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Crossing the Thames Estuary

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Skykomish E29 says:

Hi can anybody give any general advice about crossing the Thames other than whats in the East Coast Pilot Guide. We intend crossing from Whitstable to Essex then work our way up along the coast, The guide suggests leaving one hour before high water to make the most of the outgoing tide to "sweep " us up the Essex coast. We were going to try for the Blackwater in one hit but think that we may be a little less ambitious and head into the Crouch instead, and speand the first night at Burnham, then from there to Blackwater.... anybody got any better ideas or advice...... My pilot guide is on the boat at the moment along with the chart so hence my lack of detail.
Checking the tide tables and looks like we will be on neaps around then.
9:29AM, 27 May 2009 PDT (permalink)

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neptunesnephew says:

I have only crossed the Thames Estuary from Harwich to N. Foreland which is relatively straight forward. However, if I were planning your crossing, I think that your prime target must be to try to arrive at the W. entrance to the West Swin at about the time that the NE'ly ebb starts shortly after HW Sheerness. Even at Neaps the tidal stream runs at up to 1.8 knots and it must be a hard slog to sail against it. Depending on wind conditions I would have thought leaving Whitstable about 2 hours before HW Sheerness would give you more time to achieve this target.

The West Swin is quite busy with commercial traffic, therefore a good all round lookout should be kept. If the weather conditions allow, I personally would go along the West Swin close to the Maplin Sands and close to the Buoy line. The bottom is very steep to, so a careful watch needs to be kept on the echo sounder.

Once you reach the area of the Whitaker, the whole Essex Coast is at your mercy. Where you head for depends on the wind direction. The trip up to Burnham can be a long and uninteresting drag if wind and tide are against you.

The entrance to the Blackwater and Brightlingsea are in fact closer, again if the wind is with you. Going through the Spitway is quite straightforward if you stay on course between the Swin and Wallet buoys, but beware of the tide running across the channel. The only danger in this area are the Eagle shoals and Colne bar which are well buoyed and should not be any problem.

Finally, once through the Spitway, Harwich and the Orwell are only 13 miles away.

Talking of Harwich, the Harbour Authority are widening the deep water channel inside the harbour and have instituted a no go area for small craft. The sailing instructions now require inward bound small craft to leave a line of yellow buoys to starboard. Outward bound craft are to keep as far as they can to the Harwich shore without running aground. (Their own words!) There are gunboats on hand to enforce!
Once you reach the entrance to the Stour the no go area ends.

By the way I have decided to stay afloat for a few more weeks and hope I will be able to meet up with you.

I've just thought of a quicker way if you are daring. That is to use the Havengore Creek between Foulness and Shoeburyness. This would cut the distance to Burnham by 50%. I've never used it, but it might well be worth investigating.
ages ago (permalink)

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Mike A1 says:

My books and charts are also on the boat but taking the ebb up the coast sounds like the best strategy to me. The navigation is fairly straightforward but make sure you know where you are - there are many places on the East coast where the nearest bouy is in the next channel, the other side of a sandbank. (And some of them are very hard sand - I know.)

I've never been through the Havengore bridge, but would very much like to one day. However, you can only do this at the top of the tide which won't fit in with your plans.

Depending on your speed, you will end up around the entrance of the Crouch at about low water. As Geoffrey said, there are lots of options from here and my suggestion would be to leave the final decision until you get there. If you still have some ebb left, going down to the Spitway and then taking the flood up the Blackwater is a good option.

There are several options in the Blackwater all about the same distance from the entrance, and all worth visiting.

The dredging works won't cause you any real probems and there is a sketch map on the Harwich Haven Authority web site www.hha.co.uk/proxy.php?proxy_url=library/files/E70F5189-.... If that link does not work you can find it from the main site www.hha.co.uk.

Hope you have some good weather, and look forward to meeting up.
ages ago (permalink)

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Skykomish E29 says:

Thanks Guys exactly the sort of local knowledge that I was hoping for, I know from experience that the Pilot guide is not really the most reliable source of information.
The small problem that i have is the tide times, High water on the weekend that we leave is at 4 a.m.!!!!!! which means slipping the mooring at 2 .30 ish to be at the Columbine buoy in time this is fairly risky as it will still be dark and the Swale is not pariticulalry well lit with trots and moorings to negotiate, if the weather is fine there should be enough light by 0330.
I read about that short cut in PBO, and sounds a bit risky at neap tides, Mr Peyton described his passage through and said that he touched bottom a couple of times with his 1 metre draft, though I admit it was tempting proposition as it does cut my exposure to Commercial traffic quite a bit.
ages ago (permalink)

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