…so we are back on the water again. Car washed – what a faff – bring on the Poles I say, but I like to clean a new car first time to see what condition the paintwork is in. And sadly I noticed a marking of the silver roof rails and door trim. Looks like acid rain, so a quick trip to the garage to log the issue and we will get this replaced. No problems so far.
The fish tank has been cleaned out and what a mess that was in. It must be two months since I cleaned it so this was well overdue. A trip to the aquarist shop and new plants brought plus fish food brought the tank back up to scratch. Now we can actually see the fish so that is a result!
Grass cut for what is hopefully the last time this season and if I get my way for ever. I would like to deck the back garden right over. Hmm, a big job though as it’s on a graduated slope so we’ll see.
So with those chores out the way, we were able to focus on sailing again. Shopping completed and off we go to Chichester to load up trusty electric bikes – my back is now healed from surgery and I can lift and stretch comfortably again. Food shopping and clothes all stored and we can think about where we want to go.
Hmm interesting dilemma – when we are away cruising, it was always the next port along the coast. In the Solent it’s a selection of ports all with different characteristics. Some industrial like Gosport, others boaty orientated such as Hamble Point or Cowes, and others quiet and peaceful such as Yarmouth perhaps, and Beaulieu.
In the end we chose to go to Beaulieu for a couple of days and then on to Cowes – as it would be easier to time the return to Chichester! Oh no – were on a time line again! Not supposed to be like this in retirement! Got to get back for my sisters birthday! Having looked at the Beaulieu tides we could cross the bar at about an hour past high tide, and have fairly still water at the Marina for mooring. The marina as some of you will know is in a bend on the river and has quite significant cross tides to cope with making mooring “treacherous” as Jan likes to call it! Yes it is testing if the tide is ripping through.
I telephoned the marina before we left, only to be told it was full, but we could be accommodated on the visitors walk ashore pontoon which was empty as we spoke. We agreed and booked accordingly. We had a motor up the Chichester reaches to West Pole and unusually we had a northerly wind, gusting up to force 5, giving us a very spirited sail all the way along the Solent to the Beaulieu River.
I can never remember if its divergence or convergence which pushes the wind off the land round a headland – I think it’s the former – but no matter, we were able to sail the whole way on one tack, hardening the sheets as we rounded Horse Sand Fort and easing them again as we crossed the headland of Cowes. We absolutely flew down to Beaulieu, making the river bar in just over 2 ½ hours from leaving our berth. “Loverly” sailing. We did have to pop a couple of turns in the foresail to maintain control as we past Ryde; the apparent wind was reading 22 to 23 knots in the gusts – and also ease the main out to spill some wind, but we both enjoyed the spirited ride.
As we pottered up the Beaulieu river, we were struck by the peacefulness of the waters in contrast from the Solent where it was quite lively– wonderful. Indeed as we motored along everything calmed down and I thought I would give the harbour master a ring just to check mooring instructions. I was delighted to be told we had been found a finger berth in the marina. And it was a good one too. First pontoon from the main gangway and four boats out. Brill. It would mean much less effort getting the bikes out.
On approach I was watching the tidal flows against the buoys, and was pleased to see my calculations had been right; very little movement as we approached, and the berth was nicely tucked in so we made a very neat approach and were comfortably tied up in good order. We ate lunch in the sun in the cockpit and were pleasantly surprised at how very quiet it was. Indeed we were not troubled by mobile phones as there is no signal there!
Out with the bikes and we chose to ride the cycle path come footpath to Beaulieu village in the afternoon. The harbour master showed us the start of the ride. About two and half miles to the village centre. Fantastic ride, if a little lumpy on the derriere – and given that we had not cycled for a while I will admit to feeling a little red in the rear on arrival– how polite!
A potter round the village was very pleasant. The garage in the village center specialises in E Type Jags, also hiring them out for an hour, ½ day, day or week at fairly sensible rates. Very tempted to indulge myself, but was able to resist given upcoming housing expenses. However I have squirrelled away the leaflet and will as some point get my ride! They will also sell you an updated E Type with original shell but nut and bolt restoration, with electric windows air con etc so they drive as a modern car, but you will need north of £260000 to buy one! I can but dream.
Walking back up the high street, there is a Chocolatiers, advertising luxurious Ice creams. Couldn’t resist and we both had a fabulous mint choc chip ice cream when we were ready to head back to the boat. The ices were really very good indeed so I will allow them to be called luxurious!
More “numb bum” along the lumpy path, and we made it back in good time back to the boat. We have not been to Beaulieu for many a year, for two reasons; first the “treacherous” tides and secondly and more importantly, the facilities were poor – I mean rough rough poor, and way overdue for rebuilding. To our delight, the facilities were brand new, and in my opinion are some of the best in the Solent – whoever designed them had used such facilities themselves, and knew what was required. We were delighted to relax under a nice hot shower after the day’s exertions.
A few beers in the Master Builders and we retired back to Nourishment for scram. Whilst supping my beer, the food being served looked excellent – and indeed a selection of home-made pizzas looked very appetising. Given I can’t resist a good pizza, it meant we booked to eat there the following evening. We had a Chinese meal from M & S which I have commented on in the past. Very good and early to bed given the day’s activities. We slept really well. Its noticeable now how the evenings are drawing in.
When we woke next morning it was very peaceful. As quiet as Chi marina. I popped my head out to see what the weather was like and it was beautiful. Early morning mist rising from the river and the sun just starting to shine with great potential for the coming day.
Jan cooked up sausage and egg Sani’s. Heavenly. I was only allowed this treat on the basis that we would have no lunch, during our planned visit to spend the day at Beaulieu Motor Museum. We have not visited for many years. It’s a brilliant day out for us both. We spent five hours wandering about the museum, then riding on the old 1910 bus and the monorail. Our only break was a coffee stop at about two o’clock. Still comfortably full from late breakfast!
We had ridden our bikes to the museum and were able to secure them in the cycle rack right outside the main entrance. Good job too, as after so long on our feet it seemed twice as far as the ride there to get back to the boat! In fact it was quite a way further on the public roads than using the cycle path, but as we were suffering “red derriere” syndrome from the day before had chosen the smoother route accepting it was over two miles further than the path way.
Jan got the bit between her teeth going back and seemed to race away. I couldn’t keep up with her. It must have been the thought of a nice shower! Thankfully my weight on the downhill section enabled me to catch up before we made it back! As soon as we got back I folded the bikes away and stored them on board. I knew if I sat down I would cease up! Knackered after two days full on activity.
Food and drink (the inevitable pizza each) in the Master Builders in front of an open fire in the bar was delightful. What a very pleasant end to a great day out. Boy did we sleep well again that night. Nearly 10 hours straight off.
Next morning, we got ready to depart across the water to Cowes. I had planned a high tide departure but to my amazement the tide was still running hard. Oh dear I thought. I had a wander along the pontoon and started talking to a resident boat owner – he described the tide as unfathomable, particularly around spring tides and offered to help us leave our berth. Indeed I was so concerned I had the harbour master agree to stand by in a dory to help me out of the berth across the tide. Of course, having taken all the precautions all went to plan and we made a safe exit to the river with no problems.
Easy arrival on Cowes straight into the middle of a regatta! Made getting in quite interesting, as the racing fleet was the Fairview charter fleet! Which is the front end??? However we were given an alongside berth, well inside the south basin and were able to lie next to the fleet of racing boats with no issues. They were very quiet – not what I normally find in Cowes. We later found out the regatta didn’t start til the next morning so presume they were saving themselves for the main event!
We had a few beers in the Vectis Tavern. Not out normal haunt but we enjoyed ourselves very much. The landlords dog – a bitza – was very entertaining. He jumped at shadows, and very shortly we found we could get him almost chasing his own tail by shadow pointing – highly amusing. What a character the dog is. We ate on board. Not a lot more to report about Cowes!
Next morning we had to be underway for 09.00. We woke early to the fog horn going off. Oh dear – probably foggy outside! When we finally stuck our heads out, it was as thick a pea souper as I can ever recall seeing around the Solent. We had to get back as we had promised to take my sister out for her birthday. So at the appointed time we slipped our lines and exited our berth.
On dear, – I couldn’t even see the channel we were supposed to follow to exit the River Medina. This was serious. Just behind us we heard the fog horn from the ferry. Could I see it – no way. By this time I am very concerned. Chartplotter showed the ferry just behind us – and indeed it loomed out of the fog as it passed us within a few meters. I had found the channel buoy using the chart plotter – I couldn’t see it beyond the side of the boat, and was able to orientate myself from this. If we didn’t have the AIS, Radar and our trusty chart plotter, I would have turned round and returned to our berth. Very scary with all the shipping around us and not being able to see a thing.
As we cleared the harbour I was just able to make out the new outer wall and run along the front of this. I stuck closely to the 10M contour line and followed this alongside the deep water channel. With AIS showing we were clear of large vessels we crossed the deep water channel to Ryde Middle Bank, where I was able to cross to 4 m depth and run along to almost Gilkicker Point. All around us there were fog horns being sounded, and it is most disorientating as they are not particularly directional….
Using the chartplotter I was aiming at the buoys marking the channels – not good practice but I needed to be sure where we were and with Jan keeping a close watch we were able to steer clear at the last minute, but had gained certainty of our position in doing so.
As we approached Gilkicker Point the fog suddenly cleared. Wow – the sun came out and we were in brilliant sunshine. As we motored away, we could clearly see the fog bank. Very strange experience and not one I am in a hurry to repeat. That was the worst experience of fog I have ever had to deal with.
Not sure where to next – we still hope to get some more sailing in before the weather closes in, so watch this space. We are putting a small extension on our house this winter so our focus will be there for a while after the sailing comes to an end.