In Brighton we were joined by Nicola and Sarah, newbies to sailing but experienced camper-vanners, so not fazed by the confines of the boat. We didn’t want them to get the impression that cruising was all about marina-hopping, so our first leg was round Selsey Bill into Chichester Harbour. We had enough wind to get the sails up for most of the passage, and just motored gently up towards Emsworth, picking up a vacant buoy with fingers crossed that the owner was not returning that evening. We were treated to a magnificent sunset, one of the joys of cruising.
Next day we took a route south around the Isle of Wight, because Cowes Week meant that there would be racing all over the Solent, and we didn’t want to get mixed up in that! Mostly motoring (again!), we hoisted sail once round St Catherine’s Point, but could not easily lay the Needles – for a photo-op of course.
Besides the weather started to deteriorate, and the tide was not helping either. Once we had motored across the Needles Channel it was time to sail again, and we managed to get halfway across to Poole before once again it conspired against us, so we motored the last few miles.
Sandbanks is the millionaire’s row just at the entrance to Poole Harbour, and while some of the houses looked quite posh, there were a few that looked distinctly ordinary!
We dodged the chain ferry and swung round into the quiet anchorage just south of Brownsea Island, Blood Alley, where apparently there had been violent clashes between privateers and the customs officers several hundred years ago. It was a lovely spot, and we settled down to a peaceful night.
Next day we all went ashore to explore the spiritual home of scouting. We passed the camp, spotted a red squirrel in the trees, and had lunch at the National Trust cafe near the landing place. Once back aboard we motored round to Poole Quay Yacht Haven, where we were just able to squeeze in behind a very large Sunseeker. This was the most expensive marina we had been in, but Poole did not disappoint, and we had front row seats for a splendid firework display.
Finally, the last leg. We set off at 0330 from the marina, and followed the big ship channel markers out to sea. There is a problem with co-ordinating the tides for Exmouth (where we need to come in on a rising tide) and Portland Bill, so we had to round the Bill with tide against us. Not great progress, but steady. I had been put off by the dire warnings in the pilot book of boats disappearing in the fearsome race, but clearly most west-going boats were taking the inshore route. Never mind, next time!
Once round the Bill the wind started to get up, but was quite fitful, and a sturdy Westerly Konsort overtook us, in spite of all best efforts to optimise the sails. Humiliating, or what! A few minutes later the wind returned and built to a F5 to 6, giving us up to 11 knots, probably a bit more than the Konsort’s top speed! Approaching the Exe visibility was very poor, and we could not see a thing until less than 2 miles off. Sails down, and we motored and surfed into the approach channel, reaching the mooring around 4pm. Home at last. 2120 miles and 113 days. What a trip!