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Richard Writes: Leaving Maldon at 0930 on Wednesday 22nd August, we made our high water at Osea and ran down the Blackwater with a fine southwesterly breeze. Until Sales Point we had Thistle for company, on her way to the Colne and in no hurry with half a mainsail set to savour the day. Cambria had more miles to make and pushed on.
It was forty miles to the Medway but with a beat all the way from the Spitway this becomes more like sixty. It was just a little too windy in the gusts for the jib topsail but right for the mizzen and bowsprit jib. Only yachts motorsailing overtook us but it seemed an interminable time before the ebb eased and progress improved. Each tack between the Whitaker Spit and the East Barrow was a gain, but at first it was only yards, then hundreds of yards and eventually miles by the Maplin Middle.Stubbornly southwesterly with none of the westerly rumoured, there was no slant to be had. It was necessary to work up the Essex side from the Blacktail to avoid shipping. It was starting to get dark as the last ship passed and we prepared to cross, but as we did, keen eyes spotted a shape waving in the gloaming. It could be a buoy, maybe advertising a conservation zone, but it looked too big. What it looked like was someone in a sunken small boat waving a shirt, so round we came to investigate. Bringing it close alongside hove to it turned out to be a large cluster of shiny balloons with a large one showing a face in the torchlight waving to and fro. We laughed and tacked away hoping someone would stop for each of us if our balloon ever went up. It was truly dark by the time we spoke to Medway VTS at their number three buoy. Sounding friendly and close by, it was odd to know the voice was in Lancashire where Peel Ports have their combined operations centre, vying to give value for money with the MCA having theirs at Fareham. Maybe they will share a facility between them at some point and save even more.

There was an hour and a half of fair tide to go as we closed the Sheerness waterfront, attractive in its neon and white lighting, and it was becoming moot as to whether it would be necessary to anchor on the Cant or would we make it into the river? The breeze filled in just enough, and handily there was no commercial traffic to avoid. Once in the Garrison, by working the last of the flood up the western shore we found help as far as the Kent buoys but that was it, so in short order sail was reduced and Cambria anchored inside the redundant tug moorings on the Lapwell Bank above Queenborough Spit. It was 2330 and felt like it. The soft glow of the cabin beckoned for a few hours kip before taking the next flood up to Hoo.

Friday dawned clear with rain forecast at lunchtime and a stiff breeze southwest. There was more wind than tide where we were so it was possible to set the topsail smart head to wind and the mainsail with three cloths brailed to help the weather helm. It was a sunny sail up a quiet lower Medway with only a yacht race on the Mussel Bank below the redundant Kingsnorth jetty. In Long Reach the view up the Medway valley became overcast and the telltale signs of heavy rain came on. At Darnett Ness the wind came slightly before the rain and we rucked the topsail as the squall hit, the wind veering ninety degrees in the process. A small yacht nearby was turned right round by it. At the top of Pinup Reach the heavens opened and visibility fell to 200 yards.

Wet through despite donning waterproofs, we winded off Folly Fort and reset the topsail to fetch inside the moorings and anchor near the entrance to Hoo Creek. After drying berths and a hearty lunch the crew caught up on some missing sleep reappearing for the evening. Then the jib was stowed and some jobs done on deck before the bargeboat was used to explore the creek for the morrow when Ian Ruffles planned to borrow Niagara to tow Cambria to her berth. It seemed there was quite a bit of water well inside the creek, and we circumnavigated Hoo Island in the dusk for fun. At the bottom of Gillingham Reach three jetskis came down river at 50 mph in the dark without lights or presumably night vision goggles. They were not Marine Commandos on exercise sometimes seen hereabouts as we had seen them going upriver at the same speed earlier. It was intriguing to think where they had launched and that the Blackwater is not the only river to suffer this scourge.

A late meal of pizza and a final round of sevens took us to turning in. I am proud to say the skipper won the overall championship with seven wins, mainly it has to be said because other accomplished players had not stayed the full two weeks. Sadly Hilary had taken the prize box of Celebrations ashore.

Friday after breakfast up went the bowsprit and Ian Ruffles brought Niagara alongside to take Cambria up the creek. This was accomplished brilliantly in windy and taxing conditions, and Cambria was secure in Hoo once more. Stretch was collected to get home and prepare Martha II for Mersea Week starting Sunday, and we were joined for lunch by Ian Dunkley who has recently moved to Hoo from Gravesend where he has run the Sea Cadet unit for twenty years. Ian kindly arranged to take the remaining four into Rochester to see the sights and give the Canadians Theo and Annie some Kent culture. We showed them the Cathedral to start with. Not noticed on previous visits was the plaque commemorating Royal Engineer Chard who fought at Rorke’s Drift and was portrayed by Stanley Baker in the film Zulu. This led to a wide-ranging review of British and Canadian history which continued in the Two Brewers when the unexpected rain appeared. The landlord offered excellent refreshment and a good choice of music including Bryan Adams, which made Annie and Theo feel at home.

Saturday morning at ten o’clock Cambria Trustee Matt Hewitt Emmett arrived for an official handover and it was time to say goodbye to our Canadian crew and to Cambria after a very enjoyable and often inspiring twenty weeks.

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