A Catapult cruise of Chichester Harbour and around Hayling Island  


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   Each time (five) I have done the cruise round Hayling Island, taking in Chichester and Langstone Harbours, I have got myself in sufficient difficulty to think I shouldn’t do it again---and setting out again in July 2011 was no exception. But there is a sense of true voyaging in
circumnavigating the island, with the long stretch along Hayling Island in “open sea” to enter and cross the largely empty Langstone Harbour, and then getting into the top of Chichester Harbour by a portage across the A3023 at the "new" road bridge. (The difficulties on occasions before have variously been running out of wind, meeting big seas, and being unable to stem the fierce tidal stream in the narrows at Langstone harbour mouth.)

 This time, an almost ideal SW breeze had perhaps a little too much cloud behind it to the west, but promised a brisk cruise down from the lovely setting of Itchenor and its wide hard, open at any tide. The breeze, obviously building as I was  getting the Classic rig up (picture below) gave a fast beat down the channel, losing some of the opposing tide as the channel  widened into the harbour, beating across until landing at the beach and the hooked spit at the entrance (to adjust the wishboom to flatten the sail more, as the wind was now strong enough to blow the draft backwards in the sail and hook the leach, a downside of the batten-less Classic sail.)



  Hoping for a brisk beat for the long next stage along the Hayling Island shore, I cut across Chichester Harbour mouth, with a strange phenomenon in mid-channel in the tide rip--with the strong breeze and tide aligned, the water flattened out, to the point of being almost oily, until the waves picked up again towards the other shore

  There I learned it was not going to be at all easy, meeting steep waves, beating in long port boards along the shore (with difficulty keeping tightly on the wind with the boat knocked to leeward in the waves, eased by fast short starboard boards out to sea )

 

The theory sailing up the Hayling Island shore to Langstone entrance is that the harbour has a long entrance spit (the East Winner Sand) running straight out to sea for half a mile on the eastern side of the entrance ---so that the spit (exposed at mid-tide)  provides a breakwater for a shallow-draft boat coming along the shore from the east---and previously I have pulled the boat through shallows across the bar, or landed on it with the wheels and pulled a hundred yards across the hard sand.

(Photo right: a different day, 2013...the boat on dry land 500 metres from the shore, pulling across the spit, kite-surfers in the shallows behind.)

 This time was going to be different, with the
 tide well in, and the waves coming in over the spit, now as whitecaps,  not fully breaking but  steeper in the shallowing water.

  Getting closer to the bar in broken water there was a strong feeling that I should not be there at all,
 but there is always a (foolish) reluctance to turn back, and I could be consoled by the shore to leeward where I could land to sort things out if it got really awkward

 Finally I was into the steepest seas across the bar, and there was no sign of bottom, crossing into the Langstone Harbour entrance. Now I was again in smooth water (and sudden sunshine) sweeping in on the tide-race (as the harbour entrance is very narrow with steep stony banks, the water deep and moving quickly right up to the shore.)

  The long beat along the island had brought up lunchtime, taken by turning  into the little low-key boat harbour tucked behind the entrance to the harbour, for a quick landing on a stony beach. Even this short stop revealed that the day had changed, with wind and cloud building. So the run after lunch up into the wide harbour was very quick in flat water, through the moored small boats.

  Langstone is Chichester Harbour's poor cousin, little built up, working boats at the moorings near the entrance, and then quickly wide and empty as you go further in, with fast sailing in flat water in all but the lightest breeze. This time, with rain and more wind catching me up, the smooth water turned choppier, moving fast sitting on the back of the boat, heading for the top NE corner and the road bridge coming up.

There is no choice once you get there about the course in to the landing---the demolished railway bridge has a narrow centre channel, a lost swinging bridge with a platform on rollers (photo below, on a gentler day) and it was a matter of committing to the entrance running dead before, blessing the lower power of the Classic rig, and rushing amongst the moored boats in flatter water, gybing and landing at the slipway.



 

The unusual stage of this circumnavigation is pulling the boat on the wheels up and over the A3023, something you could only do with Catapult's mobile wheels

(Photos above and right---the
slipway up from Langstone  into Chichester Harbour, cars along the top.)

 
This time, rain and wind gave no time to pause, grabbing the first space offered by a motorist in the traffic stream.

 But the world on the other side was absurdly different---the sun came out, the road bank sheltered the brisk wind, and the high tide gave a wide expanse of flat water, civilised enough to pause for photos.

 (Below: the 18th century waterfront of Langstone ) 



 

 
    Then swinging around to go down into Chichester Harbour, tightening up from a flat run onto a reach, moving faster and faster (past a little Weta trimaran) down into the wide harbour, with International 14's flying under spinnakers. The fast reach took me down to the morning's landing place, to then turn to run up the eastern arm back towards Itchenor again (passing two of the 14s now righting themselves after rolling in all standing.) The wind now with the making tide gave smooth water and a broad curving run along the lines and lines of boats moored at Itchenor.

  A full cruise of Chicester requires a passage all the way up the eastern arm towards Chichester, zipping along (thinking it might take longer getting back) past Birdham Marina and the entrance to the old canal to Chichester. Mixed dinghies were racing out of Birdham but the final narrower top harbour became empty, arriving at Dell Quay, always properly picturesque with the quay buildings and moorings setting off the big pub (photo below)

 

 


  A civilised cruise of Chichester Harbour involves a pub lunch at Dell Quay, but this was not one of those days, so it was not stopping, sweeping round back upwind, finding the beat back quick enough in the wide pool outside Birdham (giving way to the racing Solos and Toppers) and then tacking and just able to hold a tight port board through the lines of moorings down to Itchenor

 The complete Harbour Tour has to include the shorter harbour arm up into Bosham Harbour, with brief views of the Cathedral in the distance, and then the Saxon church above the moorings and old houses right on the water at high tide (photo below.) Harold had pretty much this view, looking back as he set off for Normandy to meet William and precipitate his fate, after praying in the church the day before---easy to stand where he knelt. Then the Classic rig's ability to tack very quickly helped the beat out through lines of moorings, with a short board across to Itchenor's wide hard.

 Next time?---after each time round, a quieter tour around the shores of Chichester Harbour looks sensible and attractive, but come the day, will it still seem right to head away to find Langstone?

  Alastair



(Below: some more Chichester Harbour cruising pictures: the tiny harbour at Emsworth)



(Below: the view up the harbour at Itchenor)

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