Excalibur sails over Cowes week – Gosport – Yarmouth

The next morning we bid farewell to Pete and Kit, who headed off to Ryde for the ferry back to the mainland, leaving me and Dave to sail over to Gosport and pick Ollie up.

I was a bit anxious the next morning, wondering when everyone would be looking at me to cast off, as all 5 boats would have to wait for us and I hate rushing.

We watched a boat behind peel off with ease, and with the wind on the nose I expected to just let the bow line off first, and let the wind push me around and off we’d go. My theory didn’t account for the flood, and as soon as we cast off it was clear things weren’t going to plan. We started drifting into the boat in front, and fenders were popping out, gel coat against gel coat. I managed to get Excalibur rafted up again, and my neighbours were very understanding and helpful. We shoved as many fenders in between us as possible and took 5. No damage was done. Though the boat in front had a right face on, which was surprising as we were best buddies the night before, when they rafted up to us momentarily whilst waiting for some rafting commotion to die down.

Because the tide was coming in, as soon as we let go we’d be taken with it, so we needed a big run up to turn the boat around as we wanted to go back the other way. We waited for the boat in front to go, bid our neighbours farewell and gunned it, and dodged a small tender that appeared from nowhere. I tried to turn Excalibur round, as we slid sideways, tried a bit of prop wash, but my turning circle was huge, so much so we went outside the channel and promptly grounded.

I tried letting some genoa out to push us off to no avail. So for the next 10 minutes we watched everyone depart, including our neighbours. Not long after with a bit of revving and not wishing to clog up the raw water filter, we pushed through the mud and joined the busy Bembridge boat highway.

Well it’s a sailor’s right of passage to ground his boat, and I’m glad it’s out of the way (until the next time).

We spent the afternoon sailing around the forts, and any which way we liked, which was very pleasing. I’m normally on a schedule to get somewhere, so messing around on all points of sail was a new experience. We shared helming and all I can say is that Dave’s a natural at the helm. We eventually headed in to Haslar marina and made a beeline for Portsmouth for steak and cinema, where I fell asleep to Jason Bourne 20.

Throughouly knackered, we had an early night.

The next morning we fitted a new topping lift and main halyard, horah for mast steps! I’ve now got two blocks at the top of the mast on the same um shaft. I would be interested to hear what peoples thoughts are of that. Will they rub against each other and break? I can’t see where the main halyard used to go before.

Ollie came down and met us, no doubt ready to put his new sailing skills into practice, after his sailing trip from the BVI’s to Palma Majorca on Troskala.

We headed for lunch at the Castle Tavern and then slipped our lines for Yarmouth.

The Solent really wasn’t very busy, and we slipped past Cowes and on to Yarmouth with ease, sharing the helming all the way.

We didn’t have any issues rafting up in Yarmouth. I had heard they literally park your boat in ribs for you as the tide causes havoc there. But perhaps the conditions were more favourable that day and we rafted like a boss.

We went out that night, and knowing Ollie’s cheeky ways, we got pretty drunk and caused general mayhem. Ollie using a nearby blow torch to light a candle in a restaurant, and us clapping people and ourselves out of pubs, were the notable highlights (or lowlights depending on who you talk to )

The next day we had a very lazy morning. Thankfully none of the boats next to us were moving that day, so we lazed in the sun and watched boats and ferries coming and going.

Eventually by mid afternoon we decided it was time to leave.

I started the engine, and after a short while either an unusual sound or noise caught my attention. When I opened the engine bay I discovered the automatic fire extinguiser had fallen off and ruined the drive belt. Always handy having a budding mechanic around such as Ollie!

With the drive belt replaced, I asked the harbourmaster guy if he would push my bow around to face the other way as tide and wind would play havoc. Thinking that he had pushed me far enough around, I thanked him and had a momentary brown trouser moment as I realised I hadn’t been pushed far enough around, and had to gun the engine before the wind blew me back the other way, the result was Excalibur passing alarmingly close to the fuel pontoon opposite as we circled around. I looked back to see the harbourmaster’s shocked face, before looking forward and again steadying the boat. Think that’s the second or third time in a marina where I’ve had to commit to gunning the engine and praying I have enough of a turning circle. Failure in these circumstances isn’t an option as the result would be pretty f@cking awful, but not commiting would be a clusterf@ck of equal proportions.


Even though we left pretty late after our hangovers and drive belt fiasco, we had a fantastic jolly around the western part of the Solent. Dave took us towards Newtown River, then Ollie took us to the entrance of Lymington, doing his best to capsize Excalibur with all her sail up.

Author: Tim Butler

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