After studying the weather models we decided to leave for London on December 21 at around 12.00 hrs. We were planning to arrive at St. Katharine’s Dock the next day around 16.00. According to the tide tables, our latest docking time could be 17.41. Docking can be done 2 hrs. before HW and 1 1/2 after HW. So 16.00 would be nice in time. Annieck and Floor flew in and would arrive at about the same time at City Airport. Nanouk and Aart were already early on board and after the ‘official’ security checks onboard EIGHT like fitting the life vests properly, explanation of the raft and safety tools on board, we were ready to go! BUT: 2 reasons we could not leave …. First due to quite heavy fog which did not go up. And secondly, the Ministry of Defense was looking with divers for a person in the water which has been missing since last Saturday. And they were looking for this missing person right under EIGHT! So quite some excitement @Eight …. This person was found 2 days later … a long way from Eight!
We hoped the fog would go up soon but unfortunately, the fog never left. We waited all day and at 8 o’clock in the night, we decided that it was better to have dinner and drinks. We were not sailing anymore and we would wait for the next morning to see if it still was foggy. So we did. We had a nice and spicy Thai dinner with of course white wine, enjoying ourselves. At 10 o’clock we finished dinner and we looked outside. WHAT?! NO MORE FOG!! But we had been drinking a few wines … not that much. And if we would not leave now we probably would never end up in London. So we went back to Eight quickly and untied the lines ASAP. Off we were. London here we come!
We had a beautiful sail. There was hardly any fog out on the sea but also hardly any wind. I guess that’s something in our lives since we own a boat … either the wind comes in from the front, there is no wind, there is way toooo much wind …. so we started the engines. We had a nice comfortable (motor) sail to the other side. Once you arrive at the estuary of the Thames you have to concentrate again. You have to sail the Thames to London in 1 tide. So it sure needs planning before starting this trip. It’s about 45 miles from the Thames estuary to Tower Bridge: St. Katharine’s Dock. That’s our final destination!
Sailing the Thames means a lot of work! There are many rules, different channels you have to communicate with, big container ships around, so you have to look around all the time. But what a special encounter to do this journey. We entered the Thames estuary at about 13.00. We arrived at London City at about 15.30 in the darkness. All the lights from the City made it so special. There we no boats at all at that time. Only some crazy Dutch people were sailing the Thames in these winter conditions! The next video is an instruction film from the Port of London how to navigate through the river Thames coming from Sea Reach.
This instruction film brings you up to the Thames Barrier. This Barrier prevents London from flooding. Click at this link for complete information on cruising the river Thames: https://www.boatingonthethames.co.uk/Cruising
So far so good. We went through the Barrier and followed the river. By the time we reached the Olympic Oval we had to speed up otherwise, we were not able to reach the dock in time. So we geared up to about 12 knots. The views were really nice. London City by night and from sea level are spectacular! By that time we were talking to St. Katharine’s Dock. We had to reach the Dock at 17.30 otherwise we were not able to dock anymore. That would be some problem. The girls were waiting for us and we were ready to celebrate our achievement! And then we had this unlucky encounter. The Police behind us in really high speeds …. oops … trouble I guess ……. and yes, we were motoring way to fast and cutting corners and we had to put our speed down. Shoot, that meant we would never be in time! Time to call St. Katharines Dock again … we were too late to enter. And now? They advised us to call 2 other marinas but both did not want us. Either the boat was too big or no space. By that time it was not funny anymore. Find a mooring?? But then came the redeeming words from the people of St. Katharine’s Dock …. sail to the Tower and you can stay at the Pier for the night?! We were so happy they offered us this space! We would see our girls and have fun together. When we reached the pier our excitement tempered somewhat… the swell was really big and we were bumping into the car tires which were hanging on the pier. But they ensured us this would be over in 20 minutes as the traffic on the water after 6 o’clock at night would be over. And so it happened. By the time we tied the boat safely to the Pier the swell was gone. And when we finally had the girls on board and time to look around to enjoy the place we ended up … it was PHENOMENAL! What a view! It looked liked all our efforts, to come in time to the dock, were rewarded by having the most beautiful place to stay. Right under the Tower Bridge! Man o man have we been lucky! That night we celebrated being together on EIGHT with nice food, lots of white wine and rum (or did you start drinking rum later in the week Aart?!), playing games. We have been laughing soooo much. What great fun we had!
December 23. After the (party)night at the Pier, we could enter the Dock at 14.30. In the morning we went for a stroll over the Tower Bridge to see the Christmas market along the river. It was almost only food and drinks but the atmosphere was great. Robbert, Aart and I went back to get EIGHT into the Dock and Nanouk, Annieck and Floor would go shopping in the center of London. St. Katharine Docks offers great facilities in an iconic setting. As the only central London marina, visitors can enjoy the unique experience of sailing up the Thames and mooring right next to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Many people visit St. Katharine’s Dock just to watch the locking in taking place each day. The Dock consists of 3 sections. When you leave the Lock you enter the main section. Then there is a section to left and one to the right side. We were on the left side and we had to go through another very small bridge first to enter our berth. What a unique place and feeling. Lights all over the place and on our left side the colorful enameled art plates. Our view for the next days to come! Beautiful art! (https://www.daledevereuxbarker.co.uk/blank-xd9ar) We had dinner on board Eight and this night we played cards together. What a fun night again!
December 24. This day we all went our own ways. We went to Harrods and Victoria Secret to do some Christmas shopping. And successful we were! Aart, Nanouk and Floor went to Portobello road and surroundings and had a high tea. We spent the night having dinner on EIGHT. It is so cosy to stay in the Marina and cook dinner and enjoy the lights and colours around you!
December 25. On the first Day of Christmas everything is closed in London. Nanouk and Aart wanted to go the exposition of Modigliani in Tate’s Modern but unfortunately closed. So we decided to go cycling all together. There is very easy renting system in London. You rent a bike to pay by credit card and by the time you return the bike anywhere you desire, the credit card automatically writes off the amount. Off we went. Along the Thames we saw the Parliament buildings, The Big Ben under construction. Up to the other side we saw the London Eye an d probably a lot more but I cannot mention that … By that time we had been cycling for almost 2 hours till we came past Jamie Olivers. What a good idea to have a Christmas Lunch! We parked the bikes in a place we could watch the bikes and started lunch. We had a place in the back of the restaurant, which is always better with us …. We started with the Christmas crackers. Crackers are usually shared between two individuals, often with the arms crossed, one pulling on each end. With the ends firmly gripped, the cracker is slowly pulled apart using steady pressure and a twisting motion. This will tear the cracker open along one or both gathers, activating the “cracker snap,” and producing a small **BANG**. Crackers typically contain a paper crown (tissue party hat), a motto (joke or riddle), a snap (friction activated popping device), and a small gift or novelty item. We had the crowns, the motto and the gift. 3 egg holders, a honey spoon and small mixer. We had a bottle of Prosecco included in the lunch and a few white wines, very nice food and lots of fun. It started to became darker outside and at some point when I looked outside I saw there were only 4 bikes left instead of 6?? NO KIDDING!!! 2 Bikes were stolen!! We reported the incident and after our lunch we went back to Eight to play cards again.
December 26. This morning Annieck was flying back to Holland again quite early in the morning. We kissed her goodbye and Robbert and me were staying at the Marina and walked around a bit trying to a postoffice to exchange some old English pounds. But again everything was closed. The next morning we were leaving again so we prepared the boat.
December 27. We were locking at 08.00. Everything went smoothly. It’s a strange feeling when your leaving the Dock. It was really very very special to celebrate Christmas in this location with Annieck and such nice longtime friends. But new adventures are waiting: off the Ramsgate! The weather was really bad. Very cold, raining and even snowing. This is what London looks like as well … very very gray and cheerless. When we were leaving we knew that we could expect a lot of wind once we were out of the estuary. We had about average 30 knots blowing from the SE. Not too bad as we had to go out to starboard to reach Ramsgate. But boy oh boy the wind kept swelling constantly between 30-40 knots with huge waves. Not comfortable at all. Nanouk and Floor were watching Netflix series and had no idea what was happening outside. This is to give you an idea what it means when your sailing on Catamaran and how comfortable it is even though the weather is really miserable. Watching Netflix makes life easy! Finally around 18.30 we arrived at Ramsgate. It was not easy to enter the harbour not knowing what to expect. But Robbert managed very well. The harbour master manoeuvred us to our berth for the night and when EIGHT was tied up we could relaxe and have dinner. For the next day would be the perfect day to sail back to Scheveningen! We went to bed early that night to be fit for the next leg.
December 28. We left the dock in Ramsgate at 8.30. A beautiful morning! The sun was shining, the sea looked calm, what a perfect day to sail back …… Mainsail and genoa up, until a few hours later … again the wind swell and swell up to 30-40 knots. And the waves were even higher than the day before. We put 3 reefs in the mainsail and reduced the genoa. All went well. The woman said the waves were for sure as high as 7 meter but the men said that it was impossible as the waves on the North Sea could not swell to those heights.? At some point I was outside in front of the door looking at the front and we were taking up by a wave … the bow of the boat was so high I could only see water in front of me ……. and when the boat came down I expected her to slam into the water but to be honest Eight some sort of glided into the deep without a big bang or anything?! OMG, at that point it did not really liked it anymore … we have been sailing like that for several hours until we reached Scheveningen at 23.30. It was quite a trip coming back. But I was very happy having Aart on board. He also has so much experience and it always nice to have some extra hands in these conditions. You do not choose to leave in rough weather but sometimes it over comes or there is no choice. If we would not have left London as we did we probably would have been in London for another week at least. Which is not a bad place to stay at all but time was not in our favour. Everybody had to go to work again. And now we know that EIGHT is very very strong and stable and that she can handle sailing in these rough conditions. Which gives us a lot of confidence. It was our most memorable Christmas ever. To sail to London and back under harsh conditions and the epic scenery and adventures we had through the Christmas! Thanks Nanouk, Aart en Floor!
If you ever plan to make a trip over the Thames have a look at this short film. It gives you a flight over and along the Thames so you can see what to expect!
It was such an epic adventure! If you ever have the chance to do this trip do it! Bucketlist – check!