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.