Sunday, 27 July 2014


A lovely early morning Beaulieu 

A dawn to match the sunset and until the sun is higher the river is a secret deep green.

No rush, because the tide is not going to help the likes of us for an hour to two. Taking ‘Roger’ ashore there is an opportunity to poke round the boat yard and see boats on stilts being done up for later in the season.

Mid morning we are off and out through estuary, yesterday’s friendly seal is not about to wave us off. Back in the Solent the wind has shifted and the state of the tide means westward would be too much like hard work. We turn east towards Portsmouth. Saturday traffic on the Solent is evident and white sails perforate the horizon to the south and north.

Bucklers Hard
There is racing; a menacingly graceful set of J class boats come towards us and we bear away anxious not to give offence. A lovely morning slips easily into a lovely afternoon. Soup is served; Vegetable with Moroccan spices and crunchy French bread.

Portsmouth; hitherto not visited on previous trips so we put this right. Sailing instructions are strict about having to be entering the harbour under motor and rightly so as the tide pushes sideways.

Great ferries tower above us, the Spinnaker; Portsmouth’s new bastion rears up white in the afternoon sun to greet us.  Further along a minesweeper next to a destroyer and then a frigate. This is the home of the Royal Navy.

Late afternoon and against the tide we pass into the backwaters of Portsmouth and Whale Island, once the gunnery school. We head towards Fareham on the coast and tie up in a rather forlorn looking marina at Wicor. We are safe for the evening, however with the expectation of rain during the night, we wonder whether to move on?

White sails perforate the horizon
A meeting is called and we decide to stay put. I encourage the pouring of Gins and prepare Entrecote aux Frites et salad vert.

Given that we are handing the boat over to Skipper’s sister tomorrow afternoon we finish as much wine as we can and I am rumoured to be asleep before the supper table is cleared.

Portsmouth Harbour

Saturday, 26 July 2014


Picture a picture postcard tiny port; Emsworth nestles at the base of Chichester Harbour. The Emsworth sailing club is we were loading up our supplies (wine and food) onto a trolley, with a mind of its own and then down the ramp to the tender to the yacht Rag Doll a Honey Bee class, a 27ft. sloop built in the 1960's in Scotland.

Under Skipper Tom, Chris and I were to be on the water for three days, sailing out towards and across the Solent to where wind and tide is favourable and to where we feel going.
Grey skies and a good ‘ish wind and sails set starboard close-hauled

Heading west, our passage parallel to Hayling Island. Wind behind us, sails out, goose-winged, Mainsail on port, large gib to starboard. The other boats the same, like a flock of geese.

Where da’ sun gone Skip?
Into the main channel with grey skies and a good ‘ish wind and sails set starboard close-hauled, a slot of wind to propels us forward.

Isle of Wight in view now and Bembridge, scene of previous voyages and stopovers.

I duck below to rustle up a lunch of fresh bread, ham and a salad.
I am back to cooking, I know my place. This time my menu is planned.

Mid afternoon, Friday, wind and tide not entirely in our favour so we head inland into the inlet of the Beaulieu River, an estuary wedged between Southampton water and Lymington. 

A broad expanse marked by navigation marks. A stray seal plays with a marker buoy. The cries of Oyster catchers taking off, circling round and coming back into land, otherwise very little about.
The Beauleiu River, our home for evening

The Beauleiu River, our home for evening, Rag Doll is tied up firm on a visitors mooring. Afternoon tea is served with a chocolate confection made for the trip by Sian.

Then we pump up ‘Roger’ the inflatable (dingy) and head off to Bucklers Hard and a pint at The Master Builder. We look down the greensward towards the river, an expanse of grass that was once the slipway for King Henry’s ships build with timber from nearby New Forest.

a pint at The Master Builder

A glorious evening in the river’s estuary, oystercatchers and curlews continue to chant. The sun dips and turns the water golden brown. Gin is poured and the dinning table is set for my serving up tortellini with salsa di formaggio and fresh salad and a modest merlot.  We sleep well.

Thursday, 24 July 2014


Sian's sweets peas have been stupendous this year.
Each morning she brings armfuls into the kitchen for cutting and distribution throughout the house.
Fragrance abounds.

Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) is native to Sicily, southern Italy and the Aegean Islands.

It was Henry Eckford (1823–1905), a Scottish nurseryman who crossbred and developed the sweet pea, turning it into the floral sensation of the late Victorian era.

Henry was head gardener for the Earl of Radnor, raising new cultivars of pelargoniums and dahlias. However as a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, he was awarded a First Class Certificate in 1882 for introducing the sweet pea cultivar 'Bronze Prince'.

Lathyrus odorous  the floral sensation of the late Victorian era

Tuesday, 22 July 2014




Its prelude is Hurley downstream a couple of miles. We are again about the good ship MV Cantara of Dart, our third voyage. Waiting by the lock gates there is a small backwater. This is the home of Peter Freebody the boat builder. His craft are pontoon-moored under canvas faded by the weather. 

Caddice-like they sit quietly until their owners move the covers and parade these wonderful craft at the Regatta.
Peter Freebody the Boatbuilder Hurley

Mid morning near Henley still downstream from the Regatta’s start line, along the banks colourful burgee’s flutter. The MV Janthea (a Dunkirk Little Ship).

Caps, hats and flocks are starting to appear alongside the water’s edge.

At the top of the Regatta’s course, in the warm up area, crews wait patiently for their turn on the ‘race track’. On each boat much muscle and concentration. Crowds gather round the boats to gorge on the beefcake. More hats and caps strike upstream.
The MV Janthea (a Dunkirk Little Ship)

Just past noon, Henley. A mass of tents and grandstands, stalls, flags and bunting; marquees with tables set for luncheon, much wine is offered and much is graciously accepted, the effects of which are visible later in the day. Looking down from Cantara’s upper deck we don’t miss a thing. This is the view of views of the Henley Royal Regatta, a pleasure and a privilege. People line the banks as if on a Promenade. There is much to gawp at.
Admiring the beef cake preparing to race at Henley

We can include here the Royal Barge Glorianna, it fretwork and guilt giving it the semblance of a floating Tandoori restaurant.
In the thick of it in Henley

Sunday, 20 July 2014


Henley regatta without the Henley regatta,

We are passing under Henley Bridge upstream on the MV Cantara of Dart towards Wargrave. 

As if by magic the pageant is ended the circus is over and once through Marsh Lock thre is peace. The broad Thames stream without craft or people causes us to contemplate swimming.

Mrs Duck comes to look at my work
We come upon a small eyot that splits the river in two and put over to the left hand bank where a boat has a moment previously  pulled away as if to give this mooring spot to us.

The entire bank and channel is outs.

We take a swim before lunch, eye level with water lilies, ducks and May Flies of deep turquoise. 

Beneath the surface of the water it is milky green fading to a dark brown as we push out to the centre of the river.

Lunch and then another swim, and now the water is noticeably cooler. I sit by the river’s edge, not a soul about.

I draw the grasses and sedges that are so close. Mrs Duck comes to look at my work and I keep her attention with a piece of French bread.

I draw the grasses and sedges

Time and conversation drift for maybe four hours or more. 

We then turn back for Henley and the sun has swung round behind us from white to orange as we head down stream. 

We are back on the regatta course to see the final races of the day and then home through Hambledon and Hurley locks and so to Temple Marina to end a lovely day.