Not so loud, not so broken
Some may remember this anecdote from 17 years ago (I've repeated it enough times)... In November 2003, Viv Head and I joined Brian Hawkesworth in his then yacht, Baloo, for a weekend of sailing out of Shamrock. In the course of the weekend, Viv wanted to try out his new VHF and so called Southampton Coastguard for a radio check. The response came that Viv was loud but slightly broken. Brian and I agreed that this was a correct description of Viv but what was his radio transmission like?
I managed to persuade the other two that we should all write our own log of the weekend and I have posted the three versions on the website if you want have a read.
The three of us have never sailed together since then – was it that it took Viv a long time to get over our comments? - but we decided to give it a go this October.
There was to be just the three of us on Solent Flame IV. We reckoned that we would be fairly safe – sailing is an outdoor activity, SF has a canopy for evenings on moorings, we would have well separated sleeping in forepeak, saloon and aft cabin and we could eat on board (away from indoor restaurants).
In the event, Viv was caught by the Welsh travel restrictions and couldn't come – he got his share of his charter fee back under the Association's “no-go, no-cost” guarantee – but Brian and I went as part of the reason for going was to decommission the boat at the end of the season.
We got down to the boat for Sunday lunchtime and, even though no-one had been on board for more than three days, we gave her a good clean, ate lunch and set out for the Hamble.
The wind was on the nose – some things never change (especially with Brian aboard).
With just two on board and a fierce ebb, mooring up in Port Hamble was “interesting” but we safely managed by centre cleating as a priority before bow and stern lines. Interest was increased because, although Brian and I sail together every year, I am usually his crew and he demands marinas where “marineros” come to take your lines. How many times was I to hear “I don't do this kind of thing” as he forgot to prepare lines, put out fenders, etc.
After necessary chores, we stretched our legs as far as the outside tables of the on-marina bar for a pint. Then back to the boat for a meal of steak and trimmings, followed by whisky (or two).
Monday brought more “on the nose” conditions until Calshot but then a good sail westwards on a strengthening tide. The wind had some strength in it, so we were reefed and touching 6 knots or so, but it stayed dry.
Neither of us had been to Yarmouth for a good while (and we thought it would be generally quieter than many places) so that's where we headed for.
The wind was too tight to aim directly for the entrance and, despite getting sails down in what we thought was plenty of time, we found ourselves having to battle the spring tide to ferry glide in the required direction.
There was lots of room in the harbour – not surprising when the low season mooring fee was £43 for a 32 foot boat. Now I remember why it was a long time since we'd last been there! I think it will be a good time before we go back.
Anyway, we were all squared away and so we went for a walk eastwards along the coastal path to Yarmouth Green before looping back to town. The yacht club has several outside tables with a lovely view over the Solent but the club was closed so we went back to town and had a drink in an outside courtyard.
Back on board, we feasted on a pasta bolognaise prepared by Andrea for us. This was the second of two meals I'd brought along with the makings of two cooked breakfasts that could become evening meals by adding potatoes should we wish.
On Tuesday, we headed back eastwards. Again we had good wind and no rain. It was quite comfortable sailing and we'd originally thought to go to Bembridge but we'd picked up a forecast of a belt of rain coming in on Wednesday. As we could only come back out of Bembridge at times dictated by the state of tide, we could be forced to come out in a downpour. We didn't fancy that so we chose the old man comfortable option and headed for Cowes.
This got us in quite early so we walked around to Gurnard – about two and half miles each way. In Gurnard we rewarded ourselves with a pint in a pub garden overlooking the sea. The wind was on our backs and it was warm enough to sit in shirtsleeves. Nearly, but not quite, as good as Corfu had been in September – at least the beer was better tasting!
We ate on board again. Quite frankly, what need was there to go ashore? It would have been just the two of us having much the same conversation as we would have in SF4's cockpit. And very pleasant the conversation was.
Tuesday night into Wednesday it rained. Oh boy! How it rained! The forecast was for it to rain all morning and then for occasional showers after lunchtime. We planned accordingly so, early afternoon, we set out for Southampton Water. We wore full oilies in case of a shower because, being short-handed, we might not be able to suit up when at sea.
Brian was down below making a coffee for us when I asked him to take down the handheld plotter as I thought a shower looked like it was heading our way. Some shower! I reckoned we had about 400 metres visibility in any direction and we were heading across towards Calshot – you know, the place where big boys play!
Fortunately the rain cleared before we got to the channel, and then the sun came out.
We'd thought to fuel up before leaving Cowes but there was a motor yacht on the Clare Lallow fuel berth. It looked like the gas guzzler could be there a long time so we had decided instead to make for Hythe Marina Village for our last night. We thought that entering the marina would be a nice nod to both Brian's love of using the engine on a sailing yacht and to my narrow boating experience as we had to lock in.
As we sat on the back of the boat, a couple of cygnets with part grey down and part adult feathers swam past the row of pontoons we were moored on to get the longest take-off run in the marina. They'd just about get into the air, glide a few metres and then duck under a feature bridge only to find they did not have enough room/technique to keep going and so splashed down again. Then they would repeat the exercise. Kept us entertained anyway.
Thursday morning we fuelled up, came out the lock and made our way back to Shamrock. We were the last charter of the year so, apart from having done a thorough review of the boat for “winter work”, we met the sail maker to discuss what we wanted from him. We then removed the sails, spray-hood and cockpit covers before giving the boat a good clean.
I used to sail our boats a lot in October, firstly as mate to Peter Deary and latterly as Skipper, but I've kind of lost the habit because of going out to Corfu in September most years. This trip was a nice reminder of how nice it can be around a relatively quiet Solent.