Passage 53, Eastbourne to Ramsgate

Having only recently set the record for the slowest passage (#50 - 2.7 knots), I then set the record for the fastest (#53 - 6.7 knots). But before I get into that I’ve got an important discovery day in Eastbourne to describe.

Day in Eastbourne prior to passage to Ramsgate

I had a rough idea of my last two passages but I needed to do the detailed planning. After a leisurely breakfast this took up most of the morning so I got going on my discovery ride at around noon. I decided to go and see Beachy Head from the inside as it were. I cycled out and up and then walked along the cliff top to Belle Tout. The sheer height, vertiginousness and whiteness of these cliffs is mind blowing. There’s no guard rail and you could literally simply walk off over the top. I didn’t dare to get beyond a few meters from the edge. Sadly, very sadly, people do walk off over the top and there are clearly a couple of preferred places as there are little crosses or flowers where some have chosen to end their life, alone and dejected, for want of any better alternative. It’s too awful to contemplate.

Having reached Belle Tout (site of another light house) I bought an ice-cream. A magnum no less. I think this is the first time I have bought an ice-cream during this venture. It’ll also be my last as this is my last discovery day. It was a good walk, there and back, and I can report that my sciatica is slowly improving and walking now is only a slight discomfort. Back on the bike, I whizzed down to Birling Gap. There I browsed the visitor centre (cliffs receding at an average of 70cm per year) and took a walk on the beach. A couple of blokes were swimming, mad dogs. I then continued on to Exceat where there is the most beautiful valley with a river meandering down to the sea. This place is known as the Severn Sisters Country Park. I ambled down the valley out to the beach and there you can see the Seven Sisters in all their glory.

I took time out and sat on the beach and stared out over the water and watched the imperceptible progress of a single lonely yacht far out at sea. Hmm.

As you may imagine, I’ve seen quite a few cliffs around our coast in the recent past. In fact I’ve probably seen them all. And nothing comes close to these spectacular white beauties. They trump the lot by a wide margin.

I dragged myself away and cycled back along the A-road to get back quickly. Both ways involved a fair amount of hill climbing, but the final home stretch into Eastbourne was a huge downhill free wheeler. I went through the heart of Eastbourne to get to the marina which was on the other side of town.

Eastbourne is a big town much like any other. Nothing much to report. The marina, however, is huge. They call it a village but it’s massive and has hundreds of buildings which together must host thousands of flats. Sounds awful but in fact it’s really quite nice. There’s good diversity in architecture, no high rise and it’s generally clean and tidy. I’d live here.

That was my last discovery day and it was a good one. Warm and sunny, lots of cycling (27 miles) and spectacular scenery. Couldn’t ask for more.

Back to the passage to Ramsgate

I had a strong force 5 behind me and I truly shot across Pevensey bay and Rye bay before reaching the ominous sounding Dungeness. Only downside was that it was very overcast and rained for most of the time. I’d expected it though, and it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d been prepared for. Rain, it’s only water after all.

As I headed a little more north towards Dover, the sky started to get brighter and the wind just kept on coming. By now I was directly downwind and I did away with the foresail and simply had the single reefed main sail up. At this point my tide started to kick in and I was doing 8 to 9 knots. 

I succeeded in missing no less than 8 ferries coming in and out of the Dover port while I was in the vicinity and as I headed north towards Ramsgate the wind and tide kept me trucking. I was in Ramsgate by 2:45pm and had clocked up 60 miles in 9 hours flat. Go me.

The sea was pretty lumpy going past Dover for some reason but generally the waves were 1 to 2 meters, not too bad. However, the conditions were such that my autopilot could not cope so I had to helm the whole way. I didn’t really mind.

The autopilot, by the way, has been good as gold since I put it on the naughty step and threatened to throw it overboard a few days ago. Though it was quite hopeless today.

I took a walk into Ramsgate and wandered about a bit. By this time it was bright sunshine and being Saturday there was a nice buzz of people. I’ve been here before and there’s still work to be done on the seafront, but it’s a nice sandy beach. I bought myself Fish and Chips as a treat, though I felt rather bloated afterward.

Passage 54, Ramsgate to Burnham