Why It’s Sometimes Good To Just Stop!

A couple of weeks ago, Hodge and I had a much needed weekend off. A break from instructing, and from our other work… time for us, to just chill and escape from it all.

A rainbow over Sheppy - taken from the River Swale
A rainbow – taken from the Swale

We headed to Ruby May, and slipped lines. The forecast was mixed. Light winds, possible squalls, and some sunshine.

Locking out is always such a nice feeling. As the gates open it feels like you can go anywhere and do anything. The world is literally your oyster. An adventure awaits. It’s a feeling like nothing else.

We head out into the river, and tidy the lines. We start making our way downstream. We’re downwind, and sailing nicely, albeit into the tide. We’re in no hurry today, there’s no deadline, there’s no pressure. Just us, the wind and the tide. Absolute bliss.

It’s warm, and humid. There’s some ominous looking clouds about. Most notably, there’s a huge black cloud behind us, and when you’re sailing downwind that’s never a good thing. It means that it is coming your way! We watch it closely – When a cloud like that passes over, it will bring gusty winds, heavy rain and so an action plan is needed.

A squall over the river Medway
A huge black cloud headed our way

The last thing you want is to be caught by a squall unexpectedly or before you’ve taken appropriate action (like reducing the sail size for example). I remember vividly a time that Hodge and I were out sailing on the Artful Dodger, and in similar circumstances we spotted a black cloud heading our way. We discussed the need to reef (reduce sail size), but left it too late. As the squall hit us the boat was laid over, we’d let the sheets (lines which you use to trim the sails) go, and they were flapping wildly, I was gripping the helm trying to keep some control, Hodge was doing all he could to get the sails under control and reefed. The rain pelted us, the wind bore down with all of it’s might. It was a lesson, and we both learned a lot from it. Always take action early.

With that in mind, we discussed reefing and also the need to put our foulies on. But, I didn’t actually fancy a soaking. I was loving the warm weather, and so I suggested another plan. “Let’s just stop!” We weren’t yet out of the river. We could drop anchor and make some lunch, eat, and by the time we’re done it would have passed.

And so that is exactly what we did. We dropped the sails, found a suitable depth outside the main channel, just off the Isle of Grain, and up on the foredeck I let the anchor drop. Anticipating gusty winds, I put a little bit of extra chain down, duly set a snubber, and raised the anchor ball. With that, there’s a patter of rain on the deck. Perfect timing.

Minutes later the wind is howling. It rose from 8 knots to 27 knots within 2 minutes, and the rain was torrential. Down below, Hodge is busy making a chilli, which we duly enjoy. An hour later, we poke our head’s out of the hatch… sunshine! The plan paid off, we raise our anchor and head on our way. Sometimes it is good to just stop.

Thames Barges on the Swale at Harty Ferry
Thames Barge on anchor at Harty Ferry

We’re headed to Harty Ferry, one of our favourite anchorages. It is a beautiful, peaceful spot on the Swale. Next to a nature reserve, the beaches are often lined with basking seals and beautiful seabirds. It is the perfect escape, and a reminder of the beauty of the nature that surrounds us.

Passing a beautiful porpoise and a few seals, we navigate our way up the Swale to be met by several classic Thames barges all on anchor. It’s quite a sight. We find our spot, and settle in for the night. A night on anchor beckons. A retreat from the day-to-day, time to ourselves, on our beautiful boat, away from the world.

As the sun goes down, we throw down the hook. And lock ourselves away.

The sun set as we dropped our anchor
The sun set as we laid our anchor

In the morning, the sun is shining. The barges head off in all their glory. We raise our anchor and slowly make our way home. Our batteries recharged. Our lungs full of fresh sea air. It was the weekend that we both needed.

RNLI 1413 - the Sheerness lifeboat on her final journey
On our way home we spotted the RNLI 1413 lifeboat, it was whizzing along at 23 knots. It was the last ever journey for the lifeboat, as she’s being retired and replaced with a Shannon class. It was great to see her on her final journey (to Poole). We sounded our foghorn as a mark of respect. Thank you RNLI for your service.

Sometimes it is just good to stop.

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