It was already 4.00pm by the time we had opened up the boat, the missing battery switch key had been located, the engine started and warmed up, and the sail cover stowed away. My marina is no place in which to attempt berthing manouevres once the ebb starts running, and it was about to start running very fast indeed. Without stopping to admire Will's handiwork, we set off just as fast as we could.
It was worth the effort. Even the briefest of glances below decks revealed that Will had a little more work to do just yet before the latest refit jobs were completed, but everything above decks was working and that was all we needed to take Arabella out for a spin. Some fairly chunky gusts, well up into F5, came through as we motored rapidly down river on the building ebb and I hurriedly rigged the first reefing line, just in case we needed it - the sails had only gone back on that morning and no-one had had time to sort slab reefing lines as yet. We didn't need to reef, however. The breeze settled down to a F4 southwesterly, and I opted to leave a little of the genoa furled to balance Arabella's main, which is very small indeed. With the wind a little forward of the beam, and the spring ebb under us, we fairly hurtled down Southampton Water on a single fetch. The log read 6.5 knots steady through the water, which I reckoned was over-reading somewhat, since our SOG was barely a knot more than that, but whatever, Arabella was evidently in a racy kind of mood today. She's always at her best on a reach in a good breeze, and perhaps also she was trying to make a point - you might have done the RTI in a 45-footer at 8 knots or more, but I'm no slouch either, she seemed to be saying, and I'm more fun!
She was right. She was fun. A lot more fun than most other 37 year-old females of my acquaintance. We rocketed past Netley, the Hamble entrance and Calshot in barely an hour, stealing back the leeway we lost from time to time with brief spells of splashy, close-hauled sailing as Arabella drove through the grey chop. Once we had cleared Calshot Reach and the breeze hit a steady F5 from the western Solent, we executed our one and only tack for the day, and settled down for a slightly less bouncy broad reach back home, into the final hour and a half of the ebb.
Our SOG dwindled, and we had more time to relax and survey our surroundings, including the extraordinarily unprepossessing Jakarta Tower, a 35,000t DWT, 213m LOA lump that had chosen to anchor, stern to a buoy, in the middle of Southampton Water.
The breeze began to die off as evening approached, but the ebb was also slackening, and before too long we were motoring back up the Itchen as I furled away the genoa and dropped the main. At 7.30pm, almost perfect timing for low water, we drifted gently into Arabella's berth at the marina, closed her up and ran for the train back to London.
Above and below: Our GPS track today, care of PassagePlus.
There was just time to make a quick mental note of a couple of things to raise with Will about the refit - and because he takes pride in his work, I won't reveal here the things he is still working on, but I could see they were going to be great when they were finished.
Days like this make boat ownership worthwhile.
Below: the Bramblemet report for 29th June.
Conditions: SW, F4, occasionally F5, mixed cloud and sunshine. Sea state: slightDistance covered (GPS over ground): 15.8 NM
Total distance covered to date (2010): 15.8 NM
Engine hours: 1.1 (total for 2010: 1.1 hours)