Bank Holiday Solent Jaunt

When I checked it before the Channel Islands trip, the anchor light wasn’t working. With the help of Judith’s two ‘boys’, Aidan and Marcus, I was hoisted up the mast in a bosun’s chair with a replacement bulb – a LED light this time using only 1.5w as opposed to 20w. Succeeded in replacing it after a few minutes of figuring! Lovely view, even if a tad breezy.

Departed at sunset at around 2000 hours Friday 22 August from Shamrock Quay. Sailed and motor-sailed down Southampton Water. Had to dog-leg it at Calshot Spit because of an approaching high-speed passenger ferry. Arrived Osborne Bay 2215 after two hours night sailing. Anchored with W-NW Force 4 winds. Not particularly well-sheltered. Set smart phone anchor watch. Had a lovely chilli con carne supper, prepared before departure. Failed to check that anchor had grabbed so only had moderate sleep. [There must be a lesson here!]

A filling pre-sail English breakfast of sausage, bacon, egg with bread and coffee. We planned to sail with the tide to Hurst Point, taking the turning tide back to the Beaulieu River to anchor overnight. Headed off at 1100 hours. Forgot to log boat’s track until 1415 hours, so track till then is estimated. Arrived 1515 hours and found a dozen yachts anchored at Hurst Point – obviously a popular spot under the prevailing conditions. Many yachts in Needles channel and in North passage.

Arrived Beaulieu River entrance at 1745 with sufficient tide to negotiate the two sandbars and then to the first anchorage but failed to secure boat in a tight location. Moved 200m further upstream and successfully anchored at 1840. This time checked that the anchor had grabbed by reversing under anchor. Led to a very secure and restful night under calm sheltered conditions.

The next morning, with very little coaxing, Aidan and Marcus went for a pre-breakfast swim off the boat in a 1-2 knot flood tide with a water temperature of 13.5 degrees Centigrade. Brrrr! Judith and I didn’t join them as we thought it only fair to hold towels and prepare hot drinks …

Departed Beaulieu River anchorage 1115 hours amongst an exodus of boats. As we motored in windless, partially cloudy conditions nearing Calshot Spit, we spotted two Lancasters flanked by two Spitfires flying  in formation. The Lancasters were low and close together whereas the Spitfires skirted them at a much higher altitude. What a treat!

The world's two only properly functioning Lancaster bombers over the Solent, 24 August 2014.
The world’s two only properly functioning Lancaster bombers over the Solent, 24 August 2014.

Motored until half way up Southampton Water when wind picked up sufficiently to set all sails. Furled all sails when we reached the mouth of the Itchen River and motored back to the marina. Total distance logged 87 nm, including 2 night hours.

Channel Islands’ Sail

Joining Judith and I on this trip were experienced sailor friends Andy and Nicola. Our original plan was to leave Shamrock Quay at high water at 0300 on Saturday 2 August for Braye in Alderney. However, the Friday evening forecast was for Force 4-5 SW winds developing to possibly Force 7 overnight so we decided to stay put and wait out the passing front.

Leg 1 – Saturday 2 August: Shamrock Quay to Cherbourg

The weather cleared up a little by morning. The wind continued to be south-westerly  so we decided to make for easier sailing by heading to Cherbourg instead, departing Shamrock Quay at about 1300 for the sail to Hurst Point in the western end of the Solent arriving there at about 1700, some one and a half hours after local high water.

As the wind was a strong south-westerly and the tide ebbing, rather than negotiate the Needles Channel we took the more cautious route via the North Channel and skirted  west around The Shingles and Dolphin Bank and headed on a constant course south under sunny but windy conditions. Conditions improved once out of the Solent.

Pleasant sailing south past the Needles via the North Channel.
Pleasant sailing south past the Needles via the North Channel.

All sails – the main, staysail and genoa – were fully unfurled and driving the boat at about 6.5 knots though a swell of about 2 metres on a starry night. When helming became tedious, we engaged the autopilot. The ebb tide continued until about 2100 and an hour later we started to cross the main shipping lanes pretty well at right angles as required. The secondary laptop chart plotter using OpenCPN connected to the ship’s WiFi to receive the ship’s instrument data, including AIS information, showed precise information of closest point of approach (CPA) and arrival times for the numerous ships first travelling west then east via the traffic separation zone. Two or three ships passed silently and almost invisibly at about 3 cables in front of us and a couple a further distance behind. The AIS receiver – at least with passenger ferries and vessels greater than 300 tonnes – made collision avoidance anxiety-free.

Over the 60 nm journey from The Shingles to Cherbourg, we were pushed some 12 nm east by the flood tide until 0200 then west by the ebb to eventually arrive at Cherbourg at about 0800 on Sunday 3 August. Our southerly course to steer was calculated allowing for the tides using Neptune optimization software and backed up by manual calculations and proved to be spot on.

With irregular sleep overnight and with a couple of crew suffering a bout or two of seasickness, Sunday was a day of rest with a little sight-seeing and a nice restaurant dinner in preparation for an early morning departure for Alderney on Monday.

Leg 2 – Monday 4 August: Cherbourg to Braye

Departure was at 0500 amid sunshine and light west by north winds As we were heading west, the motor was called for. The tides were approaching the neaps and, in the light winds, the Alderney Race was somewhat benign. Nevertheless, we steered a more northerly course to avoid being ‘sucked down’ by the ebb towards Guernsey and Jersey by a tide running at about 3-4 kts. [Nine knot tidal currents and dangerous overfalls are not uncommon in this area]. We passed Cap de la Hague at about 0700 and continued until we picked up the leading lights into Braye Harbour at around 0900.  A departing yachtsman kindly indicated that there was a free mooring buoy ‘up front’ which we promptly aimed for and secured.

Can you see the leading light now, Judith?
Can you see the Braye leading light now, Judith?

It was another fine sunny day with light winds and it just happened to be Alderney Week with loads of festivities, timed very nicely for Andy’s birthday.  I took the opportunity of testing my new 3D Tender and rowed the crew to the dinghy pontoon.  We toured the area on foot and stumbled across a carnival procession, including a fair number of pirates. We had hoped to book a celebratory birthday dinner but without success so we returned to Baybreeze for some home cooking – courtesy of the birthday boy!

The water was very clear so I took the opportunity to don flippers, goggles and snorkel to check the hull below the waterline, not seen since Baybreeze was launched last November. Although the hull looked relatively clean and free of marine growth, to my surprise, the propeller was covered in centimetre-thick carbonaceous growth. This was easily removed with a sharp knife over several dives. A nicely done job: a cleared propeller should give us better fuel economy.

Moored in Braye Harbour
Moored in Braye Harbour, Alderney

Leg 3 – Tuesday 5 August: Braye to St Peter Port

Catching a ride on the westward tide again meant an early 0615 departure. Rather than proceeding around the north and east side of Alderney, we decided to head west and south through The Swinge as the weather was calm. Nevertheless, swirling overfalls were clearly visible. Sometimes I had the impression that we were not moving at all, when in fact we were traveling at 5 knots!

Negotiating The Swinge on a calm day.
Negotiating The Swinge on a calm day. The guanoed island in the centre is Les Etac, a nesting site for gannets.

We arrived at St Peter Port, Guernsey, at 1045 but had to wait for half an hour motoring while trying to maintain a fixed position as the tide level rose to give Baybreeze sufficient clearance over the sill at the marina entrance and to allow yachts leaving sufficient clearance. A half dozen other boats were in a similar situation. We were finally in the marina and, as is common in this marina, we rafted alongside another boat.

View of St Peter Port from the fuelling berth.
View of St Peter Port from the fueling berth. The square rigger, ‘Jantye’, is at centre right.

Leg 4 – Wednesday 6 August: St Peter Port to Herm and Sark

During our stay here we received a weather forecast update which indicated that a deepening low (the remnants of hurricane Bertha) was developing and predicted to reach Force 8 in the next few days, so we altered plans, shortening the trip by a day to avoid the worst.

Depart St Peter Port 1330 arriving at Bishop’s Cove, Herm, at 1520 for a late lunch while anchored.

Departed 1645, arriving at Dixcart Bay, Sark, at about1845. A suitable anchorage was found amongst several other anchored yachts and we enjoyed dinner on board as the sun set. Shortly afterwards, we looked round to see  the square-rigged Jantye appear on the horizon. We were then surprised to hear Vangelis’s “Conquest of Paradise” and looked round to see which of our neighbouring boats was being antisocial but then realised that this was Jantye announcing her arrival.  What a spectacle! It was like being on a movie set.

The wind  piped up overnight and I felt Baybreeze was a little too close to cliffs for my liking so I slept sporadically, waking to check whether the anchor was holding. Fortunately, it remained secure.

The next morning, started with a ritual swim followed by a scrub around the boat’s waterline to remove slime and then a climb up the hill for a better view of the bay.

Leg 5 – Thursday 7 August: Sark to Braye

The return from Sark to Braye was fairly uneventful with pleasant, sunny conditions. We departed around 1400 and soon sighted a pod of porpoises swimming across our path some 200 m ahead. They soon dived and reappeared some 200 m astern. We arrived at Braye at around 1900.

Leg 6 – Friday 8 August: Braye to Lymington

We departed at 0530 in glassy calm conditions and motor-sailed to about 15 nm of the Fairway buoy, near the Needles Channel, when the wind picked up and squalls headed our way at around 1600. We passed Hurst Point at 1700 (LW+2) arriving at Lymington Berthon Marina at 1845 where Andy had sensibly reserved a berth in advance. As we were arriving from Alderney, outside the European Union, I contacted the Yachtline to clear customs and filled out and posted form C1331 Part 2.

Leg 7 – Saturday 9 August: Lymington to Shamrock Quay

Departed 1300; downwind sail with genoa only to Southampton Water then gybed up. Arrived Shamrock Quay 1630.


Our guests, Andy and Nicola,  were purists in using traditional navigation methods with little recourse to electronic navigation aids – pilot books, charts, tide tables, hand-held compass for bearings, triangulation, etc, landmark identification and leading lines – oh, and the occasional GPS position for added security! All this while I continued to have one beady eye on the chartplotter!

All in all, a lovely trip. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions, except perhaps on the return Channel crossing  when we had to motor under wet, windy conditions in the Needles Channel. Total distance 705 km or 380 nm. Eight night hours sailing. 36 engine hours.