Wednesday, 13 September 2017

YIN & YANG CRUISE. Part 2: Yin

Our peaceful sojourn in Souhwold is cut short.

I've found enough phone signal to pick up the forecast. It shows a week of winds building steadily from today's F5-7 through Gale 8 to Storm 10. We need to get home before those gales arrive.....and will be beating (into the wind) all the way.

Stargazer puts to sea immediately. She carves her way south, through short steep seas, both main and genoa double reefed.

Pin Mill's sheltering trees give us a lee for the night. We set sail with the sunrise.

The breeze is down to F5-6 today. Stargazer shoulders her way on south under full jib and double reefed main. 

We anchor behind the spit in Pyefleet Creek for the night - now only one 45 mile hop from home. This should work out perfectly. The first gale is not due until tomorrow evening. We will be home by then.

We sail at high water. It's 04.00 dark and foggy. The occulting lights of buoyage appear and disappear in the swirls of mist. An anchored boat rears up dead ahead. I steer to starboard, to avoid her. We glide to a halt. We are aground. I start the engine. Too late. We are hard aground with 4m of tide still to fall. I close the sea cocks and start shifting all heavy gear up to port to encourage Stargazer to fall to the 'uphill' side of the mud bank. If we fall 'downhill' the returning tide will flood and sink us.

Dawn reveals a different fate.The same notoriously glutinous mud-ooze of the Pyefleet, which has entrapped Stargazer, is also her saviour. Yin and Yang. Stargazer has settled, 1.8m fin keel and all, bolt upright into the mud. A curlew feeds to our landward side delightfully oblivious to our presence.

To seaward a family of egrets hungrily stalk the shallows. I settle down to a 10 hour wait for the tide to return with a mug of coffee and a hot breakfast.

Much to my relief Stargazer refloats unscathed as the gale builds. We re anchor further up the Pyefleet to sit it out.

The wind shrieks and moans for 24 hours, until a dramatic thunderclap and rainbow mark the gale's end.

I navigate out of the creek and through the Swin Swatchway, with great care, an hour before dawn the following day. A gibbous moon lights our way. The clear night sky is studded with a magnificence of stars. A good omen for Stargazer.

 The forecast is "westerly 5-7 backing southerly 6-gale 8 perhaps severe gale 9 later." I put Stargazer hard on the wind, under double reefed main and double reefed jib. She flings spray high over her shoulder, letting nothing stand between her and the lee of the Kent shore.

We slip into the tree lined shelter of Upnor Reach as the storm Aileen arrives. Glad to be home.

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