IOPCC Trip Report

The Needles
26th September 2015


Tony Sandry (Leader) Mark Whitaker Tony Hart
Paul Sardar Ruby Sibley Dave Parker
Gordon Keddie Tim Sims Anne Hennings
Joe Chamberlain Richard Bate David Cotgrove (IOPCC)

I was asked to do a trip write up from a gals perspective-so here is one from just one.

Was there chocolate involved? Yes.
Did we have a trustworthy and empathic leader? Yes
Was there a lot of interesting nattering? Yes, with a great bunch.
Was it an exciting challenge, but not over scary? Yes (unless you include "The Thing From The Sea")
Was there a variety of new sights (for me -The Needles), and the old familiars? (a return to Freshwater Bay). There was a lot of calm water and a bit of chop. So Yes.
All this added up to one of my favourite trips.

It couldn't have been better conditions, (plus wall to wall sunshine). I had a study of the great little waterproof hour by hour tidal streams booklet of The Solent, then we dodged the New Forest ponies on the beach ambling through the boats, and set off.

We crossed The Solent and closed in on the coast near the Sconce Buoy, with views of Fort Victoria. (I remember spending an afternoon at the fort contemplating the very fast current and deep drop off yards from the beach, with the ominous Sconce Buoy bell clanging away. There is a great little aquarium here where you can see some native underwater stuff. I loved the baby cuttlefish. (No mention of The Thing From The Sea in here though).

We passed Fort Albert in the distance, then passed Alum Bay closer in, where the sandstone meets the chalk, some of us reminiscing about childhood/school visits and people having test-tubes filled with coloured sands, made to look like a lighthouse.

Then approaching The Needles, there were rather strange larger waves, concentric to the coastline, and the yellow banana tourist RIB with 15 or so people all strapped in for an exciting whizz about.

The Needles Lighthouse

The Needles, approached from the north, really do look like a row of someone's teeth with some missing. As we rounded the colourful red lighthouse, I thought of a time looking down on it from the top of the cliffs, and wondered what entertainment we were now providing for those there now, who we couldn't see. The Needles cliffs are immense and spectacular, with the view on the south side showing the sheer slope with grass just clinging on. I hadn't expected them to be so jagged and knife-point narrow with such a cutting vision into the cloudless blue sky. The water was blue, reflecting off the white dazzling chalk and clear enough to see rocks and seaweed beneath. We were able to paddle right up against the side and touch them. I wouldn't enjoy it in strong SW prevailing winds; that would be a vision of hell's jaws!

The Needles

We "threaded "The Needles for the hell of it, and ferry glided across, or punched our way back northward through the bigger gap, to turn and whizz back through to Scratchels Bay- easy landing, and lunch. (I can only imagine what that would normally be like in a big surf landing, and again I was glad that I had visited in such benign conditions).

The Needles seen from Scratchels Bay

Lunch at Scratchels Bay

After mucking about doing headstands (led astray by ace gymnast Ruby), we chatted to another group of kayakers, and had a vision of "The Thing From The Sea", which swam back in from almost as far as a large rock just offshore from Scratchels.

Gymnastics on the beach

The 'Thing from the Sea'

The cliffs onward to the fantastic Freshwater Bay got even more immense, a spectacle of massive vertical lines of chalk and flint, with cormorants hanging on by their toes, sunbathing.

Some of us rock-hopped and played in the swell, all the way to the bay, then all turned around with the tide and current, and this time through the big gap in The Needles. There was some very confused water here (parallel submerged rock line), then out into the chop, wind against tide, and there was some more confused water at the Sconce Buoy, it's bell now clanging and leaning over with the current of about 3 knots. Off Hurst Spit I saw some weird areas of circular flat swellings and unusual spiky waves caused by the spit's constriction of the tide flow.

Crossing the Solent

We headed for the large white triangular roof-shape of a prominent house and cruised home with the sunset and massive full moon.

Thanks to Tony Sandry and Tim Sims, who knew the best route, and led us to catch the best current on return, and to all who made it such an enjoyable great day.

Newbie Interest Factors for the trip

..The Needles Ship Channel depth is only 10m.
..Tidal currents run mainly in direction of the channel and greatest rates are between Hurst Pt. and Fort Albert, up to 4.5 knots.
..At Hurst Pt. tides rise 2.7m at MHWS and 2.3m at MHWN.
..The Needles Channel is liable to change its width at the section in vicinity of 'The Bridge' which is a reef which extends up to 1.2 miles W of Needles PT. Here dangerous overfalls occur at all states of the tide in heavy weather and in the calm is marked by ripples.
.. The Needles lighthouse was automated in 1994 and the power cable on the sea-floor is prone to breakages.
..Just off the lighthouse are the remains of SS Varvassi which sunk in 1947 releasing large quantity of wine and oranges. In 2007 yacht race boats hit some remnants.
.. Hurst Castle was built by Henry VIII using proceeds from dissolution of the monastery’s, it was originally built in 1544.

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Report: Anne Hennings (PDCC)
Pictures: Tony Sandry



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