Sailing into the Solent.
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Welcome to the Solent! Please find below a list of recommendations put together by Solent sailors to aid you in having a safe and pleasurable sail.
If you are sailing in air temperatures above 16 degrees centigrade then a minimum of a 3mm wetsuit and wet boots are recommended. For temperatures below 16 degrees a drysuit with suitable warm underclothes are recommended, including appropriate foot wear.
It is essential that you wear a buoyancy aid and carry a sailing knife at all times while on the water. A flare, VHF radio and / OR a mobile phone in a plastic waterproof case are also items that are essential to call the emergency services if you get yourself into trouble. Don't rely on other sailors being there to help, they may not see you or their craft may not be suitable to perform a recovery/tow.
Before setting afloat check that your boat is fully seaworthy for the conditions you are sailing in. It's your responsibility.
Check a variety of weather forecasts before you sail and also see what the current conditions are by checking the following weather stations located around the Solent -
The sea state in the Solent can become really nasty for small cats at winds over 20 knots, ( Force 4 ). It's recommended that you don't venture out in these conditions.
A flatter sea state can be found up Southampton water but the wind will be shiftier and more gusty.
Don’t launch if there’s a possibility of fog.
Check what the tides are doing. Three hours after high tide Southampton water starts to empty into the Solent at a fast rate of knots and you will need a wind over 6 knots (Force2) in order to get back to Calshot Spit.
If you are sailing at a time with strong currents then try to short-tack up the Northern shore of the Solent and Southampton Water where the currents are less. In the main shipping channels, around the Isle Of Wight and along the eastern side of Calshot spit, the currents can be very strong.
Try to plan your sail so that if you run out of wind the currents will bring you back to Calshot.
When the tide comes in the currents generally flow from Lymington to Portsmouth (West to East).
When the tide goes out the currents generally flow from Portsmouth to Lymington (East to West).
Check what the tides are doing via this website - www.bramblemet.co.uk
The eastern slipway is in a pretty bad state of repair and is hazardous to use at anything other than hide tide. The currents are also very strong past this slipway. You will also have to factor in wind shadow from the buildings as you launch/recover. This slipway/beach is also exposed to wake/wash from passing vessels much more than the northern slip.
The Northern slip is in good shape and is subject to less current. Just don't block access for the RNLI as you use the slip. This is also the busiest slipway so much patience, consideration and concentration is needed when launching/recovering – you will encounter the RNLI, fishermen (on boats and on the shore), jetskis, learners form the Sailing Centre, kayakers, water-skiers, kids floating around in rubber rings tethered to the shore…
The waters around this slip can also get quite shallow at low tides.
Shipping channel and other traffic.
Always avoid the tankers and cruise ships etc, they are restricted to where they can go by their draft. You'll need to keep clear of them by 1000m in front and 300m to the side and aft. Don't cross between the pilot boat and the ship following it, you'll be in trouble and land a hefty fine!
Generally you'll find that anything larger than your boat won't give way, so always be prepared to tack even if you're on starboard. Many yachties don't appear to know the rules, or if they do then they're not prepared to go to the effort of tacking for a smaller vessel! Also keep an eye out for fast craft like speed boats and the high speed ferries/hovercraft. They may not have spotted you and will have little time to react.
During the summer there are many race series held in the Solent - if you're sailing through boats that are racing don't expect them to give you an easy time!
When you launch from Calshot you are launching straight into the shipping channel so keep an eye out for traffic before you set out.
Also, be aware of where the Main and North Channels are, the medium sized ships use the North Channel instead of the Main Shipping Channel.
Dragging your boat up the beach.
Don't do it, you'll put holes in the bottom.
Shallows to watch out for (see your Admiralty Charts for more detail).
1) Calshot spit - south eastern side.
2) Calshot spit - western side.
3) Hamble spit.
4) Chilling shoreline.
5) Hill head shoreline.
6) Lepe spit - keep south of the yellow buoy!
7) Lepe middle (Beaulieu spit).
8) Bramble bank.
9) Ryde sands - they come out a long way!
Other areas to watch out for (see your Admiralty charts for more detail).
10) Sturbridge shoal - the standing waves can be monstrous!
11) No Man’s Land Fort - the IOW side is subject to funny currents which will push you in odd directions.
12) Horse sand fort - there is a submerged concrete barrier leading off to the north east all the way to the Portsmouth shore.
13) Strong eddies off of West Cowes/Gurnard - close to shore.
14) Very choppy waves between Cowes and Bramble Bank - strong currents also.
15) Stronger currents in the western Solent compared with the east.
Rob McPherson .
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