The early morning forecast, breakfast and ablutions having been completed I took up the anchor and paddled ‘Faith’ to the beach by the slipway. It was 0800, an hour and a half before low water on Monday, 20th August. Peter Moore was the keenest of the DCA bunch because he was the first to launch his boat, which was an immaculate fibreglass Wafarer. In fact, I think he was renting a cottage with his family, rather than camping under canvas with the crowd. Coincidentally he had booked in advance without realising there would be a DCA gathering. By mid morning several Members were ready for the off. I met Geoff, a recent convert to cruising who owned a Tideway dinghy and I introduced myself to Ian who was a keen photographer of the old school. His camera was state of the art, about 20 years ago, with a huge telescopic lens. He confided that he only did ‘real’ photography with actual film. Digital cameras did not appeal to him.
After mid-day lunch I set off in pursuit of those who had already started. The plan was to sail to Emsworth and return. Being a Monday I didn’t expect to find a dinghy racing fleet, complete with a posh motor yacht and canon at the start line. I was pleased ‘Faith’ was on the starboard tack because it gave her right of way through the fleet as they positioned themselves for the start. Al in ‘Little Jim’, Liz with her Cormorant, Doug in Houdini and Phil with his Ness Yawl (which wasn’t a yawl, because it lacked a mizzen) followed behind. I stuck to the deepwater channel, not wanting to take a risk a grounding, even though the tide was flooding. A mile south of Emsworth Yacht Harbour there were many moored yachts with only a narrow passage between them and I didn’t fancy tacking ‘Faith’ through the trots; therefore I turned around and headed back for Cobnor. There was a good force 4 from the north which enabled my little boat to ‘fly’ southwards towards East Head. The sun made a welcome appearance and the sailing was great fun.
Just as the tide was on the turn for the ebb I sailed towards the Cobnor beach near the slipway and prepared to anchor, but the wind and current drifted ‘Faith’ away from where I wanted to drop the hook. I tried using the yuloh, but the wind caught her bow and set us towards the walled bank, so I tried paddling from the foredeck and immediately fell into the water! I had forgotten to put on my buoyancy aid which meant I was floundering because I was wearing two sweaters and an anorak. Fortunately I was able to hold onto the boat and make my way to her stern where, with an enormous effort, I managed to hoist myself aboard by using the boarding step built into the rudder stock. I was surprised by the weight of the water that had soaked into my sweaters and anorak and I was even more surprised to discover how difficult it was to lever myself out of the water.
That evening I beached the boat and used the washroom to flush my soaked clothes with fresh water. Before dusk I walked along the muddy beach by the retaining wall and found my peaked cap and plastic shoe, both of which had parted from me when I took a ducking. Unfortunately I did not find my old pair of spectacles I had been wearing at the time of the incident; they too had flown into the water. That meant from thereon I had to use a large magnifying glass to read and see details on the chart.