We were a party of seven. We set off from Lee-on-Solent at about 3pm to catch the outgoing tide down the Solent.
We made for Cowes on a course of 240. We made a cardinal marker off Cowes and then headed down the West Solent.
Out into the Solent the wind speed strengthened against us and was F3-4 gusting to F5 and the tide behind us was
2.8 kicking up a sea of 2-2.5m and making it tricky to keep the party together as paddlers of different strengths
battled the wind. We headed for the point of Fort Victoria as a landmark. Visibility was excellent.
As the wind picked up we moved in a little further to the island to avoid the biggest of the waves coming up the
Solent. One of us got the idea that we were headed for Yarmouth and got separated from the group in the 2.5m (max)
seas. The remaining six of us battled through to Fort Victoria. Tony then phoned the missing party member who told
Tony that he was waiting for us at Yarmouth. Tony told him to paddle up quickly to Fort Victoria to catch what was
left of the tide down to the Needles. The rest of us were refreshed by the rather mediocre coffee in the Fort V
We had a couple of hours left to get to the Needles, which we all made in reasonable time, though at a varying pace.
I raced Mike Counter all the way and just beat him by about 20m.Through the Needles the swell picked up a little but
the wind lessened and was behind us.
We paddled gently down to Freshwater as a more coherent group than earlier in the day. We camped/bivvied for the
night on the beach and in the shelter of the sea wall very close to the central wooden slipway. There was a handy
shelter just nearby to cook and sit out of the wind, and public toilets about 300yards to the west of the beach.
Tents on the beach benefited from sand pegs to hold the guys in the pebbles.
We set off again at 8am, into a sea fog (which soon lifted) and followed the rather boring coast line all the way
down to St Catherine’s Head. Wind and swell were steady from SW which meant boats were cocking southward. As you
get closer to St Catherines the scenery develops a little more diversity and interest. We stuck very close to the
coast at St Catherine’s and ran the tide race of a maximum of 2m.
We then headed up the coast a little way and found a beach to stop and have some lunch. From here the scenery was
more lush than on the Southwestern face and reminded me of the vegetation on the north side of Helston Passage in
Cornwall. Soon Ventnor came into sight, the first settlement of any size that we had seen in a while. We stopped
for a quick breather just before the start of the open crossing over Sandown Bay. We crossed the bay with the SW
wind and sea following us. It was challenging conditions for 2-3*paddlers with seas of 1-1.5m.
I was glad to eventually reach the cliffs at Whitecliff, but too tired to want to explore the caves in the chalk
under the point. We then went a couple of bays north, almost to Bembridge before stopping at about 4pm on the
beach to bivvy/camp. The flat area above the tide line is pretty narrow at that point so there was not a lot of
room to put up tents.
Some of us walked along to the Crab and Lobster in Bembridge for some of the best pub food on the Island and some
refreshing and well-earned ale.
Tide the next day was not high enough to set off until around 2pm so we had a lazy morning wandering around
Bembridge, drinking coffee at the café and two of us finding medication for swollen sunburnt lips from the day before.
It was gorgeous sunny weather again as we set off up the coast past Bembridge and its flashy lifeboat station and
up to Sea View for ice creams and a break. Sea View is a pretty little place with lots of stone buildings, ice
cream parlours and a nice old pub or two with pictures of old naval vessels and a very plush public toilet inside
the Sea View Hotel advertised by Tony as the best on the Island.
Then round the point sheltered from the prevailing south westerly by the island, we cut up to Ryde and went under
the pier reasonably close to the shore. After this we took a bearing of 330 to paddle across the East Solent and
its lanes busy with ferries and ships. The wind freshened as we got out of the shelter of the Island. We dog-legged
toward Fawley Power Station chimney to go behind an IoW ferry, and then resumed our course towards Lee on the Solent.
The Southwesterly wind was gusting to the top end of F5 out in the mid Solent and with the tide running at more than
2 knots to the west it won out over the wind as we passed the mid Ryde buoy very close and then raced across in front
of a commercial steamer that was coming out of Southampton Water. It was pretty exciting and splashy in the mid-Solent
with the seas staying about 1.5-2m all the way across and the occasional wave breaking in the F5 wind. Mike Counter
challenged me to a race to the beach from about half a mile out and won easily by about 20m.
We got in about 5pm to Lee and packed up and drove home. Good trip over three days and two nights. Thanks to Tony
for the leadership.