One family had an extra special festive encounter, when a curious dolphin made a visit to the coastline off Weymouth and Portland.

Janette Baldwin was out sailing with her family just after Christmas when they spotted the cheeky dolphin in Portland Harbour.

Mrs Baldwin said the encounter was "absolutely thrilling".

"My son was staying with us for a few days with his wife and children. It was a lovely day and really enjoys sailing so we thought we should go out on the water," she said.

With six of them on board, they had set sail in their 40ft catamaran, Drop In The Ocean from its mooring in Portland Marina and dropped anchor just outside the harbour wall.

"We had put up the sail and lifted the anchor and along came a nosey dolphin, right up to the boat.

"We set off to sail to Castle Cove and it followed us. It was going under the boat and up the side, then up to the bow and back - just generally having fun.

Mrs Baldwin said they were the only boat of that size in the harbour at the time and the dolphin seemed to be checking out all the people on board.

"We have never been that close to a marine creature before. It was literally within inches of the boat. It would dive and you thought it was gone and then it would suddenly appear again at the other side of the boat.

"It was really thrilling to see an animal like that. It was such a surprise – we were just going out as usual," Mrs Baldwin said.

She added the encounter had left "magical memories" and brought the experience of sailing alive for her grandchildren.

"Thank you Santa," she said.

Bottlenose dolphins are regularly seen along the coast, including off Weymouth and Portland and near to Swanage. A marine project based at Durlston, near Swanage, records sightings of dolphins in the local area.

The Echo reported a dolphin joined a family on a boat trip on Christmas and in November, a dolphin entertained rowing teams off the coast of Weymouth and Portland in November – it is possibly the same animal.

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