The Lads Trip 2017 - Starcross to Portland

I was woken about 0145 (UTC) with the sound of things crashing onto the cabin sole and found that I was sleeping against the starboard hull! Looks like the channel had shifted dramatically from last year and a mooring that we knew was deep enough was not. Still at least I've had the boat on her side, the previous owners said that they had done it to clean the hull, and no damage had been done. I was amazed that Bob was still sleeping soundly in the fore cabin.

I climbed out on deck for a few minutes, the waning moon shone brightly and I soaked in the atmosphere of the river. Not a breath of wind, boats sat quietly on their moorings and a group of men on the shore digging for bait. Then scampered back into the warmth of my sleeping bag and tried to get comfortable at the odd angle.

Alex, our final member of the crew, joined us just after 0800 (UTC) and after the introductions breakfast was prepared as he stowed his inflatable canoe under the dinghy on the foredeck. We must have looked a strange vessel with Bob's kayak, my dinghy and an inflatable kayak peeking out from under it all on the foredeck.

Fed and watered we prepared the boat for sea and started the engine. Off to catch up the rest of the fleet who had headed east and on last reports were enjoying the delights of Weymouth just past Portland Bill. Ironically, nobody on board had sailed past the bill so it was going to be a first for all of us.

Chugging out of the Exe on a sunny morning is always a delight and as we rounded Dawlish Warren we were confronted with a sizeable dredger at the end of the channel "hovering up" sand from the sea bead in order to rebuild parts of the warren that had been destroyed over the last few winters. as ever this will be a temporary measure as nature will do what it wants.

On passing the Exe Safe Water Mark making sure we were well out of the way of the dredger we raised the sails and cut the engine. For the first time in 2017 Aphrodite was under sail in a F3/4, time to sit back, look up at the sails and savour the moment.

Heading east on a broad reach was a great start to the season and by late afternoon we passing Portland Bill well offshore as we had wind over tide and just off spring tides and had no great desire to enter the Portland Race, but we had to turn north to make our way inshore and by this time the wind had freshened to a F5/6.

We heard from Delphi that they had moved from Weymouth to Portland Marina and they had informed the marina that we would be joining them, so our destination for the night was set.

We timed the turn for the last two hours of the easterly flow and turned north. The conditions were "lively" so we changed the sail plan to just a reefed genoa and still making 6 knots through two and a half to three meter waves meeting us beam on. Helming was that fine balance between threading our way through the wave train, keeping the sail filled and attempting to keep on a course of 330 degrees to seek shelter behind Portland Bill.

Crossing The Shambles east of the Bill the race had a sting in the tail and dumped a big green wave in the cockpit. Bob sat under the sprayhood got away lightly, while Alex and I got a soaking - even with my waterproof jacket on the water found its way to my skin.

Finally, the water flattened out and we sailed to the outskirts of the harbour, started the engine and rolled in the genoa. Turning into the harbour through its northerly entrance we were hit full on with the F6 coming over Chesil beach and motored in down the marked channel.

My final challenge of the day was to tie up alongside in the marina, not something I've done since my Day Skipper course! We prepared the boat with fenders and lines and were met by one of the marina staff who took our lines as I did not make too much of a drama out of it. Finally all tied up the chap from commented that he had been watching us on Marine Traffic and that it had been a good line. Praise indeed.

With the boat safely tied up on the opposite side of the pontoon to Dephi I picked up my wash gear and headed for the showers while Bob and Alex started on the meal and opened a beer.

We slept well, at least we were horizontal tonight!

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