It was a somewhat grey and foreboding day as members from Southampton Sight and the Sensory Team, began to arrive for what still promised to be an exhilarating day out on the water aboard the Alison McGregor.  Crewed and maintained by the Solent Dolphin charity, a wholly self-funded endeavour reliant on both donations and the generosity of it’s benefactors, the small but determined charity provide boat trips for the disabled, as well as hot drinks and biscuits, a welcome addition given the as ever fickle British summertime. Despite the gloom, spirits were high; all were ship-shape and Bristol fashion, as the group of ten headed off towards Hythe, and the river waters beyond.

Once safely aboard the catamaran we were momentarily stalled as it became apparent part of the boat had not left with us. One of the fender’s had been mis-tied, a minor set-back, and before not too long we passed through the marina lock and out into the Solent proper.  A light rain began to fall, misting the shore’s edge and, combined with the boat’s movement, left the passengers and crew a little damp around the plimsol line, but not enough to affect the buoyant mood.

Our journey took us first to the cruise liner berths where we experienced close encounters with some of the Solent’s huge behemoths, passing  an immense  car transporter, a yacht transporter, and eventually slowing to take in the majesty of the  P&O Arcadia, moored at the Horizon cruise terminal for re-fueling.

At last the rain eased and the sun began to threaten an appearance as the Alison McGregor was passed by both Red Funnel and Hythe ferries creating quite the wake.  As we bobbed our way along the causeway we took a quick look at Marchwood military port before retracing our route back down the Solent, turning to travel up the river Itchen as far as the Northam bridge.  On route we saw Weston shore, Woolston dock with the new flats being built, Ocean Village marina replete with superyacht, before passing under Itchen bridge within touching distance of St Marys stadium, Shamrock Quay and turning just before Northam bridge.

On the return we popped into Ocean Village marina for a look at the boats before a quick blast across the Solent had us in the Hythe marina lock and back on the berth by lunchtime.

Founded off the back of a tragic loss of life in the Clapham rail disaster some thirty years ago, the eponymously named Alison McGregor helps bring joy and optimism to those who need reminding of the beauty of simple pleasures.  A massive thank you to the staff and crew of Solent Dolphin who worked tirelessly to make our day an occasion to remember.  Stuart, one of our attending members, found the journey particularly inspiring, stating ‘It reminded me that there is a life out there,’ a sentiment encapsulating the regenerative power of experience, and the healing strength of nature.  We look forward to embarking aboard again soon.  Rain or shine, God bless the Alison McGregor and all who sail on her.

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