West Mersea to Mylor 2012: Leg 4 (Portsmouth to Yarmouth)

Being a latish start (Kevin decided against joining us, due to a hangover and work), this was due to be one of the shortest legs of the trip, owing to the likelyhood of strong winds by the time we’d be either a) passing through the Needles or b) taking the northern route past Hurst castle. Just as truthfully, possibly because Yarmouth is a nice spot and we fancied taking it easy for a day, after all we’d covered a couple of hundred miles in only 3 days and didn’t need, or want, to get to Poole immediately (with hindsight, it would have been more comfortable).

Leg4 – Portsmouth to Poole. No, sod it, Yarmouth. Thursday 28th June 2012

Call QHM on VHF channel 11, to cross the channel from N to S inside Pompey harbour, pop up to the fuel berth at Gosport Marina, rush out through the narrow entrance then take the transit (align ball-topped war memorial with edge of tan block of flats) for the safe corner-cutting channel between Hamilton and Spit Sand Bank. The Portsmouth routine completed by the close passing of the Ryde ferry and the Bothercraft buzzing past.

Ollie admires Eleanora, a replica of the 1910 schooner Westward, in the twinkling waters of the Solent

For now, the gentle F3/4 Easterly breeze pushed us Westwards, whilst the coastguard helicopter (India Juliet?) and a smaller Coastguard cutter performed some sort of coordinated exercise with a RIB and one of the larger UK Border Agency Cutters (later in the journey, one of these cutters crept up silently from nowhere and appeared a mile off inshore, apparently shadowing us, whilst we coasted along to Fowey).

Coastguard and UKBA exercise

At Cowes the wind dropped a little and we noticed, only a mile away, that yachts in the Western Solent had suddenly dropped their downwind sails and started making upwind on the same course. An curiously exotic smelling warm breeze filled the air and it was obvious a new weather pattern had taken over, presaging dramatically different conditions to the existing benign weather (either that or Ollie was working on one of his weather changing culinary marvels again).

What’s brown and steamy and comes out of Cowes? Not the IOW Ferry any more – it’s been Red and White for years.

As we passed the ever pretty Newtown Creek (I wonder how the Van de Stadt Invicta 26 ‘Newtown Maid’, which I used to sail on, now fares?), I spotted a beautiful red hulled boat emerging from its entrance, Not being able to resist the lure of another Varne, we circled Aldebaran and hailed her crew, discovering we were both bound for the same place and arranging to meet.

After the wind switch, it was now either a gentle tack up the Solent, or make for Yarmouth with the donkey on, in order to make the Swindlery for charts and to replace other broken bits (the main sheet blocks etc etc) before it closed. Besides, there’d be more time for the boozer. Oh, and I suppose we’d need food the next day too.. as our ‘fridge’ (the sink) doesn’t exactly keep food fresh.

We slipped inside the safety of Yarmouth harbour just as the wind began to pick up (it howled a bit in the night), congratulating ourselves on our superb planning as the smell of the beer got closer.

Krugerrand and Aldebaran. A splash of colour amongst boring white hulls.

After goggle eyeing in the Deli and an extremely congenial meeting with Danny ‘in Newton Creek, I ran aground for the first time ever’ (not enough time on the East Coast if you ask me) and his crewmate on Aldebaran, we all retired for the afternoon (and evening, in our case) to the Bugle Coaching Inn’s, very snug, snug (why, on earth, would one wish to sit elsewhere in there?), sampling ale after wonderful ale.

Ollie, happily ensconced in his second favourite place (“a pub’s only for when you’ve run the bar dry at home”)

The comfort of the marina facilities in Yarmouth are superb, as long as you remember your shower token, otherwise an ignominious be-towelled trip back outside is the order of the day.

West Mersea to Mylor 2012: Leg 3 (Newhaven to Portsmouth)

After waiting for the opening of the swindlery (actually, rather a good one: if we’d had time, a rummage through the second hand bits wouldn’t have gone amiss), the acquisition of some new charts (Imray, shame: I do prefer Admiralty folios) and some provisioning (mainly Old Speckled Hen and other ales, due to the lack of availability of Ollie’s smaller ‘Breakfast Beers‘) we popped over to the fuel barge, which had also finally opened, ran aground briefly and gently (it was low tide and a fishing boat astern prevented us turning) before topping up the various jerry cans and the tank (3 x 5 litres plus 64 litres representing at least 40 hours motoring).

Leg 3 – Newhaven to Portsmouth (Gunwharf Quays). Wednesday 27th June 2012

Dodging the working dredger again, we found a stiff breeze outside the sheltered harbour and got our first splashing of the trip, whilst plugged the tide westwards past the endless dreary sussex coast of Brighton, Shoreham and Littlehampton.

After the ritual of coffee, without which Ollie does not function, the coastal monotony was broken by virtue of Ollie’s magnificent ‘Baked Beans with Cheese, Mustard and Pepper’ (or was it the superb ‘Pot Noodles a la fromage, moutard and poivre’?).

After a delayed bar opening, due to the late start, followed by a few tens more miles, hours later we momentously swept into the next sea area in a failing breeze, through the pair of channel markers ‘Boulder’ and ‘Street’ and past Selsey Bill.

Ventnor cliffs on The Isle of Wight pop into view over the horizon

The Nab Tower and Napoleonic Forts slid into view, in the familiar welcoming vista of the Eastern Solent, as we chugged along.

Avoiding the shipping and submarine barriers, then skimming the forts during a calm, now almost windless evening, we phoned Kevin, an incorrigible old mate and our shore-side contact here, who’d found a berth in uber exclusive Gunwharf Quays (although not so exclusive that they wouldn’t let an old Varne in).

Spinnaker Tower and Portsmouth Harbour

Incongruously mooring up alongside Leander, the NCP car park magnate Sir Gosling’s* immaculate behemoth Super Yacht (yours to charter for £500,000 per week, I guess excluding fuel – which would probably equal that in a week) we ignored all of the plush facilities as Kevin swung down the pontoon, looking at home. We’d not given him enough notice to roar out in his speedboat (he sold the Dehler 34 a few years before) so it was a short car ride to his Southsea home, followed by Rosie’s Wine Bar then continued kidney abuse during a late-night-kitchen-table-arama… then a real bed for me and a sofa for Ollie, which was marginally more comfortable than his berth, although possibly drier.

*incidentally, we met one of ‘Donald’s’ unassuming, cheerful and well travelled friends at the end of the journey, whilst in Mylor Yacht Club. This came up during a conversation about J Classes (the lucky bugger had helmed one).

Krugerrand dwarfing Leander in style (probably) at Gunwharf Quays, under the Spinnaker Tower.