IOPCC Trip Report

Portland Harbour and a taste of the Bill
25th January 2014


John Christmas  
David Cotgrove  
Clive Joyner  
Hugh de Iongh  
Clive West  

It promised to be a little blowy for a round the Bill trip, which was the scheduled route, so instead, at the suggestion of John Christmas (the trip leader), five of us (John, Hugh, David, Clive Joyner and I) met up at Sandsfoot at 10am in order to make the best of the day. And a fine day it was too, warm sunshine, scarcely a breeze to be felt.

The suggestion was to paddle across the harbour to the south entrance and put our noses outside and see what it looked like. The forecast was for westerly winds, increasing before lunch-time, so we had decided against a paddle out of the north entrance in order to avoid a wearying slog back, into a head-wind.

Before getting under way, Hugh and I did a quick practice roll each, just to feel that we had notched up something. Gives you confidence for the day. The wind was increasing, or at least the middle of Portland Harbour is quite exposed, but nothing to be concerned about. Out of the south entrance and on down the side of Portland, by no means an unpleasant paddle. It was getting quite breezy, so we turned around shy of Church Ope, not a great beach for landing, and headed back to Balaclava Bay where a short late lunch, coffee break, call it what you will, was enjoyed. Hot coffee, home made cakes, a bit of sunshine, canít be bad.

Clive Joyner peeled off to head back home, to the east of Portland Harbour, whilst the remaining four of us got our heads down for a hard four kilometre ferry glide north west across the harbour. The wind was blowing quite noticeably. Hughís Taran does go well, and looks a pretty dry ride, whereas my Pilgrim is, to say the least, a trifle wetter, that is, I am able to confirm that the water is salty, based on the amount that flew up and hit me in the face. (Still much prefer the look of my boat, and in truth I wouldnít change it.)

Sensibly, considering the conditions we decided to head west, directly into the wind and skip from shelter to shelter, along the south side of the harbour. (Trying to ferry glide across was not really feasible, since the angle of offset would be nearly due west anyway if we did not want to end up disappearing out the east or north entrance.

Believe me, paddling straight into a force 7 is not a whole bunch of laughs. (OK, thatís the wind speed recorded on the portís anemometer, it would have been less at sea level.) Suffice it to say that after a break behind the mulberries my kayak decided that it was bored with being upright and decided to try going upside down. No worries, Iíd practiced my roll, hadnít I? It didnít work, but at least I hung onto my boat and paddle. My three compatriots did an excellent job of putting me back in and we dropped in at Castletown. Weighing it up, we decided the best route would be to continue our plan, and paddle through the marina (some shelter) and pop across to the causeway and paddle north in itís lee, and then head back to Sandsfoot with the wind behind us, which we did.

Were we mad, stupid, misguided? No, I donít think so. We knew the wind was going to get up, we judged our route as well as we could within geographical constraints, we stayed together, and when I took an involuntary swim the situation was retrieved with a minimum of fuss. What it did prove was, although the ďrescueĒ was good, it was not a slick as it could have been. Room for a little practice there, perhaps. I was wearing a dry suit, with good layering underneath, so cold was not an issue.

I do not claim to be a brilliant paddler, but Iíve done a bit. I clearly remember Gordon Brown saying, ďGo out, paddle to find your limits, them come back to me and weíll work out how to improve.Ē Perhaps my limit is trying to turn my boat into a F7 wind, and Iíve got plenty of local coaches to choose from!

Consensus was, it was a good day.

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Report: Clive West



Paddling on the Jurassic Coast