We went sailing on the weekend just gone. We were invited by Keryn’s ex-boss Trish to join her, her husband Nigel and Kevin who works in the IS department at Landsecurities. Nigel and Trish are the sailing experts and Kevin had previous experience while Keryn and I had…looked at a sailing boat from various ferries in the past.

We travelled down to the south coast and spent the Friday evening on the ‘Ragnor of Upnor’, our boat for the weekend. Nigel works for the Army in Royal Engineers and the Ragnor is one of the Army boats moored at the Gosport army base. We spent the evening chatting and settling in, ending with a few hands of Uka before heading off to bed.

Saturday saw us setting out mid morning with Trish and Nigel explaining things as we went. I had decided early on that I’d leave the camera in the hold while we were learning the ropes (which I now presume is a nautical term) and this proved to be a wise choice. We were sailing along nicely having negotiated the Gosport harbour exit and sailed up past some of the Forts of the Solent (you can read more about Spitbank Fort, see a map with the Solent Forts marked and read about the history of the forts). We turned towards Cowes on the Isle of Wight and the decision was made to head for The Needles at the western tip of the island. Along the way we put up the spinnaker but then the wind started getting a bit gusty so Nigel began to explain how we were going to take the spinnaker down. Unfortunately while doing this he got distracted from steering and we had a incident where we proved quite categorically that it’s not possible to capsize our particular vessel. We ended up at almost 90 degrees to the water, I was staring down to water over the side of the boat while Kevin was knee deep and Trish feet underwater as we struggled to right the vessel. It was an adventure for sure – one almost repeated later in the afternoon when I was steering and the wind picked up a tad more than I was ready to handle.

Still, no one panicked and we all survived injury free – these things only make you stronger. I had a reasonable turn steering in control of the tiller and seemed to be mostly OK at keeping us in a straight line (previously mentioned incident notwithstanding). We got across to the Needles and then turned around and bashed our way against the outgoing tide towards Yarmouth.

Sailing away from the Needles, from the left we have Keryn, Trish, Nigel at the helm and Kevin.
Sailing away from the Needles, from the left we have Keryn, Trish, Nigel at the helm and Kevin.

We got our mooring location from the Harbour Master and Nigel proved himself a dab hand at parallel parking the Ragnor. The moorings were done three deep across most of the small marina and we soon had two other boats lined up beside us. We tidied up the boat and relaxed for a while. There was a inflatable dingy packed away in one of the Ragnor’s various cargo spaces and this was pulled out and pumped up. Nigel then rowed us across to the harbour-front (the temporary mooring jetty wasn’t connected to the mainland) so we could all have showers and also pay for our stay.

All clean and tidied up we spent the evening in Yarmouth. We booked a table at Salty’s Restaurant and wandered down to the pier, just a leisurely walk before dinner. The sun was setting on a warm night and it felt to me like I was on holiday. Dinner was good, my fish was too big for the plate and tasted very good. The restaurant was full for most of the night and the guys stayed for a couple of drinks after finishing dinner and watched as people started dancing on the tables. It was a good night.

We had a lazy morning and then an enforced late departure. Breakfast was at Shenanigans which has a terrace overlooking the harbour. The view and setting was good but the service was terrible. We had excuses of being understaffed and at one point the cook stormed off the premises in a huff. Breakfast was over an hour in arriving. At least it tasted good. Once out of the water we were greeted by an almost flat Solent and we spent most of the day sailing under motor power, the mail sail did get unfurled in the afternoon but only to try and gain a little bit of push to ease the pressure on the motor. We headed north-west from Yarmouth towards the mouth of the Beaulieu River and once lined up with the correct channel we headed up the river towards Buckler’s Hard where we moored and took to land for a brief visit and drinks break.

Buckler's Hard green.
Buckler’s Hard green.

Buckler’s Hard is one of those wonderful British villages where time seems to have stood still and development has been kept to a minimum. We went for a short walk and then settled on the grass of the green for a beer, talking and watching the world go by. Back to the Ragnor and we made lunch and then ate it while entertaining a couple of local swans who were very keen on any scraps we passed their way. Lunch complete we were off again, heading back out along the Beaulieu and looking at all the fancy estates backing onto the river bank through the surrounding forest.

The rest of the afternoon was spent motoring across the Solent towards Gosport. We were again against the tide (mainly because of the breakfast delay) so it was a long trip where progress was slow. We got into the harbour later than planned but it was still light so it wasn’t an issue. Nigel again demonstrated his mooring aproach skills and once tied up we packed and tidied. Goodbyes were said and Nigel drove us to the Gosport ferry where we took our last water journey crossing the harbour to Portsmouth and the train station. From there it was an uneventful journey to Waterloo and there we said goodbye to Kevin and made our way home. A very good weekend, hopefully we’ll get to do it again before too long.

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