The next stretch from Folkestone to Ramsgate is a 23 nautical mile (about a marathon in length - as far again as the distance of the channel) row over some really tricky waters. On one side are the White Cliffs of Dover and on the other the channel. Once you are past Dover, there is no where to safely stop the bath (I could try beaching on Sandwich Bay but I'm not sure of my chances). There is also only a 6 hour weather window in which to make the distance before the tide turns against you and attempts to take you down to St Helena (nothing has happened there since Napoleon left). No one rows this stretch of the water and so there's no one to get advice from - it will be a challenge. So getting the weather right is the key.
We got what looked to be the "perfect weather window" yesterday (the 20th) so I decided to have a go at it. Setting out from Folkestone at 8am I left to hopefully catch the tide that would take me north. Everything was so flat I was even testing the new oars I'd designed with the boat maker (a year ago I couldn't even row and now I'm designing kit - this is very surreal) and going along at a fair rate of knotts (between 4 and 5). At Dover the busy port creates its own waves and the new oars (which rely on very flat water) became useless so I switched to my old ones and kept going. The cliffs at Dover are amazing especially when seen from right at the bottom and I thought of Hitler's greatest weapon, Dame Vera Lynn.
At exactly 10.56 again the wind got up (I'm begining to hate 10.56). It kept trying to blow me into the shore and then when it had given up on doing that it decided it would be far more fun to take me out into the channel. At times I was only rowing with both arms on one oar as the wind and waves were so strong that they were keeping the boat in a straight line and doing the work of the other. Then I hit on a plan which was to use the roll top of the bath which is the real problem in the wind to my advantage. I basically used it like a big sail to assist my rowing rather than hinder me. You must have a wind from behind obviously for this to work but it did and finally I got the bath going faster than 6 knotts as we shot up past St Margaret's Bay and bemused looking fishermen on Deal Pier.
Dom (who helps me with planning and, unlike me, does know one end of a boat from another) and I had come up with 2 possible plans at Sandwich Bay. If the wind was good I was to cut straight across the bay and head into Ramsgate harbour which would hopefully shave a mile off the journey, but if the wind was bad I would hug the bay keeping right into the shallow bits to try and shelter myself from the wind. At noon the time came to make the desision. The wind had been terrible for the last hour but it now seemed to be dropping so I decided to cut accross the bay and knock the mile off the journey. The plan worked and I came into Ramsgate outer harbour at just after 1 o'clock. I had not been expected to make it till 3 at the earliest so it just shows when you get good weather and time the tide right it makes things much more do-able.
My hands are a bit bad but not as painful as before (thank goodness) and I've pulled something in my lower back but other than that and the obvious fire in my bottom I'm in pretty good shape. After all the painful repairs the bath is still letting in water which makes it more heavy and dangerous to row so I'll have to try and patch that up before attempting the next leg which is the lethal journey round North Foreland from Ramsgate to Margate.
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