Let’s talk tides and boats

Steven Diffey analyses one of Europe's busiest shipping lanes as he prepares for Bestival


The fancy dress theme for this years Bestival is ‘nautical’, so it’s fitting that I’m having to learn a lot about sea navigation. As I mentioned in my previous post, the biggest obstacle in the completion of Tri for Bestival is the successful crossing of one of Europe’s busiest shipping lanes – the Solent – which separates the Isle of Wight from the mainland. It’s also the aspect that people always question – usually with the words “are you crazy?”


I plan to launch from Hurst Castle which sits at the end of a spit sticking into the strait. A few weeks ago I visited the site and discovered that it’s a stoney 30 minute walk to the end of the spit, so I’ll have to arrange for a pair of running shoes or a mountain bike to await me when I complete the bike leg.

When I reached the proposed launching point I was taken aback by the sheer ferocity of the current sweeping west out into the channel. If I could walk on water it would be like standing on a conveyer belt.

A local chap fishing for sea bass explained that we were witnessing what was close to low-tide, when it’s at it’s fastest. He went on to explain that at high-tide the water is practically motionless and will be like that for approximately two hours. By googling “solent tides” I later discovered that on Tuesday 2nd September 2013, the day that I plan to do Tri for Bestival; high-tide will be at 11:04. Essentially then; I’ll have a two hour window to complete the swim leg and clamber out of the water near Yarmouth.

Interestingly there’s no official procedure or permit for crossing the Solent. As a safety precaution and out of courtesy, I’ve been advised to notify the four local coastguards. Hopefully I won’t be calling on their services. Two kayaks will be with me guiding my crossing and I hope to have a speedboat with me for visibility to large vessels.

Taking all of this into account; the crossing is completely achievable and relatively safe. If I fail for whatever reason to get across, I’ll attempt the whole journey again the following day with the high tide at 11:37.


The only question that remains is what “nautical” fancy dress costume I’ll be wearing.