My first experience of sailing a yacht was on the Solent. There was no real thought process and the principal reason for choosing the Solent as the destination for my introduction to RYA sailing courses was that it was within an easy commute of where I was living and working at the time in Berkshire.

Looking back I can see that there are a number of additional advantages of choosing the Solent as an area to learn to sail.

Tidal range

The tidal range of the Solent area ensures that good passage planning is essential – trying to beat against the tide, particularly against Spring tides, is difficult and makes for slow journey time and a feeling of “three steps forward and two steps back”. So it provides great practical experience following a Day Skipper Theory course.
Additionally it has a number of below the water hazards to avoid – such as Bramble Bank which becomes exposed at Spring tides.

Volume of Traffic

The Solent is an extremely busy area, both for pleasure craft and also for commercial vessels. It has shipping lanes running the length of it and requires an ability to have eyes in the back of your head at all times. This is great practice, albeit making it a little stressful at times.

Number of ports in close proximity

The number of ports and harbours in close proximity make the Solent a great place to hop from port to port and over a week long Day Skipper course one can cover quite a bit of ground, including a hop across to the Isle of Wight to visit Cowes, Yarmouth or Bembridge, or stay on the mainland and visit Southampton – a large commercial port, Portsmouth – a naval port, Gosport, Lymington or take a cruise up the Hamble River.
Most of these ports and harbours are easily accessible without tidal height restrictions, or the need to wait for locks.

Mix of cruising ground

The Solent offers a wide variety of cruising grounds, allowing something for all weather eventualities – small anchorages, estuaries as well as less protected areas, to take full advantage of any breezes on a calm windless day.

And if you’re of a nervous disposition, you might be interested to know that the Solent has one of the highest density of declared lifeboat stations in the world, including 6 RNLI stations and 5 independently run.