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Around the Solent on Arthur Ransome’s Nancy Blackett

Skipper Bob Page reports on an eventful week that saw Arthur Ransome’s favourite yacht, Nancy Blackett, doing a lot of sailing around the Solent and receiving visitors at the Yarmouth Gaffers Regatta…

Last week was a good, although a very varied, week with winds ranging from none at all up to force 5-6, mainly from the west and south-west. We started off in Buckler’s Hard on the River Beaulieu, where Nancy Blackett was a static display for the Arthur Ransome Society AGM. During this time we managed to take some of their members out for a sail.

Buckler’s Hard, 27th May 2019. Photo Bob Page.

On departing the Beaulieu River on the Monday afternoon, we headed up to Haslar (Gosport) via Hamble, having a great downwind sail and arriving at Haslar in time to collect Sarah Coote, who was joining us for a three days. Sarah’s time contained some great sailing as well as some drifting around the Solent with some good winds, no wind at all and some rain.

We spent a great evening moored up at the UK Sailing Academy on the River Medina at Cowes, where we were visited by staff, instructors and enthusiasts. Thanks to Simon Hamilton and Mark Sanderson from the Academy we had a free berth overnight and a fantastic welcome.

We departed Cowes on the Wednesday morning for some fantastic sailing across the Solent in great winds and sunny weather, which soon deteriorated. We headed up the Hamble for the night.

Thursday cruelly arrived too soon. After hot showers and a good breakfast, we sailed back up the Solent towards Portsmouth and Haslar Marina. With some great downwind sailing we eventually ending up moored up by the Mary Mouse (an ex-lightship, now used as a shower block, bar and restaurant).

Following a great lunch, Sarah departed for home and Jerry and I set off towards Yarmouth for the annual Gaffers Regatta. After a couple of hours beating westwards, the wind started to drop and, with the tide starting to turn, we handed the jib and stay-sail and motor-sailed down the Solent, avoiding several cargo ships and cruise liners departing Southampton Water for destinations unknown. We arrived in Yarmouth at 2130, where we were shown to a great mooring on a hammerhead, a great position for any prospective visitors.

Casulla at Yarmouth Gaffers Regatta, 1st June 2019. Photo Bob Page.

What followed was a fantastic three days with many old Gaffers, good friends old and new. A massive thanks to Jenny Wedick who joined us for the day on Friday. We didn’t get many visitors that day, but we had more on the Saturday. During our visit, we spent time with the owner of Casulla – a “Peter Duck” owned by an amazing couple who rent it out as an Air B&B in Cowes.

Casulla at Yarmouth Gaffers Regatta, 1st June 2019. Photo Bob Page.

We sailed early on the Sunday morning with many other Gaffers to make the 15 mile trip up the Solent, bound for the River Hamble before the forecast force 5-6 winds arrived. It was another great downwind sail with just the jib and stay-sail goose-winged all the way to the River Hamble entrance, reaching 8 knots over the ground. For once both wind and tide were on our side.

At the Yarmouth Gaffers Regatta, 1st June 2019. Photo Jeremy Norman.

On arriving at Mercury Yacht Harbour, mate Jerry Norman departed for the long drive home to Leeds, but not before we thanked him for a good week. A massive thank-you also to Jenny Wedick, Sarah Coote and everyone at the Yarmouth Gaffers Regatta.

At the Yarmouth Gaffers Regatta, 1st June 2019. Photo Jeremy Norman.

Our plans for this week are for one or two days’ members’ sailing, hopefully with some good weather and visibility, to allow us to see some of the “D-Day” anniversary events happening all around the Solent.