|Tony Sandry (Leader)
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
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, 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!
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
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
The 'Thing from the
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
..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.