The Log of 'Zest' on a West Country Cruise (page 1 of 3)

The following details are taken from the log of 'Zest', a Parker 275, on a cruise to the West Country during July 2000. The cruise was in company with a second Parker 275 'Abacus' owned by Clifford Miller, and, for some of the time by two Seal 26s 'Heart of Glass' (Graham and Jan Reed) and 'Ariel' (John and Angela Brealey). 

This was first produced for the SSA Newsletter 2000/4

Friday 7 July (Wind E 2-3. Fine)

Having loaded clothes and provisions the previous weekend, we only had to get ourselves down to the boat in preparation for an early getaway. We arrived at Bucklers Hard around 18.00 on Friday and met up with Clifford on board 'Abacus'. We were to sail together on this informal cruise to the West Country. A number of other yachts had shown interest in joining us but we were unsure how many would do so in light of the poor forecast. The start point was Weymouth, so we would have to wait and see who would make it.

After a cup of tea with Clifford, it was decided to sail to Yarmouth that evening and make an early start for Weymouth the next day in order to try and beat the strong winds forecast for later that day. At least we would feel we had started the cruise if we got to Weymouth. So we set off around 19.00 that evening and had a very pleasant sail down the Solent, with the sun setting to starboard.

Saturday 8 July (Wind NW 3-4, later 5. Cloudy)

Saturday was an early (05.00) start. 'Zest' started with one reef and found the going relatively easy; able to fetch Anvil Point on one tack, passing at 08.00. Abacus started with full main, but stopped to put in a reef off Hengisbury Head. 08.30 saw Zest passing St Adhelm's Head still on the same starboard tack. As the tide was slack, there was a certain reluctance to tack in order to take the inshore passage (and chance lines from crab pots), so we continued on our starboard tack until Weymouth began to slip off to starboard. We then tacked along the shore until, finally, we were able to start the engine and motor into Weymouth.

Approaching the town quay we saw 'Heart of Glass' (Graham and Jan Reed). Though they had earlier expressed a desire to join the cruise, their intention had been to sail from Poole to Dartmouth. Unfortunately, having taken the offshore passage to pass outside the Bramble Bank off Portland Bill, they had found the seas in Lyme Bay very uncomfortable and had turned back, inshore, and against the tide, to go into Weymouth. Brenda reminded me that Graham and Jan had welcomed us into Weymouth (with tea and cake) some six years before, when we had arrived there for the first time, in our Parker 21. On that day we had also met Frazer and Kathy Old in their Seal 22 and Chris Turner in his Seal 26. It was this meeting that drew us to join the SSA. 'Abacus' arrived some 45 minutes later and tied up alongside 'Zest'.

Sunday 9 July (Wind W 4-5. Fine)

A day of rest. Simon Griffin arrived to crew on 'Abacus' and the crews of 'Zest' and 'Heart of Glass' were invited on board by Clifford for drinks before dinner. Later that evening Wenna and Tony Tatham arrived, by car. They had been put off from sailing their Parker 31 by the very strong westerly wind, but hoped to be able to join us if the weather improved.

Monday 10 July (Wind W 5-6. Occasional showers)

The weather forecast was still not favourable for crossing Lyme Bay so today the 'SSA Ramblers Club' was formed. The first outing was a walk along the old railway line that runs between Weymouth and Portland. This has been converted into a walking/cycling track. Unfortunately, Clifford and Simon, who started some time after the rest were misdirected and ended up walking along the coastal path instead. Eventually we all met up at the Nature Centre and climbed to the top of Chesil Beach to see what we were missing - but when we saw the sea in Lyme Bay we were glad to be safely in port.

That evening we all went to the Nothe Tavern on the hill above the Town Quay. The chef professed to picking up fresh fish from Portland daily. The brill eaten by the crew of 'Zest' was testament to this.

Tuesday 11 July (Wind W 4-5. Occasionally sunny with some drizzle)

The weather forecast showed promise for a crossing of Lyme Bay next day. The 'SSA Ramblers Club' caught a bus to Southwell and walked to Portland Bill. This time the sea looked much kinder and we hoped it would remain so for tomorrow. We all saw a single seal popping up close inshore. Brenda clambered down the rocks and managed to photograph it.

On returning to the Town Quay we found John and Angela Brealey had arrived in Ariel (a Seal 26). The sail from Poole had been very uncomfortable and tiring, but they were willing to join us for the crossing of Lyme Bay the next day. That evening we all gathered on 'Ariel', and drank Gluhwein prepared by Angela.

Wednesday 12 July (Wind W 2-3 [or so it was forecast]. Cloudy)

Today we left Weymouth, encouraged by a forecast promising westerly 2-3. We had smooth water and next to no wind while motoring along the western coast of Portland having left Weymouth at 07.00. On rounding the Bill we were met with increasingly rough seas and a wind force 4 increasing at times to 5 as we progressed into Lyme Bay. We decided to continue deeper into the bay extending the crossing time considerably. With hindsight, this may not have been the correct decision. Meanwhile 'Ariel' surprised everyone by her speed as she effortlessly drew away from the rest of the fleet. We were even more amazed when we learned later that John had been sailing on autohelm while he and Angela took turns to nap below! Time dragged by until, around 16.00, we observed 'Abacus' had rolled in her jib and 'Heart of Glass' seemed to be heading directly into wind, so we deduced they had given up the fight and turned on their engines. Thankfully, this gave us the excuse we needed, and we were grateful for the 18 HP Yanmar to drive us forward. Gradually 'Abacus' was left far behind in the gathering mist; Clifford having an aversion to pushing his engine hard.

At last Berry Head was left astern and we finally entered the River Dart and tied up at the Harbourmaster's pontoon some 13 hours after leaving Weymouth Town Quay! Lyme Bay had certainly lived up to its reputation. A dash to the nearest fish & chip shop followed, before it closed, after which all crews adjourned to the bar of the Dartmouth Yacht Club.

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