Ahh the Solent! Training ground of would-be Knox-Johnstons everywhere....and the destination for our first solo UK yacht charter.
Hamble Point Yacht Charter had caught our eye at the Boat Show earlier in January 09, so we'd booked ourselves onto a lovely Hallberg-Rassy 342 for a weekend in March. To add to the excitement, friends that we'd made through Marco's evening classes were going to be sailing as well and we arranged to meet them in Cowes on Saturday night (as one does). We were really looking forward to it.
For about five minutes
Paperwork carried out, inventory checked, we hopped, skipped and jumped onto our new home-for-the-weekend, started her up and Marco reversed merrily out of the pontoon. We ignored the salty old sea dog on the opposite pontoon who was jumping and pointing and he seemed to be calling out and waving at us. Clearly mad, we tried to ignore him until we reversed closer to him where we could hear the words "line", "water", "prop" (he probably said 'novice idiots' as well but we would have chosen to ignore him anyway)....quick as a snail, I shot over to the stern and rescued the trailing line, thus preventing an early disaster.
Once out into the shipping lanes of Southampton water, I proceeded to get a wee bit confused by all the markers and buoys although it all made sense when a large million ton cargo ship seemed to become rather larger than life behind us (astern Lorraine, astern....) and we moved across to generously let it through. We caught some wind and couldn't wait to hoist the sails. As I took the helm, Marco puzzled, scratched his head, chin, arse, whatever and came to the inevitable conclusion that this being a Hallberg Rassy, it therefore wasn't a Bavaria and he had no idea where to find the halyard. Cue lots of stress, frustration, shouting and conclusions that 'we' weren't cut out for this sort of thing. We then discovered the halyard lurking by the topping lift area (what a silly place to leave it), then had trouble finding the topping lift. We ended up taking out the genoa and 'sailing' over towards Cowes at 5knots which made us rather pleased with ourselves (but God only knows why).....
There was much smugness to be had at East Cowes as we successfully came alongside our designated pontoon at the first attempt. Having paid our dues for the night at the harbourmaster's office, we treated ourselves to a beer/wine for the economical sum of £2 each at the marina pub. Having chatted away to our neighbours, who found the topping lift over by the mast for us and introduced us to their boat cat, we decided that we would sail to The Folly Inn for dinner. As i say, we were smug and, having successfully moored up in daylight..hey, why not be REALLY smug and try it again in the dark?!
So we sailed off up the river Medina and moored alongside the pontoon right opposite the pub. This was the life! Having called a 'cab', we waited for half an hour for the river taxi chap to turn up and transport us over the water. We settled down for the evening on squashy sofas with a large glass of wine each and an order of fish and chips and ruddles beef pie to look forward to.
In my opinion, all this Greek sailing with no clouds, endless sun, diving off the back of the boat and Mythos on tap is all very well, but there is definitely a very big place in every sailors heart (well, ours at least) for a nippy March evening, roaring fire and a large fish and chips in a cosy(ish) pub anywhere in the UK after a day on the water.
We stayed until 9, then got taken back to the boat by the same water-taxi chap who had been 'waiting patiently' (read drinking the bar dry).
Ha ha, the idea of a nice easy mooring up sesh at night after a wine doesn't really work. It took 3 attempts!!
OK, so lessons learned from today......
1) Learn everything about your yacht before you take it out of the marina! Sounds obvious but not if you are slightly smug and think you know it all when you dont!
2) If you are a smug novice, revise sailing knowledge anyway just in case. Then you won't be surprised (read:caught out) in the middle of the Solent.
Ahhh....but of course, tomorrow would be different, and indeed it was!