Every so often March has days like this. Days that make you think that summer has arrived, that your thermals, mid-layers and fleeces can be cast aside and that it is time to bask in the sun, open a chilled bottle of something suitably refreshing and to be careful not to fall asleep in the full glare of the sun to avoid serious sunburn. For this fast cruise, we had two such days in succession.
Avril and I were joined by Jill Moffatt and Ian Middleton at short notice, their original berths on Ronhilda sadly unavailable due to Brian Humber's indisposition. Friday evening in Haslar saw a sizeble contingent of LSC folk including the crew of Day at the Races and elements from Musyk and Solid Air enjoying a dinner at Hardy's.
Friday evening was inauspicious. We drove down from a sunny but smoggy London with the Environment Agency admitting to "very high" air pollution for the London area and the south-east of England. I had high hopes that the coast would be clearer but the sounds of fog horns in the Solent audible from Haslar indicated that the visibility near Portsmouth was poor at best. The crew of Day at the Races, who had sailed from Beaulieu to Gosport to be closer to the start (ha!) confirmed that the Friday had just the sort of conditions you need to be run down by a supertanker, container ship or car transporter.
Saturday morning dawned bright with scattered clouds and a respectable breeze from the west. Well, I suspect it dawned that way - I was still asleep - but by the time we had woken up, had our porridge, coffee and orange juice we were ready for almost anything.
Shearwater had a reasonable start but we failed to keep up with the faster long course boats who, after the second leg of the cruise, gradually drew away. But the wind, generally from the west and varying from about 10 knots to over 20, kept us on our toes. A strong tide kept the skipper awake judging the angles for the many legs of the course that crossed the Solent. Rather than haze or smog, we were treated to sunshine which got stronger as the day drew on and by the time we reached Yarmouth in mid-afternoon, the sky was mostly blue, the visibilty excellent and only the lack of crowds hinted at the fact that it was not high summer.
We enjoyed an excellent dinner at the Royal Solent YC after drinks and snacks on the pontoons at Yarmouth.
If the weather on Saturday was a pleasant surprise for mid-March, Sunday's was simply stunning. Cloudless blue skies were accompanied by a gentle westerly which gradually worked it way round to the south-west providing sufficient motive power to get Shearwater back from Yarmouth to a a mile or so west of Gilkicker, at which point the wind dropped and the tide didn't, making starting the engine a sensible move.
By mid afternoon, we were back in Haslar packing the boat away in our T-shirts (in March!) and basking in uninterrupted sunshine. It can't last.
Thanks to Graham Broadway for another winter's excellent sailing with just a little competitive edge. We have enjoyed it enormously.