Ailing boat in the Solent.
The Solent (/ˈsoʊlənt/ SOH-lənt) is a strait between the Isle of Wight and Great Britain. It is about 20 miles (32 kilometres) long and varies in width between 2+1⁄2 and 5 mi (4 and 8 km), although the Hurst Spit which projects 1+1⁄2 mi (2.4 km) into the Solent narrows the sea crossing between Hurst Castle and Colwell Bay to just over 1 mi.
The Solent is a major shipping lane for passenger, freight and military vessels. It is an important recreational area for water sports, particularly yachting, hosting the Cowes Week sailing event annually. It is sheltered by the Isle of Wight and has a complex tidal pattern, which has benefited Southampton’s success as a port, providing a “double high tide” that extends the tidal window during which deep-draught ships can be handled. Portsmouth lies on its shores. Spithead, an area off Gilkicker Point near Gosport, is known as the place where the Royal Navy is traditionally reviewed by the monarch of the day.
The area is of great ecological and landscape importance, particularly because of the coastal and estuarine habitats along its edge. Much of its coastline is designated as a Special Area of Conservation. It is bordered by and forms a part of the character of a number of nationally important protected landscapes including the New Forest National Park, and the Isle of Wight AONB.