This was not going to be a re-run of
last year’s Bivi at Whitecliff Bay.
For most of the week, the Inshore
Water's forecast had a red line around The Island and
was forecasting gusts up to F6. Other websites, as is
often the case, were forecasting a maximum of F5. By
8.30 on Saturday morning the strong wind warning had
gone and gust of up to F5 were predicted.
Twelve paddlers in total had signed up,
but illness and work commitments resulted in a total of
nine making the trip.
We left a bit late because Peter and Liz thought that
the other had packed the spray decks. Joe and Steve came
to the rescue, collecting some spare decks from Joe’s
We were setting out from Southsea
(Eastern sea front) and decided to paddle as far as the
pier before heading for Bembridge. It was tiring work
and the wind was consistently at 4/5 until we closed on
After having a short break next to the
Lifeboat Station (in retrospect it should have been a
long break), we headed off again. Because it was low
water we had to go outside the Ledges (ref). The
headwind again made progress painfully slow.
Steve and Richard suggested that a
better (sandy) campsite was available just before
Whitecliff Bay. Getting to it, however, was a little
problematic and involved scraping through a narrow gap
in a reef and then a treacherous (potentially ankle
twisting) walk across slippery bedrock to the beach.
Peter and Joe waited for the tide and had a shorter and
This site has some interesting material stuff on
Bembridge and it's geology.
The previous year, we had paddled on to Sandown, had a
leisurely ice cream and a coffee before heading back to
the beach at Whitecliff Bay. The tide would by then have
substantially covered the bedrock. Today we didn’t have
the luxury of that as a possibility, because of the
Note to self for future trips:-
If we have light winds, go on to
Sandown (or beyond) and then come back when the tide
Leave Portsmouth later (tide
Stay at Bembridge for a couple of
hours before carrying on.
I abandoned any attempt at putting up my
small tent. It was years since I had last used it and my
brain went to ‘mush’ when all the bits fell out of the
bag. Although Ray Mears would have been ashamed to see
my attempt at a bivi, it did manage to stay up
Steve busied himself getting a fire
organised, as there was plenty of wood available.
Unfortunately, he had not read the runes with enough
The beach was a very narrow strip of
sand and shingle, with several tide lines. The most
significant line was a wall of seaweed about a foot
(300mm) high and we presumed that this was the HW mark
from this morning’s tide. Joe consulted his tide tables
and said that tonight’s HW would be about 300mm higher.
This resulted in a competition to guess where tonight’s
tide would reach. As HW would be about 22.00, those of
us who have a habit of crashing out early decided it
would be prudent to stay up until we could see the start
of the ebb.
The first fire was extinguished by the
advancing sea, so another was hastily built further up
the beach. The wall of seaweed was breached by water
flowing under it and waves crashing over. An occasional
bow wave from a passing ship made a decisive impact on
the wall's integrity.
Launching at close to HW was a pleasure,
after yesterdays protracted carry across the rocks. We
had light winds and paddled close to the shore at
Bembridge. There are a couple of elegant sculptures that
are easily seen from the water at high tide. Last year I
took a picture of the Dolphin. Today I wasn't expecting
to see the Giraffe and lost the opportunity of taking a
picture of it. I have since looked online, but can find
no reference to it.
I did, however find
this link which has a good photograph of the Dolphin
and a few other shots of the Bembridge area.
After Bembridge we headed for the Warner red buoy and
then crossed the shipping channel to the green marker.
There was little traffic about. The wind was stronger
than had been forecast and it created some lumpy
conditions. For the last hour there was a noticeable
drift to the West and we had to change our bearings to
compensate. The return journey took about 3 hours.