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London City
-- 15th to 21st May 2011 --
The road has neither been easy nor straight, but we did it! After a week sailing, Saltimbanque comes to the feet of Tower Bridge and enters the mythical harbor of Saint Katharine docks, in the very heart of London!

220 nautical miles in theory, almost 300 actually sailed.
Our stops, click on the names for more details:
Krammersluis (pontoon)Roompot (marina)Vlissingen (marina)Breskens (marina)Ramsgate (marina) Tilbury (on a buoy)Saint-Katharine Docks (marina)
15th May: Stad aan het Haringvliet – Krammersluis (6 miles)
It was hard to say goodbye. We set the sails, for the sake of sailing, sail under the Haringvliet Bridge and settle for the night next to the first lock. The weather forecast is showing some strong westerly winds to start with and we chose the security of the Dutch inland waterways for our first runs.

We have a good laugh when Laure starts chatting with a Dutch lady passing by, while Camille is still busy tying up the boot (see the page “the crew” ;-) )
16th May 2011 : Krammersluis - Roompot (35 miles in direct line but 65 miles on the surface)
Here we go, through the first lock, we tack against the wind and between the shore, the ducks and the barges. Our target is the Roompot dam, the gate to the open sea... weather permitting.

Twelve hours tacking and two locks further, we reach the Roompot with wind gusts stronger than 25 knots, on a boat unmanageable with more than the gib and two reefs. The entry to the port is exactly in the axis of the wind and our engine is not very powerful – we have to rely on the little gib to keep us moving as long as possible, beyond the dyke.

In a lock, followed by a floating digger...
17th May 2011 : Roompot - Vlissingen (35 miles)
First action of the day: get a peek at the wind charts on the havenmaster’s computer. Westerlay – southwesterly wind 5-6... well, weather does NOT permit then... no crossing with those conditions.

Arriving at Veere
So, back to inland waters, towards Flushing. We had not yet sailed the Veerse Meer and enjoy the green landscape very much – it could almost look like a river in Brittany!
After Veere (beautiful belltower – typical Brabant) we turn left, onto a looooong and straiaiaiaght canal to Flushing. Bike lane on one side and railway on the other we get passed four swing bridges before mooring at the welcoming yacht club (VVW Schelde). Free wifi :-) And a sailors’ library: help-yourself shelf where people dropped the books they read in exchange for some new readings… good to replenish the Dutch part of our own library.
18th May 2011 – Vlissingen – Breskens (5 miles)
Strong wind, we cross the Schelde river to the other side, Breskens harbor.
19th May 2011 – Breskens - Ramsgate (85 miles)
Wind was still as strong as 7bft in the night off the coast, but a zone of high pressure is supposed to establish itself during the day. That’s why we set the clock to depart at 5 am, making the most of the going out tide.

Seems to be a famous mooring spot in the middle of the North Sea...
Less wind indeed, all sails on we go at a little 3-4 knots... For two hours.. then it stops. No wind, not at all. Engine on, we start on a looooong crossing, never completely reassured when at the mercy of the gods of Mechanics – especially in such a busy area as the North Sea.

But we must admit, we are impressed! Our engine works for 17 hours without an issue or even what can resemble a hiccup. Hurrah for Nestor! Yes, we call him Nestor now, after Captain Haddock’s majordomo in Tintin, because he serves us faithfully. And also because he looks like a Nestor, there’s no denying...
Night is falling and the weather forecast does not predict any wind: we change course to join Ramsgate, the closest harbor, to allow Nestor a little rest. Got there at 2 am.
20th May 2011 –Ramsgate - Tilbury (55 miles direct line, 75 miles on the surface)
The night was short (4 hours). We fill up the tank and check the engine before hitting the road again, up the Thames we said... but today, there is WIND! It is blowing straight into our faces, making our route twice a long, but we are still grateful and enjoy a nice sunrise on white cliffs. How nice it is, to be sailing (between a windmills field and rows of cargoes)

Ramsgate on port side...

... and windmills on starboard.
We tack against the wind in the estuary (long estuary) with 4 bft and a bright sun. First fishes of the trip – perfect for tonight’s risotto.

All was for the best in the bets of the worlds until... the tide changed... the current against us, we have to turn the engine on again not to stay stuck at the very same spot for hours in a weakening wind.

La Tamise, cette rivière idyllique.
Finally the current becomes less powerful, then favorable. Full speed again, with the impression to be floating in the middle of a gigantic Christmas decoration, lights of refineries, cargoes and docks looking like alien monsters somehow. 2 am: we reach Tilbury moorings, next right after the container carriers (not so nice the Thames).
Quite practical the buoys in the middle of this long and busy river. Picking up one in a 2 knots current at night can be tricky though, even dangerous... grateful to be both safe, and exhausted, we crash on our bunk without further due.
At least off-season there were many available buoys at Tilbury.
21st May 2011 –Tilbury – Saint Katharine Docks (20 miles)
Take off 11 am with the tide in, we go up the Thames all sails up as long as possible. But against the wind we soon have to call Nestor for help. The current is very strong (nearly 3 knots) and the wind blowing in the opposite direction creates short and annoying waves.

We see the first tours of the City in the distance, pass the Thames tidal Barrier, then the Greenwich meridian… in Greenwich ? ! Sailing by Canary Wharf, Laure looks up to greet her colleagues in the tower.
The river is long. Saltimbanque is definitely no downtown boat. Finally we get there, the last curve... and Tower Bridge!!!

Tower Bridge !

Indeed !
We enter in the very well-tended lock of Saint Katharine Dock Marina (better to call in advance and book a space). Here we are, at the heart of London!! A friend joins us onboard for some drinks onboard of our mighty yacht.

It was about time to get to a shelter. A new strong wind forecast provides us with a good excuse to stay a couple of days and enjoy London.
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Your messages:

Remco - 04/06/2011 08:04:37
Vanavond vieren Hans verjaardag, als jullie zin hebben zijn jullie welkom

SuDad - 28/05/2011 16:54:57
A tomber... vos photos de, et autour de Towerbridge. Ca donne des frissons dans la machine à rêves. Tous vos supporters en profitent. Thanks a lot !!!

BA - 26/05/2011 09:48:08
Belle plume! On y est avec votre récit. Vous avez eu de bons maitres en écriture ;) a. +

Lily - 25/05/2011 18:54:35
C'est trop fort, vivement le prochain recit, j'ai l'impression de partir un peu en vacances :o)

Didier - 25/05/2011 08:43:50
Dommage que je lise ca au bureau (...euh; pendant ma pause, bien sur) sinon apres avoir quasiment vecu en reel ces aventures, j'aurais directement été boire une pinte dans un pub pour m'en remettre...

Sylvia - 24/05/2011 23:09:33
Nou, klinkt alles heel erg spannend! En wat leuk om jullie boot bij de Tower Bridge te zien - lijkt zo onvoorstelbaar, maar daarom juist zo leuk. Ik hoop jullie hebben van de stad kunnen genieten en wind mee gaat de journey terug straks makkelijker maken :-) Groetjes uit zonnig maar fris Den Haag

AUMADATROI - 24/05/2011 19:39:36
Bravo Saltimbanque !
Une navigation réfléchie et "musclée" . . .
Et merci pour la narration !
A bientôt,

Gradignan Yachting Club - 24/05/2011 17:49:51
Alors ça c'est du reportage. Du "participatif", pour les destinataires. On respirerait presque les diverses effluves qui doivent accompagner. Chapeau, mesdemoiselles, ça commence par du sport. Et de sacrés futurs souvenirs. Merci de nous en faire si bien profiter...

la mamou - 24/05/2011 14:17:32
wouaou !!!!
et en plus , il y a plein de photos dans la rubrique "photos" !!! :-) :-) :-))))

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