Adventures closer to home

2017 will be remembered as a compromised sailing year with Hejira spending too much time on her mooring. This was as a result of building an extension to the house (yes after the children have left home, we need more space……), the death of my wife’s father while she was away and several big family holidays. I have however salvaged some sailing time and enjoyed single handing on a number of occasions out of season when crew have been harder to find. I am finding this most enjoyable and rewarding and the experiences have confirmed that I relish doing some more ambitious passages on my own in the future.

When attending (single handed of course) a rally to Lymington earlier in the year, I made a reconnoitre by bicycle to Keyhaven and had a meeting with Alison and Nick Boxall, the Southerly Owners Association Magazine editors and local residents. Alison is actually secretary of the Keyhaven Yacht Club with local knowledge and useful contacts. Over lunch we discussed the prospect of taking Hejira up to the Quay and ‘drying out’ over a tide. Despite Hejira being 45 foot long and considerably bigger than the usual visitor, the notion seemed feasible for an overnight when it is quieter out of season assuming the right conditions and tides. The idea was filed to the back of my mind pending the right circumstances and a review of the bottom at low tide where I intended to dry. Peter Bell who lives in Lymington and organises the SOA rallies had explored with me by bike and, with his yacht inaccessible in France for the winter, he offered to crew for the ‘entry’ and photographed the bottom at low tide.

The bottom looked clear

Plans came together leading up to the weekend of 10th/11th of November when I was to be banished from my house as my daughter Rebecca was hosting her ‘hen weekend’ for 20 ladies as she has moved to live in Dublin. They didn’t want me around and I didn’t really want to be there.

Hen night frolics in my absence

Fortunately, the weather was perfect for a reach from Portsmouth to Lymington in sunshine and a good F4 on the beam.

Reaching in the November sunshine.

Sailing at this time of the year can be really enjoyable with fewer yachts on the water and, although crisp, given sunshine, it is as good as it gets so long as you dress for the conditions. Because of dredging work, the visitors Dan Bran pontoon was out of service  and the Harbour Authorities kindly allowed me to go up to the Town Quay pontoon where I was the only yacht. I took pains to hang over the end and not to encroach over the red line mindful that my length exceeded the stipulated limit.

‘Hanging out’ on the deserted Lymington Town Quay.

I had not moored on the Town Quay for over 20 years since I had a 31 foot yacht which was within the usual mooring criteria. I was reminded that Lymington is a wonderful destination, especially out of season and I could not resist stopping at the ‘Kings Head’ to sample the HSB (my favourite) followed by a surprisingly good meal in the ‘Ship Inn’ on the quay. Whether it was the tranquil setting or the quantity of HSB, I had the most sumptuous night’s sleep as Peter and his son Dom were not due to arrive until 11.30 the next morning for our passage on the flood up to Keyhaven.

Progress on AIS

None of us had previously entered the small drying creek but with some advice from Nick Boxall, a good paper chart and what turned out to be an accurate Navionics chart on the plotter we slowly ‘conned’ our way down the tight channel in between the moored boats and buoys with enough keel down to give a gentle warning when we strayed offline.

Narrow channel up to Keyhaven Quay

Nick and Alison had followed our approach on the AIS web site and were at the quay to kindly take our lines.

Nick and Alison on hand to take our lines.

Lunch in the welcoming Keyhaven Yacht Club (or Yatch Club as denoted on the Navionics chart) gave us time to catch up and ‘yarn’ or, as my wife puts it ‘talk bilge’!

Convenient for Keyhaven Yacht Club.

After lunch, Peter and Dom set off to walk back to their home in Lymington while I busied myself on board and prepared my corned beef hash for one.

Reflection in the mirror water – before it disappears.

The local pub ‘The Gun Inn’ is slated on trip advisor but given a more favourable review by Nick and Alison, I found it cosy and welcoming with an impromptu jamming session laid on by local musicians. Fellow sailors who had moored on a buoy just inside the spit and taken their apparently leaking dinghy up to the quay provided interesting conversation as we recounted our respective adventures – and more ‘bilge’!

The south side of the quay is all that is available as the boat yard and fishing boats continually use the longer east side. There is therefore only room for one yacht that can ‘take the ground’ but it is level and unobstructed although my mission to clean the hull around the log impeller which was clearly fouled, proved to be a very muddy exercise.

Badly under reading log.

I was surprised to be able to pick up shore power and water on the quay, the water proving invaluable in hosing down my filthy clothing after my ‘mudlarking’.

‘Dried out’ on Keyhaven Quay.

To ensure that I didn’t encroach on the working side of the quay, I had pulled up the slope and was consequently delayed in my departure, finally floating off at 13:45.

Dawn over the marshes.

I crept out in plenty of depth but missed my new friends in their fin keel yacht who had already left their overnight mooring. The wind had backed to the west and picked up to give a satisfying broad reach against the ebb for some time but backing further and falling away, the resulting run dropped to a pedestrian pace necessitating some engine assistance.

Dusk approaching on the passage home.

Soon after the Bramble Bank, the early dusk descended and this presented its own challenges. With only one pair of eyes, it was difficult to spot the increasingly obscure pot markers. Fearing the time required to drop and stow the main sail in a busy crowded Portsmouth Harbour, I chose to use the flatter water between Gilkicker and the inner swatch channel so as not to be unnecessarily distracted through the entrance and up to the Port Solent channel. Aware that there are a number of massive but unlit ship mooring buoys dotted around the harbour, for once the shore-side light pollution was welcome in that the menacing shapes stood out against the background and were thankfully avoided. Locking in to the Marina and taking up my berth could not have been easier given the excellent manoeuvrability of my Southerly having added a central third rudder behind the prop, perfect for single handing when the tight boat handling is actually the most daunting aspect of the whole experience.

This just goes to show that you don’t have to cross Oceans to experience an adventure, equally fulfilling experiences can be enjoyed closer to home !


A severely butchered (so it lost much of its continuity) account of this adventure featured in the Summer 2021 Yachting Monthly magazine:-

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