Trip on Spellbinder starting 2013-11-18 in BSADec13
Despite an encouraging forecast of N/NW 3/4 winds, we woke on Monday morning to very still air and ‘thick’ visibility! We weren’t to be put off our planned passage to Poole and set off, motoring through the murk, with nav lights on and a healthy spring tide bowling us along! We were all ‘upbeat’ about our chances of the perfect wind materialising ... but it didn’t! Someone spoke of thermal wind, once the sun had ‘burnt off’ the fog. At this time of year?? Honestly, some folk ... !! Surely we’d find the wind out in Poole Bay?? Nope! We kept our spirits up thinking about the winds forecast for Tuesday and motored all the way to Poole Yacht Haven.
An enjoyable meal was taken at our favourite Italian restaurant – Alcatraz!! - despite someone’s best efforts to entice us into a less salubrious place on the quayside - and we thought about a fab sail back the next day and how Spellbinder would, or wouldn’t, cope with the strong adverse spring tide. I must admit that I advised a fairly conservative passage plan, based on slow speeds!
Well, Tuesday dawned bright and sunny with a N/NW 3/4 wind in Poole and we thought of the likely stronger wind out at sea. Just outside the marina we rigged one reef in the main with about ⅔ genoa and once Penny had sailed us, very nicely, down Poole harbour, past the Sandbanks chain ferry and out into the open sea, Spellbinder romped away on a course for the North Channel approach to the Solent. The northerly, or perhaps a touch east of north, steady force 5 was perfect and we were bowling along at up to 7½ kts boat speed, SOG in the 6+ kt range! Great sailing!
Ahead of us and a little off to starboard, a military exercise was taking place, with a number of ships, RIBs full of hard-looking blokes and a Hercules aircraft dropping small boats and personnel by parachute. Excellent entertainment! We were making a very nice course clear of the military people, when one of the RIBs decided they needed to have a quiet word. They hurtled over and said something about the parachuting. I asked if it was OK for us to continue on our present course and they agreed, then turned and shot off back to their chums!!
After a while, we put a second reef in the main, with a corresponding few extra rolls in the genoa. Spellbinder didn’t appear to notice and carried on at 7-7½ kts, but with less ‘heel’! What a yacht!!
Then came the Solent entrance. Should we shake out the second reef? Would the wind be funnelling strongly out past Hurst Castle? Well, we continued as we were and Spellbinder took us through Hurst without complaint, albeit very slowly, against the third or fourth hour of adverse tide! Bernard was helming and we all had to agree he was enjoying some very fine, if slow, sailing.
Yarmouth, of course, was our destination that day and the customary G&T was taken at the Royal Solent Yacht Club.
The forecast for Wednesday suggested W5/6 winds, increasing 6-8 later. We left before 0900 and took the east-going tide up to Cowes, in a strong following wind. Spellbinder loved this, under ⅔ genoa, with no main and we arrived in Cowes at 1015, I think. A spot of late-season chandlery shopping and the need for coffee took us ashore.
Looking out from Cowes, it looked a little calmer in the Solent. The calm before the storm - we were approaching our “memorable moment”!! We decided we would delay lunch until we reached Gosport, after an easy, short passage from Cowes!!
Penny was helming out of Cowes with a following W 5/6 wind, under our, by now usual, ⅔ genoa alone. Ahead, a bright sky and nice-looking sea. After a while, the sea behind began to build and the sky darkened dramatically! When it was obvious that the storm had reached Cowes and all visibility behind us was gone, Colin and I wound away a few more rolls of the genoa and were very glad we did so. The sea behind was evil. Dougal immediately disappeared below, muttering something about putting on the kettle and having a look at the chart. Bernard had gone to bed for a nap some time before!
The mighty squall hit us a mile or so before Gilkicker, just as I took the helm from Penny. It tried to round us up and knock us down, but was resisted. I felt glad we didn’t have the main sail up. It felt like we were being thrust forward to, hitherto, unknown speeds. I managed to glance at the wind speed and saw 51 kts go past. The sea looked impressive, wild and grey, with big waves. The spray was thrown up into a great curtain in front of us. Hail hammered onto our backs. Spellbinder was given a very violent shaking indeed and we hoped all would be well.
The peak of the squall probably lasted a couple of minutes, although it seemed like ages. The whole thing lasted about 20 minutes, during which the wind was in the 43-45 kt range for most of the time. When it was over and the rain had stopped, the sky cleared and we were rounding Gilkicker to flat seas ahead and good visibility. Force 6 felt positively calm!
The final few minutes of our trip were very much an anti-climax, after the wild storm of the so-recent past! Spellbinder had survived intact as far as we could see and judge and had looked after us in her usual calm and unflappable way.
Another interesting trip in a wide variety of weather conditions. Thanks to Colin, Penny, Dougal and Bernard and to Spellbinder, once again, for looking after us in the storm.