- Portland truly providesa one-stop base for your powerboat or RIB.
- Portland Marina’s comprehensive offer is definitely worth very careful consideration.
- At Portland, all our requests and questions were handled immediately and well.
- When we went outside, the staff member who helped us out on the water was utterly first rate.
explores this relatively new, fully featured marina in Dorset …
Marina punctuates the renowned Jurassic Coast. It lies right alongside
Chesil Beach. The marina’s situation in the vast Portland Harbour feels airy,
with big skies and good views of the Jurassic cliffs. The marina feels fresh
and new, and has recently added even more features. Its market offer has been
expressly designed to minimise those inevitable hassles that accompany many
aspects of modern boating life. The buildings are ambitious and attractive, and
the high glass atrium to the marina office is particularly impressive. However,
as we know, facilities alone do not a good marina make. The good news is that
we found the staff at Portland to be among the most approachable, helpful and
knowledgeable we have met thus far. Trust us, we have suffered more than a few
crusty marina operatives over the years, both here and abroad (the sort of
surly staff who, in another life, could easily have been doctor’s receptionists).
Portland Marina takes a different tack. At Portland, all our requests and
questions were handled immediately and well. When we went outside, the staff
member who helped us out on the water was utterly first rate. Clearly a very
experienced sailor. All very confidence inducing. Especially so if you are
planning to hand over quite a few grand each year to the marina to look after
your pride and joy.
Portland has 400 annual and visitors’ berths. All the floating pontoon berths are fully serviced with water and metered electricity. The marina is open 24/7, all year round.
Parking is free, and berth holders have their own designated area. At this point we should record that we have never seen wider and safer marina pontoons. You could get your Mini down them with both doors open and still leave enough room for the marina’s takeaway delivery person to slip past.
Approach by boat
Portland Harbour is famous for its long and distinctive stone breakwater. It is
pierced by three entrances. At challenging states of the tide, these gaps can
run with a current of between 6 and 12 knots. Mind you, leisure craft such as
yours and ours will studiously
avoid such conditions. Only one gap is designated for leisure craft. This is
the one at the end of the northern arm of the breakwater. There is a white
lighthouse on the southern end of the north-east breakwater. It flashes every 10
seconds, and was restored in 2016. Note that this light marks the gap in the breakwater
only to be used by seagoing commercial vessels. From the sea, taking the
correct gap at the end of the northern arm of the breakwater took us through
the appropriate ‘North Ship Channel’. Passing through, we noted weird and
wonderful naval and military installations populating the end of the breakwater.
One was festooned in a motley collection of radio antennae, others were just
crumbling away. Fascinating historical objects to see from the deck of a small
boat, they varied between sturdy Victorian stone buildings and quickly
thrown-up 20th-century concrete blocks. The latter now have the appearance of
weathered cardboard. One appeared to be a three-storey shanty, complete with a lookout
or gun port on top. The breakwater’s tough stone walls were each marked with
stern warnings about not landing on this private property. Some signs also had
earnest injunctions for us to pay our harbour fees.
the gap, we simply followed the inner harbour fairway towards the marina. Mind
you, the inner harbour is vast. In settled weather, inside the breakwater
amounts to a huge playground for all manner of pleasure vessels. We saw fishing
craft, dinghies, yachts, powerboats and RIBs all enjoying these sheltered
Portland Marina is utterly straightforward. There are no shoals or drying
grounds on the approach. Picking out the marina entrance from the busy
background of the land is easy once you know the marks. A conspicuous tall
light-grey metal post (slightly to starboard of the marina) is the leading mark
to steer by. Steer this way until the distinctive dark beacon on the marina’s
rocky breakwater is fine on the port bow. We were delighted to meet a very
convenient and welcoming visitors’ quay, complete with visitors’ office. Such welcome
quays are pretty common in the Med, but less so in the UK. Full marks to
Portland Marina for making our summer landfall so easy.
Marina also has a large and wonderfully unencumbered floating fuel berth close
by. The berth can be hailed on VHF Channel 80, or telephoned on 01305 866190.
As owners of a thirsty V8 we were especially delighted to see that petrol was
available, as well as diesel. We were also interested to note that there were
discounts for berth holders.
In August 2018,
the fuel prices and discounts were as follows:
- Petrol: £1.70 per litre
- Petrol (berth holders): £1.52 per litre
- Diesel 60:40: £1.18 per litre
- Diesel 60:40 (berth holders): £1.07 per litre
Chesil Beach and the Fleet
the causeway from the marina is the famous Fleet Lagoon, retained by the even
more renowned Chesil Beach. These two significant geographic entities mean that
so-called Portland Island, rising behind the marina, is not an island at all,
but rather a tombolo. A tombolo is an island attached to the mainland by a
narrow spit or bar. Chesil Beach is the bar, and Fleet Lagoon lies within. The
waters of the Fleet are connected to Portland Harbour just down the causeway
from the marina, at Ferrybridge. Currents of 6 knots can prevail here and
towards the marina at certain states of the tide.
Portland’s superb position, Poole, Bridport, Lyme Regis, Exmouth, Torquay,
Paignton, Brixham, Dartmouth, Studland Bay, Swanage, Salcombe, Brittany and the
Channel Islands are common cruising destinations for local boats.
conceived as a modern and purpose-built marina. It does not feel like an
adapted ex-industrial site. It is designed to provide a complete solution for
boaters’ varied needs, all contained within one convenient location. On the
concourse, we noted a Portland stone obelisk containing a plaque commemorating
the role played by Portland Marina in hosting the sailing events of the London
2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The significance of this became more
apparent when we inspected the palatial ablutions, more of which later.
Everything at Portland Marina is built on an expansive scale.
Washrooms and laundry
facilities can easily make or break one’s choice of ‘long-term’ marina. In our
experience, a choosy crew will not tolerate substandard ablutions beyond a
single night. At Portland this is never an issue. The washrooms in the main
building are conceived on grander assumptions than those at most marinas of our
acquaintance, both here and abroad. One can imagine these spacious and well-specified
facilities easily swallowing a whole fleet of Olympic yacht crews. To add to
these top-notch conveniences, there is also a coin-operated laundry in the main
conveniently, Apollo Marine have a well-stocked chandlery on-site. To our mind,
this is really important. We also noted that Apollo also offer a full range of
There is a
wide slipway immediately adjacent to the marina. It is owned by the next-door
RYA Sailing Academy, to whom a fee is payable. Marina trailer boaters use it,
before putting their boats on a marina berth.
there is no trailer storage on-site at Portland Marina. However, we were told
that there are local third-party storage solutions on Portland.
is always an issue these days. Access to the gates is by berth holders’
electronic key fobs. The whole site has 24/7 staff presence, and security
is a fact of modern life for many, so the marina offers free Wi-Fi for browsing
and emails. The (very amusing) password is available from the marina office.
You can’t use the Wi-Fi for movie downloads or for box set bingeing, but when
we tried it for basic tasks it worked well.
The marina has
a 50-tonne hoist for the big boys. It also has a large forklift capable of
safely handling craft up to 9.9m long, so most eventualities are covered.
exchange is available at the Apollo Marine chandlery on-site.
Sadly for our
crew, there was no cash dispenser on-site. However, helpful marina staff told
us there was one at the local Co-op store, about 15 minutes’ stroll away. Of
course, you do not need cash to pay for your marina fees, and we bought our
meals and drinks using our cards.
Divers’ air station
marina sports a divers’ outdoor shower and a divers’ air station. Since many
RIBs are bought by divers, this struck us as a canny feature.
Boatyard and Boat Care
The marina has
an extensive and fully serviced traditional boatyard, equipped for both DIY and
professional maintenance. However, the marina also boasts Dean & Reddyhoff
Boat Care. Essentially, this amounts to a one-stop shop for boating services,
delivered from a substantial facility on-site. It offers boat owners the full
range of boat support, including antifouling, topsides respray, GRP repairs, gelcoat
matching, rewiring, electrical systems support, engine refit and replacement,
propulsion and thruster systems, upholstery, replacement windows and hatch
seacocks. Quite a list, we thought, but since this is a bespoke service, Boat Care also claim to tackle anything else
that ails your boat. Being able to access such facilities is very comforting,
even if you never need them – especially so if you live away and plan on
keeping your boat at Portland for the whole season. Using Boat Care has a
number of other benefits, including daily boat checks and six weeks’ free
storage ashore. As canny boat owners, we reckoned that the deal offered was
worth considering as a ‘total package’.
Portland dry stack
currently remain marina berth holders at home, we are also recent converts to
the advantages of dry stacking. Luckily, Portland has its own version. The
service offered means that you may book in advance and Portland will take care
of all the details. This dry stack lift and launch service
is available seven days a week. You may book lifts in advance or give Portland
two hours’ notice (subject to availability).
Your boat will
be launched and ready alongside a pontoon. When you’re finished for the day,
just leave the boat tied to the pontoon. Portland will lift your boat out, give
it a freshwater washdown and return it to the dry stack. The stack is inside
their 24/7 secure area. There is also a valet fuel service available from
Tuesday to Thursday. Ring ahead and your boat will be fuelled up and awaiting
you. The fuel is sold at cost. This means that you don’t actually need to keep
your trailer at Portland, and you never need to antifoul your hull. As throttle
benders, we could immediately appreciate that this meant a clean, fast hull
each time we went out to sea. A 12-month contract in 2018 cost £37.50 per
metre, per month.
delighted to discover that local ferries to Weymouth leave directly from the
marina quay at regular intervals. This is hugely attractive if you have arrived
at Portland Marina on your own boat, and thus without your car. This handy
ferry is very convenient when you need to go shopping, or have a thirsty crew
who can’t wait to hit the town.
There is an
interesting sign on the marina that warns that this whole area (and of course
not just the marina) could be liable to local flooding. When we visited in high
summer this seemed a very distant prospect. However, this honest, ‘no-nonsense’
Dean & Reddyhoff marina sign appealed to our sense of fair play and full disclosure.
In the event of any threat, local broadcasts will warn boaters of rising tides
and flood conditions. The marina restaurant was named as the muster area. We
could think of much worse places to await rescue.
Cafes and restaurants
Marina boasts two places to eat and drink. As we have noted before, it is very
much better when one has two such choices at any marina. The Boat That Rocks is the larger
establishment and billed as a cafe/bar/restaurant. It has a pleasant terrace with
good views. We ate our pub grub-style/finger-food lunch on the terrace on a hot
sunny day. Currently, the TripAdvisor score for this establishment is 3 out of 5.
We did not get a chance to try the restaurant. However, we did note the
bookable food takeaway service, which looked a very good idea – ideal for those
times when you already have a party going full swing on your back deck, but the
crew want to eat, not cook. We were told by other boat owners that there is
often good live music at the weekends. The marina also has the handy and
reasonably priced Taylor’s Messdeck
Cafe Gallery. It is much smaller and simpler than the other
eatery, and close to the chandlery. It offers breakfast, lunch and afternoon
tea, and is open from 8am to 4pm. This had a very good reputation with all the
boaters to whom we spoke. They told us breakfasts were excellent and also ‘cheap’.
This compact cafe has been awarded five stars on TripAdvisor.
Approach by road
If towing your
boat to Portland Marina, simply punch DT5 1DX into your satnav. Road access to
Portland Marina is a doddle, with good signage and no tricky, restricted or
awkward ‘final stages’. Like the approach from the sea, access is very
straightforward, since the main road arrives on the long, straight, elevated
causeway flanking Chesil Beach. Just note the comments made above about trailer
storage at the marina.
Approach by rail
is 5 miles distant.
- The marina may be hailed on VHF Channel 80.
- The Portland harbour master may be hailed on VHF Channel 74.
Marina contact data
Reddyhoff Portland Marina
If you are looking to go boating in this versatile location next year,
Portland truly providesa one-stop base for your powerboat or RIB. It
was hard to think of any powerboating necessity not already covered.
Additionally, having two eateries, the Dean & Reddyhoff Boat Care facility
and the Apollo chandlery all on-site struck us as worthy advantages. The ferry
into Weymouth was an appealing bonus. True, there is no cash dispenser, no
trailer storage on-site and (technically) no marina slipway, but these factors
can easily be set aside against the big picture. Portland Marina’s
comprehensive offer is definitely worth very careful consideration.
Admiralty charts: 2610, 2268
Imray charts: C4, C5
Electronic charts: We used our normal Navionics app on our iPhone
4 and iPad 2. Navionics is available on other platforms too.
Cruising guide app:www.navily.com
Although not immediately adjacent to the marina, you can clearly see the
large vessels in the commercial Portland Port from the marina. Glass in hand,
inspecting the shipping with your boat’s binocs, is an interesting diversion
from the terrace ofThe Boat
Portland has a long maritime history, but it was the coming of the age
of steam that saw its first principal development. In July 1849, Prince Albert
set the first Portland stone in the huge new breakwaters. The breakwaters were
built to an amazing scale and became the largest man-made harbour in the
Victorian world. Note that Portland Harbour has defined Precautionary and
Restricted Areas. The Portland Port website – www.portland-port.co.uk – contains the free,
downloadable Admiralty chart BA2268.
One of the wonders of Britain, and part of the Jurassic Coast,
mysterious Chesil Beach (or Chesil Bank) is a bar of graded pebbles that
extends for about 18 miles. It is 200 metres wide and reaches 15 metres in
height. Curiously, and by a mechanism that is still not perfectly understood,
the pebbles get bigger towards the Portland end.
Chesil Beach encloses the Fleet Lagoon. This can be a silent and
other-worldly place on a hot, still day – a bayou-like sandy backwater with
anchored boats, and aluminium skiffs drawn up onto the shore; an elemental
setting of fixed nets, duck traps and oyster beds under big skies, framed only
by the low Chesil Bank. The Fleet Lagoon of brackish water gives way to seawater
as it runs from Abbotsbury to Ferrybridge, where it meets Portland Harbour. The
current at this juncture can reach 6 knots in certain states of the tide. This
is definitely a satisfyingly odd locale for any boat owner to visit at least
once in a boating lifetime.
VSV Mary Slim
Owned by Richard Reddyhoff of Dean & Reddyhoff marinas, the Mary
Slim is a striking 72ft wave-piercing vessel of unorthodox design. She is
powered by twin 1750hp V12 turbocharged Caterpillar diesel engines, mated to a
Rolls-Royce Kamewa water jet propulsion system. In 2014, she astounded everyone
in the powerboat community by making the passage from Portland to Rockall in
just 53 hours, 29 minutes and 52 seconds! That represents a dizzying average
speed of 26.6 knots, held for two days. She is based at Portland Marina.
Although famously based in Poole Harbour, Sunseeker International boatbuilders
also have an important facility right next door to Portland Marina. Indeed, the
first boat that rolled off the new production line at Sunseeker’s Portland base
was the sleek Predator 108. The £5m boat was built in 10 weeks after Sunseeker
moved into the former Luhrs Marine site at Osprey Quay.
Up until 1985, Royal Naval Air Station Portland was based in this
general area, and, in traditional Admiralty fashion, named HMS[u1] Osprey. To celebrate
this connection there is a preserved Royal Navy Westland Lynx on display on the
Portland Marina concourse. This example was in operational service for 32
years, and amassed a total of precisely 7,667 hours and 10 minutes flying time.
Ten fun facts about Portland
- The Sunseeker featured in the Bond movie Casino Royale was built at Portland.
- Portland was the base for the sailing events of the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
- Portland Island is not an island but a tombolo. Honest.
- The Jurassic Coast was the first natural site in England to be recognised on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
- Chesil Beach heats up the local area, producing its own microclimate.
- Fleet was the model for the imaginary village in the novel Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner.
- The Cenotaph, St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace are all built from Portland Stone.
- Portland has a pirates’ graveyard. Some of the graves have skulls and crossbones.
- Portland Bill, with its famous lighthouse, is the southernmost point in Dorset.
- Canadian band Martha and the Muffins used a map of Chesil Beach on the cover of their hit single ‘Echo Beach’.