Quite literally the 'Best day out EVER!'
Having had to cancel last year's summer and Xmas staff events due to Covid regulations, I was determined that they'd have an extra-special event this year. As a regular boater on The Solent, I wanted my staff to experience the pleasure but on a 'proper' boat' so when I came across the Charterdays website it seemed to be just what I was looking for, with the added 'wow factor' of a beautiful Fairline Targa 43' motor cruiser named Ballena that could accommodate all 12 of us. I contacted Tony and he replied quickly, explaining what he was able to offer and after deciding on a date, we booked and paid. We were kept informed of everything that we'd need to do and had to complete a Covid questionnaire before we arrived. On the morning we arrived at Ocean Village Marina before 9am where there was plenty of parking. We all enjoyed a good breakfast in Banana Wharf restaurant that Tony had recommended and saw Ballena moored on the pontoon just opposite. Tony came to greet us on the dock and after making sure our Covid forms were all completed and a bit of hand sanitiser, we were led along the pontoon to Ballena. The first thing I noticed once aboard was just how clean and beautifully presented this boat was. Despite being over 15 years old, she had been extensively modernised and immaculately kept and maintained. She really looked like a new boat and was clearly very well cared for. Tony introduced us all to Ian, his crew member. A safety briefing was given about using the life jackets, life rafts and 'man overboard' procedures. Tony also explained how Ballena is 'coded' by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency for commercial use so carries a full range of safety equipment. After a welcome drink aboard and instructions on how to flush the toilet without getting a shower, we left the dock and headed out of the marina and up the River Itchen towards Southampton Water. Our first bit of sightseeing was of the cruise ships in dock and some 'superyachts' nearby - our knowledgeable crew gave us plenty of information about the numerous sights and landmarks on our route. Once free of the Itchen's 6 Knot speed limit, Tony warned us to 'hold onto our drinks' as he opened Ballena's throttles and let the twin Volvo Penta TAMD 75 480HP Diesel engines effortlessly take us up to a more lively 20 KTS. The bow rose and we headed into the Solent leaving a huge wake behind us as we headed across to our first stop, Newtown Creek on the Isle of Wight. Carefully entering the creek, which is a nature reserve and very shallow at low tide, we were treated to the site of some seals playing in the mud. This is where we all wished we had proper cameras instead of our phones! We then headed slowly out of the creek and back into the Solent towards The Needles to see the lighthouse and the famous stones. Once again, Tony and Ian provided a wealth of information about everything as we continued to Alum Bay to see the sights. By this time we were getting hungry so it was off to Yarmouth I.O.W. for a trip ashore for lunch. As it was the day of the 90th 'Round The Island Race' the island was very busy so we moored up on a buoy and a quick VHF call to the harbor taxi and soon all 12 of us were heading ashore on a Yarmouth Harbour Taxi. We spent about 90 mins in Yarmouth having lunch (and for some, a few too many drinks) before getting another taxi back to Ballena. We then headed to Osborne Bay where we dropped anchor for a while and took in the sights and sounds of some of the 1600 competing sailing boats passing by. Normally this would have provided the perfect opportunity for a quick swim off Ballena's bathing platform but the strong tide and hundreds of sailing boats squeezing past wouldn't have made this a very safe option so instead we just sat with a cold beer and watched the sailing until it was time to head back. After a while we were soon back on the Itchen and heading for Ocean Village Marina again. After some impressive docking skills, Tony and Ian has Ballena safely tied-up and it was time to say our goodbyes. It's hard to describe what a brilliant day we had on board Ballena and how much my 'non-yachty' staff enjoyed themselves but it's neatly summed-up by the words of my senior technician who simply said it was the Best Day Out Ever. I would thoroughly recommend anyone looking for that special treat or birthday celebration to get in touch with Tony and the team at Cherterdays and make a booking! You can find out pricing from their website but in simple terms, let's say that you normally have a fancy coffee from Starbucks every day for £3.50 Go without that for a year, save the money and you'll be able to enjoy the best day ever!