The time is 1415, and by now ‘Bumper’ and I should have been more than halfway on the leg to Poole from Weymouth, but cruising under sail does not always go according to plan. In fact, I’m back at Weymouth moored beside other yachts which were here when I arrived last Saturday night.
Yesterday afternoon I had this brilliant idea to spend the night at Portland Harbour, which at first had all the promise of being something special. I had paid for two nights at Weymouth and I didn’t look forward to parting with yet another £13.30 for a further one. With this in mind I cast off the lines and said farewell to my affable neighbours aboard their Westerly Centaur, ‘Syklops’; only fifty minutes later ‘Bumper’ was snugly moored at Castle Cove.
The evening was idyllic with hardly a breath of wind as the Castle Cove Yacht Club’s Lasers and others were racing while making every effort to complete a triangular course through lack of wind, but before the race was out, crews were straining to keep their dinghies from capsizing.
A dazzling yellow setting sun heralded a beastly night to come. I guessed things would be a bit lively, because we were on a buoy in only nine feet of water at low tide and Portland gives no protection from the wind. Some sailors are aware that Portland was chosen as a venue for speed sailing because Chesil Beach, a natural mound of large pebbles cast up by storms raging from the south west over Lyme Bay, provides protection from the swell and larger waves of the English Channel.
Last night I learnt the truth of what happens when a strong wind comes from the south east over the artificial man-made breakwaters which complete Portland Harbour. There are three entrances to the Harbour; the southernmost is partially blocked by an obstruction, but the other two allow the swell to invade Castle Cove. Any yacht moored at the Cove is open to the wind’s onslaught, which meant ‘Bumper’ was like a cork in a washing machine. The motion was positively evil – diabolical in its bestiality. That sort of torture I was subjected to through the dark hours should be reserved for the worst sinners. (I suppose I deserved every bit of it and more!)
This morning, stubborn as I am, I determined to follow the usual ritual of having a shave and a strip wash, before my customary breakfast of Alpen and toast. Every action required me to hold on to something solid while performing the required task. Using the razor was a delicate manoeuvre; despite it was supposed to be a ‘safety’ razor. Unusually for me I felt a little queasy, and I made every conscious effort not to give in to full-blown seasickness.
Desperately wanting to move eastwards for progress up the English Channel, I listened to the 0535 shipping forecast, which gave me little joy. An easterly 5 to 7 was not what I wanted to hear, although later it should veer to the south west. (‘Later’ in technical terms means in about 11 hours – too late for me.)
For confirmation I waited for the Coastguard forecast at 0720, but the VHF reception was poor and I couldn’t hear the complete forecast. The next best thing to do was to sail outside the Harbour to ‘test’ the situation. A wave slammed right over the boat drenching everything, and breakers stretched to the south east in the direction of the East Shambles buoy which was to be my first waypoint. Unknown to me the Weymouth lifeboat was on her way in answer to a distress call, but I had tasted the salt water and my spectacles were temporarily rendered useless by salt encrustations.
The decision to return to the comfort and protection afforded by Weymouth Harbour was not a difficult one to make. Here I am until the weather becomes favourable.