Both May Bank Holidays saw us crossing the English Channel to France.
Cross Channel is an exciting first in your sailing experience. Out of the Solent, you frequently experience considerable swell, and the Isle of Wight gradually fading out of sight, and a number of hours before France can be seen in the distance. And of course, there are the shipping lanes to cross, night sailing to experience, and a watch system.
Fresh croissants were bought for breakfast, and then everyone had free time to explore, before meeting up for a late lunch in a harbour side café.
On the first weekend we went to Honfleur. A very pretty, typically French harbour on the Seine.
We had a straight forward crossing, with South Westerly winds of between 15 to 20 knots, arriving in the dark at around 11pm.
The weather wasn’t looking too good for our return passage, so we adjusted our plan, and set of at 3pm into northerly winds.
The wind was increasing (force 8) and we set the sails with 2 reefs in the main and 3 in the headsail.
The radar was useful to help judge the distance and direction of passing ships.
The crew, having got their sea legs on the crossing over, coped well with the swell and weather conditions.
The wind against us, resulted in a long sail home, and a sense of achievement once back in Haslar Marina.
On the second weekend we set out for St Vaast La Hougue. We departed at 6 am, but by the time we reached the Forts, there was heavy swell and increasing wind, so we anchored near St. Helens Fort for breakfast, to assess the conditions and sail plan.
After breakfast, the wind had decreased, so we decided to continue. South Westerly winds gave us a fast crossing and at around 7pm Barfleur Lighthouse was in sight. We rounded Le Gavendest Cardinal buoy and picked up the leading line into St Vaast La Hougue.
Suddenly, we spotted a lobster pot, then another. Out came the torch, with crew on the foredeck calling Port or Starboard for the helm, to miss lobster pots that had been laid on the Leading Line! We successfully missed them and moored up for the night.
The next day was spent exploring this very pretty port, and oysters and seafood treats.
Our return journey was in two stages.
As St Vaast has a lock gate, we left the port whilst the gates were open and anchored outside for dinner, before setting off at 10pm.
A fast sail home, with westerly winds, force 5-6, saw us back in Haslar early afternoon.
New Year's Cruise around the Isle of Wight
The cruise started with a splendid New Year's Eve party at the Royal Southern Yacht Club, to which we sailed and berthed on the Club pontoon.
The sail to the Hamble proved to be a most enjoyable sail in light winds arriving early afternoon in daylight.
Joined by our Club hosts, a very jolly afternoon was had, followed by a superb dinner dance to welcome in the New Year.
New Year’s day brought unexpected entertainment on Hamble quayside, by way of a charity dip, with brilliant blue skies and sunshine, which we enjoyed for the whole trip, despite constant TV forecasts of snow and ice - we were in a different world !.
We then set off in the afternoon for a quiet evening anchored in Newtown Creek. A beautiful sunset and sunrise was observed in an almost deserted and most tranquil setting.
Rejuvenated after our time in Newtown Creek, we set off through the Needles to go behind the Isle of Wight and anchor for lunch in Freshwater Bay.
Observing that the wind was not following the forecast (or should that be vice versa?!), we realised that if we continued around we would have the wind behind us most of the way, then pick up the favourable tide after St Catherine’s point to take us home to Gosport.
Excellent change of passage plan – as conditions changed.
Once around, and passing Ventor, Shanklin and Sandown, (now night sailing) we re-appraised the conditions, and decided to change passage plan again to head for Chichester (we didn’t want to head home to Haslar yet – we were having far too much fun!).
We scarcely had to alter sail trim, but did have to check the tide and entrance to ensure we could get over the Chichester Bar.
Safely over, and navigating up the channel and around the bends (it is a bit tricky in the dark !) we found our anchorage – and bedded down for the night. This proved to be a lovely sheltered anchorage.
Another beautiful sunrise on Sunday 3rd, and we sailed triumphantly (force 5- 6) out of Chichester, across to Winner Buoy, then over and through the ‘dolphin passage’ (the gap in the submarine barrier), and all too soon we were back in Portsmouth Harbour and Haslar Marina.
From the photos of these few days – you will see it was mostly blue sky – you will see it was cold – and you will see we had wind to sail – and wow – you will see how beautiful was the scenery !
Solent Sailing Challenge November 2009 2 day Weekend
With a challenging forecast, and 5 experienced crew, we departed from Gosport on Saturday morning, heading towards Yarmouth in a force 7, gusting 8 wind
The crew consensus was "How can we learn heavy weather sailing, if we can’t experience it ? With 3 reefs in both the mainsail and the headsail, Sparkling Spirit took us swiftly to Cowes, then the front passed and we ended up motor sailing to Yarmouth. We had plenty of practice at taking out reefs!
A fine evening was spent in the King’s Head, Yarmouth, then it was back to the boat for nightcaps and bed.
After a blustery and stormy night, we were ready to slip lines at 9.30am, when an almighty hailstorm burst upon us. The crew were valiantly preparing to depart, despite the large hailstones, when we realised that the skipper had gone down below for shelter !
Hey thanks !
With the hailstorm over, we departed at 10 am, with a forecast of a force 8-9 wind, decreasing. However, once out of harbour, the wind increased to 55 knots, and we soon lowered the mainsail and sailed with just a number 4 size jib, Wow, what a sail! The highest gust we experienced read 60 knots on the wind instruments.
Fortified with hot bacon rolls, we made record time to Gillkicker Point, where the rain intensified and the visibility decreased rapidly.
We switched on our navigation lights (it was only 1pm!), and checked the chart for the transit into Portsmouth Harbour, as it was a hazy shadow in the distance.
We experienced a bouncy ride into Portsmouth Harbour and were soon back in the relative shelter (well 35 knots!) of Haslar Marina, safely moored up.
We all felt a huge sense of achievement, having safely sailed in such strong winds and Sparkling Spirit coped superbly. All the crew appreciated the opportunity to test and develop their skills in heavy weather and increased their confidence should they be caught in storms in the future.
Cross Channel Cruise August 2009 Bank Holiday 3 day weekend
Another Bank Holiday and 2 yachts again ventured cross Channel in company. With Westerly force 5 winds forecast, we decided to visit St Vaast la Houge in Normandy. With it’s historic sites, pretty harbour and fabulous sea food, this is one of our favourite French destinations.
Slipping lines at precisely 4.20 am (as our passage plan dictated) we quietly left Haslar and made our way out of the Solent down the Portsmouth channel. Those crew who chose to sleep in, missed an impressive array of ships at anchor and a spectacular sunrise.
Wind speed averaging 20 knots together with a big swell gave us an exhilarating fast sail and 2 hours ahead of schedule, St Vaast la Houge was in sight.
We entered the harbour gates and moored alongside.
Out came the bubbly to celebrate many of the crew’s first Channel crossing.
Sunday was a tourist day – visiting M. Gosselin’s wonderful emporium selling all things French, the oyster bar, seafood restaurants for lunch and then a visit to Ile de Tatihou in the afternoon.
We regrouped on our yachts and departed 19.30 for our overnight return crossing. Another first for many crew was night time sailing and watch systems. Great fun was had practising with the radar and identifying ships as we crossed the shipping lanes.
The wind and tide were taking us West, so after a few discussions over the radio, and a review of the passage plan, the yachts decided to amend the plan, and enter the Solent via the Needles channel.
At Bridge buoy, the yachts altered course and sailed goose-winged down the Needles Channel into the Solent. Some friendly banter and advice went on over the radio on how best to set the sails.
Once past Hurst Castle, the yachts anchored near the lighthouse for a very welcome cooked breakfast.
We spotted sailing past a fabulous French Tall Ship, which we later sailed near to for a closer look.
A gentle sail back through the Solent took us back to Haslar mid afternoon Bank Holiday Monday. Was it only Saturday that we departed ? So much had been packed in a 3 day 170 mile weekend with 10 night hours !
Tales of the May 9/10 Solent Cruise – by 3 first timers
We arrived at Haslar Marina, Gosport for our first cruise to Yarmouth (Isle of Wight rather than Great Yarmouth on the East Coast just in case you were wondering!)
Jenni, our skipper, was absolutely great and put us all at ease and made us feel very at home onboard 'Sparkling Spirit'. She encouraged us during the weekend and gave us all an opportunity to take the helm regardless of our nerves and little to no experience.
Our co- helmsman, Andy, also proved an invaluable crew member and remained exceptionally calm as we headed towards other craft and steered us away from any disasters.
On our first night Jason immediately took control in the kitchen and cooked the delicious chicken curry that Jenni had prepared.
He also scrambled up the mast on a number of occasions and was there to help us along the way and not in anyway making us feel that we had lost the plot. There was great team spirit throughout and although no one knew each other at the start of our voyage we discovered that three of us had a strong mutual friend! What a small world it is !
Sparkling Spirit (43 ft Jeanneau Sun Odyssey)was a spacious boat and great size for the eight of us on board with all the mod con's and just right to settle down for a good nights sleep - not to mention an ideal space on-deck for eating al-fresco and enjoying a well earned drink at the end of the day!
Although the first night in the bow end of the boat there was laughter and scrambling around when a crew member was on a mission to untie an offending fender that was playing a relentless tune that was not a lullaby.
On our first day we headed off to Yarmouth and we all started to work well as a team. The sun was out and a steady force 5 meant that we all had a fantastic first day's sail. There was one occasion when mugs of tea and coffee had arrived on deck when we were travelling at 8 knots with a wind of coming up to 20 mph but we were feeling comfortable with our ability and in good spirits.
Then suddenly our skipper announced that we needed to tack so it was all hands to the deck and the only casualty was the sugar that was scattered across the deck! A small price to pay as we mastered tacking at an impressive speed and realised we were all perhaps more competitive than we thought... as amateurs go !
On Saturday night we enjoyed dinner in the King’s Head in Yarmouth. After a good dinner we headed back to the boat and some of us remembered where we were moored ! The following morning we anchored in a National Trust spot, Newtown Creek, to enjoy a good cooked breakfast on-deck in a beautiful setting.
On our last day when we were expecting Force 3 winds we heard one May Day call and were promised gale force winds at the end of the day but we were ahead of all of this. One of the crew then told us a good yarn of how they had been rescued by a lifeboat - fire brigade - police when they had a fire in their engine. Some of us would have quite enjoyed this experience, however we were in very safe hands with only great sailing stories to return home with and all looking forward to sign up for our next offshore cruise
Easter Bunny Cruise - April 2009
Easter Thursday and our Easter Bunnies began to arrive on Sparkling Spirit. By Good Friday we were a full crew and set off around 10 am heading out of the Solent to Poole.
We started off in light drizzle and little wind, but by the time we reached Hurst Point, the rain had ceased, the wind picked up and we were enjoying an invigorating sail.
The crew didn’t believe the cook when she said there was made on board shepherds pie and peas for lunch, until it appeared. Everyone appreciated the hot meal and nobody complained at the amount of washing up !
On arriving in Poole, we moored up in Town Quay Marina (having reserved our berth in advance) and enjoyed leisurely pre dinner showers and drinks before dinner in the pub. Our departure on Saturday to Weymouth was delayed due to one poor crew member being unwell.
Meanwhile the rest of us explored Poole and discovered that the RNLI offers very reasonable overnight accommodation to RNLI members. Our delayed departure actually gave us better sailing than had we departed earlier, as the wind had picked up by the afternoon and we enjoyed a super sail along the Jurassic coast, popping into Lulworth Cove for an anchor spot and afternoon tea.
Weymouth was typically very busy, but we rafted up on the end of a raft, which was ideal as we intended an early start on Sunday. After an excellent dinner we bedded down for the night (or so we thought !).
Skipper heard a large Trimaran trying to join our raft, and he wasn’t having any of it. A ranting Skipper in just his boxers was quite enough to see them off ! Up early on Sunday to catch the tide, we set off to Yarmouth in varying wind strengths, at one time putting a reef in.
Of course soon after this, the wind dropped and we took out the reef. Crew who hadn’t seen single line reefing before, were impressed to see how it worked, as you don't need to go up to the mast.
We made such good progress that we arrived at Yarmouth around 12 noon – too early to get on our (pre booked) pontoon, so we made a detour to Newtown Creek for lunch. Newtown Creek is a lovely anchor spot and great fun watching the comings and goings of other boats. And, if you are a member of the National Trust, as 2 of our crew were, it’s free to anchor !
Then it was into Yarmouth where we were joined by other sailors and friends for pre dinner drinks and dips. One crew member observed there was a small child onboard a neighbouring boat without a life jacket on.
Not surprisingly there was an almighty splash and kerfuffle a few hours later as they fished him out of the sea ! Easter Monday and it was time to return to Gosport. The wind by now thought we had had enough sailing the past few days, and refused to show. Never mind, we topped up our tans and leisurely motored back.
Mad Hatters' Cruise and Tea Party - March 2009
Blue skies, bright sunshine and wind around force 4 made the Mad Hatters' Cruise in March exceptionally fine sailing. We sailed from Gosport to Yarmouth via Newtown Creek for lunch.
We managed to anchor for 3 meals in the cockpit and stayed Saturday night on a walk ashore pontoon in Yarmouth.
The Mad Hatters' Tea Party was held in Yarmouth Harbour, to the amusement of passers by. Cakes were baked on board and you can see the Dormouse sleeping at the far end of the cockpit table.
Note the bad taste teapot, hats, balloons and giant hooters. One of the crew hoped that it wasn't going to be a cream tea, as she had had 2 already, this week !
We anchored by the lighthouse on Hurst Point, where we enjoyed a full English breakfast. We were amazed by the proximity of the shingle beach and the strength of the tide rushing by.
After a lovely reach, we joined other yachts for lunch in Osborne Bay. We continued to enjoy the excellent conditions on our final leg to Gosport.
Festive Sailing Christmas 2008/9
On Christmas day morning, Tim and I drove down to Haslar Marina and went sailing on our yacht Sparkling Spirit. Strange or what ? There were no other boats around, no ferries, no hovercrafts or ships. It was as if we were in a ‘parallel universe’ or as if the world had ended!
We sailed to Newtown Creek, picked up a mooring in the dark, rigged the TV aerial up the mast, and snuggled down with the diesel heater blasting to our second turkey dinner and Christmas day TV!
On Boxing Day we set off to Poole with force 6 North Easterly wind behind us. No response on the radio from Poole Town Quay Marina – we moored up anyway and settled up in the morning.
Christmas Saturday saw us starting a gruelling beat back to Yarmouth against the tide. Poole harbour looks completely different, because most of the moored boats are gone. The weather forecasters were clearly still on holiday, as by the time they radioed the gale warning – we had been in said gale for 3 hours!
No pressure then negotiating the North and Hurst Channel beating in a North Easterly force 8 in the dark, 2 handed and in zero temperatures!
Yarmouth in sight and our spirits lifted………………but be warned ……Yarmouth in winter, in the dark, and not sheltered from a North Easterly gale is not an easy mooring!! The empty piles are not lit and very difficult to see; the wind and tide are ferocious!
A few anxious moments, and at last we were moored up, with shore power and the electric heater now assisting our diesel heater.
Christmas Sunday saw us back to base at Haslar – again in the dark as the sun sets around 16.00.
Festive Sailing (part 2) New Years Eve 2008/9
Planned well in advance, we invited some friends to join us for a New Year’s Eve Cruise and party – departing from Haslar in Gosport, to sail to the Royal Southern Yacht Club in the Hamble, for a black tie dinner and party.
A total of 6 of us hardy sailors completed the epic voyage from Gosport to Hamble on New Year’s Eve, and were joined at the club by our club hosts Serena and Trevor
Mind you, we hadn’t even got round Gillkicker Point before Anthony asked if anyone had a hip flask on board, as he found Solent cruising chilly.
Whiskies were promptly provided for the guys (Anthony and Tim.) Us girls decided to pace ourselves and of course actually sailed the boat, whilst Tim and Anthony debated all things relevant to house renovations!!
On arrival, and after a few glasses of ‘Sparkling Spirit’ we all changed into our evening finery, and headed for the Royal Southern Yacht Club, wearing our sailing boots.
We enjoyed a truly magnificent dinner dance, all courtesy of the Royal Southern and Serena, before our return for a cosy night on board.
New Year’s day was truly cold – but up we got –off we went - and sailed back to Gosport, with an anchor spot off Lee on Solent for Felicity’s warming curry lunch.
Cross Channel August Bank Holiday 2008
Friday evening and adventurous crew began arriving at Haslar Marina, Gosport – to join their Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 43’s, Forrader and Sparkling Spirit – for a passage to France.
Saturday brought us Westerly winds force 4 – 6. Both yachts left Haslar at around 6 am and made a speedy passage in company to St Vaast la Hougue, arriving outside the locked harbour in the early evening.
The gates open 2 hours before until 3 hours after high water, which left us time for a leisurely dinner on board before entering at midnight.
We didn’t see many other vessels during our crossing, but of particular interest was a drilling rig being towed. We never did make out the towing lines, but altered course to go behind it.
Just when the washing up was finished a spectacular firework display began on both St Vaast harbour and the Ile de Tatihou fort. The Corinthians had arrived on a weekend of celebrations to mark the Battles of Barfleur and La Hougue in 1692 when the British routed the French fleet intent on invading England and restoring the exiled James II to the throne. All 15 French war ships were burnt and 12 of them ended up beached at La Hougue. And we always thought celebrating defeat was a peculiarly British practice.
Fireworks over, it was time to weigh anchor, enter the harbour, and bed down for the night. Forrader, (skippered by Paul) made a smooth passage and was soon moored up.
Meanwhile, Sparkling Spirit (skippered by Tim) appeared to be going nowhere. It was pitch black and difficult to see what the problem was by torchlight. Eventually the crew got sight of the anchor and realised it had caught 2 cables – which were firmly wrapped round the anchor. A sterling effort from Mike and a boat hook eventually freed them – and off they went into St Vaast harbour.
On Sunday morning most people paid a visit to Monsieur Gosselin’s wonderful emporium to stock up on wine, champagne, cheese and other French delicacies. It’s a rabbit warren of rooms and like the Tardis, much bigger inside than it looks from the outside. It was also a bric-a-brac market day with stalls set out around the harbour – selling just about anything you’d think was unsaleable!
The afternoon was spent visiting the Ile de Tatihou (reached by an amphibious vehicle – either sailing or driving to the Ile, depending on the tide) and the Fort de la Hougue.
We then had our evening meal in a local restaurant, and a rest before commencing our return passage at 1am Monday morning.
Our return passage was very fast, with a steady force 7 and heavy swell.
The yachts coped brilliantly - as did the crews, and all too soon we were back in Haslar, our long weekend over.