Thursday…round the Bill.

We can’t really understand why more boats are not using Portland Harbour as a stopover, or even as a tranquil anchorage. Weymouth clearly has the attractions of the town and restaurants, but almost inevitably it means rafting, or a trip through the lifting bridge. Portland was calm, peaceful and even pretty (looking in the right direction).

Breakfast was leisurely after an early coffee and we were able to attend to some glamourous tasks left over from the winter, such as cleaning the bilges. The work we did on Heydays over the winter seems to have paid dividends and we are once again  reasonably proud of the old girl in her 33rd year.

We set off in virtually no wind, aiming to get to the infamous Portland race around slack water at 12 noon. The place looks better in the sun (despite the forbidding prison on the cliffs…shades of Alkatraz?) and maybe the cruise passengers and the small boat day-trippers think so as well.

Given the benign conditions we opt for the inner passage which means around 100 to 200m off shore and no more. We are in the company of a few others, but they seem to be hanging back waiting for the first one to take the plunge and lead the way.

We can see the race and the overfalls and hug the shore as instructed (we are tempted to try the literal biscuit toss but don’t want to offend the holiday makers…). Our companions are in line astern following closely past the old quary cranes and loading docks, past the light and the monolith…and then we are through…what’s all the fuss??

With the ebb now taking full effect, we head out over Lyme Bay for the rest of the afternoon. The sail does a bit of work, but once again we are motor-sailing simply to make Brixham by dinner time.

With an hour to go we are shaken out of our relaxed stupor by a pod of dolphins who swim for an all too brief while alongside, before shearing off after fish or perhaps the richer pickings from a cruise ship which has just left Torbay. It is always magical to be joined by dolphins and we end the afternoon on a high as we head for the harbour master pontoon making sure not to collect a rather shaky skiff in the fairway…

Brixham is still a busy fishing port, but it is a remarkably welcoming place which tumbles down to the harbour and which deserves more recognition from yachties who almost invariably flock to the cutesy Dartmouth or Salcombe instead.

What is not to like to sit eating fish and chips with a beer not 50m from our own boat…?

As the light fades it shows into sharp relief the modern trawler fleet right next to the last of the sailing trawlers to work out of this harbour.

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