The wind did not sound as if it had abated much overnight when we woke, but we set out from Northney anyway; there was less wind than yesterday, but still pretty breezy for us greenhorns. We sailed in the W F5 down the channel on just single reefed main, making good time. It was just after high tide as we approached Hayling Island SC and there were a lot of dinghies out enjoying the blow. The race courses seemed set directly across the channel, so we decided to cut off a corner, as we turned E towards Itchenor.
After a while though, without depth sounder, we decided to keep to the channel. Our course took us directly downwind, so there was plenty of practice gybing with a great deal of sheet hauling to stop the boom crashing. The main sheet does not seem well set up though, as it tends to fall into the cleat during a gybe and the pulley on the boom tends to twist (with the consequence that the sheet does not pay out smoothly).
We got to see many fast-moving racing dinghies at pretty close quarters, and we usually had rights (but that did not stop the occasional helm shouting for water as he ran towards us from upwind!). As the channel got narrower, we decided to motor and take the main down and so motored easily into Itchenor. Not yet having a boat hook, I was not sure if we could pick up a visitor buoy, but thanks to some expert slow speed helming from Niki, we picked one up easily on the first attempt. Thus tied off, we enjoyed our picnic as we watched the bustle of boats large and small. After that, a quick call on the VHF summoned a water taxi to take the girls ashore for an ice cream (I didn't quite have the confidence to leave Aurora unattended).
We dallied until the tide was near low and then motored back towards Hayling, past rescue RIBs towing bedraggled dinghies. Since the wind was exaclty on the nose, we motored all the way back to the channel to Northney. Aurora made 4-5kts against the wind and waves, but the new waterproofs were put to their first proper test, much to Alice’s enjoyment.
Turning North, we unfurled the staysail and killed the outboard, giving us a rapid, comfortable and quiet journey up-river. Much bird life (and an adrift yacht), but no seals seen. The coastguard seemed quite busy in the Solent, judging by the VHF traffic; practicing their dry sense of humour (eg Yacht: “I am aground” CG: “Thats wonderful to hear. Can you tell us where you are sir?”).
Entering Northney at low tide, Niki found the bottom and we had to lift the plate, reverse and try again. Plenty of water at the slipway and Aurora was recovered by rope and ready to bring back to the Midlands in just under 2 hours.