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Day 20 Dunkirk to Whitstable

We had planned to shop for provisions this morning before our last night in the marina, but we woke up to find sunny weather, and a harbour that looked like a millpond. So we packed up, Martin obtained a refund for our outstanding night at the marina and we set of for England.

Goodbye Dunkirk!

We cast off at 10.40, and made our way down the channel that constitutes the harbour entrance, the water wasn’t really very choppy, but enough to make me anxious. Martin tried to distract me with pointing out various interesting things from sea birds to buildings along the way. But quite honestly I am much better being left alone in these situations to let my mind drift off (not literally!!) to somewhere else, so sadly he got little response from me at that time!

Our journey comprised five separate sections. The first involved us following a buoyed channel for 12 nautical miles (nm) along the coast towards Calais. We then changed bearing for another 8nm, turning our backs on France. This was followed by another bearing change for 16nm that took us across the shipping lanes. By the second section I had settled down enough to take the wheel intermittently for Martin to have a few breaks. After this, we completed approximately a further 12-13nm to reach Whitstable.I had, as usual looked up the shipping forecast and it was definitely calming down, force 4-5, sea state slight to moderate, and visibility good. In fact the visibility was very good all the way to the UK, and the sun shone which made a much welcome change from the past few days of wind and rain.

We passed quite a few commercial ships on our crossing, they were anything from ferries to large ships with piles and piles of shipping containers that reminded me of brightly coloured children’s building blocks.

The swell was off about across the Channel, and Martin reckoned that it had picked up to a force 6, but due to the deeper water, they didn’t feel half as bad as the waves on the IJsselmere, and as the bow hit the wake of the other boats passing us it sent up great whooshes of spray (much to Martins delight, that he thereafter referred to them as boof boof’s). We spotted numerous spent fish eggs during the day, and several gannets diving for fish.

Somewhere in the English Channel

We made good time considering that we had not left Dunkirk until 10.40, and we passed Margate bathed in a rosy glow, and the water was tranquil and calm. Gone was the swell that we had experienced in the early afternoon, and we decided at this point to cruise on to Whitstable and moor for the night at the harbour there. I had contacted Mark my work colleague, who has family in Whitstable. It was possible that his brother could come and meet us in Whitstable once we had moored. Passing sandbanks complete with seals basking in the evening sun, we continued on a falling tide, coming worryingly close to some almost submerged rocks not marked! As we approached Whitstable, we realised it was becoming much shallower when we saw someone walking their dog in front of us, yes in the water! A sudden change of course was made.

We finally reached Whitstable at 20.30, and just as we thought the most difficult part of the day was over, we saw that due to the low tide, the harbour was very shallow. We inched our way into the mouth of the harbour and Martin decided that we shouldn’t risk going in too far just in case we ran aground. The walls of the harbour were about 20 feet high with a small vertical seaweed covered ladder to the top to reach the bollards. Just as we entered a small voice came down from the top “it’s very shallow” we looked up to find a young lady looking down to us “ would you like me to tie the boat up for you?” We nodded and Martin set about handing her a rope. Her boyfriend (we think) gave a hand.

However, disappointingly I realised that we would not be able to have any visitors with this kind of access, so contacted Mark to say that his brother would be unable to reach us.

After we had made the boat secure, she said, of course, “ would you like some chips?” We gratefully accepted, we were hungry, but we were also rather tired, so the prospect of not cooking for ourselves sounded very appealing. It turned out that there was a small restaurant near to where we had moored called the Lobster Shack, and they both worked there. We ate the chips, and Martin returned the little basket that they had been served in and left a £1 coin in it outside the restaurant once we had finished them. We were tired by this time, and so retired to bed to be rocked to sleep by the tide.

Whitstable harbour at low tide. I never did see
what was at the top of the wall!