The night was windier than expected with the tail of Storm Arwen running past. Again, we have decided leave earlyish despite the foul tide as we need to be back in Lymington with plenty of time in hand to get things off Heydays in preparation for her coming ashore next week. As we have said before, there is something deeply satisfying about hot coffee and toast in the cockpit as we sail into a bright clear day.
With full sails and the wind back in the north, Heydays is broad reaching in a glorious F4 making 6kt over the ground probably against around 1kt of foul tide. Lunch back on the quay in Lymington consists of eating up remains from the store cupboard (yummier than you would think) and some brilliant homemade soup.
These days out on the water are among some of the most memorable and we can at least get her ashore for the winter knowing that while this has not been the most classic of sailing seasons, it has been the best November we can remember.
The night was rough outside although Heydays was impeccably behaved even in the gusts as wind howled through our rigging and that of the other boats close by. We were got up twice in the night by alarms going off…the first was the tac tic instruments complaining about being left on standby with no power, and the second was the hand-held VHF making exactly the same complaint. We never used to make those mistakes, so it just shows how much we are out of routine and practice on the boat as we make good for the night. The morning dawns bright and clear …and very cold. But the river is beautiful just the same.
What to do when you are on a snug boat with nowhere to go and a pub close by??? This bit is less of a sailing blog, but inevitably part of the general sailing experience. Captain Aubrey certainly spent a great deal of time at anchor waiting for winds and tides so we don’t feel so bad. A relaxed (and late) breakfast followed by a trip to the nursing home and then a late lunch in the Master Builder leaves an afternoon for cards, booze and general pottering while Heydays sits gently with just an occasional lurch in the stronger gusts. We play cribbage and feel like we are going back to the fifties when pubs around the country would be full of old men with pints playing cribbage or dominos.
We have planned to get back to Buckler’s Hard up the Beaulieu River today so that we can be tucked up ahead of the storm and ride it out over Saturday. The tides are not brilliant and the question is whether to wait for the favourable tide and risk the weather coming in, or leave earlier and beat into the westerly and a foul tide. In the end we agree to leave earlier despite the prospect of a beat into the notorious Solent chop. We leave a reasonably calm Portsmouth feeling slightly over-dressed (and hot) in all our wet weather gear and thermals, but as we draw clear of the entrance we get the full benefit of the expected F5. We have double reefed the main and genoa and for a while wonder if we have been over cautious. However, as we clear Gilkicker Point we get the full benefit of the westerly (with a bit of North in it) and we are glad that we don’t have to go up to the mast just yet. Heydays is as good as you can get for this sailing given that we have bilge keels. She takes the nasty chop in her stride with just a few big green ones catching us out.
A fin keeler would have done better no doubt, but we still manage to tack and make good through 56o even taking into account the tide and some leeway. We keep clear of the southern channel up the eastern arm of the Solent as there appears to be quite a lot of commercial stuff in and out of Southampton and it takes us 9 tacks to clear Egypt Point just west of Cowes.
The wind increases steadily and by the time we are off the Brambles it is a steady 26 or 27kts which puts it at the top end of F6. There have been a few squalls along the way with the instruments reading a true windspeed in the gusts of over 40kt. This is already gale territory!
As we are about a mile off the rather tortuous entrance to the Beaulieu River we see a very nasty squall building and we take the decision to get the sails down slightly earlier than strictly necessary had we been in calmer times. The seas have worsened as we now have a constant F7 and wind over tide. This turns out to be the right decision and the squall hits with amazing ferocity…but only for a short while. It passes and we are left with rainbows and some great sunlight for our entrance to the river.
However, it is not done with us yet, and although the river is sheltered, another squall hits with rain stinging our eyes with what feels like small bullets. Not being able to see while navigating up a narrow river with moored boats swinging wildly around is a challenge….but then it is over again and we moor up at the marina in calm sunlight wondering what all the fuss is about.
With the storm now imminent along the south coast we double up our lines and fenders and prepare to sit out tonight and Saturday.
However, in mitigation m’lud, we’ve had so little time on the water in the last 12 months or more that we really felt the need to get some proper salt-water rushing under Heydays’ keels. Loads of excuses for not getting out more (although the spring and summer was peppered with a few day sails up and down the Solent), some of which revolved around the dreaded covid getting in the way of finishing some jobs we had started and which rendered our poor old boat more like a workshop. We finally sorted the windows at the third attempt, although again (excuse alert) not entirely our fault. Some of the sealant we had used at the first attempt seemed to have lost all elasticity and had become almost crumbly. Not a good material for keeping out the green stuff. We are now using a two-part seal in the Aluminium channels for the Perspex itself and neoprene to seal the whole frame to the boat. Everything connected to us is now crossed, but some heavy weather may or may not confirm…. We had planned to spend four or five days around the Solent and to visit some small harbours and anchorages. In the event, an increasingly frail 98 year old mother means that we need to be in reasonably quick reach of Southampton. We are also aware that storm Arwen is due on Friday night and Saturday so we are planning to be well tucked up by then. We got to Lymington for lunch on Wednesday and completed the first stage of the cruise…500m from our pile mooring in the river, to the Lymington Town Sailing Club pontoon for an overnight stay prior to an early start on Thursday to catch the tide going East. Actually, it was great just to be back on board and to start to feel at home again in our separate cabins. Lunch in the Monkey Brewhouse was reasonably liquid and then our attention turned to dinner which was a pre-cooked fish pie to be warmed in the oven. This led to lesson number one and a reminder of the boiling points of Butane and Propane…and the benefit of having an ex-chemistry teacher on board. The oven takes an age to heat and the gas heater on board works intermittently. The standard gas in use in this country is mostly butane with a boiling point around -2C whilst propane has a boiling point of -42C. It turns out that the temperature in the gas locker is cold enough for the butane to produce very little in the way of gas. We don’t have propane on board sadly but a judicious use of a new (warmer) bottle plus warming the old one (not really recommended) does the trick. Now, finally we are really toasty on board. The alarm at 7 the following morning is not especially welcome but the sun is just rising as we slip our mooring and glide gently out of the Lymington river.
Not another soul in sight…apart from both IoW ferries coming at us from different directions and with not much room to move at low water. There is something wonderful about an early start (once you are started), especially with a warm croissant and a steaming cup of coffee in hand. The morning is crisp and we have set our sights on the glories of Portsmouth for the night. It is good to be out on the water and to have the Solent to ourselves. Heydays ghosts along with lightish winds and the new flood tide helping us out and soon we are off an odd looking Calshot Spit. The Fawley refinery chimney which has been our landmark since forever was blown up two weeks ago and it looks strangely bare without it. We keep out of the way of a couple of ugly commercial boats rounding the Brambles bank and head directly for the beautiful spinnaker tower in Portsmouth. In the summer this area is like Piccadilly Circus with the commercial stuff in and out of Southampton mixing (not always amicably) with the pleasure boats out of Cowes and the Hamble. But today, our peace is not disturbed by the usually incessant roar of the floating pe****s (or Sunseekers as they like to be called) charging about burning diesel as if it is going out of fashion (which we suppose it is).
The entrance to Portsmouth itself is strangely narrow and even quaint given that it is home to the Navy and some of the largest warships afloat, not to mention the ferries and occasional cruise liners.
Haslar Marina is actually in Gosport, but is right next to the harbour ferry and is always very welcoming. With Heydays snug by midday, we set off to look for lunch and take the ferry which lands right in the shadow of the tower.
The Ship Anson is o lovely old pub on the harbour-side and is as warm, welcoming and friendly as you would want….unless you support the nearest team in red.
Yee Tak and Chris decide to spend the afternoon in Gunwharf Quays sorting out Christmas presents, but seem to get distracted by mulled wine along the way (perhaps that was their intention all along…just sayin’).
John and James mooch about the old dockyard and have a great afternoon poking about inside the Victory with almost no other visitors to get in the way. James has recently been reading the Captain Aubery books and it is good to see the reality of what was described as he sailed in Napoleonic times around the globe. Harsh does not even begin to describe it, unless you were an officer.
Back on board we while away another toasty evening as the wind begins to pick up ahead of Storm Arwen which s already making its presence felt in the north west and Scotland.