Thursday, June 30, 2005

Wednesday, 29th and Thursday, 30th June


This morning there was an indication that sea mist was in the offing, but other yachts had headed off around Portland Bill for the west, and ‘April Folly’, to which I was moored was leaving at 0800 to follow them. My intended departure for Poole Harbour had been planned for 0900; therefore leaving an hour earlier would make little difference, because tides inshore towards Lulworth Cove were weak.

Once outside Weymouth Harbour I was immediately hemmed in by dense mist; perhaps visibility was less than a quarter of a mile. The compass course for St Alban’s Head was 110 degrees. As there was only a zephyr from the east, I rightly anticipated ‘Donk’, the engine, would be doing all the work. My adrenaline had a rush when out of the whiteness ahead, a very fast motor yacht, almost on a reciprocal course, headed for Weymouth. The skipper must have been out of his mind, or have little understanding of the possible consequences of his recklessness.

As visibility was so poor, there was no live firing at the Lulworth Range, which meant I could save at least seven miles by not going south around it. Near the Atomic Buoy, about halfway between Weymouth and Anvil Point, visibility slightly improved, and there I saw an outboard rib boat flying the ‘A’ flag, indicating diving was in progress, but there were no diver’s floats ahead, so I proceeded with caution. Next, the Firing Range Safety Vessel came into view, and I made a sigh of relief when it did not speed in my direction to shepherd me south beyond the boundaries of the range.

The further east we motored, the better the visibility became, and by 1315, as we were being rapidly sucked and buffeted through the St Albans Head race, I could clearly see a warship at least five miles to the south. By the time we rounded Anvil Point, three miles further to the east, there was bright sunshine.

Thankfully, a gentle south west wind allowed me to turn off the engine; from there on we had a pleasurable sail as far as Poole Harbour. As we rounded the white cliffs of Handfast Point, and the eighteen metre chalk pinnacle ‘Old Harry’, we were overtaken by several graceful racing trimarans.

When entering Poole Harbour one needs vigilance and anticipation, because the Chain Ferry that runs between South Haven Point and Sandbanks has a ‘captain’ who is no respecter of persons or craft. Having hoisted his black ball and set his white strobe light flashing, nothing will stop him proceeding. This I know from experience, because I had to make a smart turn around with ‘Bumper’ to ensure the safety of all.

After passing through the Harbour entrance we turned to port into South Deep, where I anchored ‘Bumper’ within a stone’s throw of a smart German yacht. Her skipper helpfully directed me to a safe position for anchoring. I invited him and his wife for dinner which we all enjoyed before turning in for the night.


I woke to find a dull and uninviting scene with heavy drizzle, which almost blanked out Brownsea Island and its two neighbours: Furzey and Green Islands.

Today will probably be a time for just keeping my head down, but I have made preparations for sailing this afternoon to Newton, on the Isle of Wight, or Cowes, if the weather improves.

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