Trip on Skittles starting 2017-07-10 in BSAAug17
Charter from Hamble Point Marina – 10th – 14 July 2017
Spurred on by a long hoped for Channel crossing to St Vaast, our crew, and that of “Gull” our companion boat arrived in good time to allow for speedy handovers and a relatively quick departure. Perhaps a little swift given the lack of Channel & French coastal charts. Our request was dismissed in that relevant details would be displayed by the SAT nav. Screen on deck. Not, we discovered the easiest position from which to collate Almanac information and discuss voyage planning. However we were compliant and as we made weigh we noted that while there were dinghy paddles on board there was no dingy neither did we have binoculars nor more importantly - a boat hook. Nevertheless we were on our way.
The sky was blue, the sun bright and the afternoon beautiful as were the smiles on our faces. As we progressed into Southampton Water we were somewhat taken back by the strength of the gusting SW wind, despite a forecast of SW 4-5 winds. Then, the ominous rise of white horses ahead in the Solent and the heeling angles of yachts moving at speed. A reef and subsequently two was clearly called for which proved a major challenge as the sea state became more unstable. It took two crew members sweating and heaving at the mast to manoeuvre the main sail close enough to secure the reefing hooks There was no obvious reason so, tweaking of the outhaul and vang were tried with marginal successes. Given strengthening gusts up to 31 knots, a wallowing unstable sea and a boom that with every lurch moved inexplicably downward threatening the heads of any crew within reach. The initial buoyant mood, it is fair to say had significantly sunk.
A plus point was the provision of two wheels however they were white plastic, very wet and slippery and establishing a strong helming stance became more difficult and the prospect of controlling a very wilful, light weight, unfamiliar yacht for 10 possibly 12 hours across a channel at night where conditions were potentially worse, presented the skipper with a dilemma. Do we settle for caution and comfort against riding a wild child possibly relentlessly for hours to perhaps do it again or worse on the return trip. The decision, while unanimous put an end to our dreams of oysters and French cuisine. So we enjoyed the rollercoaster and headed for Yarmouth where we reefed alongside Gull and a Dutch boat. First meal on board was kind permission of Gordon’s wife Frances, delicious individual shepherd pies followed by drinks at The Bugle.
I will not bore you by repeating points already covered by Gull as we were in sight of each other for the duration of the trip. Next morning we left the harbour together on a course heading for Chichester with two reefs and a Genoa; close hauled most of the way and enjoyed a great sail on a much improved sea passing through the two great forts. The Solent was busy most days with a plethora of regattas so weaving in and out required care to observe the sailing code... After navigating up Chichester Harbour up past Itchenor, we arrived at the Chichester lock around 1300hrs where the state of tide allowed us to free sail through and due to the depth of our keel (2.35m) we had a prime mooring position close to the facilities. That evening, at great expense we entertained the crew of Gull to nibbles and drinks before going ashore to dine at the Marina Café where a table was reserved by David’s granddaughter (staff member). The next morning, inhibited by our keel, we had to wait until mid-day when we were able to enter the lock along with Gull and onward navigating the river through to open water where we enjoyed yet again a great sail to East Cowes. Despite talk of being busy, mooring was easy. Early evening the Gull crew reciprocated with a more extensive choice of nibbles and then we enjoyed an evening meal with them at The Lifeboat Bar & Restaurant by the marina. For the penultimate day we just went out to play, anchoring in Osborne Bay for lunch where we had a prospective buyer request to come along side for our insight into “Skittles” sea going performance. We tried to be pragmatic but were struggling to be complimentary. To our amusement whilst anchored, we heard the familiar tunes of Mr Whippy and moments later a large ice cream cone and chocolate flake came into view aboard a little chugging motor boat. With more settled conditions, handling our boat was much more agreeable and we enjoyed the sail back into Southampton Water in time to salute the Queen Mary as she left her berth for no doubt stunning destinations. We moored in Ocean Village, in a marina unfamiliar to many of us and spent some time trying to find a good, affordable eatery, settling finally for a Weatherspoon (WS for those with a sensitive upper class disposition). It was their Curry night and excellent value it was too! Next morning it was of course a very short hop back to Hamble Point, a thorough clean up and refuel (though motor use was minimal).
A final amusing point though perhaps not so now we are sober and out of context. It was the skipper’s favoured naval term to the helm to adjust the point of sail or the course through the water described as “just nibble it”. And below decks it was “wiggle it” even “waggle it “when lowering the saloon table to create the base for David’s double bunk. The stands holding the table were obstinately difficult to lower, however the technique perfected by Gordon’s hip action was to “jiggle his end” and would have exceeded the performance of any professional cabaret dancer. Suffice to say the trip was fun and the mood harmonious - so many thanks to our Skipper and crew .