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Playing Chicken With A Cruise Ship

Weymouth Bay has very much become our home these last few months. Like seasoned salty sea dogs we now leap aboard our Vaquita, like she's our second home.

Once onboard, everyone's got their jobs as we push off. Jen does some 'tapping down' (a technique where you dip your oars in the water a couple times and magically the boat spins 180 on the spot) JP, Em and I watch on with utter disbelief. When there's a slight breeze, JP is in charge of fending. Boat hook in hand, she swings it around like a light saber, helping us bounce off any hard bits (we seem to have a strong magnetic attraction to shinny boats). Em pulls the fenders in, and presses buttons on our chart plotter, and I hold the rudder rains firmly in each hand, face forward, and look serious.

As we exit the marina all we have to do now is dodge the millions of tiny but fast sailing boats charging around the harbour. They're not always best pleased with our route choice, slow speed and lack of sound knowledge of where they're trying to get too.

Then come the kite surfers and windsurfers, who now possess magical powers and the secret of flight.

Finally the last hurdle before we reach the open sea is to navigate through the harbour mouth, where the tides like to flow, and the fisherman like to float.

Finally we reach the open sea. Ok, the bay. The bay is our training ground. From here we cruise along the stunning Dorset coast to Lulworth Cove. Yachts meander around out here, mosquitoes of the sea (jet skis) whizz here, there, and everywhere, and we slowly and steadily cruise up and down the coast.

Currently, the bay is home to at least 7 humongous floating cities - about 15 stories tall, and 100 rowing boats long, they've been hanging out here, waiting for holidays to make a comeback. We used to fear these crazy big boats, intimidated by their size and status at the top of the boat food chain. But like any sleeping giant, we got used to them being there. They make great slalom courses, navigational points and tell us exactly when the tide turns as they all pivot on the spot like synchronised dancers. For 4 months we've played with the dormant cruise ships, mesmerised by the giant high rope courses, flumes that spiral out over the water, and giant TV screens playing football to those onboard the otherwise deserted ghost ships.

One morning we unknowingly entered a game of chicken with one of these 'sleeping' beasts. Heading back home to the harbour on a beeline used many times before and nipping between two liners, we rowed along happily, thinking of the breakfast feast we had earned. Skip and I rowed, JP and Em recently off shift set about brewing a coffee on deck. A quick glance over my shoulder to check we were holding our line.

I thought we passed our last cruise ship? Cue the double take...

...Is that a bow wave?

"SHIP! CRUISE SHIP!" it's not sleeping. It has a bow wave and it's going to eat us. Em ditches the coffee and dives on the auto pilot spinning us 180 degrees and we run. Sorry, row. We row for our lives. The beast is navigating into the harbour and nothing will get in its way. Especially a tiny rowing boat.

As the ship bears down on us, our necks craning up as it now towers above, I've never rowed so hard. Finally, it starts to turn, altering course to navigate into the narrow entrance of the harbour away from us. Giggles erupt. Skip stamps her feet and waggles her finger, and we all can't believe we entered a game of chicken with a boat 1,000 x bigger than us!

I can confirm that breakfast and coffee tastes better after a near squishing experience. All in all a valuable lesson for the big row in four months time!

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