Come on out - the water's lovely!

Sliding past white water near the Shambles bank Wind or tide making these ships lie like this?The tidal lee can be seen to windward (right) of the ship hereAldebaran off Bat's Head

Yesterday’s outing in a steady WSW 12 knot breeze was to the Shambles bank during the ebb, which is always an interesting exercise, and one which extends the possibility of afternoon sailing from Weymouth during spring tides. Naturally it does requires care, but the benefit is in gaining some understanding of how the tides actually work in that area of sea.

With the Navionics sonar chart, or similar, of the bank to hand, it becomes a fascinating study of the bank itself as well; minimum recommended equipment is a chart, GPS, binoculars and a hand-held compass!

The wind was more backed down the island than I wanted for an easy rounding of the Bill, my original aim, so, not wanting to lose the opportunity, I headed instead out towards the West Shambles buoy, and crossed the bank just to the east, in 7.5m, with a bit of white water, then bore on to as broad a reach as possible while still making good speed; I was able to make good 140 degrees at 3.5 knots, so the current wasn’t too strong, even though it was mid-ebb. Beyond the bank the sea was calm, and it was a good chance to admire the view and appreciate the feeling of open space, with the sunlight shining on the water giving that sense of wellbeing which is why we go sailing...

If you want to get back without waiting for the flood, you have to stay out beyond the bank in less current to make enough easting until you can make the fort at Chequers, which you can line up with something on the land to check your drift. I did about 30 mins out to sea on 140 degrees, then gybed to head N, which gave me the necessary angle - otherwise if you come back in too early you simply get carried down the side of the island to the Bill. The flood will always bring you back eventually, though - if you time it right, as I did once in my Squib, you can use the end of the ebb and start of the flood to circumnavigate the Shambles bank, a very satisfying navigational exercise.

With Chequers fort lined up against Horseshoe Copse on the hill above Lodmoor, I glided between patches of white water, coming back over the bank in 11.5 metres, still quite a long way west of the East Shambles buoy, but the wind increased a bit as it usually does as I came in and I made Chequers easily, satisfied with another rediscovery of the delights of day-sailing from Weymouth.

On the way in I noticed the cruise ships lying at interesting angles to the wind – the two furthest out may have been affected by the tide as well, though the wind offshore was also well backed on the wind in the bay, as is usual in SW sector winds here, owing to the effect of Portland. I wonder how long the ships will be here to act as markers – and possibly race marks as well!

Sunday update - With a very gentle breeze I got the spinnaker out to air it, heading downwind to see what was the case with the last two ships, and found a very distinct tidal effect round their sterns, causing a tidal lee visible on the water. And various WSC boats as well...

Steve Fraser

Submitted on 25th May 2020