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Ben Collins, Solent member of the OGA sailed ‘Little Stint’ across the Solent to meet up with the RBC60 fleet in Cowes for the party weekend, Saturday 6 May. We publish the first part of his report here, along with a sketch of the rather damp pontoon that greeted him. Look out for a brighter sketch on the next post.

Like a few other ageing ‘Old Gaffers’ I know, I no longer had a ‘Gaffer’ to prove my credentials. Would turning up in my ‘Bermudan’ make me a gate crasher to the party? I shouldn’t have worried! Even the grey penetrating  drizzle could not dampen the spirits of the stalwarts gathered at the Marina hammerhead. A whole crowd of them in their red and yellow ‘oiies’ were boarding  ‘Jolie Brise’ for a wet sail around the bay. Never mind the weather! But I was just arriving solo, and the wind and rain had proved  too much for my heavy weather gear . ‘Rather them than me,’ I thought searching for those left behind to assist me with berthing. But clearly the rest of them were tucked away in their cosy cabins as the icy rain made one more attempt to penetrate my clothing. Boathook in hand I caught hold of one a fender rope on ‘Minstrel’ and somehow slewed to a clumsy halt.

But what I lost in the arrival style was soon compensated for by the warm welcome when the drenching stopped. Heavy weather always brings out the true sailor and this lot, their boats ready for open sea, looked ready for much bigger challenges than the meek damp Solent I had just navigated. Already skippers were talking of passage plans to Plymouth. Weary of the westerly forecast some were talking of a direct two day ‘down channel’ passage to avoid getting port bound en route. Others, however, were planning the more sedate route via Weymouth, Portland Bill and Torquay. But the Solent OGA were not going to let them go  without  a party! The committee had pulled out the stops and ordered in a treat! And there’s nothing quite like being stranded on a wet rainy island in a tent to heighten the effect! A steaming hot tagine and a creaming fruit dessert help set the tone. Then, from amongst the the Isle of Wight’s vintage bearded rockers a 50’s Rock and Roll band arrived to send us all on our feet! This was true food followed by ‘true grit’ from some of the Island’s great stock of sea-locked talent.

Ben Collins, Solent OGA member