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North Sails Performance 2023 - LEADERBOARD

The Reverend Bob Shepton sails up the Thames

by Rev Bob Shepton 20 Mar 2023 08:43 UTC
The owners of Novara and the Mate enjoying the sailing © L. Monikowska

Honorary OCC Member Bob Shepton has sailed far but had never experienced a sail up the Thames. As Patron of the Novara Project, he jumped at the chance to join as crew on this eye-opening voyage.

In forty-six years of sailing to many remote places round the world, I have never actually sailed up the Thames. It has an air of romance about it, and the chance came when Novara needed to get to the Greenwich Yacht Club from Dover, the new owners of Novara being members.

I was not disappointed. For a start, I had not realised how wide the beginning of the Thames estuary was, nor how many sandbanks with narrow channels through that there were. As I have commented elsewhere, this is where chart plotters come into their own, depicting not only the narrow channel but also exactly where the boat was in that channel. This saved taking bearings and making a not quite so accurate a plot. It was romantic really as the river narrowed, passing those well-known places and sites but viewed from the river in a sailing boat, even if we were motoring by then! And it was magical later as we passed in the dark through the lights of London on either side, and the Thames barrier all lit up.

The couple of days spent at the Greenwich Yacht Club were useful. We were able to do more work preparing Novara for her new environmental project - investigating remote coastal areas for the effects of climate change and offering help from their expertise if required. There was much intricate work drilling and welding to add solar panels as an environmentally friendly way of sourcing energy. And it gave members of the yacht club the chance to visit and see the boat and project which they are keen to support.

Then came the icing on the cake: going further up the Thames, passing the sites and mooring by invitation amongst the Dutch and Thames barges by Tower Bridge, itself lit up at night. Not much needs to be said of the return passage, except how forcefully we came to realise what sitting ducks the English fleet at anchor must have been in the Medway when the Dutch fleet rushed in all sails raised in such flat unprotected land in the 1600s and destroyed the fleet!

For more on this story, see Sailing Today, July's issue (out in May!).

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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