheppey bank of the Swale, where the holding is better and within a short distance from the causeway that leads to the Ferry Inn. After making sure the anchor was holding and everything was made secure we launched the inflatable and we all went ashore to eat. I was pleased to be able to find a seat where I could keep an eye on Daybreak whilst we ate. After the meal we introduced Steve to the pleasures of east coast mud as we carried the inflatables down to the water for the trip back to our anchored vessels.



Gravesend to Stangate Creek


We raised the anchor at 0630 and motored down river while I finished rigging out and  prepared to raise sail. It was a fantastic feeling when we hoisted the sail and were able to turn off the engine. We had a fair wind to complete the voyage down the Thames as far as the entrance to the Medway.




We lowered the sail and started the engine to navigate the comparatively narrow entrance to the Medway where there is still a considerable amount of commercial traffic. We motored a short distance up the Medway  before crossing the shipping channel to the entrance of Stangate Creek. In the creek we anchored  and met up with Tom and Monica who had cruised down to anchor there ahead of us. It was Tom’s birthday  so he and Monica came over to Daybreak for the cake that Sally had baked and presents. We all ate together that evening and reminisced about our wonderful day.


Staines to Gravesend

Before setting off we had to get all the rigging on, trying to make sure everything went on in the right place and the right order.WP_20190718_18_15_05_Pro

Having finished getting Daybreak rigged and with plenty of supplies stowed, Sally and I set off from Staines on Saturday 3rd August.  Our departure was delayed slightly by discovering that the leeboard head chain was over the man rail and it took a while to get it all in the right place. The rest of the trip was uneventful, although we had to get used to going through the locks with the leeboards on again. We moored up above the lock at Teddington and continued our preparations before locking through onto the tidal Thames. As Daybreak is our home we always have to make sure everything is stowed securely down below and all the gear is lashed down on deck. Although we were not making a major sea passage, the tidal Thames can get very lively with the effect of ship wash on the shallow waters outside of the main shipping channel.

We had originally planned to stop at the draw dock at Isleworth to clean off the weed that was growing on the hull. However by the time we reached Teddington most of this weed had come off, so we decided to spend an extra day at Teddington. As it turned out there was plenty to do, deploying the anchor over the bow,  installing our chart plotter and installing a new vhf radio. I also fitted the navigation lights in preparation for our early start the following day. On Sunday evening we were joined by Steve and Graham, our crew for the trip down river, and Miranda, Alex and David who joined us for a pub supper.

P1010230We locked through on to the tidal river at 0400 and made our way down to Richmond, where there is a tidal barrier that opens two hours either side of high water.  As it turned out we had to hang around waiting for the barrier to go up and then pass under the raised barrier with the water still dripping off it.P1010232

One advantage of our early start was that there were no trip boats operating in central London, but the river was still busy with the high speed Thames Clippers carrying commuters and other commercial traffic. It was noticeable that the new Thames Tideway sewer project is generating lots of additional working craft movements.

Having had the benefit of the ebb tide for most of the trip we ended up punching the first of the flood tide to reach our chosen anchorage at Higham Bight, just below Gravesend. As we arrived we were greeted by a WWII spitfire flying overhead and doing a loop above us, before it continued on its way heading south.  After lowering the anchor we checked the depth all round with the lead line and made sure we had enough chain out.

After lunch we raised the mast, then lowered it again to sort out the slabline,  and then raised it again and checked everything was in the right place. After our early start and a long day we were all ready to turn in early, especially as we would be leaving at six the following morning.

Getting Ready for Sailing

Before we could go sailing we had to fit the restored leeboards.


We used the main halyard to lift the head of the board into the right position to fit the head chain. Having got the port side board on, the following day we turned the ship around to fit the other board.


After fitting both boards we tried reversing out of our narrow backwater, so we could turn around again. Unfortunately this did not work out as the very low level of the water meant Daybreak was even more difficult than usual to steer going astern.  This meant we had to lower the mast so that we could get  under the footbridge to our island mooring. We then went on a short cruise down river. As we went down river, several neighbours were waving vigorously, thinking we were setting off on a major trip. They were very surprised when we returned only an hour or so later.  Our short cruise was extended by a quick visit to a local riverside bar for a celebratory pint.



Restoring the Leeboards

Before taking Daybreak across to Holland we wanted to make sure everything on the ship was in good order. One job we had been putting off for some years was the removal and restoration of the oak leeboards. They have been on the ship since being rebuilt in Goole in 2003 and although the external face had been regularly maintained, there was a section of the inside face that could not be reached without removing them.  I found much more rot than I expected and have had to cut out large sections and replace them with new timber..

Seasons Greetings


Here we are safely tucked up on our mooring on Church Island, decorated for Christmas.

For Daybreak and her crew this has been a relatively quiet year after returning from our trip up north. We have had a few short cruises on the upper Thames.




Our main sailing in the summer was aboard our son’s boat Kensa, a Heard 28, which is based on the Falmouth workboat. Tom has had to do a lot of work  on Kensa, including replacing the engine and redoing the cockpit, so it was very satisfying to get her sailing again.




We also had a lovely sail on our son in law’s folkboat Valmik, which they keep in Brixham.





Just in case we were in danger of having withdrawal symptoms from  not going in dry dock, Kate had her barge Kleine Aukje hauled out at a yard in Chertsey and the family  set to cleaning and painting the hull.



summerhouseOur other project this year has been working on the floating summerhouse,  which we have constructed at The Orchard. As we plan longer cruises we need somewhere to stay when we return to Staines without Daybreak. The old summerhouse we used for this purpose has flooded badly in recent years, so we decided we needed something that floats. It is securely moored up to piles at the back, so hopefully won’t go drifting off down the river when the island next floods.img_6730

We are now looking forward to next year when we will be taking Daybreak to Holland. As always there are lots of things we want to get done before we set off. We went over to stay with friends in Holland and visited the annual rally of LVBHV, the Dutch organisation of traditional boats. We plan to be there for next year’s event in Hasselt at the end of July.