Here are some photographs from this year's annual event, as provided by Richard Olsen.
I am happy to report a very successful event over the May Bank Holiday. A total of eleven boats gathered at Buckler’s Hard on the Beaulieu River on the Saturday night.
The weather was distinctly cold but the pontoon party went ahead nevertheless. We gathered between the fuel pump and a raised bed of dead geraniums and shared a large variety of canapes. Most importantly, Bernie Steed introduced the assembled company to the tot ceremony of The Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda and duly raised the Naval Saturday toast. As the name of that Club implies, the toast was in rum for those who could swallow it, and it warmed up proceedings significantly. Commodore Peter Costalas read from the book, "The Royal Navy Day by Day", reminding us all of our auspicious heritage, with particular reference to Royal Naval encounters with European and American navies over the centuries.
Then the fun really started. The rotating dinner involved everyone scurrying off in different directions eating different food on different boats. What a great way of mixing us all up! Then more of the same scrambling as dessert was served somewhere else, the difference being that by this time everyone had imbibed more! Happily there appeared no incidents of slipping over the side or of slipping into the wrong boat or wrong bunk, but we may never know…… Great organisation. Thanks to everyone.
The next morning, most of us turned up for a brief service in the chapel of St. Mary's at Buckler’s Hard. It felt very special. It was a privilege to have the use of the tiny converted cottage. The Club provided not only the entire congregation but also the Padre, John Singleton, and the organist, Martin Frith.
Buckler’s Hard is a delightful old village, heaving with Naval history, which many of us had a chance to explore.
In the afternoon we left our berth to go to Gin’s Farm, not far from the mouth of the River. Nothing to do with the beverage, Gin’s is thought to derive from ‘ingenium’, a lifting or winding device used by the monks of Beaulieu to unload cargo to avoid navigating higher up the river.
On Sunday, the weather persisted in behaving more like November than almost May, but, undeterred, we had drinks on Kiano, courtesy of the Ware family, to celebrate the yacht's return to the Club fleet under their new ownership, and we overflowed into Susan Ayu and Spirit of Avalon when things got a bit too cosy.
Dinner in the Royal Southampton Yacht Club's clubhouse was superb, with shore party members swelling our numbers to over forty. Once again change of one's location during the dinner, this time chosen by a raffle ticket draw, was the key to lively conversations.
The Commodore then rose to say a few well-chosen words.
This was certainly a weekend to remember.
Enclosed are some photographs of the event provided by Marcus Ware
UPDATE: A collection of photographs can be viewed here.
Early on a bright May morning with a brisk Easterly wind, three Club boats Alana III, Alouette and Moody Blue set course for the Bembridge Ledge Buoy before easing onto a course of 195 for Cherbourg. The wind had conspired with the spring tide to throw up a lively sea which gradually eased after the tide turned about noon.
Alana III (42ft) secured in Chantereyne Marina Cherbourg about 12 hours later followed by Alouette (34ft) a couple of hours later. Moody Blue (28ft) crept in after another epic 18 hour passage which demonstrated that size does matter where long passages are concerned.
A dramatic thunderstorm lit up the Friday night sky but by the Saturday morning conditions had improved and the opportunity was taken by many to visit the impressive museum “City of the Sea” which includes a decommissioned nuclear submarine and a Titanic exhibition. Others savoured Moules and Frites and stocked up at the Carrefour Hypermarket and the Normandy Wine Store.
Our Commodore and his crew of ancient mariners in Volunteer arrived in time to join the rest of the party at a pontoon party-not on a pontoon but under a clump of trees overlooking the marina. With flying speed achieved, the party dispersed to local eateries various to savour French cuisine.
Sunday dawned under a cloudy sky but pleasantly warm to permit further tourist activity and the chance to top up internal batteries. Egret with world cruisers Patrick and Amanda Marshall join the rally mid-afternoon after a gentle sail up from St Vaast and all then repaired to the L’Equipage Bistro above the marina office for a farewell dinner in typical French style.
The weather forecast for Monday was SW F3-4 – ideal one might think for a return passage. Dawn on Monday however, revealed no wind with a mirror-like sea and limited visibility as the small fleet cranked up the steel spinnakers and set a course of 015 for the Solent. AIS proved to be very valuable as shipping lanes were crossed with no dramas and as the day wore on, the visibility decreased with Alouette and Moody Blue hitting thick fog as they approached the Bembridge anchorage which was pretty busy and require careful weaving in and out of the anchored vessels . All made it home safely, some sooner than others with Moody Blue again being tail-end Charlie at 2230 after a 0430 start! Size really does matter but they did have a stowaway – a racing pigeon that flew in outside Cherbourg and steadfastly refused to leave until Gosport.
All in all an exhausting but enjoyable week-end to blow out the cobwebs, savour French cuisine and an opportunity to restock the boats with liquid stores for the forthcoming season.
Eileen Morgan showing Sue West the ropes onboard Alouette in mid-Channel.