Third Single-Handed Sail

As this is yet another trip around the Solent, I shall try not to be repetitive but highlight new personal experiences that may be of interest to the reader.

My original intention was to push the boundaries a little by doing a solo trip from Shamrock Quay to Torquay and back – a return distance of about 200 nm. Unfortunately, an unforseen family engagement meant that had to be curtailed and so I settled for a trip around the Solent. In spite of sailing there on many occasions, it had been several years since I visited Newtown River in NE Isle of Wight. I thought I’d use this occasion to call in.

I set off from Shamrock Quay at high water at 1345 on Sunday 28 September. At spring tides I am always reluctant to exit or enter the marina at times other than at slack water as the force of the tide can be something to contend with, particularly for single-handers. Calm conditions meant motoring the three-hour trip to my first overnight anchorage at Osborne Bay. The overnight stay was relatively calm with light SE winds while the next morning turned out to be flat calm with a little fog (see first slide).

I then left at 1245 to catch the tide for my next anchorage at the Beaulieu River. As the wind had picked up, I was able to sail most of the way. The overnight stay was quiet and peaceful with the quietness occasionally interrupted by the squawk of wading birds feeding. I recorded a few bird sounds but only managed to visually identify a few such as the egret, sandpiper and, of course, the common  seagull.

I then left the Beaulieu River around 1015 the next morning on a rising tide in Force 3-4 westerly winds. As I intended heading for Newtown River, it meant many tacks against the flooding tidal current. I eventually arrived at the river entrance at 1500 and negotiated the entrance transit to anchor in the calm just south of the Eastern Spit. The river was not as I remembered it, for my last and only visit was a brief entry and exit of the river followed by an hour’s anchoring outside the entrance. It was far more beautiful than I had expected. During the day, two seals and its pup were either frolicking in the nearby waters or sun-baking on the mud-flats while, at night, a cacophony of noise was heard emanating from one of the largest colonies of migratory wading birds on England’s south coast. This was evidenced the next morning by floating bird feathers and detritus that was visible on the ebb tide. I partook of my traditional swim – but only in the much cleaner flood tide!

Over the past couple of days while sailing or motoring in the Solent at slow speeds (2-4 knots), I tried my luck at fishing for bass or similar with a rod and lure. No such luck! I now have a dozen or so lures, but it appears that the fishing tackle shop was much more successful in catching me than I am at catching fish. However, persistence may have its rewards. Late at night while at anchor in Newtown River, I jiggled a trio of small imitation fish lures with coloured movable beads at their mouths. The fish lures actually glow in the dark and with jiggling give the impression that they are in pursuit of food in the form of a bead. In the darkness, nothing appeared to happen. However, after several minutes of torchlight and jiggling, small fish became inquisitive and were attracted. There would have been about two dozen fish (herring?) visible in the strong torchlight close to the surface, all about 12-15cm long. None, however, were daring enough to take the hook! Just one little fella would have been good tucker!



The Newtown River anchorage was such a lovely place that I remained anchored in its splendor over two nights. As I had to be back Wednesday night, I made the move to catch the tide at about midday. Alas, the fog was quite thick with visibility down to about 200m in spite it already being midday. Nevertheless, I decided to proceed cautiously in the hope that, as the day progressed, it would eventually lift. As I exited the entrance, only the nearest of the two transit markers was visible. I heard someone on a yacht waiting nearby yell out to ask a yacht approaching from seaward whether conditions were the same out in the Solent. Unfortunately, I was unable to hear the reply but nevertheless proceeded in the knowledge that my chartplotter and AIS receiver would greatly assist in preventing my being mown down in the fog but a large ship. As it turned out, the fog gradually lifted over the next hour or so, though some remained entrenched near the coast particularly around the headland near Cowes.

All in all, another few nice days of cruising. On approaching the marina, I called for assistance (being single-handed). My confidence in handling the 12m boat is greatly improved and I was tempted to go it alone but, as assistance was available, I thought: why risk it?

New reading material: Sea Fishing Properly Explained, Ian Ball, 2008.

Note 1: Previous sail with Jude, Aidan and Claire sail not posted. Sailed in Solent, anchored in Beaulieu River one night and berthed at the marina for another. Comprised 3 days, 58 nm and no night hours.

Note 2: There was also the lovely Island Packet Boat Show Dinner at Southampton Yacht Club which I attended. A talk with overheads was presented by a Danish statistician who traveled with her family to Svalbard (of which Spitzbergen is one island) and beyond to the 80th parallel in an Island Packet 380 (hull 147 – mine is hull 135). Icebergs, polar bears, etc..