I made a plan to leave Weymouth on Thursday morning and decided to get the mountain bike out and ride to Portland Bill on Wednesday. Along the way I stopped at the 2012 Olympic sailing venue in Portland Harbour to watch some windsurfing, kitesurfing and a guy who is developing a foiling windsurfer. Now that looks awesome!
I really enjoy riding my bike in new places and on the way to Portland there were loads of lovely long downhill runs and I was conscious that meant for harsh payback on my return. The payback was harsh indeed but it is a mountain bike after all and this isn’t the flats of Essex so I had better get used to it from here on.
One of the reasons I wanted to ride to Portland Bill was to look at the water flow because there are two choices when rounding Portland Bill. You either give it plenty of room (3 miles in good weather, more in bad) or you talk to some locals, consult the almanac, plan your arrival timing carefully, take some liquid bravery pills and go for the inside route. The plan with that route is to be one or two hundred meters from the rocky shore when you go round and even closer to Chesil Beach on your way West. In the Harbour Master’s words, ‘Close? You have to be really close mate, so close that you feel like you’re sitting in the cafe on the beach’!
The basic idea is to be at Portland Bill at the critical moment and sneak through the inside route in order for the tidal race to spit you out the other side and fire you along westwards at speed cutting off the 12 or so miles that it takes to go round.
That all sounded very exciting to me and I wanted to see it in the flesh to help me visualise and make my final plans. However, it was only when I was actually looking at it and I could see just how close the inside route is to the rocks on one side and the utterly confused and boiling sea of the tidal race on the other side that I had a moment of complete clarity. ‘You must be having a f*cking laugh you bellend. You’re not taking Fiesta through there on your own, go home and plot your course around the Bill you knob’! So, thats what I did. Portland Bill 1, my bottle – 0
I left at 7.30am on Thursday with a lovely breeze from the North East, the sails were up before I was out of the harbour and Fiesta was making 7 knots or so. The closest I got to Portand Bill was 3 miles to its south west side and even there the sea was a little confused. My plan was to head into Lyme Regis for a day or two and then into the River Exe. I had a couple of doubts about the entrance of the River Exe because the forecast was saying Easterly force 5 or maybe 6 and strong Easterly winds, according to the almanac, make the entrance pretty nasty because of the shallows and big swell rolling in. I was contemplating just how much Easterly wind would be too much when at that moment Solent Coastguard issued a maritime safety broadcast which made my mind up for me. The strong wind warning had now been changed to a local gale warning and the forecast was for an Easterly Gale 8.
Ok, I didn’t want to attempt getting out of Lyme Regis across the sand bar or into the River Exe in anything like that. I went downstairs re plotted my course and headed straight across Lyme Bay for the protection and deep water entrance of Torquay which would be a good place to sit out a gale.
The rest of the sail was very straight forward and in fact the wind decreased until I had to put the engine on in order to ensure I got in before dark which is always my preference for an entrance to somewhere new.
If this gale is on its way, there is nothing to suggest it yet. Since the wind died on my sail across Lyme Bay yesterday it has been perfectly still, beautiful and sunny. Come on, I fancy that gale now that I am tied up safely to the Quay inside the harbour!
Close fly by from the Coastguard
Torquay Harbour looming out of the late afternoon haze
Sunset from the cockpit