There are precious few places in The Solent where you can anchor for nothing – certainly not with shelter from all quarters.
Of course, you can be a cheapskate and refuse to give a fiver to the National Trust in the Newtown River – but the volunteers are so charming when they come round in their dory that it seems churlish to refuse.
The other spot I can think of is Needs Oare Point in the River Beaulieu – an utterly beautiful and desolate anchorage just inside the river entrance where the spit protects you from the south and west. I’ve been coming here since the 1970s when I used to snuggle down in my little 18footer with a hurricane lamp and a copy of Nevil Shute’s Requiem for a Wren.
Shute fans will know all about Needs Oare Point. It is where Janet meets Bill (but you’ll have to read the book to understand the heart-breaking consequences of that fateful day in 1944).
Anyway, it’s not free anymore. Secretly, I have known this for a few years but always took the view that if anyone came asking for dues, I would pay up – but they could hardly expect me to blow up the dinghy and row the two-and-a-half miles to Buckler’s Hard to volunteer my grubby tenner.
I should explain that a free night in the Solent had become something of a priority because one of our new “Brexit Benefits” here in the UK is that my new watermaker (yes, the one I ordered back in May) is stuck in East Midland’s Airport waiting for the shipper to sign a “DDP form” to change the “Method of Service” – something which cannot be done by the “Consignee”. (I know this is a Brexit Benefit because I asked the young man at DHL, and I quote: “Of course. We get this all the time.”
It means that I have just spent two wasted days waiting for delivery at Island Harbour Marina while paying £33 a night, which I suspect I am not going to get back from DHL, the Shipper or – come to that – Jacob Rees Mogg.
Tomorrow – presuming I am still waiting – I shall get a free night at the Royal Yacht Squadron’s haven when I go and sing for my supper at their Book Club – and by Friday, it will all be rather academic anyway, because DHL will have returned the “consignment” to Barcelona.
One way and another, I needed something to take my mind off the utter stupidity of leaving the EU – a man go mad dwelling on “Brexit Benefits”.
What I needed was a distraction: I would fit the new cleat on the foredeck.
Single-handers will now be wincing. They know that this involves crawling upside down into the anchor locker to use a pair of needle-nosed pliers to stop the bolts turning while fitting the nuts (and, of course, not having dropped the washers into the pile of chain) before getting some mole grips on the business end while you tighten up said nuts. The whole operation is necessarily accompanied by a good deal of swearing (see washers) – which is why a remote anchorage is desirable in the first place.
Inevitably, a polite tap on the hull goes unnoticed.
It was only when insistent rapping penetrated to the forepeak that I emerged, red in the face and with my head-torch over one eye, to find a man in a dory saying: “Sorry if I woke you. Harbour dues…”
I explained about the forepeak, the bolts, washers, the pile of chain (you have to justify that sort of language): “It’s a bit of a job when you don’t have anyone to hold the screwdriver on the other end.”
That was when the man in the dory said: “I’ll hold the screwdriver if you like.”
Now, that’s what I call a benefit.