It was a glorious morning and we didn’t need to leave until 13:00, so we just enjoyed the sunshine
Chichester Week racing dinghies
Not only were we keen to get home, but we wanted to get home before the Bank Holiday Weekend. After so many miles of fairly empty seas we weren’t sure that we could cope with the Solent crowds. Getting out of Chichester Harbour was difficult enough. It turned out to be Chichester Harbour Week so there were hundreds of dinghies racing.
The Solent is a different world to anywhere else we have been – it’s just so busy; and while the waters are flat, the wash from all the commercial traffic, cruise ships, motor boats, jet skiers, ferries etc is a real pain, and something we had hardly encountered on the rest of the journey. Still, there was a gentle breeze and we were able to put the cruising chute up – for only the second time – and kept up around 6 knots, through the submarine barrier, and on to Lee-on-Solent, where the wind died away altogether. The last three hours under engine against the tide up Southampton Water were fairly tedious.
We arrived at Marchwood at around 18:00 UT, checked out the temporary mooring we have been given and got safely moored up on the pontoon in time to eat in the clubhouse. It felt as though we hadn’t been away…
Home – with more “traffic” than we have seen in 6 months!
We carefully did a passage plan for going through the Looe Channel and on to Chichester, but we both forgot to think about the timing for leaving Shoreham. It was such a basic mistake and just shows how dangerous it is to relax once you’re nearly home.
We had neglected to take into account the fact that it was a big spring tide and we couldn’t leave the lock at Shoreham for around 1hour 30 minutes either side of low water as the lock sill is at chart datum! Our calculations were therefore an hour and half out. As it turned out perhaps we shouldn’t have left at all. The wind was on the nose and the tide against us for the first 3 hours so we had to motor. By the time we arrived at the Looe channel, the tide had changed but we had 20 knots of wind. The wind against tide conditions made it very uncomfortable with very large waves and lots of spray over the boat.
Still, once through the channel, things improved considerably. We could sail and were racing along at 8 knots. We started to relax and think our troubles were over. If only they were… We had no trouble getting into Chichester Harbour, and made our way under sail to our favourite anchorage at Itchenor Reach. As we dropped the anchor, Richard said that something didn’t feel right. We lifted the anchor again, only to find that it came up with a large tyre attached to it. The tyre was filled with mud and sludge and incredibly heavy and we couldn’t detach it. In the process of fighting it, we dropped one of our winch handles overboard. Fortunately it floats (by design), but we had to ignore the tyre while we chased the handle – all at around 3 hours after high water when the tide was racing out at a particularly fast rate.
We eventually retrieved the winch handle, but couldn’t dislodge the tyre and just secured it and the anchor at the bow with a mooring warp. We certainly couldn’t anchor for the night as planned. Fortunately, as we know the harbour quite well, we remembered that there is a visitor’s mid-river pontoon just past Itchenor. There was space for us to berth and, once moored up we got the anchor, and the attached tyre, out on the pontoon and used a hacksaw to cut the bead on the tyre and free the anchor. By the time we had sorted it all out, cleaned all the mud off everything, re-stowed the anchor and tidied up it was about 18:45 BST. We were tired, fed up that our plans had been thwarted, gave up all ideas of going ashore for the evening and just opened a bottle of wine to relax and have a quiet night onboard. Lots of lessons learnt!!
The offending tyre!
The wind had gone through 180 degrees and was westerly Force 6 today. We didn’t fancy beating into that, especially as it would have meant another early start, so spent the day looking around Shoreham.
Shoreham Harbour consists of a western arm which is the mouth of the River Adur, and a short eastern arm made up of the Southwick Canal. Our marina, the Lady Bee, was in the canal and so very well sheltered, but not very scenic. We decided to go and look at Shoreham-by-Sea itself which is about 1.5 miles away up the western arm. We had heard that The Sussex Yacht Club there was particularly friendly: and so it was. We had a quick look around the town and its beach and then hurried back to the Club for lunch in their bar, looking out over the river.
After two pints of beer Richard spent the afternoon asleep!
Rather boring shingle beach at Shoreham
We both got bitten all over by mosquitos in the very short night so we didn’t get much sleep. At least it made it easier to be ready at 01:00 UTC. The marina is open to the sea about 3,5 hours either side of high water and as there is so much light pollution around Dover we left with no problems. Once away from the port It was a beautiful night. There was no moon and no wind, but a very clear sky so you could see all the stars.
Dawn at Dungeness
There was no point in even putting the sails up, so we just motored through the swell that always seems to exist around Dover, and headed for Dungeness, arriving there during a beautiful dawn. We had calculated that if we punched the tide for the first few hours, we would be able to make the 45 miles to Eastbourne fairly easily.
Lighthouse at Beach Head
What little wind there was was behind us. It seems to be quite unusual to get easterlies in the channel, and most of the pilot books and almanacs talk about playing the tides on the east-going passage. It took us a while to work out that you can play the tides a bit on the west-going passage as well – by keeping in close to the shore around Beachy Head. Suddenly we found that we could get considerably further than anticipated. We ditched plans for Eastbourne and we headed for Shoreham instead.
The wind gradually increased during the morning. We put the mainsail up, but after a couple of hours found that we had too much weather helm so the auto-pilot couldn’t cope. We had to hand steer and eventually we took the main down and continued just on genoa. We were still doing over 7 knots with the engine helping us along with much less weight on the tiller.
Tom Cunliffe’s comments about Shoreham are that it is a “refreshing change on a coast where consumer interests strive with increasing vigour to expunge the original seafaring character”. It sounded like our sort of place! It is a commercial port with much of the waterfront taken up by wharves so it isn’t particularly appealing at first. Also, getting in with an on-shore wind was tricky, especially as the lock used for small craft has a fierce surge but, once safely through, things calmed down. We had a good welcome from the lock keeper and the local chandlery that manages the marina, and finally felt we could relax. It was 14:15 UTC when we turned the engine off, but the rest of the day is a bit of a blur …