I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In....
Published 18:51 on 8 Dec 2023
A report of the 2023 Christmas Rally by three different boats with three different stories to tell:
Coh Karek: We awoke on the 2nd December to a complete white-out as fog concealed even the closest buildings. Looking from West Cowes, not only was East Cowes invisible, so were the pontoons on this side of the river. We had seen Coric on Friday as they sailed past Cowes to the Beaulieu River, cheekily asking if they were "twerly" for the rally. "No one's coming out in this" we agreed. Perhaps it might clear by the afternoon.
Muscadet de Havelet: So the Christmas rally weekend started for Muscadet with mince pies and mulled wine as we prepared for the voyage to Cowes, we were 4 on board with another 2 going via Red Funnel. We had received intel from Tim Devlin in Cowes that it was foggy there and as we left Haslar at 1pm the fog was closing in here too. As we left the marina, something seemed to be missing oh yes thats it, Portsmouth and the Spinnaker Tower - both invisible!
Constella: As the fog appeared to be lifting the crew headed out from Hamble. The fact that the Royal Southern Marina was not visible as they motored past was mentioned but as the cargo included the mulled wine and mince pies the pressure was on. It was all looking good, the sun was smiling and the watch tower of Calshot was appearing. Just as Hook was approaching a wave of fog came in and the crew could no longer see the bow nor Hook. Considering the precious cargo of not only wine but children the journey took an exciting turn.
Muscadet de Havelet: As we left the harbour conditions worsened steadily and by the time we were half way to Gilkicker, visibility was c 100m and the temperature below zero. The trip became a lesson in navigating by our (very small!) AIS screen and our chart plotter, seeking to avoid the shipping channels for as long as possible and maintaining a keen watch on deck. This we did, though in truth, we encountered no vessels of any size actually moving at all.
The classically elegant lines of a car-carrier came into view near North Ryde Middle which AIS said wasnt moving but Mark 1 eyeball was convinced it was as it appeared and disappeared in and out of the fog. It wasnt moving as it turned out, having anchored at the side of the channel but it was nervy. Numerous small fishing boats were out, sans AIS transmitters, which provided some extra practice for our lookouts too. As we approached Norris, the fog lifted slightly and our entrance to the harbour and Yacht Haven wasnt as fraught as had been feared but we were all rather pleased to get alongside with the 3 other boats who had made it in before us.
Coh Karek: By the afternoon the fog was even thicker, but just discernible in the whiteness was an outline of a Contessa heading along the shore towards Cowes. Later, another. One forgets that hardy boats are owned by brave and resourceful people. Soon there were 4. It was perishing cold.
All into one boat to warm up and await the gluwein and mince pies. Lots of messages from others taking the redjet flooded in.
Constella: The crew of Constella then started what would become a real version of planes, trains and automobiles but via boats. The race was on to get back to get the red jet, the children were very excited, help carrying the mulled wine was offered and the ferry boarded. We set off with other intrepid Contessa crews only to leave the dock for 1 minute and then promptly return.
Coh Karek: The good news that Andaxi and others were in the redjet just off the Royal Yacht Squadron, but our hopes were dashed when it obeyed the "do not even try going into Cowes if you can't see your nose " ordinance, turned round and returned to Southampton. (This rule btw was brought in after a ferry sank a contessa "Greylag" in fog some years ago.) So hurried revisions were made for the dinner at the island sailing club.
Muscadet de Havelet: After some hard earned refreshment on Muscadet and the judging of the best dressed boat (won by Ripple and barely mentioned by them since) we were invited to the splendour of Corics saloon along with most of the other participants for a non-pontoon pontoon party before dinner which was all very snug and cordial.
It was thus a smaller than anticipated group who sat down at one large table at ISC for a splendid dinner, the catering team there seemingly unfazed by the change in requirements which was to their great credit. Entertainment was provided by Dence Jnr with a most amusing after dinner joke and a presentation of the huge tankard to Guy and Zoe for the decoration of Ripple.
The evening wound up in a corner of the Union next door which was also most agreeable with Ripple continuing not to mention their victory a challenge since the tankard remained in front of them throughout.
The following morning was damp and rather gloomy though the returning boat crews enjoyed temperatures of 7 or 8c which felt positively balmy after the previous day.
So an interesting and challenging trip and not one which any of us want to repeat in a hurry, a shame for Jo particularly given the work she had put into the event, comforted only a little by a now enormous pile of mince pies that her family will enjoy until about Easter accompanied by a lake of mulled wine.
Here is to next year anyway!
Photo: Keith Sammons
Last updated 14:53 on 20 January 2024