Growing wild, at the side of Bursledon bridge is a fabulous apple tree, the fruit is normally misshapen and often has some black spots, but it has an incredible taste. Normally the apples are all gone by mid to late September, but with the Indian summer there was an abundant crop right through to early December.
Sailing and rowing has taken a bit of a back seat since the weather turned, so on a cold Saturday morning while mum went shopping Joe and I turned our hand to making apple pie. Armed with the Hairy Bikers “best apple pie” recipe we set to work and the result I think you will agree doesn’t look half bad, it tasted even better.
"Why are we all so excited by steam? The boys young passion, the old man's dream"
I can just about remember travelling by steam train and watching the express trains roar past as a child, before the then British Railways switched to diesel and electric locomotives - there's a fascinating film clip of the last steam service running on 11th august 1968.
Despite their demise over 40 years ago, steam trains still hold a fascination for small boys, which is why on a cold December day we turned up in the rain to ride the Santa Special at the Moors Valley 7 1/4" gauge Steam Railway. Despite the rain the ride past the lake and through the country park was great, especially the station and engine sheds with old fashioned drop arm signals, signal boxes, sidings etc.
More recently and comfortably an indoor event, we visited the Fareham & District Model Railway Club, one of the layouts had "Scaletrix" type controllers so that children could drive the trains, we had quite a job getting Joe away from Thomas the Tank Engine and friends.
Needless to say our house is full of trains and track, and the works the Reverend Audrey. I suspect Santa might be coming down the chimney with a new engine and some carriages.
Saturday morning started with early clear skies and a slight ground frost promising a fresh winter's day. Then some early rain came through threatening to spoil things, but by the time we'd had breakfast the sun was out again just as the fleet was assembling in the Lymington River for the annual Needles Relief Race.Organised by the Royal Lymington YC the race takes place in the western Solent and was originally organised to provide Christmas relief to the lighthouse crew who manned the nearby Needles lighthouse. Since the light was automated the event has been run as a charity event to support the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution). Weather and tide permitting, the course for Class One yachts sail out to the Needles and back to a finish near Yarmouth. It's not unusual at this time of year to see Solent race crews embracing the Christmas spirit with fancy dress. Over the years we've seen more than a few sailing Santa's, we've been passed by a a race boat with row of Santa's elves sitting on the windward rail, but possibly the best one was the Nativity crew, complete with shepherds, three wise men and a big star hanging in the rigging.
Restoration work on the SCOW has made some good progress, stripped right back to the bare hull it was time to bend in some stringers. A home made steam box was constructed using a camping stove, a pressure cooker borrowed from the kitchen and a length of well insulated PVC pipe. The 1.5” x 2” stringers were given around an hour by which time they were easily coaxed with both bend and twist to fit snugly in place.
With apologies to any professional boat builders, things were held in place with “dry wall” screws while things dried out and then were glassed onto the hull with epoxy and glass tape. The objective is to get this 60 year old GRP SCOW sailing and this approach was fast, forgiving, will be maintenance free and who knows might keep her going for another 60 years.
Members of the Open Canoe Sailing Group visited Hamble in the summer. Canoe sailing became popular in the Victorian era both here and in the US as an effective and simple way to explore the coast, rivers and lakes.
In the past 20 years there has been a resurgence of interest in the craft and it's easy to see the appeal. Originally canoes would be transported by train, but just as easily can be car topped. Simply rigged and light to launch and recover; sailed when there's wind and paddled through the calms.
While some epic voyages have been made, there's a lot of pleasure to be had exploring the quiet creeks and estuaries, slipping silently along, watching the wildlife.
Short days, low sun setting deep in the south west a few weeks before the winter Solstice, casting long shadows and a warm light only seen at this time of year.
The pictures were taken a week ago so I used the title "Autumn Sunset" on the basis that autumn runs from the September equinox through to the Winter Solstice on 21st December when winter officially begins.
Thinking about the sun at this time of year I looked up the position of sunrise and sun set, the azimuth as it's called is the compass point at which the sun will rise and set. At our latitude around 50 degrees , during the first week of December sunrise is at 07.31 and 124 degrees, setting at 16.0 on 235 degrees.
It was interesting to notice that sunrise and sunset occur north of due east and due west from early March until late October rising to maximum of 50/309 degrees in mid June.
Continuing the theme of amphibious craft this modern working craft was spotted on the hard at Lymington. The front wheel and tracks appear to drop down from within the hull, a bit like something out of James Bond, but perhaps with slightly less panache, luxury and not a glamorous assistant in sight!!
Those of us who don't like holes in the bottom of our boats or mechanical complexity might not be too keen to own one, but a working craft that can be driven straight up on a beach or hard, it's an appealing idea.
To the east lie the historic naval dockyard of Portsmouth, the seaside suburbia which is Lee on Solent, Cowes and the busy commercial docks and oil refinery in Southampton Water, but towards the western end of the Solent the northern shoreline is low lying, undisturbed and often protected saltings and mudflats.
Going west past the Beaulieu and Lymington rivers brings you to Keyhaven and the Hurst Spit, reaching out almost to the Isle of Wight, the western entrance and narrowest part of the Solent. An area of strong tides and broken water.
The view (below) across Keyhaven Lake showing Hurst Castle, the lighthouse and beyond the Isle of Wight less than three quarters of a mile away.
Hurst Castle, originally built in the 16th Century during the reign of Henry VIII to prevent enemy shipping from entering the Solent from the west, modernised during the Napoleonic wars and again in the 1870’s when the enormous armoured wings were constructed and huge 38-ton guns were installed, two of which remain.
North west the mainland shore along Christchurch Bay to Milford on Sea.
South west from the top of Hurst Spit the view over Shingles Bank to the edge of the Isle of Wight and the famous Needles lighthouse.
This unusual fishing boat was heading out of the Lymington river recently, there is a clue to her origins in the letters -BH which denote her home port of Blyth in Northumbria in the far north east of England.
She has the look of a cobble which are traditional craft that worked the stretch of North Sea coast between Newcastle Upon Tyne and Berwick Upon Tweed. Cobbles were often worked from the beach. The canvas foredeck should keep her dry and provide some shelter. I estimated the length at 30 feet or so.
Later in the day we saw her in the distance fishing off the Head Buoy out in Christchurch Bay.
I've been away on business and for over a week I'd seem little more than the inside of hotel rooms, offices and airports, so arriving home late Saturday afternoon I was determined to get out in the fresh air for some exercise.
Even so it was a big effort to drag myself out of bed on Sunday and the morning was well under way as I ran down my usual route along the Hamble River.
My legs felt like sticks of rhubarb and running was exhausting, but as I struggled along the river the sun was already creeping above the trees on the eastern shore bathing the moored boats in a glorious saturated light.
I arrived home exhausted but happy and ready for a hearty breakfast
As a regular visitor to fellow blogger Tugster’s Waterblog I confess a fascination for tug boats. While not on the scale of the Hudson River, the working tugs in Fowey which were operating right outside our windows and are a always source of fascination.
The main commercial business of Fowey is china clay brought down from St Austells by train and loaded into coastal freighters in the small but deep water port. The working tugs often tow the ships stern first up river and into the docks, past the town and the crowded yacht moorings. Although on this occasion it was a small cruise ship that was being brought ready for departure.
During our last visit things were especially crowded as the tug Tregeagle stood by to assist HMS Enterprise (an Echo class multi role survey vessel) as she manoeuvred into position on a deep water mooring. Once she was settled it was time to bring in yet another china clay freighter. The whole exercise went off in a very calm and organised fashion.
Perhaps it's due to the mild weather we've been enjoying, the damp and misty autumnal mornings, but there seems to be a proliferation of wild fungi this year. For the first time in years I saw a circle ring of toadstools, which we called a fairy ring when we were kids.
This monster toadstool (or maybe it's a mushroom) was growing at the side of the road, it's about ten inches in diameter. I've tried to identify it on the internet without success so I don't know if it's edible or not, I hope so as it looks as though some passing animal has taken a large bite.
Laser sailor and fellow rower on the Hamble River, David sent me an email recently about his latest acquisition.
David writes "I've always wanted a rowing scull and earlier this year I bought a rather neglected 40 year old "restricted single " (24 ' 7'' long !! ) from the Broxbourne Rowing Club. After a lot of hard work and lots of ££££ spent on new bits, last tuesday was maiden voyage day. The selected venue was Heath Pond, Petersfield, its big enough to row on, easy to launch and shallow.
I rowed on tuesday and wednesday , it aint half wobbly ! but I knew that it would be. With some practice I should be able to row on the upper reaches of the Hamble."
On the settled water above Bursledon Bridge I think David's new scull will go like a train, I think I might need an outboard motor or he'll be on his second pint at the Horse and Jockey long before we arrive!
There was a stiff north westerly wind blowing as this ketch left Sarnia, their route took them against the strong current which flows down the St Clair Waterway, so fortunately while there were no “wind over tide” conditions it was still pretty lumpy as they cleared the waterway into Lake Huron.
The ketch, which looks like a Cheoy Lee Clipper was soon making good progress, the wind was around force 5 or 6 so a good hard breeze but a challenging sail never the less as emerging from the St Clair river into a north westerly, the lake is effectively a lee shore for some 40 miles in both directions, not somewhere you’d want to be caught out in a gale.
We English like to talk about the weather, in fact a lot of the time we like to complain about the weather and rightly so as those prevailing south westerly winds bring rain, wind and overcast skies more often than not.
That all said, since September we’ve been enjoying an Indian Summer with many fine settled and even windless days.
All of which sounds ideal, but for owners of varnished wooden boats it’s something of a dilemma. Do you make the most of these fine days before the inevitable onset of winter to take the boat out or do you take the opportunity of the settled weather to get a couple of coats of varnish on before it’s too cold and wet?
Those who can afford to have the yard put the boat in the heated shed for a couple of weeks, can ignore this post, they will be out sailing if they have any sense, but alas they may just be too busy earning the money to pay the yard…..
My own take on this is, if it’s varnished then it needs to fit in the garage over winter, that way I get to go sailing during our precious summer months.
Maybe the title of this post should have been “Whether to Varnish”
As an interesting diversion I looked up the origin of Indian Summer which is a North American term, in England and indeed Europe, France especially the phenomenon was know as Saint Martin’s Summer.