Here is a report of our second sail in Poole Harbour during the first week of May 2003.
I had another great two days on Poole harbour earlier this week. (Have a look at the Poole Harbour Commisioners site for information and maps of Poole). I again launched at the Ridge Wharf Boatyard on the River Frome. At just after midday I set off sculling out of the boatyard and down the river. The river was quiet, so once clear of the boatyard (and all those watching eyes) I hoist the sail about half way. The wind was forecast to be SW F3-4 but in the river with its reed banks it is much less than that. We glide gently down river, gybing round each meander with little fuss. Once out of the shelter of the river the sail was hauled to the top of the mast and it feels like we are flying. The GPS says we are doing 4.7m/h (4.1kn) the Dutchman's Log makes it just over 3kn. They could both be right as we are going with the tide.
We reach Brownsea island in less than an hour and go round the south side, through Blood Alley to the beach below South Haven Point. The wind is from the SW and the tide is rising so I drop the anchor in the shallows and leave LJ nudging against the shore while I go over the point and look at the ocean. With the wind from this direction the sea is flat and I make the decision to venture out in the morning.
It takes me a few minutes to work out the best way of getting going again and I decide that next time I shall bring another anchor so that I can drop it further out and use it to haul off. However a friendly holiday-maker (Who had spoken to me when I landed and been complimentary about LJ) helped push the bow round and we were off, sailing close hauled, to Green Island. The wind has increased somewhat, and we have a steady angle of heel of 30 degrees. While this did not feel dangerous I decided on discretion and reefed to half the sail. (Note to self: must do that capsize test!). (See Trip 4, when we did it!)
We anchor off the NE side of Green Island and I have some tea while watching the birds and, for about ten minutes, a deer that came out of the woods at the waters edge. We settle onto the mud at about 6:30 so I reckon that if I am up by 6:30 in the morning I should have half an hour to get the anchor up. I settle down for the evening surrounded by wading birds feeding in the mud.
Next morning I woke up at 5:30 and looked at my watch: "another hour till I have to get up" I thought. But then I heard the bottom scraping on the mud; I had forgotten the Poole has very odd tides. Not only a double high water but also different heights in morning and evening. I leapt up, hauled in the anchor and using the yuloh pushed us towards deeper water. I suppose, technically, we were aground, but with the flat bottom we slid over the mud and eventually found enough water to float free. Half an hour later I was eating breakfast, everything had been tidied up and put away and we were drifting with the current towards the harbour entrance.
By a quarter to seven the sail was up and we were making good progress with a following wind and tide through the harbour entrance. There was no need to worry about the chain ferry as it doesn't start until 7:00. Finally I was through, past shell bay and into the open sea.
Poole has a training wall along one side of the approach to keep the sand from Studland bay out of the channel. We rounded the light at the end of the wall and headed for Old Harry, the limestone stacks off Handfast Point to the south. I peek round the point at Swanage and then follow the bay back round past Studland village and out to the end of the training wall again.
As all seems to be under control I decide on a speed trial and set off for Bournemouth Pier to the NW, a distance of precisely 4 miles (on the GPS). We are fairly close hauled, and the wind is about F3. The journey takes 52 minutes giving 4.6m/h or 4.0kn. The return journey takes one hour giving 4m/h or 3.5kn - an average of 3.7kn over the 8 miles: and I must say, a very comfortable 8 miles.
It is now half past ten and I make my mistake for the day. I decide to go back into Studland Bay in search of an ice cream. I fail in my quest, and when I eventually get into the Swash Channel I find that the wind has swung round and is now dead on the nose. As I approach the entrance the wind becomes fluky, and I find that the tide is now against me as well. It is only running at about 1kn, not the 4-6kn that it can reach, but it still isn't helping, and there is thechain ferry to avoid now as well.
By about 1:30 we are finally clear of the entrance and are starting the beat through the islands and up the full length of the harbour. I elected to go up the south side of Brownsea Island, and this may have been a mistake. However, by 4:00 we were clear of the islands and passing the ferry terminal. The tide was now in our favour but even so I couldn't see me being home for tea (as I had told my wife I would be) so I phoned home and told them the situation.
As we passed Rockley Point (with the sailing school out in force as usual) I found we could just hold the course up the Wareham Channel. Then suddenly we couldn't hold the course any more, the tide had turned again. Half a dozen long tacks later we entered the river, the tide increased in strength and the wind dropped. I gave in to the inevitable and anchored till the tide turned again, cooking up some tea and watching a pair of swans building what I suppose was a nest, but might have been a castle.
A couple of hours later the tide is noticeably less, so I up anchor and scull the last half mile to the boatyard, arriving as dusk is falling. I quickly get LJ onto the trailer, but by the time we are ready to roll it is fully dark. The journey home is uneventful And I finally arrive only five and a half hours late.
One thing that is very noticeable is the interest in LJ. Everywhere I take it people will come up to me wanting to know what sort of boat it is, who the designer is and where they can find more information. Perhaps I should get some little cards printed with all the information so I can hand them out.
This trip stood out as being educational. I certainly learnt to pay more attention to tides and wind shift which, in my motor boat, were just a minor irritant. But I also ended up with a great feeling of satisfaction that I had managed to get home despite the difficulties. Most of all it was great fun!