Will a headland provide enough shelter?

You have a tired crew and you plan to anchor for the night. Will the headland provide enough shelter? James Stevens answers your Questions of Seamanship

A yacht anchored in a bay by a headland
In a southeasterly wind, does this SW-facing bay offer adequate protection? Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Will a headland provide enough shelter?


George is returning to the Solent from a West Country cruise in his 11m yacht.

It has been a tiring trip in a fresh northeasterly across Lyme Bay but now, in late afternoon, they are past Portland Bill and the sea is calmer.

George has decided to anchor for the night in Chapman’s Pool, a pretty bay nestling under the cliffs which run east-west.

The pool is open to the south west, on the eastern side is the headland St Alban’s Head, which George reckons will give protection from any east in the wind.

The pilot book confirms that conditions should be calm in the present wind direction and on arrival the bay only has a couple of anchored yachts and provides a calm refuge from the wind.

A chart showing Chapman's and the headland

Credit: Maxine Heath

George finds a spot to anchor having checked the chart and the tidal height, ensuring he has sufficient depth at LW.

No one on board has any phone signal so George listens to the Coastguard forecast at 1930. For his area it is northeasterly 4 to 6 becoming southeasterly.

The tidal stream, which runs at 2 knots, has just turned back towards Weymouth and Portland harbours which are 14 miles away.

To the east, Poole is 12 miles. All offer sheltered moorings.

Is this wind shift going to feel uncomfortable or will St Albans Head protect them?

Would it be better to rally the tired crew and leave, in which case should they go east or west?

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As soon as the wind moves to the south, Chapman’s Pool is going to be uncomfortable.

A bay facing south is always going to be a difficult anchorage in any wind direction from the south. St Alban’s Head will make some difference in a southeasterly but not enough to give a quiet night.

It would probably be safe enough but trying to sleep would be difficult.

So George is faced with telling his tired crew that if they continue for a little longer they will eventually get the quiet night’s sleep they crave.

Ideally, they would continue on their journey to Poole but this involves more windward sailing against a strong tide.

It may be possible to find a back eddy close to the cliffs but it’s going to be an unpleasant tiring trip as night falls.

The crew are not going to have any enthusiasm for waiting until late for the tide to turn to the east.

Weymouth/Portland is downwind and down tide and is achievable in a couple of hours. Even a tired crew can handle a short sail on a broad reach.

So my choice would be the easy trip back to the west.

In hindsight, George should have noticed the wind veer in the forecast before he attempted Chapman’s Pool. Obtaining a forecast before anchoring is vital.

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