The Time That Land Forgot

A last gasp cruise to rinse the last of the sun out of the summer was planned by fellow Achilles 9m owners for the week commencing 20th September. The plan was a lazy sail to Swanage on the Sunday morning with a convenient mid morning flood tide, then a wander across to Yarmouth next morning. It was planned to return on Wednesday.

All was going swimmingly until the weather got in the way. Eventually with strong easterlies and a short lull before strong South Westerlies kicked in it was decided to leave on the later flood tide on the Sunday and anchor in the shelter of Chapmans Pool.

Swanage bay is not somewhere that you want to moor in a North Easterly but the forecast was for the wind to die then go South west by the Monday night, so a leisurely paced trip around St Aldhems Head, Durleston and Peverill Point to pick up a Swanage Sailing club mooring was in order.

Slipping at 17:30 and with the sun slowly setting behind and negotiating their way through the anchored cruise ships a lively fetch saw the two boats arrive at Chapmans Pool under the cover of darkness.

Orion took the lead and gingerly crept in to the cove followed by Rumrunner at a safe distance. First lesson learned on board Rumrunner, its great using a tablet as a chart plotter but it destroys your night vision and as there were five boat already moored in Chapmans Pool, it wasn't just a case of rocking up and dropping the hook in your favoured place.

Anyhow, safely ensconced in their safe haven meals were cooked and everyone settled down for the night.

The weather had not read the forecast and blew old boots most of the night as both crews trusted their anchors to keep them safe.

At one point on Rumrunner panic set in during the wee small hours. With the wind howling in the rigging the dazed skipper was convinced that the boat was adrift and to confirm his fears The Shambles Cardinal was clearly flashing onto the deck head. Leaping (stumbling) out of his bunk he rushed for the companionway only to see the comforting heights of St Aldhelms' towering above and the flashing of his mobile phone indicating a missed call, not impending doom of being swallowed up by the Portland race.

With sunrise the wind dropped and the temperature rose.

More confusion on Rumrunner, the ships clock read 07.36 yet smart watch read 08.36 whilst the errant mobile was showing two sets of time. It also showed that it was picking up a signal from France.

Following a hearty breakfast and with the tide flooding at 08.28 a 09.00 start was planned.

After safely navigating through St Aldhelms' using the inside passage, wind over tide at Winspit and in front of the Tilly Whim Caves made things a little bouncy, but the sun was out, who cares?

Swanage was found just after 10.00.

With everything ship shape, a row and run ashore was planned with ablutions at Swanage Sailing Club.

After a few days of strong easterlies, Swanage's usually pristine sandy beaches were piled high with weed much to the delight of the local gulls.

As the sun shone, ice creams and ale were consumed.

Dinner was taken at the very popular Black Swan whose management take COVID very seriously and you feel very safe dining there.

After a quiet night on the mooring more exploring of Swanage was in store for the Orion team who had never visited this part of Dorset before.

Rumrunners skipper unsurprisingly could be found at the Swanage steam railway station.

A 15.00 departure meant that hopefully a passing of St. Aldhelms' would be just after slack tide and there would be less wind over tide.

The shipping forecast relayed a possible 7 later in the day for the Solent whilst just a possible 6 for Portland. Portland wind data was showing an average of twelve knots from 215 degree so a decent reach back was expected.

As soon as Peverill Point was rounded it was clear that later in the forecast had come sooner.

With a bit of engine on to keep some sort of course the intrepid Achilles pair set off toward Durleston head and St, Aldhelms'.

It was getting bouncy off Durleston and already the sea was getting lively. With the course set for the calmer inside passage motor sailing was the order of the hour, however, it was all about to go wrong on Rumrunner. An oil warning light started to flicker and after about five minutes stayed on permanently. The engine was switched off and Rumrunner was tacked out to sea.

A quick conflab on the radio and with Orion standing by, a course slightly further off St. Aldhelms' was set.

Now with 3 knots of tide under their keels and making 6 knots the race was taken at speed. Green water engulfed Rumrunner and Orion's crews swore that their boat was airborne before slamming down into the boiling water.

As quick as it started the boats were spat out the other side and a course for Weymouth set.

Three hours later under a golden sky the two boats returned to their WSC moorings watched by a heron perched on the disused span link at the ferry terminal.

Autumn arrived on the Wednesday and so both boats have resorted back to race mode ready to do battle in the Autumn /winter series.

Submitted on 24th September 2020