Day Trip to Rye

Words by Martin Longhurst Pictures by John Hendy

On Tuesday 10 July 2007 Balmoral cast off from Tilbury Landing Stage at 11.00 bound for Rye in East Sussex, her first passenger-carrying voyage to the River Rother port.

70 or so joined the ship at Tilbury, some having crossed earlier by ferry from Gravesend aboard Duchess M. The steamer called at Southend for water and picked up about a further 90 for the southward passage.

The Thames Estuary was left via the Queen's Channel, pilotage being provided free of charge in exchange for experience of the precise route. When it was time to disembark the pilot off the North Foreland, the nearest cutter was 5.5 miles to the north and Balmoral had to go at Dead Slow for 15 minutes to allow her to catch up.

Passing Dover there were excellent views of the Sea France, P&O and Norfolk Line ferries criss-crossing the Channel as well as other shipping transiting the Channel. Visibility was excellent and the cliffs between Calais and Boulogne could clearly be seen, about 20 miles away.

Good time was made westward past Folkestone (now closed to navigation) and Dungeness. The red and green markers at the mouth of the River Rother were soon in sight but, as we were ahead of time, Captain Colledge took us a little further west to fill the time until there was sufficient water to enter Rye Harbour.

Soon the Harbour Master's launch appeared and after some small craft had left, the Balmoral shaped up to enter the River Rother, which forms Rye Harbour. The harbour is operated by the Environment Agency as the Rother plays an important role in the internal drainage of the hinterland. The banks of the river are heavily defended against erosion but Balmoral's twin rudders meant she was able to sail between them with great precision.

Soon Rye Wharf, where the steamer was to tie up, came into sight with our coaches home on the quayside. There were two coaches for Southend and one each for Gravesend and Tilbury. We had a very enjoyable drive home through the Sussex and Kent countryside. The first leg was parallel to the river to the picturesque town of Rye, some two miles distant. Every available mooring seemed to be taken up with yachts.

Entering Rye Harbour - note red and green markers in the background

The harbour launch turns the Balmoral before she sailed to anchor in Rye Bay overnight.

On the return sailing to Tower Pier the following day, the Balmoral sailed via the River Medway, turning at No.
12 buoy (upper end of Saltpan Reach) and passing the Kingswear Castle on both the inward and outward legs.   Balmoral then proceeded to Southend Pier to view the modern sailing ship Grand Turk.

Kingswear Castle on her Thames Estuary cruise

Passing through Tower Bridge shortly before arrival at Tower Pier

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