It was supposed to be a trip to Mudeford harbour but the Department of Transport had other ideas with the closure of the M27 to demolish a bridge. Not to be defeated the venue was changed to Chichester Harbour a bit further east. A quick overnight change of plans and we were away.
Brian Roberts and I arrive early to complete planning over coffee and croissants. Lyn and Graham Bliss arrived on time and we met at the water’s edge at Bosham on a fine sunny autumn day – well it was fine and sunny but no sign of water! The tide was out but coming in and within half an hour we were afloat. Our choice of craft for the day was open canoe. A first time for Lyn and Graham. After a 150m walk to the harbour entrance we launched and paddled off up a calm creek among the lines of moored boats.
At this stage the wind was from the south and more in our face than not. The yachting fraternity were getting ready for the day and their races to come. Meanwhile we weaved our way through the boating traffic. Waves from the passing motor boats created a challenging wash but nothing we couldn’t handle.
The bird life was also something different from that usually found on our inland rivers – lots of gulls of course but also the odd little critter picking its way through the mud and grassy topped inlet along the banks or sitting on buoys taking advantage of the sun. Skewers patrolled overhead whilst small groups of Oystercatchers sprinted across the water. There were startlingly white little egrets searching for food on the bank and even a lone Brent goose awaiting the arrival of friends from Russia for the winter.
At the end of the inlet we turned west to make the long paddle down the length of the harbour. Over the last half a mile another first for the Blisses was the use of a canoe sail. Lyn, holding the downwind sail and Graham paddling and steering in the back they discovered another way of propelling their craft. Our own sail that Brian had perfected was more traditional with a mast and fixings set into the canoe. This allowed it to sail closer to the wind.
A stop for lunch on the beach in West Wittering allowed us to enjoy great views over the activity on the harbour. The wind has strengthened a little and yacht racing was in under way. Lunch over and it was back on the water to do the most challenging part of the trip – crossing the harbour entrance.
This was a straight line from West Wittering to Hayling Island. Lyn and Graham set off at a cracking pace. Lyn hanging on manfully to a full sail. The water became decidedly choppy with a 60cm swell crossing our path coming in from the channel. Our sails performed quite well all the way but Lyn had to give up and resort to paddle power owing to the angle and strength of the wind. Nevertheless about 40 minutes later we were across and landing on the beach at Hayling island Yacht club.
An official looking man hurried towards us. With the expectation of a telling off we were surprised to be welcomed to the club by Melvin and made his guests of the club. The most important question of the day was answered also by him – where could we buy an iced cream? In the members restaurant of course! Brilliant! With the sun past the zenith we had to make plans for our return. This first involved a straight down wind run crossing diagonally back across the harbour over to the north shore. Lyn’s sail made this an easy task. Graham steered but they made good speed over the more settled water in an easing wind. The forecast for strengthening wind didn’t happen and it had virtually dropped away to slight puffs just as we arrived on the other side of the harbour. We put the sails away and resorted to the paddling from then on.
The next bit was just over two miles back down the harbour. With the tide turning against us it required grit and determination. We were careful to ensure we turned back up the right inlet to get home – not as easy as it sounds!
The water became a flat calm and as we turned the final corner. Bosham church and the end came into sight. The water was a flat calm with the sun setting behind us making a picture post card view of the village. As we arrived back the scene was completely different from the place we had left in the morning. Mud flats were replaced with a water filled harbour as the level of the water was some three metres higher.
All day sun, great scenery and an opportunity to sail our canoes. A few firsts for Lyn and Graham and an iced cream!