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News - 29/11/16

River Sailors

The Medina Estuary offers a base for every type of boating and the river is currently featured in an engaging article written by CHC’s Designated Person and ex-Commissioner Capt. Peter Jackson for Sailing Today’s December 2016 magazine

Cowes, synonymous with yachting for over 200 years, is visited annually by thousands of sailors. Many never venture upstream of the ‘floating bridge’, unaware of the tranquillity and delights of the River Medina’s upper reaches, navigable as far as Newport.

The River Medina rises in the downs not far inland from St Catherine’s Point, flows north for about 6 miles to Newport where it becomes tidal, and thence another 4 miles to the Solent itself. The nature of the river, a mixture of industry, commerce and leisure, has been carefully guarded over the years. It remains the Isle of Wight’s main transportation gateway for passengers, vehicles and bulk cargoes. The industrial legacies of J Samuel White and Saunders Roe live on, however, it is still possible to indulge in a Swallows and Amazons experience on the river in safety, either in dinghy, kayak, rowing skiff or on a paddleboard.

Above the floating bridge, there is still evidence of the shipyards that made the River Medina world famous in the great days of Edwardian yachting: Souters, Groves and Gutteridge, Marvins and others. The craftsmen who built, maintained and crewed the yachts, or built the ships and seaplanes at Cowes and East Cowes, although respected, were not universally accepted as members of the Yacht Clubs. Accordingly, they formed their own clubs: the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club and the East Cowes Sailing Club. East Cowes Sailing Club was the premier dinghy racing club on the Medina with fleets of Star Class yachts, International Fourteens, and 505s, but today is principally a club for local sailors looking for affordable racing for small cruisers.

The River MedinaMoored boats on the River Medina

Once upstream of Kingston Power Station and the commercial wharves, the River Medina opens out and woods and fields descend to the foreshore. The river here is busy with visiting yachts heading to the Folly Inn, a favourite destination for yacht club rallies and those looking for a river mooring away from marinas and plug-in services. The Folly is also the base for the Medina Mariners Association. Formed originally as a pressure group to protect the estuary from over-exploitation for walkers, cyclists, nature lovers and river users alike, the Association has a particular interest in serving the interests of the ordinary family river user. With one of the few dinghy parks on the river, as well as tenders you will find kayaks, Mirrors and Scows, and people who just enjoy pottering about on the water.

The Folly Inn and moored boatsThe Folly Inn on the River Medina

Above the Folly Inn, management of the River Medina changes from Cowes Harbour Commission to Newport Harbour Authority. Commercial shipping is still encountered, with ships transporting huge wind turbine blades from the factory at Dodnor to Southampton docks. The river briefly opens out to a large lake on the eastern side, at the site of the old tide mill and now Island Harbour, another great cruising destination.

From Island Harbour, the river takes on more of the nature of the Upper Thames. With access for cruisers very much dictated by the tides, the river becomes the home of rowing skiffs and kayaks. On the east side behind the trees is the park where each summer the Isle of Wight Festival is held, while on the west there are bungalows, a youth activities and watersports centre, and Newport Rowing Club. The channel to Newport Harbour is well marked, and the berth for visiting yachts convenient for the shops, cinemas and other entertainment that the county town offers.

The River Medina offers a base for every type of boating activity from ocean racing to dinghy sailing and kayaking. It is a perfect base for my Trusty T23 motor boat with the whole of the Solent at my doorstep. We can tow our Scow to Newtown, Beaulieu or Keyhaven in less than an hour for sailing and bird watching, or motor up to Newport from East Cowes for the Christmas shopping without having to worry about car parking. No wonder Queen Victoria loved it.

Capt Peter Jackson's ScowCapt Peter Jackson's Trusty T23 motor boat

By Capt. Peter Jackson.

‘River Sailors’
Sailing Today – December 2016

Top photo: Capt. Peter Jackson’s Trusty T23 motor boat at Newport on the River Medina.