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2005 Part 1: UK's South coast.

S Coast passage

Eastbourne to Brighton (29th March, 17.5 miles)

Over the winter Sovereign Harbour at Eastbourne has been home to Paul & Mo on Ti-Gitu, Sune & Emmy on Karma and Phil & Rose on Touch Wood, and over the next few weeks they leave for their own summer cruises but only Mithril is going West this week.

We fuelled up, filtering the whole 250 litres through the Baja filter as this season we'll take no chances on foreign bodies in the diesel. It took ages. Then, with some sadness, we passed through the second biggest marina lock in Europe and out to sea; the sailing season had begun.

foggy eh?

The passage. Visibility was about half-a-mile even though we had a Nor-Easterly F5 wind blowing. We unfurled the genoa and set off down wind at a great rate of knots soon arriving at Beachy Head. We could hear the fog horn but it was not until we ventured close inshore that Janet saw the light house; our arrival at the headland had been arranged to be at slack water to give us smooth passage. Then with the tide starting its push westwards we progressively turned to starboard until the wind was on the beam, allowing us to reach all the way to Brighton. A cracking start to the season.

Osborne Bay (31st March, 46 miles)

The passage. We left Brighton at 0930 with the tide against us, just as it would be for the next 4 hours, so that we would arrive in the Solent during daylight. Visibility was maybe one mile but there was absolutely no wind and the sea was like a mirror. We carried full main sail so as to improve our visibility to others and cracked on the engine. The hours ticked by slowly but eventually we arrived at Selsey Bill and, as the tide as now with us, we decided to go through the Looe Channel.

Whilst down below, just as we were passing the Looe channel buoys, there was a loud and seemingly random clicking noise and this puzzled me. Then Janet let out a cry and said we had a very large bottlenose dolphin just off our stern. I grabbed the camera and raced on deck and saw a huge dolphin right alongside the cockpit, naturally the camera batteries were flat so no piccies. It swam alongside for about 3 minutes, alternating sides regularly. Occasionally it would disappear but its loud clicking told us it was near and when Janet shouted it would reappear. Amazing really.

We entered the Solent passing "No Mans Land Fort" at about 1600 and decided to anchor in Osborne Bay, close to the shore below Queen Victoria's Isle of Wight residence. The tidal calculations were tricky, secondary ports and queer Solent tidal curves, but we anchored cautiously and dug the anchor in well. There was still no wind.

click to enlarge

Motoring in the Fog

A Bavaria 42 with crew from the UKSA were in Brighton at the same time as us and similarly were returning to the Solent. One of the crew, Mark Prince, took this shot as they motored passed Mithril. He later emailed the file to us.

Thanks Mark.

Newtown Creek (1st & 2nd April, 9 miles)

Sat in Osborne Bay during the morning it was quite weird listening to ships traveling up the Solent into Southampton but not being able to see any of them. We listened on the local traffic channel and had our active radar reflector doing its thing so hopefully they could see us. Being in only a couple of metres of water meant that only small vessels came near us.

The passage. With the wind Easterly and only F2 (a tail wind) it would be a slow sail to Newtown Creek and, as the fog was making visibility only about 50m, we decided to await the tide turning and hope the sun would drive away the fog.
At 1400 we up-anchored and with full genoa sailed cautiously up towards Cowes. Visibility was still the same but we had the sun starting to shine dimly above us so maybe the fog would disappear. Just off Cowes we lost our bottle, I mean common sense prevailed, and we decided to follow a depth contour into Cowes as we dare not cross the estuary in the current visibility. Then quite suddenly the fog cleared in front of us and so we turned for Newtown Creek, now about 5 miles away. More worrying over tidal calculations showed the depth to be OK so in we went and picked up a buoy.

Newton Creek is owned and managed by the National Trust, it is a beautiful spot and well worth a visit, but not at weekends during the season as its bedlam. We arrived at the end of the Easter week and picked up the last available buoy but there must have been another 25 boats anchored by dusk. Cost was £12.50 per night.

Weymouth (3rd April, 36 miles)

The passage. We set off from Newtown Creek at 0630 aiming to get the most out of the tide. The wind was light but we hoisted full main and motored towards the Needles off the Western end of the Isle of Wight. As we neared the Needles the wind rose to about F4 from the South, perfect for the passage. With full sail we reached out past the rocks off St Albans Head and then turned for Weymouth. The passage was a delight and the wind remained until we were about 3 miles from the harbour. We motored in and tied up on the town quay at about 1300. A fast and relaxed sail.

We spent a week in Weymouth; cycling round Portland, taking the coastal bus to Lyme Regis and neighboring Abbotsbury and walking a 15 mile section of the coastal path along Chesil Beach but best of all was our first day treat. On arriving we decided we would pig-out on fish and chips from the harbour side chippy. Wonderful, and Janet should know, she was born in Guiseley the home of the famous Harry Ramsden and the famous fish and chip shop.

Chesil Beach

Looking down onto Chesil Beach
Here we have stopped for a rest, the wind is near gale force and we are looking down from the coastal path onto Chesil Beach and one of the inland lakes created behind the beach. At the right-hand end of the lake is Abbotsbury a small town with a swannery having about 2000 resident swans during the breeding season.

Dartmouth (11th April, 46 miles)

The passage. We left Weymouth at midday aiming to be at Portland Bill 30 mins before HW Dover. There was little wind so we motored to the Bill and found the tide already running West. Maybe next time we'll be there 60 mins before HW Dover. We went close in along the inshore route and then straight across Lyme Bay, 45 miles to Dartmouth. It was all pretty boring and the NW F2 wind made it blooming cold.

Warrior approaching Dartmouth

Dartmouth's Orient Express

As Saturday was Janet's birthday I offered to take her on the Orient Express and dine her royally. Naturally she accepted and so it was that we took the Dartmouth to Paignton steam train for lunch and a day out in Paignton. Paignton is quite a nice town once you see beyond the stalls selling kiss-me-quick hats and the likes.

We could see no point in paying to have permanent access to the shore if it cost an extra £8 per night so we moored mid river and dinghy'd ashore when necessary and it worked quite well except for power consumption from the battery. We had a wind powered generator but we rarely had wind, we had a solar panel but most days were overcast so the battery state was a concern and I didn't like to run the engine just to charge it. Biggest consumer was the central heating but we needed it as many nights were down to 2 degrees C and even the days were only 11 or 12 degrees C that week.

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