A travel moment on Hayling Island


Many may not see Hayling Island, England, as a holiday destination, but it’s amazing how many places and experiences are hidden right under out noses. Despite going to Hayling Island annually for the past 5 year, for a couple of weeks in the summer, I didn’t realise what had been lying right in front of me.

On a cloudy grey type of day, it was decided that, as a family, we would go and hire a rib in order to explore the corners of Chichester Harbour that we seldom see when dinghy racing. The sea was relatively wavy, although it wasn’t particularly helpful that the direction that we were heading was against the wind and tide. As I drove the rib away from the pontoon, the bow would rise and slam over the waves, sending spray shooting off in all directions from the site of impact. Fortunately for
me as the driver the spray wasn’t on a collision course with me, but caught anyone sitting on the side, which included my sister.

We headed north up the Emsworth Channel, towards the rolling hills of the South downs at the slow speed limit permitted in the harbour, in order not to create any friction with the harbour master. We continued until we reached the harbour mark “Channel”. Here we turned right up a channel coincidently called “Channel!”

As it was low tide at this point, the mud flats by Thorney Island were exposed. From the vantage point of Emsworth channel, they appear to be a vast brown desert with the occasional rock and treacherous to attempt crossing. However down the channel called “Channel”, the mud flats definitely weren’t as scarce as you may have thought.

The engine speed was cut to a low tickover and the shallow water carefully avoided as we entered the channel called “Channel”. If the rib were to run aground now, it would have been a painful wait for the tide to creep back in whilst sitting on an anchored rib. On top of that we would have looked rather silly!

Then, as we rounded the corner our eyes were met by four grey bodies bathing in the sun and lolling idly on the brown mud. The low tickover of the engine still caused one or two to focus their eyes upon us. Although fortunately for us, we weren’t perceived as a threat. The anchor was thrown over the side and engine cut in order to be as quiet as possible. The majestic, streamline, dull grey bodies were awesome to watch. It felt like such a privilege, just for our presence to be accepted. However this was just the first sighting!

Once the anchor was back in the rib, we crept slowly further up the channel called “Channel”, deeper into the maze of mud. The gamble paid off as we discovered a second group of seals, with a massive bull seal, who would make funny noises as he snorted every now and again.

For me the experience was such a privilege just to be in the company of these amazing creatures, and even more so to be accepted by the seals themselves.

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