Trip on Gull starting 2017-07-10 in BSAAug17
TRIP – 10.07.2017 – 14.07.2017 – report by Ewart Hutton
Assembled Monday 10 July at Hamble Point Marina to pick up Gull, an Oceanis 423, at 12.00. This was a two boat trip, with five other BSA members on Skittles. Light traffic on the journey down so both crews were assembled in good time, with the inevitable consequence that we had to hang around while Hamble Point Yacht Charters got the boats ready.
On board, checks done, kit stowed, and we cast off 14.20 with the sun still shining and the breeze still benign in the shelter of The Hamble. We’d already tossed the magic names in the air – Alderney, Cherbourg, St Vaast. A plan had been agreed on – sail overnight to St Vaast to make use of the SW wind to gain as much easting as possible. We were all prepared. We knew who we would be sharing a watch with, we were well provisioned, and our skipper had pre-cooked a roasted vegetable lasagne, which was nesting in the oven, just ready for heating up when the time came for our evening meal. We would spend Tuesday in St Vaast, and then on to Cherbourg on Wednesday to be well placed for a return crossing, either in daylight or overnight, on Thursday aiming for a handover at 12.00 Friday 14 July.
That was the plan…Which changed with some rapidity as we left the deceptively calm and balmy waters of the Hamble into Southampton Water, where the mainsail was raised, and then on into the Solent, where it was quickly reduced again to two reefs. The wind was W – SW F6 and the sea state was distinctly crotchety. We tried to convince ourselves that this was just a minor local difficulty, a temporary state of wind and tide at odds with each other, which would have dissipated by the time we arrived at the Needles. And it might have done. But we never got to the Needles to find out. There turned out to be too many invisible pranksters out in the Solent chucking the contents of their invisible buckets into our faces. By the time that the roasted vegetable lasagne broke free from the oven in a bid to abandon ship, the decision had already been made to forget St Vaast and to make for the closer port of Bouche de Yare, (Yarmouth to the Anglophones). Arriving here, disconsolate and wet from spray, we were told we’d have to raft up and were led by a rib to a very tidy Dutch yacht. We may have looked like weather-ravaged harpies, but we had the situation well in hand, although the Dutch owner obviously didn’t share our confidence as he emerged from below looking rather alarmed, mobile phone in one hand, conducting international business deals, while preparing to fend us off with the other. He was reassured in the end of course and diplomatic relations were established. He was holidaying with his wife and two young children and they turned out to be a charming family, although he did confess to being bemused by the Brexit decision, and horrified by our annual mooring fees.
We were soon followed in by Skittles, which rafted alongside us, and immediately began to live up to the fun and sporty nature of their name, by asking to borrow Gull’s boathook. We watched intrigued as they used this as the major prop in a new deck game they’d just invented, called catch the end of the swinging main halyard. Glee and fun was had by all, but the game was eventually won by a member of Gull’s crew. We ate on board that night, the above mentioned lasagne having been caught, despatched and consequently cooked. And delicious it was.
Tuesday 11 July
We took the east going tide and left Yarmouth at 0845 with a light SWesterly wind and a forecast of rain arriving in the early afternoon from the West. A pleasant sail under the genoa all the way down to Chichester harbour, with the sail only being furled just before we passed the small boats’ moorings at Itchenor. From there we motored up to Chichester Marina, and through the lock, which was running on free flow at the time, and down to the berth we’d been assigned on pontoon H. This seemed to be a long way from the main facilities, but it turned out to have a really swanky shower block close by. We were tied-up by 1.30, just as the rain started and had a late lunch on board. The skipper had another go at cleaning the log which was proving to be wildly inaccurate.
In the evening we’d been invited to a pre-dinner soiree on Skittles, who’d managed to pull some strings and been allocated a berth on Pontoon A, along with the oligarchs and minor potentates. Our invitation was for drinks and finger food, and Skittles proved to be the perfect hosts having already quality controlled everything before our arrival. After the last of the fingers had been gnawed we went to the Boat House Cafe for dinner. Joking aside, I have to say that Skittles did us proud.
Wednesday 12 July
Locked out of Chichester at 12.30. Gull and Skittles were both in the lock, and this being my first lock experience on a yacht, I prepared myself for a vast and turbulent descent, only to glance round, waiting for something to happen, and see the lock gates open after a measly couple of foot drop.
Motored down Chichester Harbour and raised the main and genoa once we were past the West Pole. We took out the two reefs and had a lovely sail with a kindly NE F3 wind all the way up to Cowes. And the sun came out, and we could almost pretend that we were in France!
Just west of the Horse Sand Fort we saw a freighter heading out its deck loaded up with what appeared to be a job lot of huge motor cruisers, with a couple of yachts thrown into the gaps to make up the space. We assumed that they were Sunseeker Yachts on a migration south in search of vast bank balances.
Still these Superyachts do have their uses. We used the one moored off Cowes as the heading for our bomb run before dropping sail and turning into the channel to motor down for a mooring at East Cowes. The marina there seems to be using the same scare tactics as those accommodation websites which warn you that you’d better hurry to book as there’s only one room left. Despite them telling us that the weren’t able to hold a berth for two yachts and that we’d better get in there quick, Skittles, coming in behind us, managed to get on the same pontoon, and boats continued to arrive and get the very last mooring at that price.
Later we reciprocated and entertained the crew of Skittles on board Gull. After they’d eaten us out of house and home we all moved on to the Lifeboat for dinner.
Thursday 13 July
Wind from the south eastt. Left Cowes through a swarm of small sailing boats heading out for a race, turned our machine guns on the anchored superyacht again, got the sails up and headed east with the hope of anchoring off Bembridge for lunch. However after much enjoyable tacking practice it became apparent that we weren’t going to make Bembridge, so changed plans and course and sailed up to Wooton Creek to research an anchorage there. Research quickly over we repaired under motor to Osborne Bay to anchor for lunch, where we rejoined Skittles.
After lunch we sailed over to Southampton Water where we dropped sail and put the motor on to avoid being engulfed by an international dinghy race heading back to the Hamble.
Moored up in Ocean Village Marina for the night, where we caught up with Skittles again. In the evening the combined crews strolled out en-masse to search for somewhere to eat. The first place we came to was a Weatherspoons, which we quickly left behind us to look for something less familiar and slightly more exotic, and eventually, with a bit of ducking and weaving, we came across multiple choices. Was it to be Mexican, Thai, Indian, posh British? The suspense! Ten individuals trying to come to a joint food decision. But you’ve probably already guessed it – we returned to the Weatherspoons as the only place that everyone could actually agree on.
Friday 14 July
Motored out of Ocean Village Marina and into Southampton Water where we raised the main and had a quiet run down to the mouth of the Hamble. From here we dropped sail and motored up to join the queue at the fuel dock, and waited while someone cut in front of us, before shelling out all of £8.50 for diesel. It was then back to the marina for the handover.
We all liked Gull and agreed that we’d happily sail in her again. She sailed and handled well, and we covered 100 miles over the four days, although the log, despite all of our skipper’s efforts to rectify it, tried telling us that we’d only covered 30 miles.