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Solent Easter Rally 10 - 14 April 2009

Or "just because it worked last year doesn’t mean it will work this year"

Report by Ken Surplice, photos by Tim Reeder, Geoff Turner and Alex Lowry

The plan for this year’s Easter rally was to keep an eye on the weather and make plans accordingly, while tentatively aiming for Gosport on Saturday and Cowes on Sunday. Well, Easter has come and gone and the rally was certainly eventful and ended on a high note. A total of eight yachts joined in on Saturday, though, as Eric Morecambe would have said, not necessarily all in the same place. On Sunday we saw eleven boats get together for fun in the sun, even if the sun didn’t arrive until the next day. Add in a couple of passers by, and we had a great turn out for this time of year. And stories? Oh yes, plenty of stories…

I’d gathered the mobile phone numbers of participating skippers so I could make arrangements as events and weather unfolded. This was a good plan, especially since the wind got up on the Thursday before Easter and my communal crane-in was postponed to Saturday. This also meant that I would not make Gosport on Saturday as it would mean going the wrong way in big springy tides. Not a good start for a rally organiser! Luckily I made contact with Zephyr, already in Gosport, and Peter kindly rounded up our rallying folks and guided most of them to dine at the Water Margin in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth. Thank you Peter. Your impromptu leadership was very much appreciated!

Attending Saturday, Gosport:

  • Zephyr P235, Peter Scrivens and guest Norman
  • Breeze P21, Nigel and Liz Wallbank
  • Sea Lady S850, David Bamber
  • Penlu P275, Stephen and Julie Roy
  • Karenza P325, Jeremy & Margaret Parsons and guests

What about Saturday in Cowes?

  • Harlequin P27, John Coyle
  • Cleo S26, Peter, Jenny, Alex and Robert Lowry
  • Can Y Mor F32, Helen, Roger and Meggy Reading
  • Vol-au-vent P275, Ken, Sue, Kate and Paul Surplice

Our very own Vol-au-vent was launched at lunchtime at Calshot Spit. As if by magic, Cleo passed by just as we set off. After a quick wave, hello and "see you later", we headed to the top of the Hamble to collect Sue after parking our car, then promptly turned around and headed back down the Hamble then across to Cowes. It was a dull miserable day, with spots of rain and hardly any wind, and a howling cross current through which daughter Kate skilfully navigated. Well, she was with her expert Dad, but he was without his GPS so it was still very pleasing.

Arriving in Cowes, it looked fairly but not overly busy. As we turned into Shepards Wharf Marina, the finest sight known to mankind lay before me. Was it the sight of three other PSSA yachts moored up already? Well, that was pleasing but the "No Mooring" sign behind them was even more pleasing as I realised that our early arrivers had smooth talked the marina staff into reserving a whole pontoon for us even though the rally didn’t officially start until the next day. Marvellous. We parked up, only to receive a phone message that the others were waiting for us in The Anchor in town. We hurried off to join them. Entering the pub, we found that the other crew were very jolly sailors, and we had some catching up to do. I’ve forgotten how much I enjoyed sailing, if bar activity counts towards that. As an added bonus, as John Coyle and I were at the bar, we were attacked by pirates. Around twenty young lady pirates appeared behind us, clad in pirate hats and clothes, and brandishing pistols. Only the PSSA brings you unique experiences like this.

That night, after very plentiful drinks on board Harlequin, we ate in the Duke of York pub, close to Shepards Wharf. The service was good and the food plentiful and good value. That said, monk fish fans should note that it is served in batter, which may not please all. On the other hand, if you take a group to the Duke of York, the skipper’s meal is free, which certainly pleased me.

Attending Sunday, Cowes

A total of eleven yachts rendezvoused in Cowes on Sunday:

  • From Gosport: Zephyr P235, Sea Lady S850, Penlu P275
  • Already in Cowes: Harlequin P27, Cleo S26, Can Y Mor Feelings 32, Vol-au-vent P275
  • Joining afresh
    • Dawn P21 – Geoff Turner
    • Blythe Spirit p285 - Geoff and Carol Parker on their maiden voyage
    • Rascal S26 Philip Linsell
    • Speedwell P275, Tim and Margaret Reeder

We were joined for a time by S26 Phoca. Skipper Leonie, dog Merlin and guest (Leonie’s, not Merlin’s) rafted up alongside us for a while. About this time, Stroller would also be passing by, but on an Emsworth Club rally. We didn’t see them as a bunch of us set off on a very long walk around the sea front, from where we spotted Phoca heading for Lymington. We continued on foot out of Cowes and into Gurnard. If you have a folding bike, scooter, roller blades or decent legs, this is a very pleasant journey, especially with a rather nice restaurant and tea rooms making a good point to rest before turning back.

What about those stories?

Returning to the marina mid-afternoon, we greeted the other yachts as they arrived. This is where the stories start. I’d better keep these reports anonymous or nobody will sail with me again. Yacht "one" arrived late, having suffered cooling water problems which seemed to be solved by a combination of new impeller and greasing up the water filter cap to stop an air leak causing loss of suction. This was followed by another impeller change the next morning, but it got home safely. Yacht "two", which will remain especially anonymous, had oil everywhere after the oil dipstick was not located correctly. This was subsequently fixed by placing the dipstick correctly in position, wiping up the oil mess with countless paper towels, adding more engine oil then washing about twenty times. Yacht "three" had suffered a multitude of problems, especially concerning fuel supply. Yacht "four" arrived in style, towed in by the harbour master, after the engine failed to start at Cowes entrance. After much inspection and cursing of the starter motor, which was not engaging, the remedy turned out to be a good cleaning of the main battery posts and connectors. Phew.

All-in-all, this was less of a rally and more of a shake-down cruise combined with an engineering conference! Before finishing our stories, I’d like to give special mention to Sea Lady and Blythe Spirit. David in Sea Lady kindly joined us this weekend, before setting off at 6am Sunday for Eastbourne where Sea Lady will be based.

  • David, it was good to meet up with you and I hope you escaped the early morning fog. Your place next time!
  • Geoff and Carol on Blythe Spirit were on their maiden voyage, coming over from Port Solent. They are very experienced sailors and I am sure we will all enjoy hearing about some of their exploits during discussions at future rallies. You are both very welcome.

Wining and dining

Around Sunday teatime, we enjoyed a pontoon party. This was a good opportunity for newcomers to meet, er, oldcomers. We’ll do more of these pontoon parties in future so please do have bottles and snacks ready and we’ll all chip in. On Sunday night, thanks to great initiative from Peter Lowry and John Coyle, twenty of us ate in the Island Sailing club, enjoying its fine views over the Solent. While trying to decide where to eat, Peter and John suggested Island Sailing and persuaded the chef to take care of us at short notice. We were made exceptionally welcome, and the food, a choice of lasagne or fish and chips, was excellent. At just £10 a head, this was also great value. After that, many crowded onto Rascal for post-dinner drinks. This invasion was a new experience for Philip, as he only recently moved up to a S26 with its increased "pulling power".

Monday - what we were waiting for

Shepards Wharf marina is surprisingly peaceful given that the Isle of Wight car ferry docks just opposite. Yet somehow I knew to wake up momentarily at 7am to glance out of the window and see a bright blue sky. I am sure we were supposed to have blue skies for much of Easter but here they were for the first time. Although a sheet of cloud came perilously close to blotting out the sun, it retreated to leave us with a fine day as everyone went their way.

We crossed the Solent, homeward bound in bright sunshine. With no wind, the crossing was calm and relaxed on a sparkling sea, except of course as motor boats and their accompanying wakes thundered past ever minute or so. Yes folks, the season has started, but what a great ending to a wonderfully social Easter.

The almost final word, goes to Zephyr. I called up Peter early on Monday evening only to learn that he was still out, enjoying dinner while at anchor in Newtown River, before returning to the Beaulieu River for a late evening berthing. What a guy!

The final word goes to me. Did I mention that I am writing this article while still wearing the very same shorts and polo shirt in which I crossed the Solent today?

Ken Surplice

P275/25 Vol-au-vent

Photos from Sunday at Cowes

Drinks on the Shepards Wharf pontoon

More drinks, and dinner, at the Island Sailing Club

Finally, a photo by Alex