Entering Brighton with anything West through South to East is always going to be a ‘wild ride’.
At F5 things are getting stirred up and whether you go for fairly tight on the entrance from SSE or crawl along the sea wall you know there is no room for error. Maybe on a sensible size boat you have the advantage of retaining some sail to perhaps exit if the engine suddenly fails but we know we can’t furl the main in the marina entrance or fairway so once on approach we are committed to an engine only scenario. And extracting any kind of mainsail area to give us a bit of forward drive takes an age so fall back would be a bit of jib but that’s not going to punch to seaward. Although 57ft and 28 tonnes we are rolled this way and that on entry. Very rarely have we been able to enter in F5 or below….I am sure that must be great to have a slight sea and easy glide in.
In steady F6 you know it’s just something that you have got to do. Entry to Brighton’s going to be fierce in a moderate or rough sea and this has to be the only place we have berthed where there are no contigencies, no sensible moment to douse sail, no sane run to the entrance. It’s going to be a case of large rudder movements one moment on target for the entrance, next pointing high toward the west breakwater wall, and as the wave passes under, the keel back toward the eastern sea wall. A few 90 degree yaws and a bit of heavy rolling and we are in under the calm of the west wall thankful for an engine that didn’t falter……it would be great to enter at speed like these guys do:
RNLI entering and leaving in F6:
Of course we are not always met by a kindly F6 so we have trialled this exercise in F7 with some decent gusts on top. Decisions such as when to drop the main, in deeper water or as late as possible to vaguely maintain stability and perhaps allow an escape route if the engine plays up, are not easily made. This is a definite all-hands life jackets on point regardless of whether crew are below deck. Essentially it’s time to clip on. This marina entrance really doesn’t carry enough health warnings! Pilot books are a bit too subtle. We know the harbour wall scheme ran out of money during the original build (as happened to many designs and I expect the original was intended to provide excellent shelter) but the pitiful west harbour wall and need to track about 100 yards off a lee shore in this kind of weather with short steep waves requires a yachtsmen to engage in sheer lunacy to get home. Forget common sense, forget sea room, forget margins of safety, this is a one shot opportunity with no way out. Turning to windward to furl the main and watch tons of bow getting buried deep in the back of fast rolling waves, sea rolling down the foredeck and spray flying overhead, and whilst trying to minimise forward motion we are blown off the eye of the wind so furling is a bit stop-start.
Turning in to the home run in these seas we are now talking about engaging full rudder lock to lock on our heavy barn door of a rudder, and ocean racing powerboat type throttle control to nudge up the face of the waves and track the wall on the back of them whilst there is a moment of flat water to run on. Waves beam on swing the bow to the leeward wall, gripping the wheel for balance whilst swinging it first several turns one way then countering the sea on the other, taking sea over the port rail beam on – this just isn’t funny! Watch the depth in the in wave troughs as well; this entrance isn’t dredged too deeply so wave height can be critical.
And the following shows that no matter how expert the crew in 30 knots plus of wind any kind of incident is immediately serious:
Aground at the entrance:
Easing into calmer waters behind the west wall is always cause for celebration – it’s when you want to forget about tying up but just want to jump off and swim straight up to the bar for a cold one – but in any case likelihood is that the next wave generating spray rising 30ft over the west sea wall will get you anyway!
The below seas must be generated by well in excess of F7 winds but gives an idea of the way in which the seas start to build up:
One thing is clear though – the marina staff know their stuff and are always immediately on hand to give any bashed about crew any assistance they need to complete the last couple of hundred yards to the pontoon side. In many marinas one would not expect to need assistance year on year but Brighton can still blow on the inside, although this is unusually heavy: