Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Cruise - Part 10

'Sunday 19th April

The inshore forecast for Wight was North East 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times, particularly around headlands. With that knowledge I set off from Lymington at 0950 with the engine running, but just as 'Faith' left the inner harbour the engine failed, and it seemed like a case of petrol starvation. With no time to lose before the Yarmouth bound ferry would put to sea I made sail and could hold the wind until clear of the shallow water to leeward. When the depth sounder showed 20 feet I set a course for Hurst Point - just under two-and-a-half miles away. The flooding tide was against us, but our speed over the ground was a good two knots. Through the haze I could make out the white lighthouse and the gaunt concrete and metal structure of Hurst Cast;e which was a fortification commanding the western entrance to the Solent during the war. To the East I could hear the guns for the competitive racing yachts of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club.

To the South West of Lymington Spit I observed a peculiar vessel anchored in shallow water and as my course lay along that path I discovered she was the race officer's boat for the Lymington Town Sailing Club.

We arrived too early at Hurst Point as the flood tide was still making against the wind, but 'Faith' was able to maintain just over a knot. By keeping very close inshore we could keep clear of the race to our port. It was exciting sailing, as I had to steer accurately to make sure the the boat did not involuntary gybe. The North Head green starboard hand buoy, distant about a mile-and-a-half, was our objective; once there we would be clear of the infamous shallows known as the Shingles over which the water pours resulting in dangerous overflows. This has been the grave of many unwary sailors.

While making to the West we were overtaken by several very fast RIBS; I assumed their crews were just enjoying the fun of speeding over the tumbling waves, and what for them was playful enjoyment could have been hazardous for the crew of 'Faith'. The well-known silhouette of the white cliffs of the Needles and its lighthouse could be seen through the yellow haze to the South. Soon we would escape the clutches of the Solent that entraps sailors like the sirens of Odysseus. The wind increased as we headed for Christchurch Bay beyond Milford on Sea where I had been entertained by cousin and her husband three days earlier. It was good to be sailing again after being stuck in port because of the excepionally windy weather.

While en route for Poole Harbour I frequently fortified myself by snacking on Cadbury Dairy Milk Whole Nut Chocolate, Brazil nuts and dried fruit. When Hingistbuty Head that marks the entrance to Christchurch Harbour lay abeam to starboard I felt we were on our way. The objective was to find Poole Bar Fairway Buoy No 1 to the North East of the white cliffs of Handfast Point. The nearer we approached the Buoy the bigger became the swell and waves as they rolled over the shallows. By the time we were passing through the narrows of Poole Harbour's entrance the tide was rushing out which meant our speed was reduced to just one knot which did not help when it came to avoiding the chain ferry. Beyond that hazard the wind almost failed which caused 'Faith' to sail backwards and not wishing to be swept to the open sea I tried the engine, but to no avail. Instead I was forced to change course for the South Deep Channel to the west where there would be less current.

In actual fact it was a fortuitous choice, because the sail along the winding channel to Goathorn Point where I anchored was delightful because of its beauty; wooded Brownsea Island lay to tne North, the smaller Furzey Island to the North West and the tiny Green Island to the West. Furzey Island was somewhat scarred by the derrick of an oil well and because of that exploitation the island is visited frequently by various craft to supply it with necessary goods. An extraordinary powered raft-like structure with a high bridge deck on a platform is used for transporting heavy vehicles.

The anchorage was at first peaceful, but when nightfall came the wind increased and it became uncomfortable. I observed a white egret patiently fishing at the water's edge.

Monday 21st April

After a not too pleasant night when 'Faith' was tossed and rolled by the waves I awoke to hear yet again another dreadful weather forecast. I snuggled into the sleeping bag with a resolve not to surface until after 0800 when I would have a leisurely breakfast. Throughout the morning there was a grey blanket of cloud which produced constant rain or drizzle. This did not stop the oyster fishermen doing their work, nor the frequent vessels visiting Furzey Island, or the bright yellow tripper boat named 'Maid of Lakeland' from doing her usual round of the passages between the Islands.

Poole is certainly a major ferry port, because during the afternoon an enormous passenger catamaran resembling the shape of a gigantic shark without a dorsal fin, but with a gaping open mouth ready to swallow anything in its path, entered and left the harbour and shortly after a towering top heavy Brittany Ferry named 'Contention' carried out the same routine.

With the aim of having a restful night I took up the anchor so that I could motor the boat to Bood Alley Lake, a passage between the mudflats south of Brownsea Island, but the engine failed only after a few minutes, possibly due to fuel starvation. I made sail and cut across the shallow water east of Furzey Island with only three feet under the keel until the boat was as close I could take her to the beach where I anchored in five feet. There I removed the cover of the outboard to discover why the fuel supply failed, but I took shy of dissembling the carburetter in case I could not reassemble it or perhaps I may have made things worse. Having an unreliable engine is not bit of use. My Honda had become a temperamental machine willing only to work when it decided.

While eating my evening meal I observed two fishermen walking the mud bank searching for cockles. Later they came close with their open boat PE113 named 'Ivy' and I asked them about their work. They confirmed they were looking for cockles and if they could find them, mullet too.

People may wonder what you do alone on a boat all day long, but I can assure you life is never dull. There is always something entertaining going on and there are jobs that need attention, besides time for reading, listening to the radio and enjoying welcome relaxation.

Tuesday 22nd April

I woke to find a very pleasant morning with the sun shining and a gentle breeze from the north. At 0900 I started the engine and set off for Poole Harbour entrance where the chain ferry was crossing to Sandbanks on the eastern side. There were no cross channel ferries entering or leaving and I had it all to myself. Despite my rude remarks about the engine, for a change it was running perfectly, and it enabled me to plug the flooding tide to Handfast Point and beyond. The wind filled in from the south which meant I could motor/sail past Anvil Point way beyond the famous race which was a non-starter because 'Faith' arrived there just as the tide was turning to the west. It was necessary to hold a course of 230 to avoid the Lulworth Firing Range until beyond the two danger zone buoys east of the Race. I could hear the guns with their booming periodic thuds and there was no way I wanted to get caught out.

When we reached 30 degrees 8 minutes north I set a course to run westwards, but the wind slightly headed us which meant we clipped the edge of the Range, but I noticed several vessels inshore of me, one of which turned out to be 'Patsy Rye' with whom I have been sailing in company. She's a beautiful wooden classic Hillyard 4 tonner.

I smothered myself with suncream to protect my face and hands from the strong sunshine. Haze caused me to lose sight of land. The Lowrance GPS with its charts was extremely helpful for checking our progress. With the tide bowling us along we were doing a good 5 knots. Early in the afternoon the tide set southwards which meant I had to offset to starboard to arrive in a safe position just north of a direct course to Weymouth. One can easily be dragged south around Portland Bill into the frightening race that even big ships avoid.

We made steady progress and arrived at Weymouth where we tied up to a pontoon on the south side of the Harbour opposite the Harbour Office. A group of children showed an interest in 'Faith' and asked several sensible questions about her. As I ate my fish and chips bought only a hundred yards away, two gulls waited patiently within touching distance. I rewarded them with left overs and others tried to join them, but they were driven away.

What to do tomorrow remains to be seen. I could stay in Weymouth or try for Bridport, even Exmouth if conditions are right. Most importantly I have to check the tide for the best time to round the Bill which is a tricky bit of navigation. You have to get it right or you could get into big trouble in the Race. There's a choice – either inside it or outside. I prefer the inner passage because it saves a good many miles and time.

Wednesday 23rd April

With the prospect of strong westerlies I decided to stay put in Weymouth where it is very comfortable, although noisy because of the fishing and tripper boats. I made it a 'get everything clean day' including myself, the laundry and the boat. The town itself is fascinating with such a variety of architecture, the Royal Dorset Yacht Club being an example of ornate design featuring pseudo Gothic arched windows.

I had a chat with a helper on 'Spirit of Weymouth', a 60 Class yacht entering the Artemis Transat. Apparently there had been vandalism on the boat that discouraged the owner, whose surname is White, but his forename is lost from my memory.

Nigel Davidson moored his boat, 'Patsy Rye' on the same pontoon as 'Faith'. We both agreed it was not a day for making west. My intention is to relax and prepare for the next stage of my westward quest which could involve night sailing.

There may be several days before the next posting, as I may reach the River Exe where finding a Hotspot may not be possible, but there may be one at Exmouth.

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