We leave the town jetty pontoon at precisely 08.45 as required, and head up the Dart to the fuel pontoon, we are the first customers of the day. Once the tank is replenished we head out of the harbour and Nigel gives me a course to steer which takes us south of the famous races off of Portland Bill, clear of the Lulworth firing ranges and St. Alban’s Ledge with its dangerous overfalls.
We head off across Lyme Bay on what can only be described as a glassy sea, the visibility is only a few miles and the sky is grey. We both agree that it’s a bit spooky, the experience is what one might imagine it would be like to fly on a shiny grey carpet encased in a misty grey dome in some sort of parallel universe with no end! However, after an hour or so the wind picks up a bit and then a bit more from the west, so favourably behind us and only Force 3, the clouds break up, the sun makes an appearance and we can see the outline of Portland bill on the horizon.
We arrive comfortably south of the Portland races ( mere ripples on this day) keeping south of the shallow patch called the Shambles eventually arriving still safely south of St Alban’s Ledge ( more ripples) where we see in the distance the familiar triangle of chalk cliff that signifies the western tip of the Isle of Wight. The following sea state is picking up a bit on the back of a Force 4, less than an hour later we are passing the Needles Lighthouse cruising comfortably at 20 knots down the Needles Channel past Hurst Castle into the Western Solent, or as my wife prefers to call it, so far as me and Nigel are concerned boating wise, ‘The Womb’!
30 minutes later we are rafted up alongside another much older 37ft trawler style motorboat which itself is alongside a walk ashore berth in Yarmouth, it has taken less than five hours to get here from Dartmouth.
The Skipper/owner asks “have we come far?”
Nigel says… “Gosport”
Skipper/owner…”That’s not too far?”
Nigel…..”It is if you turn left” BOOM BOOM
Nigel explains his excellent joke and the owner wants to know more. Nigel gives him the lowdown about our adventure and he is suitably impressed. He also admires the line and traditional look of Start Me Up. We are impressed with what we have achieved ourselves, obviously in a self-effacing and humble sort of way. Since leaving Bangor Marina in Nothern Ireland, eight days previously, we had covered 600 nautical miles, had a day off in Dublin, had cruised the length of the Irish Sea, crossed St George’s Channel, the Bristol Channel, rounded Lands End and the Lizzard, passed Start Point, Portland Bill, St Alban’s Ledge and lets face it, entering the Needles Channel can be challenging with moderately rough seas, on a good day. All of this in an 8.5-metre boat. Well done to us. We break out the cold beers, set up the director’s chairs and table in the cockpit and relax in the sunshine.
That night we celebrate in the ‘On The Rocks” restaurant, which is Nigel’s favourite in Yarmouth. It’s a bit strange there as you have to cook your steaks or other meat or seafood. All they do is cook the chips and prepare a salad. We share a Chateaubriand steak and a couple of bottles of fine red wine. The steak is divided, we cook our half to our taste, on the very hot ‘rocks’ and they are enjoyed without compliant, which I suppose is the brilliance of the concept, you can hardly complain about the cooking!! The quality and provenance of our steaks are without question, looking around the restaurant however and not least on our table, I’m not sure whether the ‘cooking’ of them was up to the product.
This penultimate leg of our circumnavigation had been very enjoyable. Tomorrow we would make our way through the Solent to Gosport, we had done this 100’s of times before over the previous decades, however on this occasion the last 18 miles would signify something much more significant in our lives, we would have successfully circumnavigated the island of Great Britain and ticked off a big item on our bucket lists
A couple of rums were enjoyed, Nigel’s conversion of the saloon into his sleeping quarters were accomplished for the last time, the bedroll comprising of an excellent mattress topper from Dunelm, quilt and pillows were passed up from the V berth in the forward cabin where I slept, and a good night was had by the both of us.