Report on EYH/ECA Cruise by Neil Fuller (Koto C28 & Commodore ECA)
4-6 May in Bembridge
Just before the rally a keen eye was kept on the weather as conditions looked a bit changeable and the forecast varied from day to day. On the day the forecast was for 15-23 knot winds so it would be one reef in the main for Koto. As it was from more or less between N and NNE it would be off the starboard quarter on the way to Bembridge so maybe just a headsail would do.
Paul in Gemini was first to leave at about 10:15, just creeping over the sill. Koto was next at 10:30 and was quickly followed by a small fleet. We motor-sailed out of the harbour as far as Bar Beacon with just the headsail up as the wind was not quite strong enough at this time to keep up a decent speed against the flood. Once set on course for Bembridge however the wind strength steadily increased, and we were soon flying along. We registered one gust of about 35kn when our speed went up to 7.2 knots STW, but the wind generally hovered around 20-25kn. The sea was relatively flat until we closed in on Bembridge where it became a bit confused, with the odd crest breaking against the side.
Once in the harbour we came upon what is best described as a traffic jam, with about 10 boats milling about trying to get docked. Gordon was doing his best sergeant major impressions over the radio trying to keep order and get us in according to the docking plan. Having a strong wind blowing directly across the pontoons was not making life easy for anyone. After about 20 minutes of somewhat frustrating pootling up and down the channel it was finally our turn. We had to get into a space the same length as Koto with rafts of 3 boats either side and directly into the wind. A first attempt bow first got us nowhere as the bow blew off too quickly to do anything with the ropes so the next attempt was stern first. This sort of worked as I could at least hold Koto onto the pontoon with the engine whilst ropes were sorted and eventually tied off. As soon as we were in Georgina, Espray, and Clara all rafted on in short order. Shore lines were taken from Georgina and Espray as I had visions of my deck cleats going walkabout. Much knitting was involved as bridles had to be made up to stop ropes rubbing on various bows and sterns.
Winkle, Mudlark, Tringa II, and Gemini had a very similar experience. Some other boats on the rally, such as Jamaroo IV, had seen the weather and decided to come over the day before, which was probably a good move as the pontoons were empty then. There were some 134 boats booked into Bembridge so it was packed. I heard boats being turned away over the radio. We unfortunately lost Grenadine and Jarretts due to water issues and discretion respectively. After all that excitement a quiet cup of tea and rest was required. This was taken with members Suzy and Mark on their new boat Cassini. Mark and Suzy were not officially on the rally but in Bembridge anyway.
We were booked into Brading Haven Yacht Club for an evening meal so at around 18:00 I did the rounds to collect everyone for a walk around the causeway. It was a fairly pleasant evening so the walk was nice and worked up the appetite. We were met by the BHYC Vice-Commodore who welcomed us to the club. Whilst drinks were taken I sorted out with Emily and Chris (restaurant manager and chef) who was now eating and what. There had been several changes in the last few days before the rally so it needed a confirmatory check. Emily and Chris did us proud and we had a smashing meal. This introduced three new member couples who have joined us this year to the social side of the ECA/EYH, Lyn and Leslie (Clara), Phil and Sandy (French Girl), and Barry and Linda (Tilley May). After a great evening some of us took the water taxi back whilst the rest of us walked back via the causeway in the dark. We wondered why there were lots of green glowsticks on the route but then realised there were a number of runners with powerful head torches on coming our way. The causeway was part of the IoW Challenge where people run around the 106km coastal path. Better them than me!
Sunday dawned cold but bright and not too windy. Once again I collected those who were going on the planned walk across Brading Marshes, with a detour lunchtime stop at The Auctioneer at Brading. We set off from the harbour office at about 10:15. I had allowed lots of time to get to the lunch stop based on last year’s walk, when getting everyone to the restaurant on time proved tricky. As it was I had allowed far too much time, even allowing for avoiding bicycles from the Ride the Wight event, and losing some of us at a car boot sale in St Helens. After a lovely walk across the marsh we took Emma at The Auctioneer by surprise, arriving at 11:30, an hour before she was expecting us. Rising to the challenge, Emma gave us copious amounts of tea and coffee, and even some canapés whilst she and the staff got the meal ready. It was very pleasant lounging in the environs of The Auctioneer, which dates back to the 12th Century. Lorna and John joined us for the meal as they had come over on the ferry with car that morning. The meal itself was fantastic. It was supposedly a three course tasting menu, but by the end of it most of us were completely stuffed. We didn’t get back on the walk until 15:00. Again, it was a lovely walk across the marsh and then up across by the aerodrome and to the windmill. From there, it was a walk down the Bembridge trail to the beach to get the water taxi back to the pontoons. The rally had by now been swelled by another 3 boats as we had been joined by Bob, Kyra and Mary Morrison, who had come over during the day to join in the evening BBQ.
Not long after getting back from the walk it was time for the BBQ on the harbour wall. This was hosted by EYH, with wine and nibbles laid on. The BBQ was soon up to temperature and a wide variety of items were soon cooking. The evening was quite cool, so it was a case of standing by the BBQ or sitting inside the marquee. With the extra boats we really had a marquee full, I counted at least 30, such a good turnout.
Monday was return home day for most of us. The day started off cool but bright again. This time the wind was from the SW and blowing about 8-10 knots. Boats started leaving at about 10:00. Koto got out at about 10:30 after the boats outside had gone. Leaving was a lot less fraught than arriving and it was not too much of a procession going out. Once out beyond the buoys the main went up and the full genoa came out. It was not quite a dead run but close. I sailed just off to keep the genoa filled and on the last bit before the bar beacon we were goose-winged. The wind did pick up slightly so we made reasonable progress at 4 knots.
I think it was a fantastic weekend. Apart from the wind at the start the weather was pretty good, if somewhat cool during the nights. It was a great turnout with 16 ECA/EYH boats being present on the Sunday. My thanks Lorna and EYH for supporting the rally and my thanks to all who came for making it such a great time.
Boat Roll Call:
Koto, Georgina, Gemini, Jamaroo IV, Mudlark, Winkle, Tringa II, Espray, Clara, Mad Moment, Mary Morrison, French Girl, Tilly May, Kyra, Bob, Cassini.