Crossing the Thames Estuary

Sea Hustler

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Reading many threads on here, I see that there are loads of views and suggestions on crossing the Thames estuary, some are from obviously experienced sailors, many who have done the trip countless times and wonder what all the fuss is about. Others are from people like me who are contemplating doing it for the first time and frankly have disconnect the bilge pump, water pump engine intake, exhaust and Seaflo Marine Toilet because everything is flowing in one end and straight out the other without any blockages of any kind and there is no need for any pumps to assist in clearing the tubes whatsoever. I have a copious supply of softwood bungs all of which have been well greased and measured for size should insertion into any loose orifices be required.

After more than a year stuck on the hard at a marina in Essex, repairing or replacing the million and one things that you didn't see when you bought the boat, we are now almost at launch day. My plan is to spend a couple of months working from the marina reacquainting myself with the wonders of wind powered transport, it has been some years, 40 to be exact since I was last blown across the water using the principles of horizontal flight. Having never sailed this boat on anger, I am still to discover her sailing credentials (and mine) but from the stats that I do have she is a displacement hull, 24ft LOA, 8'6" beam and most important for this post 2'6" shoal draft bilge keel 50/50 Motor Sailer, her recorded Hull Speed is 5.9 knots under engine, so Im guessing she would be about the same under sail (in the hands of a competent Skipper). The previous owners left some charts aboard and in there is a passage plan for a 17nm trip which they timed at 3 1/2 hours, so I calculate that about 5 knots is an attainable speed with the right conditions.

All this leads up to the question, My plan is to leave from the Havengore Maypole at something like HW, and head to Ramsgate, avoiding any low flying artillery shells if possible (new berth is in Chichester Harbour) If conditions are favourable, with such a shallow draft, can I take a straight-ish course to North Foreland hopefully arrive in time for the tide to carry us down to Ramsgate. Haven't looked at tidal streams yet or timings to arrive with fair tides Im just wondering if a shoal draft boat can take a direct course across the estuary other than crossing the shipping lanes or do I need to stick to the deeper channels.

Be kind....
 

Plum

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Reading many threads on here, I see that there are loads of views and suggestions on crossing the Thames estuary, some are from obviously experienced sailors, many who have done the trip countless times and wonder what all the fuss is about. Others are from people like me who are contemplating doing it for the first time and frankly have disconnect the bilge pump, water pump engine intake, exhaust and Seaflo Marine Toilet because everything is flowing in one end and straight out the other without any blockages of any kind and there is no need for any pumps to assist in clearing the tubes whatsoever. I have a copious supply of softwood bungs all of which have been well greased and measured for size should insertion into any loose orifices be required.

After more than a year stuck on the hard at a marina in Essex, repairing or replacing the million and one things that you didn't see when you bought the boat, we are now almost at launch day. My plan is to spend a couple of months working from the marina reacquainting myself with the wonders of wind powered transport, it has been some years, 40 to be exact since I was last blown across the water using the principles of horizontal flight. Having never sailed this boat on anger, I am still to discover her sailing credentials (and mine) but from the stats that I do have she is a displacement hull, 24ft LOA, 8'6" beam and most important for this post 2'6" shoal draft bilge keel 50/50 Motor Sailer, her recorded Hull Speed is 5.9 knots under engine, so Im guessing she would be about the same under sail (in the hands of a competent Skipper). The previous owners left some charts aboard and in there is a passage plan for a 17nm trip which they timed at 3 1/2 hours, so I calculate that about 5 knots is an attainable speed with the right conditions.

All this leads up to the question, My plan is to leave from the Havengore Maypole at something like HW, and head to Ramsgate, avoiding any low flying artillery shells if possible (new berth is in Chichester Harbour) If conditions are favourable, with such a shallow draft, can I take a straight-ish course to North Foreland hopefully arrive in time for the tide to carry us down to Ramsgate. Haven't looked at tidal streams yet or timings to arrive with fair tides Im just wondering if a shoal draft boat can take a direct course across the estuary other than crossing the shipping lanes or do I need to stick to the deeper channels.

Be kind....
Agree with @dansaskip and others, buy the "Crossing the Thames Estuary" book. That you asked "can I take a straight-ish course to North Foreland" suggests you need to do more homework. Also, I suggest you do a shorter less ambitious local trip to get used to the boat before you head for Ramsgate and Chichester. Maybe a trip to Brightlingsea?

www.solocoastalsailing.co.uk
 

Sea Hustler

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Agree with @dansaskip and others, buy the "Crossing the Thames Estuary" book. That you asked "can I take a straight-ish course to North Foreland" suggests you need to do more homework. Also, I suggest you do a shorter less ambitious local trip to get used to the boat before you head for Ramsgate and Chichester. Maybe a trip to Brightlingsea?

www.solocoastalsailing.co.uk
Thanks for your reply but I fear you did not read my post in its entirety, I did say that I intend to spend two months at her current location "reacquainting myself with the wonders of wind powered transport" that was my tongue in cheek way of saying I am not a complete novice and that I also intend spending two months sailing around the East Coast where she is currently before setting off across the estuary. No doubt Brightlingsea will get a visit as will many other harbours, inlets and marinas during those two months. I had hoped that my rather whimsical prose would have made it apparent that while I am not a complete greenhorn I was simply asking if a shoal draft boat drawing a mere 2'6" could scoot across the estuary or did those more familiar with those water advise I should stick to the normal channels. I did not ask for a dressing down
 

DoubleEnder

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Do buy the book. It’s invaluable. But if you want a concise answer, stick to the deeper water channels. A straight line course to the Foreland is unwise

And visit the East Coast Forum too. Lots of up to date useful information there
 

Plum

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Thanks for your reply but I fear you did not read my post in its entirety, I did say that I intend to spend two months at her current location "reacquainting myself with the wonders of wind powered transport" that was my tongue in cheek way of saying I am not a complete novice and that I also intend spending two months sailing around the East Coast where she is currently before setting off across the estuary. No doubt Brightlingsea will get a visit as will many other harbours, inlets and marinas during those two months. I had hoped that my rather whimsical prose would have made it apparent that while I am not a complete greenhorn I was simply asking if a shoal draft boat drawing a mere 2'6" could scoot across the estuary or did those more familiar with those water advise I should stick to the normal channels. I did not ask for a dressing down
I am very sorry for not reading your post correctly and if I offended you in any way.
 

oldgit

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Some folks who have been having " fun" ? in this area for decades and who in the main have failed to learn very much from previous mistakes, keep an eye on this website and have actually gone to the expence of purchasing a copy of the dead tree Pilot with actual money.
The update page alone is worth its weight in gold .
:)
East Coast Pilot | ECP
 

Sea Hustler

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I am very sorry for not reading your post correctly and if I offended you in any way.
No problem, sorry if I was short with you. So in a more sensible vien.

Although I have not sailed in about 40 years, I did do a whole bunch of dinghy sailing back in my heyday, I then spent two years at sea aboard a small coaster criss crossing the North Sea and English Channel. I then took up the sport of Kayaking for a couple of years and lastly raced powerboats at Championship Level, (I won the Scottish Nationals way back in the 90s and held the class water speed record at 81.4 mph-probably been bested by now though) so I am quite comfortable on the water - hate being in it, too wet and cold most of the time, I just know crossing an estuary like the Thames is not to be taken lightly, its deep in places, stupid shallow in others, its fast and its busy, a combination of everything you dont want on a trip but a necessary step in mine.

I have a very healthy respect for the sea as I am acutely aware it takes no prisoners and will eat the unwary or foolish. My post was made rather tongue in cheek but was seeking 'local knowledge' as I have none if it was acceptable to sail a shoal draft boat directly across or should I stick to the accepted channels. Everywhere you read that the advantages (if there are any) of a shoal draft is that you can reach those hard to reach places that others cannot get to and it seemed logical to seek some advice from those that know these waters.

I have spent over a year repairing and preparing the boat to move her from the River Crouch down to Chichester and I will admit, there is a certain trepidation in undertaking such a trip, I will however be spending the next two months living aboard while staying in the area, familiarising myself with the boat before undertaking the passage. While I understand the advice to purchase the book so many mention, this is a one time passage, I have no intention of returning Eastward once on the South Coast and if I were to consider such a trip, the book would be an essential part of my planning. With the huge expense suffered thus far with all the work needed and am still suffering, I am reluctant to buy an expensive book that I will never use again. My budget is limited and if I don't need it, I don't buy it. I do have a whole bunch of Apps including Savvy Navvy and paper charts so I think I am covered although I agree if I intended to make the trip again then the book would be on the 'to buy list'

I apologise if my whimsical post gave the impression that I was an idiot undertaking something that he was totally unprepared for, asking of those that know was part of my prep for making the trip that's all.

Thanks
 
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Sea Hustler

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Do buy the book. It’s invaluable. But if you want a concise answer, stick to the deeper water channels. A straight line course to the Foreland is unwise

And visit the East Coast Forum too. Lots of up to date useful information there
Thanks so much, that's all the advice I was seeking
 
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Time Out

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No problem, sorry if I was short with you. So in a more sensible vien.

Although I have not sailed in about 40 years, I did do a whole bunch of dinghy sailing back in my heyday, I then spent two years at sea aboard a small coaster criss crossing the North Sea and English Channel. I then took up the sport of Kayaking for a couple of years and lastly raced powerboats at Championship Level, (I won the Scottish Nationals way back in the 90s and held the class water speed record at 81.4 mph-probably been bested by now though) so I am quite comfortable on the water - hate being in it, too wet and cold most of the time, I just know crossing an estuary like the Thames is not to be taken lightly, its deep in places, stupid shallow in others, its fast and its busy, a combination of everything you dont want on a trip but a necessary step in mine.

I have a very healthy respect for the sea as I am acutely aware it takes no prisoners and will eat the unwary or foolish. My post was made rather tongue in cheek but was seeking 'local knowledge' as I have none if it was acceptable to sail a shoal draft boat directly across or should I stick to the accepted channels. Everywhere you read that the advantages (if there are any) of a shoal draft is that you can reach those hard to reach places that others cannot get to and it seemed logical to seek some advice from those that know these waters.

I have spent over a year repairing and preparing the boat to move her from the River Crouch down to Chichester and I will admit, there is a certain trepidation in undertaking such a trip, I will however be spending the next two months living aboard while staying in the area, familiarising myself with the boat before undertaking the passage. While I understand the advice to purchase the book so many mention, this is a one time passage, I have no intention of returning Eastward once on the South Coast and if I were to consider such a trip, the book would be an essential part of my planning. With the huge expense suffered thus far with all the work needed and am still suffering, I am reluctant to buy an expensive book that I will never use again. My budget is limited and if I don't need it, I don't buy it. I do have a whole bunch of Apps including Savvy Navvy and paper charts so I think I am covered although I agree if I intended to make the trip again then the book would be on the 'to buy list'

I apologise if my whimsical post gave the impression that I was an idiot undertaking something that he was totally unprepared for, asking of those that know was part of my prep for making the trip that's all.

Thanks
In fairness your first post was so well written, covering several aspects that I thought it was an AI bot !
 

Sea Hustler

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If you are based at Essex Marina, how come you are starting from Havengore & not the mouth of the Crouch?
Because on paper (and on Savvy Navvy), Havengore creek opens up into the estuary further south than the Crouch and would therefore shorten the distance I would need to cover. However, the purpose of my original post was the hope that other more experienced sailors would perhaps ask "if you are based at Essex Marina, how come you are starting from Havengore & not the mouth of the Crouch". Then they could have explained to me that with their local knowledge they would advise me to take a different route to the one I have planned, that's all.
 
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Daydream believer

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Because on paper (and on Savvy Navvy), Havengore creek opens up into the estuary further south than the Crouch and would therefore shorten the distance I would need to cover. However, the purpose of my original post was the hope that other more experienced sailors would perhaps ask "if you are based at Essex Marina, how come you are starting from Havengore & not the mouth of the Crouch". Then they could have explained to me that with their local knowledge they would advise me to take a different route to the one I have planned, that's all.
OK I will disregard the p..s take response & suggest one avoids the Havengore bridge. many do use it but I admit to have never tried. I am told, but have no proof, that delays can occur. Others can advise.

I suggest that one anchors for the night in the small bay on the south side of the Crouch right near the mouth. Pick up a favourable tide early morning. Head out past the Whitaker, then across to the southern Sunk crossing ( Personally I like to cross by Barrow No2 using the ebb then the flood south) Sailing across Fisherman's Gat, cutting the corners, does not push one far off course & then one does not have to worry about sailing over sand banks.

Using the tide & recognised channels probably makes up for time saved crossing banks. One would have to do a passage plan & take in to account wave conditions etc. If one sails the estuary long enough then the likelyhood is that you will get plenty of time to go for a walk 15 miles offshore, whether you want to or not. So no point in tempting fate.

No need to buy books. All due respect to Roger- I found some of the stuff just befuddles the brain. That being said most swear by it, so you take your choice. (although Reeds is well worth your money) Just get an up to date chart & a tide table
 

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Combination of needing a decent tide which could limit your departure dates and the bridge being out of service again at very short notice would be a worry.
At least taking the long way round means there is nothing between you and your destination apart from the prevailing Essex summer weather.
NE F 7-8. ?
 

Sea Hustler

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OK I will disregard the p..s take response & suggest one avoids the Havengore bridge. many do use it but I admit to have never tried. I am told, but have no proof, that delays can occur. Others can advise.

I suggest that one anchors for the night in the small bay on the south side of the Crouch right near the mouth. Pick up a favourable tide early morning. Head out past the Whitaker, then across to the southern Sunk crossing ( Personally I like to cross by Barrow No2 using the ebb then the flood south) Sailing across Fisherman's Gat, cutting the corners, does not push one far off course & then one does not have to worry about sailing over sand banks.

Using the tide & recognised channels probably makes up for time saved crossing banks. One would have to do a passage plan & take in to account wave conditions etc. If one sails the estuary long enough then the likelyhood is that you will get plenty of time to go for a walk 15 miles offshore, whether you want to or not. So no point in tempting fate.

No need to buy books. All due respect to Roger- I found some of the stuff just befuddles the brain. That being said most swear by it, so you take your choice. (although Reeds is well worth your money) Just get an up to date chart & a tide table
My genuine and sincere thanks, apologies for the P...take, it's just my way.

Your very succinct, and knowledgeable post was everything I was looking for. upon reflection and using a useful App I have, I can see that for some strange reason it is actually 1 nm shorter to leave via the Crouch than Havengor. bit of an optical illusion I think but one that has brought about a change in my passage plan in favour of a Crouch departure.

I have spoken with a friend who like many on here is quite familiar with these waters and his advice bears out pretty much exactly what you suggest, so I shall be incorporating much of what you say into my passage plan.

And have a Reeds on board and Tom Cunliffe's Channel Pilot South Coast for later in the trip and future use as well. I looked at the stuff online for the book all suggest but I too found it rather confusing, perhaps because I do not yet have a fully developed Navigators brain.

Not wishing to step completely out of character:......and not fully understanding the waters around that area, I was surprised to discover that my Tom Tom doesn't actually cover the area, my intention therefore is to pick a wave and follow it, working on the assumption that it's going to hit land sometime eventually. Another issue that has been concerning me is how do you manage to keep blowing wind into the sails on such a long trip, I only ask because I find I get really puffed out after about half an hour
 
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Sea Hustler

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Combination of needing a decent tide which could limit your departure dates and the bridge being out of service again at very short notice would be a worry.
At least taking the long way round means there is nothing between you and your destination apart from the prevailing Essex summer weather.
NE F 7-8. ?
Useful advice, thanks.

Although many on here may not fully appreciate my sense of humour, my original post has generated the animated response I had hoped and from it I have received much useful advice.

I now intend to change my intended passage leaving from the Crouch rather than Havengor and taking a more conservative route sticking to the main channels as much as possible while taking advantage of my shallow draft if I can.

Come on, it was entertaining wasn't it.
 
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