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.