Having signed up for Grahams St Vaast Rally this BH weekend I had done more than I normally do for a cross channel trip, even putting in a course on my iPad. The only issues in the week leading up to the rally were my large 28 year old 145% Genoa was not back from the Sailmaker having suffered in the winter fast cruises and I could not shake off a severe earache.
It was with little concern then that I found the last forecasts on Friday evening were indicating light northerlies on Friday night with rain and fog patches with very poor vis. Light winds would mean the main snapping back and forth all night and with rain forecast I was not keen on getting the spinnaker up during the night. Even worse it seems the northlies would be with us for the return trip indicating a long night and day tacking back or motoring again. As the last of the crew arrived the wind died off and the rain came as predicted, as they were not too keen on motoring we decided to go west to Weyouth using the tides to our advantage and forego a good pontoon meal - sorry Graham, hope you got my text saying we were not coming over.
So Saturday morning at 3am I was up and we left the Marina in the dark to catch the first of the ebb down the Solent in very light winds. The tide quickly took us westwards so after a good breakfast the Spinnaker was raised and we sailed in the sun out into Poole Bay. Half way across we passed a very large atractive Schooner which was later seen in Cowes, but soon after that the wind died and the tide ran out so we put the motor on to get us along the Dorset Coast. Soon after St Albans ledge the wind appeared from the West, strenghened and we finished the day with a nice 20kts apparent wind beat up to Weymouth.
Nobody on board had been to Portland Marina so we went to that Marina and avoided the rafting of Weymouth quay with its bumping fenders and feet stamping on coachroofs late into the night. It turned out to be one of the best Marinas I have visited with good prices, and equally good shoreside facilities, no more Weympouth town quay for me. The girls went ashore to provision with wine and check resturants but as we were tired after a long day we used the on site bar and restaurant which also had good pricing and food. It was so popular we had to wait a little as they were not expecting such numbers to turn up.
Next morning at 6am you could not see the bow 13m away but by the time we left at a civilised 0830 the fog was lifting. We raised the full main in the harbour and sailed out of the North Entrance. After that the Blooper was set for a cruise along the Dorset coastline in the gentle westerly. I took the Blooper down for the crossing of St Albans ledge race which was lumpy and we carried on with full main and 100% genoa in the now strengthing wind. By half was across Poole Bay it had reached over 20kts true so I put in a reef to slow Ronhilda down a little. We then carried on till picking one of the many spare bouys outside Yarmouth Harbour, odd for a BH weekend. A good meal was prepared on board with several bottles of wine and that ended a good days sailing.
Next morning we again caught the first of the flood tide and sailed with the Blooper in and out as the now Northerly wind came and went. The main was finally lowered in Itchenor reach in Chichester Harbour and we queued to get into Chichester Marina through the lock using my normal tactic of running aground in the mud out of the channel whilst waiting for each lockful of boats to move up the channel.
So ended a good BH weekend of sailing with Spinnakers and Bloopers with good food, thanks to my crew of Ian, Debbie, Silvia and Stephen.
Apologies to Graham for not getting to St Vaast.