Summer came back in the middle of October, with sun, warmth, gentle winds from helpful directions, and calm blue seas. Five days sauntering along the Dorset coast under bright blue skies was an unexpected gift at the end of a season of dull weather.
We left Cowes in the afternoon and picked up a free mooring outside Yarmouth harbour for the night in a calm that hardly moved the boat. The next day we went pleasantly to Weymouth in a Force 3 from the land, which gradually built to 4, so we creamed along on flat water, well out from St Albans Head because the army firing range was operating.
Weymouth was still in holiday mood, with bar and cafe tables spilling over pavements, and hot in the shelter of the buildings lining the harbour. We bought fish for supper from a shop supplied by local boats and explored the town again, which though an officially deprived area seems to be better kept with more restaurants and bars than a few years ago. Pandemic crowds deterred from holidaying abroad must have helped.
Heading back the next day we used the cruising chute all the way. On a blue sea, with blue sky and our blue sail, we could have been cruising a thousand miles south.
We took the long route round outside the firing range again, which happened to provide exactly the right course to keep the cruising chute working hard, gybing south of St Albans and reaching all the way up past Anvil Point to Studland Bay. We were planning to stay there one last time before anchoring is banned from 1 December to protect the seagrass beds and the seahorses.
It was a nice surprise to find that a dozen eco-moorings had already been laid, so there was no need to drop the anchor. These are a new type of mooring which have a base a bit like an auger that screws into the sea bed and a short riser that stretches so it is always off the bottom, and does not scrape away the seagrass at low tide. The buoys are marked as taking boats up to 10 tons.
Watch the depths though – we checked and several would leave us aground at low spring tides (it was neaps). We motored along the line of buoys and made a note in the logbook of the deeper ones.
There’s a web address on the buoys for information and it suggests (but does not demand) a donation to the Seahorse Trust. We gave £10, hoping it would help undo a little of the damage to the seahorse population from our anchors over the years. Let’s hope more buoys are laid – on a warm summer day there used to be as many as 50 yachts anchored in the bay.
The next day started warm and sunny with a North wind, but it veered east and the temperature dropped. We motored into the Solent via the north channel and home to Cowes.
There was nothing special about this sunny little jaunt along the coast – except that it was mid-October and we felt as if we were out in high summer.
Don’t tell Nigel Farage, but the RNLI has always operated as if a border in Ireland does not exist. The Castletownbere lifeboat pulled in behind us in Weymouth, on its way from County Cork to Poole for a refit at RNLI headquarters. There’s a huge amount to admire about the RNLI, not least itst role as a rare example of cross-border harmony.