Friday, 2 September 2011

Solent Cruise 22nd to 31st August 2011

I was planning to attend the Marchwood Drascombe Rally on the 26th August and wished to extend my sailing experienceby sailing to the rally rather than just launching there. My planwas to launch at Chichester Marina and sail to Marchwood at the top of Southampton Water. Having attended othersouth coast rallies I had been included on an E-Mail list of those interested in sailing in the Solent. I contacted Dick who I knew would be sailing from Chichester. He told me of his plans to go on an extended Solent Cruise starting on Monday 22nd August. He knew of a number of other owners who wereplanning to cruise also. The plan was to sail independently but in company to Christchurch in Dorset and then to Marchwood. I jumped at this opportunity and quickly changed my plans for that week.

Sunday 21st August.
I took the 3 hour drive from Bristol to Chichester in thelate afternoon in order to make an early start on the Monday. The plan was toset sail about 1200hours to catch the west going tide at the mouth ofChichester Harbour. The drive down from Bristol was not trouble free with heavytraffic on the M4 and the M3 due to an accident and the usual heavy traffic atthe weekend. I arrived at the marina atabout 1930 hours and slept aboard the boat in the car park. One of the reasonsfor using Chichester Marina was the secure car park and the excellentfacilties. I felt the price was justified in knowing your car and trailer weregoing to be safe whilst you were away. The slip is of a modest gradient andwith the tide controlled in the Marina launching is trouble free.

Monday 22nd August
I did not have a good night’s sleep aboard the boat due tothe bright security lights and the change in environment. I launched with noproblem and moored on an adjacent pontoon. Departed the marina and was joinedby an another Coaster and a Cornish Shrimper. The entrance was calm and we tooka short cut over the sands at East Head. The wind was from the North East F2-3.We motored and turned west towards the main passageway through the submarinebarrier. We motor-sailed and after a while I was able to turn the outboard off andmaintain a good speed of about 5 knots.

Initially I put a reef into themainsail but found this was unnecessaryand took it out again. The time taken in sail handling left me at theback of the fleet. Langstone and Portsmouth Harbour entrances passed by and weapproached the Isle of Wight with the intention of spending our first night atCowes. On entering Osborne Bay I became aware of a large tanker approachingfrom the stern and steaming west in the main shipping channel to wardsSouthampton. I kept a bearing on the ship and found that it’s bearing wasconstant and so altered my course to the north hoping that it would overtake meon my port side at a good distance. The ship did slowly overtake me and thenwhen it was abeam it gave a single blast on it’s horn. This indicated that thevessel was going to turn to starboard and I presume into the Thorn Channel forSouthampton.
On approaching Cowes the wind strength increased and I madegood progress to Cowes. In Cowes Road off the Shrape Mud I furled the sails andmotored into the Medina River where we moored in East Cowes Marina on one oftheir pontoons. I arrived at approx 20:30 hours having left Chichester at approx. 15:00hours. The longest time I had helmed Moksha on a passage.

Tuesday 23rd August
The planned destination was the Newtown River and we leftCowes at approximately 1000 hours. The wind was still from the NE F2-3 and sowe were able to sail the whole distance with jib, mainsail and mizzen. The tripwas straightforward and we arrived at about 1200 hours. We motored into theriver and turned to starboard and as it was midweek and the end of the season,the anchorage was quiet. We met another two Drascombe Coasters who whereanchored in the entrance to the Western Haven arm of the harbour. We rafted upand had some lunch.

The tide was rising and so it was decided to explore the harbour. We all motored slowly up the Clamerkin Lake where there were a lot of birdlife, Canada Geese, Curlew, Oystercatchers and a Seal. The National Trust do a wonderful job of preserving the tranquillity and beauty of this place. We latersailed up the Western Haven on the now full tide and going as far as we couldgo, to a road bridge. The channel was narrow and shallow with sunken stakescoming out of the water. Some of us landed on a small beach and took a shortwalk in the woodland.

We later moored against the wall of a small boatyard afterthe National Trust warden had finished work. The plan was to get ashore to goto the pub and not to be neaped in the morning by the tide. A good dinnerat the New Inn at Shalfleet which specialises in seafood., after which we all returned to our boats in completedarkness along the track, using the light on my mobile phone to find the way!The boats were dried out when we returned and we found that they were five feet downfrom where we had left them!
During the quiet periods of the wet night I heard the clinkof the anchor chain as Moksha rose and fell on the tide. The tranquillity was onlydisturbed by the plop of jumping fish andthe calling of geese and oystercatchers.

Wednesday 24th August
At about 0700 hours we moved the boats back to the WesternHaven anchorage, before the boatyard and the National Trust Warden returned towork. We had a leisurely breakfastbefore departing at about 11:00 hours to catch the tide at Hurst narrows atslack water. The intended destination was Christchurch Harbour. The wind wasagain from the South West about F3-4 initially. We motor sailed to the narrows andcould see that the Needles Channel was still disturbed with the tide and a fewof the leaders decided to divert to Keyhaven. I and one other pressed on into theNorth Channel and could see that the sea was less disturbed. We pressed on andthe others decided to follow. My mainsail was not furled properly and wasflapping in the wind, so I released the gaff and laid the mainsail and gaffin the cockpit where I could keep it under control.
It became apparentthat the wind was a great deal stronger than had been forecast and was morelike a F6. There was a swell of about 3-4 feet and the waves were breaking,producing white horses. The Coaster coped with the conditions well and took little water on board. The waveswere being taken on the front port quarter. There was only one wave which threw a large amount of water onto the cabinroof. I foolishly had not put on my waterproof trousers and my bottom half wassoaked through by the end of the trip! I kept the engine running to maintainprogress against the south west wind.

We arrived at about 14:30 hours at Christchurch and passedthrough the narrow entrance called “The Gap”. I rapidly found that the harbourwas quite shallow as I had to raise the centreplate. We found a place to anchorin the south west corner of the harbour under Warren Hill. Initial attempts toanchor were difficult as the holding was not very good. We all stayed on board forrest of the day, later cooking dinner and retiring to bed.

Thursday 25th August
Again we planned our departure late in order to time ourarrival at the Hurst Narrows at the optimum time. Our departure was planned tobe about 14:00 hours. In the meantime Dick blew up his inflatable and we all took awalk on shore up to Hengitsbury Head. The heathland was in full bloom with thegorse and the heather providing a wealth of colour. Hengitsbury Head was minedextensively for iron ore, so much in fact that it threatened the coastline. Welater returned to the boats and set off and we took a trip up to Christchurchon the rising tide. The Priory and the riverside houses looked fine in thebright sunshine.

On leaving Christchurch Harbour we passed the crowds crabfishing off the harbour wall. The wind had reduced although there was still aswell. The wind was still from the SW as best as I can remember and we had agood sail to Hurst. The passage through the narrows was without incident andthere was only a large popple on the water from the overfalls. As we entered the Solent the sea became muchcalmer and the wind strength reduced a little.

We sailed to Yarmouth and the Harbourmaster placed us on apontoon against the quay. Everyone took the opportunity to have a shower, replace oursupplies and top up our water. We left within an hour and a half and theharbourmaster did not charge us.
We sailed on the east going tide and calm water maintaininga steady 3 knots to Newtown, a most pleasurable sail. We moored again at theentrance to Western Haven and cooked dinner.Here we met up with another six Drascombeswho were on their way to the Marchwood Rally There was gentle rain and so we all sheltered under atarpaulin in the cockpit with a gas lantern, passing the time drinking beerand put the world to rights!

Friday 26th August
We left on the first of the east - going tide with a westerlyF3 wind. I gibed across the Solent in order to make best use of the foresailand to keep it out of the wind shadow of the main. The journey passed withoutincident and we turned to starboard to travel up Southampton Water. I soon foundthat I should have shortened sail as I was now over pressed, but still maintaineda speed of about 7 knots past Calshot and approached the moored oiltankers at Fawley oil refinery. I waspassed by another Coaster whose main was reefed and a couple of rolls in theforesail was making just as good progress as myself. I was spilling the wind andtrying to control a large angle of heel - I later discovered he had reefed earlyat Newtown and so was well prepared for Southampton Water.
I sailed past Southampton Town Quay where preparations werebeing made for the Southampton Boat Show, later arriving at Marchwood SailingYC and mooring on the pontoon.
A barbecue was later held on the quayside. The sailing club isa short distance from a large container port and the passing ships provide alot of interest.

Saturday 27th August
First day of the rally and there are a total of about adozen boats who have either sailed to the Club or who have launched there. Theplanned sail is down to Warsash Harbourmasters' pontoon for lunch in the RisingSun PH. Sail with a northerly past theliners and the tugs.

Sunday 28th August
A beat up the river to Eling where we anchored for lunch.There were some short sharp showers and gusty winds around the container ships.

Monday 29th August
A sail down Southampton Water to Ashlett Creek where we metfor a barbecue at the Yacht Club Social Club. Ashlett is very tidal with accessonly possible for 3 hours at High Water. The Creek dries out completely withacres of deep mud. We moored alongside a pontoon and settled into the deep mudat low water.

Teusday 30th August
Dick and I left Ashlett to make way back to Chichester with a possibility of stopping off at either Langstone or Portsmouth. Nick left to return to his mooring at Warsash. Conditions were not good with no wind and an adverse tide. After a few miles I attempted to sail and could barely maintain a knot. I started the engine again and we pressed on to Portsmouth. I then decided that it was going to be possible to reach Chichester that day and so pressed on for the passage through the submarine barrier. The tide was going to be slack at about 19:30 hours in Chichester Harbour entrance, so there was no hurry to arrive early.
Once through the barrier I again set the sails and was more successful in sailing, maintaining a steady 3 knots. We arrived at the harbour entrance at about and the last of the ebb was still flowing. As it was Springs I still needed a great deal of throttle to get through the entrance.

Dick and I now parted company as he found a mooring for the night and I was anxious to get to Chichester Marina in order to be ready to haul out on to the trailer in the morning. I arrived at the marina channel at about 19:30 hours to find there was not enough depth to get into the Marina! I put out an anchor and made a coffee. At 20:30 hours there was sufficient water in the channel to get into the marina. Sunset was at 20:00 hours and I entered the lock in the last of the dusk.

And so ended a very enjoyable 10 days sailing in which I learnt a lot about both the boat and myself. I had covered 130 nautical miles and visited a lot of different anchorages and ports. It has given me greater confidence to attempt similar passages in the future.

Total Distance 134.9 nm

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