A Day Return from Studland to Wareham

On 21st September, Cavatina and I sailed from Studland to Wareham and back in a day. I knew wind and tides would have to be just right, and that’s how it worked out, including a helpful wind shift, from south to south-west in the afternoon. It took from 0945 to 1845, with a half hour break for a late lunch at Redcliffe Farm (just down the river from Wareham Quay) before setting off for the voyage back.

In the morning, a broad reach and then a dead run in a F3 southerly breeze took us sedately and steadily out of Studland Bay, round the end of the training bank, into Poole Harbour past the chain ferry, and through Brownsea Road to the east of Brownsea Island, on the last of the flood tide. Keeping over towards the Parkstone (north) side of the Harbour** to avoid the wind shadow of Brownsea Island, a beam reach on the top of the tide took us uneventfully past moorings and commerce and bijou ‘housing’ developments, and so out into one of the quieter corners of Poole Harbour. Not a lot of sailing going on – some dinghies out of Rockley, and a trickle of small cruisers in both directions along the Wareham Channel. Eventually the channel, marked by stakes in a deceptively wide bay, did a u-bend wiggle before diving into reed beds and becoming (presumably) the River Frome, which was about 20-25 metres wide.

Here the going became tricky. A combination of 6-8ft high reeds plus occasional trees, lots of moored boats, the river wriggling round all points of the compass (literally), and the desultory ebb-before-second-high-tide, all combined with the river flow to frustrate my already slow progress. I took to rowing, not easy on a narrow winding river with moorings in the way and no-one to helm (yes, strong case for an outboard!). It took me two hours to do the shortish up-river bit of the voyage, and I eventually reached Redcliffe (like Jonathan, I claim it for Wareham) at 1430, feeling peckish and a bit tired. I nosed Cavatina into the bank. Then, trying to go ashore round the mast and over the foredeck, I fell overboard and landed on my back in a reed bed and a foot of water. Yes, I was soaked. However I don’t think my indignity was observed by anyone else, and I had sort of dried out by the time I got back to spare clothes at Studland.

The return was fairly straightforward. By then the final ebb was flowing. I saw three separate kingfishers and two herons, and heard two very melodious warblers (sedge? reed?). We had several encounters with a splendid bijou (about 35ft) paddle steamer, complete with steam propulsion, a tall chimney, a loud whistle and prodigious paddle-boxes, which was chomping up and down the Frome. Out in Poole Harbour there was not much wind at first, but it strengthened helpfully later, and two other factors made it possible to make the shortest course to the harbour entrance; the breeze veered from south to south-west, and the tide carried us sufficiently far south in the open water west of Brownsea Island so that we could bear away and charge along with the ebb south of the island, rather than having to go the long way round.

We passed a beautifully appointed junk rigged schooner anchored inside South Haven Point (those aboard were gobsmacked and thrilled to see us), and then headed out past the ferry, a bit of wind-over-tide livening up the sea state. A few broad and exhilarating beats took us round the end of the training bank and into Studland Bay. As we made our way upwind and eventually to the Knoll Beach slipway, the wind gradually died and, as we finally slipped into the shallows, the sun had almost set and there was a beautiful silver light on the little waves lapping the shoreline. There were no humans left on the beach, only a squirrel foraging happily for left-overs on the sand, and rabbits taking over the NT car park.

It was dark by the time I finally had Cavatina snugged down. It had been a long day, and I still had a two hour drive home. But it had been well worth it, and I was able to do precious little at home the following day (the joys of retirement).

Michael Rogers

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