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.