Ronhilda's patron, Saint Graham, had set a start off Portsmouth this month so with a Neap ebb tide and forecast ( in the morning at least!) of light winds those of us berthed in Chichester Gulag, Siberia had some extra beauty sleep and set a lock exit time of 0730am. On the morning we slipped and waking up several hundred crows perching on mastheads in the marina we informed the lockkeeper we woud be back later in the day and set off down the harbour.
The sea was flat with a low swell from the south as we turned for the Submarine barrier and the start next to Spithead fort. After Bacon butties, we stayed on the east of the channel to let an exiting gas tanker pass and then started before the inbound Delmonte ship arrived. We saw Oxygen run back with Delmonte and wondered if they were asking for some free fruit.
Anway I opted for a less tide route and headed towards Gilkicker shore, as with a lifting keel and flat sea , the height of tide was not too much of a concern. However the wind was quite light and after tacking back out I made the error of chasing the wind rather than keep in the slacker tide on the North side which Shearwater so wisely was doing. This also got us tacking to avoid two exiting ships off North Sturbridge so cost us valuable minutes. The wind started to pick up as forecast as we rounded the first mark and we set off at a good pace towards the Fort.
Passing the fort it continued to build although watching the Sky, it showed little signs of wind, we put in a reef and stormed towards Warner the second mark. We saw others still struggling on with full mains but I knew Ronhilda needs early reefing so was happy we had shortened sail. As we crossed the channel the wind continued to increase in the sunshine so I decided to put in a further reef with 130% geny rolled to second reef as well as after the Wreck, the 3rd Mark it would be a beat back to the Fort.
The wind continued to increase as we were very glad of the 2 reefs and furled geny but Ronhida was now enjoying some good winter sailing for many a year, had our lee gunwale dipping in and we rode through the increasing chop quite well. Apparent wind had increased to well over 30kts by the finish so in view of the forecast for even more gusts later we decided to quit whilst the going was good, informed Graham and set off downwind at fair old lick to Chichester Bar in hazy blue Sky with sun.
It was quite pleasant in the Sun and Andy started cooking our second round of bacon butties. After a couple of other boats had retired from the second cruise, we heard Graham call the second cruise off. Amazingly a Hayling Island solo crew dinghy race had been taking place out to sea off Chichester Bar and we watched them scurry back to the Club and safety in the increasing wind and waves as we approached the Bar. We had over 35kts as we stormed over the bar, it was too wild to lift the keel so I was pleased to see we had the predicted 0.5 to 1M clearance over the bar under Ronhilda's 2.4M draft with the keel down.
Going up the Marina channel was also interesting as with the keel now lifted we were crabbing crossways at a full 60 degrees in 30kts, no option but to straighten up at the last minute at the lock entrance and no going back if I made an error. Still at least it gave the 20 or so people looking at us coming into the lock had something to watch.
Tieing up we all agreed it had been the best days sail for a couple of years and we were enjoying Rinhilda's wine, biscuits and cheese when the really strong Gusts and rain when through after five. Motoring in our cars round to partake of the Meal in the evening we were delighted to be awarded a pot of Barrie's best Marmalade for coming first in the Progressive Handicap. It has taken a year and half to get this handicap to a number were Ronhilda can compete if the wind blows so Skipper and Crew ended the January FC feeling we had had a very good sail in some good wind (if not a bit too much wind ) for once.
Many thanks to Graham for his efforts in orgainsing us all once again and well done to everybody for getting out in the water on a remarkable day weatherwise.
Onwards to Feburary then.