Ocean Princess Successfully Completes South Coast Circular Cruise
Brentford to Newhaven
Tuesday morning 22nd July Ocean Princess caught the 0800 tide from the sea lock at Brentford and had a very enjoyable cruise through the centre of London and on through the Thames Barrier. The boat was then buzzed by a 40 knot rib belonging to the Metropolitan Police and boarded, under the 'Prevention of Terrorism Act', by two burley policemen. Details of where we were going and where we had come from were given and we were cleared as an 'immediate threat to national security'. The sea passage down the Thames Estuary and on to Queenborough was calm, arriving at the Queenborough pontoon for fuel and water at 1800.
Picture: Ocean Princess moored overnight on the pontoon at Queenborough.
Wednesday morning 23rd July Ocean Princess cruised the river Swale, around the Isle of Sheppey, and into the Channel. Rounding North Foreland Ocean Princess joined a sailing regatta of ocean yachts off Ramsgate.A south westerly force 4/5 was ideal for the yachts and no problem for Ocean Princess. As we approached Dover and turned south westerly the seas began to get rougher. The Dover Straits were busy with shipping and the crew were in constant touch with the Port of Dover by VHF radio while passing the harbour entrance. This being essential to ensure all shipping were aware of our presence.We soon discovered the limitations of hand held VHF which only worked when held outside the boat either in the cockpit (this was not practical as the cockpit was decked over) or standing in the rear hatch where messages had to be relayed by 'runner' through the boat to the forward helmsman. This was our first experience of rough water with waves over 4 foot.
Waves and how they affected Ocean Princess.
With waves up to 4 foot our flared bows would throw the water to the side with no water ending up on the fore deck. 5 foot waves would break over the bow and onto the foredeck and drain over the side. 6 foot waves would break over the foredeck and onto the planks covering the cockpit and be diverted off by our wash boards - no problem. 7 foot waves and over would break over the top of the wash boards and onto the forward bulkhead. 8 foot waves would travel up the forward bulkhead and if the windscreen boards were not up some water would come through the front door jams (even when the door was firmly closed) wetting the carpet and controls. 9 foot waves and above the windscreen boards must be in place to divert the water over the sides and roof.
Because of her length 'Ocean Princess' was normally supported by two or more waves and so tended to go through the waves rather than up and over like smaller craft. This meant that pitching was minimal and no crew members suffered sea sickness.
The 4 - 5 foot waves in the Dover Straits were intimidating but manageable and we were hoping for calmer waters as the Channel broadened out towards the Atlantic.
Off Beachy Head the SSW wind strengthened to force 5 with increasing seas and after a very rough night and the weather continuing to deteriorate refuge was taken at 0600 Thursday morning 24th July in Newhaven Harbour.By Thursday afternoon Gale force 8 winds and rough seas were common throughout the channel.
Having sought refuge in Newhaven Ocean Princess was then inspected by a steady stream of Officers from the MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) and because of her 70' length comes under the Merchant Shipping Act. We were asked if we had an 'exemption certificate' from the Merchant Shipping Act, which we hadn't, and so an MCA surveyor was summoned to check the sea-worthiness of the vessel and crew. The basic boat passed, (the crew just) but we were found to be short of certain life saving equipment such as a hydrostatic release on the life raft, 2 lifebuoys with self ignition lights and smoke signals, 6 parachute flares
(we already had standard flares), a fire mans axe, insufficient fire extinguishers (you need more to go to sea than on the canal) and a rubber seal around the front door. We were also strongly advised to install a fixed VHF with an aerial going up the mast (this was certainly good advice). We were then told that without this equipment Ocean Princess could not go back out to sea. With the weather very unsettled we sought a safe mooring on a pontoon where the boat could be left. One of the volunteer coast guards also ran a boat yard and could provide us with such a mooring. All the Coastguards were most helpful and fascinated by coming onboard a narrow boat and gave us the name and address of where we could hire or buy the necessary equipment. We decided to buy.
Being inspected by Maritime and Coastguard Agency at Newhaven.
24th to 30th July Ocean Princess was 'storm bound' at Newhaven.