Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sailing in the Isle of Wight

After 5 years of living in London and not visiting the Isle of Wight even once, this year I made it there twice! For the first trip, I finally joined the annual office sailing weekend we have in Isle of Wight every year - a full day of sailing and enjoying the sea (I had planned to join every year and cancelled every time at the last minute!). And the second trip was for a day, taking rib boats out to the Isle, having a nice lazy lunch at a seafood restaurant and then coming back to London the same day.

Sailing trip to Seaview

Getting to Isle of Wight is a bit of a relay run. The island is located in the south of England and quite close to London. So you first have to take a train to one of the harbour towns, from where multiple ferries link the island to the mainland. And then of course, once on the island, you need to take a cab to reach the village you would be staying in.  

We first took a train on a Friday from Waterloo to Portsmouth. It was about 1.5 hours through the British countryside. At Portsmouth, we just missed the ferry to Ryde which leaves every 1 hour. So we had to wait in town and walked to the nearest pub while waiting for the ferry.

Picture perfect at the Portsmouth harbour
Just outside the ferry pier, you can see the harbour and the boats moored in the water. We also saw a very fascinating sunset right behind a boat, with sunlight reflecting on the water on the shore. I found this view very magnetic, with all the colours in the sky, the clouds and a boat in front which may not have looked as fascinating as it did in the colours that day.

At Portsmouth there was also an Emirates tower very near the pier which might have had a restaurant on top and was towering against the sea. I found it quite out of place at that location, given the non city feel all around. Anyways after a quick wait, we took the Wightlink ferry from Ryde which takes about 20 mins to get to the island.

Random view from Isle of Wight
You can stand either on the rooftop or sit inside the ferry during the ride. And if you stand on the top, even though a bit windy, you can enjoy the twinkling lights both of the English mainland as well as the Isle coming up on the other side of the sea. Also by this time, there is something in the air that already makes you feel you are in a different place now.

And once on the island, there is already a feeling of being far away from London in the countryside with a fresh breeze reiterating that feeling. You can still see the highrises and the twinkling lights of the mainland across the sea but the quiet calm on the other side beckons you.

We then took a cab from the pier to our village of Seaview which was about 15 mins drive from the pier. It was a very small village with barely 30-40 houses. We first went to the Old fort pub where we were to have dinner. But they had shut down the kitchen by 10 pm! We begged a bit and finally they gave us some vegetarian korma to eat which was honestly quite average. But at least we got to eat something, as there was nothing else open in the village at that time! The weather had also got a bit cold by then but some people sat outside next to the beach for some time, enjoying the feeling of being in the open.

We were staying at one of the airbnb houses nearby, so I walked there as it was close to the pub. There was a row of holiday homes, all with views of the sea in front and we had one of those. While walking there, it was nice to be in the open, with the breeze blowing, the lights around twinkling and the stars providing light to everything around. And waking up in the bnb in the morning was an absolute joy. The view outside of a lazy pace of life was a nice way to wake up after the crazy pace of life in London.

Our sailing event was within the village itself. There was a yacht club there because of which the sea in front was dotted with boats. There were two sailing groups, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I went in the afternoon and it was crazy. The weather had worsened for the day and it had suddenly got cold and cloudy, not the best way to go into the water, eh?

We did two sailing races with about 10 or so sailboats in each race. We were only 4 in each of the boats, along with a captain (thankfully!). And it was quite an experience! The captain was mostly sailing the boat and at times shouting at us giving instructions for us to turn left and sometimes turn right. Sailing the boat was quite simple but complicated at the same time, letting some of the ropes go, and pulling the other one tight enough against the wind! And doing it all while avoiding your own as well as the others’ head.

Water was splashing on us the whole time. And we were wet very soon enough. Of course once we were wet, there was no more wetter we could be 😊. It was quite cold actually. But we were so busy exercising that it did not feel as much. And thankfully the captain knew what he was doing, so we avoided too much water, as well as falling into the water, which could have been a real possibility!

I learnt a lot about sailing, though I don’t think I would remember as much. But it was definitely an experience to remember. At times there is a lot of activity and when you are along the wind, you can just sit back and chill. While on the water, we also saw two forts in the middle of the water! They were built during the France war and have now been converted into hotels.

Anyways we came second in one of the races which was exhilarating. And then it was time to go back to the Island. Surprisingly, by then even the water had become warm, after being splashed the whole day in cold water! And we also noticed that the tide had come up at least 1.5 mtrs in the time we were out sailing!

Duver beach road
Once back home, after a long hot shower and getting the cold out of the bones, I went for a short walk around the island, along the coast road and the Duver beach. It looked like most of the houses there were holiday homes. And the beach was rocky with some sand somewhere and a lot of boats everywhere. You can also see England across the narrow sea - I could spot two big towns with highrises, but the sea almost seems to separate the two worlds. The island feels like from a different world all together, while England and London feel from another world. 

Boats moored in the sea
We had dinner at the yacht club and it was quite an experience. To stand on the terrace looking out at the sea, with the boats moored out afar. And then to have dinner in the open air, with the waves crashing on the coast. After some time, the sun also came out for 20 mins and the boats in the sea all turned golden - what an enchanting sight that was. And then slowly, some of the lights in the fort turned on. It was as if time came to a standstill on the island...

Isle of Wight from the ferry
After dinner the day was over. And I was coming back early the next morning from the same ferry. In the morning I figured out that there were no ubers on the island. And the phone signal was also bad. So we had to actually “call” a cab company to send a cab to take us to the ferry pier. During the cab ride, we also saw more of the island - with its small villages, stone houses and steeple churches along the road. And all the roads were empty on the Sunday, including the ferry back! I think there is more to explore on the island, maybe some other time.

After this very short weekend out, I was back in London very soon but the trip felt so refreshing, with the sea, the open spaces, the fresh air and the sailing. A must-do again...

Rib boats trip

In the rib boats
And there I was, going to Isle of Wight again! This time it was a very short day trip with office colleagues. We first took an early morning train to Lymington marina from Waterloo station. We all ended up missing the train, so we took the next one and then took rib boats from there. Rib boats are huge inflatable boats which can go on very high speeds and do different kind of tricks. Thankfully the weather this day was amazing - it was sunny and warm, so more fun to be close to water!

Lymington pier
First we did a bit of high speed boating in our boats. We got on the boats from Lymington pier which had many other yachts docked there. Our captain first took us towards the famous Needles of Isle of Wight - huge rock structures which are quite popular.

Needles of Isle of Wight
And then he did a few very tight turns on the water which was scary but fun at the same time. The boats went quite fast and the wind could easily have blown us over. The captain did a few short turns when the boat almost felt like it would topple over. We kept egging him on to try some more 😜.

View from the Hut
After a few hours like this, they dropped us off at the restaurant called the Hut. We had to take another small boat to get there. The restaurant is a popular place for seafood, and had am amazing ambience around. Sitting outside on the restaurant terrace, with an impressive sea view, people sailing in the water, and you relaxing with a nice meal. What better way can there be to spend a nice Sunday? 😊

Anyways we had a long lunch and then it was time to take our small boats back to the rib boats. The tide had gone up, so we had to wade a bit through the water to take the boats to take us to our rib boats.

Boating in the Isle
Boating in the Isle

Our captain was quite excited to see that we were not scared of trying new tricks, so he did a few more maneuvers and then it was time to go back. We again boarded the train from Lymington and were back in London by evening. The whole day felt longer than it was, given so many things we did. High speed boating, lazy lunch and enjoying the best of English weather… And its so easy to get to Isle of Wight, I hope I end up going there more than I have done till now.

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