Sunset at Newton
‘Ladybird’ has returned to the anchorage off East Head, Chichester Harbour. She loves it here, as does her skipper. Anchored out of the channel in two meters of water gives a peaceful berth because the boat mainly lies to the wind, which means there is no fight between wind and tide for supremacy - that’s unlike being at Newton last night. There, the tussle between wind and tide caused me to have an hour’s anchor watch between midnight and one a.m. to check that the anchor was not dragging. There was that characteristic grinding sound of the chain as it was moved over the seabed. In the dark, even with the moon shining, yachts nearby looked really close. Darkness tends to make things look nearer than they really are.
Despite not having the peaceful night I so wanted, my in-built time clock had me out of my bunk in time to hear the early morning shipping forecast. Apart from the prediction there would be showers at first, the southerly wind was ideal for making east. ‘Ladybird’ would be able to sail over the ebb from Cowes onwards. From Newton to Cowes the wind was in our favour. The wind turned out to be variable in strength which mean frequent adjustments of the sails to find the right amount to have up.
Even at seven in the morning there were several yachts out and about in the Solent, plus the usual ferries, including the hovercraft, a very fast catamaran, the Lymington to Yarmouth ferries and the Portsmouth and Ryde ferries. I had to be extra vigilant when passing Cowes because one ferry was entering while another was leaving and a very large private motor yacht insisted on aiming at ‘Ladybird’ as she tried to avoid the ferry exiting Cowes. A heavy shower that reduced visibility did not help matters. The engine at that point was essential for keeping out of trouble. Beyond the outer moorings at Cowes the wind almost petered out as we were overtaken by a swish sailing yacht that had been anchored nearby at Newton.
Later in the morning the dark clouds disappeared to be replaced with volatile, rapidly changing cumulus clouds, indicative of a fresh wind from abeam. Frigate 229 made a fine sight as she rapidly steamed eastwards at Spithead on a course between No Man’s Land Fort and Horse Sand Fort. From there the course to West Pole Beacon, marking the entrance of Chichester Harbour, was 080. The scene was rather grand as the white crests of the waves marched northwards over the shallows of Hayling Bay. Langstone Harbour was to our north and three miles ahead I could just make out the Beacon where we would turn northwards to Chichester Harour.
I knew it would be a rough entry because the wind was fresh and the tide was ebbing against it. Three yachts were leaving and that number were entering. A large motor yacht making her exit came at speed past ‘Ladybird’, despite there being only five meters of water. This created a very turbulent sea, and shortly after, we did an involuntary gybe. No damage was done and we proceeded to make slow progress against the ebb towards the beacon at Eastoke Point were the water really gushed out like tea coming from the spout of a kettle, except the colour of the water was a fantastic translucent green capped with rolling white curlers. It was exciting to say the least, steering the boat directly downwind while trying to avoid broaching. I needed a fair amount of sail to have enough power to move the boat against the ebb. In any case, reducing sail under those conditions was not possible.
Inside the Harbour the water flattened out; in fact the water was almost smooth, which was very deceptive for those making out to sea because they may not have realised how bumpy it was out there.
A handful of yachts were anchored off East Head, and another four were high and dry, having being deliberately beached on the wonderful, fine sand below the dunes. For some unaccountable reason, my anchor did not hold, which caused me to have a second go at anchoring. The second attempt proved successful. A cup of tea soon refreshed me for making a late lunch which I ate with relish, and after tidying the boat i had an afternoon nap. Here I am at 1700 typing my Blog. Tomorrow will bring its own decisions; meanwhile, all I ask is that I may have a quiet night with no anchor watch!