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Old 13 June 2022, 10:35   #1
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Rounding Portland Bill

Only done this a couple of times about a decade ago. First time 'inside' and second time 'outside'. Both were in benign conditions and uneventful.

I'm taking the RIB down to Dartmouth at the end of July so doing a bit of revision.

If going 'inside' the general consensus seems to be stay in very close, and keep an eye out for lobster pots, which may be submerged...

Unsuitable weather is a show stopper, and springs are best avoided, which unfortunately isn't possible on my chosen day of the 30th July - hiring a trailer is plan 'B'.

As far as the best time goes, there seems to be quite a bit of conflicting info. Some suggest a different window dependant to transit direction, and some suggest slack water - which I had always though was when the tide turns - but apparently not. In the absence of any other info, I will aim for Weymouth Harbour's suggestion of 4hrs after Portland high water.

As ever, any advice much appreciated.
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Old 13 June 2022, 10:49   #2
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I was down there at Easter and although its interesting its not the worst stretch of water ive come across, we didn't have amazing weather and in a 5m RIB we had to work and be alert but if your skill set is good and the boat reliable id advocate "taking a look" and turning back if less than comfortable or capable.
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Old 13 June 2022, 14:56   #3
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I nearly always use the inshore route (which really does mean keep *very* close to the shore) in both the RIB and sailing yacht, unless we are already miles offshore on a transit/passage. We've never had a problem, including in some pretty strong weather, if you follow the guidance on tide times for slack water and stay right close in almost touching the rocks.
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Old 13 June 2022, 16:12   #4
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Cheers Gents - How exactly do I ascertain when slack water is? I thought it was when the tide turns, but apparently not, is it the Portland +4 Weymouth Harbour suggest?
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Old 13 June 2022, 16:30   #5
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I think the Bill itself is more closely correlated to Dover tides given the way the weird eddies work there. So makes a bit more sense if you look at it from the Dover perspective:

Westbound is HW Dover-1 (which = Portland+4), i.e. just before HW Dover
Eastbound HW Dover+5 (which = Portland -3), i.e. just before LW Dover

We always just follow the directions in our almanac, which I believe matches with what Weymouth Harbour suggest!
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Old 13 June 2022, 17:03   #6
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Cheers Paul
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Old 13 June 2022, 17:37   #7
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I used to take the outer route as I was twitchy being so close inshore. Then I did a diving weekend & the hardboat boat skipper came the inshore route. That’s what I’ve done ever since. TBH the Portland race has acquired the same mystique as the fabled Solent Chop. There are worse (or better depending on your outlook) stretches of water around the UK that are just as “exciting”.
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Old 13 June 2022, 18:53   #8
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As others have said Portland's reputation can be worse than its reality. That said, when it is bad, then it can be somewhere you really don't want to be. But your not likely to be venturing out in those conditions anyway.

If your planing on going in a straight line to Dartmouth, you might want to give some thought to what conditions are likely to be like in the middle of Lyme bay. I've run across at 25 knots all the way on occasions and on others have been down to 10 to 12 knots for a large part of the trip. Fine if your prepared for a bit of a slog and are suitably set up for it, not so much if you have family/children with you. I find Passageweather.com gives a reasonable idea of what the sea state is likely to be.

Even if running along the coast it can be a long way to Westbay or Lyme if you need a break from the conditions.

But in the right conditions it's an easy enough trip. Much more fun than putting it on a trailer.
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Old 15 June 2022, 18:31   #9
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Cheers Gents, and thanks for the Passagemaker.com recommendation - looks useful.
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Old 15 June 2022, 22:23   #10
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Originally Posted by 36valley View Post
If you're planning on going in a straight line to Dartmouth, you might want to give some thought to what conditions are likely to be like in the middle of Lyme Bay.
I've definitely experienced that on many occasions - the Bill itself can be quite pleasant compared to the next 40-50NM across Lyme Bay in the wrong conditions! I had it on this video (much as videos ever accurately show bad seas!), when Portland Bill was pretty smooth but the passage across Lyme Bay to Salcombe was directly into some nasty F7 conditions, and I ended up changing heading and doing an indirect arc almost following the coastline of the Bay to the north to give a more comfortable ride.

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Old 16 June 2022, 08:17   #11
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great video.....do love a ribtec...
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Old 16 June 2022, 13:35   #12
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great video.....do love a ribtec...
Thanks! Yep, I'm massively impressed by the rough weather abilities of a Ribtec, especially the larger ones - the boat has safely taken me through many tough passages without breaking a sweat.
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Old 21 June 2022, 17:51   #13
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Search for a fella on youtube called Harry Dwyer he took is 4 meter Avon around Portland Bill....he passed through like he was in a swimming pool....but he did catch slack tide and tge weather was on his side.
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Old 22 June 2022, 20:10   #14
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The "Race" is nearly always clearly visible at Sea level from a Boat (except in the roughest of conditions when you probably won't be out anyway!) and is and VERY easily avoided.
...It does of course wax and wane with the Tidal range and Wind Conditions as well as move location...and because of the VERY confused nature of the waves is best avoided.

If you do take the inshore option which we generally do ...the much bigger concern is Pot Ropes and Bouys ...which really proliferate in the area.
With the very strong tidal flows and range ...long ropes are used and they are very often sucked just below the surface and will soon catch the Un-Wary...
So a good lookout and low speeds are recommended especially on Springs.
It's no biggie if you treat it with respect....and doesn't take long to make passage.
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Old 22 June 2022, 20:12   #15
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Cheers for the advice Gents
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