An unexpected ‘free’ day saw me scramble for the laptop to check tide times, weather conditions and google maps. Easterly winds F3-4, low tide around 10am. A plan began to formulate. I’ve managed to paddle almost the entire Mainland shore of the Solent with the exception of one section – Hayling Island. Maybe I could finally tick off this remaining stretch of coastline?
With the tide and wind conditions I decided a clockwise circumnavigation of Hayling Island was the best bet. I would be setting off an hour or so after low tide so chose Northney Marina as my start point. This meant I would be paddling against the tide down through Chichester Harbour but once I headed out into the open sea would have wind behind me as I paddled westwards along the edge of the Island and then have tidal assistance and plenty of depth up through Langstone Harbour back to Northney Marina.
Northney Marina is situated at the Northern tip of the hayling Island, an almost immeadiate right turn after you cros the bridge onto the Island leads you past the Langstone Hotel and into the Marina.
Car Parking/Launch fees are pretty extortionate being geared towards yachts/powerboats however the slipway is not affected by the tide giving easy access to the water without wading through mud at low tides. You also get pretty secure parking and access to very large, clean toilets and showers in the Marina complex.
If you are looking for alternative options, there is a small free parking area just by the bridge where I have seen kayaks put in, however it is exposed and I would not like to vouch for it’s safety.
Once on the water, I headed out of the Marina into the main channel known as ‘Sweare Deep’ which runs down from the Marina and joins Emsworth Channel which runs down past Mill Rythe on your right and Stockers Lake on your left. In the distance I could see Black Point where the Hayling Island Sailing Club buildings stand proud on the spit. With the tide running against me and a beam wind from left trying to push me onto the mud flats this section was a little bit of a slog however the water was pretty calm and I knew my route choice would pay off later. I switched on my iPod and with Peter Gabriel’s ‘Secret World’ live album filling my ears I pushed on.
Passing Black Point and the Sailing Club on your right hand side you reach the Hayling RNLI Lifeboat Station and Eastoke Point. At this point the estuary widens out into the open water of the Solent. Although the beach curves round to right marking the start of the Seafront, the deep channel markers continue straight out into open water marking safe passage for larger boats around West Pole Spit.
The open water and rising tide across the spit was resulting in so confused seas with waves breaking is several directions with no obvious pattern.
However, there was a clear and calm ‘inside passage’ sticking close to the beach which would allow you to safely bypass the rougher water if you caught the tides right.
I opted instead to take a 5 minute break on the beach and switch thermal t-shirt, cap and sunnies for a dry cag and helmet and take the opportunity to head out through the rough stuff.
Once past West Pole Spit, the water calmed into gentle, large rolling swell as I worked my way west along the Sea Front. A varied collection of beach huts, houses (many with a penchant for flying flags such as a skull and crossbones) and groynes run the length of the beach. They are punctuated in the centre of the Sea front by the traditional, tacky fun fair which thankfully lacked flashing lights and thumping music.
Shortly after the fair, the buildings peter out to leave a sloping shingle and sand beach marking the start of Sinah Common. Once again, a large sand/shingle bank, East Winner Sands, has the potential to cause some very rough confused seas.
There was a safe inside passage due to the calmer conditions and being a couple of hours before high tide however in very rough conditions kayaks have been damaged in the rougher water here.
This quiet end of the seafront made a suitable lunch stop and I enjoyed a good 45 minutes to an hour sitting in the sun, taking photographs and chatting to the occasional passer-by. I had stopped right on the corner of the beach where it leads up into Langstone Harbour entrance. Across the water i could see 18th century Fort Cumberland and looking to my right the entrance to the harbour with the small passenger ferry running between Eastney and Hayling Island.
As you head through the harbour entrance you pass through a number of moored boats with tourists looking down on you from the Ferry Boat Inn. However, you are soon past this and into the quiet calm of the Harbour.
Catching this section of the trip in the last two hours of the flooding tide meant there was enough water in the harbour to deviate from the deep water channels although in sections the depth was less than a foot. I crossed one section of shallower water then picked up the Sinah and then Alpha marker buoys and followed the deep water channel back up to the northern tip of Hayling Island.
This section of the paddle passes quickly and you are soon approaching the road bridge. Just before this is a section of blocks which are the remains of the old Havant to Hayling Railway (Hayling Billy).
Immeadiately after this you pass under the road bridge which at almost high tide had little current flowing though it.
Now paddling into the Easterly wind I had to work hard for this last section, however a short hop past the Ship Inn and beautiful Windmill remains on the left hand mainland shore then the ‘exclusive’ looking Langstone Hotel on my right and I was back in the entrance to the Marina.
I left Northney Marina at 12:00 and returned at 16:30 so a 4.5 hour trip. Total paddling time was 3:25.
The Inshore Forecast for the day I paddled was:
Wind: East or northeast veering southeast, 3 or 4, occasionally 5 near headlands.
Sea State: Slight or moderate.
Visibility: Moderate or good.
View Circumnavigation of Hayling Island in a larger map