We drove Cecile the Citroen back down to Newhaven on Wednesday 29th July, parking up next to the horsebox home of the wonderful duo Theresa and Gaz, ready to sail the next day. However the wind was blowing strong again from the south west, right on our nose. There’s an old mariner’s saying, ‘Gentlemen don’t beat to windward!’ As with all these sayings, the wisdom should be noted and acted on, which we did and instead waited until Friday before casting off at 7am and heading west. The wind was from the south east, perfect, oh no it wasn’t, ‘light airs’, meaning next to nothing and when it did register, was veering about daintily. As the temperature rose and the land warmed up, the wind gradually rose and we pulled out the fore sail and stay sail, which steadied our passage past Brighton and on to Littlehampton. We arrived at high tide into the second fastest flowing river in the UK (the fastest being The Severn). As we were nearing the river mouth we heard a M’aidez from the owner of a fishing boat called Busker, who’d lost his rudder and so couldn’t steer. He was drifting west about a mile from Littlehampton, though he couldn’t give his compass bearing or his Lat/Long and when asked to spell the name of his boat phonetically, said Bravo….. er U S K E R. We heard the rescue unfold as a coastguard cutter went to his aid. He was towed in to the river ahead of us and tied up on the pontoon with us behind. The very welcoming harbour master Billy buried his head in his hands as he told us of Buskers many adventures with lifeboat and coastguard frequently having to go to his rescue. Berthed on the Town Pier, we explored Littlehampton and it’s a proper little seaside town. Very busy with two large beaches, one either side of the River Arun. You can get a small ferry across to West Beach and cruise up to Arundel. This reminded me we have some good pals live there, so I sent a couple of texts to see if they were about over the weekend. We were in luck and firstly Jason and Nick invited us to join them for lunch on Sunday with other old pals Harold and Andy. Sunday was the day of the annual regatta and we were woken early with blaring music and stalls being set up along the harbour wall. We had to shift Distant Drum down to the fishermen’s pontoon once the tide rose at about 11am, with strict instructions to move her again before the tide fell too low in the afternoon, or we’d be stuck in the mud. Hurray, we were away from the music and most of the hoards.
Jason picked us up at 12.30 and we drove to Arundel, a lovely old town with a great big castle. Lunch at The Black Rabbit on the river, before the boys all decided they wanted an ice cream and to see DD back in Littlehampton, in that order. Ice cream had to wait as upon our return, we were told best to move right then as the tide was falling fast. We spun round, changed fenders and gauging the relative skills of all concerned, I assigned a mooring rope each to Andy and Jason with instructions to just hurl them at the chaps waiting to tie us up on the pontoon as soon as we were close enough – they performed magnificently and we’ll make mariners of them yet.
Later that evening my other local pal, Kay Wagland, climbed aboard with her brother Trevor and his girlfriend Hilda, a Norwegian bronzed blond bombshell who lives 50 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and who professes to be a blood descendant of both Boudicca and Richard III. Kay also had in tow Millie(tant), a hugely moulting pooch, suspect Jack Russell cross with another terrier. The muzzle was a giveaway as to her temperament and we refrained from petting or patting for fear our fingers might disappear. Kay had initially thought I was another Sarah who she sees regularly and was screaming with excitement when it dawned on her it was me.It was a great day seeing everyone and I enjoyed receiving many photography tips from Trevor as the sun set across the river.
Monday was filled once again with south westerly winds so we stayed put in Littlehampton. Kay had left a cardigan aboard and once she found we were still here, suggested she pick us up later and introduce us to her favourite haunt, The King’s Arms in Arundel. She collected her pal Issie en route who is a gardener at Arundel Castle, working mainly in the kitchen gardens, and lives in one of the gate lodges, a fabulous mini castle in its own right. The pub, which is on Tarance Street, is well worth a visit if you’re in Arundel. A bad weather front was heading towards us and another seven yachts rafted up to each other and to us for Tuesday, hunkering safely from the strong winds and huge waves out at sea. Still we were heeling at about 20 degrees onto the pontoon. After sorting our fenders for more effective protection, we caught the 700 bus to Arundel with the specific aim of visiting the castle gardens, which were fabulous!
We had an early dinner at La Campania, a reasonable priced Italian restaurant and it was superb, possibly one of the best dishes I have ever had in a restaurant. I felt quite emotional, which caused much amusement for Clive. All I had was a chicken breast with spinach, roasted new potatoes and a cheese and port sauce. The chicken had been roasted to perfection with fresh rosemary, the spinach, I don’t know what seasoning was with it, was delicious. There were roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine which were the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. The new potatoes were heavenly and the sauce, which Clive saw them sieving (the chef’s kitchen being on view from our table), was to die for. It was so flavourful yet no one flavour dominated. Simple and perfect. It’s Wednesday today and we’ve decided to stay here to ride out another approaching weather front tomorrow. Then to Bembridge on the Isle of Wight on Friday. Bog watch: Littlehampton, two loos and a shower, nice and clean and lots of hot water, nowhere to put your soap or shampoo and only one hook for towels, clothes, bags, earns itself a 3.