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Portland Bill 2018-04-15 A look round Portland Bill - given that I might just be sailing round it next weekend. We got there after the "slack water" time when its best to sail sound The Bill. It was only about a F3-F4 but at the northern end of our walk there was really no way through for small boats. The waves were starting to break from about 150 yards out and beyond that there were some rather unpleasant looking overfalls (a strong southerly current at that time). No real room to get through between the two. The inshore passage off the very end of The Bill didn't look bad at that time.
Exe to Weymouth 2019-05-15

A sail from Starcross Yacht Club on the Exe via the inshore passage at Portland Bill and on to Weymouth.

Because Portland Bill sticks out into the English Channel and has a shallow underwater ledge that "squeezes" the currents, it has a somewhat fearsome reputation (see here for a Youtube video of when it was "angry" at the end of a storm). Therefore, we needed to be off the end of the Bill at the right time for mostly slack water and a "lift" up the eastern edge. That meant setting off at the hideously early time of 04:30 to allow some contingency for being off the end of the Bill at 14:00. Given that we had to sail and motor (against the easterly wind) over 35 nautical miles, we were pleased to be off the Bill at about 14:15.

Going round the Bill was happily uneventful but the large number of appallingly marked lobster pot buoys still means that great care is needed. The photos show us rounding the end of the Bill with the front obelisk aligned in the nearly in the middle of the red band of the lighthouse (as recommended). On the eastern side of the Bill, the 5 metre depth contour is typically a good guide to avoiding the race / overfalls.

Weymouth to Topsham 2016-11-14 From Weymouth round Portland Bill to Topsham at the top of the Exe. Stage three in bringing Derek H's new Fulmar back to the Exe. With very big Spring tides, we took the offshore route around the East Shambles buoy and a few miles off Portland Bill. With the wind pretty much on the nose after we turned west, we motored most of the way back from Portland Bill. With the wind varying between 12 and 20 knots against us and 1 or 2 knots of tide with us, the first half of the journey back to the Exe (after Portland Bill) was a little bouncy at times. We reached the Exe just as it got dark - the trip back up the Exe in the dark and with big tides was interesting! With the Exe's mix of lit and unlit buoys and moorings encroaching on the channel, I really wouldn't recommend going up the Exe at night without local knowledge!
Portland to SYC on the Exe 2019-05-25

From Portland Harbour, round Portland Bill to Starcross Yacht Club on the Exe.

As ever, a rounding of Portland Bill by the inshore passage required careful planning. In our case, this meant that to get safe and helpful tides we had to be off the end of Portland Bill at 16:30 - a late start given the long sail to the Exe after the Bill.

As we left the excellent Portland Harbour there were fleets of Oppies and Toppers training. We then closed the Bill near Grove Point and the tide helped us speed down the 5 metre contour line to round the Bill. Again, we had the obelisk at the end of the Bill lined up with the red band on the lighthouse (meaning we'd be far enough off the rocks but - usually - not too far off to be in the race).

The biggest challenge - once again - was to avoid the swarms of tiny appallingly marked lobster pot buoys that appeared to be laid out like some minefield grid!

After passing Pulpit Rock on the west side, we started heading off towards the Exe. With the late start, this meant that we'd be going up the Exe in the dark. However, it also meant that we decided to sail in the light winds after it got too dark to see the lobster pots also scattered in Lyme Bay.

The trip up the Exe was OKish. The lights in the fairway are better than when I last did it in the dark - maybe three years ago - but there are still two unlit buoys (numbers 14 and 21 IIRC) in the Exe itself. Additionally there are a few large metal mooring buoys that encroach too far into the marked channel meaning a risk of a serious "ding" to a boat's gel coat without local knowledge and/or someone with a decent light on the front of the boat to spot them. Back on the mooring at SYC at 01:30.

Studland to Portland Harbour 2019-05-24

From Studland past St Albans Head to Portland Harbour with a stop at Lulworth Cove.

We weighed anchor early at the Studland anchorage to be able to get past the Lulworth Gunnery Range before the army started firing at 09:30. This meant an inshore passage past the St Albans Head. While not in the same league as Portland Bill, St Aldhams Ledge does have a bit of a "reputation" and the inshore passage doesn't always exist (see here and here for a couple of fun Youtube videos of yachts rounding St Albans Head). In our case we were crossing about mid tide with maybe a F4 against the tide so we could have expected some lumpiness. In fact, it was a pussycat - no idea why! Then on to the circular inlet in the cliffs that is Lulworth Cove. When we dropped anchor there we were the only yacht there - the benefits of early season cruising! Then on to Portland Marina. Built for the 2012 Olympics the place is huge.

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