A windy day in Weymouth Harbour

A quick sweep of boats bobbing in the waves

Yesterday (19th September 2020), it was a bit breezy here in Weymouth. Still sunny, so we popped out the back door to take a quick film of the Harbour. We noticed, along with the boats, the pontoons were moving significantly under the swell. The chap walking his dog along the pontoons had to pause for a moment to allow the rocking motions to subside. Today, the first “Yachtie” braved the channel and his spot was taken by a luxury cruiser (sorry, no photo).

First pleasure craft of the Summer

Yachts are returning to Weymouth Harbour

Weymouth Harbour looking out toward Nothe Fort: an early Summer Yacht, 7th July
Weymouth Harbour looking out toward Nothe Fort: an early Summer Yacht, 7th July

It is great to see pleasure craft starting to return to Weymouth Harbour. The lockdown has been long and devoid of much normal activity. Yachts and Tall Ships have been sorely missed this year. Although there have been a few stand up paddleboarders around.

The “bounce-back”

We have seen most of the Guesthouses and Hotels re-opening this week. Pubs and restaurants are starting to open again and it is good news all round for Tourism. Even Covid-19 nes is reasonably good recently. Dorset cases are believed to be below 2 cases per day. The UK Government has pledged to buy 100 million doses of a trial vaccine (ADZ1222) from Astra-Zeneca?Oxford UNiversity. Also, UK is purchasing a further 60 million doses of “ASO3” vaccine from Sanofi/Glaxo-Smith-Kline, despite worries earlier about availability. Hopefully, one or both of these vaccines will prove effective.

Harbour changes – Pleasure craft return

Meanwhile, in the Harbour, the pontoons are back and align better with available services (power, water, etc). There is hope for a new Harbourmaster appointment. The new Ferry Steps are open and Weymouth Bay cruises are back. Unfortunately, the Portland Ferry and rowboat ferries will not start till 2021. There is hope that a new cross-channel Ferry may be in sight, following negotiations.

More yachts on 7th July, early morning
More yachts on 7th July, early morning

A postcard from Weymouth fishing fleet

Postcard Series

Weymouth is one of Britain’s busiest fishing ports

A (very) brief history

There has been a fishing port at Weymouth since Roman times (strictly at Radipole via the River Wey). The Port moved to Melcombe Regis in the mid-13th Century, trading spice and other goods. A century later, the port was the entry point for the Black Death. The two towns of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis united in 1571.

Pilgrim Voyages. The discovery of Newfoundland and colonisation of Massachusetts
The discovery of Newfoundland and colonisation of Massachusetts

In 1635, the Ship Charity carried pilgrims to the new land of America, founding Weymouth in the present-day state of Massachusetts. Weymouth made many contributions to history over the centuries. Probably the biggest was embarkation of over 500,000 troops heading to the Normandy Beaches in WW2. Today, we are highlighting Weymouth fishing fleet.

Fishing vessel setting out
Fishing vessel setting out

Fishing in Weymouth

The Sea near Weymouth is relatively sheltered, tending to circulate (nutrients) more or less gently around the Bay. The habitats range from sea grass meadows and kelp, to rocky ledges, gravel dunes and erosion beds. This mix of environments couples with the stream of food sources from the English Channel. This sustains a rich and varied marine fauna.

Offloading the day's catch of whelks outside Weyfish
Offloading the day’s catch of whelks outside Weyfish

Protecting the Environment

Much of the Dorset inshore area falls under the Marine Conservation Act. As a consequence, the impact of more aggressive industrialised fishing methods has been minimal. Most inshore fishing uses a more traditional style, with smaller boats, having pots, traps, hand-lines and static nets.

Middle Harbour. A new fishing centre is planned a few hundred metres away
Middle Harbour. A new fishing centre is planned a few hundred metres away

Mirroring commercial activity, Sea-angling from Chartered boats has become a major local industry. The sport contributes a significant portion of the National £1.3 Billion National sea fishing recreational industry. There are 11 local charter boats and thousands of anglers visit Weymouth every year for wreck and deep sea angling.

Weymouth also houses the second CEFAS Laboratory (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science). Here, the principal work invlolves operating the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI). Additional work includes that for numerous UK and International organisations. The FHI monitors and enforces restrictions on fish and shellfish imports.

The Fishing Fleet

In a recent survey in 2018, there were 39 fishing vessels in the regular fleet. Of these, 36 were under 10 metres and average age was 28 years. Most were using nets, traps, pots or lines (for bass). Weymouth lies close to Poole, Brixham, good fishing grounds and Ferries to the EU. This makes the port popular for numbers of “nomadic” crabbers and whelkers. Over 40 species of fish and shellfish are common sights at Weymouth. The annual catch value is about £4 million pa and weighs about 8000 tons. Crabs and whelks make up about 85% of the total weight. The smaller boats tend to catch more bass.

Fish transport and processing

Normally, Live crabs, scallops and lobsters are transhipped by lorry (e.g. MacDuff’s) to Poole for ferrying abroad. Whelks typically serve Asian markets. Weymouth is the second largest port for landing line-caught bass, while the processing of the catch occurs on Portland before auction in Brixham. Major UK fish processors benefiting from Weymouth catches are Samways (Bridport), Dorset Fish and Shellfish (Poole), MacDuff (Mintlaw) and Weyfish (local).

Weyfish

There has been a Fish Market in Weymouth for 150 years. In recent times, Weyfish took over the building and renovated throughout. Up to 40 species of fish and shellfish may be found, depending on conditions and season. Specialties include fresh bass, mackerel, pollack, plaice, oysters, clams and lobsters. The company owns 3 boats in the Weymouth fishing fleet (Ellie Ann, Shaman and Cheetah Cat). The catch is fresh and never frozen. Our neighbours tell us the bass is to die for – superb quality.

Weyfish amid massive crowds for the Seafood Festival in 2019

A postcard from Weymouth Harbour

Postcard Series

Peace and quiet in Weymouth Harbour

Always relaxing to watch the boats go by with just the gulls for company

Weymouth Harbour has been a port since Roman times and played a role in many historical events. These included contributing vessels for the Siege of Calais, capture of San Salvador from the Spanish Armada, the English Civil War and D-Day. There is a plaque on the Harbourside denoting the site where Bubonic Plague (The Black Death) is thought to have entered Britain in 1348. Emigrants aboard The Charity founded Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Plaque to Richard Clark (discovering Newfoundland in 1585) and John Endicott (Pilgrim voyage to Salem, Massachusetts, 1628)
Plaque to Richard Clark (discovering Newfoundland in 1585) and John Endicott (Pilgrim voyage to Salem, Massachusetts, 1628)

Fisn and chips, peace and quiet

Today, the Harbour is a quiet and relaxing area to stroll or maybe sit and eat fish and chips while the boats go past. There are several excellent chippies to hand plus numerous fine pubs and restaurants. We especially like The Marlborough for fish and chips. However, Bennett’s is also good, as is Fish and Fritz. We find the gulls are not fussy and like everyone’s chips.

Gull waiting for your chips
Gull waiting for your chips

Benches have been added in recent years along the Eastern side of Weymouth Harbour. They are placed along the raised portion of the old railway platform. This makes for a restful location, above the traffic and bustle of the street. During the recent Covid-19 outbreak, the benches have provided rest, great views and an air of solitude for elderly walkers.

Evacuation of Alderney and Jersey residents commemorated in 1940, next to the ancient memorial to Clark and Endicott, near the Devonshire Buildings
Evacuation of Alderney and Jersey residents commemorated in 1940, next to the ancient memorial to Clark and Endicott, near the Devonshire Buildings

Ferry Trips

The old railway tracks are still there, dating from 1865 (cyclists beware!) The Fish Market has recently been refurbished and is becoming a Mecca for seafood connoisseurs. The Rowboat Ferry crosses the water to the Nothe Fort and Gardens – another haven of peace and quiet. The ferry ride across Weymouth Harbour affords excellent views of the Port from an unusual angle. One may also hire charter fishing boats or water taxis to Portland.

Weymouth Harbour Wall Repairs – final stage

Anyone who read our previous blogs on the Weymouth Harbour wall repairs will assume the works finished on 23rd December last year. However, unforeseen problems in the pile driving phase caused delays. These prevented some overlapping tasks, which may now stretch until mid February. It is helpful to compare pile driving to archeology – one never really know what’s down there!

Infilling waling beam trench and gap-filling between the piles

We started writing these particular blogs because we feel repair and strengthening of areas of the Harbour are essential works. The aim is to maintain the beauty and functions of our working Harbour, for years to come. Knights Brown Construction and Dorset Council have been informing local businesses but sometimes late. In any event, the contractors and local authority have been MUCH more informative and responsive than during the ill-fated repairs to the old Condor Ferries Berth 3 back in 2012/3.

Shuttering for the concrete capping (8th January)

At the time of writing (11th January), remaining works included the last capping beam concrete pour and replacing the Ferry Steps. Then there are – levelling, making good, reinstating safety railings, resurfacing and clearing the site. We hope to add a few photos in later updates to this post during these concluding works, as they arise. We may be able to add a short video clip of the finished result. Then we shall be back to blogs about visiting luxury superyachts, Naval vessels, Tall Ships and Harbourside events, such as the Seafood Festival.

Updates (after 11th January)

Update on 15th January: Yesterday’s storm (Brendan) slowed work on the site but more backfilling and welder-cutting for pipe egress was attempted. The crane swayed alarmingly in the wind and work stopped in the afternoon. (No pictures – far too wet and windy!)

31st January 2020 – The large crane (Old Squeaky) left (using another box-crane) and disappeared from site around 11:30 a.m. It transpires, the crane may not have been causing TV interference after all. At least we can now investigate other possible causes, having eliminated the most obvious suspect.

Storm Ciara rattling and tipping over barriers around the site – courtesy of Roundhouse Hotel, Weymouth
One of 15 double-passes by streetsweeper 13th February – road still a mud bath when Storm Dennis hit us – courtesy of Roundhouse Hotel, Weymouth

Storm Ciara caused quite a stir last weekend (8th/9th/10th February,. There were gusts of wind up to 60mph and lots of rain. Some site barriers toppled in places and crashed against Roundhouse walls. The worst of the weather was too rough for filming due to even worse wind and rain later, naturally. (Film clips courtesy of Roundhouse Hotel Weymouth).

Week ending 14th February

Removing barriers and re-opening the road to traffic – 14th February

There remain a few more finishing jobs and complete site clearance takes place next week. Safety railings will come later (etc). However, the repairs are essentially complete and are looking quite tidy. (Footnote, in September 2020, these railings were damaged by vandals!)

Update – 31st May 2020

General view of the repaired area
General view of the repaired area

We promised a few photos of the finished Harbour Wall repair area. We had to wait for the Covid-19 restrictions to permit the works. But here it is and very good it looks too. The final effect is very smart and makes for an attractive feature for residents and visitors alike.

The new Ferry Steps
The new Ferry Steps
The seating area is part of the new amenity
The seating area is part of the new amenity
View from the benches towards Weymouth Inner Harbour
View from the benches towards Weymouth Inner Harbour

And now – the not so good bit –

Way back in October 2018, Council announced these works and promised to compensate affected guesthouses for loss of income. Several more meetings took place during 2019 and negotiators were appointed, BOTH BY COUNCIL (?) for both sides. Council to pay BOTH negotiators.

Estate agent as negotiator – really?

It turned out, the Council negotiator against the hoteliers was actually an estate agent, from Symonds and Sampson. (Why not the very long-established property services or assets and infrastructure teams already working at Council, for decades? Why not solicitors? What would estate agents have to offer, really? The assets and property section of Dorset Council had a total expenditure budget over £13million, so why spend another £4,848 externally? It’s not like they were short-staffed or under-funded – projected nett budget over £5million!)

Unreasonable delays and argument

The estate agent appeared to be most tenacious in dragging out proceedings beyond all concept of reasonableness, but he was probably just following Council instructions. On the other hand, the hoteliers’ negotiator (a2a Consulting Ltd) appeared no speedier. Typically questions were not asked till weeks after submission and not answered, usually with deflection, several more weeks later still. It is likely both negotiator teams earned many £1000’s in time spent on arriving at a final offer which satisfies nobody and angers most of us. Their fees come from the Public Purse, of course. (£4,848 for Symonds and Sampson alone).

Shortage of facts

As of 9th September, enquiries have remain unanswered, regarding the financial arrangements or selection process for these negotiators, nor any actual benefit derived (if any).

From the little we know emerging from behind the strict veil of secrecy (public works affecting numerous businesses owned by Council !) it seems the individual guesthouses will receive very different sums in compensation, some may receive nothing and in the worst cases, their business costs will be DEDUCTED from their compensation – in effect, they are paying twice over for running costs.

Seemingly unfair payouts still awaited

A couple of guesthouses received interim payments in February, but in the form of rent refunds (maybe there is a legal reason for that obfuscation). And the final compensation has STILL not been paid (as of 9th September 2020). For orientation, compensation was promised October 2018, works started 29th September 2019, finished late on 13th February 2020 – so there seems little if any excuse for a further 7 months of fruitless wrangling over minute details, which were in the end largely discarded by Council anyway.

Council’s leaden hand strikes again!

In typical fashion, Council has taken a brave and high quality project and turned it into argument and poison, a nightmare to everyone concerned. A quick payout back in, say, March, even at reduced amounts, could have avoided all this negativity but Council thrives on negativity, doesn’t it!

Sorry there is no happy ending to this post.

Christmas Day Swim – Weymouth Harbour 2019

Or – The great Walls of Weymouth

The Christmas Day Swim in Weymouth Harbour took place this year in brilliant sunshine. In fact, the sun was so bright, it made photography very difficult from the South side (finish line). We are indebted to Oakes Insure for some excellent photos from the starting jetty.

Christmas Day Swim conditions

The air temperature for the Charity Swim was about 10 degC, also the water temperature (according to google – Alexa). There was very little breeze but the shock of hitting cold water exposed several swimmers to cramps, “brain-freeze” and some muscle injuries (including Mark – Wobbly Fish). There were 471 competitors in 9 heats and upwards of 20,000 spectators watched till the end. The Christmas Day Swim raised £1000’s for Charity (plus not a few goosebumps). (See our YouTube Channel for other videos).

There was due to be a fourth member of the Wall family undetaking the swim but an unfortunate “illness” overtook Karl the night before (early “brain freeze”). We are hoping to get Claire to have a go next year…..

Raft Race across Weymouth Harbour – 31st August 2019

Raft Race on 31st August 2019 – Weymouth Harbour

We were alerted to an event going on behind Aaran Guesthouse on 31st August by the booming voice of Steve Davies, Weymouth’s noted commentator. We emerged to find a raft race, between crews, mainly in fancy dress, proceeding from the Ferry Steps behind us to the steps on the opposite bank. There were about 8 crews: For us, the Vikings stood out, with sneaky tactics of squirting bale-out water over rival crews as they paddled nearby. The entrants all successfully avoided returning fishing boats.

On the far bank was a welcoming committee, including a small dinosaur. About 100 people watched the event, which had all the flavour of a typical Weymouth activity – eccentric, fun and something always happening. We searched afterward for news online but could find none. We imagine the race may have been connected with RNLI Charity events concurrent in Bridport/West Bay and Poole. Anyway, it was a fun and interesting diversion from cleaning the kitchen (again!)

(Footnote: currently, October to December 2019, the Harbour Wall up to 20m either side of the Ferry Steps is being repaired)

Weymouth RNLI Celebrates 150 years of Lifeboats

28th July 2019

Weymouth Lifeboat Station opened 150 years ago and this year, the event was celebrated with a flotilla of lifeboats through the ages. This took place right behind Aaran Guesthouse, in Weymouth Harbour, so we were well placed to view the parade of boats. Of course, every day we also get to see the “parade” as the Weymouth fishing fleet returns home after a long day inshore. Yet another Weymouth Harbour event.

(See our YouTube Channel for more videos)

Spy Drone over Weymouth Harbour – 16th/17th July 2019

Survey Drone overflies the Devonshire Buildings in Weymouth

Some people imagined it was Amazon delivering a “cloak of invisibility”. A few thought Putin was spying on us, or Facebook, or Google or any number of possibilities. In fact, it was a survey drone sent to image the buildings. The inspectors were looking at facias and roof structures for possible existing damage. Alternatively, they could assess risk of damage which might occur during Harbour Wall repairs later this year.

As “spy drones” go, this was a somewhat noisy affair. One could imagine Taliban fighters (etc) spotting the machine and shooting it out of skies within a few seconds of deployment. Onlookers noted a level of “dissatisfaction” among the populations of rooftop gulls, rooks and crows, during its flight pattern. We do not know whether militarised spy drones are quieter, but we hope so. It was difficult to determine the drone manufacturer nor make of camera carried, but the latter appeared similar to Canon-style video devices in common use. Flight times were about an hour each, in several sessions. Today, 17th, the Pavilion Theatre is under survey. This was a distinctly unusual instance of “sights in Weymouth Harbour“.

As for the Harbour Wall repairs, these start 30th September and last for several weeks, until early December. Preparatory works will lead onto reverberatory pile driving, followed by percussive piledriving, finishing and making good works. It is expected most of the nearby guesthouses, including ourselves, will close during these works, for reasons of noise, access and safety. We hope our respective guests will bear with us and come back afterwards, to enjoy our hospitality, perhaps in the Christmas Season or New Year.

Nyetimber Seafood Festival – Weymouth 13th, 14th July 2019

This year’s Weymouth Seafood Festival was sponsored by Nyetimber, makers of fine English wines. For many years, Pommery led the event and it is exciting to see a new sponsor organise this great event.

We popped out and took a few images (gallery above) around Aaran Guesthouse, on the Northern side of the Harbour. Some of our guests wandered as far as Hope Square and reported live music bands and many more stalls along the Cove Row side of the Harbour. Over 40 food specialists displayed their wares, from the Pavilion Theatre forecourt, down the harbourside to the Town Bridge and back along Cove Row towards Hope Square. Numerous other stalls could be seen, dotted among the main displays and in a few of the Guesthouse rear yards (e.g. The Gloucester at The Lantana). Not forgetting, numerous permanent Pubs and Restaurants, serving great seafood all year round (e.g. Ship, George, Enfants Terrible)

The weather over the weekend was warm, with sunny spells and a light breeze – much appreciated while sitting enjoying the food and the scenery outside the Harbourside pubs. Tens of thousands of visitors crowded the Harbour, looking for the ideal meal among the many options. We spotted crispy squid, “experimental” marmalades (eg. carrot, parsnip, etc), crepes, specialist gin, oysters, Thai Cuisine, Paella, Chimonea-fired pizza, Organic Farm produce, local cheeses, produce from The Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight, as well as some “usual suspects” – Weird Fish, CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) and no less than THREE cooking stages, with famous chefs showing their skills and tips for the public. A great day for exploring with this afternoon (Sunday) still to go…