This time I popped this year's Solent cherry. It's the first time I've been outside the harbour since last year.
Wind was F3 to a quite fresh F4, the sky was cloudless and the tide was 4.2m this morning, so a quick scoot down to the boat, get the engine on and drag Spriteoff the mud while the tide was rising.
Out of the harbour I go, as you can see initially it was pretty flat, Sprite 2 was handling and going well:
In the end it didn't happen. I got to Horse Sand fort and the wind started freshening and along with it bigger waves. The clouds were also getting more dense and darkening up, which means it was only going to get worse. I already had two reefs in the mainsail and was zooming along (for Sprite) at 5 knots. I'm pretty sure that's around her hull speed!
In the end as the wind was getting stronger I made a Captain's decision to head back toward land. The problem was with being bounced around so much I couldn't even have a brew. And that's a problem. :-)
I was going to stay out, but the lack of brew-making made me head for the harbour again, in the hope of finding shelter, a spare buoy and the ability to get the kettle on.
Look who came in the harbour with me:
Yep, it's the Rozzers! Not sure where they were bound for, but on an outgoing tide they wouldn't be there long. lol.
Going up the harbour for a recce of the deep water buoys, I noticed the tide hadn't gone down too much and that it was maybe worth trying to get back on the mooring. By this time SolentMet was reporting a pretty brisk F5 and you could even feel it in the harbour.
So, with even getting stuck on the mud being a better brew-making option I headed towards Sprite's mooring. By now after 2 hours playing in the Solent, quite a lot of the beach at Eastney was showing. I still chugged to the mooring and with a huge bit of luck I made it to my buoy, just as the rudder hit the mud. I just aimed the boat at the buoy and the attached dinghy and kept the power on until I was there, a trick that seemed to work.
Hooking onto the chain proved a mission with the wind pulling Sprite and the keels dragging on the mud. It didn't want to come round into the wind as it usually does to make things easier, but with a bit of effort I wrangled everything right and looped the chain over the samson post.
A hasty packing session followed (I'll tidy the cabin up later) and with about a foot of water left and Sprite's keels now in the mud, I climbed into the dinghy and rowed ashore. Please note the lack of brewing that has happened thus far. Such was my haste to get ashore and have coffee on dry land.
In the end the dinghy touched dry land just as the beach turns to mud. Any longer and I would have needed wellies.Lucky that, because they were in the car!
So quite a way to drag the dinghy this time, but it was worth it.
I packed everything into the car and on the way back drove down Southsea seafront. By now the Solent was full of white capped waves. I'm not sure it would have been much fun in a 19ft boat to be honest. There may be braver souls out there, but I'm quite sure that F5 is about Sprite 2's limit. I'd have been on my third and last reef and close to the limit of the old sails and rigging. In the end I came home without having a failure of any kind, which is always a bonus.
So to recap, I'd had a couple of hours out in the Solent, watched lots of bigger boats out there with none the size of Sprite 2. Sailed with the mainsail reefed for the first time made a good decision on the weather and got home safely, even being lucky enough to get on the hook I didn't get a brew or any sort of food while afloat, but then that got rectified once I got home. :-)
All in all, a good morning.
A nice exercise in finding out Sprite 2's limitations and to some extent honing my own skippering skills.