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Cruising Guide: Solent & Dorset

By our travel expert ROB

The best way to spend 10 days sailing around Solent and Dorset.

Sailing Area

The Solent has to be the most popular sailing area in the UK. It is crammed with marinas and, while the sailing is very dependent on the tides with strong tidal streams and significant tidal height ranges with careful planning a skipper can always plan a varied cruising break to suit their crew.

Suggested 10-day Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrive in Hamble

Arrive in Hamble, provision and take over the yacht, then relax in Hamble marina/village for the evening. But we suggest for dinner you book a table ahead of your visit to one of several pubs/restaurants in the nearby village.

Day 2 – Hamble to Yarmouth (16nms)

Head down the Hamble River and into the yachting playground that is the Solent. Aim for lunch at anchor in Osborne Bay before setting off for a 3-hour sail down the West Solent to Yarmouth.

Day 3 – Yarmouth to Poole Harbour (23nms)

Depart Yarmouth for a sail down the Needles Channel to anchor for lunch under the Needles in Alum Bay. After lunch leave the Needles channel and set a heading for Poole Harbour and an evening in one of several marinas in this excellent natural harbour that is accessible without restrictions through its narrow entrance past Sandybanks.

Day 4 – Poole to Weymouth / Portland (32nms)

Depart Poole to sail round St Albans Head (avoiding the military Firing Range!) for lunch at anchor in Lulworth Cove on the amazing Jurassic Coast. After lunch sail on to Weymouth for the night. If there is room you may wish to berth alongside in “The Cove” rather than wait for the Lifting Bridge to enter Weymouth Marina. As an alternative, you could consider staying on a visitors’ pontoon in Portland Marina – a large marina with all the usual facilities that you’d expect from such an establishment.

Day 5 – Weymouth to Lymington (45nms)

Depart Weymouth at a time that will permit an entry into the Needles Channel with the aim of stopping the night at Lymington where there are 2 good quality marinas with impressive facilities (Lymington Yacht Haven and Berthon Marina). Town Quay is also an option, while it is right in the town centre it can be crowded (in high season) and has rather basic facilities.

Day 6 – Lymington to Buckler’s Hard, Beaulieu River (16nms)

Depart Lymington for a much more relaxed day. Anchor in Colwell Bay and have a long lunch at The Hut – make sure you book well in advance as it gets busy in peak season. Once there, sail to the outstanding Beaulieu River to night stop at the historic Buckler’s Hard.

Day 7 – Buckler’s Hard to Portsmouth Harbour (16nms)

While at Bucklers Hard (if the tidal calculations permit) take some time out to walk into Beaulieu village or have a look around the Buckler’s Hard museum before setting off for Portsmouth Harbour. There are many marinas within the harbour but if you want to include a visit to the historic dockyards (including HMS Victory) consider berthing at Gunwharf Quay.

Day 8 – Portsmouth Harbour to Bembridge(10nms)

Another very picturesque destination today could be Bembridge. However, the tidal constraints of access / exit to / from Bembridge Harbour are particularly significant. Therefore, plan your arrival time carefully because once in you are stuck there till the next high tide. But that does give you time to relax and explore.

Day 9 – Bembridge to Cowes(15nms)

Why not spend your last night of this cruise at Cowes? There are plenty of shops, pubs and restaurants to choose from. Your departure from Bembridge will be determined by the time of high tide but once out it is a fairly short sail to Cowes with a following tidal stream to help you on your way.

Day 10 – Cowes to Hamble (7nms)

Following the final night at Cowes, it is a relatively quick passage back to the Hamble to hand back the yacht.

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