Dartmouth to Portland

Day 1

With the weather not looking its best, we opted not to leave Dartmouth on Sunday, but to take our chances on the right kind of wind, in the right direction, on a cloudy rather than wet day on Monday 17 June.

Andrew preparing to slip our mooring at Darthaven Marina, Kingswear, Devon, UK

8am sharp

As a stream of 7 naval picket boats entered Dartmouth harbour, we motored past in the opposite direction, hoisting our mainsail by Dartmouth castle at the mouth of the river, and out into the open sea by 8.30 am. With engine turned off, and our genoa hoisted we set our auto pilot to 77 degrees for the 55 or so nautical miles to Portland harbour, across Lyme Bay.

Knots and knots

Our speed at Mewstone was 8.2 knots, with Andrew claiming top speed of the day at 9.1 knots at around 10 am. It was then time for Suzanne to practice her knots, notably the bowline, which is the most useful of knots according to Andrew. With a watch change each hour, our new AIS to play with and get used to -all that beeping when another vessel was within 5 miles range had to be stopped(!) – time passed quickly.

Our first sighting

At around 1130 we had our first sighting of a dolphin or porpoise. As it was on it’s own, swam under the boat and carried on its way – we think it was probably the latter. Dolphins tend to travel in groups and swim alongside the boat. However Suzanne’s theory that sea birds can often be an indicator that a ‘d’ or ‘p’ – our boat code so we don’t jinx the chance of a sighting – is nearby worked again. Watching an elegant lone sea bird, with a slim silhouette similar to a swallow, led us to see the ‘d’ or ‘p’, otherwise we would have missed it. It came and went in the flash of an eye, and far too quick to catch on camera. Next time we hope!

Rounding Portland Bill

Portland Bill has something of fearsome reputation amongst the sailing fraternity. Lyme Bay is littered with wrecks, it has notorious tidal race which is where a fast moving tide is constricted by some kind of land or sea mass. It looks a bit like the sea is bubbling and boiling. The Swinge was the first of these notorious races that we’ve managed to sail, when we visited Alderney. We’ve learnt, give them as wide a berth as possible. And so it was we were safely past and into Portland Harbour.

Berth for a night

By 6.30 pm we had tied up in our berth for the night, Q15, on the outer pontoon at Portland Marina. A fantastic facility, surrounded by numerous sailing and racing facilities, no doubt boosted by them hosting the sailing at the 2012 Olympics (which we were lucky enough to attend). After dinner at The Boat That Rocks, we took a stroll on the incredible Chesil Beach.

A stowaway

As Andrew went to pack away the stay sail, he discovered a large bee resting in the folds. Clearly exhausted, with no energy to fly away, Suzanne fed it sugar water until it revived. Flying and sounding like a B52 bomber, after half an hour our stowaway took its leave.

Our daily stats

We were underway for 10.5 hours, sailed for 42 miles and motor sailed for 12, with around 2 engine hours, using about 3 gallons of fuel. Our noon position was 50degrees 25.5 N, 02 degrees 56.2 W. You can see the course we steered in the screen shot from AIS below.

After a rest day, we’ll be setting sail for France!

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