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Difficult decisions post-lockdown

The Harbour on 7 July 2020: photo by Malcom Mackley

That was quick! All of a sudden the Harbour has filled up, boats launched, moorings taken, beaches buzzing and even the sunshine has returned (at least while I am writing this) and our solar panels are producing hot water. It was a speedy transformation brought about by the coming together of the pent-up energy of the boating community, some of whom would normally have gone abroad at this time of year, and the astonishing hard work and preparedness of the Harbour staff. This will have made a big step towards repairing the black hole in the Harbour’s finances, but was not an ideal way to launch the Harbour dues scheme based on engine size.

There are more elements to complete the picture. The land slip at Ditch End which has closed the road to the Venus Café, shut down Millbay car park and filled East Portlemouth with cars has yet to be rectified; but the completed Gara Rock is doing a thriving trade. Moreover, South Pool’s Millbrook Inn is re-opening.

However, it is not plain sailing for small local businesses which have had no income for months and have to decide whether to take out a loan to allow them to reopen. Although interest rates might be low, the gamble is on the weather. If the summer is fine, they may earn enough to repay the loan; but if the weather collapses, they will be deeper in debt and go under. One has only to look at the number of shop and restaurant closures across the UK to see the risk – and we are nothing like over Covid-19. That blessed day will dawn, not when a vaccine becomes available which could even be the end of this year, but when both a high percentage of the population has been successfully vaccinated and new cases (including British travellers) are not importing Covid-19 from other parts of the world. In a ‘normal’ year about 130 million passengers (around 350,000 a day) travel through Heathrow and Gatwick alone.

Finally, here is something which does not seem to have been widely reported. In the middle of the acute Covid crisis, the two landing craft, LST-507 and LST-501, which left Slapton Sands on 27 April 1944 as part of Exercise Tiger only to be torpedoed in Lyme Bay with the loss of 749 US lives, have been given the protection of Scheduled Monument status. Gradually we are coming to recognise the sacrifice of that awful disaster.

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