The first trek to East Head

One of the things that attracted me to Chichester Harbour was being able to explore the various inlets and beaches of which there are many. There’s Emsworth, Hayling, Nutbourne, Itchenor, Dell Quay, Bosham, Cobnor and the list goes on. But East Head on the east side of the entrance to the harbour is a lovely place – beautiful sandy beach, with dunes and wild birds (feathered and others) – normally only reachable by road, and then through a rather expensive toll. We go there off season, and it’s one of our walks on Christmas or New Year’s day. Bleak and chilly, but bracing.

The problem with East Head is that to reach it from Dell Quay, you have to launch, say, an hour after high water, and go down with the tide. The return has to be made with the flood, and in order to have enough tide for recovery, the day will be around 9-10 hours long, which is a real commitment. It also limits the morning tide times you can use, typically 0800.

It’s more convenient to use the launching at Itchenor, which can be done at all states of the tide. But the downside is that it costs 5 quid a time, and you also have to find paid parking, which in season, is always full.

Anyway, we decided to give it a go, and Signora came along for the ride. With a picnic loaded, we set off into a stiff breeze, beating across the channel against the strong spring tide. The channel was very busy with XODs and other keelboats beating out to their start lines, and it was gratifying to see one or two go aground on the mudflats.

It was quite tough going, and after an hour, we were barely up to Thorney channel, with yet another long tack to reach East Head. We could probably have done with a reef down, but I haven’t got round to rigging the reef points yet. We cut our losses (Signora was a little damp from spray!) and stopped at Pilsey Island instead, the other side of the harbour, where we sat on the beach with lunch, watching the dinghies and keelboats racing all around. There were a lot of boats out that day!

It’s a lovely spot, and we made a mental note to do one of the walks in that area in the future.

On the way back (which only took 20 minutes with the wind astern), I noticed the helm was a little wobbly, and resolved to check things when we got back. On inspection, I found that the rudder stock had split, allowing the blade to rock around quite loosely – not good for directional stability.

I was never particularly keen with the design of the stock and this confirmed it. The idea is that you can disassemble it for maintenance (which is nice) but the compromise is the strength, which I don’t think is enough.

After a good wash in fresh water and drying out, I fixed the problem by adding a bolt through the pivot as well as replacing two of the screws with bolts. If I were to make another stock, I would build it permanently – sod the maintenance, but I think my modification will see me out. Highly recommended from square one!

East Head would have to wait for another day…

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