Cumberlidge on cruising
PETER CUMBERLIDGE: Why not stay at home in good old England for some relaxed summer cruising? Lyme Bay and Dorset’s Jurassic Coast are blessed with many enticing small harbours and anchorages
Boats based in south Devon tend to head either further west for their summer cruising or cross to the Channel Islands and Brittany. We rarely think about turning east, which is a pity. I plan to rectify this, and have been studying our charts of Lyme Bay and the Dorset coast beyond Portland.
To many, Lyme Bay feels like a hurdle you cross to get somewhere else, yet its inner shores have some charming hideaways. From Dartmouth, it’s less than 30 miles to a picturesque anchorage behind Beer Head, the most westerly of the Jurassic Coast’s chalk bluffs. Beer is still a traditional fishing village, with crabbing and mackerel boats winched up the beach. We once lay here several days in a hard north-westerly, totally snug with the Anchor Inn handy ashore.
Lyme Regis is a Dorset classic, the jumbled layers of its colourful town winding up the hillside. Lyme’s old harbour is popular with film directors, especially the medieval quay known as the Cobb. Although the harbour itself mostly dries, there are buoys and an anchorage outside the pierheads, perfectly sheltered in northerlies and north-westerlies. Lyme is awash with bistros and pubs, so in the right weather you can spend a pleasant weekend here, nicely off piste.
Half a dozen miles east, moderate draught boats can stay afloat around neaps in West Bay’s outer harbour, where the visitor pontoon is near Rachel’s café for scrumptious fish and chips.
For us down west, rounding Portland is an exciting, even exotic experience, especially the inner passage where you can gaze up at tourists clustered round the lighthouse. We find it more dramatic than arriving off Lézardrieux, say, or Les Hanois on Guernsey. This is one of the Channel’s great headlands, a crucial tidal gate for navigators in the days of sail.
On the ‘foreign’ side of the Bill, I like Portland Marina with its polite and genial staff. But calling at salty, unreconstructed Weymouth is always nostalgic. Rafting up in the Cove with fishing boats chugging by is one of the timeless treats of south coast cruising.
Lulworth is another gem, a geological showpiece only 55 miles from Dartmouth. Over millennia, this horseshoe inlet has nibbled spectacularly into the soft limestone strata, its enclosing cliffs providing not just protection but a powerful sense of primeval history. Lulworth entrance can be tricky to spot, but once you’re through the gap, the anchorage off the north-east side is magical on summer days.
So ‘Go East, Young Man’ is our motto of the moment, to discover a magnificent slice of England amazingly close to home.
Over millennia, the horseshoe inlet has nibbled spectacularly into the soft limestone strata, its enclosing cliffs providing a powerful sense of primeval history