Other PicoMicroYacht

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Exiting the Western Solent

PicoMicroYacht was to exit the Western Solent on the South Coast on a spring tide and cross Christchurch bay to Christchurch harbour. The tide through the exit is somewhat treacherous as it squeezes out through a narrow gap between the Isle of Wight and the mainland Hurst Spit.

According to Peter Bruce in his book 'Solent Hazards' (5th Edition), 'The constriction of the tide flow caused by Hurst Spit creates very strong tidal streams, circular areas of flat sea caused by up welling water and unusually spiky waves'

The strategy is to turn to starboard through the North Channel to avoid being swept out past the famous landmark the Needles and risk being destroyed by large and steep breaking seas.

But if you make a mistake the tide will get you in it's grip and push you south west across the infamous Shingles Bank where, as Peter Bruce has put it, 'Even if the slightest swell is running, ugly waves can appear as if from nowhere to capsize even quite sizable vessels.'

With this in mind I set off from Keyhaven, the first part of the voyage exiting the sheltered harbour close to Hurst Point.  Soon I was opposite the lighthouse with the Hurst Castle to my left, the sea revving up.

The next stage was to hug the Hurst Spit around the castle, but first I had to get through some rough water as the tide bore down on the spit, the waves refracting off it in a commotion. Photography was difficult as I had to concentrate.

But soon I was through the worst and heading into the Hurst Narrows.

I now had to stick close to the Hurst Castle but also avoid hitting the groynes or a sandbar called 'the Trap' that stuck out into the channel, the tide sizzling past.

I could see what I had avoided and was glad now to be rowing safely onward  as I looked back at the turmoil through the camera zoom.

Out to sea was the Needles, across the hidden Shingles banks.

The sea calmed down and a friendly gaffer passed by under motor, stemming the tide.

Soon I had crossed Christchurch bay helped by a north easterly wind that started when PicoMicroYacht was half way across. When PicoMicroYacht arrived at the harbour entrance the tide was still streaming out, so it was beached on a sandbank for a while.

Various boats and canoes would exit the harbour but with the tide too strong for them to re-enter and this kept me interested until it was time to finish the voyage.

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