It has been a weekend of firsts. The weather forecast and tides were right, so we made our first proper “passage”.
Saturday was bright and clear with NW F2-3 winds. We made a leisurely start from Northney- a good launch from the busy slipway. The run down to Hayling Island Sailing Club was comfortable and the turn towards Bembridge gave us a pleasant reach on main and staysail. However, I did not make sufficient allowance for the tide, which turned during the passage and put us down tide of the harbour entrance.
After about 40 mins of beating we passed the Martello fort which stands at the harbour mouth. The chart shos the entrance of the harbour as drying, but our information was that access was available at all states.
Our first indication that all was not well was the grating of the centre plate on the sandy bottom. No matter, we raised the centre plate. What we did not take into account was the windage with the plate up. I gave the helm to Niki and nipped forward, only to hear her shout “we’re aground!”
We had strayed to the edge of the channel and though we draw very little, there was not enough water for us to float and no amount of swinging from the shrouds would shift us.
Well I always wanted to find out what it what it is like to take the ground! It was a sunny calm afternoon and we had plenty of supplies. A new kind of beach holiday!
We had lots of fun splashing about and hunting for critters in the sand. However, our wait was not the 4 or so hours I expected, thanks to the rather unique tidal curve in the Solent. The water having dropped away started coming back up again, an hour or so before low tide and we were able to motor into harbour easily enough, though with due respect to channel markers and depth sounder.
Bembridge is a pleasant spot and we were soon rafted up and directed to a nice pub meal.
Sunday was forecast F4-5 SW and it dawned overcast with little wind. Casting off at 9am, we motored out and hoisted main and Yankee. Sadly, we could not sail deep enough to make the entrance to Chichester, so we ran on increasing SWerly towards Horse Sand Fort, shortening to main and staysail. After a tidy gybe, we ran in company of another gaffer and furled the staysail in the steadily increasing breeze (F6 by now). The motion was not very comfortable, though Aurora made excellent time.
The gybe at West Pole was very exciting, well controlled with Niki hauling the main sheet and myself on helm. This new direction was exhilarating as we surfed down the swell (the GPS peaked out at 9kts!!), but we were pretty glad to get inside the harbour.
Our first overnight passage was completed with a reach back to Northney on reefed main and an (almost) uneventful recovery.
Saturday: 17.3nm, 4h 40min, avg spd 3.8kt
Sunday: 15nm, 3h 27min, avg spd 4.3kt