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Thursday, 1 September 2016

Dover to Dungeness and the Kindness of Strangers

The sea can seem to bring out the best in people, which was certainly my experience on my 26th August voyage to Dungeness.

Image result for map sea dover dungeness

The plan was to leave Dover at Mid-day, and catch the tide down to Folkestone and strike out towards the Dungeness headland.

Before I launched a frail man in a wheel chair offered to keep an eye on it whilst I quickly got a sandwich and another man helped me down the steep ramp to launch the boat in the harbour, interrupting his can of cider.

Two teenagers then helped the boat into the water whilst I clambered in and got the oars set to row off.

The port authority cleared me to leave and I was exiting through the western entrance keeping a good distance from the pier heads.

Just outside the tidal stream from the harbour meets that going down the channel and makes the water rough.

But it was a neap tide and there was little wind, which meant it calmer, with only a subdued but latent menacing sea.

The tidal stream was reasonable strong and soon I was off Folkestone resetting the SatNav for Dungeness and then a long voyage across the bay, empty of ships.

A yacht sailing close into Folkestone  to avoid the tide going in the opposite direction

As the afternoon wore on the sea was getting more misty as a gentle wind helped me along the way.

As I got closer to Dungeness I saw two little sails along the shore line and realised this must mean a sailing club, a place to beach PicoMicroYacht. It had been a five hour row.

Soon I was rowing the last bit over the lengthy sands that are covered at high tide. As I got close to the shore the two dinghies were still there, with youngish crews learning to sail.

A man in a wetsuit was standing in the water and  he walked out towards me. He introduced himself as Paul and I explained to him where I had come from. He turned out to be the Varne Boat Club treasurer and he said he would get some help.

A group of people got the boat out of the water an into a secure compound. I was a bit relieved, feeling the effects of the five hours rowing and glad to not have to pull PicoMicroYacht up the steep shingle beach on my own. Later on I met a friendly crowd in the bar.

I chatted to two lifeboat men from the neighbouring Littlestone on Sea lifeboat station. They told me about their large rib lifeboat, an Atlantic 75. It looked quite fun to go in the rib, but then I was thinking that saving people off Dungeness in the winter is a serious business and they potentially risk their lives.

The Atlantic 75

Image result for littlestone lifeboat

The Varne Boat Club - a very friendly place to visit.

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