Solent here we come!!

A new adventure today. The first time to the Solent in fact, and for the first time, with my Dad.

After speaking to a few people on-line I was told of  a slipway into Langstone harbour, it was found opposite Hayling Island near the RNLI building. Turns out its a great slip. Quite steep so you need a 4×4 to do this safely. but it means its quite easy to launch the boat. The only thing to watch out of is high tidal current speeds.

The boat was launched without issue, the tide was going out of the harbour and the wind coming in so it was a little rough, in fact one large wave came over nearly soaking me the only problem is it did soak the controls. No issue you would would hope, except for the fact that they were obviously not very well insulated and I was then getting a shock from the ignition system through the metal handle?!!!! Anyway, covered that with a waterproof aka insulated jacket and job done for the time being!!!

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For the first time I had a GPS with me. Ready for a new adventure we headed off to the Isle of Wight, to find Wight Cliff Bay. This was somewhere I was familiar with having visited on holidays in the past.

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And there it is! Be warned, there are some very rough rocks to the East corner of the island. They surface at low tide. I know this as I nearly hit them on this first trip with a new prop. Just BE CAREFUL around here if you don’t have a chart. In fact the locals (or somone) has put plastic barrels tied to something that float around the area. If you see them I advise to keep away unless high tide.

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Safe and sound we found our way to the beach.
Lesson no2 of the day!!! DO NOT drive up onto a beach if the are infrequent rolling waves coming in. This will result in water swamping the transom and entering the boat. Again learnt the hard way…

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How cool is this? haha

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After this we headed up in the direction of Cowes, and headed in to Portsmouth. We had a quick (distant!) look around at the military stuff – get close at your peril, and then headed back across the Solent back in the direction of Langstone. It was here that I could for the first time record a top speed run! We saw 50.12 on the GPS.

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Then we arrived back at Langstone, check out this water!! Amazing!

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Perfect! This is what it is all about, who would have thought so late in the year too!

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And finally a cool video of the day!

3rd time unlucky! First “epic” trip.

Well today was one not to forget. Oh my god.

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We arrived at about 2pm. Typically in true English September weather it was not good again. Not in anyway put off we managed to set off from the slip way with a tank full of fuel and 20 litres spare and stopped over on a near by pontoon to work out our plan.

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We decided we would head out to the south east side of the island and take a look, turned out it was really rough and uncomfortable. Worse still Steve was driving and we kept bumping into the bottom of the sea in the waves (surprising how shallow it is around here). Attempts to raise the trim of the engine didn’t work. The trim again had stopped working. With steve still at the controls I looked at the fuse box and saw that both trim pump fuses had failed. Ah that would be the problem then. We found out this happened when you held the trim pump still on after the ram had run out of travel essentially putting massive load on the pump, thank fully we had spares and shortly after we were on our way again.

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Check out the water behind us. not exatly calm, and we were getting soaked! It became obvious that to stay out here would be at best stupid so we headed back behind the island. Still loaded with plenty of fuel we decided to check out the river Medway. We followed the route other boats were taking on the assumption that they knew better than us. It was becoming ever more obvious that the whole of this area gets very shallow, but this was better, in fact it was great fun. Now sheltered by land we headed up river passing  lots of strange small islands in the channel. Quite a mad place.  Also passed some kind of fort (Fort Darnet, and also Fort Hoo)

You can read more about these forts here : http://beno.org.uk/forts/.

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Beyond this we turned to port (Left!!)

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And then passed Upnor Castle. This is a Tudor castle some 450 years old! (as of 2009).

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Getting further up river, we passed Rochester..

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and again another Castle, this one called Rochester Castle.

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By now we were heading untoward the M2 Motoway bridge and HS rail crossing which we could see in the distance.

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And soon also passed under. Modern bridges are strange. They are so square purposeful and usually of no character at all. You almost feel like you shouldn’t be there as they are just industrial.. anyway we carried on…

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The scene changed totally here. It was as if civilisation was left behind at the bridge, now tall buildings were replaced with pylons and fields. I’ll be honest here we had no idea of speed limits, so we sat at a speed that felt efficient and comfortable and just continued our way up stream, carrying on and on. We twisted around bend after bend. It was like a scene from James Bond..

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But things were about to change!! What we hadn’t realised of course was that the river water would be getting shallower as we went further up stream.  What I remember went something like this…

Coming around a few more bends near Alyesford Priory we then passed the Wickford Lodge where people were sitting at the tables having a pint – (reminder we felt like ultimate cool dudes here!!) then rounded another couple of corners with the M20 bridge in sight and in fact even saw the Allington lock in the distance.

Still with no intention to turn around we just about made to the bridge and THUD – CRUNCH – SCRAPE.. rapid deceleration!!!

What the hell was that? The boat ground to a stop I put it in neutral as quickly as possible, and looked over the side of the boat…

I’ll never forget this! We were in about 8 inches of water!!!! The tide had yet to get this far upstream and we were now all but sitting on a bed of stones. Err Problem. So the engine was trimmed up a lot, but the boat was still sitting on the floor so we all had to move to the front of the boat, where it was possible to slowly edge the boat backwards into deeper water. WOW

BIG Lesson of the day. DEPTH sensors are ESSENTIAL.

Feeling cheesed off it was Steves turn again to take to the controls, and satisfied the boat was not taking on any water we headed back down stream deciding now was probably a good time to go home. One slight problem however. The boat had developed a heavy list!! the prop was so badly damaged it was twisting the boat as we went, as seen in this pic below!

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The journey back was slow. Fuel began to concern me and I said perhaps we should put the 20l spare we had in the tank, but it was easier said than done. We continued on. Eventually a couple of hours later even, we made it back to the slipway where with the fuel gauge showing nearly zero and within touching distance of the ramp the engine ran out of fuel. Loosing almost all my cool(!!) we all stood on the side of the boat with the fuel tank pickup and managed to prime the engine enough to  get it going and just get us back to the slipway.

Wow. What a day of highs and lows. So with that all said and done, the boat was taken back home to inspect the prop and skeg (the fin under the engine)

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As you can see the prop took a beating. Its now a garden ornament to remind me of this day! Even the skeg had a chunk taken out of it too!

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So how far did we go? Well I worked it out on google earth that the river trip was about 25 miles so that each way + around perhaps 8 miles of messing about on the island gives us around 55-60 miles easily. Not bad! but did use a full 90 litres of fuel. Not surprising given how much drag the prop had on the way back…

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And they say third time lucky!! but to be fair it was an awesome adventure – and that’s what its all about.

2nd trip – uneventful, but that’s good right?!

Now the bug had bitten it was any excuse now to get back on the water.

Between this trip and the first, a few things were sorted out like the new wheels/axles and also hydraulic pipe from the trim system. I recall possibly (writing this in 2015) that may have also had to get a new starter motor gear. I remember that it was b***dy expensive for what it was!!

We launched from Sheerness again, this and just really went up and down the water around there just again to get used to the whole experience. Starting the engine again proved to be an utter pain. It was a case of removing the engine cover and spraying fuel into the carbs and turning it over until the engine started. We figured at the time that it was just a trait of these engines.

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3-IMG_6543Classic “Tower of Power” In-line 6 mercury

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Eagled eyed people will spot this was done before the tidying up process begun!