The alarm went at 0150. There had been heavy rain, but by the time the boat was ready for casting off her lines, the rain had gone. While heading down the harbour towards the sea I hoisted full sail and turned on the navigation lights. The tide swished us around Portland Harbour. Now and again I consulted the chart and checked our route with the GPS. The lights of Portland and the dark silhouette of the familiar shape of the land that pointed to the Bill reassured me that we were on the right track. A trawler overhauled us and I was glad the navigation lights were in good order. She passed inshore of us when we were about a mile from the lighthouse. I closed the land to be in the best position for rounding the tip before heading west. Not once did I spot a crab pot float, but that was not surprising because the moon was completely hidden by the cloud.
We arrived exactly on time at the Bill to make the best use of the ebb which took us to the west at a rate of knots. No other boats could be seen in the brightening morn. Soon, a bright yellow sun rose above Portland and ‘Ladybird’ ran before the wind which came from the starboard quarter. She was rushing along at 5.6 knots. It was a lonely sea with no other boats for company. I kept glancing astern in the hope that a bigger yacht would overhaul ‘Ladybird’, as is generally the case, but this time there were none. The 35 mile crossing of Lyme Bay was a featureless trip, apart from the ever changing shapes of clouds.
About four miles from Straight Point at the entrance of the River Exe I turned on the VHF radio on channel 8 to monitor the Firing Range, but there was no activity, presumably because it was a Saturday. Several yachts were entering the River and small motor craft were whizzing along in the shallows close to the red sandstone cliffs. My impression was that the tide was ebbing, so I increased the revs of the engine, but when I noted the way a group of ribs were pointing I realised the current was still making. Memories of years ago when I kept boats at Starcriss flashed into my mind as I observed the beach and buildings of Exmouth’s seafront to starboard.
Where the River turns north by west I steered a course in the deeper water by keeping close to yachts at their moorings. Soon I could see the familiar jetty where the ferry berths from Exmouth and I prepared to pick up a mooring by having a rope and the boathook ready. My first attempt failed, but I saw a better buoy and successfully tied ’Ladybird’ to it. I just hope that the owner is away cruising and that perhaps he may be on my mooring while I am on his - not much chance of that, but the principle remains of cruising folk exchanging moorings.
Yes, I had arrived where I so much wanted to be - Starcross, a place of wonderful memories. The air is always so fresh there and for me it is an exciting place protected by the sand dunes of Dawlish Warren. The wind and sea call the tune for adventure. I hope I shall have a quiet night.