3rd time unlucky! First “epic” trip.

Well today was one not to forget. Oh my god.

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We arrived at about 2pm. Typically in true English September weather it was not good again. Not in anyway put off we managed to set off from the slip way with a tank full of fuel and 20 litres spare and stopped over on a near by pontoon to work out our plan.

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We decided we would head out to the south east side of the island and take a look, turned out it was really rough and uncomfortable. Worse still Steve was driving and we kept bumping into the bottom of the sea in the waves (surprising how shallow it is around here). Attempts to raise the trim of the engine didn’t work. The trim again had stopped working. With steve still at the controls I looked at the fuse box and saw that both trim pump fuses had failed. Ah that would be the problem then. We found out this happened when you held the trim pump still on after the ram had run out of travel essentially putting massive load on the pump, thank fully we had spares and shortly after we were on our way again.

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Check out the water behind us. not exatly calm, and we were getting soaked! It became obvious that to stay out here would be at best stupid so we headed back behind the island. Still loaded with plenty of fuel we decided to check out the river Medway. We followed the route other boats were taking on the assumption that they knew better than us. It was becoming ever more obvious that the whole of this area gets very shallow, but this was better, in fact it was great fun. Now sheltered by land we headed up river passing  lots of strange small islands in the channel. Quite a mad place.  Also passed some kind of fort (Fort Darnet, and also Fort Hoo)

You can read more about these forts here : http://beno.org.uk/forts/.

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Beyond this we turned to port (Left!!)

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And then passed Upnor Castle. This is a Tudor castle some 450 years old! (as of 2009).

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Getting further up river, we passed Rochester..

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and again another Castle, this one called Rochester Castle.

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By now we were heading untoward the M2 Motoway bridge and HS rail crossing which we could see in the distance.

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And soon also passed under. Modern bridges are strange. They are so square purposeful and usually of no character at all. You almost feel like you shouldn’t be there as they are just industrial.. anyway we carried on…

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The scene changed totally here. It was as if civilisation was left behind at the bridge, now tall buildings were replaced with pylons and fields. I’ll be honest here we had no idea of speed limits, so we sat at a speed that felt efficient and comfortable and just continued our way up stream, carrying on and on. We twisted around bend after bend. It was like a scene from James Bond..

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But things were about to change!! What we hadn’t realised of course was that the river water would be getting shallower as we went further up stream.  What I remember went something like this…

Coming around a few more bends near Alyesford Priory we then passed the Wickford Lodge where people were sitting at the tables having a pint – (reminder we felt like ultimate cool dudes here!!) then rounded another couple of corners with the M20 bridge in sight and in fact even saw the Allington lock in the distance.

Still with no intention to turn around we just about made to the bridge and THUD – CRUNCH – SCRAPE.. rapid deceleration!!!

What the hell was that? The boat ground to a stop I put it in neutral as quickly as possible, and looked over the side of the boat…

I’ll never forget this! We were in about 8 inches of water!!!! The tide had yet to get this far upstream and we were now all but sitting on a bed of stones. Err Problem. So the engine was trimmed up a lot, but the boat was still sitting on the floor so we all had to move to the front of the boat, where it was possible to slowly edge the boat backwards into deeper water. WOW

BIG Lesson of the day. DEPTH sensors are ESSENTIAL.

Feeling cheesed off it was Steves turn again to take to the controls, and satisfied the boat was not taking on any water we headed back down stream deciding now was probably a good time to go home. One slight problem however. The boat had developed a heavy list!! the prop was so badly damaged it was twisting the boat as we went, as seen in this pic below!

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The journey back was slow. Fuel began to concern me and I said perhaps we should put the 20l spare we had in the tank, but it was easier said than done. We continued on. Eventually a couple of hours later even, we made it back to the slipway where with the fuel gauge showing nearly zero and within touching distance of the ramp the engine ran out of fuel. Loosing almost all my cool(!!) we all stood on the side of the boat with the fuel tank pickup and managed to prime the engine enough to  get it going and just get us back to the slipway.

Wow. What a day of highs and lows. So with that all said and done, the boat was taken back home to inspect the prop and skeg (the fin under the engine)

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As you can see the prop took a beating. Its now a garden ornament to remind me of this day! Even the skeg had a chunk taken out of it too!

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So how far did we go? Well I worked it out on google earth that the river trip was about 25 miles so that each way + around perhaps 8 miles of messing about on the island gives us around 55-60 miles easily. Not bad! but did use a full 90 litres of fuel. Not surprising given how much drag the prop had on the way back…

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And they say third time lucky!! but to be fair it was an awesome adventure – and that’s what its all about.

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