Fast Cruise no. 1 (and only)

It started inauspiciously when we arrived to pick up the boat from the mooring at 1745 on Friday evening and were firmly stuck in the mud. At our home mooring the boat is usually firmly afloat, so that was bad planning, we'd arrived on dead low water with the south easterly wind making the boat lie into the shallows.

6X was sailing with a Fabulous Crew: Giles and Mary for the boat's first (and only) Fast Cruise of the season. Giles and I did all the jobs we could think of and the boat still wasn't afloat. Then we did some more jobs and plotted the course for Saturday on our buoy racer chart and the boat still wasn't afloat. Mary was called (she was coming by train and meeting us at Haslar), Haslar was called to book a berth, the restaurant was called to see if we could get a late table. It wasn't until Giles had suggested pouring a large whiskey and ginger that the boat decided to lift herself out of the mud and we yanked her off the mud at 2015.

Arrival at Haslar at 2100 meant no eating ashore... we tried and were turned away, so plundered the provision cupboard and broke out Mary's Rocky Road.

Saturday morning looked good for Fast Cruising. We'd anticipated that the wind would be mostly from behind and set the biggest genoa. I didn't leave enough time to get to the start line though (doh! should have done the calcs) and we arrived 20 minutes late. Which made us last before we'd even begun, which I think deserves a prize.

The first leg, with a beat up to Mother Bank, the boat was overpowered with the big foresail. We stuck Giles on the helm and us girls on the side and made it in front of a container ship (quite close enough thank you) to round the buoy.

We nearly screwed up at the next buoy thinking we'd reached Norris when it was only Peel Bank. Luckily gybing too many times doesn't slow you down too much, and anyway, we had already given ourselves a 20 minute time penalty, so who cares?

The good thing about the short and long course was meeting up with a few friendly boats half way through. We were heading past SE Ryde Middle just as Pagan and Grey Goose were rounding it to head back up the Solent.

In fact the short course involved so little beating and so much drifting downwind on the tide with a poled out genny that someone mentioned having a snooze and I thought about making tea.

Once into Southampton Water, with no swell at all, we nearly did the opposite of Lazy LIfe (who apparently mistook Little Netley for the finishing line instead of Big Netley). Our mistake was to think that we needed to round Big Netley and beat back up to After Barn, but we were luckily saved from this by noticing Oxygen rounding the buoy. This caused a bit of kerfuffle as we fluffed a gybe, a tack and probably some other manoevre and started to drift backwards onto the buoy.

Having rescued the situation we tacked up to After Barn and turned round to start drifting down wind again.

Race over, finishing time noted, we headed into Ocean Village. Pontoons were partied on, dinner was demolished, we inspected the tides and forecast of very little wind and decided an early start would be in order on Sunday.

Sunday 0630, alarm call

My alarm went off alongside a resounding fog horn echoing round the marina. "I'm not sailing home in the fog, we might as well have a lie in" were my first words to no-one in particular.

Looking across the marina, the visibility seemed OK so the Fabulous Crew threw themselves into action and we departed at 0710 heading round the corner into Southampton Water.

We made it to the second starboard marker before a thick bank of fog engulfed us. What is it Tom Cunliffe says about sailing in fog: "Avoid it at all costs if at all possible".

We turned back to Ocean Village and tied up on the outside pontoon for coffee, bacon sandwiches and a wait for the sun to burn through. A short while later Grey Goose ventured out, and came back to join us in the wait.

By 0930 several boats had gone out and not returned. As one of the crew on Grey Goose said: "That's either a very good sign, or a very bad sign." We took the plunge and headed out once more.

No wind, clear skies, STS Tenacious calling up the coastguard to ask where they were (we could see them!), and a long motor home with less tide than planned to shift us along. A bit of breeze picked up just off Hill Head and we managed to pick up speed to five knots for a time. We ate a bit more Rocky Road, and went through our entire repertoire of jokes but managed to get back to the mooring in good time and a super efficient pack up and de-rig for a speedy exit to home.

What a great way to spend a weekend, thanks to the organisers Iain (Frostbite) Muspratt and Graham (Fast Cruise) Broadway for coordinating it all.

Rachel Hedley, 18.10.2011 | More from Rachel Hedley’s blog