Following the necessary cancellation of the West Country Spring Cruise due to the coronavirus pandemic, I was keen to see if there was interest in escaping on a Summer Cruise, albeit limited by the restrictions still in place.
Given that we would be unlikely to eat out as one group, that marina availability would be restricted by rafting bans, and also that it was peak season, I thought it unlikely there would be more than 2 or 3 takers. I was wrong! We had 8 boats signed up.
The first 6 boats (A-Jay, Polly, Catry, Sea Dragon, Southern Hey and Chesterton) met at Portland Marina. Eating out at ‘The Boat that Rocks’ was allowed as long as we were sitting at 2 tables. Menus were very restricted (meat/veggie/chicken burgers or steak- but the steak was all gone!). As ever, it was the wonderful NYC camaraderie that won the day. The view from the restaurant was of 9 cruise ships in Weymouth Bay, all laid idle by the pandemic… a stark reminder of these strange times.
The following morning, we set off round a very calm Portland Bill and made our way to Brixham. The weather was fair, and we had some good sailing, with a little help from our engines at times. Brixham Marina gave us exclusive use of their events pontoon. We met Malaika there and should also have been joined by Carina, but sadly she had lost her propeller in the Dart. Laura and Mark did manage to join us a couple of days later with a new prop, having braved very high seas to be with us.
Once arrived in Brixham, we knew that there were strong southerly winds for the next few days, which was going to make the next leg to Salcombe, then Plymouth impossible. The marina kindly found us berths for the next 5 days while we weathered the storms, and I cancelled all our future fixtures.
Whilst this sounds a bit grim, we in fact managed to make the most of our stay in Brixham. During a lull in the storms, some of us enjoyed a day sail to Anstey’s Cove for lunch. Conditions were excellent! We also managed a walk to Berry Head and evening meals at The Old Market House, and at the Berry Head Hotel (2 tables, of course). We were made very welcome by the Brixham Yacht Club for lunch on several occasions and presented them with our burgee. We also visited the Brixham Distillery for samples of their strawberry gin.
At the end of our stay in Brixham we had an evening of music hosted by Catry and sang a ditty to our former Commodore which we were able to send by electronic wizardry to his boat in Spain.
Catry, Southern Hey and Chesterton returned across Lyme Bay in 2 stages, staying in the Exe one night, lunch the following day in Lyme Regis, then Portland to meet up again with Malaika and Sea Dragon who had taken the direct route. Various commitments meant Carina and Polly had to be left in Brixham for later collection, and A-Jay had left us early to face the swell of Lyme Bay overnight.
The sail back from Portland was straightforward with sunshine, some excellent tides and following winds in the Solent making for a very fast return to base.
One particularly memorable feature of the cruise were the numerous sightings of wildlife, particularly dolphins and porpoises which often followed us. One mermaid featured throughout the stay and captured the heart of the commodore.
So, well done to all those intrepid sailors who braved storms and a pandemic to have a thoroughly sociable cruise.
Leslie Lowenthal, Commodore
15th-23rd August 2020