An overnight stop at Wootton

The sun had clearly got to four frazzled Cody sailors who decided it would be a great idea to sit in an open boat in near 30-degree heat for two days. There had been an ambitious plan for some time to attempt a ‘round the island’ but with the recent light winds the plan was scaled down to a sail from Lymington to Bembridge, with an overnight stop in Bembridge, making good use of the fair tides in both directions.

Steve and Zak (Comet trio), Ged and Simon H (Storm 17) arrived at Lymington car park early on the morning of Saturday 7th July – which was just as well because there was a regatta taking place at Lymington Town Sailing club and within half an hour of arrival, the car park was jam-packed with hundreds of trailers, boats, rigging, families, dogs and grannies etc. It felt like embarkation for D day (apart from the grannies). With light airs forecast but with the possibility of building to F3 once the sea breeze kicked in, we were on the water by about 10.15. Heading out of Lymington towards Jack-in-the Box, we were greeted by the magnificent sight of 1200 or so yachts in full sail, hugging the north shore of the Isle and gradually reaching their way West through Hurst point and on to the Needles.

Keeping out of their way, we chose to sail close to the north shore which also avoided the last of the west flowing tide. Once the tide turned an hour or so later we headed out into the main channel and benefitted from a gradually strengthening tide and stiffening breeze from the SW. We were looking good for the plan to make Bembridge by 6pm, so that we could land on the beach at high tide and settle the boats using fenders before readying them to sleep on. But the best laid plans and all that….

At about 3pm and after a delightful but uneventful sail East, the wind just died. We were about a mile East of Wootton Creek and clearly not going to make Bembridge. We had a conflab. Plan B was agreed. Let’s make for Wootton Creek and see what we can find. Steve was aware of a small shingle beach just up river from the Victoria Sailing club next to the Ferry terminal and we might be able to use the club facilities. Drifting to Wootton creek took some time and Ged and Simon resorted to the auxiliary power plant (oars). When we got to Wootton creek, sadly the beach had been ‘requisitioned’ and had become part of a swanky new house with equally swanky new signs, making it strikingly clear that we were unwelcome – not swanky enough?

Ged has rigged up an amazing sleeping arrangement on his lovely (dry) Storm 17, with boom tent and beautifully engineered sleeping boards, but the Comet Trio is not really set up for sleeping aboard, unless the boat can be beached and the water drained from the hull. Although there was space on the Victoria sailing club pontoons, we decided to beat up Wootton creek in search of a suitable landing site.

Sadly, or gladly depending on your point of view, we made it all the way to the Sloop Inn by the bridge at the top of the creek but without finding a suitable overnight location.

After 6 hours in the boats we, erhm, ‘re-hydrated’ and gulped down a delicious supper at the pub and enjoyed a quick run back down to the sailing club in a rather strange, late evening, fresh southerly – a katabatic wind off the Isle perhaps? The sailing club was quiet but very welcoming and there was space on the pontoon for both boats (£1.50 per meter for the night, facilities included). I’d say that we had a good nights’ sleep but Victoria Sailing club is cheek by jowl with the Ferry terminal to Portsmouth. I hadn’t realised that it runs every two hours throughout the night, and having been the Round the Island race, there were plenty of ‘well-oiled’ sailors enjoying a late-night excursion in both directions. The 5 am ferry however, was the perfect alarm clock so that we could make our intended launch time of 6 am, and again benefit from the west flowing tide to arrive in Lymington before the tide turned foul into the Harbour.


Sunrise over Wootton Creek


What a proper overnight camping boat looks like

Once out of Wootton creek and heading warily into the main channel, to avoid any possible wind shadow in Osborne bay, we were greeted by a very amiable F3 off the beam and were set for a very pleasant sail back. But this has been the summer of light airs to beat all others and after about an hour, and shortly past Cowes, the wind eased right off. In truth we got home through a combination of drifting (see left), rowing, paddling and with the occasional assistance from the slightest puff of wind. It was all very relaxing, convivial and chilled. Actually, not that chilled because as the morning wore on and the sun came up again, it soon heated up and by the time we made the slipway at Lymington, almost exactly 24 hours after setting out, it was getting decidedly warm. Once again, the carpark was crowded and we had an amusing hour or so observing various bouts of frayed tempers and carpark rage whilst de-rigging. The weekend was rounded off with a pint and a burger at the Mayflower, followed by another drink on the balcony of the Lymington Town Sailing club. All-in-all a fabulous couple of days.


Mirrored surface of the Solent

What did we learn?
· The amount of fun you have in a boat is inversely proportional to its length (but we probably all know that anyway)
· Stopping overnight somewhere adds a significant amount to the sense of adventure
· Stopping overnight somewhere next to a ferry terminal subtracts a significant amount to the hours slept
· Take ear plugs, like Ged did
· Youthful optimism and middle-aged wisdom are equally valid strategies when bedding down somewhere strange for the night