We had decided to enter Aldebaran for the South Coast Championships hosted by Portsmouth Sailing Club, a friendly volunteer-run club in the heart of Old Portsmouth. We had done the event a few years ago and had a super time. However, then we travelled there the conventional way, via the A31 !
I had mooted the idea with Celia of sailing there, provided the conditions were favourable. I checked the tides for the two main navigational hurdles – Aldhelm’s Head and Hurst Point – and looked at sunrise and sunset times. There are only about 12 hours of daylight in mid September which doesn’t leave much slack for a 19’ keelboat with no engine.
With a water speed of around 5 knots, setting off at 0600 could get us to Portsmouth by about 1700 if all went well. Great in theory, all we need is the weather to co-operate !
The forecast looked marginal a week before, so we shelved the idea and I went to Lundy for a few days rock climbing. Whilst I was there the forecast improved, now a medium Northerly with no significant drop or increase in strength and a reasonable direction… game on !! However, Aldebaran was now out of the water in anticipation of trailering to Portsmouth so Celia press-ganged some Club members to launch the boat on the Wednesday. I arrived back in Weymouth around 2230 on Thursday, threw my sailing kit together.
4 am alarm, tea, breakfast, drive down with all the kit, including lunch and racing sails, to load up the boat. It was likely to be a port tack all the way so we loaded the port side with the heavy stuff ! We set off from Hookers at 0605 and sailed down the river brandishing torches to alert the (two) fishing boats who were also awake at that time. I had installed Navionics on my phone which proved to be very useful. I also loaded photos to a Google album as we went for anyone who was interested in our progress.
Out of the harbour and spinnaker up straight away for a close reach passing White Nothe, Lulworth and our previous PB of Worbarrow. We’d decided to stay out from St Aldhelm’s because of the northerly and headed towards the range buoys. We’d planned for the tide to be against us to that point and that paid off as when we got there at slack there was no race… phew, what a relief.
Spinnaker down and harden up 30 degrees or so with the tide under us across a lumpy Poole Bay. It takes a long time in a Squib… looking back at Old Harry then ahead to the Needles guessing whether we’d reached the mid point.
We passed North Head and flew through Hurst narrows with a strong tide – celebratory G+T ! The wind was slightly forward so more “white” sails with the tide, but at least the water was relatively flat. We passed Lymington, Beaulieu, Bramble Bank and reached Browndown as the flood tide was slackening.
Our friends at the Royal Vic on the IOW knew our plan and by coincidence we were just behind their 3 boats who were sailing over for the event. As we sailed along the Swashway towards the small boat channel a RIB approached us, it was our friend Ray who offered us a tow for the final mile or so. A sensible and timely offer as trying to sail into Portsmouth Harbour in an ebb tide in the shelter of navy buildings would have been a challenge !
We tied up on the Camber pontoons near the old BAR building at 1500 as other visiting squibs were being launched in the conventional manner ! Now off to the PSC bar to celebrate our trip !
More photos … https://photos.app.goo.gl/ePaCJGKJujbhYpw4A