IOPCC Trip Report

Isle of Wight Circumnavigation
2nd-3rd July 2010


There was a lot of interest in this trip but as the plan emerged it became apparent that the circumnavigation was to be done over 1.5 days -launching at Calshot on Friday afternoon and returning on Saturday evening.  The Saturday paddling would be about 42 miles and this was more than most were prepared to tackle.  So it was just Hugh and Barbara who launched at Calshot.

The paddle out of Calshot was sheltered and we had the beginning of the ebb tide so we trickled along quite happily.  Once out into the Solent we were met with 15 knots of headwind against 2 –3 knots of tide which produced very choppy conditions and some quite large waves.  These were easily dealt with as we were paddling into them.  All the way up the Solent we were accompanied by some very large fast yachts that were racing.  It was a game of dodgems – deciding whether to paddle hard to get upwind or wait and duck in behind.  It kept us amused.

At Yarmouth the car ferry appeared to wait for us – I think they just wanted to have a laugh at us as were tossed about in the tide race that was working well as the river there flows out into the Solent.  We stopped at the Albert Fort for a stretch before going round the corner to the Needles.  Thankfully, the afternoon sea breeze dropped as we approached the Needles and the sea state reduced so ‘threading the needles’ was good fun.  There was a dive boat ‘Skur’ anchored on the other side of the Needles and as we paddled by we heard a Mayday on the VHF being made by Skur.  A diver was 10 minutes overdue.  We paddled over and asked if we could help and were heading back to paddle round the other side of the Needles to see if he had surfaced there when I spotted him surface.  There was a momentary holding of breath when I thought ‘alive or not’ and then he moved so that was OK.  Drama over. Skur picked him up and he was fine.  We paddled off to Freshwater and had a large following sea to cope with for the last 3 miles.  We slept on the beach at Freshwater.  I slept in my new MSR 1 man tent and Hugh had borrowed John C’s tarp.  Details of the success of the tarp can be extracted from Hugh but in short it rained.  I was comfy and dry in my little tent. Hugh was neither comfy nor dry!

Saturday was a sunny calm day when we launched.  The 11 miles to St Catherine’s Point were a pleasant dibble with the tide helping us along.  There were a couple of miles of tidal activity which increased the sea state around the Headland which we enjoyed.  Onwards past Ventnor, averaging 4 mph with the tide and strengthening breeze pushing us across the bay past Shanklin and Sandown to Bembridge.  We kept going while the conditions were favourable and after 6 hours and 32 miles the tide became neutral as we turned the corner to Ryde so we stopped for a 15 minute break. 

Paddling once more the wind had strengthened and was now right on the nose. The 8 miles from Ryde to Cowes were very hard work against the wind and with no tidal assistance.  Hugh’s brother in law met us in Cowes at the Corinthian Sailing Club and brought us some very welcome sandwiches.  The wind was showing no sign of dropping so, at 6pm, we set off again.

The last section of the paddle from Cowes to Calshot meant we had to cross the Solent very close to the restricted area where all the large cruise liners and tankers come out of Southampton.  It was blowing 20 knots and there were 2 knots of tide against.  The 3 mile crossing was in large confused water and required concentration.  We were both having to concentrate very hard to ensure we made progress, avoided other shipping and, most importantly, stayed in our boats.  We reached the mainland shore with great relief and paddled up with the wind against the tide to Calshot arriving tired but very pleased at 7.30pm.

We had paddled 42 miles in 10.5 hours– some of it in ideal conditions some of it in challenging conditions and we were ready for a beer.


Pictures of the weekend are on the
Galleries Page.

Hugh and some competition Hugh heading for the Needles
Freshwater Camping at Freshwater
Back on the water on Saturday morning St Catherine's Point
New lifeboat station at Bembridge Hugh and the sailing boat Alice
Refreshments at Cowes Back in the boats for the Solent crossing
Heading up Southampton Water to Calshot Heading up Southampton Water to Calshot
The iconic Needles
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Report & Pictures: Barbara Browning



Paddling on the Jurassic Coast