image of Container ships make the Solent very busy
Container ships make the Solent very busy

                             

The offer to explore the Beaulieu River was eagerly accepted as surely there can be no better way of spending a swelteringly hot August Saturday than afloat on the Solent.

 

image of William Mills (right) and Peter Watson on board Martha Gunn
William Mills (right) and Peter Watson on board Martha Gunn

 

I joined Peter Watson aboard his Contessa 32, Martha Gunn, which is moored on the River Hamble.

Over coffee, we planned our day trip to Beaulieu River which is some 6 or 7 miles away and intending to go as far up as the pontoon moorings at Buckler’s Hard.

 

image of traditional sailing barge anchored near Beaulieu River entrance
Traditional sailing barge anchored near Beaulieu River entrance

 

The wind was light NNW and we debated the merits of hoisting the sails as Martha Gunn has good new engine Peter installed a couple of seasons ago.

The advantages of hoisting the main are that it adds to the stability of a yacht under power as well as being ready to catch the slightest zephyr should one occur. More importantly, it gives us something to do; it is, after all, a sailing boat.

 

image of Gypsy Moth IV is moored in Beaulieu River
Gypsy Moth IV is moored in Beaulieu River- Sir Francis Chichester’s famous yacht

 

Motoring with a headsail flapping is less debatable. It can lead to the sail fraying on the unforgiving wire of the standing rigging, block the view of the helm and if it fills and backs it will actually reduce progress.

As most of us have furling jibs these days it is easy to roll them in and out when required.

 

image of Buckler's Hard is a famous historic site where 18th century wooden warship were built
Buckler’s Hard is a famous historic site where 18th century wooden warships were built

 

On the other hand, the mainsail can be sheeted in, acting both as a large flag warning fast motor craft of our presence and as also as a shelter from the hot summer sunshine.

 

image of Buckler's Hard also has modern mooring able to take visitors' craft
Buckler’s Hard also has modern mooring able to take visitors’ craft

 

From out to sea we recognised the sandy beach at Lepe popular with swimmers from its plethora of anchored boats which also is near to the entrance to Beaulieu.

We spotted the marker posts and followed them around the river entrance sandbanks.

 

image of Busy Beaulieu
Busy Beaulieu

 

Beaulieu River is wide enough to sail across but today the wind was on the nose so we motored up past some spectacular scenery to Buckler’s Hard.

 

image of The riverbank has some beautiful properties steeped in history- perhaps used by SOE during WWII
The riverbank has some beautiful properties steeped in history- perhaps used by SOE during WWII

 

There a helpful harbour master was afloat to advise visitors on mooring options and suggested that booking ahead in busy periods was sensible.

The maritime history makes a visit to Beaulieu a truly memorable experience at any time, but I felt I was particularly lucky to be afloat there on a hot summer’s day.

 

image of Peter Watson owner/skipper of Martha Gunn
Peter Watson owner/skipper of Martha Gunn

 

Re-emerging into the Solent, boats of all descriptions stretched across the horizon, and I realised even though we hadn’t travelled a great distance as there is so much to heed here the variety keeps one constantly occupied.

 

image of The busy Solent
The busy Solent

 

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