Judith and I, together with our invited guests, Nicola and Andy, departed Shamrock Quay 1100 on Friday 16 May for a leisurely sail with a mainly fair tide towards Cowes for the start of the Island Packet Cowes Rally 2014. A VHF radio call to Cowes Yacht Haven gave us our assigned berth. As we arrived, smiling faces and helping hands were there to greet and welcome us.
No sooner had we settled down when we were invited to celebrate, on the Vivamus pontoon, Carol’s birthday with bubbly and cake! The sight of all the Island Packets was one to behold. Amongst the participants were the Island Packets Amadeus, Andante, Baybreeze, Bounce Back II, Hecamede, Island Girl, Island Swan, Jess, Lady Cressida, Seraph of Hamble, Sonar Too, Starfish and Vivamus. All were beautifully maintained.
The informal evening drinks and hot buffet dinner were held at the Corinthian Yacht Club, preceded by a number of welcoming speeches by the organizers, Celia and Colin. As a newcomer, early in the proceedings, I was, needless to say, singled out for special attention! Quite predictably, dinner conversations revolved around travels, boat maintenance tips and jokes!
We all met up the following morning with the intention of racing around a few marker buoys as was the tradition. However, as the wind proved fickle, several plans were mooted – amongst them was to motor sail eastwards with the tide to Osbourne Bay (NE of Isle of Wight) or beyond, to anchor for a leisurely lunch and then to return with the afternoon tide. We followed a small group to Osbourne Bay.
When all boats had returned to the marina, it was prize giving time! But prizes for what? There was no race! It was a credit to the organizers in devising token prizes for almost every boat and quite a few individuals. There was one for the boat with a crew with the oldest combined age as well as for the youngest; there was one for the newcomer (myself); one for the youngest individual, and the youngest individual to drink champagne; one for the most number of Island Packets owned by a single individual, and so on. All delivered with great gusto, humour and fun.
The evening was spent at a formal dinner at the New Holmwood Hotel overlooking the Solent just as the sun was setting. The food and service were excellent and the speeches entertaining and informative. Our table was graced by an expatriate American looking to gain some sailing experience on before, possibly, buying an Island Packet.
The next day a scheduled group photo was taken, one while standing on the Cowes Yacht Haven balcony and the other taken from the balcony with the marina and its Island Packets in the background. After thanking the organizers for their tireless and meticulous efforts and bidding farewells, one by one the boats departed on their homeward journey.
Baybreeze departed Cowes at about 1100 hours for another day’s sailing, then finally anchored in the upper reaches of the Beaulieu River for an extended lunch before berthing at Buckler’s Hard for the night. We set off the next morning with a fair tide for the short hop to Shamrock Quay.
[Epilogue: The author would like to convey a very special thanks to the organizers Celia and Colin (in particular Celia) for their dedicated efforts in making the rally a great success. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We were particularly touched when, having made it known to the organizers that one of us suffered from a gluten intolerance, gluten-free cake was specially prepared and offered. Not only that, we now have the recipe!]