There are two types of sailors, those that have run aground and those that lie about it!
Once "step 9 - the first sail" was out of the way and all of our near term targets had been met, we both fell ill - understandably we were a little (read a lot) run down. From the point from which we said yes, lets sell the house, buy a boat and do our crowd science project, oh and film it all for a documentary too - it had been just 14 weeks - we had completely changed our life and now frankly we needed to stop for a few days. (p.s. I may or may not have made us both ill by drinking water from the tanks with cleaner in still - sorry Hun!)
With the dust settled and feeling recovered, we were now ready to go away for a night and enjoy being on the hook or on a mooring ball. The Solent is one of the premier places in the world to sail a yacht and for good reason, with numerous picture postcard places to visit and creeks to explore, it offers much to the coastal sailor that few other places in the world can.
Every guide on this area will talk about New Town Creek being the ultimate of these overnight explorations. Originally a Stone Age settlement, it's provided safe harbour and shelter for hundreds of years. We had also been there before on a friends boat for a lunch stop - I had helmed on the way in, so learned the slightly odd entry and some of the challenges of getting safely onto a mooring ball, helped by having Andy stood next to me who is a qualified instructor! (thanks Andy!)
So we checked the dingy and test run the outboard, put food and fuel on the boat and set off on the short sail to New Town just a few miles East of Yarmouth on the Isle Of White. It was great to have the boat with just the two of us aboard for the first time and we enjoyed champagne sailing all the way! We dropped the sails as we approached and lined ourselves up for the entry no problem.
Once inside we headed for the same group of mooring balls we had picked up last time. The channel along the mooring balls here is comedy narrow, there is little to no water outside of it and you really have to be careful to remain inside of it - I didn't!
With boats swung to the south I gave myself some swinging room to go around them and motor onto the mooring and promptly ran aground - oops - one of the many reasons I love Given Time, is her clever lifting keel, it just came up and made it easy for me to slide the keel bulb back off the shallows again - I backed off, moved closer to the channel and promptly did it again, in my defence the channel is no wider than 80ft and with the boats swung to the south, I actually needed to approach from the northern side and then once on the ball allow ourselves to swing around.
We went around to the northern side and picked up the next available mooring ball on the first try - fantastic ... except that once we swung around we were almost touching the channel marker so we just moved one ball down! All good practice and no running aground this time!
Once settled we made some lunch, paid the nice man from the National Trust, £22 for a night on the mooring ball (noted the directions to the pub!) and promptly got the dinghy in the water, ready to explore.
New Town if you've not been, is stunning and well worth a visit but even mid-week the mooring balls were all gone just a couple of hours after high tide - there are some good places to anchor on the Eastern side of the estuary but perhaps not for a first go - it's good to see where all the shallows are at low tide, from the relative safety of your mooring ball!
After dinner, we had motored over in the dinghy to the beach by the entrance to go and stretch our legs but on our way back we noticed that Given Time was no longer swinging in line with the other yachts along the line of mooring balls - with the keel down we draw 2.7 metres and we were in effect caught in the deepest part of the channel and were no longer free to swing - Time to try the lifting keel system!
It worked a treat and just a couple of minutes after getting aboard the keel was all the way up , secured and we were free to swing.
Sunset at New Town was shear bliss! This was what we had waited so many years to do and we could at last start to plan the longer passages that will get us and the boat worked up and ready ahead of setting off permanently in Spring 2018.
So in this trip we did; first sail alone on the boat, first anchorage entry on our own, first running aground, second running aground, first trip in the dinghy, first time lifting the keel in anger, first night at Anchor/Mooring ball and first proper on board sunset - Lots of lessons learnt and loving all of it !
Conor & Sarah x