Most people are generally found tucked up at home in front of the roaring fire watching the countdown on the telly rather than yachting around the Solent in the depths of winter – but we had the privilege to host a fantastic fun and eventful New Years Eve charter for a family making up 5 + skipper.
We started on a breezy day on the eve of New Years Eve… thankfully it wasn’t raining – in fact the sun was out and it wasn’t too cold! In the morning we welcomed our hardy guests, introduced them to the boat, took them through the safety brief and after the obligatory knot tying, warp understanding and reefing lesson we took them to sea… well, more like the protected reaches of Southampton water… where it was flat, if a little gusty… but on the whole, well protected.
It was a lovely day and no one else was around apart from the odd passing ship and occasional tug. With everyone getting to grips with the art of helming, sail trimming and the tacking we ventured out into the Solent heading west enjoying the solitude of being the only sailing vessel within sight and taking the occasional strong gust in our stride.
On board we had a very game family, with Mum, daughter and son plus their respective boyfriends / girlfriends. The youngest on board was 17. It was an absolute delight to have such an ‘up for it’ group on board who were just happy to be outdoors experiencing something so very different over the New Year period and enjoying being together. With an extremely windy forecast we knew we might have to hide away out of the gales reach the next day so we set our sights on Beaulieu for the destination that evening knowing that it would give us ample protection from whatever the weather could throw at us… and opportunity to explore locally either by dinghy or by foot if storm bound.
The wind came up, and we had 3 reefs in, making good progress to the entrance of Beaulieu with the youngsters taking it turns on the helm and reducing sail as was necessary. The wind against tide threw up a bit of chop and it was becoming slightly uncomfortable so we made a dash into the entrance of the river so we could settle down, pick up a buoy and have some late lunch. Down below it was toasty hot from the very efficient diesel heater and we settled down to some soup, tiger bread and cold platter…
Refreshed and revitalised, as the tide was ebbing ferociously, we then practised a bit of ferry gliding and took in some finer points of helming amongst the moorings with a few pick ups and passes with Mum on the helm. Then it was on, up the beautiful and picturesque tree lined river, to the historic and pretty Bucklers Hard where Nelsons ships were built, and into our snug pre-booked berth with shore power just as it was becoming dark…
We knew that the weather was set to deteriorate… that’s a bit of an understatement really… it was due to lash it down… and howl like a screaming banshee! They were giving one of those very dark red forecasts on XC Weather of 45 knots, but it was due to come and go quite quickly, and would abate by the following late afternoon. The most important thing was to get the all important cockpit ‘party tent’ set up – these are just a godsend. It makes an additional place to put any wet kit… additional space to chill out in… and if you open the lazerette and let the heat spill out from the heater it warms up the cockpit area and helps dry any wet clothes out!
All in all we had a very comfortable night… a few well earned G & T’s, a good meal in front of a roaring fire at the Master Builders pub and a hot shower. Even the wind howling through the rigging could not keep us awake!
The next day was a tad damp… I don’t know how many inches of rain fell that day but it seemed a lot… and it was blowing too. Too much wind for us – so an alternative plan was required to entertain those on board. Spirits were high! The intrepid expedition dinghy team was formed, kitted up in full wets, chart studied and ready for action. Hot chocolate with cream on top was tantalisingly dangled as the delightful prize for navigating up the river to the village of Beaulieu and to the Old Bakery Tea Rooms. The intrepid explorers went on their travels huddled down in the small outboard powered dinghy hoping to shelter one behind the other.
This allowed the shore bound party to stretch their legs. It was a tonic to tramp the couple of miles through the fantastic woodland walk along the riverside path and join them at the lovely cosy tea room destination. With the dinghy made fast at the weir, the dinghy expedition group piled into the tea room ordering an excellent array of hot chocolate, cakes, cream and delicacies. Yum!
An entertaining dinghy journey back on the ebb resulted in a bit of team bonding with rowing part way the order of the day – and a riverside marsh landing as the skipper had underestimated the amount of fuel required for the return trip. A small row to warm him up brought him and dinghy safely back to the boat just as the rain stopped and the skies cleared.
We decided, sensibly, due to time constraints and the forthcoming evening celebrations, that we would stay put for yet another night at Beaulieu as this was New Years Eve and Beaulieu offered the promise of a firework display to round off the night with music in the pub.
Later on after a few card games, after showers, a 5 course meal was prepared with everyone taking charge of an individual course. Each young couple got to grips with the galley and produced an absolutely fantastic meal. So with cocktails and beverages of choice at the ready we proceeded to cook and enjoy the evening. It was a sumptuous array of dishes. The skipper had flown over with some fresh local seafood produce as a treat and the whole lot was washed down by quality French wines. Here is what we treated ourselves to…
The New Years Eve Menu
- Canapés Italian Style
- Manx Crab Claws in Garlic with Chillies Pepper
- Manx Queen Scallops with Chorizo & Garlic
- Hunters Chicken with Fresh Steamed Vegetables and New Potatoes
- Eton Mess with Fresh Fruit & Berries
- Continental Cheese Board
- Coffee & Chocolates
- A Wee Dram – Choice of Talisker / Glenkinchie
After dinner towards midnight, we nipped off to the pub to see in the New Year, enjoy the roaring fire, music and the excellent fireworks display. Every time we thought they had finished the fireworks – more just kept on coming! An excellent end to a brilliant evening! Happy New Year!
The next morning, new years day dawned bright and crisp – clear blue skies and a forecasted F4/5 westerly. We cleared our slightly fuddled heads, grabbed a quick bite and pushed off with eager crew to clear the entrance bar and under full sail powered close upwind towards Newtown Creek. What a fantastic day.
It was an excellent sail with brilliant conditions and not another boat to be seen on the water. Our crew did some excellent helming out of the river, across the Solent and brought us cleanly up to the buoy that we picked up for a truly excellent and well deserved brunch in a completely deserted and tranquil setting with only the noise of the gulls to be heard. We enjoyed the setting – but it was a quick affair though – as we didn’t want to push too much foul tide on the way home, so a quick turnaround was in order. The wind picked up as forecast just when we wanted it so that we had a fantastic sail back to the Hamble in a fresh F5 with everyone taking turns on the helm and tunes blasting out of the cockpit speakers. The youngsters and their Mum did a sterling job flying along in the fresh breeze, and in the latter stages of the day, creeping up around the shallows fighting the tide towards Calshot Spit.
Overall a brilliant New Year. A great way to see the New Year in with such a nice group who were simply not phased by the weather, took it all in their stride, helped out all round… and by all accounts … loved every minute of it – even when they got drenched! This family was excellent company with a great attitude, the food was great and the sailing awesome! It just goes to show that with a good sound boat and efficient heater aboard, the right kit and confidence in your crew you can really enjoy time on board in the winter even when a tad breezy!
This group enjoyed it so much that they have petitioned their Mum to have their summer holiday aboard in July! It is already booked!
Check out their testimonial below:
“Thrilling, exciting, and escaping….
Whilst I may have started the trip a little apprehensive, bringing 4 young people on board, the skipper gave the teenagers a great New Year, despite difficult weather conditions, they learnt loads, laughed plenty, and had tons of fun both on and off shore!
They’ve been left with some wonderful memories of a great New Year.
We have all recommended Yachtforce to practically everyone we have spoken to since and have booked a Summer charter to carry on the fun….”