Latest News: Forums Cruising Isle of Wight Circumnavigation – Thanks to all

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  • #4302

    After two past years of having to settle for plan B, at last the weather played into our hands for a fabulous rounding of the Island. Thanks to John Norman, Jenny Jeffs and all the safety team and helpers who’s downright dogged persistence helped us to realise an ambition.

    Hope it’s not too self indulgent to describe the day.

    It began with a sublime sunny early morning slide with the tide down to the Needles – virtually in one tack. Ahead of our schedule, we pushed into the tide with spinnakers towards St Catherine’s lighthouse. The fleet spread across Compton Bay. Then a cheery radio check in with the safety crew (also a cheery wave from the cliffs). Pretty flat through the overfalls as the wind rose to a 4 then maybe a low 5 after the second lumpier overfalls off Dunnose. At least 10 miles of surging surfing conditions across the south eastern bays, at times 9 knots over the ground. Reefs going in as we anticipated more wind. Cumulous had been building over the Island and we noticed dark showers over the mainland as we hove to in a lumpy sea near Bembridge Ledge East Cardinal. There followed a hammering 13 miles or so of beat in increasing wind up the eastern Solent rising to a solid six, somewhat above the forecast. As the Solent opened up with about 6 miles to go the fetch increased as did the heaving Solent chop and we all paid our dues, having to power through lumps of green stuff and spray, again with the tide against most of the way as we had zipped round so promptly. I looked westwards over my shoulder to see two other boats just to windward with the sun behind, reefed and well in control in a big chop. I was proud to own one of those boats and suddenly a little amazed to be doing the same thing. The gradual release from concentration on reaching flatter waters behind Calshot Spit eased over us. We held on before making that last tack across the shipping channel to find John Norman having just finished the sail, standing in the water catching boats. He and Jenny were counting back the flock. Nuff said.

    60nm in 11 hours. Can’t wait to get the boat back in the water.

    David and Pete (Barker)


    will done John and Jenny this event brought back a lot of good memories of passed events and it was great to do it again
    steve & julie
    W10585 PLUM CRAZY


    Thank you too from Rob Golding and myself (sailing Rob’s boat Scallywag), I am sorry that we were not at Calshot to thank everyone personally.

    What a fantastic passage! It was all a bit too easy to start, with a gentle sail to the Needles and nothing to worry about apart from clearing weed from the centreboard. We rounded the lighthouse closeby (50m), between the wreck of the Varvassi and the steps and then hoisted the spinnaker and kept cose inshore to keep out of the still ebbing tide and to gain the first of the new flood further on towards St Cats. We were perhaps too far inshore at times as we now know what Brook and Atherfield ledges look like at close quarters. However we enjoyed sightseeing and birdwatching as we sailed along. There was a very cheery welcome on the radio as we sailed past St Cats lighthouse, where we hoisted again for the log run with the tide to our destination of Chichester Harbour. This was bliss, but it did not last for too long as the wind notched-up, we decided that it would be prudent to drop the kite. The next 2.5 hours were a fairly hairy run, gybing and tacking downwind, surfing and eventually planing through the harbour entrance at speed. Highest speed recorded on the GPS was nearly 11 knots over ground, but that was with tide assistance. We were back on the beach at HISC at 1530h.

    We were sorry not to have joined you all for the last leg as we had already bashed our way up the Solent on Friday. How many made it around? I hope that everyone who attempted to arrived safely and without damage. I certainly slept well on Saturday night!

    John Hartley

    Many thanks again to Jenny, John and all the other helpers.

    Dave Bevan

    Congratulations to all who took part! This event is on my to-do list, but I think it’ll be a while yet!


    Hi John H of HISC,
    I’m not sure John N or Jenny regularly visit the forum so just to let you know all 16 made it back to their intended destinations. One went back to Beaulieu and I think one to Hillhead. 5 of us turned up at the slip more or less simultaneously converging on Calshot from slightly different angles after 60 nm and all that planing, reefing etc. We heard you guys on the radio checking out for the return to Chichester and envied the extra blast downwind, but we had to emulate your Friday efforts. Still great fun despite the sore thighs!


    Hi John of HISC (again) – regarding damage, nothing that had a serious effect but one boat (senior moment, name’s gone, somebody will know) broke a shroud plate on the tension side, they rounded up quickly as the mast flopped away from them, somehow it survived, and they lashed the shroud to the jib fairlead and continued to Calshot. No prizes for first place, but those guys deservedly got an outstanding seamanship award.


    Hello All
    Geoff here, from Kittiwake. ’twas us what broke the shroud plate, having rounded Bembridge in a good F5, one reef in the main and jib up for the genoa, and flying, Chris on the helm. I felt rather than saw it go. As we suddenly lurched to windward, I looked up to see the mast flexing sickeningly downwind, fortunately spilling most of the wind. As Chris rounded up, I dropped the main, leaving us under the jib alone. The shroud plate had snapped at deck level. As Chris controlled the boat, I lashed the shroud through the forward jib fairlead, relieving the strain on the mast and giving us some time to think, and take stock.

    We were sailing, but with a significantly weakened port stay. The sail back to Calshot would be almost entirely on Port, with forecast breeze freshening to F4/5 gusting 6.
    We would not be able to beat to windward under a jib alone, and it would be difficult to control the power of the sail. We did not know how much load the fairlead would take. Even though it was bolted through, I could see the deck flexing under the load of the jib, nowhere near as strong as the shroud plate, which was glassed into the hull. We know we could not risk another failure and risk of dismasting, as the wind picked up, as it was forecast to do.

    After a some reflection, we decided we would do better under a heavily reefed main and no foresail, as we would have greater control and we would be able to make way to windward, albeit slow.

    We took a second slab reef in the main, and then took two further rolls around the boom to further reduced the sail area, rolling in a strop for the kicking strap at the same time. I was really worried about overloading the fairlead.

    When the reefing was complete, we headed to wind, carefully raised the main and lowered the jib. Sailing became much more comfortable immediately, and the helm was able to control the load on the shroud by slackening off the main sheet.

    We made reasonable, if slow progress towards No Mans Land Fort.

    With the sails now set for our return, I revisited the temporary lashing for the shroud. I felt the aft fairlead mounted on the side deck, aft of the shroud plate looked a lot stronger so decided to transfer the lashing to this than the front fairlead. Chris spilled the wind, reducing the power in the sail, and I re-fixed the lashing.

    This gave the a much better angle for the shroud – further aft and further outboard, providing greater leverage and reducing the load. With this in place, the rig looked much more stable and felt comfortable. We are also able to guage the tension in the shroud and spill wind during the gusts.

    By this time we were approaching No Mans Land Fort, having made covered the distance is reasonably good time despite all the activity – huge credit to Chris on the helm for keeping us upright and course.

    Now we were stable, and sailing again, we reviewed our options, which boiled down to:

    1. Retire
    2. Continue.

    Now we were over the initial emergency, we saw no need to retire. We were sailing comfortably, and within the limits of our jury rig. We were in control and able to control the amount of power in the sail. We were able to maintain our heading. We knew the breeze was freshening.

    We decided there was no immediate need to retire, but noted that could aim for Chichester (down wind), Portsmouth, or Ryde Sands (nearest). None of these held very much appeal, nor seemed necessary at that moment.

    As we reached NMLF (1600), passing between the fort and Ryde Sands, we headed up to wind, to aim for Fawley tower, visible in the distance.

    Close hauled, and with a stiffening breeze, short chop, adverse current until 1800 and much reduced sail, we found we were making little progress. The waves stopped us dead, and we had insufficient power in our rig to punch through or maintain any sort of momentum. We did not want to bear away as this would take us into the shipping lanes, and we had insufficient speed to get out the way if required.

    We again re-evaluated, and considered out options.

    Our problem was the rate of progress. The boat was seaworthy, and we were not in any immiment danger. However at our rate of progress it would be many hours before we reached Calshott – we would probably have to wait for the tidal stream to change at 1800 before making any significant progress. This would put us in danger of cold and fatigue. The conditions were horrible, short steep choppy seas, stopping the boat whenever we got any sort of momentum going, plus a stiffening breeze and stronger gusts putting more demands on our jury rig.

    At this point we decided that safety was paramount, and decided to motor sail, using the outboard to provide the additional power we needed to punch through the waves, that we were lacking in our reduced rig.

    My blessed outboard started on the second pull, and once warmed up, slipped her into gear. Initially we over egged the throttle, and got soaked as Kittiwake surged forward into the waves. After some experimentation, we found just the right speed, little more than tick over, that gave us just the extra push needed to maintain our way through the waves.

    The sail and the motor working together gave us a reasonable boat speed through the water, with the sail providing a decent chunk of power and stability and the motor helping maintain momentum. I think proceeding under motor alone would have been untenable as the boat would have been bouncing all over the place, we would have been (more) soaked, and I think the motor would have struggled to make decent way.

    With the motor and the sail working together we decided would could make Calshott, and there was no need to retire. We also decided there was no need to raise the alarm as we were making good progress.

    We decided to inform Wayfarer Safety of our situation at our next check point, which would be as we passed Portsmouth. We reported that we had broken a shroud, that we had jury rigged it to the jib fairlead, and that we were proceeding under a much reduced main and outboard to Calshot. It was hugely comforting to hear a cheery voice on the other end of the line – thank you Wayfarer Safety.

    From NMLF we headed for Fawley Tower, tacking to keep south of the shipping lane, as a succession of liners and container ships left Southampton.

    After all the excitement, we resumed our one hour on, one hour off regime on the helm, and I took over from Chris around 1700, who had been on the helm since about 1500, just before it all kicked off. Time started to pass very slowly, our progress was wet and slow, slamming into the short seas. We tried to bearing away to ease the slamming and give some more speed, which worked but took us into the shipping lanes, so ended up tacking back periodically.

    Cold was now the problem. We donned extra layers, hats and wetsuit gloves to replace of fingerless sailing gloves, taking it turns to warm up on the helm, with the long suffering crew taking all the weather. We were shipping plenty of water over the bow, but our newly fitted pump worked beautifully, keeping the bilges clear.

    We carried on like this beating down the solent, tacking to keep us out of the shipping lane, refuelling the outboard once, which was interesting.

    The weather seemed to be detiorating, breeze stiffening, and chop increasing, the earlier sun had long gone.

    Crossing the shipping lane outside Calshot was particularly vile, with steep seas, the crests blowing off into the boat. Incredibly wet, but Kittiwake rode them beautifully. She felt solid and safe beneath us, and once we let a couple of ships pass, we able to approach the slip. I turned off the outboard as we approached, and we just managed the beat up to the slipway, landing at 1900, almost exactly 12 hours after our departure, wet, knackered, a bit chilly, but elated.

    The cause of the breakage was metal fatigue. The shroud plates were the originals as far I could tell, glassed in when the boat was made. The fracture surface showed clear signs of fatigue. I would strongly recommend anyone with an older boat gives serious attention to having these fitting replaced. A metal fatigue gives no forewaring, and is sudden and catastrophic, as the work hardened metal suddenly turns brittle and snaps. We were simply lucky to have avoided a total dismasting.

    Thanks so much to John and Jenny for organising such a marvellous event, and for all those who took part. A truly remarkable experience. We are all all set to go again – wouldn’t miss it for the world.

    Geoff Lewis / Chris Newman
    Kittiwake 6536

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