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!!