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
The Solent is perennially popular with sailboats
Gaffers at Yarmouth
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!
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 !!!)
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).
One of the Wight's real treats is a traditional cream tea which may still be available at the wonderful beach cafť 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.
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.
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
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
And one of the reasons it's not recommended!