'Sheemaun' from St Kats to Ramsgate

My crew and I departed in 'Sheemaun' from St Kats - where as 'Flagship of the UK Historic Fleet we had been centre stage of the celebrations - at 08.00 on Tuesday 14th Sept (had we been forced to leave it any longer we would have been 'tide-bound' for another 10 days). 

We had a good run down the Thames to Yantlet flats by which time there was a brisk WNW blowing as forecast at 30 kts gusting 35 kts.  Under reduced but well balanced rig, jib and gaff mizzen, we surged through 1.5m - 2m waves off Sheppey at 6 kts with the wind howling in the rigging and ratlines and sheets rod hard and throbbing and seaweed being flung across the deck.  Exciting but tiring.  'Sheemaun' no longer a pretty crowd-pulling poser but a very different vessel, handsome, sturdy and seagoing doing just what she was built for. 

As dusk closed in on us we headed W into the West Swale and picked up a mooring outside Faversham Creek and where it was sheltered and calm.  After a good meal we slept soundly but were awoken by the sound of feet clumping about on deck, however a torchlit search revealed nothing and yet we all three had heard quite definite footwork!  The 'cabin girl' suggested it might have been the ghosts of past Masters and Commanders perhaps from WWII!  I'm not into ghosts but I cannot account for the noises. 

Thursday 16th a.m. the severe weather had abated and we slipped at 09.30 and took the tide to Ramsgate, sailing under jib, stay'sl, gaff main and gaff mizzen making about 6 knots - see photo of bow wave, not bad for a 25 ton 1935 motor yacht.  The wind F4-5 required us to make somewhat more of a northerly heading than the chart directed and we found the Margate Sands uncovering and foaming just 50 metres to port - very uncomfortable and worrying as we were as close to the wind as an old gaffer can go. 

Starting the engines and bearing away would have jibed us and quite likely brought down the mast so sailmaster Tim Hunt quickly rigged preventers and under engines we just clawed off the sands in time.  We sailed to Ramsgate where we had to wait until 17.00 to lock in to our berth.  Tired and aching.

Next year I hope to cruise Sheemsaun from Ramsgate to Boulogne for the July maritime festival and then head to the Cherbourg Peninsula and return iether along the French Coast or via the UK South Coast weather depending and will be looking for two or three reasonably able bodied non-smoking crew.

Dr Rodney Pell, 17.09.2010 | More from Dr Rodney Pell’s blog