DAY 14 – Tuesday 3 May 2022 – Salcombe to Portland

Miles logged: 63
Total miles logged: 473
Days since leaving Fleetwood: 14
Days at sea: 10

We knew that today would be windless and the forecasts suggested that waiting a day or two in Salcombe for wind for our passage eastwards would be futile. So we bunkered up with diesel and studied the tidal stream atlas in order to achieve the fastest-possible passage with an early start. We agreed leave at 0530 which was a little before sunrise but we judged that there would be sufficient light to see pot-markers. It was a dull morning in Salcombe but not cold and, blessedly, it was not raining. We motored out against the tide, careful to avoid the bar at the harbour’s entrance and were soon in the east-going flood tide heading towards Start Head. Once we had the tide under us we were soon making eight knots over the ground and this increased to over nine as we passed Start Head. Speed Over Ground then fell back a little but was still consistently well over 7 knots all the way to Portland Bill. We had planned well and gained considerable advantage from the tide for the long crossing of Lyme Bay, far away from land and with nothing to see until we were close to our destination.

Passing Start Head at over 9 kts, with assitance from the tide

The sea was like a mill-pond with no wind at all for much of the trip. We saw a few yachts bound westwards from Portland, the Solent and Brighton and, in the distance, shipping in the English Channel. There were fleeting visits from dolphins and porpoises. It was good to be putting so many miles behind us across at good speed.

Flat calm in the morning sun far out in Lyme Bay. The tiny white dot in the distance is Pagets Lady

I was particularly anxious on this leg because of the need to pass, and then round, Portland Bill. My pilot book, one written by perhaps the most well-respected compiler of these guides, notes ‘Portland Race is the most dangerous extended area of broken water in the English Channel; quite substantial vessels drawn into it have been known to disappear without trace.’ Neither Bubble nor I wished to disappear without trace and the fact that in conditions of almost no wind that was not a grave risk did not fully assuage my concerns. I noted, too, that we were only just off spring tides. To be on the safe side, our course took us well south of the Bill. I suppose, if one were trying hard to look for disturbed water, it could be conceded that there was a bit of a swell there. There was, certainly, as we headed north up the cost of Portland quite a bit of tide against us but we knew that this would not impede our passage for long as we had only a few miles to go before slipping into the haven of Portland Harbour. We fully expected to have to punch some tide at this point; the tidal stream atlas told us that we would. It was a pleasant surprise to experience no particular trouble or discomfort in rounding the Bill. Indeed, as we headed northwards we observed several yachts making out of and in to Portland with apparently little regard for the areas where the sea is known to become dangerous. Some were taking the ‘inner passage’ which passes very close to the rocky shore. Evidently when there is little wind and one’s timing is reasonable with regard to the tide Portland Bill can be rounded safely and without difficulty.

The Eastern Entance to Portland Harbour showing the remains of wartime fortifications

There are three entrances to the immense, man-made Portland Harbour but the southern one is closed, and has been for over a hundred years since a battleship was scuttled there in the First World War in order to obstruct marauding enemy submarines. The East Ship Channel is open but yachts bound for the marina are obliged to use the North Channel. Once inside the vast expanse of enclosed water was breathtaking. The marina is a large one but it appeared as a mere dot in the distance. There were naval vessels in the south quarter and a colossal cruse ship too. We motored over to the marina where we had been allocated berths over VHF. It was calm and peaceful and the marina was quite new and very well appointed.

Modern, well-appointed Portland Marina

Tomorrow will be a rest day, although I fear that hereabouts we might struggle to find much in the way of good shopping. The plan then is to take advantage of the tidal streams which, conveniently at the moment, commence in the early morning, to make for Yarmouth (Isle of Wight). Then, probably on Friday, we will try to make Brighton Marina, via the Solent, in one go. 

%d bloggers like this: