Passage 42, Topsham to Weymouth
This passage was a decent distance instead of the last few puny hops; 55 miles. In also included a couple of challenges. First navigating my way down the Exe estuary on a falling tide and second passing Portland Bill.
I left early at 6:40am as the tide was going out in a dead flat calm. The Exe estuary is very shallow and you have to stick religiously to the channel. On a falling tide, one mistake and you go aground without being able to get off again until the next high tide. Not only would this be highly inconvenient, it would also be rather embarrassing. So I was in full concentration mode as I wended my way down under motor.
Once out, I set course for Portland Bill. I needed to be there by 3:30pm so as to have the start of the tide around it. Portland Bill has the most violent overfalls on the South coast and quite large boats have been known to disappear in those waters without a trace. No doubt these sad episodes were in awful conditions, but the fact is you don't mess with Portland Bill. I was taking the faster, but more adventurous "inside passage" instead of sailing a good few miles out to avoid the whole area. This involved sailing very close in shore and you're timing has to be just right. And 3:30pm was my time.
I was disappointed, therefore, once out in Lyme bay, that there was not enough wind to make the necessary speed and so on went the engine. Thankfully, this lasted for only 20 minutes as the wind picked up and I was able go under sail alone. In fact the wind picked up a bit more and I was going too fast! So I reduced sail and turned more into the bay which had the effect of both extending the distance a tad and getting more contra-tide. It's not often I try and find contra tide!
I gradually altered course back to Portland Bill in such a way as to ensure an arrival at the designated time. Which I did, precisely. It was quite bumpy coming up to the Bill from the West but as soon as I reached it the sea was absolutely fine and I sailed round close in, imagining that everyone out walking on the Bill itself was watching me and marvelling at the sight, ahem.
So I had a lovely smooth sail round the Bill and along the other side right up to Weymouth. I got to the waiting pontoon (waiting for the bridge to open to let me into the marina) by 4:40pm which makes for a 10 hour passage in good sunny conditions with a F4 wind on my side. A great sail and most satisfactory to have gone round the Bill like I did. High five.