May Day sail – 2 to 5 May 2016

Running from Monday 2 to Thursday 5 May this year’s May Day sail was timed to avoid the overcrowding that the actual Bank Holiday days bring to the marinas. So, should it still have been called the May Day sail?

Solace, skippered by Robert with Neil as crew set off “towards” Yarmouth from Chichester just after high tide. The Imray ship’s log book heads the pages “From…To…” whereas in reality, the text should actually read “From…Towards…” because one never knows if one is going to make one’s destination as planned. However, they probably won’t change it because it uses more ink!

We were aiming for Yarmouth, but with winds generally from the SW at F4-5 our first hurdle was getting over the Bar. This was a wind over tide episode and, at one point, speed through the water was down to 1 kt at 2500 engine rpm. Solace doesn’t climb hills! The bow buried itself into the trough of the next wave and the spray came over the life raft on the coach roof with no intermediate stops on the way. Drizzle was hanging in the air, and after hoisting well reefed sails at West Pole we eventually managed to sail through the submarine barrier just before lunch time and took the decision that Cowes, yet alone Yarmouth, was not even on the horizon – literally, because of the poor visibility, the wind direction, and the tide, and general fatigue. So, back to old faithful – free reciprocal parking at Premier’s marina in Gosport where we moored up at 13h00.

On starting up the diesel boat heater we only got cold air, so the fix-it man will have to come. Thank goodness for electric! After lunch, and a good rest we ate on board in the evening.

Tuesday morning was much better. There was a reasonable amount of wind and the sun was shining. What more could we want? Whilst the temperature was relatively warm in the sun, it still meant base layer, mid layer salopette and thick fleece plus waterproof top layer. We departed at 09h25, which was close to high water, so were able to use the inshore channel out of Portsmouth towards Gilkicker. Having sailed on yachts with keels up to 2m the indicator is to ensure the piles at the Block House are covered. We hoisted full sail and set off in the direction of, you’ve guessed it, Ryde Church. Why Ryde Church? Because on many a previous occasion when trying to go west tacking against a non-optimum tide always lands us level with Ryde Church at the end of each tack until the iron sail is hoisted.

We had a cracking sail towards Cowes on the tide, tacking to make progress westwards and to ensure we kept clear of one of the Wallenius RoRo car transporters going up to Southampton. Before we left we had decided to go as far as the tide would let us. Newtown Creek seemed feasible. We did get there and negotiated the entrance against the strong outgoing tide, mooring on a buoy on the westerly arm at 13h00. We had lunch, watched the wild life, took a few photos, and had a siesta before heading back east on the now flood tide. We slipped the buoy at 15h20 and sailed back to Cowes under jib only.

We were in Cowes by 16h55, in other words, a touch under an hour and a half from being moored in Newtown Creek to being moored in East Cowes marina, and in brilliant sunshine.

In the evening we ate at the Lifeboat restaurant at the marina. The quality was good and the portion sizes more than ample.

The original plan was to add another stop such as Bembridge on our route and then head for Chichester, timed to arrive back in the marina on Thursday about a couple of hours before low water. We decided against because any delay in departing Bembridge for whatever reason would have caused us to miss the tidal gate. Instead, we spent a leisurely morning in the sunshine in East Cowes. We slipped the mooring at 14h00, an eventful process with the Medina flowing rapidly downstream! We got the best of the east going tide in the Eastern Solent, all of 0.5 kts, and leaving about 4 hours after high water ensured we did not arrive at Chichester Bar too early after low water. After an initial good wind that took us round Norris Castle, the wind turned, forcing us to motor sail to the forts at which point the change in heading towards West Pole gave us a cracking sail in the SE / ESE breeze.

There is always something to see in the Solent, for example, a new hovercraft with white fan shrouds, big ships to avoid, and from listening to Southampton VTS on Channel 12 we kept a watch for the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s Lord Nelson that was sailing in the area of the Nab towards the anchorages off Bembridge. Quite obviously we were not close enough to get a good view of the ship, nevertheless, with a telephoto lens, almost anything is possible.

Previously I had made a mental note that if the water at the pontoons just upstream of Southerly’s boat yard at Itchenor was at least 3.5m below keel we could get into the marina on a rising tide without touching the bottom in the swashway to the lock. This was the second time we were early with only 2.8m, which, with caution, is just enough to clear the shallows. By 18h45 we were moored up again on the pontoon in Chichester where Avi and Sandy did their “catch the lines” routine. Thank you. The sun was shining; the temperature was agreeable. We joined them for dinner at the Crown and Anchor in Dell Quay, had a brilliant view of sunset, and then returned to the marina to sort out the boat on Thursday morning before heading home.

In summary, apart from Monday that we both agreed was “not very nice”, we had a very good and enjoyable few day’s sail. Skipper’s thanks to the crew, crew’s thanks to the skipper.

Robert and Neil
7 May 2016

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Portsmouth Tides