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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.