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From Whitstable to Sheerness - A very special escort...

Dear All,

The weather looked hopeless and so I overslept. That really is the truth of it. After yesterday, which was an awful day of rowing I was tired and so when I looked out of the window at 0600 and could not even see the bath moored less than half a mile off shore due to the fog I thought - today is probably not a good day to be at sea trying to navigate an unwieldy piece of plumbing into one of the bigger commercial ports this country has.

Picture courtesy of excelangling@aol.com

I got up at 1000 to phone Dom (the true genius mastermind behind this) to talk about the weather and planning for tomorrow when the mist miraculously went. Cross with myself for having got the weather wrong I sat with the charts and tried to see if I could use this new change in the weather to my advantage (bear in mind I've only learned anything about tides in the last month so I'm not possibly the best person to be given a chart or any form of emergency planning role). I summoned the support boat to set out from Ramsgate immediately (c.50 miles away) and the Skipper (Dave - a really outstanding man) jumped at the chance and made ready with incredible speed and set off. This gave me an hour and a half to think of a plan. I had missed the tide (that left at 1000) that was to have taken me around the north of the Isle of Sheppey (the shorter route) so now the only option I could see was to take the longer more hazard ridden route via the south of the Island as then I could use the end of the tide I had just missed and the beginning of the new tide which was to kick off at about 7PM.

This is the first maritime plan I've come up with on my own so fingers crossed that I've got my sums right (not something I'm usually good at either!).

Setting off from Whitstable the wind was favourable and I made very good progress. Amazingly a head poked out of the water - at first I thought it was a Labrador, then several Labradors, then it looked a bit like a frog man but then it dawned on me that I was in the middle of a colony of seals - I never thought I'd see seals that close. They swam with me between 5 and 10 feet from the bath and escorted me for between five and ten miles. It was a bit like a low budget colder version of swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean but just amazing.

After a very near miss with a tanker (temporarily reversed shipping lanes - who could have foreseen that) the tide started to turn and I realised that my plan seemed to actually be working. I had been sucked up one side of the isle on an inbound tide and was now being sucked out the other on the outward going tide.

They raised the Kingsferry bridge - that joins the mainland to the Isle of Sheppey - I looked for Frodo and some black riders but none came and carried on to Queenborough. I arrived at Queenborough much sooner than I thought and so determined to try and make it to Sheerness by sunset. As the darkness got blacker I pulled along side some of the biggest ships I have seen (the size of the huge tankers that plagued me in the channel) loading up in port. They are massive and you feel like a minnow next to a whale.

The Port at Sheerness could not have been kinder or more relaxed. If the mark of an organisation is that they can deal with unusual requests then Sheerness is a brilliant organisation. They deal with the largest container ships on the planet who could scupper me with just one rev of their engines and yet could not have been more relaxed about having me there. Nothing was too much trouble for them and I felt very honoured to be the only "pleasure boat" (this is not a comment on how easy she is to row it means not a commercial tanker or military ship) allowed into this harbour.

Also today I was presented with another Burgee. This time by the Royal Temple Yacht Club in Ramsgate (who have kept an eye on my bath while she was there). Another huge honour from the club of which the late Ted Heath was a member.

Quite a day (I am a touch tired but amazed to make it to Sheerness. Finally I feel the Thames is looking more like a river and less like the sea). Will we get weather tomorrow??

I want to record here my deep thanks to my support boat skipper Dave Hancock who has been with me since Ramsgate - his unending enthusiasm for this project has driven me on through some very difficult waters - thanks Dave.


Tired now and to bed. Once again thank you for all your texts and emails of support. It really is very kind of you. If you get a chance please do click on the links above and give what you can as this will really help.

Yours

Tim