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Old 03-29-2008
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Spring Break 2008-- English Channel and Solent Sailing

My family and I had the last 9 days off for spring break, so it was time to do some sailing with Southern Rival, our Rival 34.

Part I of III--- The passage from Brighton to Gosport




For many reasons, we decided to move our boat from Brighton to Gosport for next year, and we wanted to do this before the end of March. Our plan was to do it last Thursday or Friday, but the weather was terrible-- F7-9 winds, rough seas, and rain.

Secondly, the passage was about 45 miles long, and involved going about 5 miles offshore into the English Channel to avoid the shallows off of Selsey Bill. There is a closer passage at the Looe Channel, but we were warned not to go there if it was rough because it is quite narrow. It also appeared that we wanted to do the passage in one shot, which meant about nine hours if we motored straight through, meaning we had to time the tides and currents and hit the “hours of light” correct to avoid a night entrance to Portsmouth/Gosport.

To top it off, about half of the family had got partially seasick even on the test sail and first sail out of Brighton on “smooth” seas with one meter swells, so we wondered what a nine hour passage might mean. We considered hiring a captain or sailing instructor for the passage, but talking with our RYA instructors we felt we had enough experience and planning abilities to do the trip.

So, we waited four days for a weather window. Finally, both Monday and Tuesday were forecast for F3-F4 NW winds (our direction, of course) and smooth seas. This was just after a very rough weekend with snow and sleet. The temperature forecast was for a high of 5-7 degrees Celsius, and a -2 low, before wind chill.

Close enough, we thought, thinking we could easily U turn back to Brighton if need be and wait another 1-3 weeks if need be. During the four day wait, we had plotted the course on a new and corrected paper chart, including tidal vectors for Monday, and plotted the way points for the course into our Garmin 276c chart plotter.

On Monday morning, we filled the 70 liter diesel tank and took off in partly sunny conditions, low wind and smooth seas. We all took Stugeron. We left around 9:30 am, with opposing currents for about 2 hours, followed by slack, followed by about five hours of favorable currents and then slack around our arrival at Portsmouth/Gosport.

As we motored offshore, the swell increased to about a meter, and then more, and the wind picked up from the NW, so we were plowing through swells, wind and current. By a third of the way, two of the family were “down” with mal de mer, but my nine year old daughter was with me and in excellent spirits, so we ran the show for the hardest parts of the trip together. At the farthest point off shore, we had gusts to 25 knots, swells to five feet, and the boat was rising and dropping with enough force to make the cabin sole panels bounce.



It was also just above freezing, and I was getting soaked with water over the rail. Other than my hands, I felt warm on the whole trip, but I was laughed at later for having dried salt deposits under one eye and my nostrils...

As we passed Selsey Bill and headed back toward shore we entered the Solent and things calmed down greatly. The Solent is protected from the channel by the Isle of Wight, and typically the sea conditions are F-2 compared to the channel (a F7 on the channel creates a sea state of F5 in the Solent, even if the wind is just as strong.)



My wife revived and joined the fun in the cockpit, and even my son came out to watch the historic forts go by as we passed the Nab channel and lined up for the small boat entrance into Portsmouth. Of course, it would be too easy just to motor in-- in the last 2 hours of the trip we got hit by two squalls out of Portsmouth. One hid the port entirely, and both carried winds to 28 knots and pelting rain. In the middle of the first, there was a distress call from a boat that had capsized in the mouth of Langstone Harbour, but we were too far away to give assistance to the people in the water. (Must have been very cold for them, but I believe all were picked up by other boats.)

We had a very triumphant and easy landing in a slip at Haslar's Marina, and our total passage time was nine hours as planned. We had 40 minutes of light left, and the currents had pushed us at over seven knots for much of the second half of the passage. We were starving, and had fish and chips down on the Gosport waterfront. Southern Rival had performed wonderfully, and none of the crew were scared during the trip.



In the back of my mind, I was thinking that having a heavier boat wasn't a bad idea in conditions like these. Our previous boat, a C&C 27 (Trapper 500), could have made the trip, but it would have been much bouncier and I would have been worried about the Atomic four engine handling the roughness of the passage.

See next post for part two. A full photo gallery is at

Spring Break 2008
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Jim H
London, UK

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Aurora, a mighty Cal 20 (Portland, OR)
Southern Rival, a seasoned Rival 34 (Gosport, UK)

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Last edited by Jim H; 03-30-2008 at 03:00 AM.
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