Loud, But Slightly Broken

Loud, But Slightly Broken - Alan’s version

So Brian Hawkesworth invited a few friends to come and sail with him on Baloo. They declined so he invited Viv Head and me to come instead.

Friday 14th November was wet and windy – very, very wet and windy. It always is (as my Dad reminds me every time it’s my birthday, “The day you were born it was….”). Would it be pub and sail weather over the weekend or just pub? We fleetingly considered setting out. Viv remarked “As you always say Alan… too much, too little or on the nose.” It was “too much” and it would be the “pub”.

Saturday was so different you would not believe. We certainly didn’t. Cloudless sky and no wind. Viv remarked “As you always say Alan… too much, too little or on the nose.” It was “too little” and so it would be under power if we went anywhere.

“Where you going to take us Brian?”

“There’s a place called Eling Creek and the OS map shows a tidal mill. I fancy going for a look.”

“OK” Viv and I chorus.

Down the Itchen, turn right (this is an OS map based leg of the cruise) and go until you run out of container ships. Turn left and follow “the channel” round the corner past some unpromising stacks of containers and the village buildings come into view.“This looks a pretty place” was the consensus.

Then Brian remarked, “You know I am not certain if the depth on the sounder is below the keel or below the transponder.”

As we fail to maintain progress with 0.8 metres still registering on the dial, we get a clue. Deciding to retreat, we back out and rejoin the main channel. “Where to now, Brian?”

“Well, I’ve always fancied trying Ashlett Creek.”

“OK” Viv and I chorus (somewhat resignedly).“Down Southampton Water and hang a right it is then”

As we make our way towards Ashlett Creek, Viv decides to give his new handheld radio a check. “Solent Coastguard (etc.) Radio check please”

“You are loud, but slightly broken.”

Brian and I concur that Viv is loud but slightly broken however we continue to wonder what his radio transmission is like.

We nose our way up Ashlett Creek. With the depth showing 1 metre, we fail to continue to nose our way up. Deciding to retreat, we back out and rejoin the main channel. “Where to now, Brian?”

“You know, I’ve never been in the Folly. I’ve been up there but never got a mooring.”

This is beginning to sound like a death knell but “OK” Viv and I chorus (somewhat more resignedly).

A little wind has picked up and, largely under sail, we do, in fact get to the Folly. We even get on the pontoon on the Inn side. The Folly is not as riotous on a November Saturday as it is in October – dancing did not get above floor level and no heads were hit on the ceiling (you have to have been there in October to fully know the horrors/embarrassments I speak of).

Sunday morning. Bright and wind from the north. Viv remarks “As you always say Alan… too much, too little or on the nose.” It was “on the nose” and so it would be under power again to go down to Cowes.

Viv and I stage a mini revolt when we decline to sail immediately and return to the pub to watch England play France in the World Cup. “Yeah!!” I shout with fists in the air. (Viv admitted the English did seem to adapt to the conditions reasonably well).

Back on the boat we ask, “Where you going to take us Brian?”

“Well, I’ve always fancied trying Newport.”

“OK” Viv and I chorus (somewhat even more resignedly).

We edge our way up the Medina. With the depth showing 1.2 metres, we fail to continue to edge our way up. Deciding to retreat, we back out and head down river. In crisp wind and many layers of clothing, we beat our way back up Southampton Water to Shamrock.

Arriving in the light, we just have time to clean up before it gets dark.

I fill in my logbook “Eling Creek (almost), Ashlett Creek (almost), Folly Inn, Newport (almost) Shamrock, 40 miles”. Brian signs it. He remarks “I never thought I’d ever sign your book after the vetting cruise across Christchurch Bay.” (There was a slight error in computing departure times and so ended up against – I’ll be kind to Brian – a stiffish wind against a springish tide.)

I remark he has provided the third signature in my logbook (other than mine) since 1989. People rarely invite me to sail under their skippership. I have told people of my resolve to shower occasionally but it seems to have made little difference. Brian, if your friends still refuse to sail with you next year, can I come again please?


Loud, but slightly broken – Brian’s version

It was almost the last trip of the season and I was with Alan Phillpot and Viv Head, looking forward to a relaxing weekend in the Solent. I had done all the mile bashing during the summer, so an easy couple of days were called for.

It, however, didn’t look at all promising when Alan and I arrived at Shamrock Quay on Friday evening. A gale had been blowing all day and didn’t seem to want to let go. Viv then arrived and we decided a strategy meeting was called for, so we adjourned to The Waterfront where we met up with the crew from Lazy Daze.

During the evening, Dick Dewis, Alan and I laid a few more miles of gas pipe. (New members should be aware that when more than 2 ex British Gas employees get together, it appears to be compulsory to talk about “the old days”).

Somehow, during the evening, a plan was formed. I hesitate to call it a passage plan under the SOLAS regulations, but we had a general idea of where to go. Back at the chart table with a sobering glass of scotch, I checked the tide times and heights.

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. The gale had blown through and left a flat calm. This suited our purposes as the plan was to check out Eling and Ashlett Creeks. Viv and I had never been to either spot although the Commodore claimed he had partaken of a pint in the pub at Ashlett once.

Eling Creek is at the top of Southampton Water; turn right out of the River Itchen, go as far as you can until the water goes muddy and brown, then look for some posts. On the way up, we noticed a distinct flow of water past the various buoys we past indicating the tide was on the ebb. “Can’t be.” said I “I checked the time of HW last night”. Then I remembered the condition I was in last night so checked it again. Amazingly, I was right. However, we were entering the creek about 15 minutes before 1st HW but it looked as if it was already on the ebb. Genius Viv then remarked that if we are in a river there might well be a flow from land to sea any way.

Much reassured by this, we continued through the red and green posts. The channel is actually well marked in real life, but it’s a little difficult to make out the detail on the chart.It’s not particularly scenic, until you make a sharp left turn in front of a loading jetty. Eling Creek with it’s working tide mill, pub and sailing club then opens up. Very pretty.

Unfortunately, we never got there. The depth sounder had gradually been reading less and less water as we had gone up the creek. Finally, when it read 0.8, we stopped moving forward. So, maybe I got the HW time right. Perhaps not so good on the height. I put this aberration down to a combination of high pressure and a strong northerly (all of 3 knots) depressing the water level.

But never mind, we had found the entrance and a location for the future had been established. So, with judicious use of the engine we extracted ourselves and pottered off to sneak in to Ashlett Creek. On the way, Viv chose to check if his new hand held radio worked. In response, Solent Coastguard reported he was “Loud, but slightly broken”. I’m not sure whether they meant the radio or Viv.

For those not familiar, the entrance to Ashlett Creek is almost directly opposite Hamble Spit cardinal and about 100 yards south of the Esso terminal. It’s marked by a red can.To say Ashlett Creek is marked by buoys is probably a bit of an exaggeration. There are things floating in the water and some of them are red or green. There are also some sticks that appear to identify the edge of the channel. When you get further in there are even some mooring buoys, which normally indicate where the deep water is. However, all these navigational aids were to no avail because we ran out of water again and slid to a halt. However, Alan was kind enough to point out the pub in the distance and we put this location down as “Another one for the future”.

By then the wind had kicked in and we had a grand sail across to Cowes and then motored up to The Folly.

You could tell it was late in the season; there was space on the visitor pontoons.Sunday morning was again bright and clear with no wind and after watching England demolish France in the Rugby semi-final, we set off again.

This time, rather than just go back to Cowes, I thought we should have a look at Newport. None of us had been to Newport before.

On a rising tide, we gently motored up river. On the way, I consulted the almanac and discovered we might be a little early. Apparently, Newport can be reached at HW Portsmouth – 1.5. On that day HW Portsmouth was about 1500 hrs. So at around 12.30 we were half way to Newport when we stopped going forward again. It was unfortunate we didn’t really have enough time to hang around and wait for the tide, so back we went.

Good sailing across to Calshot but with time against us we had to motor into the northerly to get back in to Shamrock before the ebb kicked in.

It was a very relaxing weekend.

Maybe I should try it at springs next time.

Oh, and Alan will never forgive me if I fail to report he cooked breakfast and lunch on both days. Grilled sausages and pizza, but it’s a start for future crews to build on.

Quiet and Slowly Mending – Viv’s Version

I was only there because Wales narrowly failed in a brave attempt to oust England from the Rugby World Cup at the quarter-final stage. And since it was now the semi-final weekend, had they pulled it off, I might have had to jump ship…. (As it is, I can still relish the fact that we outscored the World Champions by three glorious tries to one!)

And surfing along a very rainy M4 motorway on Friday evening, steering into the gusting wind, I decided that curling up in front of a TV set was a much better prospect anyway than the rain swept reaches of the Solent in a force seven. But after a typical yachtie supper on board that filled the belly with a warm glow, followed by a couple of hours at the pub, the halyards could rattle all they like - they would not keep me from my sleep.

In the morning, lying half awake in the early daylight, trying to ignore the world outside but thankful for the sound of the kettle going on, I realised just how otherwise peaceful it was. Poking my head out of the hatch, I found a pale, hazy blue morning with damp burgees hanging limpid from the spreaders. There was not just no gale, there was simply no wind - none at all! An astonishing turn around in a few short hours.

Someone mentioned going to Poole but breakfast rather got in the way of that. Instead, we motored down the Itchen from Shamrock and turned right at the end. Passing acres of containers and salty new cars, we nosed at last into the narrow but well-marked Eling Channel and were conscious of Baloo's fin keel and its proximity to the muddy bottom but we're on a rising tide aren't we? Well, why does the flow of water at the base of that starboard mark seem to show that it’s a falling tide?

That caused us a bit of puzzlement for a moment or two, until we realised that this is the River Test after all, and we had reached beyond the point where the river meets the sea.

Eling Creek must be one of the best kept secrets around. It takes a bit of ditch crawling to get in there and we didn’t have the benefit of a full tide to make it all the way. But as we passed close by the fishermen, dangling their lines from the muddy bank, we rounded the last bend in the channel to a vista opening up of a delightful little drying harbour. Boats snuggled in their mud berths, a few scattered cottages lay beyond, with an old tide mill and, best of all, that lunchtime necessity- a pub!

I thought that Brian, our skipper and owner, was cool hand Luke himself as we slowly came to a halt in the mud. Especially as this was Baloo's first meeting with the putty. Yet I detected a definite little twitch at the corner of his mouth when not a lot happened when first we engaged reverse gear. Slowly though, we emerged from the ooze and backed out along the creek to return to the world of cruise liners and container ships. But this is a lovely little harbour, tucked away from the rest of the world- I wonder which one of us will be the first to come back to explore it properly enough to make it to the Anchor Inn?

An hour later, we tried again through the dogleg reeds and grass that is the entrance to Ashlett Creek. And with much the same result, because once again we slid to a muddy halt. We were less certain of the tides and the channel here though and perhaps we breathed a small collective sigh when we regained deeper water. Baloo is a beautifully turned out Moody 31 and the thought of watching the water recede to leave her lying on her side in the mud is enough to bring a tear to your eye.

Hereabouts there happened a small occurrence that led to much uncalled for mirth. I had with me a new and untried handheld VHF radio, so I called Solent Coastguard to ask for a radio check to test it out. Back came the reply- 'You are loud but slightly broken.' Well, said the mate to the skipper, looking in my direction- 'That about sums him up don't you think?' Now that's an amusing little response I agree and we all had a little chuckle. But there was no need to make a weekend of it was there……?

We crossed the Solent and threaded our way through Cowes to the Folly Inn where we rafted alongside on the eastern pontoon. So that meant there would be no need for any nocturnal paddling to get back on board later.

We ate well at the Folly and listened to Danny on the guitar and backing acoustics, playing the music of our youth. There was dancing in the aisles if not on the tables. How old was I when I first listened over and over again to the Shadows strumming their way through Apache? I'm not sure, but in the back cabin that night I went to sleep listening to the unpredictable rhythm of small waves slapping against Baloo's platform stern. It was more 'Drumbeat' than 'Apache'.

It was a glorious if rather nippy morning the following day. But did we rush to make ready for sea? No. We went back to the pub that was open early doors, serving coffee and breakfast while England made it through to the World Cup final by taking France to the cleaners on a rainy day in Sydney. Commendably, Brian had gone off in search of milk while Alan and I grabbed the best seats in the house.

Then we put to sea. Or rather we turned up river towards Newport knowing that we were a couple of hours off high tide and were unlikely to get all the way.

Sure enough, we made it three in a row and ground gently to a halt underneath the power lines some three-quarters of a mile short.

It might have been nice to edge our way in bit by bit but time was against us. So we turned around and headed out into the Solent to have a decent sail east of the Bramble Bank, across to Southampton Water. With the wind on the nose - and where else would it be after a day of too much followed by a day of too little?, we tacked part of the way home before resorting to the engine to get us back into Shamrock by mid-afternoon.

So, no drama and no physical demands. But for a weekend's sailing in November, in some very familiar waters, it had been eminently satisfying. We three men in a boat had spent our time ditch crawling and ploughing mud furrows in various creeks and rivers while getting through a couple of bottles of scotch along the way. What more could a man ask for? Maybe it was quite the best sail of the year and I wouldn't have missed it for anything. Well, perhaps the thought of Wales versus Australia in the final might just have been a little tempting………

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