Why Would you even Think of Cruising to Dartmouth on a Bank Holiday Weekend?

Crystella approaching the Bill as tail end CharlieKingswear viewed from Bayard's Cove FortKingswear Castle paddle steamerApproaching the Bill at over 8kn SOG

Most right minded people would normally baulk at the thought of heading off to Dartmouth on a Bank Holiday weekend. For starters, what chance of getting a berth, and what about arriving to the hordes of holiday makers "half" filling the bars and restaurants, and what about the queues at the pasty and ice-cream shops!!

Well, 4 boats worth of crew decided that the delights of Dartmouth were well worth the risk, especially as the forecast was virtually wall to wall sunshine and a favourable Northerly 4/5 gusting 6 (and maybe a bit of 7)!! And so it proved to be, as Andi on Isabella, Bill and Lorraine on Merlot, Mike and Trevor on Moonshadow and Ray and Lesley on Crystella departed around 7am on the Saturday for the 52 mile passage across Lyme Bay.

Various white sail plans were chosen for the run down the East side of Portland until turning onto reaches as we took the inshore passage round the Bill. With Crystella bringing up the rear we had good sight of around a dozen yachts close ahead for the rounding, quite reassuring as we'd obviously got our timing right! We then proceeded to thrash across Lyme Bay with various reefing combinations and levels of heel! Halfway across Merlot decided to diverge track and head for Brixham as they had managed to secure a guaranteed berth by phoning ahead, perhaps a wise move, however the remaining 3 boats carried on in hope! After an exhilarating sail, with many dolphins riding the bow, we made very good time to Dartmouth and our fears were allayed as we found berths with ease.

The rest of Saturday and all day Sunday was spent relaxing, pottering, eating and drinking, but not necessarily in that order! The highlight was an hours cruise up and down the River Dart on the historic paddle steamer Kingswear Castle, the last remaining coal fired paddle steamer in operation in the UK. En route there was much boat spotting going on, like Ray's Malo 34, another 3 were spotted, Ray pointing out the difference from a Malo 37 having 2 sets of spreaders to his 1 set. Well this sparked off one of those silly childish oneupmanship conversations, between adults who'd consumed too many lemonades, on who had sailed a boat with the most spreaders! For the record, it was 7 by Trevor, who ironically, is now spreaderless! The rest of the evening was spent with drinks at the Royal Dart Yacht Club followed by Andi and Lesley's superb joint effort one pot meals taken in Crystella's vast cockpit where social distancing could be observed and spreader banter could be continued!

On Monday a 7am start for the return to Weymouth was planned to time an inshore passage round the Bill again. Moonshadow departed on time, Crystella an hour later because a problem with the engine needed sorting, thanks to Lesley for prompting me to do my engine checks before setting off! Isabella departed another hour later due to extra zzzz's being required and with no intention of doing the inshore passage anyway. We heard later that Merlot sailed from Brixham to Dartmouth on Monday and spent a nice few days exploring before returning to Weymouth on Friday.

The wind was light and southerly on the return. Moonshadow managed to keep up enough speed to sail all the way, however Crystella needed to motor sail to keep up the required 5 knots. We were rewarded with more dolphins, flocks of Gannets plunge diving and flocks of Guillemots swimming at sea where they clump together whilst their young mature and the adults moult (they're flightless while they moult). After heading well north of the Bill and tucking under the West cliffs we were swept towards Pulpit Rock at speeds of over 8 knots over the ground, then a fairly close rounding of the Bill was followed by another swift ride of around 6 knots up the East side of Portland. Get it right and it's a very rewarding experience.

A very good weekend was had by all, exhilarating sailing, magnificent scenery, fascinating wildlife, fine wine and food and excellent company. Even the hordes of holiday makers were cordial! So that's why we chose to sail to Dartmouth on a Bank Holiday weekend !!!

Submitted on Tuesday, 8th September