We were greeted to a somewhat cloudy and breezy Warsash on Saturday 13th May. We had four boats booked in for this first cruise of 2017. There would have been more but there was a clash with the sailing clubs Open Day, which despite our absence I hear was a great success. We had two Laser Stratos Keels and two Wayfarers rigged and ready to go at 10:30, when the heavens opened for a brisk shower. The forecast was mixed depending on which one you looked at, but apart from that shower we had just had the Met Office inshore looked to have got things right. By 10:55 we were launched and setting off out of the River Hamble beating into a fresh force 4 against a flooding spring tide. Keeping close to shore where possible we made steady progress even if some did touch bottom on occasion, and shortly entered Southampton Water heading for Calshot. Punching the tide it took a while for us to reach Calshot. With the tide flowing from west to east heading towards Portsmouth it was agreed that we would round Calshot Spit and head west towards Lepe Spit then cross the Solent towards Gurnard on the Isle of Wight arriving at Egypt Point just past Cowes to take into account tidal flow. Calshot Spit is known for its lumpy seas especially with wind over tide. Not today we had wind with tide and were presented with a smooth passage around Calshot.
Heading close inshore along Stanswood Bay to be in minimal tide, about half way towards Lepe Spit at 12:25 we tacked onto a starboard reach and blasted away across the Solent towards Gurnard. Up to this point we were pretty closely grouped, with only a cable between us. By now the wind had freshened further and was now a force 5 of some 18knots. Both Wayfarers had elected to reef beforehand and I think appreciated their decision to do so. But although the two Stratos’ had rigged their reefing lines we both decided to take full advantage of the excellent sailing conditions keep with a full rig.
The Solent at this point is just over 1.5 nautical miles wide and the two Stratos’ crossed this in 20 minutes, arriving at Egypt point as planned, heaved too and waited for the wayfarers who were not far behind. Except for Patrick in his Wayfarer who slightly miss-judged the effect of the spring tide arriving at the Medina River entrance at Cowes instead, still the important thing was not to miss it. The sail from Egypt Point to the Medina was quite exhilarating reaching speeds of some 6 to 8 knots through the water giving us a speed of some 10 knots with the tide under us. We arrived at the Medina at the same time as the Red Jet speed cat. Being the perfect gentlemen we are we let him pass, whipped around his stern into cleaner airs. Sailing up the Medina is a bit like sailing on Weir Wood with the wind shifting from a beat to a reach and back again within a few metres.
The new chain free, sorry floating bridge as they now like to call it, had only just entered service the day before so was plying its trade. At one time they used to give way to sailing traffic, but the harbour rules were changed a few years ago and we are now required to give way to it. Patrick was the first to arrive with the Harbourmaster in hot pursuit as he thought Patrick was too close, I thought the Harbourmaster over-reacted somewhat.
Having made safe passage past the floating bridge, we passed East Cowes Marina and headed up towards the Folly Inn, which is some 2 nautical miles up the Medina River. We arrived at the Folly Inn at around 13:45, Patrick first, then Richard and Chris in their Stratos,
followed two minutes later by Bridget and me in our Stratos. Mark &Gill Greenfield arrived about 10 minutes later under power having been asked by the Harbourmaster to stand-by while a cargo vessel carrying gravel manoeuvred into the dock just up from East Cowes Marina. The Folly Inn is well known for its Saturday Night Dancing on the tables, but not for us. At 15:00 after a splendid lunch, some Yachtsman’s Ale, a couple of quick running repairs to one of the wayfarers it was time to make our return journey taking full advantage of the ebb tide. Our return down the Medina included some very close sailing, leap frogging each other with only a boat length or two between all the dinghies. We choose to exit the river using the small craft channel in Cowes Harbour; this would give us a better angle to sail back to Southampton Water. The tide had now turned heading from east to west out of the Solent via the Needles and running at some 3 knots in Cowes Roads. With wind over tide this gave us a very lumpy ride with a metre high chop.
Richard and Chris elected to fly their kite. This proved to be quite a challenge for them, in fact a bit too much in the end and the dropped it until we reached calmer waters past the Bramble Bank. Being very conscious of the amount of leeway due to the strong tide we had to ensure we were not swept too far west, which would result in much punching of the tide.
We made good progress reaching Calshot in only an hour. It was here that Richard and Chris spotted a windsurfer with a broken rig drifting towards the shipping lane. In true seamanship spirit they went to his aid, assisted in fixing his rig so he could safely make it back to shore. At this point the wayfarers arrived and everyone headed for the Hamble with Richard and Chris making best use of the conditions, kite flying, blasting along. By 16:50 we were back ashore at Warsash public hard having travelled a distance of 19.8 nautical miles with just over 4.5 hours sailing time under our belts. It was a fantastic start to our 2017 cruising season.