Dartmouth and the Dart River

Norm at Dartmouth Yacht Club.jpg

After one night in Poole, we decided we’d move on down to the Dart River to visit Dartmouth and then head up to the small town of Dittisham, on the suggestion of a couple we met in St Peter Port, Bruno and Elizabeth.

We expected the trip to take about 6 or 7 hours, but with the currents and wind against us, crossing Lyme Bay seemed endless. Peter was kicking himself for not charting out the move with more precision, as it took us 8 hours longer than planned to finally reach Dartmouth.

As per my usual M.O., I fell asleep around midnight, leaving Peter at the helm, and I awoke as we neared our destination. By the time I came up on deck, Peter had successfully navigated us through the notoriously tricky entrance to the Dart River and had his sights on an empty spot on a visitor’s pontoon.

It was about 2am, and by some miracle, two guys got off of their sailboat to come give us a hand with the lines! What luck! They asked Peter if it was our first time there (it was) and were genuinely impressed that he’d got us through the narrow entrance and to the dock. We gratefully threw them our lines and asked what the heck they were doing out on deck so late. They replied that they’d just arrived from the Scilly Isles and were enjoying one (or maybe two) scotches before bed. Boy were we glad to see them!

The next day, we awoke to the scenery. Wow. Our pontoon was on the Kingswear side of the Dart, and Dartmouth, the legendary port town, rose from the banks on the other side. The traffic on the Dart is intense. Pleasure craft, ferries, water taxis, navy school training boats of all shapes and sizes, barges, fuel and rubbish platforms… The place is buzzing. We needed provisions and had to cross over this riotous madhouse of a river. We hesitated to take the tender, but then decided to go for it. We arrived easily enough on the other side, and tied up in the space for visiting dinghies.

We crossed the quay and headed towards the old market on Victoria Road, where we found some wonderful fish. We stopped in at The Deli on Victoria street, and got some wonderful cheeses and take away salads. The store is intoxicating!

There are also excellent bakeries, butchers, wine shops and grocers, everything for the hungry sailor!

We headed down to investigate the fortified lookout on the edge of town, and on the way back, had a carry out beer from the Bayard’s Cove Inn, a cute little cafe and hotel that offers biodegradable beer cups! While that may not seem newsworthy, I’d like to see more establishments doing the same.

Then, as we made our way back, we saw the Dartmouth Yacht Club(you can even watch their webcam here!), and wandered in to inquire about showers. There, we found a very colorful local character at the bar: Norman, a thin, bearded man in a bright yellow sailor’s jersey and a pair of oversized galoshes.

We got to talking and soon learned that not only had he been on the sea most of his life, he also works the morning shift on the fuel dock in the middle of the Dart. One beer led to the next, and we made fast friends with Norm, the barkeeps and another nice sailing fellow who happened to be there. Perhaps Peter can remember their names?

Back on board, from our spot on the pontoon, we kept hearing the sound of a steam engine chugging by… I’m hoping Peter can insert his video of the train, as it was a lot of fun to see. We didn’t know it yet, but we were to run into that train again in Dittisham, where it serves Greenaway, Agatha Christie’s summer home and gardens.

As much as we enjoyed Dartmouth, it was soon time to go. We had a dinner date that very night with Peter’s old friend Nigel and his lovely wife Ella, up in Dittisham. We debated meeting in a local pub, but decided we wanted them to see Opsimath and dine on board. So, I needed to throw together a dinner fit for a king (and queen), and we needed to make our way up the river.

More soon…

Dartmouth.jpg
Victoria Street
Dartmouth Inner marina.jpg
The inner harbour

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