Part of the delights of cruising your own boat is that you can choose where you go, where you stop off, and you can visit places you want to see. My Senior Citizen’s bus pass came in very handy for travelling to locations that might interest me. Three such venues were Portland Bill, the Needles and Plymouth.
At Portland Bill I was struck with the monumental scale of the landscape. The prominent red and white lighthouse was like a huge marker set upon a rock. “Watch out sailor! Keep clear. Do not approach. Here you will find danger.”
This ‘bird bill’ shaped terrain stretched seaward, lurking under the surface, there for causing disruption in the form of a ferocious race that even skippers of large ships respect by keeping their vessels clear.
Almost hidden in a cleft overlooking the sea, there was a poignant bunch of withered flowers, a reminder that tragedy had struck - one or more lives lost through shipwreck, drowning or a fall. Someone remembered their loss and marked the spot with a simple tribute.
When I was storm bound at East Cowes Yacht Haven I travelled by bus to Alum Bay, from where I walked to high ground overlooking the Needles to the west. The wind was gale force and biting cold, but I had an invigorating experience. From a point close to the Coastguard Station I took photos of the iconic chalk stacks marked by their own red and white lighthouse. The drama of the moment can hardly be sensed from the photo. Clouds and sea only hint at the ferocity of the wind and they say nothing of the latter’s roaring that made me want to cower behind a wall for respite. There I gobbled my lunch and regretted not taking my thermal gloves. My white fingers were like icicles, but they felt like sticks of fire.
Plymouth was an entirely different experience. On my second visit by bus, the sun blazed and a gentle wind barely fluttered flags near the Smeaton Lighthouse. I joined picnickers on the Hoe and idly surveyed the scene towards the breakwater where naval vessels carried out manoeuvres that I could not fathom. On a nearby green, an enormous spectators’ wheel silently and slowly revolved.
Near the centre of the city there was a Next store that had an unsettling appearance, as if the walls were toppling outwards. My senses told me the building was out of equilibrium, and yet it did not collapse. When viewing the scene from Exeter Street, looking up the hill, the explosive effect was exaggerated by the upright spire of the blitz-damaged Charles Church.