What problem did the new English ships encounter in the year 896 AD when they entered the river's mouth near the Isle of Wight?
After Viking marauders wreaked havoc in the south of England two decades earlier, King Alfred decided to expand his navy and produce warships capable of both defending the English coast and defeating his Danish enemies. Similar to old Roman warships, Alfred himself supervised the design of a new fleet of longships that were twice as big as the Danes' boats. Additionally, the new ships were supposedly faster and "rode higher in the water" than the Viking ships. Although the ships may have been superior in some regards,
His ships proved to be too large to manoeuvre well in the close waters of estuaries and rivers, the only places in which a 'naval' battle could occur.
In 897, the new fleet took on six Danish ships in a southern English river. Three ships were beached; the other three tried to escape. Initially, only one of them made it when the larger English ships became grounded when the tide receded. Seeing this, the sailors from the three beached ships returned to their boats and rowed the crafts past the disabled English ships. Thanks to their smaller boats with "shallower drafts," four of the six Viking ships escaped--at least for the moment. Undermanned because of casualties (at least 120, according to one source), two of the ships wrecked along the coast. Their crews were captured and later hanged.