The 2018 Solent Protection Society Away Day was advertised as a cruise around Chichester Harbour on the solar electric powered “Solar Heritage” vessel, an opportunity to view Chichester Harbour and get up-close to the harbour seals and bird life followed by lunch at Emsworth Sailing Club.
Thirty six SPS members and guests signed-up for the event, with many travelling a considerable distance from across the Solent area to attend. Our local Council Member and contact on the day, Bob Comlay and his partner were also looking forward to the outing since, as often is the case with ‘local attractions’, they’d not yet taken the tour.
After the long, sunny days of mid-summer, September 11th turned out to be a grey morning and as Bob and Sharon were driving to Emsworth Sailing Club ahead of the muster time, an incoming telephone call as they negotiated the final roundabout brought unwelcome, and frankly unexpected, news.
It was from the Club secretary relaying a message from the skipper of the Solar Heritage that conditions were such that she was unable to put to sea for the trip round to Emsworth to pick us up. One might assume that lack of sunlight on a cloudy day might cause an issue for a solar powered boat but the reality was that an excess of wind ‘on the nose’ risked restricting her range such that our return for lunch couldn’t be guaranteed. So on safety grounds, the trip had to be cancelled at the last minute. Was it really that windy? That a fine day for sailing turned out to be a poor day for solar power might suggest that wind power should be preferred over solar power in these waters.
The more immediate problem was a lack of ‘Plan B’. Bob, spotting the audio visual facilities available in the club dining room, offered to fill in the time with an illustrated talk. The staff at the club rose the occasion, agreeing to bring our lunch forward by an hour and while Bob raced home to pick up his laptop, our visitors and their guests were served coffee, enjoyed the glorious view from the club lounge and continued socialising.
Without further incident, the laptop and projector were set up and Bob gave a variant of his talk on the life and travels of the legendary explorer H.W. (Bill) Tilman.
The talk, based on Bob’s personal experience of eight months and 10,000 miles of life ‘before the mast’ with Tilman almost fifty years ago, went down well, despite two members of the audience having seen it before as part of their sailing club’s winter talks programme. The question and answer session which followed extended over lunch and many fascinating stories were traded. Neville Hill, one of the longest serving members of SPS, politely remarked that he’d enjoyed ‘the new material’ in the talk and took this picture of the speaker afterwards.
An excellent lunch was served and the group disbanded afterwards, a few exploring Emsworth before they went home. Our thanks are due to the staff at Emsworth Sailing Club, which proved an excellent venue for the event, with particular praise for Ollie Clift and his catering team for their superb lunch and their flexibility with the timings.
If you are planning a trip to the area, you could chance the weather and book your own trip on the “Solar Heritage”. See: http://www.conservancy.co.uk/page/solar-heritage