Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Cruise - Part 8

Cruise – Part 8

Sun 13th April

The forecast was for SW veering NW 4/5, increasing 6 later. I thought I would have time to reach Shoreham before the flood tide and in fact this is how it worked out. I only needed one tack to get sufficient sea room to make the entrance of Shoreham Harbour. At my arrival at the entrance it was 1020 and the Shoreham Sailing Club dinghies were racing. 'Faith' ran before the wind along the Western Pier and turned to port for the Club slipway and there I beached her to await the rising tide. I reconnoitered the bank further into the Western Harbour to find a spot for beaching the boat to have a good night's sleep.

When the boat floated I started the engine and leisurely surveyed the scene as far as the wooden pedestrian bridge above the Sussex Yacht Club and there I saw 'Speedwell' the ketch I was skipper of for 8 months. She was in her usual position on the Club slipway, but she had been painted a pale yellow. When I was in charge of her she was in the traditional black of an old Whitstable smack. This dockland area is industrial with storage tanks, metal dumps and sand piles. Fishing boats were tied up to the north key. On the south side the docks have been transformed by the creation of multiple apartments. The crew of 'Freedom', a fishing boat, gave me a hearty wave.

As I was waiting for the tide to reach its peak I was entertained by children playing on the beach and two jetski boats being retrieved by a 4 wheel drive vehicle which I thought could get stuck in the soft sand, but it coped well.

An hour after the ebb set I beached the boat at the Harbour Club where Tony from the Club introduced himself and invited me to use the facilities. He introduced me to his wife Hannah and their children. I tried to access the Internet through the Club's Hotspot, but was unsuccessful.

The forecast for tomorrow is for force 4 or 5 NW increasing to 6 at times, with showers and good visibility.

Monday 14th April

At 0630 the harbour control light was flashing red which meant a cargo vessel was comoing, and sure enough I saw the bridge deck of the ship above the harbour wall. Three quarters of an hour later 'Faith' was heading for the sea. The forecast was for stronger winds than I would have wanted, reaching force 6 at times from the north west – OK for the first stretch to Selsey Bill, but not so good for Chichester Harbour.

By 0845 we were sailing nicely off Worthing Pier when I was astonished to see a man standing on a surfboard and paddling it with a long shafted paddle. I thought he needed assistance so I changed course and back-tracked until within shouting distance of the paddler, but he totally ignored me. Thereupon I resumed the course towards the Mixon, a beacon south of Selsey Bill. An hour later we passed close to a red Trinity House vessel with a crane and showing three black diamond shapes at the masthead, indicating they were conducting special operations and had right of way.
Shortly after eleven the wind failed, so I started the engine, but an hour and a half later it came in from dead ahead. The tide turned against us and there was a fierce squall with heavy rain, which caused me to shorten sail. Having succeeded in rounding the Mixon the going got harder as the tide turned against the north west wind at about force 5. Water frequently crashed over the boat, but I remained dry inside the cabin. Nearer to Chichester Harbour the wind moderated and by the time we were at East Head it had almost petered out. We motored into Snowhill Creek just as it became dark and we anchored in 5 feet of water where we would dry out for the night. There was a beautiful crescent moon, but the air was very cold.

Tuesday 15th April

The early morning scene was incredibly beautiful, a bit like those ancient Chinese paintings where there are layers of fading mist and it was so peaceful as the skylark praised the dawn. A heron stood patiently at the water's edge. My breath condensed while I cooked a full English breakfast. Soon the boat was afloat, raised by the incoming tide and I wondered at the lovely clean water flowing over the sand and the shoals of tiny silver fish.

I was highly amused at a woman walking the beach with her two dogs, one of whom was called Leo. She commanded him to fetch a stone she threw into the water, but the dog just looked up at her as if to say the exercise would be pointless as he would not be able to find it. Again and again the woman repeated her command with an imperious voice, but the dog just sat on its haunches, whereupon she became very angry and frustrated.

Later that morning I anchored 'Faith' near the head of Snowhill Creek and within an hour or so there were several other yachts to keep her company. Not a great deal happened during the day which I reserved as a rest day. The 'Walcon Wizard', a huge floating pile driver with a tall crane structure amidships made her way to sea and returned in the evening. Incredibly, just as I was about to cook the evening meal and listen to the forecast, a chap anchored his Hunter Pilot 27, ' Caddle of Ayre', right over the spot where my anchor was dug in! Eventually he moved his boat before I took 'Faith' into Snowhill Creek for the night.

Wednesday 16th April

The forecast was for strong easterlies leading to gale force, but there was ample time for sailing to Lymington with the tide pushing us along, so I set off from Snowhill Creek at 0710 when the rising tide floated 'Faith' off the mud. Getting out of Chichester Harbour against the incoming flood tide was only possible because of the engine. Once clear of the bar I set a course for Horse Sand Fort which marks the southern end of a barrier set up during the war to keep submarines from entering the Solent.

Speed was mostly above 5 knots with wind and tide pushing us along. From Ryde and Wooton there were ferries linking with Southsea, including the yellow 'Fast Cat' catamaran. The water was a characteristic deep green, only seen on these waters. Approaching Cowes I could see Norris Castle high up in the trees with its twin towers looking like a Disney set. Quite a few swish yachts were enjoying the fresh breeze. I had to keep a keen eye on the sail to prevent involuntary broaching. To the north the huge chimney and buildings of Fawley Power Station could clearly be seen, and a couple of miles to the west a forest of masts marked the Beaulie moorings.

It was exciting sailing all the way to the entrance to Lymington River and even more exciting going in as one ferry was leaving and another entering, and just when I needed the engine it failed to start. By reducing sail I was able to make a controlled course close to Lymington Marina and just beyond to the pontoon of The Lymington Town Sailing Club, whose members made me very welcome, even helping me to more on the leeward side of their pontoon in anticipation of the forecast easterly gale. The time of arrival was 1300 which must be a record for the boat, taking only 5 hours and 40 minutes. When I get back to the boat I must work out the average speed.

Tomorrow I'll probably spend the day exploring Lymington and Milford on Sea, as a cousin has invited me to a celebratory meal for her wedding anniversary.

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