As each day passes, so the equivalent tide on successive days is later and if the moon is on the wane the rise and fall of water becomes less until the moon begins to wax. By Friday, 24th August the range of tide was only 1.5 metres as opposed to 3 metres when I first arrived at Chichester Harbour. This meant the speed of currents generated by the rise and fall of water would be less than when I started my cruise, which in turn would ease the effect the wind would have on the water when blowing against the current. For a change, the wind eased, and the combination of neap tides bode favourably for enjoyable sailing.
After a quiet night I awoke to find sunshine, and as I ate breakfast I enjoyed watching several rabbits scampering around the patchy grass at the front of a nearby private beach house. They bobbed up and down while chasing one another, stopping now and again to check for predators by sitting upright so as to have a good view and at the same time listen for tell-tell sounds. Shoals of silver mullet broke the surface of the placid water as an Egret waited patiently at the water’s edge for an unsuspecting tiddler swimming within range of its black needle-sharp beak. I caught a glimpse of a fine mullet when it passed just a foot or so from the side of ‘Faith’. I was told that only red mullet are good for eating. An elderly couple complete with fishing gear arrived at the slipway with their dinghy and outboard motor and within a short time, having deployed their rods and lines, they were drifting between the moored yachts. There was a shout of joy from the lady as she hooked a small fish and expertly landed it into the dinghy.
By 0815 we were underway with the aid of a gentle wind fanning us towards the Chichester Channel. Only a couple of yachts were on the move and there was no sign of any DCA members or their boats. At 0830 we were at Camber Beacon that marks the entrance to Thorney Channel stretching to the north. With full sail and on a beam reach we made rapid progress eastwards leaving East Head by a cable to the south before coming on the wind towards Verner Beacon adjacent to the inlet leading to Hayling Island Yacht Company’s moorings. Sporadically motor vessels and motor yachts chugged seaward, most bent on fishing somewhere within the Harbour or beyond in the Solent. A few sailing yachts, also under motor, took the same route. Meanwhile I tacked ‘Faith’ northwards between the deep water channel markers with the aim of getting as near to Emsworth Marina as possible. Low water wasn’t until 1433, so there was ample time, especially as the tide was still making, but as things turned out I would have to wait hours before I could take ‘Faith’ into the Marina, because the wind petered out when she arrived at the North East Hayling beacon which marks the channel to Northney Marina. I wasn’t in a hurry otherwise I would have tried using the yuloh for the next mile to Emsworth Yacht Harbour. My desire was just to relax and enjoy the scenery, the sunshine and the peace, so I set the anchor and made a coffee before lying down for a snooze.
Being anchored at the junction between Northney Marina, Emsworth Yacht Harbour and the north/south-going Emsworth Channel I tied my black wading shoes together as an anchor ball and hung them on the lazy jack. This indicated to an ever-increasing number of boats on the move that ‘Faith’ was at anchor. After my snooze I made a coffee and I was surprised to find Al in ‘Little Jim’ nearby; he informed me he and other DCA sailors intended to sail around Hayling Island. At that moment the wind was almost non-existent, but there was just enough for making way. I noticed Cliff was also within hailing distance aboard his well-sailed Mirror; he gave me a call and continued with his endeavour of working close inshore towards Northney and Langstone Bridge where both he and Al would have to remove masts from their boats so as to pass under the bridge. In the distance, way to the south, I saw Liz in her Cormorant and someone in a Wayfarer, but the ebb had set and within a quarter of an hour they were no more to be seen.
Just before mid-day the wind set in and I could discern a dark tan sail way down the Emsworth Channel; by using my binoculars I confirmed it was the sail of Liz’s dinghy. Twenty minutes later she sailed along an identical track to the one taken by Cliff, but she didn’t appear to recognize ‘Faith’. I noticed there was an outboard motor at the stern of her dinghy and it was obvious she had no intention of using it, unless absolutely necessary. A very official looking motor launch slowly chugged by and I observed it belonged to the Harbour Master who gave me a hearty wave and a cheery greeting.
Half-an-hour before low water at 1400 I took in the anchor and tacked northwards between the many moored yachts, motorboats and runabouts. Eventually the water became so shallow that I could proceed no further under sail and therefore I tried to make progress against the wind with the yuloh, but at first I had little success until the tide turned in my favour when I continued until grounding on pebbles near the entrance to Emsworth Yacht Harbour. I knew there would be a long wait because I could see the sill was not covered and I would need at least one foot six inches of water to pass safely over it; otherwise ‘Faith’ could become stranded on it sideways with the force of the water, or the rudder could be damaged by being hooked on the sill as the boat traversed the tide-induced waterfall into the Marina.
My wait in the sunshine was a pleasant one. Swans swam around hoping for tidbits and two Egrets vied with one another for territorial rights. A gull attacked a large grey heron that retreated with little defence from the swifter smaller bird. As this was happening a motor launch tried approaching the Marina along the pebbly gully, but she became stuck and after ten minutes of frantic grinding and propeller clanging she reversed off to await the tide at a pontoon by the Emsworth Sailing Club. Two lads who had erected a tent on the weedy beach decided to relieve their boredom by throwing stones at each other and a fat woman took her equally fat dog for a walk between the many small boats dried out on their moorings. A car zoomed down a slipway between the expensive waterside mansions then turned around in a semi-circle over the weed-covered stones before climbing back up the slipway to disappear from view around the corner. A homeowner not wishing to draw attention to himself peered around a wall at the bottom of his garden to examine ‘Faith’. Transfixed, he stared for several minutes before slowly withdrawing behind the wall.
At 1730 ‘Faith’ was still anchored near the entrance to the Marina and the gushing of water could be heard as it rushed over the sill. An hour later when the moving water no longer plunged to the lower level within the compound a mother duck with many tiny chicks briefly peeped outside and took one look at us before fleeing back to the safety of their enclosure.
By 1930 I had retrieved the boat on her trailer, but not without a minor flap when the car lost traction on the weedy slipway. I asked a kindly yachtsman for his assistance and he suggested attaching his four-by-four to my car with a tow rope, only to abandon the idea when we could not find a tow bracket on the Mondeo. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I discovered a hidden loop behind a cover. He enlisted a friend and they both sat on the boot of my car while I eased it forward in first gear. The extra weight on the tail of the car did the trick. The next slight hiccup was when I tried extracting the mast, only to discover it was well and truly jammed. No amount of effort could dislodge it. Sweat poured off me in my attempt at lifting it out. Abandoning the attempt until morning I went to the washroom for a welcome refreshing shower and to escape the persistent attack of midges. By the time I returned to the boat after nightfall there was no sign of the little blighters. I settled down for the night and for the first time of the whole trip I could see stars through the window in the hatch.