Tuesday, 15 June 2021

An English Summer 15


A loud splash, followed by an ululating howl, brings me on deck . Seal pups are at play, on the point.

Stargazer is anchored, deep into the Clamerkin Lake arm, of Newtown Creek, on the Isle of Wight. 

The parents have hauled out, keeping a watchful eye on their offspring, from the shore. The pups throw back their heads and sing their ethereal song. Before plunging, once more, into the water, for a morning dip.

On the opposite bank, a troop, of Canada Geese, meanders through the shallows, of the long shingle spit, which separates us from the the western Solent.

Yesterday, Stargazer beat out over the Chichester Bar, under full sail, in sixteen knots apparent. The breeze so warm, that I was in shorts and a polo shirt, even upwind.

We ride the westbound tide, past Portsmouth's harbour entrance. Guarded by the Horse Sand Fort, marked by the Spinnaker Tower.

Three or four tacks, carry us to the Royal Yacht Squadron start line, off Cowes. The breeze is funneling between the Isle of Wight and the New Forest shores. Up to twenty two knots apparent now. I tuck two reefs into the main.

The tide is running hard. Stargazer is making between seven and eight knots, as we make one last tack. Sweeping, through the gap in the spit, into the serene calm of Newtown Creek.

Sunday, 13 June 2021

An English Summer 14


Psyched up and ready for action.

The weekend race fleet prepares, on Emsworth Quay. Amid picnickers, basking in the sunshine, on the harbour wall.

Boats are swiftly rigged. . . .

. . . . and launched. 

Their helms clamber aboard.

And set off, up the Emsworth Channel, toward the start line.

Stargazer is now laden, with the stores and provisions, which she will need, over the coming ten to fourteen days. As long as our water will last us. Only gas has proven elusive; but we still have two full cylinders, sufficient to last about a month.

We are ready to bid farewell to Chichester Harbour. There is a note, in the log, to return, to explore some more, someday soon. Perhaps visiting Itchenor Reach or Birdham Pool, on the eastern arm..

For now, though, Stargazer is headed west. On tomorrow's noon tide.

PS Due to our sailing in the afternoon, and on into the evening, for the next couple days, I will switch to a morning post, covering the previous day, for my next two or three blogs. See you, on Tuesday morning!

Saturday, 12 June 2021

An English Summer 12


It is time for Stargazer to continue her passage west. The tides turn in our favour, during the long June daylight hours, throughout next week. 

We will be anchoring overnight, for the next several hundred miles. In part, this is out of preference. But only in part. I had hoped to spend some time, revisiting old haunts, in Poole. The Poole marinas, however, are full, and cannot receive us. It is the same story through the western Solent, out to Weymouth. Maybe beyond, I stopped calling.

This strange summer, a new social phenomenon has emerged: the-stay-at-home, no-show. The shelf-clearing, supermarket panic buyer, of the start of the pandemic, has transformed into a berth-blocking, marina booker, at its end. At each marina I phone, weary staff explain, that they are fully booked. Chat a while, and they add that, many of those with bookings, do not turn up. But, on the system, the visitor berths are blocked. This deters residential berth holders from vacating their berths, further exacerbating the shortage of available visitor berths.

"We may be able to fit you in, if you call again, when you get here," the dock masters say. Then again, maybe they won't. . . . It is not a game we wish to play. Give us the freedom of anchorages, any day! There is much to be said for them, when on passage. Provided that the weather stays settled.

Before we leave port, we must stock up well. We cannot count on, readily, accessing the conveniences of shore, for an undetermined period . Water is our first priority. It is heavy, and slow to portage aboard, by dinghy.

Then come food, and the gas, with which to cook it. Fuel is not a concern. Stargazer's diesel tank is still full, from departure. For electricity we have our solar panels. I cannot deploy them effectively underway, the rig casts too many shadows. So we will need some 'rest days,' at anchor, to recharge Stargazer's batteries.

Winds are forecast to be from the south or south west. Meaning that, the classic passage anchorages, will be well sheltered. If they are headwinds, they are on the light side. Beating into them, with the tide under us, will create apparent wind, to bring them up to a passage making strength.

Stargazer prepares to put to sea, with an eager anticipation.

Friday, 11 June 2021

An English Summer 11


Blue sky, blends into blue sea. The two separated by the mauve smudge, of the Isle of Wight, on the horizon. Breton striped beach huts stand, on sun drenched shingle, too hot for bare feet to tread.

I am on the southern tip of Hayling Island, West Town, where it meets the sea. Dividing Langstone Harbour, to the west, from Chichester, to the east.

The aroma of barbecues hangs in the still air. Wafting over, from the ranks of camper vans, which line the shore, up in the dunes. A base for aquatic escapades.

A paddle boarder is strafed, by a self propelled surf board, which its owner, doggedly, strives to master. Mostly, it hauls him through the water, in a prone position. But, from time to time, it permits him to stand upright, before, mischievously, accelerating away, from under his flailing feet. An exhausting skill to master.

I treat myself to a double scoop, of honeycomb ice cream, with chocolate flake, to ward off the midday sun. 

It has been a warm walk, up from the Royal Oak, at Langstone.

Where a Hurley, called Sparrow, lies moored. Patiently waiting, for her mast to be stepped, and her next season, of sailing adventures, to be begin.

Up along the western shore, of Hayling Island, I walk.

Looking out, over Langstone Harbour, to Portsmouth, with its Spinnaker Tower, shimmering, like a desert mirage, in the heat haze.

Past fledgling windsurfers, hatching on the beach.

And paddle boarders, gleefully preparing, for their day afloat.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

An English Summer 10


The Emsworth Harbour travel hoist is busy. Lifting boats, for a scrub, at the top of the tide.

It is a still and tranquil summer's day. Perfect for a paddle.

The lightest of sea breezes, pads stealthily across the glassy sea, on cat's paws.

I seek out Bath Road (see Steve's comment on Tuesday's post). For most of its length, it is cut off from the sea, by the Slipper Pond and its retaining wall. But at its head, there is a slipway, direct into the harbour, and a recently built (in the last twenty years, say) clubhouse, belonging to the Emsworth Sailing Club. Could this be the elusive site, of Crab Searle's Sailing School? 

On the Slipper Pond, model yachts dice and duel, remotely controlled, by their owners, who stand in the Bath Road car park.

The final contestant is readied. . . .

. . . .and launched.

The diminutive fleet forms up.

The race begins. 'Bigfoot' and 'Orange' tack immediately, onto port. Breaking clear of the pack, still on starboard. Giving no quarter. Sailing in clean air. Covering one another, tack for tack. Leading, up to the windward mark.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

An English Summer 9


Stargazer lies moored at the head of the Northney Channel. 

On the north shore of Hayling Island.

The road crosses to the mainland, on stilts. 

It makes landfall at Langstone. From mediaeval times, until the nineteenth century, a major trading port, serving Havant. Loading and unloading barges of three hundred tonnes, or more.

The corn mill boasted both wind and water power.

The Ship Inn was originally built as a malt house.

The Royal Oak was first granted its license, to serve alcohol, to the sailors and the merchants, in 1727. It has remained constant, to its cause, ever since. 
All three were built in the eighteenth century, heyday of the port.  They wear the patina of the millennia, like a crown.

Together they line the historic waterfront, 'as pretty as a painting.'