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18th July, The Third Leg, Ramsgate to Margate

I've finally made it to Margate, Ronnie Biggs' favourite haunt in the sun. The row from Ramsgate round the North Foreland of Kent (Cape of Thanet - or Cape of Faint Hope) is a very tricky one. Not very many people have tried rowing this stretch since Caesar - he said it was tough and he wasn't even doing the rowing. The tide is awkward and the sea works very hard to try and smash you into the rocks or whisk you off to Iceland depending on what's making it laugh that day. The conditions for the first half of the row were as good as they were bad for the second half. During the bad weather, I learned lots about how to use the sea and current to my advantage by rowing in seemingly the wrong direction and letting the current right my course. Only once did this nearly come unstuck when I was being subtly steered into the shore and looked down to see the rocky bottom of the sea looming up less than three feet below me. If I let the current take me any closer to the shore I could see it would be game over for the bath. A panicked bit of rowing directly out to sea later and it seemed I was safe.

Tim passes Margate The usual problems of my hands and back pains kicked in as the weather got worse and have been added to by the damage to my shoulder (dislocated playing cricket - doh). It's back in place now and has had lots of physio and treatment but does hurt when I row. How much of a part this is going to play as I carry on round Kent, I'm not sure; the Doctors are confident I can now row but for how long and under what sort of pressure no one is sure (the attitude seems to be "row until it falls out and then it's safe to say, that last second before it fell out, was too much pressure for it").

The Ramsgate clock tower
The Ramsgate clock tower, showing Greenwich Mean Time rather than Ramsgate Mean Time (GMT-00:05:41), as used by the support boat skipper

The window in the tide on this stretch is really tight too (just two hours) and after battling wind (which was now set against me) and a turning tide I finally made it to Margate Harbour. I had been rowing for two and a half hours (the last half hour was against the turning tide). The weather has now turned its mind squarely against me for the rest of the week and so the bath is stuck in Margate.

It seems the weather might turn on Friday so fingers crossed for that. I thought the tough bit would be the channel crossing but the legs of the journey round to London are proving very tough indeed - the sea is one heck of a powerful thing, I'm feeling like Kanute. It looks like there's at least another seven days' rowing to make it to Tower Bridge and that's if all goes according to plan (which so far it spectacularly has not). Still now the channel is out of the way and I've even made it to Margate to put my feet up in the sun with the criminal underworld - Margaritas all round!

Tim passes Broadstairs Please do give a pound to Comic Relief using the link at the top of the page. It really will make a difference to someone's life.

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