One of the major yachting centres of the South Coast, Southampton is a large harbour city with an important yacht racing pedigree. Home of the famous Whitbread round the world yacht race and now the Clipper round the world yacht race, though around nine miles from the Solent it is still seen as one of the centres of UK sailing.
With the bars and restaurants of Ocean Village close to the two main sailing marinas, as well as excellent train and road links to London and its airports, a Solent yacht charter out of Southampton could well be a good choice.
On a motor yacht charter or a sailing yacht charter you won't be disappointed with the great hotels, nightlife and shopping around what is still one of the UK's most important deep water ports. The start of RMS Titanic's fateful voyage (her quay now where Ocean Village is), Southampton is still home to major cruise liners such as the fleets of Cunard and P&O. Just beware that these vessels take priority over sail thanks to the channel being relatively small for them.
Centre of the Solent sailing paradise on the UK South Coast, a Southampton yacht rental could well be the start of a week or two afloat to remember. Whether on a skippered yacht charter or bareboat charter the world is your oyster!
The city itself has a cosmopolitan vibe yet in just five minutes heading up Southampton Water you can be under full sail or power and heading out past the Hamble River and out to the world yacht racing Mecca of the Solent or bound for the beautiful backwaters that surround it with their important coastal ecology and birdlife.
Cowes Week comes around every August where it is said you can walk to the Isle of Wight just treading on boats as you go. Nearby is the historic Royal Navy town of Portsmouth Harbour and to the west, the beautiful Lymington and the Beaulieu River sailing centres.
Southampton is accessible by good air, road and rail links.
Southampton Central railway station is a short taxi ride from Ocean Village and Shamrock Quay marinas, and is just 90 minutes from London Waterloo railway station.
The town is on the Southern end of the M3 motorway to London, and is the mid-point of the M27 that links the New Forest and South West to Portsmouth and West Sussex.
There are also air links to Europe and the rest of the UK via Southampton Airport.
There are two major marinas in Southampton - Ocean Village and Shamrock Quay in nearby Northam. From there you can bareboat charter or skippered charter a motor yacht or sailing yacht out to the Solent and South Coast ports beyond.
Ocean Village Marina:
Max Length 90m (295 Feet)
Max Draught 15m (49 Feet)
List additional services: Shore power, water, laundry, WiFi, dentist, restaurants and bars, supermarket (nearby), cinema, boatyard, boat hoist, chandlery. Fuel is available at Port Hamble Marina or Hythe.
Shamrock Quay Marina:
Max Length 70m (229 Feet)
Max Draught 15m (49 Feet)
List additional services: Shore power, water, laundry, WiFi, restaurants, shops and bars, boatyard, boat hoist, chandlery. Fuel is available at nearby Port Hamble or Hythe.
On a seven or 14 day yacht charter you can enjoy the best of the Solent, mixing some of the best yachting towns in the UK with quiet evenings at the mooring buoy watching the world go by.
Southampton and the Solent - 7 days: Over seven days you don't need to travel very far to enjoy the best sailing conditions and the Solent's fabled double-high tide that makes it such a great place for a bareboat or skippered yacht charter. You can head off to Portsmouth Harbour after a day afloat and enjoy the nightlife and then a quiet following evening in the scenic Chichester Harbour nearby. Turning west, find a mooring in East Cowes and pay a visit to one of the many sailing pubs. Take in Lymington after another day of fun on the water and another quiet evening on the Beaulieu River before returning, perhaps with a night in Port Hamble or Warsash on the way back.
14 days - Solent and South Coast: Over 14 days you would be highly dependent on the prevailing winds. In the summer these often come from the east so you could head out via Portsmouth Harbour and its attractions to Chichester, then on to the famous party town of Brighton (known locally as 'London on Sea' for its links to the capital and cosmopolitan boho vibe). If the Azores High is still overhead you can do a dead run back down the coast and visit the Isle of Wight. The fun holiday towns of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are to the west, and remembering the 12 mile military firing range exclusion zone to the west of that, explore the quirky Isle of Portland and seaside town of Weymouth before returning to the real world on the Solent.
The sailing season runs from late March to mid September on the UK South Coast, though you will see hardier types afloat throughout the year. There can be gales at any time of year, with Westerlies especially fierce through the Solent. In the peak boat rental season of July and August it can still be fun sailing, though the bars and marinas can be expensive and full.
Cowes Week? You will need to book well in advance, both marinas and mooring buoy moorings as well as restaurants and pubs! A motor boat with a well stocked fridge can be a good way to make new friends during this event too...
April and May: Westerlies prevail but you will often find warm days with brisk sailing conditions of a F4-5. Gales will come through earlier in the year, funnelling through the Solent and hitting F10-12 in gusts. This is Britain - expect rain!
June-August: In June there will be southerly and westerly gales at times but these tend to die out in July and August with the Azores High moving north and providing settled conditions and light easterlies. Expect temperatures in the high 20s C range with the odd few days at 30C plus. As ever, keep your oilies to hand as even in the height of summer things can change.
September-October: Grey skies and gales start to return. While often in the high teens Celsius in September with some great sailing conditions, the westerly procession of lows start coming up the English Channel and things can get a little uncomfortable by early October.
The main points to consider are what is your budget, have you got the necessary sailing experience and qualifications to manage the boat if it's not going to have a skipper, whom you are taking sailing, where exactly you wish to go and what will the weather be like on the proposed dates of your trip.
Ocean Village is the main marina in the centre of the city, with Shamrock Quay just to the north of the centre in Northam on the River Itchen.
May to August is best for sailing, though the first week of August is Cowes Week and launches the peak sailing season locally where it can be difficult to get a berth or table at a restaurant! If on a private charter you should benefit from a berth and access to the MDL Marina chain of yacht harbours and moorings.
You will typically pay 50% up front on booking the yacht hire and the balance on arrival. You will either pay a security deposit with your credit card on departure or can get insurance covering damage in advance. In some cases (such as the recent Covid situation) charter companies may be more flexible but this depends on the individual charter companies themselves.
If you are at sea and in danger, call MAYDAY on VHF Ch16 or ring the coast guard on your phone if you have reception. If you have a mechanical fault and can make it to or are on a mooring you will be able to phone a help line number given by the boat charter company.
You should consider do you have the experience to handle the yacht charter or boat hire before you book and where do you want to go along with what the weather will be like. Bring warm weather and cool weather clothing if it looks like the weather can be cool as well as warm and remember at sea it can be cool on most evenings.
If you want to sail without a skipper then you will need relevant qualifications like RYA Day Skipper/International Certificate of Competence (ICC)/ASA 104 Bareboat certificate or the US Sailing Certificate. For small 'day boats' or if you choose to have a skippered on board your yacht charter you typically don't require licences.