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Heat Wave - What Heat Wave? - Frostbite - Feb 2019

Updated: 10-03-2019

Report by Simon Stannard (Photos Simon Stannard, David Gist) aboard "Appaloosa", a Bavaria 36.

Skipper: David Gist

Crew: Mick Barber, Roger Francis, Nigel Owen, Simon Stannard.

2019 Frostbite Voyage of Appaloosa
2019 Frostbite Voyage of"Appaloosa"

The weather forecast promised a heat wave with temperatures higher than Cairo, climate change gone mad. Should I leave the thermals, winter hat and gloves behind? Well it’s February so probably a good idea to have them with me, you never know with British weather.

Friday morning dawned foggy but the forecast said the fog would lift by midday. The traffic on the drive down to Hamble Point Marina was free flowing if a bit slow due to the fog. Mick was already in the Ketch Rigger (with a coffee) when I arrived. Thinking I could get a head start on the handover as in previous years I went to the Charter’s office only to be refused the boat keys. Apparently the Skipper had not given them his credit card details. So back to the Ketch Rigger and Mick where I was told the coffee was free, not bad. David and Nigel soon arrived and also enjoyed a free coffee. Then on to the boat to start the handover.

Appaloosa "Appaloosa" Saturday Morning - Still a Bit Misty

We have chartered "Appaloosa", a well maintained Bavaria 36, before and she had been upgraded since we last took her out. Handover was completed quickly but the weather was still a bit misty. We mulled over what to do, deciding that we would go down tide to Lymington. Casting off in light airs we motored down the Hamble and out into Southampton Water, got the sails up and rounded Calshot Spit into the Solent. The chartplotter showed it was the Solent but there was no sign of the Isle of Wight or, after a while, the Hampshire coast. The mist thickened and visibility reduced, at times to less than half a mile. No sunshine and what about that heat wave? Well it was freezing cold with hands and feet feeling the conditions. Engine back on, nav lights on and we stayed in shallower waters on the mainland side of the Solent to avoid any large ships. The occasional leisure craft appeared out of the gloom from time to time, so we needed to have our wits about us. After awhile the visibility improved but it was always misty. The upgraded AIS - chartplotter combination on "Appaloosa"was a good asset to have, showing up most vessels in the limited visibility.

As we neared Lymington the Skipper called the Kings Head pub to book a table for the evening. There was much discussion amongst the crew, which Kings Head Lymington or Yarmouth? For those not in the know there is a history of the crew arriving at the pub only to find that the Skipper had reserved a table on the other side of the Solent!

At Anchor off Osborne Bay
Mick, Roger, David and Nigel Leaving Lymington in the sun

A good entrance into Lymington was achieved, during which the Isle of Wight ferry didn’t move while we were coming up the river. After a little difficulty in spotting the pontoon at Berthon Marina we got into a tight berth first go, sign of an experienced crew working as a team.

Having tied up and put the heating on the crew retired below deck to warm up. The wine was opened and discussions flowed, but by agreement the ‘B’ subject was out of bounds. In the evening we walked into town and were relieved to discover that there was indeed a table booked for us at the Kings Head pub in Lymington.

The weather was a topic of much debate. Saturday’s forecast was for clear conditions and sunshine from about 8am, but could we rely on it? Nigel suggested planning for success, we would cast off at 7am and eat breakfast in Newtown River. If it was foggy again we would eat breakfast in Lymington and wait for the conditions to improve.

Up early Saturday morning, but it was misty in the Marina and not looking very nice down river. So breakfast on board - not at Newtown River.

After breakfast the mist slowly cleared and we were able to cast off. The revised plan was to be in Cowes by 4pm for the England Wales rugby match, which meant getting east of Cowes before the tide turned around midday. The sun came out and the sky was a glorious blue, but the temperature didn’t rise.

At Anchor off Osborne Bay
At Anchor off Osborne Bay

A good sail was enjoyed eastwards up Solent tacking into the wind. Off Cowes the tide and a wind, gusting at up to 22 knots, conspired to create a bit of Solent chop. Passing Cowes we decided to anchor in the relative shelter of Osborne Bay for lunch. The hook was expertly dropped by Roger (fresh from practicing it on the Day Skipper course) and a firm grip on the sea bed achieved first time. Throughout our time at anchor other vessels came in to Osborne Bay and anchored, but then dragged their anchors. All had several attempts at anchoring and most gave up and went away.

After lunch we picked up the hook together with a large part of the Solent sea bed. Several minutes of scrubbing with the boat brush was needed to remove the clay. Once clear of the anchorage we sailed in the Solent with the aim only of staying east of the River Medina. It was a nice getting to feel how "Appaloosa"handled. A good look out was needed to keep out of the way of commercial shipping heading into Southampton on the tide. The car carriers were particularly unnautical looking.

At Anchor off Osborne Bay
A Typical Car Carrier

What about that heat wave? Well despite the clear blue sky it was not hot, or even warm, the cold began to take its hold of the crew and the consensus was that the time had come to go and tie up for the day. We made our way into the River Medina and called up Cowes Yacht Haven, but no room at the inn, in February! - must have been that heatwave bring sailors out on the water. Quick debate on a plan b, Folley Inn? Too shallow around spring tides and would the water taxi be running in February? We opted for East Cowes Marina.

East Cowes Marina called for a rethink of our evening and morning plans. The Anchor and Eeagons, both in West Cowes, we’re now on the wrong side of the river. Could we use the Lifeboat Inn instead? No it had a private function that evening. So it was a walk to the floating bridge and then a walk to The Anchor. Whilst we were there England lost the rugby match. We were consoling ourselves with the help of alcohol when a well known welsh person took to WhatsApp to pass on their commiserations, but the overall impression was that there was a certain amount of glee in the message and it was not entirely heartfelt.

During the return trip across the floating bridge we witnessed how the young lady with the ticket machine could control a crowd of slightly inebriated men on Saturday night out by her voice alone. It was an impressive demonstration and the men all backed off away from the floating bridge, retreating back up to the top of the slipway. I guess she had done that before,

As for the breakfast plans Eegon’s was dropped as too far to go, so it would be breakfast on board again. There was some speculation as to whether our absence this year would result in Eegon’s having to issue a profits warning or not.

HMS Queen Elizabeth
"HMS Queen Elizabeth"

A plan for the Sunday sail was made, we would go with the tide again this time heading to Portsmouth where we would take a look at "HMS Queen Elizabeth". Leaving Portsmouth at high water we should then be able to sail down tide and down wind to the Hamble.

Approaching Portsmouth Harbour was the busiest shipping scene of the weekend. At one point firing up the engine to make sure we passed a very large container ship without incident. The hovercraft was plying it’s trade across the Solent, two car ferries were occupying the Swashway and numerous small craft were moving with little regard to the rules. We threaded our way through the crowded waters into Portsmouth Harbour getting a view of the twelve very tall new beacons (six in the Solent and six in the harbour) established to help the new carriers navigation the narrow channel.

Six of the New Navigation Beacons
Six of the New Navigation Beacons

"HMS Queen Elizabeth" was at her berth. The flight deck was partially covered by two large marquees which spoilt her appearance a little bit. Four police boats lazily circled near by enforcing the exclusion zone around the carrier. We didn’t try getting any closer, even though the outer patrol boats were far more than 50m from the carrier. Somehow going any closer did not seem like a very good idea.

Simon at the Helm in Portsmouth Harbour
Simon at the Helm in Portsmouth Harbour

We turned "Appaloosa"around and punched our way out through the last of the flooding tide. The sea surface in the harbour mouth was a fascinating contrast of glassy smooth and rough all within a few metres. We followed the Inner Swashway past Haslar and around Gilkicker Point. Turning north westwards we sailed in light winds and warm sunshine past Lee-on-Solent and Hill Head where there were dinghies with foils lifting out of the water and ‘flying’ at high speed despite the low winds. For awhile we goose winged but after a few involuntary gybes settled on a port tack while running parallel to the North Channel and up to the entrance of the Hamble.

The entrance to the Hamble was busy with yachts and motorboats returning on the Sunday afternoon. Making our way up river to the fuel pontoon we found two motor boats already tied up on the pontoon with a yacht queuing. We debated what to do and decided that due to time pressure we would not refuel Appaloosa. We turned around and headed back down river towards our berth, but then looked back to find that both motor boats had left and the yacht in the queue had also gone. A quick U turn was executed but almost immediately we saw the other yacht turn back towards the pontoon, still one yacht in front of us was not so bad."Appaloosa" got refuelled.

Goose Winging off Hill Head, Roger and Mick
Goose Winging off Hill Head, Roger and Mick

We returned"Appaloosa"to her home berth and cleaned her before the crew retired to the Ketch Rigger for a final settling up of the kitty. The weekend had started cold and foggy but had gradually brightened and warmed up with Sunday’s conditions being the most pleasant. Three days of sailing were achieved this year with 67Nm being logged in winds mostly F2 to F4 with some gusts up to F6.