Today was forecast as another light winds / smooth sea day, so we decided to cross Lyme Bay and head for Portland Harbour, near Weymouth ( 50:34.3N, 002:27.1W). Portland harbour will be the venue for this year's sailing events in the Olympics, so it would be interesting to see what was going on.
This would be quite a long trip of just over 50 miles, and we had to pay attention to the tides, particularly around Portland Bill, which can be very rough in some conditions. We would also be sailing through various naval firing ranges and would need to keep listening to the radio for any information on firings.We decided to leave at 9am to make the most of the East flowing tide, and we woke to the second day of sunshine in the morning.....perhaps summer has finally arrived. The forecast was for another day of light airs and rather cloudy / showers so we set off making the most of the sun while we had it. Dartmouth certainly looked much prettier on the way out in the sun , than it had yesterday as we entered in the grey.
As soon as we were out of the Dart River and at sea it was really just a case of turning left and sailing almost due East to Portland Bill, or more specifically about 4 miles off 'The Bill' in order to avoid any risk of rough water. After a couple of hours of adverse tide we caught the east flowing tide for the rest of the trip , pushing us along at around 7 knots for a few hours. Once again it was motorsailing all the way, with light winds, quite often on the nose as well. However, this was compensated by some luck with the sun, which stayed with us for much of the day, as we watched some grey skies ahead gradually recede.
The trip was livened up by constant VHF traffic concerning naval firing exercises...it seems that Mr Osbourne had called the navy to let them know that there was some money left over for a few shells and missiles, so the navy was going to spend it all before he changed his mind. HMS Illustrious and HMS Lancaster were particularly enthusiastic and were announcing their intention to play at various times and positions. We were actually going to be quite close to one of the positions mentioned by Illustrious, so gave them a call, only to be told that they would be long gone by the time we had crawled along to the position mentioned. We later saw Illustrious steaming around in circles and having a jolly day out in Lyme Bay.
Between all the excitement of naval gunfire, and just relaxing in the nice weather , the fairly long passage across Lyme Bay was soon over and we had no problems rounding Portland Bill ; in fact we were able to 'cut the corner' a bit and pass rather closer than we had planned since the sea was calm. After that it was a short trip up the other side of the Bill to Portland harbour, which is a huge expanse of water enclosed by miles of breakwaters. At one time it was home to a large part of the fleet, but since we no longer have a fleet it is going to be home to the sailing Olympics. We were soon tied up in the massive Portland Marina, feeling a bit like an early resident of a new housing estate.....masses of empty spaces and new construction, but few people and absolutely no atmosphere. Portland will be a great sailing venue, with the ability to use the harbour as well as the open sea, but quaint and pretty it ain't. Hopefully the TV crews will concentrate on the sailing action, and not feel tempted to do in depth features on Portland town. Perhaps best summed up by a car sticker we saw, 'Keep Portland Weird', which sums it up nicely.
Having said this, we did finally find a good pub on the beach...after discovering that the marina manager's idea of a ten minute walk was a little different to ours...perhaps he was entering an Olympic event himself.