Winter sailing on the high seas. Hamble to Poole and back
This was Welsh Harp Sailing Club's first Yachting trip of 2014 over the weekend from Friday 28 February to Monday 3 March.
With only two weeks notice a very experienced and enthusiastic crew signed up:
Chris Nash, Peter Sutton, Ian Conway, Terry Northwood, Mike Morley, Chris Larkin and cabin boy Andy Usher signed up.
The plan was to take Arc Angel, a fast Arcona 400, berthed at Hamble Point Marina for our weekend jaunt on the high seas after what seems like a long and unusually flooded and windy winter. The day before our start the marina phoned to say that Arc Angel's prop had been damaged and divers were being sent down to replace the missing blade under the boat.."don't worry, we will get it fixed in time for your trip". Inevitably the efforts of two divers working in the cold and dark couldn't get it repaired in time so we were kindly offered Gull, a comfortable Beneteau 425 owned by the marina, to replace Arc Angel. Thus began an eventful weekend...
Over Friday dinner with the crew all assembled at the Ketch Rigger pub the plan for the weekend was agreed. Looking at the forecast northerly Saturday and southerly winds for Sunday, with high spring tides HW 1100 Portsmouth, the plan was for comfortable morning start to leave the Solent with the tide going west, and get down to Poole.
Saturday morning - cold and icy, being especially treacherous on the pontoons - sunny, and dead calm. Motoring all the way down the West Solent at speed with the tide we popped through Hurst Narrows, and took the North Channel out into Christchurch Bay. The trick with the North Channel is to hug the shingle beach, as close as you dare so close you make out individual pebbles on the shore. All were amazed by the new Shingles island created this year by the winter storms.
A northwesterly wind arrived slowly and gently, backing through the afternoon to the promised southerly. So, engine off, staying resolutely close hauled with all sail set we described a curved course over the ground with only one tack needed to arrive at Poole channel N0.1 buoy at mid afternoon. A fast crossing to Poole, and not satisfied yet with the days sail, we decided to go for a jolly, taking the remaining westerly tide past Old Harry rocks, Swanage Bay, Anvil Point and round the corner to a glorious view of the Purbeck cliffs to St Albans Head in the golden late afternoon sunshine.
Taking the turn of the tide we had a quick passage into Poole, across the chain ferry, and berthed in Poole Quay Yacht haven comfortable after a glorious 46mile trip. Dinner ashore and celebrations of Poole's hospitality of course, but a bit of bridge tourism to the new Twin Sails Bridge was thrown in.
Sunday morning - grey, windy, rainy. Getting ready to leave, Terry said - I'll just top up the water tanks... Oh dear! 20 litres of cool clear water filled the diesel tank, followed by blueing the air, tearing of hair, rending of clothing and a quick call to Sea Start, the AA of the South Coast.
With an alarming imminent gale forecast, wind howling and a jury diesel tank rigged, a seamanlike decision was made to stay in Poole and leave early on Monday morning after the gale had blown through. Work commitments demanded Mike and Chris Larkin leave for London by train. The rest of the crew hunkered down to eat and drink our way through a cosy cabin Sunday, listening to the wailing wind outside
0500 Monday - dark and quiet. 0600, departure time, icy blasts of hail under a depressing sky. With two reefs in it was a rolling, sickening run down to the Needles and up the channel to Hurst and into the Solent. The Needles look suspicious diminished after the winter storms. Back on berth at Hamble Point by 1130, to face the owners with a rather embarrassing story to explain our delay.
Jolly good fun, and a lesson to remember - Diesel and Water do not go together!
Chris Nash Yachting Captain