Saint Graham had kindly advised the start was to be in the wild west of the Solent this month, so that would have meant trying to leaving our home Gulag of Chichesterstan at LW springs. Apart from not being able to get out of the maina this is not a good idea if any kind of winds are blowing so the crew voted to part join in Chichester, and move Ronhilda to Gosport for others to join on Friday night. This also meant we could avoid the 3/4 hour potential beat against the flood tide on the Saturday up to the start. So we bounced over the bar 2 hours before LW on Friday afternoon with the SE F4 kicking up the ebb tide nicely over the bar.
After rounding the bar Dolphin we then sailed without incident to Gosport, practising traditional sailing and navigation as Ronhildas TICK TACK wireless wind, depth and speed instruments were on strike. A modern Dutch destroyer full of angles and arials swept past us on the approach making me reflect what a change in Navy design had occured since going down to the Falklands all those years ago.
Gosport informed us to my surprise they only had one spare berth available and apologised that it was a bit of a wiggle to get into it. However once in we had the usual very large economical meal in the Castle Tavern that evening and the rest of the crew rocked up later on. We found out that although Premier advertise to berth holders that we can all swop marinas without charge they wanted car park fees for my crew unlike normally berthed vessels in Gosport who park for free, all part of the reducing Premier package we suffer from these days I suppose. No coathooks in the expensively rebuilt toilets also did not leave a good impression either.
Fast Cruise day dawned with light winds but being in Gosport for the first time in years Ronhilda was able to stay in her berth till 9am insted of leaving Chichester at 4/5am. After a full cooked english breakfast we gently motored to Gilkicker then raised full main and the 140% geny to get to the start way down to the West at Ryde MIddle.
Our start was uneventful, but at least the depth indicator had now decided to work and the log was going from 0 to somthing approaching the GPS Speed over the Ground but we still had no wind instruments, I suspect the masthead transmitter photovolatic cells have failed as I could not get a signal from the masthead at all.
The long course included an initial zigzag back across to Peel then back up to Bramble and a Zigag against the full spring ebb tide to Prince Consort cardinal. As always in light winds Ronhilda got left behind on the downwind legs but at least we had enough wind off Cowes to enable us make the Prince Consort Zigzag at a reasonable speed. Rounding this we found the apparent tide wind angle made it a beat down to the Lepe bouys, there was not quite enough to get the gunwhale in the water or put a reef in which improves Ronhilda's old sail shapes. We were overtaken by the fine looking Elan yacht speed machine Wolverine and admired his hi tech sail material blade main and geny compared to our ancient bags. We could not understand what was going on at East Lepe ahead in the distance as Juno appeared to dogleg for some reason and let Windhover overtake and thus lead the long cruiser fleet.
Our better performance when beating however meant we were catching up most of the Long Cruisers but fickle fate saw the wind drop off just as we were trying to round the last Zigzag at Hampstead ledge so we had to almost head back to Cowes at a very slow rate to get around the bouy which had a very fast ebb flowing past it. We then headed over to Lymington and finshed last of the long cruisers. Max SOG for the day was 12.6 kts, can't say what the boat speed was due to the log problems.
Berthon marina was its usual very good self but it is reflection of how long I have had Ronhilda that this weekends overnight price was over £46 compared to under £20 on my first visit. Still we were mostly all on the same pontoon and only having one cruise for the day meant everybody could mix whilst it was still daylight which I personally think is better for these social cruises.
The pub food was very good and an excellent venue choice. Looking at Grahams laptop confirmed we were in our normal spot at the rear of the fleet, and if my memory is correct needed to sail around 45mins faster to get in the places which is never going to happen but our main interest in these cruises is in the progressive results as we can never be competive in the fixed handicap - so we await these with interest.
Sunday before dawn saw the rain rattling down and a forecast for perhaps a F6 from the North. As we needed to get past Portsmouth before the tide turned against us we left before 7am. The crew showed little interest in raising the main so we unfurled the geny right out on a beat with the engine ticking over. This saw us past Cowes in under an hour where the watch changed and cooked breakfast served up. Another hour saw us go through the Dolphin just as the tide turned, and we reached Chichester Gulag and moored back at Chichesterstan in 3hours 30mins, which was not bad going.
My thanks to Graham and Charles for the organizing of the cruise, as well as Andy and Debbie for keeping Ronhilda's spirits up with sausage and pasties. We had some of Barrie Martins exceent marmalade this weekend as well, won during the 2013 cruises.
Looking forward to the Folly next month.
Brian, with Andy, Ian, Stephen and not forgetting Debbie