Solent Gaffers


Solent Spring Chichester Rally

Satellite sailing before Hester
©Ed Rice

Sue and David Pennison gave their brand new gaffer Satellite a first taste of the Solent events and Sue tells us all about the weekend.

Billed as an OGA invasion of Chichester Harbour, the fabulous Bank Holiday weather bought more than just the gaffers out to play as the OGA fleet assembled over Friday and Saturday. Boats on passage from the Solent on Friday morning saw fog rolling in around Portsmouth fairway as the forts disappeared. All was well by the time the harbour entrance was reached as the fog had lifted and there were sparkling conditions for the motor up to Chichester Marina. Once locked in, early arrivals (Step Back in Time, Pippit, Satellite, Souvenir) gathered together for  a drink and chat on board Satellite before going to the bar in Chichester Yacht Club to meet organiser Chris.  Saturday saw some folk making their way into Chichester (eventually – don’t believe the bus timetables) in pretty sweltering conditions whilst other gaffers were arriving. By Saturday evening, gaffers with cars and gaffers with boats congregated for supper in the Yacht Club and plans were made for the following day to sail down to East Head and anchor / go ashore / whatever.  Having got in the queue to lock out of the marina, boats assembled outside to motor / sail in company to East Head. Molly Oxford, Sea Filly, Souvenir, Satellite, Hester, Lady Belle battled though International 14’s and Solent Sunbeams racing in the harbour and managed to get to East Head, with Molly Oxford and Souvenir turning back heading for the Marina in the hope of arriving at ‘free flow’ (not having to lock in). The four remaining boats congregated and had tea and cake at East Head and Hester, Sea Filly and Satellite then returned, leaving Lady Belle at anchor where they had chosen to spend the night.  Satellite joined the queue with 24 boats ahead of her waiting to lock in!  Hester made a dash for Birdham Pool where the prospects of getting in more quickly seemed better. Needless to say there were a few thirsty gaffers in the Clubhouse that night. Boats departed at leisure on Monday with some taking the early tide back to the Solent whilst others left later. Chichester Harbour is a great natural resource with plenty to explore. The hospitality at Chichester Yacht Club was very high quality and well organised and the lock staff appreciative of a nice gaffer.

Ed Rice (Hester) has added a few words about the alternative mooring at Birdham Pool

Birdham Pool is a beautiful time warp. The first marina to be created in the UK when lock gates were installed in 1935. Previously, it had functioned as a tidal mill and pond. The mill still stands but the lock has frozen the tide.

Although much work has been carried out (and continues) over the last few years to modernise the shore facilities, the Pool itself has remained largely unchanged. Instead of the usual ubiquitous floating pontoons there are series of meandering timber slatted walk ways supported by timber piles (unsawn logs). Berths are mostly fore and aft. The staff are friendly and welcoming and there is a laid back, unpretentious feel to the place.

The view from the Pool extends past the old mill and lock gate, across the tree lined harbour and up to Dell Quay beyond which the spire of Chichester Cathedral rises above the coastal plain before the land itself rises above all, in the form of the South Downs.

Well worth a visit to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Solent and the racing fleets in the lower reaches of Chichester Harbour, but don't tell everyone!

18 Jun 2018