South Coast of England – Sole, Plymouth, Portland, Wight, Dover, Thames
Isles of Scilly to Newlyn
After leaving the Isles of Scilly our aim was to get home to Shotley by the end of August, fortunately the forecast outlook was for westerly winds to continue. It is a relatively short crossing to Cornwall via Lands End, although the first safe haven is further round the coast. The magenta areas on the chart indicate shipping lanes and a ‘Traffic Separation Scheme’ (TSS) but we only saw one ship on the whole crossing.
We headed into Newlyn which is mainly a fishing port with a small provision for visiting yachts. Fans of Ordnance Survey maps and Admiralty charts will recognise the name of Newlyn as the datum point or benchmark to define mean sea level from which all heights and depths are referenced – I would have liked to stand on the exact spot, but it was not obvious to find!
Newlyn to Falmouth
We made our way into Falmouth and Port Pendennis Marina and rafted up alongside a yacht named Corialis. It turned out to be the end of ‘Falmouth Week’ and the town was full of people dressed in neon colours celebrating; there was a firework display at 10pm for which we had a ringside seat across the harbour.
Westerly winds helped us sail all the way across the bay. Not much to see until we approached the forts and breakwater protecting Plymouth Sound. Devonport is still an active Naval base. Plymouth Yacht Haven was well sheltered and the marina staff directed us to an excellent pub, The Clovelly Bay Inn where we enjoyed Fish & Chips.
Strong westerly winds made the sea quite choppy around Start Point. The entrance to Dartmouth is narrow but it revealed a charming town along the river. Alan’s daughter Becky and her husband Ted dropped in to see us and it was lovely to meet them, we sampled the local brew at ‘The Floating Bridge’ pub next to the cable ferry:The next day we stayed in port and explored the town, Alan found a bookshop and we followed the coastal path to the castle guarding the narrow harbour entrance.
An early start and 57 miles across Lime Bay. Our course took us well to the south of the coastal resorts of Brixham, Torquay, Exmouth and Sidmouth before closing in on Portland Bill. We had timed our arrival well and the notorious Portand Race was not in evidence.
Weymouth is a popular port and we rafted out 3 boats deep. The boats inside of us needed to leave at 0630 to head west, so we had an early wake up call, but the compensation was a full english breakfast at a fisherman’s cafe on the quayside. One of the domestic 12-volt batteries had began to fail over the previous week and we were able to source a replacement from a chandlery conveniently located at the quayside next to the cafe and harbour office.
This was a shorter passage only taking half a day and we stayed close into the coast. Except for the hazard of lobster pot floats, the inshore passage gave us a good view of the ‘Jurassic Coast’ of Dorset, passing landmarks of Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Swanage and Old Harry Rocks along the way.
There is a well marked channel past Studland Bay into Poole Harbour, but you have to watch out for the chain ferry that runs between Studland and Sandbanks. We found a vacant mooring buoy near Brownsea Island for the night, although it wasn’t as sheltered as I expected.
We planned to go around the southern side of the Isle of Wight, with the hope of stopping at the harbour of Bembridge, however we arrived several hours too early for there to be sufficient tide so we decided to divert to Haslar Marina in Gosport. We had visited Haslar a few years ago and knew the facilities were good, there is also a bar on board an old lightship. The weather forecast for the next day was not good so we decided to stay in port and visit the submarine museum – this includes a tour around a real submarine guided by retired submariners.
If you look carefully, you can spot Tante Helena through the periscope:
Gosport to Eastbourne
A lively sail of 68 miles, we initially planned to stop at Brighton but we were sailing so well that we decided to continue around Beachy Head to the familiar haven of Sovereign Harbour at Eastbourne. This was where I kept Tante Helena when I owned her, so it felt like home! The sky looked dramatic as we rounded Beachy Head:
Light winds required motoring most of the way, passing the headland of Dungeness then finding a gap between the cross channel ferries at Dover. At Walmer we briefly spotted a Porpoise as we followed the Gull Stream inshore of the Goodwin Sands. I had covered over 1000 miles for the trip by the time we reached Ramsgate.
We had planned a day off in Ramsgate to meet up with Alan’s friends Val & Mike and it coincided with some atrocious weather, so we were glad to be ashore. Val gave us a fine lunch, and an enjoyable afternoon was spent playing games with their family (it turns out that Alan is very good at darts!).
The next day we set off in unsettled conditions and by the time we reached North Foreland we decided it was not sensible to continue out further into the Thames estuary so we turned around and headed back into harbour. We were disappointed to abandon the final leg of our journey and to return to Ramsgate – it seems to be magnetic! After a rest we visited the Royal Temple Yacht Club for refreshment and perused their war booty from a German U-boat wrecked on the notorious Goodwin Sands:
The next day was much better and a pleasure to be sailing again with an easterly breeze for a change. The Thames Estuary now has a number of wind farms and we passed through the recently completed London Array. Although the turbines are huge there is plenty of space between them and it was easy to navigate along the avenues of turbines.
As we approached Harwich we were called on the VHF radio by yacht ‘Running Free’ who were coming out to meet us and escort us into Shotley and wished to pass a ‘token’ to us. We spotted them near Landguard point and the ‘token’ turned out to be Geraldine – what a fantastic surprise!
Just before Geraldine transferred across to Tante Helena we had one of the few mechanical problems we experienced on the trip – the genoa (front sail) wouldn’t furl away, so I spent a few minutes on the foredeck getting the sail under control – at least it hadn’t happened the previous day off North Foreland! We motored alongside Running Free with a line holding the bows together so Geraldine could transfer between the boats, it was lovely to see her again.
Photos were taken and then Geraldine took the helm as we motored through Harwich harbour so Alan and I could sort the sail out properly.
We were escorted into the Shotley lock by Running free and were enthusiastically greeted with fog horns and sirens, what a way to end the trip!
Alan’s total milage around the UK was 1780 miles and I was aboard for 1070 of them from Dunstaffange to Shotley. The next day Alan, Geraldine and myself were joined by Mike and Myra, so the entire crew were reunited for a celebratory lunch at the Shipwreck.
You can read Alan’s tweets and find out why he was fundraising for The Urology Foundation at http://tantehelena.com/