Posted by: Ray | November 3, 2008

Still Sailing! …. A weeks cruise in the Solent with Moonfleet Sailing

Cobbs Quay Poole at Sunrise
Cobbs Quay Poole at Sunrise

 

Last week I took the opportunity to sail as crew with Noel, my RYA instructor who runs Moonfleet Sailing School in Poole. 

Noel asked if I could join on a weeks course in the Solent to help crew; so with Christine Marie ashore for the winter in Scotland, I jumped at the chance to join him, John and Simon (who was doing his RYA Comp Crew) for a weeks sailing around the Solent.

We all met at Cobbs Quay, Poole, where Moonfleet is based early Monday morning. We boarded Moonfleet’s training yacht Ultra, a new Baveria 36, then following a safety and passage brief, made ready to get underway through the 1030 bridge.

Moonfleet's training Yacht, Ultra

Moonfleet's Training Yacht, Ultra

 

Simon’s training started from the start as he was introduced to handling mooring lines and fenders, plus how to start/stop and use Ultra’s engine.  We slipped our lines and once clear of the marina, Noel put Simon on the helm as we headed out through the lifting bridge past Poole Quay.

Setting off with Simon, Noel and John
Setting off with Simon, Noel and John

It was a bright, very cold day, with a brisk wind blowing from the NW as we set sails and made passage out through Middle Ship Channel towards Studland Bay.

 

In Studland Bay, John took the helm and we ‘headed up’ to wind tacking back and forward across the bay, giving Simon some good experience using the winches whilst the rest of us had some lively exercise in the fresh air 🙂 

Old Harry from Studland Bay

Old Harry from Studland Bay

 

 

With lunchtime approaching, Simon was shown how to prepare and deploy the anchor. Anchored in 4m of water in view of Old Harry, we enjoyed the warm lunch Noel had prepared for us as we waited for a fair tide East towards the Solent. 

  

Christchurch Bay towards Hurst Castle

Christchurch Bay looking towards Hurst Castle

 

Whilst Simon practiced his knots, I prepared passage plan from Studland to Cowes via the North Channel and we were soon enjoying a brisk sail across Christchurch Bay towards North  Head Buoy marking the safe approach past the Shingles Bank and into the Solent. 

Passing Needles, IOW

Passing Needles, IOW

 

 We took turns on the helm and soon left the green North Head buoy to starboard, passing the Needles and Hurst Castle as the sun was setting.

 Our tricolour masthead sailing light was turned on and Simon was able to gain 2 hours of experience sailing at night as we pointed out the lights of ferries crossing from Cowes to Lymington, navigation buoys and the large ships turning off Cowes on their approach to Southampton.

Hurst Castle at Sunset

Hurst Castle at Sunset

 

We arrived at East Cowes Marina and moored in the dark, enjoying a meal and a bottle of wine before retiring for the night.

It was a very cold night and we awoke to find ice on the pontoons outside.  With Ultra’s heating it was very warm and comfortable on board, with a bright sunny day to look forward to despite the cold northerly wind. 

 

Simon raising the mainsail leaving Cowes

Simon raising the mainsail leaving Cowes

 

 Following breakfast we left the marina and spent some time practicing mooring on various pontoons along the River Medina before raising our sails and setting course for Beaulieu River.

 

Noel continued Simon’s training, throwing ‘Harry’ – a bucket with a fender attached 🙂 – overboard to practice man overboard procedure as we approached the entrance to Beaulieu.

 

 

 

Leaving Cowes on route to Beaulieu

Leaving Cowes on route to Beaulieu

 

 

Our time at Beaulieu was limited by the depth of water over the bar at the entrance to the river, but we visited Bucklers Hard and picked up a mooring buoy under sail in the river for lunch. After lunch we sailed down the Beaulieu River and set passage to Hamble Point.

 

Beaulieu

Beaulieu

At  Hamble Point Marina Noel and I visited the Chandlers for supplies and we then set sail in darkness to Shamrock Quay Marina, Southampton to end the day’s cruising.

It had been a great days sailing and we rounded it off with a good meal on board, followed by a visit to the local pub.

Westerly Yachts at Anchor, Newtown

Westerly Yachts at Anchor, Newtown

 

We set off early the following morning towards Newtown, IOW.  Despite the forecast of F4/5, occasionally 6 northerly winds, there was little wind as we raised the mainsail. 

The motoring cone was deployed and we motor-sailed down Southampton Water, rounding Calshot Spit and across the Solent towards our waypoint, off the entrance to the river at Newtown, IOW.

In sight of the red buoy that marks the entrance to Newtown, we dropped our mainsail and followed the ‘leading line’ transit beacons marking the channel through the narrow, shallow entrance to the creek where we moored on a buoy for lunch.

One of the benefits of sailing in the Solent during the winter months is the ability to enjoy the scenery, nature and peace of the harbours and creeks without the summer crowds.  Something, incidentally, that I have experienced throughout the year on my cruise to Scotland once North of Dover.  

Seal seen at Newtown Creek, IOW

Seal seen at Newtown Creek, IOW

Newtown did not disappoint; there were only a few training school yachts, plus a group of Westerly yachts at anchor and on leaving our mooring a seal was seen basking in the sun on a sandbank.

As we navigated out of Newtown on course for Lymington, the wind freshened and we enjoyed a great sail past my home marina to berth at the Lymington Town Quay for the night, rafting with several other visiting yachts.

John left the yacht at Lymington and Noel, Simon and myself finished off the day with a meal at the Fisherman’s Rest, one of my favourite pubs in the area.

Hurst Castle

Hurst Castle

Our passage back to Poole the following day was more lively!  The inshore forecast was for winds F5, occ 6, NE veering SE, with seas slight to moderate.  We left our mooring at 1000 to pass Hurst into the North Channel at the start of the fair tide west.

Conditions in the morning were good and we made good progress, once past the North Head buoy we set a ‘preventer’ on the main and with a brisk following wind, set course ‘winging’ towards Poole.

As we approached Henglesbury Head the wind and swell increased sharply.  We reduced sail, first 2 reefs in the main, then a third as as the swell from the SE built to a rough sea as we crossed Poole Bay.

Simon demonstrated his learning through the week as we experienced the strongest winds and roughest seas of the week.  With Ultra heeling and being pushed by the swell, he worked well with Noel and myself getting Ultra’s sail area reduced and set as we ‘headed up’ to a safer ‘Beam Reach’.

Our original plan had been to enter Poole Harbour via the East Looe Channel, but with such a strong swell running on-shore it was not advisable to use the shallow, narrow channel.  We sailed down the Swash Channel, entering into the shelter of Poole Harbour.

 Following a brief stop on a mooring buoy off Brownsea Island for refreshments, we returned to Cobbs Quay in the dark via the 1830 bridge opening.  An invigorating days sailing to end our week in the Solent and following a debrief with Noel, Simon was awarded his RYA Comp. Crew Certificate.  Simon enjoyed his weeks training and was talking about joining one of Moonfleet’s 9-day combined Day Skipper Theory and Practical courses in the future.

My thanks to Noel for a very enjoyable weeks sailing.  Without Noel’s patience, help and support during my own RYA  training I would not have gained the confidence and skills to set off on my own adventure to sail round the UK in my yacht Christine Marie.  🙂

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