Wednesday, 8 May 2013

We're in deep water (or not in any water at all)

Steve and I have been living on board for approaching 12 months now. It has truly been a great experience and has convinced us both that we would like to be live-aboard boaters for the foreseeable future. Yes, the winter was long, cold and challenging, and at times the walk from the car park to our mooring, in the freezing cold and with wind howling off the sea, was enough to test our resolve. We have made friends with our neighbouring boaters and it is nice to live in a genuine community, where people have time for each other and stop to chat and socialise.

There has been, however, one issue which has dampened the enjoyment. We are both boaters and we love to sail. I have never understood the thousands of people who spend a small fortune to keep a boat but never move it out of the marina. And trust me, for every boat which moves, there are 30 which do not.  However, being moored on a 'half tides' has made sailing very difficult. Allow me to explain.

A half tide mooring means half the time we are floating and the other half we are on the river bed. You might think that all we need to do is wait for the tide to come in and sail off - but it's not quite as simple as that.  Being a flat bottomed boat we can only go in one direction - inland towards Tonbridge. We simply don't have the power or navigation skills to take her out to the Thames estuary and towards London.  Even if we did have those skills, we would face 12 long hours travelling before we reached the first safe haven - which is Gravesend. Now I don't wish to be rude about Gravesend as I have friends there (including the former MP), but a 12 hour journey in dangerous seas with the  Pocahontas Museum and panoramic views of Tilbury docks to look forward to,  is not the greatest enticement to travel!

Going the other direction is a two hour journey to the lock at Allington, which separates the tidal river from the freshwater Upper Medway. However, that's two hours travelling with the tide, but that is in itself a risk as we need to calculate the size of the tide and speed of the water. Our boat can maintain around 5 knots, so if it's a big tide and the water coming into the river is flowing faster than 5 knots, we are basically carried along with no steerage or control. To avoid the risk we could leave as the tide is flowing out, but again if it's flowing out at 6 knots and we can only move forward at 5 knots, we end-up going backwards and we could end up in Antwerp (which is probably on a par with Gravesend without the added attraction of Pocahontas).  To avoid this we need to ensure the days we have off coincide with small tides.

Then we have the clock to consider. The tide comes and goes when it wants to, not for our convenience. So even if we both have the same days off, the weather is clement, and the tide if sufficiently low to make navigation possible, we also need to have the clock in our favour. On the two occasions all the other ducks have lined up, the high tide has been at 7am (or 7pm) meaning we would have leave our mooring in the dark and travel in the dark - illegal without navigation lights (which narrow boats don't have!).

As a consequence of these complications, we have simply not done any sailing since we moved here - which is a great disappointment to us both as we love it so much. But hopefully that might be about to change - as over the weekend an exciting and totally unexpected opportunity opened up to us, which could lead to a be a big transformation in how we live!

I will post more tomorrow when hopefully things have been confirmed!

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