Yesterday’s 1600-2000 hours watch was particularly interesting up Calshot Tower. I have to admit that I had not put two and two together to realise that a Spring Tide of 5 metres high and half a metre low at the Equinox would cause a very English event to occur.
Our role is to keep an eye out for vulnerable craft and shoreline users in an area of heavy activity, especially in areas of risk such as the multitude of patches of sea that look safe, but in fact dry out at low tide. One of these areas is the Bramble Bank. Slap in the middle of the Solent, the Bramble Bank is bordered to the south by the main shipping channel which enters a ‘Precautionary Area’ at Prince Consort North Cardinal in a westerly direction and then veers Northeast up the Thorn Channel. Anyone trying to cut this corner is in danger of grinding to a halt on the bank.
The first indication that yesterday was not going to be a typical shift was when we saw the Steamship Shieldhall who had earlier passed us to our traditional dipping of our flag and toot back was taking a route from west to east just to the north of the Bramble Bank. At 1730 hours we started to monitor motor cruisers, yachts, ribs etc amassing at Bramble Bank. Low tide was due at around 1830 hours. The penny dropped – aha! THE CRICKET MATCH. This annual event is not always successfully played with the ‘pitch’ not appearing at low tide and the players paddling in several inches of water. It brings new meaning to a sporting event being a wash-out. This year turned out to be a success with enough of the bank becoming exposed for half an hour for the match to be played.
From Calshot Tower, Bramble Bank is almost 2 nautical miles away. This is a view taken on my phone:
You can see from this photo how low the tide was and how much of Calshot Spit was exposed (another corner not to be cut!). The cricket match was in progress at this point. Can you see it? Probably not – look up from the apex of the near end of the hanger (Activity Centre) and you might espy a smudge in the water.
This photo was taken through the lens of our monoscope:
There they are!
We saw many craft making their way to the match. Plenty of lifeboats were in attendance ‘just in case’. At one point a large container ship went close by, threatening to swamp the match with its wash. We had also been monitoring some kayaks paddling down from north of the Fawley Jetty and were making their way to Bramble Bank across the main channel. We kept an eye on them and then decided that, since it would be dusk by the time they would be making their way back, we should let someone know of the vulnerability. We called the Coastguard (on a non-urgent line) and suggested they let Calshot Lifeboat (who were already at the event) know of the presence of the kayaks. This the Coastguard did.
By the end of our shift, the match was over, the pitch was once again under water and the kayakers had made it back across the main channel and were working their way along the shoreline at Calshot Spit.
Another enjoyable and productive day ‘at the office’!