THE HENLEY WHALERS - New Year's Day 2009

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HENLEY WHALERS return to Yarmouth for Annual “ICE-BREAKER” Expedition.

“The Henley Whalers”, one of Europe’s top sail-and-oar crews, mustered at 09:00 in Lymington on New Year’s Day 2009.  Their plan was to row whaleboat “Molly” across the Solent to Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, for lunch, and to sail back.  This sequence would not only suit two non-sailing crew, and generate an appetite for lunch, but would eliminate the need for energetic rowing after lunch!  Such was the plan – “The best laid …”!

Outward Bound
After launching and some equipment adjustments, Molly cast off from Lymington at 10:30, with eight crew aboard.  They had an easy row across to Yarmouth with a light wind on the port quarter, and only a gentle swell.  Three steersmen took turns of about a mile each at the helm.  The tide from the west (starboard) required corrective steering during the approach to Yarmouth Harbour, but this was achieved without effort. 

The welcoming committee, friends of two of the crew, were waving from the quayside as Molly entered the harbour.  Molly moored up at 11:45, so the outbound row had taken only an hour and a quarter.
This was good timing, for The Kings Head in nearby Quay Street opened at 12:00, serving good ale and excellent lunch.

Arriving Yarmouth
Arriving at Yarmouth Harbour
In Yarmouth
In Yarmouth Harbour

Two of the crew chose to return by ferry, so with 6 aboard, Molly’s sails were prepared before she was rowed out of the harbour at 14:00.
The wind was a gentle east north-east, but high tide had been at 13:00 and a current was now running firmly to the West.  One tack across The Solent brought Molly to the North shore, rather west of Lymington.  The return tack brought Molly almost back to the mouth of Yarmouth harbour– Disconcerting!

Unless the wind (or the sailing technique) improved, Molly would struggle to work sufficiently up-tide to reach the mouth of Lymington Harbour, and on this overcast day the light would fail early, so the decision was taken to try one more Northward tack, then resort to rowing if required. 

It was!  The next North shore landfall was even further from Lymngton, so the crew took to rowing parallel to the north shore, close to the marshes.  So close that the solid-state depth sounder (centre-plate) indicated Molly should move offshore a little!  Speed-over-ground (SOG) improved after the river was reached, but despite this, dusk fell and the navigation light was hung on the forestay.

High resolution versions of these pictures available on request


Wise after the event.
A crew member commented “Don’t you find you learn something every time you set sail?”
The return trip, sailing then rowing, had taken around three hours, against seventy five minutes on the outbound trip.
On reflection, it might have been better nautical practice to have SAILED from Lymington to Yarmouth (with the wind on the port quarter), and to have ROWED back.  One straight row into the light wind, would have been easy with eight crew even after a large lunch, and might have taken only an hour and a half.
Still – No harm done, and a great day out celebrated at the Lymington slipway with Christmas cake and Madeiran Poncha.  Same again next year maybe?

Leaving Yarmouth
Leaving Yarmouth Harbour
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