Mengeham Weekender

What a cracking weekends sailing. For so many of you, you don’t know what you missed.

This was the first “Weekender” of this seasons cruising calendar and our friends at Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club were our hosts. The weekend was split into two parts, the Saturday and Sunday, both offering a cruise to two different places in Chichester Harbour. The week leading up to the weekend of the 10th & 11th June had been very feisty weather-wise, I should know as I had spent the week sailing in the Solent in Force 6 & 7’s. We awoke to a beautiful sunny Saturday morning. The inshore forecast was WSW force 4 to 5 increasing to force 6 in the west, decreasing 3 to 4 later. As this was the inshore forecast for Lyme Regis to Selsey Bill, we took the view that the wind would be just fine for where we were, to the eastside of the region.

Mengeham are trying to build a cruising section to their club, so we were there to join them. We had four boats from Weir Wood, two wayfarers a 2000 and a Stratos Keel and a Robin Grange’s Stratos Centerboard. Robin is both a member at Weir Wood and Mengeham. Sadly the other Mengeham dinghies didn’t make it, which was somewhat embarrassing as they provided us with a rib escort/support.

Chichester Harbour is a fantastic place to sail with many places to visit and creeks to explore. The one handicap Mengeham have is the tidal gate of 2½ to 3 hours either side of high water, this give only a 2½ to 3 hours sailing radius from the club, but you can pretty much get anywhere in Chichester Harbour in that time and still have time for lunch ashore and a drink at one of the many clubs & pubs in the harbor.

The cruise for Saturday would take us all the way to Dell Quay some 7nm east, sailing pretty much the full width of the harbour. High tide was at 12:58BST this meant we could set sail any time after 10:30 with just about enough depth of water in Mengeham Rithe to get into the harbour itself. Due to the leisurely start we were a little slow out of the blocks and did not take to the water until after 11:00 by the time we had had our briefing. Robin did a superb job highlighting the principal waypoints in getting out of the Rithe. Follow the moored yachts until the Black Can (which by the way is yellow!) turn to starboard and follow more moored yachts until Hayling Island Sailing Club, then head east for the Winner mark. With the wind at around 16 to 17kts those who had elected to reef were quite relieved, others chose to hoist the kite sit back and enjoy the ride in the superb reaching conditions reaching at speed of 10+kts. (Note to self, double check the spinnaker lines, it avoids re-rigging while on the water). In no time at all we were at Bosham Channel turning up towards Itchenor weaving our way through the moorings past the hard and heading towards Birdham Pool. Here we were able to hoist the kites again now we were free of moored yachts and blast towards Dell Quay itself. It was at this point that Martin, never wanting to disappoint and wishing to maintain his record, decided it was time for Mike to take a swim, after all it was a hot sunny day! Having spotted this we turned back to standby along with the rib while Mike & Martin cooled off for a minute or two. We arrived at Dell Quay around 12:30 mooring in our usual spot on the pontoon just behind the conservancy offices and just in front of the hard.

Dell Quay Sailing Club, as usual made us very welcomed offering teas, coffee and food if we wished, despite them holding a Solo Open event. Sadly the club bar was not yet open so those wishing to take a pint slipped across to the Crown & Anchor, where we sat on the harbour wall enjoying the sunshine, lunch and a beer.

Ever mindful that we had a tidal window of no later than 15:30 to be back at Mengeham and that it would be a beat back we needed to ensure that we left ourselves enough time to meet this deadline. So after an hour break we rigged and set sail for Mengeham. Somehow beating back home is not quite the same, in fact it was hard work and not until we were well past Birdham and into the Itchenor Reach that the tacking became less and we could settle into a fetch back towards Hayling Island. The sailing conditions were superb and wind over tide sea state was not that bad! Now finding our way back into Mengeham Rithe was not quite so simple, due to not being familiar with the various channels in this part of Chichester Harbour. It’s funny how everything looks so different as you return, boats in different directions on their swing moorings etc. it’s easy to become confused. Fortunately Robin was there to lead the way, with us arriving back at around 15:15. Hold it, where’s the 2000? 15mins later Martin and Mike were seen rounding Black Can (which by the way is yellow!), they’d been swimming again. By 15:30 they were back ashore. After packing away the boats for the night as we were staying for the Sunday. All except Martin and Mike, they were only down for the day this time.  We then retired to the balcony overlooking the harbour to debrief and a drink of our choice… fantastic.

We helped Martin & Mike pack their 2000 away for the trip home and wished them well, while Robin & Janey Grange, Patrick & Nargis Jiskoot, Mark & Gill Greenfield, Richard Williams, Bridget and me headed for our respective B&B’s to freshen up, only to meet again at the Maypole Inn where I had booked a table at the evening. At 19:00 we regrouped and sat down for a splendid supper and conversation about that days adventures before heading back to our B&B’s for the night, totally shattered.

After a good nights sleep, well for some of us that was! A hearty full English breakfast, Sunday 11th June was pretty much a re-run of the day before in terms of tide, but with the exception that it was around 35mins later. The weather forecast was similar. It should have been F3 to F4 but had changed overnight. It was F4 to F5 rising to F6 by mid afternoon. Much as the day before then! Our planed sail today was a short hop to Langstone Bridge, via Emsworth. Again we were blessed with the sun, so with sunblock applied we set sail at 11:30. Following the now familiar route out, past Black Can (which by the way is yellow! Sorry an in-house joke thanks to Robin) this time we turned north with the tide up the Emsworth Channel. Keen to fly the kite again we hoisted it, only to find it was perhaps a little to tight for that, so settled for the two sails like everyone else. With only four boats in the fleet today as the 2000 had left us the day before we headed for our whistle stop tour of Emsworth. Upon reaching Emsworth or pretty close, Patrick chose to bear to port up an unknown channel, we never did find out which Emsworth he was off to. We turned to beat back out towards the split in the channel to Langstone. This offered some very close sailing as we weaved between the moorings tacking and then tacking again and again. It was a relief when we reached the Emsworth South channel cardinal marker, which meant we could settle on a close reach. Carefully picking our way past the channel markers we entered the now full basin at Langstone Bridge. Although you are presented with a vast expanse of water, it can be deceptively shallow in places so you need to pick your route very carefully. We arrived at Langstone Bridge and the Old Ship Inn at around 13:00, where we stopped for lunch and another pint, sitting on the harbour wall, while others who did not bring a packed lunch sort refuge and victuals in the pub itself.

By 14:00 the wind had freshened to a good F5, we all elected to reef to ensure a trouble free passage back, or we thought! By 14:15 we were all back on the water heading back, but Gill & Mark found the outhaul was not fastened as well as they had thought, (I think I heard a conversation going on about who tied it, or not as it happened) so they picked up a buoy in the harbour to sort it out. We stood by while Patrick & Robin romped off wondering what was keeping us. Once the outhaul was made good they slipped the buoy only to find the jib sheets and become untied. Five minutes later we safely back on track heading for the others who had heaved too to wait for us. Now regrouped at the now familiar Emsworth Cardinal marker, we set course for a splendid fetch all the way back to Hayling. The seas were a bit lumpy due to wind over tide, but we again had some fantastic sailing conditions.

With the tide still high we were able to clip the corner and enter the Rithe channel higher up through the moorings arriving at the now very familiar Black Can at around 15:00 we have another beat up through the moorings of the Rithe. As series of very short tacks due to the narrow channel we were all back on dry land by 15:30 enjoying yet more hospitality from Mengeham Rythe SC of tea and freshly baked cakes. By 17:00 we were all packed away with boats on road trailers stowed and ready for the journey home.

I must pass our thanks to Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club, and their Commodore for their hospitality over the weekend. Mengeham have said we can come back and visit anytime, so thank you.

A special thanks goes to Robin & Janey Grange for organizing this weekend cruise. You did a great job Robin.

Our next cruise is on Saturday 22nd July. We are cruising Southampton Water with a lunch stop at Ashlett Creek. If you would like to come with your own boat, or as crew, providing we can fit you in, please email cruising@wwsc.org.uk

Until the next time, enjoy your sailing.

Tony