We watch the patrol boat approaching with some trepidation. Have we made a mistake with our calculations of where we are? We are on the edge of the Lulworth Firing range and we know from the maritime safety information broadcast that it is active today. From time to time we have heard the rattle of gunfire from the land, and although we half wondered if we might see the splash of large shells hitting the water, we had thought that we were outside the exclusion zone. I had even called the Duty Officer earlier to confirm the route we should take,
We needn’t worry. The patrol boat comes in close, and there are friendly smiles from the two occupants. They enquire if we are OK and where we are heading for, and reassure us that we are fine if we stick to the latitude of 50° 33’N that we are on at the moment, and that we should turn north at 02° 16W to get to Lulworth Cove. They wish us all the best and head off to intercept another boat that is approaching a mile or so away. We hear more shots in the distance.
We approach Lulworth Cove under power as the wind has dropped. The entrance is not easy to see from the sea, but we have the waypoint coordinates and steer towards it. Suddenly the entrance opens out and we see several other boats anchored in there. We cruise in slowly and are momentarily taken aback to see that the beach and water are thronging with people. For some reason, we had naively assumed that we would have it all to ourselves. The relative solitude of being at sea has made us forget that there are many other people in the world too.
We find a spare place and drop the anchor, paying out lots of chain. It seems to hold. We sit and have a coffee in the sunshine, taking stock of the situation. This is Jurassic Coast country. The entrance to the cove is a narrow cut where the sea has broken through the limestone and allowed the waves to erode the softer clay and sands behind into a bulbous shape, while at the back of the cove are the steep chalk cliffs that have resisted erosion. We can see why geologists like coming here, and indeed we see a geology student with her hammer examining rocks in the eastern corner.
A catamaran arrives and tries to anchor next to us. We think it is too close, especially when there is plenty of room in the rest of the Cove. Its skipper is alone and is trying to wrestle with the anchor winch at the front with no one to help him on the helm. The winch operates with a lever arm and seems to be jammed. I stand on our bow ready to fend him off if he drifts towards us. The skipper looks across the narrow gap between us and grins sheepishly.
“I am a little bit close to you, I think?”, he says, probably interpreting the look of alarm on my face. The accent is unmistakably German.
“A little”, I say, trying not to appear too concerned. The catamaran edges closer. There is perhaps five meters between us now.
“This winch is giving me problems and I am by myself”, says the Kapitan. “I have just bought the boat and haven’t anchored before.”
“If I could get across to you I could give you a hand”, I say, thinking that I need to protect Ruby Tuesday somehow. “But our tender isn’t inflated.”
“That’s no problem, I have a dinghy, and will blow it up and come and fetch you”, says the Kapitan. That saves us the job of pumping up our own dinghy then.
“Perhaps you could just move your boat a little further away from us before that?”, I say.
Soon we hear the puffing sounds of an inflatable pump. The Kapitan rows across and I clamber into the dinghy. We row back to the catamaran. I am not sure what I can really help with anyway, but I direct the Kapitan to a spot a bit further away and drop the anchor. It seems to hold. The Kapitan offers to show me around the boat. It is nearly 40 years old, but has been looked after well. He tells me how he has modified it by converting half of the living area into a sleeping area.
The Kapitan drops me back to Ruby Tuesday. We invite him in for a beer. He is from Munich, but has worked in the Caribbean and elsewhere. He has always wanted a boat, and bought his catamaran in Walton-on-the-Naze in the Thames estuary. He is now wanting to sail the world with it. His immediate plan is to get to Dartmouth, but he is thinking of Spain after that, then an Atlantic crossing. We think he is terribly brave to be doing all this single-handed. The Kapitan shrugs. It’s not all the time – a friend joined him last week, and his girlfriend is joining him next week. She hasn’t sailed before, so we wants her to enjoy it. There is something about his attitude that we like. “Catch your dreams before they fly away”, I think. We sit and try and solve the world’s problems until the moon starts to rise over the cove entrance.