Portland Probus Club

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Meeting Place - The Heights Hotel, Portland
Next Main Meeting
Thursday 2 January 2020
Talk by our very own
Joyce and Rob Scott on Namibia
commencing at 1130
but we all meet for coffee from 1030 onwards

Next Interim Event - please see Programme
website updated  6 December 2019 - Rob Coward

Latest News
Mike Duthoit's article on our Club is
published in the Probus magazine
that you have just received
- see page 25

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Thursday 5 December 2019
President Rob welcomes new member Rachelle

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Portland Probus Club Revue and Christmas Lunch Party

Just where has this year gone?  It really does not seem a year since M.C. Trevor was introducing star acts at last year’s revue.

Needless to say there was much excitement and anticipation as the biggest club gathering this year met up in the hotel café area for refreshments.  Although not compulsory, it was nice to see an assortment of Christmas jumpers, waistcoats, ties etc being worn.

As usual the ‘heavies’ started shepherding us through to the main meeting room at 11.25 am where we were directed to tables of 10.

The aim at this meeting is to keep announcements to a minimum but, there is usually somebody who ‘bunnies’ on and this year was no exception with the publicity officer talking about feedback forms.

President Rob handed over to Trevor as soon as he could so the show could start.  Many of last year’s stars made a welcomed return and even though members of the Royal Manor Ballet Company were unavailable, we were still provided with a first rate show.

Trevor handed each table a selection of Christmas jokes which were read out with groans and sighs when the punch line was read out.  He then introduced Chris who this year was playing the bagpipes. It quickly became apparent that Chris was not blowing.  I later quizzed Chris who told me that he had made the bagpipes himself and that he used a hot water bottle and some electronics to help create the sound.  Anyway the instrument produced some pleasant melodies.

Next, a man appeared in a kilt and beret and of obvious Scottish extraction.  He related a lovely little ditty about a sparrow.  Well done Jim.

Our MC then had the privilege of introducing us to that wonderful harmonious singing duo of Carol and Angela who delighted us with several songs loosely based on Gilbert and Sullivan and then a rendering of Santa Baby.

Today our star act was President Rob.  If you were not there then you would never has guessed what followed.  Rob appeared fully dressed up as Elvis Presley.  He then proceeded to gyrate around the stage miming to several of Elvis’s hits including  ‘Falling in love with you’ and ‘Teddy Bear’.  It was quite a spectacle with many photographs being taken and at one stage I thought I saw something being thrown onto the stage!  It was certainly something different and a good finish to the show.

The Heights then served us with Christmas lunch which rounded off a very enjoyable morning and indeed Probus for 2019.  After lunch President Rob thanked the Height hotel for today’s lovely meal and also for all that the hotel does for us during the course of the year.  He made presentations to Duty Manager Lynn with many other hotel staff members present.

Mike Duthoit
5 December 2019

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Thursday 21 November 2019
Visit to The Mill House Cider and Clocks Museum

This is the second time that I have visited Mill House Cider and Clocks.  The last occasion was maybe 15 / 20 years ago.  I could be shot down for writing that I do not think much has changed since my first visit.

This is in no way distracts from the fact that you can spend a very enjoyable half day here, coupled, if you so wish, coming away with some locally produced and nice cider or cheese.

Today we were a group of 21 who met up on a cold, chilly and cheerless morning at 10.30a.m to be told we would not be starting off with a caffeine intake.  What! No coffee.

No, we went straight into the clock museum which is largely filled with Longcase Clocks, (Grandfather clocks to you and me), many dating back to the 18th century with some earlier.  Our guide explained that this museum was started in the 1960s and is mostly filled with Dorset clocks.

Luckily we were given a   paper guide with a list of commonly used Horological Terms. I thought I knew what a Train was but it turns out it is a Series of gear wheels.  A Single train is a Clock which only tells the time.  I might add that there are also Two-train, Three-train, Going train and Striking train as well but I will not expand on the meanings here.  I could tell you what Pendulum Escapement and Verge Escapement are but, you would just say I was showing off.

What is apparent is that what started off as Philip Whatmoor’s hobby has turned into a splendid collection of clocks which the public can view.  These clocks need to be kept in low light, with a dehumidifier so as to protect some delicate mechanisms.

Coffee break whew!  We actually sat watching a cider video depicting the pressing of apples on a very early apple press.  Mill House cider started in 1985.  We stood watching a batch of apples being washed, cut up and pressed surrounded a large collection of big demi- johns with cider in various stages of fermentation.  We even had an opportunity to taste the juice. It was amazing how little the method or indeed the equipment has changed. The press used today was well over a hundred years old.

At 12.30 we departed for the Red Lion for a lovely lunch and some jolly good chatter which ended another well organised Probus event.  This time our thanks go to Carol and Geoff for making all the arrangements and ensuring everything went smoothly.

Mike Duthoit
21 November 2019

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Thursday 7 November 2019
Talk by Stuart Morris on Portland Lighthouses

A talk by Stuart Morris is always full of interest and this one was no exception !

A history of the 3 Portland lighthouses from Roman times, when beacons may have been lit as warnings to ships, right up until today when new equipment is to be installed.

This talk is about so much more than the actual "lights".  We learnt  how the big corporation ie Trinity House  refused in the late16th century to agree  to the building of a lighthouse, no account being taken of local knowledge (was it ever thus?) the persistence of Holman and Langrishe paid off so two towers were built. The first light was lit in 1716.  By 1752 Trinity House had taken over control and have so remained.

Stuart took us through the construction of a new Lower Lighthouse in 1788, the updating of the Higher light at the same time, further reconstruction in the1860's and then the building of the present tower in 1905 and the decommissioning of the two other lights.

He also explained how cutting edge the workings behind the lights had been; from coal fired with glazed lanterns to oil fired with highly polished reflector, this was the first use of this invention and became standard throughout the world, to an electrically lit revolving lenses installed in1905.

This was also a talk shot through with nostalgia as the great revolving lens has just been dismantled and new LED lights are to be installed.  Beautiful photos showed the last beams as we all know them spreading out across the sky.   Recordings of the fog horns were amazing, evoking many memories for those who lived within their range.

I hope that our friends from Weymouth enjoyed this talk as much as those of us who have lived  within the ambit of the lighthouse.

Stuart also treated us to a short film of his visit to the Tracy Arm fjord in Alaska.  Absolutely stunning!  Next holiday destination.

Ann Ashworth
7 November 2019

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Thursday 17 October 2019
Visit to Weymouth Golf Club (WGC)

Fore! Fore! This was not really appropriate as we were sitting in the very comfy and pleasant first floor of the WGC, where there was little likelihood of a strange golf ball coming our way.

We were a small, some would say select, group, of 14.  It should have been more but, there were several late cancellations due to a spate of illness.

After a rather nice cup of coffee we were fortunate to be given a talk by Norman who has been associated with the WGC since 1961!  Norman gave us a very detailed account of the history of WGC including the trials, tribulations and financial issues which have been encountered in the club’s 110 year old existence.  A flag flies celebrating WGC centenary in March 2009.

It was difficult, at times, to hear what Norman was saying due to the activity in the kitchen close by and also the presence club members and another group.  What did come was over was how dedicated the WGC staff and volunteers have been.  The first golf professional was with the club over 60 years, the present professional has 31 years service in and the head green keeper has put in 41 years.

I have to admit my eyes kept wandering outside where the intense green colour of the grass and its immaculate condition just did not seem real, certainly compared to my own lawn which has only just turned green after being brown most of the summer.

The only condition which prevents golf being played at WGC is a hard frost – but how often do we get these in Weymouth?  As you would expect there is friendly rivalry between WGC 620 members and Came Down with approximately 700 members but also co-operation.

Over the years many celebrities have played on the course and these have included Charlie Drake, Russ Abbott, Kenny Lynch, Jimmy Tarbuch, Jethro as well as those who have played in Pro-Am tournaments.  At the far end of the bar there is a small memorabilia room displaying not only cups but photographs and newspaper cuttings which are worth looking at.

The Hardy View Restaurant is a franchised operation and is open to the general public, as indeed is the bar, not just WGC members.  I have to say that I had one of the best pie and pint meals I have had for a long time and at an extremely good price.  Whilst we were gathered at the 19th tee we did not observe much happening on the other 18 holes but, there were several substantial showers of rain so not surprising really.

Thanks go to Graham who managed to arrange this visit and Norman’s talk at short notice due to the need to cancel the proposed A La Ronde visit.

Mike Duthoit
17 October 2019

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Thursday 3 October 2019
Talk by Douglas Beazer on The Royal Train

I suppose that it was only logical that we should have a talk on the Royal train after previously having had 2 talks on the Berlin Military train and also going on a club steam train ride on the Swanage Railway.

As usual there was a real buzz in the Heights hotel coffee room as we met up prior to the meeting.  It has been after all been two weeks since we last meet up, so there was a lot of catching up to done.

President Rob started the meeting off dressed in what Beate used to call his H….. jacket.  Rob gave a brief resume of last Monday’s committee meeting.  When printed, all members are entitled to read the minutes of this meeting.  Several other committee members brought members up to date on forthcoming club events and activities. The burning issue, mentioned by both Rob and Alan, is the need for a volunteer to be Vice-President next year so as to complete our proposed committee line up for 2020/21.

Our speaker on a return visit, Douglas Beazer, was introduced by President Rob.  It was soon very apparent that Douglas who spent 25 years in the Army, 20 years at Yeovil College, 23 years as a Beaminster councillor has a strong interest in the railways.

Douglas commenced his talk by giving an overview of ways and types of transport used when the Royal family travel by air, sea and land.  The Royal train is just one such option.  The Royal train was used for the first time in 1842 by Queen Victoria.  This was on a journey from Slough to Paddington which took 33 minutes.  The present Queen re-enacted this journey in 2017.  Queen Victoria introduced the first toilet on a train in the world and Douglas duly showed us a picture of it.

It is interesting that there are only 4 principals who can use the Royal train – The Queen, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.  There are 9 coaches – 7 the Queen’s and 2 specifically built for Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1982.  The standard of furnishings and fittings is higher than that of the Orient Express.  Three 3 diesel engines are used and there is a pool of over 100 possible drivers.  The Royal train does not travel overnight.  Douglas showed us that the cost of the Royal train in 2014/15 was £800K.

Thank you very much indeed Douglas for your interesting and informative talk today.  I am sure that we all learnt something about the Royal train we did not know before today.

Mike Duthoit
3 Octoberr 2019

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Thursday 19 September 2019
Visit to Martyrs Museum at Tolpuddle

When we arrived at the Martyrs Museum, Tolpuddle, I was surprised that Mo and I were the first to arrive – something we are not noted for.  After nearly 10 minutes and still the only ones it twigged we should be at the Martyrs Inn – plonkers.

The upside of this error was that it gave us an extra walk through what is a delightful and extremely attractive village. The downside was that there was little coffee left when we met up with the other 25+ people on this visit.

Our group sauntered back up the road to the museum where we were met by Tom who manages the museum and estate.  We all stood outside in glorious sunshine, looking over countryside in all its glory, whilst Tom spent an hour giving us a very detailed and comprehensive background talk on the economic and political history leading up to six martyrs’ story, Union and TUC connections. I felt this visit was a welcome continuation of the visit that we made to the Historic Courthouse Museum in Dorchester earlier this year.

The Martyrs Museum is small and could only just accommodate our group. The story and history of the martyrs is well told mostly by printing on hanging banners. There is some commemorative memorabilia on view.

It was interesting to learn that the row of cottages in which the museum is centrally situated was built on behalf of the TUC in 1933 to house agricultural workers.  These properties were the first to have electricity in the village.   As an aside whilst we were listening to Tom we were slightly distracted by probably 100 or more house martins who were there one minute and gone the next but nobody saw them fly off.

We strolled over to the church graveyard to view the grave stone of James Hammett, the only martyr to return and live in Dorset.  This grave stone was designed and carved by Eric Gill who amongst other things carried out work on the BBC‘s Broadcast House.  Ken kindly told us more about James Hammett.

On going to the smallest village green in England, Ken showed us the 320 year old sycamore tree and its much more recent sibling.  This old tree has been designated 1 of 50 Great British Trees.
All this knowledge and learning makes one thirsty and hungry so we quickly made our way back to the Martyrs Inn for what turned out to be a very enjoyable and filling late lunch.

Thank you very much too  Graham and Pat for organising a splendid outing to the Martyrs Museum, the talk by Tom, and Tolpuddle in general, as well as making the arrangements for lunch at the Martyrs Inn pub.

Mike Duthoit
19 September 2019

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Thursday 5 September 2019
Talk by Bill Coombes on The International Space Station

Well that was different!  I must admit I was apprehensive before the meeting as I presumed that this talk would feature technical aspects and perhaps leave me a little bemused and not a lot knowledgeable – how wrong I was.

Whilst drinking coffee before the meeting I looked around and quickly assessed that there was a good attendance today – at a quick count I put it at 50+. Jolly good but not surprising with the school holidays ended and grandchild minding and visitors descending for a stay at the seaside finished.

As usual President Rob and other committee members brought members up to date on events and other matters of interest, before our speaker was introduced.

Our speaker Bill Coombes, started his talk by showing us on his computer that the International Space Station, (ISS), was flying over Australia. Bill then proceeded to give us an informative but very easily understood set of facts and figures about the ISS.

What is usually in many peoples minds is how the basics of life are dealt on the ISS especially eating and going to the loo. These did not have to be explained as we were shown a short 10 minute video featuring Sally Williams, an astronaut, who showed us the food larder, and demonstrated how the toilet facilities worked, how to brush teeth, comb your hair and then where the astronauts’ slept. She also demonstrated on video weightlessness.

Bill then explained that there were 3 main dangers. These were fire, food supplies and the devastating impact debris can have in space. Some interesting and unusual experiments and trials are constantly being carried out some, just in order to ensure that the astronauts’ do not become bored! Zinnia flowers and lettuce are grown.

All the latest Cannon and Nikon cameras are sent up to the ISS to be trialled. Bill certainly had some terrific photographs taken from the Cupola which Bill likened to a greenhouse where the glass is 28mm (1 1/8” ) thick, which were stunning and covered a wide range of differing topics including volcanoes, mountains, rivers, big cities and individual monuments like the Egyptian pyramids   

I learnt many interesting facts such as, Velco is one of the most useful items, the ISS never goes over the poles, 14 countries involved with working and financing the ISS.

The ISS weighs 37600kgs, (414 tons), 390 astronauts have been to ISS since 2000, the ISS travels at 17500 mph at 250 miles above the earth and is powered almost solely by solar. It circles the earth in roughly 92 minutes’ if fully staffed there are 6 astronauts on ISS.

Thank you very much indeed Bill for giving us such a super talk.  I understand that this is one of 18 talks that you deliver and I certainly hope that it will not be too long before  you are invited back to address us again.

Mike Duthoit
5 September 2019

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Thursday 15 August 2019
Visit to Kingston Maurward for Garden Tour and Picnic

After a wet start to the day, 18 members enjoyed an excellent visit to Kingston Maurward in beautiful sunshine.  After the usual coffee as befits all visits, we were treated to a guided tour of the gardens by head gardener Nigel.   He gave us a brief history of the house and explained how the last owners of the house, the Hanburys, developed the gardens that we saw today. Their vision was gardens divide into “rooms”, of which, two were defined by colour, the Red Garden and the Rainbow Garden.   There was the Crown Garden, the Herbaceous Border as well as the Japanese Garden.  From our expert, we were interested to learn about a large collection of penstemons growing on the Penstemon Terrace and where the best place is to grow them in our own gardens.

We moved across the parkland with its beautiful established trees down to the lake and on down the oak walk, past the Grecian Temple to the Elizabethan Manor House and beyond to the Walled Garden.  Originally this was the kitchen garden for both houses and now it is a valuable resource as a teaching garden.  Here the students at the college learn about flowers and plants, learning how to look after them and the names of the wide variety that grow there whilst maintaining the garden.  Our final visit on the tour was to see the enormous green houses, probably the most valuable resource for the students where they look after tender plants in the winter and propagate new plants.  In a very suitable position, on the same site one large green house acts as a classroom.  I am sure everyone found Nigel’s talk as fascinating as I did and thank him for his time and for imparting lots of knowledge.

We were joined by Lucy and Chris and Rob (with dog) for our convivial picnic lunch in an idyllic setting above the lake on the terrace in front of Kingston Maurward House.  Finally thanks to Judith for arranging such a well organized event.

Margaret Chapman
15 August 2019

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Thursday 1 August 2019
Talk by In-house Speaker Sarah Studley on Life on a Working Farm

It was extremely impressive that three quarters of club members came to hear our in house speaker. This should not have been a surprise as I have found that some of best and most interesting speakers have come from our own club members. Sarah certainly continued this tradition.

In true Naval fashion President Rob opened the meeting spot on time but, not before there was a minor panic through there not being sufficient chairs!   Rob thanked Andy for organising another luncheon at Abbey House.  How Andy manages to book splendid weather year after year is a real wonder.  Unfortunately Rob had to mention the vacancies which will occur on the committee in the coming years and sought volunteers to fill vacant posts.  Other committee members then gave meeting updates on forthcoming activities and speakers.

On arriving this morning I was walking up the stairs just behind Sarah and President Rob and overheard Sarah saying how nervous she was feeling about speaking.  Well, it is certainly did not show as Sarah talked to us for a good hour without any notes or visual aids in an amusing and absorbing way.

If nothing else I am glad that farming did not come within a million miles of being a career choice.  Who would want to work 80 hour weeks, 365 days a year, be out in all weathers, suffer costs and variable or no income, and be affected by your stock becoming ill and many other disasters and events mostly beyond your control.  Sarah did and would not have changed it although admitted it has taken its toll on her body.

Sarah recalled how she trained as a nanny and then met her husband Pedro a fisherman!  She told us how they started on a 100 acre farm in partnership initially owning 2 cows Mandy and Christine.  Yes, all her cows were given names.  Over a period of time the number of cows rose to 40, to 60, then 80 and when they joined forces with a neighbouring farm and had a greater acreage, 220 cows.  Over time the farm had a bout of brucellosis, suffered milk quotas, butter mountains and Sarah suffered from pneumonia herself.  She is proud that her son introduced the New Zealand system into milking and calving, the first to do so in the country and which made life slightly easier.

Over the years Sarah and Pedro experimented with various initiatives such as raising sheep, growing maize, growing potatoes, going organic, and raising heifers.  Sarah not one to stand still is now in the process of overseeing the completion of holiday cottages and involved with a charity involving young people and horses.

In addition to everything else Sarah is an artist, keen gardener and has also playing badminton and squash. Wow!

Wendy thanked Sarah who, she has known for over 45 years, for a super presentation to which I and everybody else I am sure wholeheartedly agrees.

Mike Duthoit
1 August 2019

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Portland Probus Club
Monday 29th July 2019
Committee Meeting

A new look, and a new experience! This is what happened to the 8 out of 10 members of the management team of our probus club who met this morning.

We were greeted by our secretary David at his house and after an inspection of his (well Sue’s really) garden which was ablaze with a wonderful display of colourful flowers, directed to an area outside his back door.

David had set up tables and chairs so we could hold our planned committee meeting alfresco (I think the club’s first committee meeting held in the fresh air?).

Although these meetings are scheduled to start at 10.00 a.m. sharp and nearly always do so, being outside tended to throw members off for some reason and we were later starting this morning.  Maybe it was because we took too long over coffee and chocolate biscuits! As it happened the agenda did not contain any big or problamatic issues so the late start was not crucial.

President Rob received reports from chairmen, chairwomen and chair people. (Politically correct and do not want to offend anybody)  Quite often these reports can be interspersed with amusing quips and a wandering off the subject, today for example we managed to get onto seagulls snatching dogs, and I am not sure how this occurred.

As Andy said “In the 9 /10 years I have been on this committee I have always found it fun, enjoyable and a very social occasion”.  How many could say that about attending committee meetings?  I have not served on the committee as long as Andy but, agree with his sentiments

Okay what was discussed?  Well we talked about memberships, numbers in the club (You know what I mean!) amongst other items. Rob did mention By- laws and the Constitution at one stage but, I think I switched off for this section of the meeting.

The aim is to restrict the 6 meetings we hold a year to an absolute maximum of 2 hours but, today we finished at 11.20.a.m. or thereabouts.

Our President mentions at our monthly meetings the need for new members to join our Probus Club committee. You are probably thinking no that is not for me as; it will be fussy, stuffy and regimented.  You would be wrong on all counts.  In addition you would be able to influence what the club does and get you views across and heard.

Please do consider taking on a role, none are too onerous especially as a new look committee would enable further new experiences to occur.

Mike Duthoit
29 July 2019
P.S.  We need a new Treasurer for the next Probus year – how about you?

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Thursday 18 July 2019
Abbey House Lunch

As on many occasions before, Mary and Andy organised not only a superb lunch but also wonderful weather.

Thank you so much Mary and Andy and also many thanks to Abbey House for such excellent food and service.

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Thursday 4 July 2019
Welcome to new member Jane
Talk by Mike Colbourne on Monkey World

It is always nice when the president opens the meeting by inducting a new member into our club. President Rob had that pleasure today with Jane Hall joining us. We look forward to seeing and getting to know Jane better at our meetings and events. We sincerely hope that she obtains much pleasure and enjoyment as a member.

Various committee members gave us updates about events, news of members suffering with medical ailments and sadly the passing of Vic. Wells.

How lucky we were that Mike Colbourne was able to step in as our speaker. We really could not have had such an enthusiastic, emotional, humorous and knowledgeable person to speak to us on Monkey World.

Mike has been working with primates for something in excess of 50 years with 6.5 years at Chester Zoo, 27.5 years at Bristol Zoo and then 20 years at Monkey World. He certainly used this vast experience to maximum effect with some wonderful examples and tales of things his work has involved.

Mike started by telling that Monkey World opened in 1987 with the aim of stopping and rescuing chimpanzees, on a 65 acre site near Wareham, from the horrific steps that went into obtaining chimpanzees in Spain for photographs with holiday makers.

There are now over 250 animals at Monkey World which have come from a variety of sources including closed zoos and discarded pets. Monkey World has also helped 27 governments stop the black market in monkeys. Mike had some photographs with him but, I do suggest looking at the Monkey World website where there are many more.

Monkey World is the largest rescue centre in the world. It is proud of being the only breeder of woolly monkeys, a critically endangered monkey.

All monkeys arriving at Monkey World undergo a health check.   They are lucky in having a Harley Street dentist to look at teeth.

Mike told us that an adjoining 151 acres have been purchased next door to the existing site with a property which can be used for weddings and as an educational centre.

To conclude what was a really excellent talk,  even for those not particularly interested in monkeys, Mike managed to get Rob to pretend to be newly arrived  chimpanzee (stop it!) with a view to demonstrating how a monkey can be trained. Mike does many talks and apparently Rob was first class at obeying commands given (I know unbelievable but, others as well as me can bear witness).

Mike thank you very much for entertaining as well as educating us so well. Apart from anything else the hour plus that you were speaking certainly flew past.

Mike Duthoit
4 July 2019

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Thursday 20 June 2019
Motor Vessel (MV) Freedom Boat Trip out of Weymouth Harbour

We can count ourselves lucky that on the day, 20 members attending this event organised by Wendy had been blessed with weather conditions to enable our group to take to the sea on MV Freedom.

Unfortunately, the lunch arrangement at the Kings Arms had to be changed due to the venue closing without notification. At very short notice Wendy arranged lunch at the Library café and I think this proved to be successful given the size of the tea cakes!

I write this as an afternoon sailor but I’m sure the morning sailing was just as enjoyable. Before sailing, a safety brief was given by the crew and then we all struggled into our life jackets.
We set sail at 14:00 and headed out of Weymouth harbour into the bay before taking a starboard turn towards the north entrance to Portland harbour. At this point David Geary was at the helm, being closely supervised by the skipper.

MV Freedom made its way towards the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessel Wave Knight tied up alongside at Portland Port. We then made a heading in towards the Mulberry harbour structures left over from the D-Day landings 75 years ago. It was fascinating to be so close to these massive structures as we sailed around them noting the statue figures depicting British and American troops as well as dockyard workers atop placed there by the D-Day Museum in Castletown.

On our way out of the harbour we witnessed a pair of team GB yachts practicing turns with great athleticism around buoys placed 50 metres apart.

As we headed out into Weymouth bay eventually turning into a south westerly direction towards Weymouth harbour the wind picked up forcing some of us into the cabin although those hardy members remained seated at the stern.

Along side at her berth at 16:15, a great afternoon as I am sure the morning sailing will agree, so it is a big thank you to Wendy for organising this brilliant Portland Probus event.

Graham Gardiner
20 June 2019
 
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