Just a short hop across to Cowes given the lack of wind and the persistent rain. Not spectacular or super-adventurous, but pleasant to have lunch on board and then mooch around the town. The crowds have gone and Cowes is rather less pretentious or yachty than in the summer months. Quite a few sailing school boats are in the marina and they all seem to have matching gear…we feel rather scruffy next to them…looks are everything right?
On our visits here we always ponder the island nature and what a bridge would do. At one level, the island is quite quaint and charming in a slightly 50’s sort of way. But on the other hand, why would any young people really want to stay (apart from the relatively low cost of housing)? It is easy for the occasional visitor to be charmed, but to live here…? A bridge would undoubtedly bring more money and opportunity here and house prices would clearly rise, but that of itself would also keep young people away or prevent them staying. Perhaps it is best that Wightlink and Red Funnel keep raking in the cash from their astronomical prices!
Wednesday and the end of the little trip...
Domestic stuff draws us inexorably home sadly, so 5.30 sees us up with an unwelcome alarm and even more unwelcome rain, to catch the last of the ebb down the Solent to Lymington. We have time to make coffee before we slip the moorings in the dark and drizzle and make our way out of Cowes.
A single blast in our ear lets us know that the fast cat to Southampton is about to leave. We keep well out of the way as they take no prisoners, but they soon leave us bobbing in their wake, and as we head round Egypt Point the light is just enough to make out the rather damp shoreline of West Cowes. Of the mainland we see nothing!
There is, despite the damp and dark, something special about sailing into the dawn. The feeling that it is mostly just us with the sea to ourselves and the gradual fading of the light from the buoys. We have a wind of sorts but by the time we reach the entrance to the Lymington River the tide is just starting to flood once more and we are grateful yet again for the ability to burn some diesel to get us home.
Breakfast tied up to the pontoon is a juicy fry-up with more coffee before we start the process of clearing and packing and saying goodbye once more. Not the most extraordinary of voyages certainly, but a joy to be on the water and to feel Heydays come to life even if not far from home.
We have decided to stay an extra night here and explore the upper reaches of the Hamble in the dinghy. The river is more open than we had expected and we trundle up to where there used to be some old boatyards and an amazing set of floating barges called Aladdin’s Cave. This was the repository of a real treasure trove of old boaty bits and pieces, and the scene of an encounter many years ago which sums up John. He was seen holding a very shapely but completely indeterminate (in terms of future or past use) piece of Stainless Steel. He was trying desperately to think of somewhere he could use it. He only reluctantly put it down when it was pointed out to him that it probably weighed more than most of the rest of the gear on the boat put together…
Aladdin’s Cave is sadly no more (or at least we couldn’t find it)… probably to the relief of the female section of the group. The river at this point (just before Burseldon Bridge) was flooding extremely fast and true to form, the outboard decided at that moment to take a break from its duties. A slightly undignified paddle saw us washed up on a muddy bit of beach by the road. This is where the engine decided to resume duties and seemed to run without problem. As we were not far from the chandlers we decided to wander in to look for a few bits including some new wellies for me. The assistant was slightly aghast when I took off my muddy sandals and handed me what in the end porved to be an inadequate supply of tissues and disinfectant gel. It was not my finest hour trying to clean my feet in front of a shop full of rather more well shod boaty folk. We mumbled apologies and said that we would come back later. Oddly she didn’t try to stop us.
We continued up stream and encountered an amazing set of standing waves formed by the sheer rate of the current, before the rather calmer waters just underneath the M23. The engine needed another break, but this time we were able to hold on to a pontoon while pondering a pleasant afternoon next to a thundering motorway.
On the basis that less is more, the details of the engine repairs are left out and we were able to head back down stream in the first of the ebb in a rather more decorous and sedate style. We headed straight for the Jolly Sailor (as featured several times in the awful soap about boats called Howard’s Way) and counted the trip as just another little adventure even if it is little over a half hour drive from our home port.
We wandered on foot this time into the village of Hamble (Hamble le Rice as it is properly called) and had afternoon tea from the beach café and wondered at the understated little ferry which plies from Hamble across to Warsash…
At the time of writing we have the cockpit tent up as the promised rain arrives…Oh well, scrabble and cribbage it is!
We are up early (for us) and leave for the gentle sail down Southampton Water all the way to the Hamble River. We have an appointment to meet Debs and her husband Cole on their boat Lani. We have for some time been concerned about the toxic impact on the environment of the ani-foul which we slap on Heydays’ bottom every year. We have come across a product called Finsulate which is essentially a self-adhesive velour-like substance which has been used for some time in The Netherlands…and a few boats so far in the UK. The company have put us in touch with Debs so that we can see what it has been like to use in practice.
Southampton Water is its usual hectic self with pleasure boats and commercial stuff all vying for supremacy. We have a SE breeze which is almost dead on the nose (of course) and settle in for a tack back down to the Hamble.
The old Paddle Steamer Waverly churns magnificently towards us while we hop out of the way of a container ship (we cheat and have the motor running just to make sure of keeping out of harms way).
Oddly, in all the years of sailing locally and even internationally, we have never taken Heydays back to the Hamble. As expected, it is absolutely choked with boats and marinas and moorings, but it also hass a charm which belies its position wedged between the two cities of Portsmouth and Southampton.
We are all very pleasantly surprised by The Mercury Yacht Harbour even though it is now owned by the ubiquitous MDL group. Our mooring is on the shallow and tight side, but our view from the stern is just one of gentle woodland and egrets fishing for their supper in the retreating shallows.
Debs and Cole give us a really warm welcome aboard their UFO 31 and are happy to talk about their mixed experiences of the new system. This year has been one of heavy fouling and Cole is a scuba diver and has already been over the side to clean the bottom twice. This is not really what we had hoped to hear, but while the weed has grown, it appears to rub off really easily…with the added bonus that scraping/brushing does not release yet more toxic stuff into the water. We realise that if we go down this route, we too will have to scrape a couple of times a year. However, with our bilge keels that is no real problem across a drying tide. We already need to beach her or have her lifted out for a pressure wash in the course of a season, but would have no problem even hosing her down on a public slip given the lack of anti-foul.
Lots to ponder, but we decide to go for the environmental benefits and have Heydays wrapped in Finsulate. No doubt the coming months will see the fruit of this decision one way or another. The marina has a small bistro attached and we have our Sunday lunch (late) looking out over what has so far been a surprising and pleasant find compared to our expectations. The remainder of the afternoon is spent snoozing gently in the last of the sun before we decide to make the minimum effort of a walk along the river bank. Given the number of Porsche, Astons and Teslas in the car park, we are surprised that there is a healthy number of slightly scruffy (in a bohemian way) liveaboards on the mudflats. This reminds us almost of the myriad walkways and old boats lying in the mudlfats of The Blackwater in Essex.
With a day of luxury ahead of us while waiting for Chris, we decide to tackle the deep joy of replacing the seals on the sea toilet. Without being indelicate, the loo has become an increasingly noisy experience over the last few months with protesting seals (the rubber kind) and unnecessary heaving (on handles). We take the precaution of chucking down plenty of loo cleaner first, plus donning our own squeaky rubber gloves before diving into the heads. It proves to be a surprisingly satisfying job in the end and the result is a toileting experience to be looked forward to. If only we had done it sooner. Guests on Heydays can now gain comfort with discretion without announcing to the whole river what is going on.
Lunch is mostly liquid in the lovely Harbour Lights Picture House bar and terrace and we book a movie for the evening. More afternoon snoozing (we deserve it) and we are ready for Chris and some dinner.
One of the joys of this particular marina is that we have a whole 50m walk to the cinema and we watch Elvis which s the story of his life, but told largely through the eyes of ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker, his disgraced and abusive manager. We are reminded of what a legacy of great music he left, let alone the cultural difference he made by singing and dancing in the negro tradition borne from a youth spent in the poorer parts of Memphis.
It has been a funny period and this will no doubt continue for some time. Opinion on Heydays ranges from Monarchist, through mild acceptance to distinctly republican. However, we all agree on a surprising number of things. Firstly, The Queen has been a fixture and point of reference in all our lives for almost all our lives. She had no real choice (unlike most of us) about how her life would pan out. True, she lived a life of luxury and privilege, and the history of empire and her ancestors is not one of glory or civil equity, however she chose to conduct herself in a way which was undoubtedly honest, bound by a sense of duty and deep moral values. We all agreed that our politicians could learn a lot from the way she conducted herself at all levels of political life and that this country would be a nicer place if they did.
Family commitments have pushed back the start date and pulled back the end date, so our brief September cruise is rather briefer than originally planned. However, after a glorious summer of almost unbridled sunshine, Heydays sets off from Lymington bound for Southampton, in what started as a fine drizzle, but quickly turns to something which old Noah would find disconcerting. The Isle of Wight (just a couple of miles away) is nowhere to be seen and we settle in for the ride, telling each other that this is what we have been looking forward to!
As it happens, the downpour passes very quickly and soon we are in occasionally sunny spells with a following breeze around 10kts. Behind us the sky looks threatening once more, but we ride our luck and it passes by with not a drop falling on us.
We are flying the flag at half mast as this is the day after The Queen has died bringing an end to the second Elizabethan era. The various bulletins and announcements seem rather surreal, especially those referring to The King (most of us have not had one of those in our lifetime!).
We have chosen to book into Ocean Village again with the intention of walking to football at St Mary’s on Saturday, but inevitably the premier league has been cancelled and so we will have a day of leisure to look forward to in Southampton…at least it will be a day without the usual Saturday afternoon anxiety or even deep depression. As we are often reminded, supporting Saints is a lesson in learning to live with disappointment. Dinner on the boat is a treat, with oysters to start followed by (sustainably sourced) skate in a simple brown butter sauce with capers and fresh new potatoes. Chris has no regrets about missing this…she’ll be joining us tomorrow!
The question the night before, was how late can we leave it before getting up to catch the last of the ebb out of the harbour and the early flood back up to the Solent?
We settle on up at 5.30 and leave at 6. In the event though, we are awake at 5.15 and realise that the tide predictions (always notoriously random in the harbour even with modern technology) show even less water than we had reckoned. A slightly more hurried departure than we had planned sees us inching over the shallows with barely more than 10cm between us and a 4 hour ignominious wait for the water to come back. We hold our breath…..and then we are in the heaven of deep water once more and motoring into the rising light.
Now we can properly focus on coffee and toast as we don wet weather gear for what turns out to be a very showery ride back…this is what English summers are supposed to be like and the light across the Isle of Wight tells of more stuff to come!
Some of the showers are actually torrential, but they don’t dampen our memories of what turns out to be a short (in distance) cruise but really relaxing just pottering around the tremendous beauty on our Dorset doorstep.
Over night, Heydays takes the ground gently as the tide falls, but this is the joy of a bilge keeler, as she settles gently into the mud on a (reasonably) even keel. The morning tide sees us ready for the off. The river is flooding rapidly and we consider for a little while how to a) get off the tight mooring without side-swiping another boat and b) how to turn round in a river only a little wider than the length of the old girl. Our deliberations are given an added tinge by the now crowded clubhouse (why are they all there on a Monday morning???) who will be hoping for a bit of early “entertainment”.
In the event, our plans pay off and we feel reasonably smug as we gracefully ease her into the stream and turn in her own length before waving a cheery goodbye to the (presumably disappointed onlookers). Actually, I’m being unfair, as the Redclyffe club turns out to be one of the very nicest places we have been to in a long while.
We decide that this mini cruise is more of a relaxing amble and so by lunchtime we are still in Poole Harbour, but anchored just off the beautiful Arne peninsular with its nature reserve….(and all this just a stone’s throw from the big ferry terminal on the other side of the harbour).
A short ride ashore in the dinghy, and we wander through the ancient woodland with few others in sight. A rustling in the bushes and there is the white stag in all his glory. After a short pause to take us in, he is off with an effortless and almost soundless bound back into the cover. This alone was worth the walk.
A few other boats are anchored near by in the only deepish puddle hereabouts, but as the tide recedes and the mud encroaches, the only sounds are from the sea birds quarrelling over their fish suppers.
So night night, as we need to catch an early tide tomorrow morning…
Up early (for us!!) and on the move to catch the tide up the river to Wareham. Coffee and toast on the go as we pass a few other early risers…although this doesn’t seem to include the scouts!
The harbour in this part is really beautiful (I’ve probably mentioned that before) and we potter gently and ever more warily across the mudflats…
… to the winding channel up to Wareham. By the time the river is really narrow, the paddle-boarders, canoeists and motor boaters are out in force and we have someone in the bows keeping a sharp watch round the bends.
We were hoping for a mooring on the quay next to the bridge, but unsurprisingly there is no space…
… and we pick our way back down stream, wondering about picking up a vacant mooring. We call the Redclyffe Yacht Club but they have no space and nor does Ridge Wharfe. Oh well. Wareham will just have to do without our vast reserves of spending money! Then the phone rings and it is Adrian from Redclyffe who says that he can squeeze us onto his own mooring for the night. He was very apologetic about saying no the first time, but it is heart-warming that someone would go to the trouble to make some space and to call us back. The club there is tremendously friendly (although the mooring is a bit of a squeeze for Heydays) and is a world away from the commercial marinas of Lymington and the rest of the south coast.
We trundle the 10 minutes up a hot and dusty path to Wareham in search of a little light lunch, but with dwindling hopes as we see the crowds on the quay and the pubs by the water. However… just a couple of streets back is the Horse and Groom who have seats in the shady garden, some lovely ales…and a little light lunch of roast dinner with all the trimmings. We have no will power. To top it all, the staff are amazingly friendly and welcoming. Another afternoon of dozing in the sun in what promises to be the last couple of days of the heat wave.
We had though about a trip up the river to Wareham, but realise that we are simply up too late for the tide. Joshua Slocum would be scandalised! While Magaluf in Dorset has its attractions, we trundle off in search of a quieter anchorage. With a grand total of 55 minutes under the keel, we drop the anchor again in the South Deep just south of Furzey Island and a stones throw from Goathorn point.
There follows a completely unremarkable day, just lazing, drinking and reading…bliss.
Once again the sun does not disappoint and we never cease to be amazed how peaceful and deserted this place is and yet still so close to the bustle and general noise of the north of the harbour.
..and we doze off in the company of jsut a couple of others…rocking very gently…
Funerals and families have slightly curtailed the start and finish of our planned time on Heydays this month and this, together with the persistent Easterlies means that we head off west instead of our original thoughts of heading back east for a change. We take the noon tide out of Lymington past the hazy mud flats…
…and get popped out of the Hurst Narrows like corks out of cheap prosecco on a night in Bournemouth….due mainly to the spring tides and the full moon.
We have tentatively planned to spend a night in Poole harbour and are in no rush to get to the entrance there before the tide starts to flood, as it can be every bit as ferocious as the Hurst narrows. The afternoon sea breeze kicks in early and in the space of 5 minutes we go from a very light NE zephyr to a nice southerly F4. The south west Hampshire coast slips away and we keep Hengistbury head and it’s shoal waters a respectable distance off and settle in for a leisurely lunch.
Sailing at the moment must be what it is like to sail in the Med, no real thought about temperature or layers or oilies as is usually the case in the English summer, just the same shorts and T-shirt every day and loads of factor 60.
Soon however we notice a plume of smoke over Studland and begin to realise that it is something rather more serious. The news feeds confirm a major heath fire and it seems that the chain ferry has been suspended to enable emergency services direct access and that people are being evacuated. It seems less than sensible to head to an anchorage in the harbour which is directly down wind of the fire.
We opt to join the several dozen or so others who have decided to do the same…or who are just enjoying the playground near Old Harry Rocks. We avoid dropping the hook in the conservation area with due deference to the eel grass beds and their attendant sea horses, but can’t help but wonder how the sea horses feel about the dozens of powerful motor boats, jet skis and general humanity in such close proximity. Even they can’t detract from the beauty though of Old Harry though…
The fire rages on, and while we are prepared to shift out should the wind change, we decide to stay for the night and see what things are like in the morning. As darkness falls there is a spectacular sunset…
and an even more spectacular Sturgeon moon as it shines directly through a rocky hole off the cliffs. We are also grateful that the vast majority of fun seekers have departed with the sun and it feels less like Magaluf and more like a spectacular bit of English coast.