So it was that on Tuesday morning we stocked up with lots of fluid, a few foody provisions and set sail for the Solent.
We dropped the chain at 9am and slipped out of Langstone at slack water, before the tide turned to ebb.
The Sun was still pretty low when we set off and Jim captured this amazing photograph of the sails back-lit by the Sun:
This for me summed up the whole day. Just...amazing. We had good weather and a flat sea. The only thing that spoilt it a little was the lack of wind.
Here's the view leaving Langstone, not a cloud in the sky:
Despite the lack of wind we persevered on to our first waypoint, Horse Sand Fort:
After Horse Sand Fort, we headed over to No Man's Land Fort, but as there was no commercial traffic heading our way we cut the corner and headed for Ryde.
Off Ryde the wind picked up enough to do some proper sailing:
Even though it was a work day, there were still plenty of boats out on the water. On the approach to Cowes we were shadowed by a couple of yachts heading in the same direction:
As you can see, still a cloudless sky and calm sea.
The stretch from Ryde to Cowes always seems to take ages, but this yacht and a couple of other boats we passed broke the journey up. We watched this charming little gunter-rigged open boat come over from Gosport to the Island:
We saw lots of different rigs and a few of the big racing yachts were out, with their huge, colourful sails.
Cowes eventually started to reveal itself:
Finally we were outside Cowes harbour. Rather than cut the corner and take the inshore small craft channel, I decided to go the long way round and continue to the main channel before heading in. We got to see the new floating breakwater that is anchored to the sea bed.
Cowes is always a bit choppier than the rest of the Solent, the amount of boat traffic seems to create the chop.
Looks like somewhere on the Riviera!
I hailed my favourite Marina, Shepards Wharf on the VHF and got a berth sorted over lunch.
Even on a Tuesday it was packed and the chap on the pontoon was frantically directing yachts here and there. We got a berth rafted to a very nice motor cruiser.
Getting to Cowes I felt really happy that everything had gone ok, everything had worked as it should and we'd even done a spot of sailing too.
Everything got squared away and we went ashore to pay our dues and hunt down lunch.
We listened on the VHF to a race being shortened just before lunch due to the lack of wind.
The RORC have been running their Commodore's cup series this week. It looks as though the wind has been causing problems for the big boats too: Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup 2014: Unlucky Race Four although they weren't racing on Tuesday.
Shepard's had a few smaller race boats on the hard:
We headed off into Cowes and had a walk round:
All too soon it was time to head back out into the Solent. On the way out of Cowes, we passed MarySlim. Its a pretty unique vessel called a VSV (Very Slim Vessel). Its designed to pierce waves rather than roll over the top of them. Its just broken a record running out to Rockall and back.
Out of Cowes there seemed to be a lot of boats out there, including one junk rigged boat that wasn't having too good a time in the light air. But it was nice to see such a wide variety of boats out on the water during the day.
We rode the tide back towards the East. Off Portsmouth the surface went glassy calm
Before we turned across to Langstone we passed a fleet of four yachts
Then we headed across the Solent back to Langstone
Once in the harbour we waited until the water was deep enough to get into the pond and then moored up.
Finally we rowed ashore. As you can see the Sun was getting low.
We set off at 9am and got back at 7:40.
What an excellent day. I need to organise another one. Soon!