This is possibly the most adventurous way to get to London in the 21st Century…
“In a journey, what really matters is the starting point and the destination” – Well, that is a quite controversial statement in the context of travelling: In fact, some argue for the prime importance of the destination and neglect the value of the journey per se. Others say that the journey itself is the most interesting and valuable part while traveling from A to B…
Interestingly, in particular, both options can be accepted at the same time! Sailors clearly enjoy the time on the water, sailing off the coastlines, being completely autonomous – but leaving and entering ports, arriving at new destinations, stopping at nice anchorages are definitely also very special moments of any sailing trip.
With these thoughts in mind, we set off three weeks ago for a 540 nautical miles long sailing trip. Our starting point: Hamburg, Germany, right in front of Europe’s third biggest container harbour. Destination: St. Katharine Docks, London, not only the capital of the UK, but also one of the most vibrant cities in the world. So effectively, “in a journey, what matters is the starting point and the destination”.
However, for any yachtsman, the part of how to get to that fantastic destination must be of great interest as well. In our case, the southern North Sea had to be crossed – the Sea which is famous for its treacherous weather patterns, even at the end of July, as we learned by ourselves.
Already a couple of hours into the trip, at the estuary of the river “Elbe” some miles off the city of Hamburg, we faced very dense fog with visibilities of less than 40m. In fact, fog turned out to be our ‘entertainment’ for the next two days. Interesting experience for sure, but we were all relieved when the mist finally lifted and we were able to see the cargo ships and ferries with our own eyes again, instead just following them on the radar screen and hearing their engines coming closer… Well, at least no gale force winds this time, as I experienced two months earlier at the same place!
The next days of our passage to England offered a great variety of weather conditions: Complete flat calm turned some hours later to gusting winds and rain. That is the North Sea, but, in general, we had a very comfortable trip. Amazing sunsets every evening, often clear blue skies and a gentle or moderate breeze during the day – just perfect for sailing.
Before arriving in London, we had still a final ‘test’ to pass: Navigation through the enormous Thames Estuary at night. We sailed/motored through one of the channels following the red and green flashing buoys – if you head for the wrong buoy here, you’ll end up on a sandbank. Well, at 4 o’clock in the morning I arrived at the conclusion that this is possibly the most adventurous way to get to London in the 21st Century 😉 But hey, we all came here in search of adventure!
Finally, at 07:30 in the morning, we made a short stop off Queensborough – River Medway – to wait for the tidal stream which will push our 13m “Gib Sea” yacht up to the Tower Bridge in the heart of London later that day.
The final part of our trip included motoring up the Thames, enjoying the landscape, passing container harbours and all the industrial plants along the river. In the afternoon, we crossed the Prime Meridian at Greenwich – the famous place where the GPS marks 0° longitude – and some minutes later the Tower Bridge came into sight. What a great feeling steering the yacht through London and, at the end of the day, berthing at St. Katharine Docks, a marina located in central London right next to the Tower Bridge – in fact an ‘iconic setting’ to stay with your boat!
Yannick is a sailor and a journalist from Germany who was at this legendary race at the end of the Nordseewoche, renowned as one of the toughest offshore regattas in Europe – PANTAENIUS RUND SKAGEN – is boat was the POGO 2.