With a good forecast for wind for Monday 3rd August we departed Alderney for Portland. Despite the calm of the morning we had been promised a force 4-5 occasionally 6 from West to South West. The long and the short of it was the wind did not arrive and it was a long motor across the shipping lanes – sole destroying in fact at only 3 knots. Next was the Portland tidal race to negotiate – the new paper tidal atlas paid dividends and with a bit of luck we would not hit a foul tide. Of course as we approached Portland harbour the wind came, having heard another forecast of 6 -7 winds, a couple of reefs had already been put in the main – so that eased matters. It was now dark, and there was a couple of strange red and green lights behind us, not on the chart nor on the AIS – and then woosh we were buzzed by a helicopter – It surely provided amusement to see us jump from our seats and look above – this and the warship that kept appearing and disappearing on the AIS kept us on our toes.
Thank goodness again for chart plotters which made it easy to find the North entrance to Portland harbour. The wind now was quite strong and the wonders of the electronics was not reporting either its direction or strength correctly – a timely reminder that electronic aids are not fool proof. The buoys were picked out for the approach to the marina and a call put out to enquire for a berth. The microphone in the cockpit prevented any useful communication so the crew volunteered to have a go from the chat table and contact was made and instructions given by the berth master.
The wind was quite lively and we were able to pick out the berth master who had kindly offered to take our lines, the only problem was in his kindness he was waving a torch to highlight the berth – in doing so he shone it straight at us which meant the night vision was destroyed. The first attempt was aborted as we came dangerously close to lots of expensive plastic – the berth master was reasonably understanding, and offered assurance such as the wind is on your starboard quarter you should just get blown along side. Such words of wisdom and if that had been the wind direction it would have been a simple matter. We made a second attempt but my calculation was the wind was anything but in the direction purported – anyway we eased in and the berth master shouted ‘turn the bow in’, mmmm, okay lets go for it, and then followed the words ‘straighten up’ – he clearly did not know how a long keel boat handled. Fortunately he then had the challenge of pushing off the bow to straighten us up – along with a push at the stern and we were in. Upon reflection it would have been better to anchor off Weymouth and wait for daylight – that said the winds today are even stronger so different challenges would have been faced. Its becoming increasingly apparent the best part of sailing is tying up safely along with the safe arrival drink.