Trip to Dunkirk, Sailing to Ramsgate - Paul Gilson

The Endeavour’s voyages never disappoint and this latest one was no different.  We left Leigh around 13.30 on Tuesday the 19th of May and as usual the wind was fresh from the west  blowing at around force 6.  We had already decided that although it was windy we would be running with the wind and the waves, setting the large balloon sail to give us more power and to steady the boat, but little did we know how much power that sail would produce.

Crew members Jeremy Squier, Gareth Davies and 
Colin Sains with skipper Paul Gilson 
waiting to set off  from Leigh Marina

We left under motor and set the balloon sail before we had passed Bell Wharf and she was doing 6 knots in no time. My motley crew had no idea what was in front of them as we quickly left the creek and headed for the Kent coast. We could see black clouds, dropping heavy rain along the coast in front of us and were enjoying the ride under the steady pull of the sail and half power from the engine. It was not until we had crossed the sea reach channel that we really got into our stride, although stride is decidedly  an understatement.

The Endeavour had other ideas and she quietly changed from an old lady out for a stroll to Jeremy Clarkson taking out a new Aston Martin for a test drive!. We made a small course change to take us down the four fathom channel, across the Kentish flats towards Margate, and at this time we had a nice yacht from Thorpe Bay for company, with just a storm jib set it was about now that the first squall hit us. The wind freshened and the rain came down, we were soon soaked but the good bit was that the Endeavour took off. The navigator was telling me that we were doing over 8 knots, and this increased as the wind continued to freshen to 9 knots. This was exciting stuff, our consort started to drop back as she reduced sail in the squalls, but we were loving it. The rain and now hail stones were ignored as Endeavour blossomed. The weather did not improve but got worse; the squalls were longer and more violent. I should not really be saying this but I was enjoying every minute of it as the weather deteriorated the level of excitement grew.

Balloon sail set and off to Ramsgate
As we approached the Gore channel off Recolver Towers she peaked, as another squall hit us and the wave height grew even higher. The Endeavour’s bow lifted and she started to plane, this was 1926 technology at its peak.  Over 10 knots was now a common sight on the speed recorder, yes it was with the tide and the wind was behind us but this was still very fast. A larger wave came from behind and that was the trigger for the most exciting ten minutes sailing I have had in many years; 10.5 knots was showing on the navigator and the steering was heavy and light all at the same time. Her bow lifted and she came even further out of the water, my crew were cheering as we hurtled to the east. I had a quick look at the speed again and it read 10.9 knots; I cannot do justice in words to the exhilaration we felt as she charged along the Kent coast. It was with a sense of disappointment that we reached the foreland and had to change course and drop our sail, 7 knots was so pedestrian in comparison; it had taken only 4 hours to reach Ramsgate which was simply awesome.

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