Dag Pike discovers solitude at the semi-circular Chapman's Pool on the Dorset coast, which is often overlooked by cruisers
When you look at the chart Chapman’s Pool appears to be the perfect anchorage, the one you dream about finding if you are cruising to get away from it all.
It is a semi-circular bay with steep sides for protection and little sign of human habitation to spoil the delights of isolation.
Located on the south coast between Poole and Weymouth, it is an anchorage that is usually bypassed by yachts cruising this stretch of coastline.
It can, however, be a popular spot for day-trippers on a hot sunny day.
One fatal flaw
Chapman’s Pool looks like one of those places that should have been developed as a small resort or even as a port but it has one fatal flaw.
It is wide open to the south and south-west, which is where the prevailing winds come from.
If you plan to spend the night then you need to take a close look at the weather forecast.
Only use this anchorage in settled conditions when the wind has a strong northerly element.
Chapman’s Pool is tucked in just to the west of the striking St Alban’s Head.
To reach it coming from the east you head close in round the headland and then follow the coast, keeping a quarter of a mile off the coast.
This should keep you out of the lively seas of the St Alban’s Race, which stretch offshore, where you will usually find about three standing waves as the tide pours over the shallow ridge.
Coming from the west there are no off-lying dangers to worry about and again the St Alban’s Head will provide your guide for entering.
There is two metres or more of depth quite close up to the shore except on the west side where a shallower patch stretches out towards the centre.
There are no guiding marks, so the sounder is your guide coming in to anchor and you can judge your position quite easily by eye.
With the high land all round, you may find the GPS erratic as satellites disappear below the raised horizon.
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The only buildings here are those around the old lifeboat station that was established here about 150 years ago.
Sadly, it only lasted a few years due to problems recruiting volunteer crew from nearby villages.
Today, the lifeboat house is a boat store, mainly used by local anglers.
The villages of Worth Matravers and Kingston have pubs which might make the hike over the hills worthwhile.
Worth Matravers is the nearest at just under two miles, and the Square and Compass offers traditional pub fare and has a fossil museum.
The peace and quiet of Chapman’s Pool is likely to disappear on a fine summer’s day, when boats from both Poole and Weymouth make the trip along the coast to find this wonderful oasis.
However, the chances are that come nightfall you will have this spot to yourself, with the only disturbance coming from the gentle breaking of the waves on the shore and the sound of the gulls.