Yesterday I traveled in a small party by motor cruiser to Bembridge on the north-east of the Isle of Wight, for much of the trip being let loose on the wheel in the cockpit.
The conditions were overcast and mild – save for the forty minute period over lunch during which bright sunshine broke through at about 1.00pm – and one could have marked them down as perfect weather for such an outing. The Solent was almost as calm as a mill pond and on both legs, going and coming back, at times we opened our vessel up to a speed of about 13 knots which was quite exhilarating.
On the outward from Chichester Harbour there was little marine traffic. Once we were out into the sea, we passed a number of giant tankers or container ships as we made our way across to the Isle of Wight. When I commented that these seemed to be queuing for an opportunity to go into one port or another, our captain for the day responded that the oil tankers often ‘marked time’ at anchor, literally waiting for the oil price to go the right way before landing their precious ‘black gold’ (as the Beverley Hillbillies used to call it in the title song to their 1960s television series).
The purpose of our expedition was to have lunch in Bembridge Harbour and then hang around in the open water between the two Solent Forts, hoping to watch the fly past of Spitfires and Hurricanes that one of our party had spotted in a preview piece on the BBC television Breakfast Show. Apparently they were gathering at Biggin Hill to commemorate the ‘hardest day’ of the Battle of Britain – 18th September 1940 – and were going to break into three groups to pass over different part of the south-east country and coast.
In the event, either they failed to put in an appearance at all … or else we failed to spot them when they did. After bobbing about in the Solent for fifty minutes, drifting with the tide, we gave the project up as a bad job and headed for home.
In all, my father and I were on board the craft for seven hours – from 1000 to 1700 hours. Although we both drank cups of coffee plus a mugs of champagne and white wine, during all that time my father never used the ‘heads’ [the on-board lavatory] once. If I tried to emulate that feat I’d have fainted from the pain. That’s half his problem. He has a phobia about going to the lavatory when out and about and so avoids drinking anything whenever he knows he is going to be ‘on the road’ in whatever form that might be – this against a background in which he is under orders to keep himself well-hydrated because (as I understand it) not doing so makes his ‘balance’ issues worse.
I had to make a slightly reluctant special day trip to the coast to join this somewhat hastily-arranged last-minute outing but in the event thoroughly enjoyed it. I had never been to Bembridge before – it was delightfully picturesque, despite the fact that at low tide much of the main creek becomes a mudflat. By chance, or perhaps design in which I had certainly played no part, we had arrived at high tide and thus the setting for our visit remained idyllic for the duration.