Michael Grade: My Island

He has been chief executive of Channel 4 Television and chairman of the BBC, but Lord Grade of Yarmouth loves to unwind in The Solent, Salty’s and Scratchell’s Bay

My family are keen sailors. I have always kept my boat in Lymington and our first port of call over the past 20 years or so was Yarmouth. We fell in love with it. It’s so unspoiled, with a lovely harbour, very friendly people and amazing facilities. We spent a lot of time here back then and now we are lucky enough to live here some of the time.

We bought our home in Yarmouth seven years ago. We weren’t really looking for anywhere, but by chance we found a cottage right on the water. We have a first floor balcony where I sit with a glass of something nice and watch the sun set over Keyhaven.

I came to sailing very late. I missed out the dinghy bit and went straight to big boats. I had always wanted to sail, but never had the opportunity. Then a very dear friend, who is a great sailor, got me going when I was about 30 years old. I have the same rule for sailing as
I do for golf and that is if you’re not that great at it, just do it with nice people and you’ll always enjoy it.

My first day on the water was grinding a winch during Cowes Week in a force six wind. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I loved every minute of it. Cold, wet, rough sea, wind over tide — I got the lot and it was the best thing ever. My boat is currently in New Caledonia in the Pacific. I share ownership with a partner. I knew I was going to have an exceptionally busy year and he wanted to do some ocean racing, so I said, you take her and go wherever you want. Eventually she will come back to Yarmouth. Meanwhile, if we want to go for a sail, we just charter a boat.

I go to sea to get away from everything and everybody. We’ve been around the Island many times. I have so many favourite spots to sail here. If the wind is in the right direction from the east (which is rare), then dropping an anchor in Scratchell’s Bay on the seaward side of The Needles under the lighthouse is always spectacular. Lunch in there on a sunny day is magical.

If the tide is right, then Newtown Creek is also beautiful. We often take the family there on our RIB, where we’ll swim and have a picnic lunch — that’s always a treat. I have five grandchildren and they all love it on the Island. They can’t wait to get down here.

A perfect day on the Island for me is to sail towards Portsmouth and back, followed by a nice supper at Salty’s in Yarmouth. Always the big decision for me is whether to have the crab or the lobster — I’ll agonise about that all day. I might wash it down with a glass of Yachtsman’s Ale from the Island Brewery.

It’s always amazing to walk along the cliffs towards Tennyson Monument. I have to say that I’m not a great walker — I’d rather be on the water — but my wife Francesca is and she’ll drag me up there. Yet once you’re there, you can’t help but be bowled over by the spectacular views.

I also love the walk to The Red Lion in Freshwater. It runs along the old railway line, beside the River Yar. Or we might rent some bicycles and cycle to Freshwater Bay to watch the waves. I enjoy pottering along the High Street in Cowes, too. I do like to go to the beach, especially with the grandchildren, and it has to be Compton Bay. It’s stunning.

The Isle of Wight has got something for everybody, particularly families. There’s plenty to do for the kids and lots of wonderful places for the grown-ups to see and eat. It’s just the perfect family holiday location. There’s something about crossing the water. You leave the world behind and you start breathing more slowly.