- …we reckoned that compact Weymouth was easily the easiest-to-like marina we encountered in the whole of 2018.
- It was the one marina and location that appealed to us all as a family crew.
explores the marina in this historic old port and seaside town.
about halfway along the famous Jurassic Coast, safely inside the extremely wide
Portland Harbour. This puts this historic port at the centre of a rich cruising
ground, equally suited to coast hopping or day cruising. Famous coves such as
Lulworth and Bowleaze, and the romantic seamark of Durdle Door, lie a quick
blast beyond the shelter of Portland Harbour. Midway between the Solent and the
West Country, Weymouth is a superb staging post on any West Country cruise.
Since it has been a commercial Channel port as well as a fishing harbour for
centuries, Weymouth possesses boating infrastructure in depth. Powerboats
routinely make passage between here and France and the Channel Isles, so
Weymouth is an exciting international port too. In fact, Weymouth provides the
shortest crossing to France west of Folkstone.
Approach from seaward
Marina lies on the River Wey, behind the extensive breakwaters of Portland Harbour.
We entered via the ‘North Ship Channel’. In settled weather, this is
straightforward, but under challenging conditions, note that the tide can run
between these breakwaters at 6 and 12 knots. We passed the white lighthouse,
which flashes every 10 seconds, and then made straight for the handy and
conspicuous 55m-high Sea Life Tower on the shore ahead. It has a
doughnut-shaped gondola that carries visitors up and down the tower. Keeping
this useful holidaymakers’ seamark fine on the starboard bow, we soon saw the
town promenade. This lies to starboard of the tower, punctuated by a sharp
church spire, with a bright sandy beach below. We instantly noticed the long
row of distinctive
bathing huts – a useful
navigational confirmation. Spotting the entrance to the River Wey is easy in
most conditions, since it lies clearly between the aforementioned tall Sea Life
Tower to starboard and the massive bulk of Nothe Fort to port. This Victorian
edifice is protected by its own sea wall and lies on its own compact peninsula.
There is a traffic
light scheme in operation on the pier head at the entrance to the river.
Visiting vessels should call ahead to the harbour master on VHF Channel 12 to
request entry to the river. We entered on a fine, hot, sunny day, with
holidaymakers enjoying the views on either hand.
There is a
cheery and very busy cafe on a terrace under the ramparts of Nothe Fort, and
this set the scene for what was to unfold. People were eating, drinking and
gongoozling in the sun. It was all so relaxed and appealing, and felt more like
the commodious non-tidal Thames rather than a saltwater river. It does not feel
like an estuary – it is too intimate. Even at its mouth, with its handy clearance
gauge for the famous town bridge upriver, the Wey is not very wide. Here at the
entrance, one immediately feels safely enveloped by the banks.
entrance signage shouts down at you from the sea walls: ‘Dead Slow’ and ‘No
Wash’ – very sound advice considering the delightful motley mix of river
traffic you are about to encounter, some of it much larger than you, and some
of it tiny, hand-sculled and travelling much slower than you. If the
enthusiastic flotilla of Weymouth Sailing Club craft are about, you need to
keep your eyes peeled too. It was life-affirming to see these small craft
enjoying the river in the sun. And of course, they have the whole of sheltered
Portland Harbour in which to frolic, shout ‘Lee-oh’ [FB1] and cut their racing buoys. Generally
speaking, the river was completely unencumbered, with a high ‘chill factor’ at 4
knots. There is no buoyage to bother about, nor did we see any movements of
large commercial vessels. Sadly, the Channel ferry trade here ceased some years
slowly upriver on tickover into Weymouth proved to be a delight. We could take
in all the people and vessels enjoying this hot afternoon, just messing about
on the river. We were soon gawping at the pubs and imagining ourselves having a
glass of wine on a riverside terrace and maybe tackling a tasty steak at
sunset. We were wending our way along a ribbon of bright water, bordered by
mellow old buildings. The striking and rather grand harbour master’s office
came up to starboard, and a diesel fuel berth to port. This is a busy, compact
waterway, with lots going on. There are commercial and leisure vessels busily
passing up and down the river. There is even a hand-oared ferry plying its
trade between the banks. One soon notes old fishing quays with mock-fierce ‘No
Mooring’ notices. Then there is Weymouth Sailing Club to port, and close by,
the lifeboat station. Weybridge Lifeboat lies afloat to two piles, protected by
two enormous floating doughnuts. At high tide, with the water well up the
banks, we felt we were almost on a canal. This made all the appealing pubs,
bars and restaurants conveniently placed on each bank even more tantalising. In
high summer the mood was busy, but friendly, and a bit festive – lots of kids
and dads crabbing from the harbour walls, and families booking their sea
angling trips. There were day trippers everywhere eating ice creams, and
larcenous seagulls lounging on posts – winged muggers ready to snaffle the
kids’ fish and chips. We passed the renovated Brewers Quay to port, and
squinting against the daylight we could see the top of the Brewers Quay
building up a side street. Overall, Weymouth struck us as a superb powerboat
Bridge over the River Wey
Soon we came
to the bridge over the Wey, a fine twin-leaf bascule bridge, similar in
operation to Tower Bridge in London. The bridge opens at set intervals for
vessels with a tall air draught. There is a waiting berth on the starboard
hand, just to seaward of the bridge. Published opening times are:
20.00. Also 21.00 from 5th
April to 15th September inclusive.
Inner harbour basin
the town bridge, the inner harbour basin is shared between harbour master-provided
berths and facilities, and the Dean & Reddyhoff Weymouth Marina. As keen
trailer boaters, we spent a good while admiring the enormously wide municipal
slipway, and clocking the convenient trailer and car parking area. Local
fishing, angling and charter boats leave from the extensive pontoons here. As
always, it was good to see working boats from the back deck of your own vessel.
It is encouraging to see a river with a bit of commercial life in it, even if
compromises have to be made between leisure and professional boaters. If
nothing else, local working skippers reassert rugged individuality, and it all
stops Britain becoming a faceless heritage theme park. So whenever possible at
new ports of call, I like to chat to professional skippers, whose experience
can often inform, educate and entertain. I chatted to one hearty old fishing
skipper in the inner harbour, tanned to the colour of saddle leather, and
complete with a gold-looking chain around his sturdy neck. He was terrific
company, with a lovely West Country drawl. He proved to be a fountain of
maritime truth. His boat was well maintained, with that indefinable touch of
pride that only comes from owner operators. I noticed the fine name painted on
her stern had been done with an appropriate flourish. While we were chatting, a
visiting trailer boater needed a water hose. The old fisherman instantly leapt
down into the bowels of his commercial boat and fished out the longest
unpatched hose I have ever seen. He even connected it up for the visitor. An
absolute hoot to talk to, this fishing gent was a very kind man, confirming the
camaraderie of all true boating folk. This chance little episode made me love
Weymouth even more.
destination was a bit deeper into the harbour. Weymouth Marina (50° 36.580′ N, 002° 27.465′ W) is a compact marina that offers complete
protection. In all reasonable conditions, access is available at any state of
the tide. Indeed the marina is dredged to around 2 metres below chart datum.
Weymouth Marina has over 250 fully serviced berths in a pleasant basin. First
of all, the marina building is not large – rather, like me, it is small but
perfectly formed! It had all we needed, and frankly it was immaculate inside.
It did not have that slightly careworn look that even the best-kept larger
marinas sometimes suffer from. We instantly felt at home with all the
knowledgeable staff to whom we talked. Things were easy, laid-back and friendly
– huge selling points missed by a surprising number of marinas in the UK. The
basin was clearly an old dock, but any rough edges had been finessed. It seems
a bit incongruous at first for an utterly safe and secure marina to be bordered
on one side by the tidy backs of aDebenhams, a low-rise multi-storey car park and a Cineworld. Of course, as any skipper
who has ever made a landfall with a fractious family crew will tell you, such
convenient modern diversions have their value.
close proximity to the town, the marina is surprisingly quiet and peaceful (even
after dark in a holiday town). Most interestingly, there is an RSPB Nature
Reserve at Radipole Lake immediately upriver of the marina – a good place to
wander with the ship’s binocs in,the early morning or at sunset, clearing the
lungs and the head.
The marina car
park is adequate rather than large, and only open to annual berth holders.
There is a larger public car park immediately adjacent. If you wished to arrive
with your boat on its trailer you would have to discuss possible options
beforehand with the marina and/or the harbour master. Having said that, we felt
that Weymouth was one of those special locations that was best arrived at by
- All marina berths have electricity.
- VHF: Channel 80
- Tel: 01305 767576
- email: email@example.com
There is no
petrol berth in Weymouth, so you would be reduced to cans at this location. The
nearest petrol station is in King Street. Diesel fuel is available downriver at
Mechanical Services (Marine Engineers) fuel
pontoon (Tel: 01305 342 012). This is open
6.00am – 6.00pm,
seven days a week. It is situated near the RNLI lifeboat berth.
For petrol, we
would have to scoot over to nearby Portland Marina, which is still inside the
shelter of Portland Harbour. Portland Marina fuel berth can be hailed on VHF
Channel 80, or telephoned on 01305 866190. We were also interested to note that
since Dean & Reddyhoff own both marinas, there were discounts for Weymouth berth
holders at Portland Marina. In August 2018, these fuel prices and their berth
holders’ discounts were:
Petrol (berth holders):
Diesel 60:40: £1.18 per litre
Diesel 60:40 (berth holders):
There is no pump-out
at Weymouth Marina. You can use the one at Portland Marina.
will be delighted to note that there is a coin-operated laundry in the marina building.
The marina has
security code access to the pontoons, and full 24/7 CCTV surveillance. Incidentally,
the berth holders I spoke to did not mention security as an issue in this town
Toilets and showers
situated upstairs in the marina building and were very good, and immaculately
maintained. Always a good omen for a family crew.
does not have a chandlery but there is Bussells chandlers in Hope Street in
Weymouth. They have been there since 1760, so they should have what you want.
Note that sister marina Portland has Apollo Marine chandlers.
This is available
every day from the marina staff. We normally triangulate all our Internet and
BBC radio forecasts with those available from the marina office.
The marina has
free Wi-Fi. Oddly enough, if you set your phone to seek Wi-Fi in the marina, it
may also punch up the neighbouring harbour master’s Wi-Fi. Of course, both
would need that all-important free code!
There is no
Calor Gas or Campingaz gas store at the marina. However, marina staff can point
you in the direction of a local gas bottle exchange. With so many eateries
within a short step of the marina, though, crew are highly unlikely to be doing
much cooking or eating aboard.
Marina does not have its own slipway, but the harbour master’s encouragingly
broad and sheltered ramp is immediately adjacent. Our family dog could happily
reverse our boat and trailer down this luxuriously wide slip.
Weymouth harbour master
vessels should call ahead to the harbour master on VHF Channel 12 to request
safe entry to the river.
VHF: Channel 12
the county town of Dorchester, high-season Weymouth was full of shoppers and
holidaymakers when we were there. This historic town has two distinct aspects:
the Georgian seaside resort with an excellent beach and prom, and the
characterful, well-preserved maritime area around the harbour. The beach and
promenade are an undoubted draw, but the town itself offers much to interest a
shoreside crew. Big town shops and a bevy of small, interesting, privately
owned shops vie for the attention of your crew. Debenhams, Marks & Spencer,
Tesco, Spar and Aldi are close by. The vast array of pubs, restaurants,
watering holes and eateries mean that you could survive here quite nicely ‘on
holiday’ aboard your boat for quite some while.
also a great place to buy and eat freshly landed fish, as well as the excellent
fish and chips we sampled. True, there are parts of Weymouth that could do with
a bit of an update – cars seemed to be parked everywhere, and at the end of a
long hot day, many of the litter bins were full past the brim. However, the
harbour area is the location that will hold the attention of all visiting
boaters, and it remains very attractive.
crews need cash. We found cash dispensers liberally dotted around the town,
including ones close to the marina. Mrs Whittaker’s favourite iPhone app listed
no less than 65 cashpoints in Weymouth (see link below). All the businesses we
used accepted our credit and charge cards. None applied surcharges.
There are no
chandlery or boatyard facilities on the compact Weymouth Marina site. The
marina can put you in touch with local marine businesses. Also, comprehensive
boatyard and servicing facilities lie just across Portland Harbour, at Dean
& Reddyhoff’s sister marina at Portland.
Yacht club and sailing club
and sailing clubs are a great but sometimes overlooked resource for the
cruising powerboater. Even as throttle benders, Mrs Whittaker and I greatly
value the local advice and alcoholic solace available from many such clubs. We
spotted two interesting
such options in Weymouth: the Royal Dorset Yacht Club and Weymouth Sailing
Club. They were very different institutions, but we would have been happy with
either. As I may have remarked before, we have never been turned away
when visiting yacht clubs or sailing clubs, here or abroad. Both examples in
Weymouth have proper clubhouses with fine views over the river, and most
significantly, both have professionally run bars. They also offer free Wi-Fi.
Showing your valid RYA card is usually the open sesame for access to yacht clubs,
sailing clubs and the accumulated wisdom of their members. However, we always
make a contribution. Most thoughtfully – and generously – both offered a
welcome to visitors, as well as visitors’ membership options, a service of
which we would definitely avail ourselves if we were staying in Weymouth for a
week or more. You can’t beat local knowledge, and taking out temporary membership
makes an appropriate contribution to the continued running of the club.
We used our
trusty Navionics app on our ancient iPhone 4 and base model iPad 2018. We have
to tether this cheapest non-cellular iPad to the iPhone 4 for positional
updates, but the charts are always accessible without a cellular connection or
Wi-Fi. Note that Navionics is available on other platforms too.
Cruising guide app
well as being a convenient staging point along the Jurassic Coast, is an
excellent cruising base in its own right. Any powerboat putting into Weymouth
should take time to potter over sheltered Portland Harbour and explore
astounding Chesil Beach. While there, do not miss the strange but oddly
alluring Fleet Lagoon. Looking further, local boats can make for the Solent or
points west. Poole, Bridport, Lyme Regis, Exmouth, Torquay, Paignton, Brixham,
Dartmouth, Studland Bay, Swanage and Salcombe are popular destinations. Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove are more or
less on the doorstep. If crossing the Channel to the Continent, then Brittany
and the Channel Islands are superb cruising destinations for local boats.
Remember: Weymouth provides the shortest crossing to France west of Folkstone.
Approach by road
Use the A354.
Parking in Weymouth can be interesting in high season. If arriving by car for a
recce before bringing your boat by road, our advice would be to ring the marina
for their local knowledge. Mind you, a triumphal procession up the River Wey in
your own boat is our preferred approach option!
Rail and bus links
Weymouth Station is about a 10-minute walk away – handy for crew changes.
by air are not straightforward. Hurn Airport is approximately 30 miles away, so
would need an expensive taxi ride for a crew change. Taxi, 50 minutes: £120 –
£150. The train takes an hour: £30 – £40. Line 737 bus/train option: £10 – £16.
Despite the incongruity of the bordering shopping area, the lack of a petrol berth, no waste pump-out or on-site boatyard services and chandlery, we reckoned that compact Weymouth was easily the easiest-to-like marina we encountered in the whole of 2018. It was the one marina and location that appealed to us all as a family crew. Also, its sister marina at Portland has all the required facilities, and is only a short trip away over the harbour. You also get the fuel discount. Moored up to a pontoon in Weymouth Marina, you have the facilities of a town within anchor-chucking distance, a fine river alive with vessels to your stern and a great seaside resort within walking distance. A nature reserve is just upriver, and most things you want are within strolling distance. It is no surprise that others agreed with our positive verdict – Dean & Reddyhoff’s Weymouth Marina was awarded Winner of the British Yachting Awards in 2018. Great minds think alike …
approximately halfway down the famous Jurassic Coast. In fact, the Jurassic
Coast extends for 95 miles from Orcombe Point in East Devon to Old Harry Rocks
in Dorset. The layers of sedimentary rock can be read like a geological
textbook, and thus take the reader back in time. Fossils found all along this
coast are the remnants of living creatures that thrived in this area many
thousands of years ago. In fact, the range of life found in the Jurassic Coast
fossil records extends to 185 million years. The remains of dinosaurs,
pterosaurs and even petrified forests have all been discovered along this
coast. Charmouth Beach is a popular fossil-hunting spot for families.
Nothe Fort at
Weymouth is a Victorian military installation. It lies on its own short peninsula,
which projects into Weymouth Bay. Nothe Gardens are nearby. Situated right on
the Weymouth Harbour entrance, it is an impressive but rather austere sight
when arriving from seaward. Started in 1869, it was built by the Royal
Engineers to protect Portland and Weymouth harbours. It was completed in 1872.
Nothe remains one of the best-preserved examples of British military
fortification. It has bombproof casemates, and magazines buried deep
underground. It was purchased by the local authority in 1961 and is a Grade II
listed building. These days it is a very popular museum and tourist attraction.
It is said to be haunted.
Ten fun facts about Weymouth
1. The Romans
sailed up the Wey to found their town of Durnovaria (Dorchester).
was first mentioned as a port in 1100.
used to be two towns on either bank of the Wey: Weymouth and Melcombe Regis.
4. The Black
Death was thought to have been brought to Britain, via Weymouth, by a Gascon
sailor in 1348.
5. King George
III came to Weymouth for his holidays, popularising sea bathing in the process.
famous painted statue to King George III was erected in 1810.
7. In 1872,
the River Wey was dammed to improve the harbour, thereby making Radipole Lake.
8. In 1940,
Guernsey residents were evacuated to Weymouth, fleeing the German occupation.
9. In WWII,
half a million soldiers left from Weymouth for the invasion and liberation of
harbour scenes in the 2016 film Dunkirk were shot in Weymouth