Three months later, and I'm pleased to report that Limbo has actually done some sailing; but not nearly enough!
The season started with two day trips, both in the sun, the second in a perfect force 4 to 5 reach across the Solent and back. A week off early this month gave the chance for a slightly longer trip. Delayed by a bank holiday weekend of decidedly unpleasant weather, we got away to the Beaulieu River on the Tuesday afternoon. We were quite happy to stay on the boat and just sit and enjoy the sun (there's something about being afloat which seems conducive to just sitting – that doesn't seem to happen much on land). Limbo was spotted by a couple whose boat was rafted alongside us in Weymouth last year, and we joined them and their friends for drinks. I love the fact that cruising, even in the Solent, can give rise to an instant connection with people you'd never otherwise meet.
Wednesday was surprisingly breezy by mid-afternoon. We'd enjoyed the usual river walk into Beaulieu village (done countless times, but always worth doing) and were feeling lazy. I was prevaricating about whether to go or not – our neighbours were mostly staying put, and it's a lovely spot – but I wanted to get down to Chichester harbour, which I hadn't visited for years. The wind was in the West, and gusting a good five, so we just got the genoa out for the minimum of fuss.
Somewhere East of Cowes the wind started to die, and with a few miles to go disappeared completely, so I reluctantly started the engine. Not a hard decision when you're down to two knots. Chichester West Pole and the bar beacon looked quite different from the photos in the pilot book, but it was all pretty straight forward. Just inside the entrance we saw a couple of International Moths practising - amazingly fast dinghies which lift entirely out of the water on a hydrofoil keel. I wouldn't mind having a go..
A couple of lazy, hot days followed. Moored at Itchenor, we enjoyed a spectacular sunset over the harbour, another walk and a good seafood lunch in the Ship Inn before motoring round to East Head beach. I think I'm happiest when anchored off a beach. The wind was forecast to go round to the NE, not the best direction for that anchorage, but we decided to stay, as did several others. Towards dusk the wind dropped completely, and quiet seemed to descend as the sun set.
The quiet didn't last; I woke early to what I had thought was the noise of the inflatable rubbing against the hull, but turned out to be the keel rubbing against the sand. Inshore of us, two larger boats were firmly beached at a steep angle; we had anchored in plenty of water, but the change of wind had pushed us into a shallower patch. We got off easily enough (I'm always reassured by the robustness of a long keel at such times) and re-anchored for a bleary-eyed breakfast. The tides served for a departure at nine o'clock or so, and once the dinghy was deflated and secured to the coachroof we were off. It was a windy day, gusting about force 6, and I put two reefs in the main once we were out of the channel.
And so we enjoyed that rarest of cruises: the wind with us in both directions, and plenty of sun. How rare, too, for it to be warm enough for shorts and windy at the same time! Limbo barrelled along at 5 to 6 knots and we made the entrance to Southampton Water in three hours. We even had a good sail all the way up to the Itchen, which never seems to happen.
Just two weeks later, it all seems rather a long time ago. Gales and rain forecast this weekend; it must be almost time for Wimbledon...