We’re in France, and to get further southwest, we’re going north?
Yup, we’re going north…
Thursday-Monday, May 16-20
Our original plan for reaching the Channel Islands was to follow the French coast from Boulogne sur Mer to other French ports until we reached Cherbourg. Then cross to Alderney, the northernmost of the Channel Islands.
But, after speaking with other cruisers and considering the tides, we changed countries (and courtesy flags) and headed straight across to New Haven, England.
With decent winds and a favorable current, 10 hours later we pulled into a small marina in New Haven for the night. At a local pub we recovered from our docking (strong currents and wind on the stern created a ‘fun’ time) and made plans for an early leave-taking the following morning.
We hoped to stay in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. You may know of this as being the location of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s summer home, Osborne House. Maybe more noteworthy for sailors: it’s the site of the original race leading to the America’s Cup. However, we discovered two regattas had fully booked the marina. Quickly perusing the chart we noticed a port opposite the island and found an open berth there.
Again, currents and tides dictated our ETA as this area, known as the Solent. The currents flow at significant strength and require diligence and careful timing.
Another full day’s sail and we landed in one of the poshest marinas we have ever been in, the Lymington Yacht Haven (the marina in the bottom, right-hand corner below).
When checking in the friendly, young staff member handed us a welcome bag (four-color, marina brochure, floating keychain, and two bottles of water) stating, ‘…and, the showers are luxurious.’ That intriguing endorsement ensured I’d be holding them up to a high standard only to discover that, indeed, the shower facilities were jaw-dropping to die for. First, you walked into a bathroom you would be happy to find at a pampering spa…
only to enter your personal shower stall featuring
not one, but TWO shower heads…
a teak changing bench and sink complete with sweet-smelling soap and lotion…
and, drum roll here: a towel-warming rack (!).
I later discovered Max wasn’t as careful and almost singed a body part….
When delicious hot water gushed from the heads my joy increased: I felt my hair leap with happiness as I purged it of the shampoo build-up from five weeks of tepid, spitting showers. Plus, a convenient hair dryer and curling iron, if needed, resided in the shared sink area.
Adding to my high rating of the facilities was the laundry room with two washers and two dryers (and an ironing board with iron available at the front office).
The only downside came from trying to hook up to the free WIFI, but in all other areas–easy stroll to town, access to chandleries and groceries, bucolic scenery, and helpful staff–this marina earned its hefty nightly fee.
Taking the weekend to enjoy our surroundings we walked into town, a leisurely ten-minute stroll. With its cobble-stone roads fronted by small cottagey-stores,
we felt as if we stepped back in time to August 2014 when we first landed on England’s SW coast after our nine-day passage from the Azores. Then, Max, our crew member Steve, and I soaked up the yachting heritage associated with Falmouth.
And, similar to Falmouth, you’re never far away from someone plying the waters.
One boat’s captain exited a wheelchair to take a disabled passenger for a ride on the water. From the passenger’s huge grin we knew he was anticipating a lovely morning on the river.
Walking back from town we noticed a large pool stocked with floating apparatus. This was the Open Air Baths filled with sea water and waiting for customers to enjoy a chilly (refreshing?) swim.
It seems any town on this side of the English Channel reflects centuries of livelihoods earned from the sea. Lymington’s economy depended on four industries: shipbuilding; smuggling; salt; and, sailing.
From the medieval times shipbuilding played an important role in this town. During the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) nine ships built here contributed to the defense of the country. Just up the river from our marina, the Berthon Boat Company founded in 1877, continues that trade.
Like many of the towns situated on England’s southern coast, smugglers found plenty of ways to ‘import’ wine, bandy, silks, coffee, tea and other goods into the country. Support from the local community here ensured a steady flow of goods (and revenue), especially at the end of 17th century.
Salt created Lymington’s wealth in the 1700s with this town and surrounding area being the largest sea salt industry in England. This dominance eroded when Cheshire mined it for less causing Lymington to close it’s saltern in 1865.
Finally, sailing and yachties provide a good source of income for the locals; and, based on the fee for our two nights, it’s a very rewarding business.
The marsh served as the backdrop for the marina, and on Sunday we joined other walkers and stretched our legs along one of the many paths. It was here Max found some jetsam that he quickly rescued.
He managed to return it to spiffiness with a wash; and, after scraping off the algae grime he proudly added it to our flotilla of fenders. I have to say it’s a handy souvenir of Lymington :)
Next, crossing the Channel (again)…