To the heart of Southampton via the Isle of Wight

We have had a watershed moment on Mariadz. For the last twelve years, we have played on the East Coast. Generally going back to the same places and our favourite haunts with the occasional diversion to find a new favourite. We know most of the anchorages on the east Coast, have been across the channel to Ramsgate and the north coast of Kent.

As of last Saturday, we left Eastbourne, where we were two years ago, and in future years that is the last time we will return to a marina or anchorage that we know. It’s all new from here. That is exciting and worrying in equal measure.

This was also the second half of our weekend getting to know Richard, who will be part of the crew for the Biscay trip. We had decided, well more precisely Maria had decided, that we would like to do the Biscay crossing with additional crew. One of the reasons for this was to give Maria and I time together. If it was just the two of us and we each slept for six to eight hours then we would only have eight to twelve hours a day when we were both awake since someone needs to be on watch at all times. Having people with us will make that easier, us less tired and make the whole thing more fun. Maria had gone onto crewseekers to find people and had been inundated with offers. It was a hard job to whittle down to two people and we are confident that we will have a crew that will get on and complement each other.

Leaving early means that you are in a lock with a lot of fishing boats, something we prefer to do at the end of the day when they are laden down with a catch where we may be able to negotiate a purchase, however, we meet nice people wherever we go and Simon, who runs one of the fishing boats, was really interesting and friendly. A nice start to the day.

We left Eastbourne after a much shorter stay than last time, not even twelve hours but enough time for us all to get some rest. It has also given time for Clyde to do a runner with me only finding him wandering around a nearby housing estate, clearly lost and happy to see me when he heard the call. He trotted back to the boat with me but Richard, who had also been searching, walked a few metres behind us in case Clyde changed his mind.

In the morning, we come out of the lock and follow the fishing boats through the channel a little while after low tide. We don’t want to be dredging a new channel again even though it is mud and not too damaging. We are all good with no frights and we can then head south to beachy head ready for the turn west towards Selsey Bill and then Southampton.

Unfortunately, there is hardly any wind and the easterly means that it will be right behind us again for our journey and not enough to power the sails. Poor Richard has missed out on Mariadz scything through the water with no noise but there will be other opportunities.

During the entire journey we are able to get the sails up for a short period, when the wind picks up, which helps our speed as we are motorsailing but at least Mariadz has shown herself in all her glory.

I felt I had hogged the autopilot remote the previous day because I was worried something would go wrong on our first long trip since the complete overhaul. So today, I am keen to share the load and Richard takes control of Mariadz for the journey. Our timing after negotiating beachy head is perfect with a tide pushing us along. We also wave at where we think our old anchor is that we had lost a few years ago.

These are familiar waters for Richard and we have only sailed these a few times and local knowledge is really useful. Rather than heading into Southampton, we agree to anchor on the North side of the Isle of Wight since there is no wind and we should be able to expect a pleasant night. We anchor just outside the water ski area at Wootton Rocks away from the ferries. If we are honest, the wash from passing traffic made this slightly uncomfortable but at least we were rocked gently to sleep. The anchor alarm is on and we have enough chain down so there shouldn’t be any problems.

We all sleep well despite the occasional rolling of the boat and the next morning sees us up on a very still day for the few short miles to Southampton Town Quay.

The route into Southampton is well understood which combined with our dislike of shallow water on a falling tide means we take the safe route in. With a number of boats going the same way, it is easy to follow the route anyway but you have to keep your wits about you as they approach from all angles. When there is no wind and smooth seas, this is exacerbated. These are the conditions the fast motorboats love and even when Mariadz is hammering along at eight knots, these guys are approaching at 20 to 30 knots. The boats are one thing to avoid but the wash from these is quite extreme and so we are rolling again! As you proceed up Southampton water, you pass the river hamble where most of these motorboats seem to live and suddenly it is all a lot easier and less stressful. The last few miles up to Southampton are actually quite pleasant and as we pass the ferry terminal where titanic departed, we can see town quay.

We have agreed to come in to the marina and come astern onto the inner part of the outside pontoon. As usual maria is nervous but pulls off the operation perfectly with Richard and I nonchalantly stepping off the boat and strolling down the pontoon as Marina brings her a way back towards the office end.

That is the end of our introductory weekend with Richard which has been very successful. Now for a week in Southampton when we need to get the engine through its first service and also get the watermaker finally working as it should.

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