What and where are the 'Downs'?

The Downs is the area of sea lying between the Kentish town of Deal (Great Britain) and the Goodwin Sands, and was a very important anchorage for merchant shipping during the age of sail.

Ships would lie at anchor, sometimes for weeks, sheltered from the East by Goodwins and from the North by the mainland between the North and South Forelands, as they waited for a favourable wind to carry them down the English Channel to the West.