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6th July, 2019

Isle of Portland

We picked up our Portland Pilot in almost flat calm waters, just outside the harbour breakwaters, at almost bang-on 07:00 – I love it when a plan works out. So far, so good…

It was a calm sunny day and we planned to swing the ship around and back down to the breakwater to go starboard side alongside. This was at the request of the harbour authorities, who had calculated that we would have to use our starboard side door opening for their large gangway to connect. However, just as we were about to complete the manoeuvre and come alongside, there was a slightly panicked call on the radio from a man on the quayside admitting they may have made a miscalculation and that we might have to turn around and come back in the other way around. Not quite the plan we’d hoped for…

So, about 20 minutes later we came back in the other way around, and everyone ashore was now content. Gangway craned on and connected by 08:15, we hadn’t lost too much time pirouetting in the harbour…

Being an MOD Port means that, among other things, everyone involved in operations ashore appears under the belief that their job is the most important. Fortunately though, for whatever reason, this resulted in the remainder of the day being run quite smoothly, and also meant that military relics and such-like could be brought into the port for our guests to enjoy viewing as they made their way ashore and back on board again.

This harbour is an ideal gateway to Dorset’s UNESCO-listed “Jurassic Coast” – and with it being a pleasantly warm Sunday, there would be a good chance of encountering some dinosaurs out and about tottering along the waterfront promenades today, or perhaps enjoying a leisurely snooze on park benches after church.

Portland (or the ‘isle’ of Portland as the local prefer it being referred to) is connected to the Dorset coast by a mile or so of sand and stone sporting a road and a nice looking pebbly beach. The ‘isle’ is made of limestone, famous for its use in the construction of fine buildings across Britain – including St Paul’s cathedral. In fact, it’s a jolly good thing for the locals that cathedral building seems to have died out or else there might not be much of Portland left nowadays.

Apart from a free shuttle ride offered into nearby Weymouth town centre, there were several organised tours visiting lovely sounding spots along the coast like Lulworth Cove, including trips inland to Corfe Castle. Those interested in old buildings could be welcomed to Grade 2 listed Minterne House by current owner Lord Digby, if they fancied. For train-spotters, the tour to Corfe village and a ride on the local steam train might appeal more. War historians would more likely jump at the opportunity to visit the Bovington Tank museum, whilst budding artists would almost certainly prefer the trip to Bennetts Water Garden.

Whatever everyone did, we were blessed with sunshine and all faces seemed to be glowing and smiling upon arrival back at the ship in the late afternoon. All that remained was for me to manoeuvre Saga Sapphire off our berth; a task which would have been far easier had the wind not suddenly unexpectedly veered 15 minutes prior to departure to be blowing us square onto the quayside. Sod’s Law of the Sea, as this is known. Still, after some 20 minutes of repeat engine movements and successful dredging of much sand from Portland Harbour bottom, we set off back out into the English Channel - bound for Bonnie Scotland the day after tomorrow.

Captain Kim Tanner

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.