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Old 03 June 2005, 19:47   #1
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Introduction

1. Introduction


The distinctive silhouette of The Needles
(Photo : Robin)

The Solent is extremely popular as a cruising venue for many here on RIBnet.

This stretch of water is located between a section of the South Coast of England and the Isle of Wight. Some set the boundary from the Forts outside Portsmouth to the Needles in the West although others incorporate Chichester to the East. With an abundance of harbours and shallows the area is well served with launch sites

See www.boatlaunch.co.uk

The Solent originated (according to various sources) as the estuary of an east-flowing river of which the Test and Itchen were tributaries. As sea levels rose following ice-sheet melting some 10,000 years ago, (this theory goes), the Solent River became a channel. Have a look at this!!!
http://www.havant.gov.uk/council/Coastal/Solent-VCD.mpg .

The area has been of interest to invaders of all sorts from Celts of yore to today's leisure users. Each invader leaves his mark, from Roman to Saxon, Jute to Frenchman. Its appeal for such a cosmopolitan group resulted in reactive and proactive defence efforts over the centuries.

In acknowledgement of the strategic importance of the area, Portsmouth is the home of the Royal Navy while many campaigns in the past used the area as a base www.royal-navy.mod.uk

The hallmarks of a strategic history are everywhere from the submarine barriers and forts near Portsmouth to Hurst Castle and other man-made structures in the western reaches. This year (2005) sees great celebrations of maritime history.

Have a look at
www.festivalofthesea.co.uk
www.trafalgar200.com and also
www.seabritain2005.com


Portsmouth Harbour
(Photo : missus)

Commercially the Solent has been an important centre for trade down through the ages. Centuries ago this involved local produce or goods such as salt or fish but later a variety of goods were transported via barge or other shipping.

Inevitably the area became an important centre for boatbuilding involving innovative engineering work at the Historic Dockyard of Portsmouth (by Marc Brunel among others) and significant output by the firms of Vosper and Thornycroft and their ilk. It may encourage today's aspiring boatbuilders to note that Uffa Fox of the Isle of Wight had set up his own boatbuilding business by the age of 21!

The ghosts of many a famous craft haunt the area, Our diving colleagues can
pinpoint the sites of many well-known wrecks while illustrious craft such as Mary Rose or Bluebird as well as the slightly more fortunate Mirabella V and Ellen Mc Arthur's B & Q were designed or hosted in Solent waters over the years.


The Mirabella V
(Photo : Robin)
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Old 03 June 2005, 20:01   #2
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Country: UK - England
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Solent specials

2. Solent Specials

The area holds undeniable attractions for leisure and pleasure seekers with its bird sanctuaries, charming harbours and historical landmarks. Stately cruise ships come and go while ferries facilitate links across the Solent and to the Continent.


Ferry in Portsmouth
(Photo : Robin)

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert chose the Isle of Wight as their holiday destination declaring that the view from their Italianate Villa (Osborne House) resembled the Bay of Naples!

Today a great variety of leisure craft may be seen taking to the Solent waters from Zapcats to RIBs, from yachts to performance boats of all shapes and sizes.

Cowes is the acknowledged home of sailing. The Royal Yacht Squadron took the lead in organising racing in Britain and its racing rules and regulations were adopted world-wide. Today one is likely to witness powerboating events as well as a huge range of sailing events. The Royal Southern Yacht Club among others have stepped up to the mark and organise events for power and sail (see calendar or PM Martin).

For ribsters, RIBEX (see calendar) has become an important event in June.
Southampton Boat Show in September www.southamptonboatshow.com is always a temptation while an annual highlight is of course Cowes week. (see www.cowesweek.co.uk 30 July to 6 August 2005 ) Other special 2005 events are listed above !


RIBsters cruise The Solent (March 2005)
(Photo : Slimtim)

The Solent is often dubbed 'The Classroom' by the many locally based instructors (many of whom give freely of their advice on the Forum). This is because of the abundance of features both natural and man-made which can be experienced in short range, thus bringing textbooks to life. It is an important centre for RNLI training www.rnli.co.uk

Because of its geographical nature the Solent has an unusual tidal system. The phenomenon of 'double tides' is sometimes illustrated by the demonstration of sloshing water around in a rectangular basin. An unwelcome surprise can be the complete drying of the Brambles Bank in the middle of The Solent ! This feature is celebrated in the annual cricket match played there during low springs.


Cricket on The Brambles
(photo : Robin)

The distinctive structure of The Needles is a much loved feature appearing as a group of ghostly sentinels guarding the Western Approach. In the same area, some boaters have experienced and described the eerie phenomenon of The Shingles on the move while waves break dramatically on the surface.


The Needles from the West
(Photo : Slimtim)
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Old 03 June 2005, 20:27   #3
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Country: UK - England
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Solent Scrapes part 1

3. Solent Scrapes!!!

This may make perfect sense (!) but many natural features classed as hazards, or areas around which to take special care, lie near the coastline framing the Solent. A very useful reference book dedicated to the cause is the slightly alarmingly titled 'Solent Hazards' (see references). This is an excellent read for the most part for those wishing to approach the shoreline. What follows is a brief summary of some of the major hits!


Checking the Plan ! Solent Cruise March 2005
(Photo: Slimtim)

The Solent is perennially popular with sailboats


Gaffers at Yarmouth
(Photo: Paul)

On the north-east coast of the Isle of Wight one startling feature is the east-facing horseshoe of Ryde Sands. Some gallant ribsters posted pictures of an enforced stop they experienced this year!


Ryde Sands
(Photo: Simmo)

Moving eastwards it is essential to check charts and/or GPS for Wootton Rocks if one is considering exploring the environs of Wootton Creek. Osborne Bay is a favourite anchorage on a summer Sunday but as with all inlets in the area it is worth studying the location of old structures/reefs or sundry rocks. The depth gauge is a vital piece of back-up equipment for inshore loitering. (We have a neatly filed prop edge as a souvenir of the area !!!)


Wootton Creek
(Photo: Robin)

If one continues paying attention to the attractions of the coastline, Cowes is the next main destination (check for Norris Rocks on the way). Cowes remains an unpretentious and bustling venue for many boating activities (approach through the main channel).


Ribex Cowes
(Photo: missus)

One of the Wight's real treats is a traditional cream tea which may still be available at the wonderful beach café at Gurnard (West of Cowes). Once again it's a bay to approach with care. Important to be aware of your position in relation to Gurnard Ledge and other rocks highlighted on the charts.

Ledges abound in Solent waters and Thorness Bay has a few fine examples.

Proceeding westward then Newtown is also a popular anchorage (favoured even by the Romans!). Not recommended as a secluded destination in the height of summer!

Making west for Yarmouth, Hamsted Ledge is a significant protrusion of consequence to shipping. The inner bars/ledges (see charts) running parallel are noteworthy. Further joys lie ahead in the form of sand spits and banks as well as an isolated hump known as the Camel! before one takes a step back in time in tranquil Yarmouth.


Yarmouth
(Photo: missus)

Leaving Yarmouth for the Needles one needs to avoid Black Rock, menacing as it does all who pass Yarmouth Road. The flash of Black Rock Buoy can help guarantee a safe passage even at night.

Spits of rock and sand can once again challenge the unwary on the westward route and the rocks near Fort Albert extending North demand a wide berth. Rocks and ledges again mark the way 'till one reaches Totland Bay, another popular anchorage with those who have first studied the whereabouts of the reef.


Fort Albert
(Photo: missus)

One of the most popular venues on this part of the coast is Alum Bay, easily
navigable when one approaches with care, noting depths and location of rocks before anchoring to enjoy this sheltered haven surrounded by golden-streaked cliffs.


Alternative Means of Arrival! Alum Bay
(Photo: missus)

And finally the Needles. A stunning landmark on the western reaches it is also worthy of respect as one needs to avoid Goose Rock just to the North West of the lighthouse as well as some significant wreckage (SS Varvassi).

'Threading the Needles' (passage through the Needles) is not recommended and is best left to local experts!


Locals thread the Needles
(Photo: Paul)


And one of the reasons it's not recommended!
(Photo: missus)
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Old 03 June 2005, 20:45   #4
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Solent Scrapes part 2

Approaching the Solent from the West there are a few potential pitfalls to bear in mind. The first may involve distinct changes in sea conditions often experienced in The Needles Channel. (Conditions and experience may lead one to choose the North Channel instead.) The Shingles Bank (which is frequently on the move !) is a doorstep to avoid as one makes an entrance to the Solent. The Bank sometimes signals its presence above the surface with gravel islands and spectacular wave-breaks.


The western approach to The Solent
(Photo: Paul)

Proceeding eastwards it is worth respecting Hurst Point with its shingle and sand extensions. In these Narrows one can also find some of the Solent’s more exciting waters as the Forum photographers will testify!


Hurst from the east
(Photo: missus)

Accessing both Keyhaven and Lymington provide a good opportunity to test what one has learned on the training courses! The mud banks East of Lymington are not at all an ideal (accidental) mooring spot!

Beaulieu also demands time and attention as one needs to proceed east for the entrance and follow the channel with care. Seagulls up to their ankles in water provide an instant visual reminder to be on guard!

Proceeding with care past Lepe and Horseshoe Spits, it is also best to give the Calshot Spit a wide berth as one continues the Eastwards route. Now is the time to check the whereabouts of the notorious ‘Brambles’ - Bramble Bank (which occasionally dries completely.) As already mentioned, the annual cricket match is a spectacular affair. Last year (2004) the sun shone, the cricketers were in fine form and Pimms flowed from watering cans!

See this thread on RIBnet. Some of the enthusiasm may, in retrospect, be Pimms-based. Have a look at Solent Cricket !!!

The next section of shoreline demands a respectful distance - or some very
careful chart and tidal homework. (Rogue Wave has stories!) Though Hill Head and Lee on Solent are accessible by craft the access is limited and the beach either side dries to a good distance South. Not ideal at times for the returning windsurfer or kite-surfer at the end of a tough session! Groynes and shingle do not hold appeal for RIBs and in addition, great care needs to be taken as this area running to Stokes Bay is popular with bathers.


Craig and Team Lunasea Zapcatting in Stokes Bay
(Photo: Andy)

Keeping in touch with QHM guidance www.qhmportsmouth.com (or send a pm to Ribald who gives up free time to help with the Patrol) is helpful as one enters its jurisdiction. Many take a wide sweep round Gilkicker Point and the hidden charms of Monckton Blocks (reinforced concrete blocks); sometimes visible at low springs.

It is worth following the main entrance to Portsmouth, keeping to ‘local rules’ i.e. entering and leaving on the western side.


Submarine hazard (north)
(Photo: Robin)

Past Portsmouth lie the very visible Forts and the less obvious Barrier. The inner passages through the barrier are navigable for RIBs once one is sure of their exact location. Otherwise the outer route through the Forts is best.


Spitsand / Spitbank Fort
(Photo: Robin)

Finally many local instructors would remind us to beware of the great and small moving hazards of the Solent i.e. the plethora of small craft which frequent these waters. Worth having a re-read of IRPCS (International Regulations for Preventing Collision at Sea ) and local Harbour and Port Guidance before the busy summer season. Choose your favourite IRPCS site on google! Also see www.solentwaters.co.uk which seems to have some helpful nuggets of information about this very popular cruising ground.

© 'missus' 2005


Bright blue day at St. Helen’s Fort!
(Photo: Robin)
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Old 03 June 2005, 20:51   #5
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Boat name: Merlin
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Credits

A few references & acknowledgements


Books

Worth having a look at the following among others at the chandlers!

Aslett D., (2003), The Solent Cruising Companion, UK, Yachting Monthly
Bruce P., (1985 5th edition 2001 ), Solent Hazards, UK, Boldre Marine


Photographs

Each photograph is owner copyright as credited and may not be reproduced without permission. Many thanks Andy, Paul, Robin and Slimtim for your contributions! The blurred efforts are mine, all mine!

Further examples of Andy, Robin and Slimtim’s work may be found as follows:

Andy www.badviz.com

Robin tbc

Slimtim www.elementphoto.co.uk


Websites

Some key Internet sites as quoted in the text

www.boatlaunch.co.uk
www.cowesweek.co.uk
www.festivalofthesea.co.uk
www.qhmportsmouth.com
www.rnli.org.uk
www.royal-navy.mod.uk
www.seabritain2005.com
www.solentwaters.co.uk
www.southamptonboatshow.com
www.trafalgar200.com

On line maps of the Solent


(Please send a pm if you have any advice, corrections, comments about this article. Many thanks )
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Old 06 June 2005, 18:50   #6
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