Light easterly winds and a west-going afternoon tide made for a particularly easy passage between Mercury Marina on the River Hamble and Weymouth Harbour in Dorset.

Light easterly winds and a west-going afternoon tide made for a particularly easy passage between Mercury Marina on the River Hamble and Weymouth Harbour in Dorset at the start of the Motor Boats Monthly West Country cruise in company.

A total of 31 motorboats lined up for the start of the event. With sizes varying from the outboard-powered Jeanneau 625Bladeowned by George and Jackie Brooks to Martin and Lee-Ann Woolwich’s Fleming 55End Game, cruising speeds ranging from 12 knots to 25 knots and home ports as far away as the rivers Thames and Trent the fleet offers plenty of contrasts in its ranks. It also includes one prize-winning family: Jim, Janice, Sam and Kirsty Mills have only just won their Sealine S25 for a year in a Motor Boats Monthly competition and they are clearly determined to pack in as much use ofFree Seaas possible.

The fleet will eventually swell to 33 when Norman and Natalie Nathan’s Birchwood TS37Goldiecatches up after a late engine injector change in Dover and when Torbay-based Princess 360Resacajoins tomorrow. That will make it a complete full house with no last-minute cancellations, quite an achievement on the part of all concerned.

The closest boat to nearly missing out was Roger Powell’s Sealine S37Silver Seawhich experienced some last minute glitches after a head gasket change in Eastbourne, but managed to push through to the Solent early this morning to join the event.

There was little in the way of drama for everyone else in the fleet, with only a few minor navigation and electronic instrument niggles to punctuate a passage to Weymouth in idyllic conditions. For the more nervous among the participants it was the ideal nerve settler. For the more experienced who have had to slog against westerlies at the start of a West Country run it was no less welcome.

A quintet of boats decided to pull into Lulworth Cove, just a few miles short of Weymouth. The swimmers among the crew reported the water to be almost warm; the sceptics decided to maintain anchor watch.

Weymouth itself was packed and its fuel berth reported it’s busiest day of the year. It took a little juggling to fit 400 linear metres of motorboats onto the available space alongside Custom House Quay in the outdoor harbour but it was no great chore to slow a little on the approach to enjoy the glistening waters of Weymouth Bay and the striking sculptures of the cliffs along this stretch of Dorset coast. In recent years MBM cruises have used the marina moorings above the bridge but most of rhe visitor space has been released for permanent berth-holders and so we are back to using the quay where we moored the second ever cruise in company back in 1988. In those days it was a case of using long lines against the wall; pontoons have made the process a bit more civilised in recent years.

Tomorrow morning will provide the option for crews to explore the town while diesel fuel is organised for the fleet, petrol is tracked down (no waterside pumps available) and a knocking sound from the transmission gear of one boat is investigated, Then it is another afternoon passage with fair wind and tide, this time to Dartmouth. Plymouth, Falmouth and maybe, just maybe, the Scillies, wait beyond with some fascinating lunchtime stops and West Country river explorations to provide the seasoning.