I woke after a fitful night to hear an uninspiring early morning forecast predicting winds between force 5 and 7 from the North West accompanied with rain or drizzle. I had not expected Saturday the 18th to be up to much and I was prepared to sit it out with the prospect of the weather gradually improving from Sunday onwards – or so the long-range forecast indicated.
After a late breakfast I was pleasantly surprised to find Al in his Paradox, ‘Little Jim’ anchoring alongside. He had launched at Northney Marina at the northern end of Hayling Island late on Friday afternoon before spending the night at anchor in the shallow inlet at East Head. Al and I had had a good cruise in company the previous month when we sailed from Falmouth to Exmouth. The prospect of sailing together again was uplifting. As we whiled away the time at anchor I amused myself by watching all sorts of activity on the water. While there was comparative quiet before the DCA contingent arrived with their dinghies I watched a Curlew patiently wading along the waterline in search of food as the water gradually rose over the dark muddy bank. The same cormorant I saw yesterday was perched on his favourite lookout post, a stained port hand beacon.
Liz Baker, a respected and longstanding member of the DCA appeared on the concrete slipway, but there was no sign of her much loved Cormorant dinghy. I guessed it was at the campsite some way along the narrow road leading to the pebbly beach and slipway. Al had beached his boat and was chatting with Liz. A familiar figure joined them as he pulled a bright yellow canoe behind him on a trolley. Within a few minutes Chris Jenkins was demonstrating to me how well his Hobie Mirage foot peddled canoe performed. He had stowed the trolley behind him and was ready for a preliminary recce of Ichenor Reach. I was impressed with the ease with which he could make excellent progress against the incoming tide. Four members of the DCA launched their dinghies and set off in pursuit or to do their own thing. There was a Wayfarer and a couple of Mirror dinghies, one belonging to an intrepid fellow known as Cliff. He had twin polystyrene floats attached to the peak of the yard and single fenders either side of his boat. I assume this arrangement prevents a full capsize and facilitates righting the boat.
At mid afternoon the rain came down in earnest and I took cover under the closed hatch of ‘Faith’ to watch numerous dinghies being sailed by youngsters under the auspices of the Cobnor Christian Activities Centre. These people seemed fearless and completely oblivious of the rain. They revelled in the gusty conditions while being shepherded by vigilant young men racing around in fast ribs; when a dinghy headed towards a moored yacht one of these ribs expertly intervened to prevent a collision. The Centre has a variety of dinghies, but learners are first placed in Bosun dinghies. When they are more proficient they are allowed to try their hand at Picos and Lazers. I saw a Pico being towed back to the Centre after its mast had broken in two.
I didn’t do any sailing on Saturday, but I was most marvellously entertained by all those who took to the water and I enjoyed good food and welcome relaxation.