SOLENT CRUISING Ocean Village Marina is just beyond Southampton Dockhead up the River Itchen with Shamrock Quay and Saxon Wharf a bit further on beyond the Itchen Bridge. Small boats have plenty of exploration available to them in both the rivers Test and Itchen. The eastern Solent The eastern Solent has a different character to the western arm and the mainland shore is more developed. The sand and gravel sea bed which predominates to the west gives way to a greater proportion of mud in the east. Cross-Solent ferry traffic is high with car ferries operating between Portsmouth and Fishbourne at the entrance to Wootton Creek. Fast passenger catamarans run between Portsmouth and Ryde Pier head while the last remaining passenger hovercraft service runs between Southsea and Ryde. The major deep water shipping channel is south of Ryde Middle bank and very large ships regularly transit the area, with outgoing and incoming vessels often passing in the eastern Solent. Yachts and powerboats using this area should try to avoid the main channel, either staying to the south of the channel in ample water off the Island shore, or passing over Ryde Middle bank to the north of the main channel. The North channel runs to the north of Ryde Middle bank and is used by smaller commercial and military craft. The eastern Solent is also often busy at weekends and in high summer with yachts racing. On the Island shore, Osborne Bay, just to the east of Cowes, is a popular day-time or overnight anchorage as it is well sheltered from west or southwest winds and has an attractive shoreline. Just to the east, Wootton Creek is nice to explore in a small boat and when the tide serves but the entrance is dominated by the car ferry terminal and caution is needed when ferries are arriving and leaving. Further east is Ryde Pier and, beyond, the small Ryde Harbour which is accessible only around high tide and by small to medium sized shallow draft boats. Ryde Sands is the major obstacle in this area and this extensive sandbank catches out many unwary craft. To the north, the coastline turns northeast at Gilkicker Point and runs to the narrow entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. Portsmouth has much to offer the sailor or powerboater looking for exploration with a variety of marinas and opportunities for anchoring. Beyond the forts to the east lie Langstone and Chichester harbours, both of which have bars at their entrances which make it unsafe to enter or leave in rough conditions, such as when a strong southerly wind opposes a strong ebb tide. Both harbours are superb boating areas that are particularly appealing to owners of small yachts and powerboats who enjoy exploring, creek crawling, and wildlife watching. Together with the varied ports, harbours, and anchorages within the Solent, Langstone and Chichester make up the most compact yet varied cruising ground in Europe, a real treasure to be enjoyed and protected.