Passage 51, Littlehampton to Brighton
I left late on a falling tide, knowing that it would be shallow coming out of the harbour. But not too shallow. I’d timed my departure at around noon so that I could have tide carrying me onward to Brighton. It was not far to Brighton but if there were to be winds they would be against me so I assumed it would take some time.
It did take some time. I had to sail out to sea with very little wind and then turn back to point to Brighton. At which point, coincidentally, the wind stiffened and I ended up beating (going against the wind) all the rest of the way at a decent speed. It was cloudier than yesterday, but the sun still put in a good showing but with the wind it felt colder and I had to have my full sailing gear on.
About 4 miles off from Brighton the wind changed direction to directly in front of me (how kind), and I had to put in a few tacks to get to the harbour.
Come to think of it, the wind changed direction the day before as I was coming in. Perhaps, in these conditions, the wind direction is different close in to land; I took note.
Most of the following day was available for discovery, up until 3pm which is when I planned to leave for Eastbourne to catch the tide. I cycled into Brighton town and meandered around a bit. I’d been to Brighton before so I wasn’t going to explore much (but I do like Brighton). So I sought out the tourist office for other ideas.
Sadly, the tourist office had turned itself into a tourist sales outlet (not the first time I've seen this) for a full complement of completely useless and ugly things, taking full advantage of the mystical urge for every tourist to buy something to prove they were there. Only to wonder what on earth to do with it a week after they get home. I resisted this temptation and asked instead for a cycling map of the area knowing full well I’d get a reply in the negative. The girl behind the desk was at first non-plussed by this request, but then she had an idea and dug deep in the bottom of a cupboard behind her and found the precise thing for which I’d asked. To be honest, she was even more surprised than I was. Result.
Armed with that, I set off along the coast westward bound not knowing what would turn up. Well, and here is the true essence of these discovery rides, a hell of a lot turned up.
The Brighton shore is long and shingly. They’ve got a big pier and further down they are building a very tall viewing platform proudly comparing it’s height with others around the country and declaring it to be the tallest. Going further I approached Shoreham whose coast line is almost completely taken up by commercial activities with large coastal cruisers in its dock. Sand & pebbles seem to be their trade. And lots of it. I pressed on to pass all this, went through Shoreham town and onward to be confronted with a remarkable sight.
Shoreham was the sight of a recent air show disaster that killed several people. There is a foot bridge across it’s river just before the A27 where the disaster happened which is bedecked with floral tributes. It’s a large, long bridge and there were thousands upon thousands of tributes. I passed slowly through reading the odd tribute. You got an immediate feeling of how deeply this sort of thing hits a community and, of course, the tragic loss to family and friends of those who died. It was all quite moving. And I reflected how this and so many other tragedies, cruelties and sufferings happen around the world and yet I, and all of us, just keep on going with our own little lives. Me and my sailing, how very insignificant. But that’s all you can do; pause and reflect, then carry on.
I carried on. At this point I saw a large church on a hill. Right, I’m going there, I thought. I asked the policeman who was guarding the still shut A27 how to get there. With difficulty he said, you could take the footpath but it’s not for road bikes. I took the footpath and then got back onto road surface and tried to reach the place by feel, as it were. Well, I ended up gong to the left, right, behind and infront of this elusive building and completely failed to find a pathway to it. Turns out it is part of Lancing college, a private school for 13-18 year olds and you had to go through the school grounds to get to it (public access permitted). It was Lancing College Chapel. And a very fine chapel it was too. In immaculate condition and cathedral-like in size. The college was also immaculate right down to the coiffured playing grounds. I’m sure the fees were highly immodest. It was all quite Potteresque.
Good, Chapel done. Better head back. I met a fellow cyclist who advised that a picturesque route back to Brighton (instead of going through industrial Shoreham again) was to go via the South Downs Way via Devil’s Dyke - it should only take an hour he said. I don’t know what he was taking, but it sure as heck wasn’t an hour for me. First it involved climbing the full height of the Downs. Second, this and all the way to Devil’s Dyke was on rough mountain-bike terrain so my road bike tyres were put to the harshest of tests. But the scenery was glorious and I got fantastic views of the country side inland and of Brighton and Shoreham far below me on the other with the sea beyond.
On the way I met a very friendly foursome of ladies hiking. We got talking and I dropped in my circumnavigation at which point the eyes of one of them lit up. Turn’s out she’d done transatlantics and all sorts. It being 2pm by this time I needed to press on, they expressing deep scepticism that I’d catch my tide by 3pm. They since left me a nice message on my website, though they did not leave their contact details for I’d like to know more about their sailing experiences.
Onward to Devil’s Dyke. Impressive; a very deep and steep dyke indeed. It was now tarmac and downhill all the way back to Brighton and I made haste. I got back, bought some eggs, as you do, and was on the boat by 3:15pm. I needed to ingest some food so had to get that sorted and was away by 3:45. Good enough. Though it had been 33 miles, rather more than I’d have liked before a tough sail…
A good sail in varying wind strengths (F2 at first and then F3 with some F4), though all against me. A light, following tide helped as ever. Nice weather made the 6 hour trip (9pm to 6pm) most pleasant. Subsequent discovery day revealed more than I could have imagined, including a lovely ride across the South Downs.