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Sailing trip to the Isle of Wight 2017

posted 22 May 2017, 12:21 by Zak Warren   [ updated 3 Jun 2017, 06:21 ]
The crew of Drascombe 3
We arrived at the Royal Navy Sailing Centre (RNSC) bright and early for one of our most challenging adventures. Ellen MacArthur Troop were well prepared and eager to go as they walked from Whale Island's security gate to the RNSC. As soon as the centre opened we split into our crews and signed out the equipment and boats. 

Between us, we ably crewed three Drascombe Gigs and two S700 yachts. The RNSC also sent their safety officer in a RIB to escort us across the Solent. After a brief radio check we were on our way, sailing around HMS Bristol and down Portsmouth Harbour. We started our engines and powered through the harbour entrance and then sailed out across the Solent. Suddenly the waves felt a bit bigger and bumpier than the small swell we get in our little sheltered bay! 

This trip took a couple of months to plan and prepare for, poring over charts, kit lists and other paperwork. The Leaders had a couple of training and familiarisation days on the RNSC boats as they're different to our Group's own dinghies. As we're an RN Recognised Sea Scout Group, all of the navy boats, equipment and facilities are available to us to make use of. They're boats seemed more suitable for this sort of trip compared with our small dinghies, so we booked them for our pioneering adventure. 

Tacking towards Priory Bay
The Scouts also spent an evening in our Scout HQ, learning about the equipment, navigating, radio protocol and sailing theory. This meant they could make the most of the trip and apply their skills, taking it in turns to helm, control the mainsail, control the jib, communicate with the other boats over the radio, navigate and keep a lookout. 

The biggest worry on this trip was the major shipping channel through the Solent, however we crossed without any problems. We then tacked to head towards No Man's Land Fort, one of the chain of four Palmerston forts in the Solent. On approaching the fort, we tacked again and struck out towards Seagrove Bay, our destination on the Isle of Wight. 

Dragon, one of the S700 yachts, was the first to reach Seagrove bay and drop anchor. Phoenix, the other S700, was close behind. The Drascombes were closing in on the bay, only a ten minute sail away, when the crew of one of them, D3, suddenly declared that their mast had snapped. The other two Drascombes and the RIB closed in to help, while the S700s raised their anchors and came back to support. Soon the crew of D3 had lowered the mast and secured it in the boat. We'd now run out of time to make landfall so, content we'd made it to Isle of Wight waters, we all turned about and headed back to Portsmouth. 

Celebrating a successful journey
Travelling back in convoy, the rest of us continued taking turns with the different jobs aboard our vessels. All too soon we were back in the harbour. Suddenly, as we sailed around the stern of HMS Bristol and towards our pontoons, D4 found themselves in trouble as well. Only thirty seconds away from its berth, one of the Leaders had to hold up the mast while the rest of the crew powered the boat in and secured it to the pontoon. Once we were all secured and settled, we discovered that the same thing had happened to both D3 and D4. The small piece of string the RNSC had used to connect the forestay (one of the wires that hold the mast up) to the deck plate had snapped. D2 was the only Drascombe to return in one piece as it used a strong bolt to hold the forestay in place. Next time we organise this trip, the leaders will be checking all the fittings on the RNSC boats in great detail! 

Despite the difficulties, everyone really enjoyed the journey and learnt a lot too. It even signed off lots of badge requirements!