Eight of us from the Travel group boarded a Gosport Ferry Company’s boat from the Gosport Ferry Pontoon for their annual cruise around the four sea forts, finishing with a trip around the harbour.
We were lucky with the weather and the mild sea state. In turn Nomansland, St Helens, Horse Sand and Spit Forts were viewed.
They were built in the 1860s to defend the Spithead anchorage and keep an enemy out of gunnery range of the dockyard, manned by the Royal Artillery, they were later sold.
Nomansland, Horse Sand and Spit Forts are owned by Clarenco as ‘Island Retreats’ and were put on sale earlier this year for a guide price of eleven million pounds.
There are occasional hazards, in June 2018 a member of staff at Nomansland fell off the fort early one morning and had to be rescued by Bembridge Lifeboat.
St Helens is the smallest of the forts and was added after the building of Sturbridge Fort (Off Ryde) and was abandoned due to problems with securing adequate foundations. It is derelict, but the outside can be viewed close-up every August when the low Spring tide allows one to walk out to it from the Isle of Wight.
Personally, Horse Sand Fort was the most interesting as it is un-restored and a tattered skull and crossbones flag flew from its flagpole.
Newer features were the two sets of yellow marker posts used to delineate the dredged channel for the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers, now a handy perch for Cormorants.
We proceeded up the harbour and passed HMS Kent, HMS St Albans and HMS Queen Elizabeth amongst other vessels.
There is another set of yellow marker posts towards the top end of the harbour.
The commentary was mostly very accurate accommodating those who wanted detailed information about the forts.
The stone round tower in the Dockyard that we passed, was actually built in the 1840’s and was constructed well after the Napoleonic Wars, no French POW’s being employed. This was about the only factual error.
A most enjoyable trip – by IAN