Into the Solent

I liked Chichester Harbour so much that I was actually sad to leave and spending ten nights in there was never part of the plan but thats one of the great things about this trip. Its totally flexible and if I like somewhere then I can stay a while.
I left Emsworth and spent my last night anchored at East Head, the same anchorage as my first night in Chichester Harbour. I picked my spot and at low water I was about 30ft from the beach and still afloat. Lovely little spot.

I was up and about at 6am on Wednesday and it was a beautiful day albeit chilly. I was anchored perfectly head to wind so I put the main up whilst at anchor so we were sailing as soon as the anchor was on deck. Nice gentle breeze and the tide was underneath us so we cruised out of the Harbour at about 4 knots.
I think its the fact that I have a catamaran that I sometimes like to cut a corner or two rather than follow the channel by the book. I decided to cut a little corner off but could see the colour of the water was a bit lighter and I could see from the chart where the spit was. The depth sounder was at 44ft when I went into the lighter coloured water and in the space of about a boat length it went to 7ft and the water was so clear that I could see the pebbles on the spit! I carried on but was pretty relieved to see the colour change again and 40 odd feet back on the depth sounder. It was only a little corner that I cut but they obviously mean it where they put the channel markers here!!!

There wasn’t much wind for the rest of the day, perhaps a maximum of 9 knots or so but it was up my backside so I put the spinnaker up. I love that sail but it is a bit of a faff putting it up on your own so its only worth going through that workout if you are going to carry it for a while and on this trip it stayed up for three hours until I turned into to Southampton Water. Perfect.
There was quite a lot of traffic on the way through the Solent and I try to stay well out of the way. My AIS safe zone is set to 1 nautical mile around the boat and I was listening on the vessel traffic services channel (its like air traffic control but for ships) and could hear that a big container ship was coming in so I tracked it on AIS coming my way at 18 knots! The AIS tells you the ship’s size, speed, course over the ground and port of destination so this all means that you should be able to look on the chart and work out what course the ship is going to take to get to its destination. The size of this one meant it was definitely going through the deep channel where I was so I adjusted my course to get the f*ck out of there. I was on the North side of a marker that I knew this fella was going to pass to the North of so I wasn’t surprised to see him still coming my way but soon he was within my 1 mile safe zone so my alarm went off and he was still coming straight at me. At this point I started to second guess the decisions that I had made. Its amazing how much an audible alarm in this situation ups the ante! The AIS also gives you the call sign and name of the vessel so I was just about to call him to make sure he had actually seen me when I heard on the vessel traffic services channel that he was altering course to the North to go round the stern of an outbound Isle of White Ferry. Ok, so now I knew that he didn’t really want to be this far to the North and beyond my position the water gets too shallow for him so looking at the position of the Isle of Wight Ferry he was going to have to make a pretty sharp turn between the stern of the ferry and me to stay in the deep water. By this time there was enough info to tell me that this was what was going to happen and I now had a ringside seat where I felt relatively comfortable in that if he was going to mow me down, he was surely going to run aground too so we’d all be f*cked, although Max, Fiesta and me more than him!
There is absolutely no way that there wasn’t a conversation on the bridge of that ship that went along the lines of ‘That poor little prick down there must be having a proper brown trouser moment’!
What I can say is that the Captain was fully committed to his manoeuvre because once the ferry was through he turned that ship like I didn’t know it was possible to turn them. There was actually spray coming off one side of the bow as it turned so sharply and a pretty big lean on the ship as it made the turn and passed more than close enough for my liking to my stern. Those things are massive and even at a mile away they are scary so when the AIS alarm is bleeping and all you can see is the bow bearing down on you, it really isn’t a place you want to be!
Happily, in the comfort of my clean jeans, the rest of the sail was uneventful and soon we were tied up at Shamrock Quay in the River Itchen.
Its mostly commercial there so its not pretty but there is lots going on around to watch which makes it interesting.
I surprised an old mate of mine called Lee by texting him and telling him I was in his part of the world and spent a bit of time with him on Wednesday and Thursday. Really good to see you and your family mate.

On Friday I set off for the massive sea voyage to the Beaulieu River. Its actually just around the corner so only took three hours. There wasn’t much wind and what there was, was right on the nose so I decided to motor which also meant I could spend 45 minutes going round in circles trying to recalibrate my auto helm compass. As it turns out the ever decreasing circles were totally pointless as the compass just wouldn’t calibrate. So, it looks like I need to buy a new one which I will try and arrange when I’m in Lymington in a few days time.

We crept up the Beaulieu River which is very pretty and I looked for somewhere to anchor. There are so many mooring buoys that finding a place to anchor with enough room to swing round proved impossible so I picked up a visitors mooring buoy and took Max ashore in the dinghy to Bucklers Hard where I had a beer overlooking the river at the Yachtsman’s Bar. Very nice indeed.
I also looked for the harbour master to pay my dues. On account of the fact that Lord Montagu own the river, he charges you even if you just fart in it. Ok, thats not entirely fair, you can come in for a look around and then go out again but as soon as you pick up a mooring buoy or even put your own anchor down (he owns the river bed too), payment is due. It is beautiful though and well worth a visit.

Last evening in Chichester Harbour

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This is the outer marker for Chichester harbour entrance. It took some doing but we’ve left!

P1010116Spinnaker up, passing one of the Forts and various traffic

This is the one that was slightly too close for comfort

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Going into the River Itchen

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Under the Itchen Bridge

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This photo is just because I like it!

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One thought on “Into the Solent

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