Trip on Antara starting 2011-05-20 in BSAJune11

Solent sail May 20-22 – report by skipper Jeff Borkin

The crew for this eventful trip was Jeff Birkin,Phil Watkin, John Eke, John Hartland, Alan and Paula Gray.

We assembled on the Bavaria 36 ‘Antara’ during Friday evening and the handover crew completed their mercifully brief work – we did not have to count spoons or look for tiny scratches in the gel coat. But we realised they were uneasy and distracted, repeatedly looking further shoreward along the pontoon. They informed us of the problematic skipper of Hayley-Louise, an almost identical Bavaria, and moored just three spaces away. He was responsible for stopping hovercraft operations by beaching Hayley-Louise on the ramp at Southsea, just outside Portsmouth entrance. At the time, the skipper claimed he had run aground when the engine would not start. Apparently, he put up the sails as he left than decided it was too rough so he took the sails down again then decided to try and start the engine! This version of events was somewhat questioned by those who went to his assistance because they had to tell him to turn the engine off – it was no longer circulating water being almost fully beached! We had been warned!

Weather forecasts had indicated increasing wind from the West for this weekend trip and, as we waited for John Eke to find the pontoon, we had 25knts in the marina, so we put the kettle on for our first cup of crew coffee and started discussing sailing options. Moments later, a flash of white hull close to the stern was accompanied by a violent lurching and loud bang. Our boat had been struck hard on the swim ladder by Hayley-Louise.

Most skippers would, at this point, bring everything to a stop and assess the situation. Not this one. Despite the 20-25kt wind blowing it broadside firmly on to our boat, he believed throttle was the answer. Perhaps, he expected mythical bow and stern thrusters to come to his aid and move his Bavaria sideways against the wind. Fortunately, a man hopped aboard and took the role of pilot preventing further damage. Oddly, the skipper saw no need to even acknowledge the incident, and sailed out of the marina. It was left to me to speak to Solent Yacht Charter

Later, with a reef in the main punching wind and tide, and finally motor sailing, we made our way into the marina at Cowes amid strong evening sunshine. A nice evening was had with a traditional English meal at the Saffron India restaurant before returning to the boat for nibbles and night cap.

Saturday saw more sunshine and a leisurely departure in variable and slightly less Westerly breeze. Because of the repeated shallow alarms the previous evening, we first dropped a line over to find the true depth and identified a .8mtr over read. Tacking in the shallower waters of the North shore we crossed the bar into a beautiful Beaulieu River for lunch at Bucklers Hard. After parting with the requisite £14 fee for the half hour mooring, we tried some manoeuvring in the river current. Unfortunately, the strong winds on the bow made this extremely difficult so we made our way back out to the Solent. The tide was in our favour and knowing we could easily make Yarmouth, we detoured into Newtown to practice the transit approach and exit. After a look in both arms of the creek and with Paula at the helm, Alan declined to give instructions on an exit transit stating it was for reasons of matrimonial longevity.

A fleet of ‘Toe in the Water’ vessels greeted us in a sun soaked Yarmouth. No pontoon space being left, we rafted alongside another three yachts between the piles just off the main dock. Wine and nibbles helped soak up the activity and atmosphere before we crossed the 40 yards to the shore using the water taxi. Actually, the taxi is very reasonable in cost per mile terms, equating roughly to the cost of a seat on the space shuttle. But this coast was soon forgotten after a meal in the King’s Head and a beer at Salty’s Bar – at least until we had to pay for the return trip!

Sunday morning began at a relaxed pace with a delicious full breakfast before we headed out into a not so relaxed Solent and howling Westerly winds. With a small rag of sail catching the 34knt gusts and the advantage of tide, we travelled at 10.5knts towards Bembridge for lunch. Needless to say, we arrived about an hour earlier than expected so gently nudged our way across the shallows and into the winding channel. Unfortunately the harbour was very crowded and average wind speed was over 30kts and no shelter. Abandoning any thoughts of a lunch stop and headed back out. In fact, the wind in the harbour was so strong that with no spray hood, sails or engine, we were making 3.8knts as we left.

Heading towards a late lunch in Gosport, John Eke took photos whilst sitting on the cockpit upper edge. Unfortunately, the boat lurched and he was thrown backwards onto the deck injuring his back. In pain, he was moved below and made as comfortable as possible. Once moored, an ambulance crew declared there was no serious injury. John reminded everyone of the ‘one hand for the boat, one hand for yourself,’ maxim. (I am pleased to say that John has almost fully recovered, although unfortunately he was advised not to sail in the l’Aber Wrac’h race until his strains are fully healed – Secretary)

It was an unfortunate end to what was a great weekend however the fun was not yet complete. Although we moored without incident, the crew were entertained by a boat full of stylish Italian men with their stylish Italian clothes and stylish Italian sunglasses bringing their stylish Elan yacht into the bay next to us in a stylish way that did not included fenders and warps. Then Hayley Louise arrived and moored at speed and without too much control or, fortunately, incident. But still the skipper saw no need to apologise for his earlier mistake. This gives rise to some theories:

1) He does not consider the incident worthy of note

2) He completely forgot about the incident

3) He had so many other incidents during the weekend that ours was now lost in the fog

4) and others which we won’t mention as they may be construed as libellous.

I leave you to decide but the message is clear – watch out for Hayley Louise!

Postscript. The last sentence above is, fortunately, now redundant. Solent Yacht Charters have today (June 14) told us that the owner sold Hayley Louise last week (perhaps his insurance was now too costly?) and that his friend would not be allowed to charter any other boat from them in future should he wish to do so.