Southampton Waters (JeffB)
The weekend of 17th - 19th September was the occasion of the Autumn Outing, kindly and very efficiently hosted by Gavin and Katherine at the Netley Sailing Club. I arrived on Saturday morning having driven from visiting my mum in London to find all the rest of the crew - Gavin, Keith, AndyW, AndrewD, 2 Daves, Hilary, Jan and Oliver getting organised ready for a 10 o'clock start for the sail away. I spent too long chatting and had to rush to meet the deadline for getting on the water (typical!) and so missed the briefing, but was able to have a quick chat in the changing room with Roger Brydges, the leader of the trip, before getting on the water.
Of course there are special considerations for sailing in an area as congested as Southampton Water and the Solent and this was made very clear to us by both Gavin and Roger. Avoiding steamers on Lake District lakes is nothing compared to having to mingle with ferries of a fairly ordinary kind, high speed catamaran ferries, huge cargo ships and cruise ships that look like a cross between the Starship Enterprise and a Soviet era, Eastern European block of flats blown up to 100 times normal scale. Large ships have their own exclusion zone, 1000 m ahead and 100 m to each side of them, so you need to be alert when crossing the shipping channels. It was very reassuring to have a safety boat with us to help point out the dangers and shepherd us across the shipping lanes as quickly as possible.
It was a glorious morning with plenty of sunshine, but the light winds rather limited our ambitions. Instead of heading for the Beaulieu River as originally planned, we set off in that direction, but stopped on the beach at Calshot for lunch. In the light winds we were quite well matched in speed to the smaller dinghies so did not get too spread out.
After lunch and a cup of tea at the café we set off to try a sail a bit further west before turning back, but with the light winds we hardly made any progress against the tide before having to call it a day and head for home.
As soon as we got back to the sailing club the wind got up and the speed merchants were launching their boats. This included the guy with the hydrofoil Moth mentioned in Keith's account of the racing on Sunday. Sailing one looks great fun, but there are severe limitations on what you can do with a boat like that. It being low tide, this included having to carry it out miles from the shore because of the depth of the foils, which cannot be retracted (see photo in Keith's article).
Katherine came to join us for the evening and we had a superb meal cooked by Gavin, three sorts of curry and all absolutely delicious. I did suggest to DaveS that we should have a recipe section on the new group website, like the Song of the Paddle, but he demurred. Also, on investigating the SOPT web page I found it only contained two recipes, one for a sort of fortified flapjack and one of South African rusks, neither of which really inspire me like the memory of Gavin's beetroot curry.
On Sunday there was a split between the racers and the rest. Jan, Dave, AndyW and I elected to sail up the River Itchen on the grounds that while racing would be fun and of interest in comparing our boats with classes that have Portsmouth ratings, the chance to explore in the area may not arise again. The trip up the river was most interesting and full of contrasts: mega yachts in marinas; stacks of gin palaces stored in multi-storey racks; decaying houseboats; industrial decline; and riverside parks with runners, cyclists and walkers enjoying the facilities.
We had the wind and tide with us going upstream, which still had its challenges - is my mast really higher than the bottom of that bridge or does it just look that way? Gavin, who lives on the banks of the river and sometimes sails down to Netley, has solved the problem by getting a lug rig especially for sailing under bridges. Anyway, we made it up to the limit of navigation and back without incident and then had an exhilarating reach back down Southampton Water to Netley.
We all had a great time and the Netley Sailing Club were superb hosts. Their campsite is excellent and well used by their club members and so had a very lively atmosphere. It is rather a long way for many OCSG members to travel and some people were no doubt put off by the Level 3 rating. This was necessary to ensure that we would not impede the sail away and, more importantly, because of the hazards due to shipping. Daves P & S and their families made the most of all the driving to stay on for a few days in the area and they report that there are plenty of other things to do, including going up the new folly in