Tucked away within the inner harbour, and behind its own substantial rock breakwaters, the marina offers complete protection. The area is however severely windswept and subject to some movement in heavy easterlies. Safe access is available night or day, at any stage of the tide and in all reasonable conditions.
Keyfacts for Portland Marina
SummaryA completely protected location with safe access.
Position and approaches
Haven position50° 34.451' N, 002° 27.249' W
This is the northwest head of the breakwater, at the entrance, where a light Fl(3)R.10s and the International Port Traffic Signals are exhibited.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
- Contact the Harbour authority on VHF Ch. 74 [Portland Harbour Radio] or P: +44 1305 824044 and ask for permission to enter.
- Enter the harbour via the north North Ship Channel adhering to the International Port Traffic Signals at the entrance.
- Follow the marked path into the marina.
Not what you need?
- Small Mouth - 0.7 nautical miles NNW
- Weymouth Harbour - 2 nautical miles N
- Weymouth Marina - 2.1 nautical miles N
- Church Ope Cove - 2.4 nautical miles SSE
- Ringstead Bay - 5.5 nautical miles NE
- Durdle Door - 7.3 nautical miles ENE
- Lulworth Cove - 8.4 nautical miles ENE
- Worbarrow Bay - 9.2 nautical miles ENE
- West Bay (Bridport) - 14.3 nautical miles NW
- Wareham - 14.7 nautical miles ENE
How to get in?
Portland Marina is an extensive modern marina set into Portland Harbour which is located on the northeast side of the Portland Peninsula. The harbour is protected by four vast breakwaters broken by three entrances of which only two may be used for access, the southernmost entrance being obstructed. Portland Port, fronting the north side of Portland Peninsula and in the southern part of the inner harbour, was formerly a naval base but is now a busy commercial harbour. The modern purpose-built marina lies close west of the commercial harbour.
Portland Marina has 500 berths with ample visitor capability and a dry stack facility. It has a maintained depth of 4.5 metres CD and, with prior arrangement, can accommodate yachts of up to 50 metres (165 feet) in length. The least depth in the approaches is 4.3 metres CD.
There is no need to pre-book a berth in Portland Marina but visitors should contact the marina office whilst approaching in open waters, P: +44 1305 866190 or VHF Ch. 80 call sign [Portland Marina], so that a suitable berth may be made ready. However vessels of 16 metres or more should call in advance so they can be best accommodated by calling the above number or E: firstname.lastname@example.org to secure the dates. Likewise, group bookings from clubs and class associations should make arrangements in advance.
Mooring fees per night, for 2017, are £3.20 per metre incl. VAT and electricity. The marina offers a stamp album, collect six overnight visits and the seventh is free. Groups of 8 or more boats berthing overnight will receive a 10% discount.
The harbour authority request that all visiting yachts ask permission before entering or leaving the harbour area. They may be contacted on VHF Ch. 74 [Portland Harbour Radio] or P: +44 1305 824044. Leisure craft should keep a listening watch on Portland VHF Ch. 74 and use the North Ship Channel entrance to enter the inner harbour.
Approaches to Portland Harbour area are provided in the Weymouth Harbour entry.
The initial fix is set in 12 metres, about 200 metres eastward of ‘B’ Head, and on the south side of the North Ship Channel. The North Ship Channel is the recommended approach for all non-commercial vessels, entering or exiting the inner harbour. This keeps the East Ship Channel clear for commercial shipping.
Craft less than 20 metres may use the East Ship Channel if it is clear to do so, provided the Harbour Master is contacted, VHF 74 [Portland Harbour Radio], and grants permission.
Although rarely used, both entrances to the inner harbour and the Portland Marina breakwater, are under International Port Traffic Signals (IPTS) traffic signal control which must be adhered to at all times The lights are stationed on Fort Head, 'C' Heads and the head of the marina breakwater.
- • All lights flashing Red - All vessels await instructions. Entrance closed await instructions from Marina Control (VHF CH 80).
- • Fixed Red Sailing vessels are departing the Sailing Academy. No other vessel is to approach in such a way as to impede the safe passage of these vessels.
- • Fixed Green Sailing vessels approaching the Sailing Academy. No other vessel is to approach in such a way as to impede the safe passage of these vessels.
Berth as directed by the marina staff. The usual visitors' berths are on ‘R’, ‘S’ and ‘T’ pontoons, just inside the entrance and close to the fuel dock.
Why visit here?First recorded as Portlande in 862, and as Portland as early as Doomsday 1086, the name is made up of ‘port’ and ‘land’, meaning ‘land by the port’. Portland Bill, first recorded in 1649, receives its ‘Bill’ from the Olde English word bile meaning a beak that is commonly used to describe a promontory.
The Isle Portland, truly a promontory, has been inhabited since at least the Mesolithic period or the Middle Stone Age. The Culverwell Mesolithic Site, located close to near Portland Bill, has produced archaeological evidence of inhabitation from between 7,500 and 8,500 years ago, making it the oldest known site of permanent residence in Britain. The Romans saw Portland’s strategic importance and occupied it, reputedly calling it Vindelis. They established the primary settlements that exist to this day and their tenure is marked by various burial sites, and Roman stone sarcophagi, that are dotted around the island.
The Saxons established Portland's first parish church of St. Andrew's, at the separately covered Church Ope Cove, as well as various defensive works on the island that would be needed to defend against the Danes. The first recorded Viking raid within the British Isles, including Ireland, occurred in Portland’s Church Ope Cove in 787 AD. This contact was to herald a new and bloody era of Danish raids, invasions and ultimate national control. It was followed by a series of French pirate incursions over the following centuries who found the port all too readily accessible.
Portland Castle, along with it sister Sandsfoot Castle overlooking the island from the Weymouth area, was constructed in 1539 by King Henry VIII. It was a Device Fort, or Henrician Castle, built to protect against French and Spanish invasion after his divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his break with the Catholic Church. Built to be used in conjunction with Sandsfoot Castle, the whole of the Portland Harbour was able to be covered by the two fort’s artillery. Portland Castle was built low and stocky with rounded walls. Its design was to make it less of a target and to deflect what shells might come its way. During the English Civil War 1642-1649, it was taken by the Royalist supporters of King Charles I, and then survived two sieges before finally surrendering to Parliament in 1646. Portland Castle continued to serve as a fort until the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 when it was converted into a private house, although it was requisitioned during World Wars I & II.
Both the castles were made of the island’s white hard limestone ‘Portland Stone’ which the island had long since become famous for. Dorset’s most famous writer Thomas Hardy noted Portland as being ‘the peninsular carved by time out of a single stone’ and that stone had been quarried since Roman times. As early as the 14th century it was being shipped to London and when Christopher Wren, the architect and Member of Parliament for nearby Weymouth, chose it for the new St Paul's Cathedral it became London's choice of building stone. Six million tonnes of Portland Stone was used to rebuild destroyed parts of London after the Great Fire of London of 1666. It has been extensively used in major public buildings throughout the British Isles, including the eastern front of Buckingham Palace, and has been exported to many countries for buildings such as the United Nations headquarters building in New York City.
The idea of using the stone in breakwaters to make the anchorage of Portland Roads into the finest deep water harbour in Europe was first suggested for in 1794. It would not be until half a century later, 1844, that Parliament would approve it. There was then a pressing need for a new naval base specifically designed to provide coal to a new steam-driven navy. Situated mid channel with quick and easy access, Portland was ideal. HM Prison Portland was opened in 1848 to provide the convict labour to quarry the 10,000 tonnes of stone a week required for the breakwaters and various defences created around the harbour area. All of which, during the 1860s, represented one of the great construction projects undertaken by the Victorian Engineers and the country's most expensive public project.
The foundation stone was dropped into the sea by Prince Albert on the 25 July 1849 and the
completion-stone was laid by his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, on 29 July 1872. The completed breakwaters consisted of two main arms with an entrance near Portland, and this was achieved by placing 6 million tonnes of Portland stone on the seabed, from the Isle of Portland east and north towards Weymouth for a distance of 1.5 miles. Once completed Portland became the base for the Channel and the Home Fleets plus a depot for submarines, and the Isle boomed. The base proved to be the ideal quick-in-and-out channel coaling location, and as warships started operating on oil, a naval refuelling location was subsequently constructed.
With the advent of the torpedo as a standard naval weapon, there was a worry that ships in the harbour would be vulnerable to attack from Weymouth Bay. It was therefore decided to completely enclose the harbour by building two more arms to the north that would link to the shore at Weymouth, and these were constructed between 1893 and 1906. A further barrier against submarine attack came in 1914 when the redundant battleship HMS Hood was scuttled across the South Ship Channel entrance that offered a potential access route for U-boats or for torpedoes fired from outside of the harbour. During World War I Portland Castle operated as a base for seaplanes.
But the strategic importance of Portland's Naval Base and Dockyard brought it into the frontline of the war effort during World War II. Portland was subjected to 48 air attacks and a mass attack by Stuka dive-bombers in July of 1940 which sank the anti-aircraft ship HMS Foylebank in the harbour. To combat the attacks various light and heavy anti-aircraft batteries were established around Portland and Weymouth, that included the Verne Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery that can be visited today. In 1944 Portland became the embarkation port for thousands of Americans on their way to Omaha Beach on D-Day, or Bloody Omaha as it became known.
After the war, Portland’s easy and convenient channel access made it the ideal location for naval sea training. With the advent of the helicopter, and its importance as an anti-submarine weapon, an airfield was built on the old seaplane bases at Chesil to work in conjunction with ship's helicopter flights. It was called Royal Naval Helicopter Station HMS Osprey, sharing the name with the shore establishment. The site was also a preferred base for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary who carried the fleet's supplies, and it later became a centre for testing and developing new helicopters. RAF Portland also hosted part of the cold war Rotor early warning radar system.
The Royal Navy dominated the harbour for 150 years until it was dispersed of as part of the reduction of the Royal Navy in the 1990s. The Harbour was sold off in 1996 at the cost of about 3000 jobs to the local economy. The harbour’s future was to become a civilian concern, targeted at being a centre for water sports and as a service facility for Channel shipping. It was, therefore, an important coup that the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) was chosen to host the sailing events for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Thanks to the WPNSA, to the South West Regional Development Agency and the spirit of the 2012 Olympics, the area received an investment of over £40 million in infrastructure development to provide world-class facilities such as the purpose-built National Sailing Academy, at Osprey Quay, and Portland Marina, to complement the superb sailing waters for the events. Dean & Reddyhoff Limited were chosen as the developer and operator of Portland Marina. It is one of five marinas owned and operated by the company that include the nearby marina at Weymouth along with East Cowes, Deacons and Haslar.
Today a nine-mile path runs around the peninsula making the Isle of Portland easy to explore on foot or rented bicycle. Particularly fascinating is the southern tip around Portland Bill past the three lighthouses and the atmospherically decaying old quarries with rusting cranes and derricks. Portland Bill’s epic 35 metre high red-and-white striped lighthouse, built in 1906, can be visited up to the light itself by those prepared to take on its 153 steps.
Portland Castle, juxtaposed with a series of ultra-modern buildings and overlooking the National Sailing Academy, is one of the best preserved Tudor castles in England. It is now opened to the public under the custodianship of English Heritage. Sandsfoot, its sister fort, is unfortunately in ruin, largely because the cliff on which it sits has been progressively eroded by the sea. The 2012 Olympics are remembered today by Albion Stonemason's carved Olympic rings in Portland stone, and of course the investment the harbour area has received. When the last two breakwaters were completed in 1906 Portland Harbour was the largest man-made harbour in the world. It is still the third largest, after Ras Laffan Harbour in Qatar and Cherbourg Harbour across the channel in France.
From a sailing perspective, Portland Marina offers easy access at all stages of the tide. It has well-sheltered berths with a broad range of first-rate facilities a short stroll up the pontoon. It is an ideal gateway to cruising the West Country. With fair winds, it can be reached on a single tide from the West Solent and it also offers an excellent stepping stone port for the return journey. For a cruising yachtsmen, looking for an overnight berth before catching the next tide westward, or eastward, it is the perfect stepping stone. It also offers a convenient point of departure for vessels intending on sailing to France or the Channel Islands. This is especially the case for Dean & Reddyhoff Limited berth holders who benefit from 21 free overnight visits a year, subject to availability, and unlimited free day visits between its sites.
Those with a little more time on their hands should note that the North Entrance is just a mile south of Weymouth so there is little time to be saved from the alternative location of Weymouth Harbour that has much more facilities and historic charm. But it would be remiss not to explore the interesting Isle of Portland for anyone passing this way. This can be easily achieved in a day’s walk, and the marina makes the perfect starting point.
What facilities are available?All visitor berths are served with power and water, and these are included in the berthing fee, Wi-Fi, phone connection and satellite TV hook-up. High-quality private washrooms and showers are provided on the top floor of the Marina building immediately ashore at the top of the access ramp. Laundry and ice are available in the administration block. The office is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is also a free internet cafe with three PCs available during office hours.
Petrol and diesel are available from the fuel dock immediately inside the entrance. Pump-out is available on T pontoon. The marina facilities shore side are extensive, and include a travel hoist capable of lifting boats up to 50 tonnes and 18 metres long, a powered boat mover, and an undercover dry-stack facility for boats up to 8.5 metres. A Chandlery with gas on site is in the main retail building facing the car park next to the pub. Electrical services, marine engineers, general repair and riggers are all available on site.
"The Boat That Rocks" restaurant is immediately ashore and The Cove Pub, at the Portland end of Chesil, is well worth the 10-minute’ walk. Bike hire from Weymouth Bike Hire P: +447973 751393 can be pre-arranged with the marina office.
Any security concerns?A high level of security is provided. Electronic coded gates control access to the car park and pontoons, all supplemented by automatic lighting throughout the car park and a comprehensive 24 hour CCTV system. The site is also home to the Dorset Marine Police, who have a fully operational Police unit onsite.
With thanks to:Michael Harpur S/Y Whistler. Photography with thanks to Michael Harpur, Nicholas Mutton, Roman Hobler, AJ Smith, Leimenide and Raimond Spekking.
Portland Marina Approaches
Weymouth and Portland Overviews
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