WWSC Cruisers adventure from Warsash to Beaulieu

13th August dawned bright and sunny as Ken and I drove down to Warsash towing my Wayfarer, Kez to meet with Tony and Bridget in their hired Stratos, Martin and Ian in Martin’s L2k, Patrick and Nargis in their Wayfarer ‘Escapology’ and Mark and Gill Greenfield with their Wayfarer.

The usual hour or so of assembling the boats followed, Tony and Bridget were away first, the rest of us soon afterwards. It was Neap tides and we were launching just after High Water so the current helped us make good time, the wind was in the West, F3 to 4, wind on tide, so it was quite lumpy. Tony called me on the VHF to point out a huge container ship going around the West Hamble Cardinal Buoy inbound to Southampton. I would have noticed it eventually, possible too late to get on the West of the main shipping channel so it was a timely reminder, thanks Tony.

How can you tell a happy cruiser? Salty teeth.

Out towards the Calshot Spit buoy then turning westward we were making good progress, tacking out into the Solent then swooping back inshore. At some point Martin capsized, not for the last time that day.

Off Lepe Country Park, Ken and me had Kez planing, in company with Patrick and Nargis, having a ball until I noticed some children apparently walking on the water to seaward of us, time to tack! That’s when the floor boards in Kez decided to detach themselves, leaving us floundering around in the boat, scooping up a lot of water. Heaving to we got the floor boards down and opened the self bailers, and continued on to the Entrance to the Beaulieu River, marked by a series of piles.

The entrance to the Beaulieu starts with a northward passage through the piles before turning west, ie into the teeth of the wind. The tide was still ebbing so a healthy tidal stream as well as the wind was pushing us out which was not making life easy. It was the last day of Cowes Week and a massive motor yacht was anchored right in the middle of the river; plonker. We shaved past the motor yacht, the very least we could do was to make the owner nervous for his paint-job.

Finally turning the corner we could get into a beat, then a reach and filter our way up through the yachts on their moorings until we reached the Royal Southampton Yacht club pontoon. Tony and Bridget, Martin and Ian, Mark and Gill were there, but where were Patrick and Nargis?

Looking for Patrick, the view from the Royal Southampton Yacht Club lawn

Looking for Patrick, the view from the Royal Southampton Yacht Club lawn

Apparently they were last seen upstream of the Royal Southampton heading north. We waited and waited but they did not show up. Perhaps we had not properly briefed Patrick and Nargis where we were stopping for lunch.

After a picnic on the lawn and making use of the facilities at the RSYC it was time to go. I was the only one with an engine so I set off, puttering upstream to find Patrick and Nargis. Looking over my shoulder I saw Martin and Ian in a full inversion capsize, with the mast stuck in the mud.

Heading upriver we came to realise what a truly beautiful stretch of water the Beaulieu River is. It is one of the few privately owned rivers in the country. Off the Master Builder we found Patrick and Nargis, they had picked up a buoy and had their lunch, they seemed quite happy so they carried on down river while we picked up a buoy to hoist sails. Sailing down river reminded me a lot of sailing on our reservoir, strongly affected by trees and hills we were sailing, drifting towards a moored yacht then sailing again. We could see the patches of wind and held our nerve, knowing that the wind would pick up in time to sail away from each hazard.

Eventually we reached the mouth of the river to be met with… boisterous conditions, a bit of a struggle to be honest, I wish I had rigged the reefing lines (lesson for next time). Martin was off shore sailing under genoa only. We were making good progress but having epics every other wave, too much to cope with for the hour or so it was going to take to get back to the shelter of Southampton Water. So we hove to again and dropped the main, rolled the sail as best we could and stowed it in the boat then proceeded in a much more comfortable condition under genoa alone. A glance over my shoulder, and Blimey O’Reilly, Martin was in a full inversion capsize again!

Martin and Ian, unusually the right way up

Martin and Ian, unusually the right way up

We went over to have a look but they seemed fine and recovered ok. Kez has a bigger genoa than the L2k so we pulled away from them until Martin got out an even bigger sail and hoisted his gennaker. A big grin as he swept past us. Another container ship was coming in and a humongous cruise liner coming out so we hugged the west side of Southampton Water until they had passed. Isn’t is funny how if you wave at people on a ship they wave back, why? Why did I wave to them? It’s a mystery.

Tony called in on the VHF and soon we were pulling into the public hard at Warsash. With the masts down, boats and trollies on trailers, a cunning plan was developed to have a beer or two in the Rising Sun and a meal. Fortunately we all agree that this was definitely the best plan.

Patrick said:  Escapology on the loose

As our first away cruise with WWSC, and our first away cruise for some 8 years on the Wayfarer, we were a touch nervous rigging to set off from Warsash. Luckily, it was a fine warm day with a decent breeze. We managed to get everything put together about right and set off to join the rest milling about off the hard, down the Hamble and into the chop of Southampton Water: challenging at times, but quite manageable. Beating round Calshot to the entrance of Beaulieu, we got the hand of sea sailing in a dinghy again and were just ready for a respite and lunch as we relished the calmer waters in the river. That was before we came to realise the real impact of a narrow and bending entrance, an ebb tide, and larger boats steaming up and down just to make things more interesting. Even so, we reckoned that the centerboard would warn us of the imminent need to tack either side of the marked channel, at least until we experienced a full on beaching and had to gybe the main around to get us afloat again.

We need a bigger camera

We need a bigger camera

After that, we were more respectful of the channel markers and felt our way up to Bucklers Hard, expecting to see the others moored up somewhere. However, their ‘Hide & Seek’ routine fooled us as we passed serenely upstream. Some few bends in the river later, having concluded that we had missed the other boats, we opted for a mooring buoy, lunch and recuperation, before setting off back downstream, passing Mike and Ken en route motoring up – looking for us!

All good, as we negotiated the bends downstream. Although, we were a little apprehensive as we encountered the others making their way out under reduced sail. What did they know that we did not? Anyway, we had reefing lines rigged if needed, so we carried on regardless!

To say it was an exhilarating ride back would be understatement. It was fun, even if a little nerve wracking at times, particularly when the rudder grounded over Calshot Spit. At that point, we thought that we had better get nearer to the proper channel! At all events, it was a great cruise, followed by a relaxing drink and meal at the pub before setting off home.

Martin said: Martin’s tale of woe!

Well, let me begin by saying that I am now pretty well versed in capsize recovery when sailing a 2000. Probably, I should have paid more attention to the instructions of how to reef a 2000. Also, I should pay more attention to my own feelings when I think I should reef prior to setting sail.

All the above being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of this trip down the Beaulieu river. I had deceived my wife’s brother into thinking he would be crewing for me on a gentle day sail out of Warsash. Little did he know and little did I suspect that I would be in need of a slightly more experienced crew.

We rigged and launched in plenty of time, so much so that we pottered up and down the Hamble for over 45 minutes before the fleet was fully assembled and ready to leave.

So, on to the cruise, or, intermittent sailing between swims as my brother-in-law (Ian) put it afterwards. It was fabulous crossing Southampton Water and travelling in convoy across to Calshot.

All was well until the moment we rounded the spit and hit the lumpy bits caused by wind against tide. The first couple of tacks went OK and then we (I) got it completely wrong and tasted salt water for the first time. It took a little time getting the mast out of the Calshot mud and of course, the burgee was no longer with us.

The beat thereafter to the mouth of the Beaulieu river was uncomfortable, but not with too many incidents. As Patrick did, we used the depth gauge, a.k.a. centerboard, to time our tacks within the channel after taking a few liberties over the shallow bits (Tony did that too and bust the downhaul on his rudder, so we were not the only boat without incident).

Lunch was a nice drying out period although the beer was not the best. Sad really, as that was the only reason that Ian agreed to accompany me (tee hee). I do remember saying to Tony that I thought I may reef the 2K before leaving the yacht club, and I deeply regret not carrying it out.

We re-rigged and pottered up and down outside the sailing club and I again demonstrated the art of capsize recovery. Ian was a bit upset by that as he got his cigarettes wet that time.

As we approached the Solent on the return leg, we were following Tony, who tacked right around and sailed back past us saying he was going to reduce sail as “it looked a bit wild out there”. We did the same and after trying to sort things out whilst thigh deep in sludge, simply rolled up the mainsail and returned on jib alone. That went rather more sedately and not at all badly until the gybe induced capsize for the final undersea adventure. We had the centerboard at half depth and as the boat turned turtle, I watched it slowly sink into the hull (bu*ger I thought). This meant I would get my hair wet going underneath to push it back and attach the retainer so it couldn’t repeat the trick.

With that sorted, we continued at what seemed like a snail’s pace until we rounded Calshot again and into Southampton water. Watching all the big boats looming above us was interesting, knowing that our maneuverability was a little reduced to say the least. However, the water calmed somewhat in the lee of the land and finally we decided to hoist the gennaker and quadruple our speed for a nice, peaceful sail back into Warsash.

I thought our troubles were over when we landed, but I called my wife to discover that the only thing that had changed was the temperature of the water that we were in!

In summary, three capsizes and late for dinner.

But a fabulous day that I would like to repeat if ever I can get someone to crew for me. I’m now out of unsuspecting would-be sailors.

I also would like to sincerely thank the rest of the participants for looking out for us whilst out there and not laughing too much at out misfortunes.

Ken said:  Half Mast

Returned back to Warsash with a few minor bumps and bruises and a whole lot of great memories that I can share when I’m old with a captured audience. Tide and wind direction meant we had a bumpy and at times wet sail to Beaulieu, keeping Mike shielded from the wet, strategically placed to block sea spray, something I did with the utmost efficiency. Tacking our way along up the Beaulieu River was hard work, wind and speed of tide, this along with river traffic and shallows kept us very busy. The sail back to Warsash was gentle by comparison and choice, allowing time to take in the views. Lessons learnt: wear a pair of shorts that accommodate a belt, hoisting our main sail with my shorts around my knees (I was also wearing a wetsuit) must have looked weird to any watching.

Mark said:  Our third cruise and best yet. We decided this time to make a long weekend of it and booked bed and breakfast in the New Forest which meant we were on hand to arrive earlier than we had the previous times!

Saturday dawned bright with a light breeze and we knew from watching the Cowes Week regatta the day before that it would be likely to build as the day went on. We hoisted our full sails but took our cruising sails, just in case.

The sail out of Southampton Water was straightforward but we did get close enough to a big ferry to wave to the children on board. As we entered The Solent the wind against tide had whipped up a choppy sea state and we were glad of our waterproof jackets as it was a wet and wild beat along to the entrance of the Beaulieu River. The sail up the river was calmer, if against the ebbing tide, to arrive at the Royal Southampton Yacht Club pontoon for our lunch stop. During lunch we decided to change sails as the expected wind would be ever increasing on The Solent. This turned out to be a wise choice as we had an exciting dead run, surfing down the waves, back into Southampton Water. Back into the Hamble River and the Rising Sun public house for a well-deserved pie and chips with a half of shandy.

Thanks to Mike for organizing the day, looking forward to the next adventure.

Tony and Bridget said: The Solent never fails to deliver. With so many fantastic destinations to choose from the Beaulieu River has to be there near the top. To those of you who have not yet joined us in one of our Solent cruises you have absolutely no idea what you are missing. It is not a difficult as you may think and because we sail in company there is always one of us to standby to lend a hand for when Martin decided to cool down by taking a dip! It really is easy, not to far to drive there and back in a day, free car parking pretty much next to the hard from which you launch.

We won’t run through the days sail as everyone has said what has to be said, but I really feel that everyone should at least give it a try, even if its only once. I’m pretty sure if you do you will be back for more, great sailing, great views and above all great company.

Mike said: Let’s do it again!