Follow Poli Poli across the Bay of Biscay to NW Spain and Baiona……

Once we have departed Plymouth Poli Poli will head out into the English Channel and head south to the Bay of Biscay. We will be out of internet and mobile phone range.

You can follow our progress on a site called Vessel Finder…. just type in Poli Poli…. this is an AIS site and you can track us. Also go to the ARC Portugal 2019 website and you will see links to their Facebook page and you can see our position out at sea … as well as the other 17 boats in the ARC fleet. We will resume the blog in Baiona, NW Spain. The ARC Portugal 2019 site has photos of the Poli Poli team, the boat and lots of comments about us on the Facebook page. We should land in Baiona on Thursday 6th June or Friday 7th June at the latest. Please keep in touch.

Poli Poli……A voyage to Gibraltar via the Bay of Biscay, Spain and Portugal….three gentleman… and a boat.

IMG_8024Above photo…. Poli Poli in the boat yard at Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne up until Saturday 18th May this year. She went back in the water and we left for a south coast “shakedown sail” on Wednesday 22nd May… visiting Brighton, Hamble Le Rice, Poole Harbour, Portland, Dartmouth, Salcombe and finally to Plymouth arriving on the 28th May.  Six sailing days from Eastbourne.

Tomorrow, Sunday 2nd June 2019, Toby, Peter and Chris will set sail from Plymouth in a rally fleet of 18 sailing boats. We will start from the Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club, below the Citadel on Plymouth Hoe.

Once we have navigated the entrance to Plymouth Harbour, passed the big breakwater, we will set sail across the Bay of Biscay and head for Baiona in north west Spain. This will be a great adventure as we cross 550 nautical miles in 5/6 days of continuous sailing… so no stops, no marinas, no cafes and no showers….and no getting off!GetAttachmentThumbnail

Having arived in Plymouth from Eastbourne on the 28th May… we were there for four prep’ days until we left for the Biscay on Sunday 2nd June. These were busy, hectic days mainly ensuring that we complied with all the ARC safety equipment and regulations. Poli Poli was checked over by Andrew Bishop … the chief ARC Portugal 2019 member of their team, on the Friday morning. We were required to be compliant in three areas…. the safety tethers, washboard and an emergency VHF radio aerial. In between all this activity we frequented Jolly Jacks restaurant for coffee and our evening meal. Brother John who lives in Tamerton Foliat, just outside Plymouth visited early on Friday morning 31st May to collect our old liferaft which did not meet the ARC safety standards. Thank you John…. hope you enjoyed the late breakfast at Jolly Jacks afterwards.






All three of us ( Toby, Chris and Peter ) attended the Skipper’s briefing at the Plymouth Albion Rugby Club on the Saturday evening ….  a short walk from the Mayflower Marina. Chris Tibbs…. a well known national and international sailor of some repute delivered a detailed weather briefing for the Bay of Biscay crossing starting the next day, 9am Sunday.


There was much debate after the weather briefing amongst Skippers and crew. Chris Tibbs had made a point re the position of the jet stream over the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay. In summary it seemed that we would set out from Plymouth with head winds on the Sunday, Monday would see a cold front passing through the fleet, Tuesday a depression would appear ( advice was given to seek shelter in Brittany if close to Ushant) and then conditions off Cape Finnistere needed to be looked at very carefully on arrival in the area. As it turned out…. Storm Miguel arrived sweeping in from the Atlantic. More about this later.


At 5.30am the crew of Poli Poli started the prep’ work to get ready for sailing at 7.45am . A grey, cloudy day…. a chilly start on a Sunday morning. Sunday the 2nd of June, 2019 had finally arrived. The start of Arc Portugal 2019 with 18 boats present in Plymouth.

With Chris at the helm, we departed our berth in the Mayflower Marina at exactly 7.45am…. giving ourselves and hour and a quarter to motor down to the starting line below the Royal Citadel on Plymouth Hoe.
It was to be a proper racing start with flag signals, countdowns and a loud hooter! All the boats did circles behind the start line, all with their mainsails hoisted, seeking out the best position to get the best approach and start over the line. The whole event was managed by the Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club with the line from their flagstaff accross to the end of the Mount Batten breakwater. Poli Poli held back, not wishing to get mixed up in the crush of boats all heading for the narrow start gap. Peter helmed Poli Poli acoss the line. We crossed third from last!


Day 142….the final day…. Monday 15th October 2018… the day we closed the circle… arrival at Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne and the end of the Circumnavigation.

I woke at just gone midnight on the Sunday night….was it a recurring dream? Screaming banshees in the rigging, pink ball like objects bobbing about in the sea and….. worst of all… being holed up in Ramsgate… a gale warning and lobster pots!

5am came and time to get ready for the last day. It seemed to take ages to get on the web and check the 6am Met Office inshore waters forecast for North Foreland ( where we were ) to Selsey Bill. Surprise…. no strong wind warning, no red line… must have been a dream. Surreal. Perhaps the weather Gods are going to smile on us today?

Went up on deck …. pitch black dark and dazzling port lights… but no wind, Poli Poli surprisingly still, no fender squeaks or slapping on the stern. Away to the east… the first tiny streaks of dawn. Final day… 60 nautical miles or so to home.

After showers and hot tea rations… we departed our berth at 7.30am and went to the marina fuel barge to fill up with diesel. By 7.55am we were all done, and Poli Poli chugged out of the Royal Ramsgate Marina. We headed west out along the the red and green buoys of the Ramsgate shipping channel… staying to the right as the regulations require. Passing incoming fishing boats returning from a night’s work out in the Dover straits or beyond, Poli Poli bounced from the wash of a fast orange and black pilot boat… having delivered a pilot and guide to one of the big ships in the Thames Estuary.
There were essentially three parts to our planned route south to Eastbourne…. firstly to find and then navigate the inner channel that avoids the infamous Goodwin Sands which lie due south of Ramsgate and run all the way south to just above the port of Dover.

The Goodwin Sands are ten miles long and five miles wide…. and are the graveyard of many a ship… large or small. There are more than 2,000 ships that have been wrecked on the Goodwin Sands….why? Well these sands are very close to the major shipping lanes ( the Straits of Dover ) which are considered one of the busiest in the world…. and the prevailing winds are south westerlies… meaning onshore or towards the Goodwins. The Straits also act as a funnel for the tidal movements… so the tides here are much stronger than elsewhere. So traffic, wind and tide conspire to create very dangerous conditions for sailors.

At low tide both the Goodwin Sands are visible and the remains of at least two wrecks can be seen. Two American cargo ships were wrecked here in 1946…the ‘North Eastern Victory’ and the ‘Luray Victory’. The Walmer lifeboat attended ( from near Deal ) and saved the entire crews of both ships. On a clear day the tops of masts and their kingposts can be clearly viewed.

On a lighter note… a cricket match was always held on the sands in the summer up to 2003 ( as is also held on the Bramble Bank just north of the Isle of Wight to this day ). Various plans have been put forward … mostly controversial… to exploit the sands….an offshore airport and a deep water harbour for large ships. All such ideas have come to nought.

Currently there is an ongoing controversy raging re the new planned marina and port extensions at Dover Harbour… where plans to dredge the Goodwin Sands and use the vast amounts of sand and gravel ( thus disturbing the graves of thousands of sailors ) in the construction sites in Dover. This has become both a political and environmental row of some intensity both locally and in the region as a whole.

So how do we avoid becoming a victim of the infamous Goodwin Sands? There is now a well marked channel on the inside ( to the east ) between the coast of west Kent and the sands themselves. This passage is known as the Brake or Gull Stream and is well marked with green, red and cardinal buoys… which if located and followed dilligently will take a vessel safely from Ramsgate to just north of Dover. This we did in Poli Poli…. and with a strong following tide the passage south took no time at all.

En route to Dover via this channel you pass across Sandwich Bay, Deal, Walmer, Kingsdown and finally St. Margaret’s Bay…. before rounding the white lighthouse at South Foreland ( the first in the country to use an electric light )…and thus then you stare straight at the very busy ferry port of Dover with a little trepidation.

The photo below was taken just before we reached South Foreland…it shows Walmer Castle and Walmer Beach from where the Walmer Lifeboat rescued many a sailor from the nearby Goodwin Sands. I trust my good friend David Aggett will recognise the beach!

Poli Poli had to cross the ferry entrance of the busiest port re ship movements in the UK… ie Dover. The port lies at right angles to the Dover Straits… every 24 hours there are 300 plus big ship movements up and down the dual carriageway ie the two shipping lanes….and then between Dover and France/Belgium there are 80 plus per day ferries crossing at right angles to the main shipping lanes. Poli Poli had to navigate across the ferries coming in and out of Dover… timing is everything.

All commercial vessels are by international law, required to transmit a special signal which then appears on the chart plotter on Poli Poli as a single black triangle ( called AIS ). We can then interrogate speed of vessel, heading, type, destination and most importantly distance away and time away from Poli Poli …known as CPA or closest position of approach. On our screen I can see all these black triangles moving about… in and out of Dover. I get a good picture of which ferries present a possible danger, which ones I need to avoid and which ones I can safely disregard.

Thus we negotiated the entrance to Dover Harbour…avoiding at least three ferries…two entering and one coming out. So the first part of the route was safely completed…. the Goodwin Sands and Dover Harbour.

Once beyond the west harbour wall at Dover, you put the heading on the lighthouse at Dungeness…. a straight route of about 18 n. miles heading south west across Hythe Bay to the headland and lighthouse at Dungeness.

The photo below shows the chart plotter as we approach Dungeness… thats the bit that sticks out into the English Channel.


En route you pass Folkestone ( where the Channel Tunnel passes under you ), then Hythe and New Romney…. before the two lighthouses of Dungeness appear. In this section you also have to be aware of two MOD firing ranges…. the Hythe and Lydd military practice ranges. Lydd and its small airport lie a little inland.

Dungeness is a headland on the coast of Kent…formed largely of a brilliant orange yellow shingle beach…. where not only stand two lighthouses ( the old and the new ) but also two nuclear power stations which you can see for miles. One of the power stations is known as Dungeness A, built in 1965 and the other, known as ‘B’ built in 1983. The older one closed in 2006 and the newer one still operates…. EDF ( a French company ) runs Dungeness B.

We passed offshore about a mile from the two gigantic buildings….one looking sad, unloved, and rusty and the other in fresh light bluey green livery…. but what was surreal… was the silence along with the absence of any visible human beings at work. Eerie……

Once beyond these two huge blockhouses, we set the final course for the last third of the journey… a straight line across Rye Bay ( where we say goodbye to Kent and hello to East Sussex… our home county ) to the Fairlight Headland at Hastings…. then west sou west to St. Leonards on Sea, passing Bexhill on Sea and finally, counting off the Martello Towers of Pevensey and Norman’s Bay… we arrive at the entrance to Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne.

When we had reached the entrance channel marked by the Fairway or Safe Water Mark ( red and white stripes ) and headed into the harbour via the green buoys… we finally crossed our outgoing track of Sunday 27th May, 2018 when we departed for Brighton 142 days previously. The Circumnavigation Circle had been closed at exactly 4pm.

The photo below shows Poli Poli in the entrance channel at 4pm..coming up to the lock. Look at the blue skies, the stillness of the water… no wind. A perfect weather day for our final day.


A small but happy, cheering band of followers…. friends and family of both Mike and myself stood above the welcoming lock gates of Sovereign Harbour… waving a banner and holding up shiny balloons. I had ordered the Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial flight plus two lifeboats with fire hydrants and a water arch to pass under…. but the little cheering gathering on lockside was just as good. We were home after 142 days at sea.

Some of our small band of well wishers…. Bridget, Ann, Ros and Margaret on the lockside as Poli Poli entered the lock at Sovereign Harbour.


Oops…. the welcome party…. note the red arrows on the banner made by Richard. the next photo shows Poli Poli reversing into her berth at North Harbour where lots more family and froends were waiting. Here Christine and Jonathan are assisting Mike with the docking lines.

Distance sailed Ramsgate to Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne: 64 n. miles.

Note banner …. UTM…. ‘Up the Mariners’ and Red Arrows.

Total and final distance of the Circumnaviation: 2,747.70 n. miles.






Photo below of the original map showing a summary of the Circumnavigation route with dates. As you can see …only two days late!!

Day 141, Sunday 14th October 2018….today we reached Ramsgate…one more day to go until the Circumnavigation is done! Hopefully home to Eastbourne tomorrow Monday!!

Poli Poli departed Saint Katharine’s Dock next to Tower Bridge in London at exactly 6am this morning (Sunday).

It was dark!! Also chilly and within minutes of starting the engine…guess what? It started pouring down with rain…so full sets of oilies were donned.

We were followed into the lock by a motorboat called “Huntress”…we had seen it arrive the previous day. Margaret had spotted “Tarbet” and “Loch Fyne” on her stern…a Scottish boat we wondered?

As we left the lock to go into the River Thames…it had just turned High Water…so that meant at least six hours of Thames ebb tide behind us..and boy did we use that to our full advantage.

We reached Sheerness in the Thames estuary in 4 hours …never did our speed fall below 8 knots!

Once out of London and heading towards the North Kent coast and North Foreland…the opposite happened…when Low Water Sheerness occurred the tide came in and turned against us ..and it was a strong head tide then all the way to Ramsgate.

So 4 hours to do 40 n. miles out of London….and 6 hours to do 30 n. miles from Sheerness to Ramsgate against a strong head tide. But in ten hours the max you will ever get in your favour is six hours. Hey ho that’s Sailing for you!

We berthed in an empty visitors section of the tidal part of the Royal Harbour Marina, Ramsgate…apart from one other boat …. Huntress . They had arrived 10 minutes before us having overtaken Poli Poli in the River Thames after passing through the Thames Barrier.

We dined in the new Wetherspoons pub in Ramsgate … a fully refurbished type Opera house building. On our travels we have noted how Wetherspoons reclaim old dilapidated buildings and a very good job of restoring them…. and the beer is cheap too!!

This evening it is raining here in Ramsgate. We shall go to bed early …tired after a ten hour journey… gird our loins for the morrow…the final 60 or so n. miles to Eastbourne and home. Only one more passage plan to write…now…before bed.

Hope to see some of you…family, friends and followers tomorrow…late afternoon any time after 4pm.

Mileage for the day: 73.4 n. miles.

Total Mileage from Eastbourne since 27th May: 2,683.7 n. miles.

Day 140, Saturday 13th October, 2018. Good news… we are on the move again tomorrow Sunday and hope to be home Monday 15th October in Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne… afternoon.

Phew! A very warm day in London…. windy yes but temperatures reached 25 deg C in mid October… for goodness sake! The warmth and sunshine certainly bought out the crowds…. this part of London was heaving.


At about 5pm we heard the news that the Sunday 6am lock out was definitely on….which is good news because after four and a half months…. we need to get home. So we will get up around 4am to have our last shower in the luxury bathrooms…then prep the boat ready for the radio call to leave the berth and proceed to the lock. Two other boats will be joining us.

We will try for Ramsgate  or even Dover for Sunday evening and a nights stop over. Then on the Monday it will be either Ramsgate or Dover to home at Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne. We plan to arrive home late afternoon Monday 15th October.

Mike’s two sisters travelled down from Buckinghamshire today to check up on Mike…. they boarded Poli Poli and were then entertained on the South Bank and at Borough Market in Southwark. Margaret spent the day with Sue and Abi Spooner in Covent Garden celebrating Sue’s birthday. A good day was had by all.

Day 139, Friday 12th October 2018, Saint Katharine’s Dock, London….Rest Day 3.

Up with the dawn and in the shower by 7am…. looks like another nice day ahead. Cannot believe that this is almost the best weather we have seen for many weeks on our Circumnavigation…. and it comes at the end of the journey…. in London. However, Storm Callum is now approaching from the west… so not all good news.
The photo below shows the big dome Starbucks coffee shop..where T and M would have their morning tea from 8am…. overlooking Poli Poli on her berth.
After breakfast on the boat, Christine and Mike departed to go to the Apple Shop in Regents Street, then lunch, followed by the plasticised body exhibition near Leicester Square… then evening theatre visit… Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. T and M did paperwork, blog then caught the 15 bus up to Trafalgar Square on the bus pass! Then walk to the best travel book shop in London… Stanford’s in Long Acre ( walking through Covent Garden ). Lunch and a stroll up Charing Cross road to Tottenham Court Road… Foyles etc etc. No 15 bus back to Tower Hill and the boat…. 13,000 steps.

More mystery surrounds how we get out through the lock here at Saint Katherine’s Dock and get back to Sovereign Harbour. The afternoon lock outs are no good for us…it is 40 n.miles to the sea from here and not keen on a night sail down the Thames. Too much backlights to pick out the navigable channel.

So we keep asking about the 6am Sunday lock out…. first version was it was ‘doubtful’ as a consequence of the rail strike. Second version…shift pattern of workers means not enough staff in to operate the 6am Sunday lock… then another version…. too many staff on holiday, thus not enough staff to work the 6am lock.

So at the time of writing… we just don’t know. If we get out tomorrow Sunday at 6am we will be back in Sovereign Harbour by Monday afternoon, 15th October.

If we can’t…. then it will be the 6am lock out on Monday morning, arriving Sovereign Harbour, afternoon of Tuesday 16th October.

Toby finally gets round to taking down the “Saltaire”.. the Scottish courtesy flag from the main mast halyard in Saint Katherine’s Dock, London. From the Mull of Kintyre onwards round Cape Wrath and down the north east coast of Scotland…it is not an exaggeration to say that the Saltaire spent its life on the flag halyard stiff, horizontal and sopping wet!

Day 138, Thursday 11th October 2018, Saint Katharine’s Dock, London..Rest Day 2.

Another lovely day in London…7am and T was sitting upstairs in the glass dome Starbucks cafe, sipping English Breakfast brew and overlooking Poli Poli …waiting for M to emerge for her shower and the forward hatch to open…signalling that Christine and Mike were on the move.

Photo…M on the move across the blue bridge from Poli Poli. Photo taken by T in the Starbucks glass dome upstairs.



Another day of visitors to Poli Poli …Paul, a friend of Mike’s arrived before noon from Worthing…had a look over the boat, then a four hour lunch with Mike whilst Christine did 19,000 steps up to St. Paul’s Cathedral …somehow got lost in Holborn and paid £30 for a taxi to bring her back to the boat!!

M and T sat in warm sunshine and enjoyed a Waitrose picnic salad…watching all the City boys and gals scurrying about the dockside. In the afternoon lock opening two American boats came in plus an enormous canal type barge…heaven only knows how they managed to park it.

Photo below is the one and only lock at Saint Katharine’s Dock. It faces south across to Butler’s Wharf on the south bank of the Thames.



Talking of locks…they are the key to us making an exit from Saint Katharine’s Dock. So we acquired a copy of the timetable for the lock openings…which stated that they would be open from 6am to 7.07am on Sunday. The only lock openings that occurred on Thursday, Friday or Saturday were mid to late afternoon which were no good to us…unless we intended to do a night sail of 40 n. miles down the River Thames. Why Sunday….. well the first early morning lock opening…and we had been monitoring the Storm Callum forecasts …arriving Thursday and passing through by Saturday. So Sunday looks the best day to depart London and return to Sovereign Harbour on Monday 15th October…afternoon. We shall see.

Unfortunately I have to report….rain…it started about 5pm. Light rain …but it broke up the feeling of a very late Indian Summer here in London.

At 6.30pm our next set of visitors arrived …Abi our lovely god daughter and her friend Maggie. Abi works for a national publication up in Tottenham Court Road and Maggie works all over place …but mainly from home in Borough ( Southwark ).

After a look round Poli Poli …we walked in drizzly rain over Tower Bridge to the South Bank where we dined in Hayes Galleria at the Cote Brasserie. There was much fun and laughter …and good to see Abi again and really nice to meet “talent spotter” Maggie.



On our walk back to the boat , passing HMS Belfast on one side and the London Mayor’s lopsided beehive on the other, marvelling at all the lights and glitter of the riverside landscape…more than matching the New York or Paris skylines.

Another lovely day ended…there was of course an element of London making up for the greys and gloom’s of much of the northern Circumnavigation.

Day 137, Saint Katharine’s Dock Rest Day No 1…Wednesday 10th October 2018.

What a lovely day weather wise …wall to wall sunshine, 23 deg C and blue skies everywhere.

Poli Poli is the third boat next to Margaret’s left ear!


After Mike and Christine departed to go to London Zoo for the day, Chris ( who was seriously injured in an accident on Poli Poli when he slipped on the coach roof and damaged his knee back in early August whilst we were in the process of climbing the eight locks going up Neptune’s Staircase on the Caledonian Canal in Scotland  ), arrived in Saint Katherine’s Dock, London.

It was good to see Chris again. He had driven himself all the way down from Naseby  in Leicestershire to collect the remainder of his belongings from the boat. Chris looked well, appearing fit and tanned, wearing snazzy shorts and sailing  shoes…except for his knee.

Chris and Margaret in summer garb, cockpit Poli Poli , Saint Katharine’s Dock, 10th October.


He had undergone a major op in Inverness and had a wire attached to various screws and bolts to hold his knee cap in place.. he was walking …and driving!

We sat in the cockpit in warm sunshine, scoffed cheese sandwiches made by M plus cups of tea and had a good chin wag. Sadly Chris had to cancel his big holiday to Canada but was still planning to do a two week sail in the Caribbean in January and according to the medics and supervising Physio he was doing very well and on the way to a full recovery.

We walked back to his car ( a very posh Jag ) and as he purred off out of the underground car park, T went for a haircut whilst M sat outside a deli and had a cold drink. Then after shopping in Waitrose, it was back to the boat…it was good to see Chris again, and even better, to see the recovery he had made.

Our next visitor arrived just after 7pm in Saint Katherine’s…Robert ( who had sailed with us from Whitby to Scarborough off the north East Yorkshire coast in late September. Robert was down in London for work meetings, and we enjoyed a fine meal at the Mala Indian Restaurant which overlooks the marina. Mike will never forget the plate of onion rings he ordered as a side dish! A good day all round…the good weather a real treat.

Margaret took the photo below…sunset through Tower Bridge on the River Thames…just outside Saint Katharine’s Dock.


Day 136….. visit to the fifth and final capital city of the Circumnavigation…. the City of London, Saint Katharine’s Dock. Tuesday 9th October 2018.

There has always been a great deal of advice for sailors who have contemplated sailing up the River Thames…. which is good…. and useful if not at times, conflicting. In the end you have to trust your own judgement. Poli Poli has sailed previously up the Thames to Saint Katharines Dock by Tower Bridge… in 2015, which is only three years ago…. so not too difficult to recall the “lessons learnt”.


Please turn map the right way up. This shows the Medway area at Sheerness.

Last time our starting point was Chatham Marina on the Medway river… some 2 hours from Sheerness and the Thames Estuary. This time our jumping off point would be Queenborough, much closer to the actual channel up to London. So recalling all the advice… in summary … start at the turn of the tide….ie Low Water Sheerness and the flood will carry you most of the 40 n.miles up to Tower Bridge. From another source…. make use of the last hour of the ebb tide… and you will then have seven hours of fair tide into the heart of the City.

We did the latter, departing Queenborough …at 5.40am … saying goodbye in the dark to the “Spirit of Sheppey,” our rafting up day tripper boat… and headed out to the East Cardinal buoy near the confluence of the Swale and Medway. The ebb tide was running and it carried us quickly out into the Medway shipping channel.

Sticking to the left hand side of the channel, we followed the greens and then did a sharp left turn just before the wreck of the Richard Montgomery. All of this took place in the dark!

The plan was not to go all the way out…. easterly… to the Fairway buoy and join the Thames deep water channel there… but to use one of the local “swatchway” channels through the many and varied sandbanks. We utilised two lit buoys to achieve this… the Nore Swatch red and the green Mid Swatch. As we did so we passed the infamous Nore sands…. upon which the Robert Montgomery broke her back way back in 1944.

Once we had arrived at the deep water Thames Channel, we crossed at right angles and then followed the greens on the north bank of the Thames…. all the way. That is the rule… stay on the right of the shipping channel and avoid all commercial shipping. With the final knockings of the ebb tide we were still making over 6 knots ….. motoring. There was very little wind… a breeze from the west of about 5 knots.

Having joined the shipping channel at Sea Reach No 6 green buoy…. to the west of Southend on Sea…. we were then treated to a spectacular sunrise immediately behind us…. probably more impressive than the one at Shotley.

Below you can see the wake track of Poli Poli ..and the sunrise behind us. Taken on the starboard side of the Thames deep water channel heading west.


7F24C63F-16D7-4FC0-9F3D-D30DC14C9D32.jpegSo Leigh on Sea passed us by on the starboard side…. the light now revealing the coast line on both sides of the estuary. On the port side….another MOD firing range… could not quite understand why so close… located on St Mary’s marshes. Various large ships lined up behind us…. obviously vacating the overnight boat park … dredgers, container ships, oil and gas tankers and all manner of tugs towing huge barges. From an empty estuary by 7am the deep water channel was buzzing with ships.

London Gateway port …. Canvey Island had three enormous container ships moored up… being either loaded or unloaded by giant cranes that looked like bent stick insects.

As we passed below the ships, we watched the crane operators working hundreds of feet about the great piles of containers… moving them up, down, back and forth. One of these vessels kept being mentioned on the VHF radio “London VTS” … as an “exceptionally large container vessel… the Savannah” ….something?… she was making ready to depart.

After the giant cranes and piles of containers…. came the opposite… the “Mucking Flats”…. open countryside and as it was now low tide, vast expanses of black mud… with shrieking gulls criss crossing the flats.

Once round the big bend at Lower Hope, the Kent town and riverside port of Gravesend opened up. From here onwards up to and beyond the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and Dartford Tunnel.. the riverside becomes very industrialised both sides. We were disappointed that, having scoured both sides of the river with our binoculars, not to see any evidence of Benny the Beluga Whale …. allegedly trapped between Gravesend and Tilbury. The latter, plus Grays, Purfleet and to a certain extent Greenhithe… present an untidy mix of industry and better times eg the London Cruise Terminal at Tilbury ( empty and folorn ).

540B71F5-E030-4DA0-9034-D09A33A3FEDC.jpegIn bright warm sunshine now, we passed under the enormous expanse of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge. ( photo above ) …. arching above us…. no problem with worries over air draft. You could probably have fitted four if not five Poli Poli type yachts on top of each other and still had space to spare…. looking up it was difficult to imagine that there were six lanes of traffic overhead on the M25.

Dartford merged into the Cray marshes…. then came Erith and its yacht club on the south side. Essex popped up on the other with a sorry looking closed Dagenham Ford works plus their enormous land fill sites camouflaged to look like empty countryside. Only the breather pipes for the methane gases underneath to escape…. are the give away.

At a point just after the Barking Creek joins the Thames, London VTS… the traffic control authority, require any vessel approaching Woolwich to radio in and request permission to pass through the Thames Barrier…. the flood barrier that spans the river with ten huge gates or barriers which open and close. We did this and were allocated gate “golf” in other words G gate.

Photo below shows Poli Poli approaching the Thames Barrier At Woolwich.


Once through, we had to rework our arrival time at Saint Katharine’s Dock. Various mixed messages had been received… the first being that we should try and arrive at the very first lock in at 12.41pm and as it was “springs” they might have to suspend all later locks. It was actually “springs -2 days” so we phoned again from the boat to check. The reply was a different account …. now they were having lock ins from 1.15pm up to 4pm  ( the lock opening hours were 2 hours before HW London Bridge and one and half after HW ).

We informed the lock keeper that Poli Poli would be at the first lock in at 1.15pm. But we were going too fast…. and would be there well before the first opening. Not sensible…. holding station below Tower Bridge is not a good idea with all the boat traffic…although I had done that in 2015. There are yellow mooring buoys outside the lock for waiting boats…. but in a strong flood tide would be difficult to moor up to.

Poli Poli passing the O2 in North Greenwich.


So for the next few hours, we reduced speed to below 5 knots…. very difficult to go slow in a strong flood tide pushing you forwards.

After the Thames Barrier places come up thick and fast. First Greenwich and the Cutty Sark stand resplendent on the south bank…. followed by the high silver glassy landscape of Canary Wharf and the Shard rear up in view. And before you know it you are on the final approach to Tower Bridge…. we arrived at precisely 1.10pm…. 40 n.miles from Queenborough.


Above …Poli Poli making her final approach to Saint Katherine’s. The lock entrance is on the right just above HMS President.

Below…Poli Poli ( now bow into a strong head tide ) approaching the lock ..Margaret took these photos as she had arrived before us.




Poli Poli moored safely in the lock at Saint Katharine’s Dock in London ….Tower Bridge in the background.


Poli Poli drifting onto her berth in Saint Katherine’s Dock …and a very nice berth now. About 2pm.

Mileage from Queenborough to Saint Katherine’s Dock : 43.70 n. miles.

Total mileage from Eastbourne; 2,610.3 n. miles.

Day 135, Monday 8th October 2018, Between the sandbanks from Shotley to Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey ( Kent ).

A broken down fishing boat had to be towed in from the sea…this delayed our departure from Shotley somewhat as we had to wait for the stricken vessel to come through the sea lock.

Assisted by a considerate and helpful Lock Keeper gentleman, we chugged out into the River Soar at 8.15am. There had been a spectacular sunset the night before…and this was repeated this morning..with all manner of pinks, reds, golds and yellows.


At Shotley we have the confluence of two Suffolk rivers…the Soar and the Orwell. In order to get out to sea you have to pass through both. Once joined they make up the estuary upon which, one side is the container port of Felixstowe whilst the other side is the ferry port of Harwich. We saw many huge, gigantic container ships but not a single ferry.

Once out into the main shipping channel…more so skirting round the edge following the curving line of red buoys…Mike on the helm…T had chosen one of the many routes offered in the almanacs where you  buoy hop through the long fingers of sandbanks which spread out from the south like a gigantic hand.

Our route went something like this…Pye End red, to Medusa green to Wallet No 2 red, to West Sunk Cardinal, to Barrow No 2 and then to Barrow No. 3 ….and so on south eastwards down the Barrow Deep Channel….finally emerging in the River Thames proper.

On this route we passed such places as Frinton On Sea, Clacton On Sea, the Blackwater estuary leading westwards into Maldon, and then onto Burnham on Crouch ( the Essex version of Cowes and shades of pink trousers ) down finally to Southend On Sea opposite our destination…the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. It was good to to see the Kent coastline …only one county between us and home in Sussex.

Crossing the Thames big ships deep water channel, we joined the smaller version branching off to the south west …The Medway Channel. Here you follow four greens in, after the red and white striped Safe Water Mark or Fairway buoy ( marking the start of a channel leading into a harbour ).

After the fourth green, looking to the right of the channel, you see four very prominent yellow buoys and notices alerting you to a restricted area… and as it was nearly low tide the top masts in three places… the wreck of the Robert Montgomery.

This is a famous and well known Thames wreck …interfere with it, touch it, disturb it, salvage it…and it has the potential to blow part of London sky high.

This was an American Liberty Ship     built during World War ll and used to carry cargo across the Atlantic to Britain during the war.

Having survived many U-Boat submarine threats, the ship was wrecked off the Nore Sandbank in the Thames Estaury in 1944. The wreck presents a serious hazard as the Robert Montgomery was loaded with over 1,500 tons of explosives…all of which remain onboard. The vessel broke into two separate parts roughly at her midships. At all states of the tide , her three masts are visible above the water. There is an official exclusion zone around the wreck.

Poli Poli passed by the Robert Montgomery en route into Sheerness port.  Once inside, the river splits…right is the Medway up to Chatham and beyond to Rochester. Left is the River Swale to Queenborough..the river’s course defining Sheppey as an island separate from Kent.

There is no marina as such at Queenborough… just a single long all tide floating pontoon joined to the land by a long walkway. As the three berths were all reserved the Harbour Master has said we could raft up agains a big red and white “tripper” holiday boat called “Spirit of Sheppey”.

Below …Poli Poli rafted up against the “Spirit of Sheppey” …then in front …four 60 foot Challenger Yachts taking up the three berths on the all tide landing.


We did so at 4pm …after a fairly long, often uncomfortable journey down into the Thames Estuary from Shotley. After scrambling over the sides of the tripper boat, a long walk on the walkway over the mud at low tide, we dined handsomely in the Flying Dutchman pub…another 50 or so miles closer to home!

Mileage for the day : 49.3 n. miles.

Mileage from Eastbourne: 2,567 n.miles.

Tomorrow Tuesday 9th October…we will leave very early to catch the flood tide up to London. Some folk will ask …why go to Queenborough??

It is a convenient place to overnight and then be best positioned to catch the right tide which if timed correctly, will give you a seven hour fair tide all the way to Tower Bridge. About 40 n. miles up into the very heart of the City. Our fifth and final Capital.