To celebrate a friend’s upcoming wedding, we decided to plan a weekend away – much like lots of hen and stag dos these days! This one was with a difference though, we were a very cosmopolitan hen, which included a few blokes (that weren’t there to strip), no L plate and no veil either… The girliest (or most hen) thing our weekend featured was probably the delicious homemade cup cakes that the fabulous organiser brought and who doesn’t love a cupcake?!
As an aside, if you're planning a trip with friends, see our post on KLM's Trip Planner - plan your holidays with friends with the help of Facebook!
The plan went from being a river cruise down the Thames to canal boating in the Norfolk Broads and finally to being a sailing trip from Southampton to Portsmouth and down to Cowes before our return back to the Smoke. And it was a glorious weekend – so much so, I felt the need to share a little of it with you fine people. (Obviously can’t share it all, it was still a hen weekend afterall!)
Meeting the crew
Sadly, work meant we weren’t able to take full advantage of our boat, which we were able to have from Friday night… but no matter! We turned up in time for lunch on a surprisingly sunshiney Saturday afternoon. At Southampton marina, we met the lovely and very cheerful Peter and Charlie – our captain and his first mate and grandson. Already, we felt completely at ease. They took us on a tour of Jillian, our boat, happy to explain any of our queries about the boat as well as talk us through the plan for the weekend. All the while, making sure they could incorporate as many of our needs and desires as possible. They were so lovely!
We soon quickly set for sail towards Portsmouth – wind in our hair and sun on our faces! All there really was for us to do was open one of the (many) bottles of bubbly we brought as well as get snacking on sandwiches and cupcakes.
Peter talks us through it...
There really is something about being out at sea that just makes you feel like you’re far away from everything and that it feels good.
Peter let us all have a go taking command of the yacht and he was an amazing teacher. Taking the wheel, you felt like he had every confidence in you – always calm and keeping you focussed on where you needed to be heading towards. The passion he and his grandson have for sailing was clear and completely infectious – I think we were all just about ready to sell everything we had to go and live on a boat by the end of the weekend. Sadly, I worked out that selling everything I had would just about get me a toy boat… not quite the sailing yacht I’d envisaged!
Closing in on Portsmouth… or is it Dubai??
Hey, Portsmouth has a 7* hotel just like they do in Dubai! Okay, maybe not. The Spinnaker Tower opened in 2005 and has amazing views of Portsmouth and its harbour. General admission to the tower is £8.25 and there is a Café up at the top where you can have a cup of tea or a glass of champagne whilst you take in those views.
We moored our boat at Gosport Marina which is quieter and a little more laidback than Gunwharf Marina opposite. The Gunwharf side however is where you want to head to if you want to head out for a night out and there’s a ferry service that does the short trip between the two marinas fairy frequently.
The sunset at Gosport Marina… we were actually dancing to classic 90s tunes as we watched it.
Fort-come-hotels out at sea
The next morning, after a cooked breakfast on board, we set sail for Cowes for lunch. On the way to Cowes on the Isle of Wight, we spotted a few of these 19th century forts – built to ward off French warships but were never actually put into action (at least then!). There are three of these forts off the northern coast of the Isle of Wight – two of which have recently been bought by Clarenco who plan to restore them and turn them into hotels. A night here and you’ll really feel like you’re away from it all! I’d be up for trying it though…
In Cowes, we didn’t wander too much (might have had a little something to do with the amount of bubbly and all the rest we’d drunk…) though I’m assured it’s a lovely little town. After a short walk up and down the highstreet, we found a lovely pub with a courtyard looking out at sea and filled up on traditional and tasty pub grub.
The sail back to Southampton was lovely and chilled… there was one hairy moment where the wind picked up and one side of the boat (the side I was sitting on!) was practically in the water. But in the safe and confident hands of our captain, I wasn’t worried at all – in fact, I loved it! And I am now also deeply in love with the sea too.
Peter’s yacht sleeps 8 people comfortably (on 4 double beds) and a 1-day charter, Monday to Friday costs £495. A two-night charter over the weekend costs £1095 (1 night is £900).
Taking full advantage of the 2-night charter, you can board the boat from 6pm on the Friday night in Southampton and have a full day’s sailing on the Saturday – Peter can go all the way to the Cornish coast! Returning on the Sunday by 6pm, you pretty much get a full day’s sailing on the Sunday too.
Prices include the yacht, mooring costs and skipper as well as use of wet weather clothing (although it didn’t rain, it can get pretty chilly out at sea and these provided the warmth we needed to enjoy being outside) and a sandwich lunch and hot refreshments on board. The captain and first mate spend nights at a nearby hotel but you have their mobile numbers in case you need them.
To find out more, contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org who also provide racing weekends on 2 of their race yachts. You can also visit their website: www.windwardsailing.co.uk. If you’ve got some ideas on what you’d like to do, just sound them out to either Jillian Charters or Windward Sailing – they might just be able to accommodate you!
And if you like the idea of exploring more of the UK coastline, we’ve got great prices on UK car hire to help you on your way!