Posted by: Ray | September 19, 2009

Torquay to Poole

Passage: 102M, 2 new harbours visited, Max wind F7.

Babbacombe Bay from the cliffs.

Babbacombe Bay from the cliffs.

 

Whilst waiting in Torquay for my friend Brian to join me on the last leg of my cruise, I took the opportunity to visit the area and take some walks ashore. I visited Babbacombe and walked along the cliffs with stunning views across Lyme Bay to Teignmouth in the distance.

Cockington Village.

Cockington Village.

 

I also paid a visit along the coast again to Brixham and to the attractive and historic thatched cottages of the ‘Domesday book’ village of Cockington, that has hardly changed through the centuries.

Whilst at Torquay the weather continued to be unsettled with strong winds and occasional gales sweeping down the south and west coasts. But the weather looked set to improve for my last leg back to my home port of Lymington, with high pressure settling across the UK for the week.

But by the time Brian and I set sail for Weymouth the high pressure was drawing in strong winds from the NE along the south coasts, not ideal for our passage, we would be sailing close to the wind and against the swell. I only had a day in hand to complete the passage in time for my scheduled return home to meet friends and family at Lymington. It was a tight schedule, especially as I planned visits to Weymouth and Poole.

We left Torquay on Tuesday 15 September at 0700 with a strong wind warning in place, winds of F5 to F7 forecast, sea slight to moderate, showers or rain, visibility moderate in the rain. Leaving the harbour and setting sail close-hauled to the wind and waves, there was nothing slight about the sea! Seas were at the upper end of moderate and occasionally rough throughout our passage, with regular drenching from the spray as we slammed into the waves. It was going to be a hard passage …..

My passage plan took us due east across Lyme Bay keeping 4 miles offshore of Portland Bill to avoid the ‘Portland Race’, rounding the ECM (East Cardinal Marker) marking the Shambles Bank to our destination at Weymouth. Our departure from Torquay had been timed to give us a fair tide from 1430 as we approached Portland Bill and the strong tides off the headland. I have sailed these waters on many occasions since I started sailing in 2004, taking both the narrow inshore passage or keeping 3 to 4M off to avoid the race. The dangerous race can bee seen clearly as you pass it; it looks like boiling water from a yacht!! With the strong winds I decided the offshore passage was safer in the conditions, although it adds 1 to 2 hours to the passage time.

The weather held fine as we crossed Lyme Bay and made our course ‘best to wind’ eastwards. Fully reefed and with winds blowing a constant F6 or 7 (we recorded 40KN apparent) it was an exhilarating sail, although at times we would be drenched by the spray as we hit into a large wave.

Web Photo of HMS Illustrious Aircraft Carrier

Web Photo of HMS Illustrious Aircraft Carrier

As well as the sailing, we had a little excitement at one point when we heard a ‘security’ message on the VHF radio advising that HMS Illustrious would be carrying out live firing exercises within a radius of 10M.

We could see the aircraft carrier clearly out to sea from us making its maneuvers. I called the coast guard on VHF for clarification and was given contact details for the admiralty firing control. I contacted the control and advised our position and course, they advised that we could continue our passage as the firing targets were to the south of us! 🙂 We continued to see Illustrious at various times throughout our passage, with helicopters lifting off and returning to the carrier. We would have liked to have taken photos, but we were heeled over and taking a lot of spray …. not the time for cameras. 🙂

We were 20M off the coast as we crossed Lyme Bay, not the scenic route! 🙂 By the time we were approaching Portland Bill continual rain was adding to the spray and we were starting to feel the cold and wet. We were 5M off Portland Bill and had to put in a long tack to ensure we passed to eastwards of the Shambles Bank and make our way towards Portland. Dusk was falling and our masthead lights were turned on as we sailed briskly past Portland Harbour, the venue for the 2012 Olympics, to arrive off Weymouth in the dark.

Picking up the leading lights we entered the harbour and by 2130 we were rafted alongside a 48 ft German Yacht that had made the passage from Dartmouth to Weymouth during the day. We had sailed hard for 66M, taking us 13 hours from when we left Torquay. A warm drink and light snack on-board, all we wanted then was our bunks!!

Sunrise at Weymouth

Sunrise at Weymouth

The next morning we awoke to a sunny, breezy day. After breakfast we relaxed in the sun whilst we dried out our sailing gear and prepared for our passage to Poole later in the day. The forecast was still for strong winds from the NE, similar to the day before, but at least no rain was forecast.

The harbour master at Weymouth advised Brian that it was fairly rough outside the harbour in Weymouth Bay and that we could return to raft for the evening if we found it too uncomfortable outside of the harbour. We watched a yacht similar in size to Christine Marie leave the harbour with her family crew and shortly later come back in to shelter. It was not going to be a comfortable dry sail, but at least the sun was shining!! 🙂

Brian at the helm crossing Weymouth Bay, Jurassic Coast in background.

Brian at the helm crossing Weymouth Bay, Jurassic Coast in background.

 

After lunch we slipped our lines and headed out of Weymouth harbour into choppy seas. Fully reefed we set sail along the Jurassic Coast to pass to seaward of the yellow buoys marking the outer limits of the Lulworth firing ranges.

No firing was reported on the day we sailed, but our passage avoided the worst of the turbulence off St Alban’s Head.

 

Brian soaked by spray and wiping salt water from his eyes!  :-)

Brian soaked by spray and wiping salt water from his eyes! 🙂

 

We had to sail past St Alban’s Head and well out to sea before we could tack to clear Anvil Point and on to Old Harry. The seas became rougher off the headlands and we were drenched by spray on several occasions. Our starboard tack took us towards Peveril Point and its ledge near Swanage, so we put in another tack taking us slowly away from the coast.

 

 

I must admit I was loving the sailing. In F6/7 winds Christine Marie was sailing briskly, heeled right over, but under full control and light on the helm. I was relaxed and loving it; I could have stayed out all night!! 🙂 The sun was getting low in the sky and Brian brought me back down to earth! ‘You must be B***** mad’, he said, dripping from the spray. 🙂

Sunset over Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour.

Sunset over Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour.

As skipper I considered the bigger picture. The sun was setting and it was getting colder. We did not want to arrive late into harbour again. The head sail was furled and we motor sailed close on the wind the last few miles to round Old Harry and to enter Poole Harbour. As we navigated the Swash Channel we were rewarded with a spectacular sunset over Brownsea Island.  

 

We arrived at Poole Quay Haven by 2030, now dark, and moored on a vacant pontoon. Yacht secured, we quickly changed from our wet sailing gear and made a hasty walk along Poole Quay to relax over an enjoyable and very welcome meal at Da Vinci’s Italian Restaurant.

We had endured two days of very hard sailing in strong winds and choppy seas, but we awoke to a sunny Thursday, with a spare day to relax in Poole before a very early departure to Lymington scheduled the following day. Our friend and RYA instructor, Noel, joined us for lunch on Christine Marie and Liz joined Brian and I on board later in the afternoon.

Brian enjoying his lobster at Corkers.

Brian enjoying his lobster at Corkers.

 

In the evening Brian treated Liz and I to a meal at Corkers, a favourite seafood restaurant in Poole. We celebrated with champagne, followed by delicious lobster and a good bottle of wine recommended by the restaurant owner. Lobster pots can be a real problem for sailors! ….. but then, many of us really enjoy the lobsters they catch. Perhaps the answer lies in better marking. of the pots and underwater lines 🙂

A great evening, we all retired early for our 5 am alarm call the following morning!

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