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Solent - Frostbite "Blue Lady" & "Bugsy II"

Updated: 01-09-2010

Report from Nigel Owen:

The Frostbite weekend has become the traditional starter to the KPCA sailing season, usually in the Solent, as it offers the opportunity to sail (almost!) irrespective of the weather forecast. Also, at this time of year there generally aren't queues of people beating a path for boats, giving the charteree the upper hand when it comes to negotiating the charter fee. This year was no different and 2 all round first class boats were chartered, offering both great sailing performance and comfort. In this instance comfort means a dry and secure cockpit and central heating down below! David Gist, Keith Walker and Nigel Owen were the crew of "Blue Lady", a Hallberg Rassy 342. Whilst David Blogg, Chris Winter and Pete Keating, were the motley crew of ""Bugsy II"", an Oceanis 311.

This is the report from "Blue Lady", skippered by David G. "Blue Lady"'s triumvirate are veterans of many a Frostbite and agree that whilst there have been a few when you get the weather you might expect in the middle of winter, more often than not it's been sunny if not warm. Thus it was in milky mid-afternoon sunshine, with anticipation running high, "Blue Lady" was prepared for the short passage from Hamble Point Marina to West Cowes. Lines were slipped, and we were off at around 1600 hrs.

South Cardinal

As we motored down the Hamble towards Hamble Spit South Cardinal there was very fresh breeze on the nose. Given that the first part of the passage would be hard on the wind, it was decided to go for 2 reefs in the main. "Blue Lady" had single line reefing, a simple system, but every installation is different and prone to lines getting twisted and knotted at the most inconvenient times until you understand the foibles of that particular boat; "Blue Lady" was no different and it took a little while to get the 'main' sorted. Having done that, a handkerchief of headsail and we were off. Given that both the wind and tide wanted to take us to Pompey, it was decided to take the pain this side of the Bramble bank and go west about rather than east about and having to beat against wind and tide on the island side. It was dark as the good ship "Blue Lady" was berthed in West Cowes Marina after an exhilarating sail. With tiller itch assuaged it was off to the Anchor to celebrate in the time honoured fashion.

Saturday arrived with bright sunshine and strong winds from the west / south west. From late morning the tide was west-setting. The consensus was to head west and if wind over tide made it too unpleasant then the situation would be reviewed. With the same sail plan as yesterday, deep reefed main and small headsail, we left the shelter of Cowes and headed for Beaulieu. What a blast - with the wind on the beam "Blue Lady" flew across the Solent in no time at all. With breakfast still fresh in the mind it was too early for elevenses, so "Blue Lady" was tacked and we blasted back across the Solent. With the depth rapidly dropping, "Blue Lady" was tacked once more and we headed towards Beaulieu for the second time. This time the call of elevenses was too much and we slipped into Beaulieu to pick up a mooring.

After a light lunch of soup and sandwiches we were off once again - this time to Newtown Creek. The wind eased a little over lunch and it was necessary to shake one reef out as we headed west. The old capital of the IoW is now a nature reserve and even in February this oasis of calm is very popular with local yachtsmen. Thus when we arrived close to low water in mid afternoon the only mooring buoys available were in relatively shallow water - fortunately we were able to pick one up on the last of the ebb. If we did ground, it wouldn't be for long! It was time for afternoon tea. Keith's wife had baked the most fantastic lemon and current cake - you need calories to keep you warm this time of year.

With the flood established, it was time to leave. Once clear of the entrance it was clear that the wind had dropped considerably and full main and headsail were hoisted. Even this wasn't enough to make way against the tide, now strongly setting to the east. The engine was started and course shaped for Yarmouth. As we motored the final miles to Yarmouth, now in zero wind, it was with some incredulity that we listened to the weather forecast, promising gale force 8 increasing to storm force 9 and possibly severe storm 10! Tomorrow's problem.

The facilities in Yarmouth, now taken over by the local council, were closed. When open, they rival the best in the Solent - large, clean, warm showers with buckets of hot water. Launderette with large dryers, etc, etc. What was available this Saturday evening was a toilet with a light on a time switch - any business not finished in time was finished in darkness.

David's sailing friend Geoff arrived from Lymington bearing gifts of chilled white wine, olives and savoury nibbles. A great start to a convivial evening which continued in the Kings Head. Geoff's ferry was around 10pm - it was decided to turn in early with a view to leaving early the following morning - catching the last of the east going tide.

The wind rose steadily throughout the night, but as is often the case it sounded worse than it was - the wind instruments indicating 25 knots true from the west / north west. Not withstanding it was with a little apprehension that we slipped at daybreak for the passage back to The Hamble. Our favourite sail plan was adopted, namely deep reefed main and small headsail. Once settled on our course, the wind was just aft of the beam - at times our speed over the ground was well into double figures. The sea state was slightly quartering but otherwise fine. All apprehension drained away as we enjoyed a very fast passage back to The Hamble. As we approached the Hamble the gusts were increasing in strength - discretion was the better part of valour - the boat was returned - a good day-sail completed in 3 hours. Another memorable Frostbite!

Report from David Blogg:

This is the report from "Bugsy II", skippered by David Blogg with a crew of Colin Winter and Peter Keating. This was the first frostbite adventure for Colin, but David and Peter had braved the early season weather on previous occasions.

The three of us met up at Hamble Point Marina by mid-morning to take advantage of the no additional charge extended charter period offered by Hamble Point Yacht Charters at this time of year. As is usual the yacht was well presented on our arrival and after the inventory checks and handover were completed a light lunch was consumed.

Having agreed a loose itinerary (we will head to Cowes today and see what the weather brings) with "Blue Lady" the mooring lines were slipped just before 16.00 and we headed out to Southampton Water for the short passage to Cowes Yacht Haven.

The conditions were assessed on the motor out of the River Hamble; this revealed that the passage via the Thorn Channel, was going to be upwind and it was decided that 2 reefs in the main sail were called for. The single line reefing worked well and half the genoa was unfurled; we were soon making a reasonable speed towards our destination, pushing aside the occasional bigger wave whipped up by the breeze. Having made good progress "Bugsy II" ventured east towards Castle Point to take down the sails, leaving the entrance to the River Medina clear for the car ferry to clear on its way to Southampton, before heading in to an almost empty Cowes Yacht Haven; one of the benefits of sailing at this time of year. A quick tidy of the boat and we joined "Blue Lady" for an enjoyable meal in The Anchor.

A leisurely start to Saturday by the crew was greeted by a bright sunny day although the winds were strong and from the west/south west. With the tide setting to the west from late morning it was agreed to venture towards Yarmouth, reassessing the conditions as the day progressed. The wind conditions dictated that the same sail plan as the previous evening should be set. It was decided to take advantage of the shelter offered by the River Medina to hoist the main; therefore we set off up the river and the main was hoisted off the UKSA moorings; the genoa was unfurled to 2 reefs as we passed the Royal Yacht Squadron. With the wind on the beam as we left the shelter of the River Medina "Bugsy II" leapt forwards, and within a blink of the eye we were soon at the entrance to the Beaulieu River. The gusty conditions required some quick 'dumping' of the main during the short passage. The engine was started for safety reasons, but we managed to sail our way up the river towards the visitors mooring buoys. Blue Lady had already taken up residence and we picked up a buoy, not easy in the strong wind conditions, but some good helming by Peter and quick reactions by Colin with the boat hook ensured we were soon securely on the mooring. A leisurely light lunch of soup and rolls was consumed before thoughts turned towards leaving for Yarmouth.

Not wishing to miss out on any sailing we sailed downwind towards the Beaulieu River entrance under the mainsail only, still with 2 reefs. Some long tacks across the Solent between the main land and the island saw steady progress towards Yarmouth. With time marching on and the wind dying it was decided not to venture in to Newtown Creek for afternoon tea; instead we decided to have this whilst on the move. Due to the dying wind all the reefs were taken out and "Bugsy II" seemed to enjoy herself making good progress towards Yarmouth. All on board were keen followers of the Six Nations Rugby and as we peacefully sailed along we were able to listen to the England versus Ireland match. Progress was aided by the west setting tide, but the reduced wind resulted in a flat sea state. With the sun dipping towards the horizon behind Hurst Point lighthouse it was decided that we would have to assist the sails and we motor sailed the last mile towards Yarmouth. It was during this brief period of the passage that the coastguard issued a SÚcuritÚ message warning of hurricane force winds in sea area Biscay and storm force 9 gusting severe storm 10 overnight. We headed through the entrance to Yarmouth harbour with England leading the rugby, but by the time we had found a mooring and moored for the night, the final whistle had been blown and England had some how managed to lose the match. We were somewhat surprised to see that "Blue Lady" had yet to arrive, but before we could settle down to enjoy a well earned cup of tea, she appeared in to view, so we helped with their lines.

The evening was spent at The King's Head in the convivial company of David Gist's sailing friend Geoff who had popped over from Lymington on the ferry. It was decided to turn in early in preparation for an early start in the morning. As forecasted the wind steadily rose through the night and the skipper was anticipating a wild sail back to Hamble Point Marina. The crew were woken in the morning by a polite tap on the cabin roof from David Gist advising that they were heading out to try to make the most of the conditions whilst the wind was with the tide. David offered to phone a weather update to the crew when they had got underway. A swift breakfast and preparation of the boat soon saw "Bugsy II" leaving the shelter of Yarmouth harbour. David called to say that the wind was not as bad as it sounded and that they were making quick time towards Hamble Point. With the passage being downwind sail was set with 2 reefs in the main and about two thirds of the genoa unfurled and we made our way across towards the mainland get the best of the favourable tide. "Bugsy II" revelled in the conditions and we were soon passing the entrance to the Beaulieu River and the Calshot Chimney was getting ever larger. The decision was made to head straight back to the marina and have our lunch when we were moored up. The helm, as it had been throughout the weekend, was rotated on a regular basis during the trip and we were soon hardening on to a beam reach to head up Southampton Water. We were treated to a front row seat view of a spectacular broach (the spinnaker had a good wash), by a passing yacht heading out of Southampton Water. We were soon entering the River Hamble, and after fuelling up at the Warsash fuel jetty we moored back at Hamble Point Marina. A large lunch of pasta, chorizo sausage, onion, mushroom and tomato sauce was followed by a quick boat tidy concluded another great Frostbite event.