We spent a peaceful night in our berth at Cowes and the forecast for the following day was promising. We were planning to return to Gosport, so I decided to make the most of the trip by taking a cruise up the Beaulieu river for lunch.
I woke early so took a walk through Cowes, which was lovely and quiet at that time of day. Happening on a bakery, I couldn’t resist buying fresh pain au chocolate for breakfast, as well as cakes and bread rolls for lunch time.
This beautiful river winds its way several miles inland, and with the improvement in the weather, this was to be a lovely day to visit it. We enjoyed a lovely sail across the Solent, looking out for the Jack-in-the-basket which marks the entrance to the river. As today was a “sailing day”, we beat up the channel behind the sand banks which separate the river from the sea. The wind was increasing, so a reef made the boat more easy to control. We passed lines and lines of boats on their moorings and got good views of the birds as we tacked to the edges of the channel.
As the river turned, we had a lovely long reach through the moorings, admiring the many lovely boats at rest there. The green fields run right down to the water and the properties are impressive. Further up river, the New Forest presses to the very banks, and above the small but tightly packed marina at Bucklers Hard, the boats gradually shrink in size.
We picked up a vacant mooring almost under the trees and had a very pleasant lunch in the sun, of cheese and tomatoes with the fresh bakery baps, followed by those cakes. Alice insisted on a swim and eventually persuaded both Niki and I to join her in the water which was very warm and clear. It was strange to see jellyfish drifting by under the boat on the ebbing tide, when we were several miles inland and surrounded by forest.
By the time we slipped our mooring, the wind had increased somewhat and was on the nose for much of the passage out, so we motored down and only put the sail up as we turned for a long reach and finally a run out onto the sea.
What followed was a wonderful training run across the Solent, close past Cowes and on to Gilkicker. The sea was rolling, and Aurora rode the waves beautifully (expertly helmed by Niki) on staysail and reefed main. We made over 6kt for the first stretch, but reduced a knot or so as we passed into the lee of the island.
The Solent was busy with huge container ships passing into Southampton (no cruise liners in these Covid times), car ferries, foot ferries, hovercraft and even naval ships (RFA Lyme Bay, a 16000t tank landing ship). We had wonderful views of the puffy clouds scudding through the blue skies with Cowes, Wooton Creek and then Ryde on the island side and Fawley, Lee-on-Solent and Portsmouth poking up behind its headland.
As we passed Gilkicker, we gybed and passed very close along the shore to the narrow mouth of Portsmouth. We kept the main up as we motored through the harbour mouth and were able to give Henry a rest and sail up, dropping the sail only as we turned into the channel behind Burrow Island. The novelty of returning to “our own berth” had not worn off and it was very pleasing to come alongside in pole position for the gangway. A fitting end to a lovely day’s sailing.