If you make a storybook entrance into Hamble Village, England, you’ll likely receive a storybook ending. After three weeks at sea, roll down Hamble Lane, devoid of land legs, toward the waterfront with your seabag on your shoulder, and ask the first person you encounter for directions. Invariably, the first response will be, “And what boat will you be off of?”
Whatever it is you’re looking for – employment, a pint of “real” English lager, lodging for the night, or a ride back across the Atlantic – this will become the concern of this quaint seagoing community, for it remains enough of an estuarine backwater to respond subliminally to the tidal pulse. Inhabitants care that you’ve come from afar under sail to visit them, they cherish kindred spirits, and they go several steps beyond simply giving directions. Indeed, they will participate – in the least intrusive, most productive and warmest manner imaginable – in your future.
Hamble (formally, Hamble-le-Rice) is near the mouth of the River Hamble, where it meets Southampton Water, which runs into the Solent – the hub of the sailboat racing universe every summer during Cowes Week. It is a village so intertwined with the sea that it and Warsash, its neighbor across the river, insist upon perpetuating a quarter-mile ferry service that in one form or another has been in operation since 1535. For trans-Atlantic sailors arriving at Hamble with their futures in limbo, this service is vital, for it provides convenient, inexpensive and enjoyable access to numerous east-shore marinas and boatyards from Gosport to Southampton.
In Hamble Village, the important places for transient sailors are:
The King and Queen Pub on the High Street
Here, aside from the usual food and drink, is a notice board on which to advertise one’s availability as crew and to note available “rooms to let.” The pub is also a great place to get a crew spot for a regatta. A day racing around the buoys provides an opportunity for networking in your quest for a job, a home, or a boat that can take you to other corners of the world.
Compass Point Chandlery on The Quay
Not only does Compass Point have a hard-core inventory of hardware, sailing directions and clothing, but also its staff is a clearinghouse of riverside scuttlebutt.
The RAF Yacht Club at the end of the Rope Walk
At the reception desk, ask to see the crew-needed and positions-wanted books downstairs by the coffee machine. The RAF Club also sponsors the Trade Wind Rally, which crosses the Atlantic in the fall and crew positions open up at every waypoint.
The Hamble Post Office on the High Street
This will be your long-distance communications center. Faxing is the only feasible way of communicating with the States if your budget is small. The Post Office also offers a photocopying service, phone cards and a notice board.
Alldays on the High Street, the local grocery and news store
All the food, drink, newspapers and books you’ll need.
The Victory Pub on the High Street
A relaxing atmosphere and the most appetizing and nutritious “specials” at the best prices. The Victory is a quiet place in which to negotiate a weekend crewing position while you firm up your long-term plans.
The Hamble-Warsash Ferry landing at the end of The Quay
For 50p one way, you can ride a 12-person ferry to Warsash, which puts you in touch with many east shore marinas on the Hamble. East shore marinas and boatyards that bear checking into for crew positions are:
Camper and Nicholson’s and Hasler’s Marina in Gosport
A.H. Moody & Son Boatyard in Swanwick
Ocean Village Marina and Shamrock Quay in Southampton
The key here is the notice board at a coffee shop called The Yellow Wellie.
On the west shore, these marinas and yards always hold promise:
Hamble Point Marina, the southern most marina on the Hamble.
Port Hamble, a short walk from the village by way of Satchell Lane.
Hamble Yacht Services, just north of Port Hamble.
You’ll probably end up at Hamble Village at least once during your voyaging life. If you do, and if your immediate future is somewhat in doubt, rest assured that you’ve washed up on the right beach – that your quest will result in that storybook ending. Mine did.