Rum Sodomy and the Lash

sailing around the world on our yacht, Ruby Rose

Category: England (page 1 of 2)

Sea Shanty Time

It’s obviously that time of year: the Falmouth Sea Shanty is here! One of the songs that is sung regularly goes: ‘What shall we do with a drunken sailor, what shall we do with a drunken sailor, what shall we do with a drunken sailor, early in the morning?’

The lyrics are, perhaps unsurprisingly, apt. We joined the throngs of people by the harbour taking part or just enjoying the festival. We managed to secure a table in the outside courtyard of the pub, and since they weren’t serving food, we popped down to the chippy for some fish and chips. This we ate, whilst listening to the sea shanties being sung only metres away, drinking beer and generally enjoying the vibrant atmosphere. Lovely!

You know what hasn’t been lovely? You guessed it: the weather. Wednesday actually wasn’t too bad. We had sunshine at least.

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Thursday dawned grey and muggy. Of course it did. Why would it be lovely and sunny on my birthday, of all days? Not to worry, we managed. Lunch was had down at a sweet little cafe called Fuel here in Falmouth. I had a burger and it was lush. Drinks down the pub followed, and then it rained, so we simply had to have a second- and a third. Finally, there was a break in the weather, so we rushed back to the boat and enjoyed another crucial birthday treat: a nap. Neil made his promised Beef Wellington for dinner, and it was absolutely delicious. I had declined a birthday cake, but I wouldn’t have had room for it anyway! We were stuffed. Amaretto finished the evening off nicely.

Friday was the day that Neil and Nick decided it was time I came up with an answer to the rhetorical question of ‘What shall we do with a drunken sailor?’ Well, apparently you take him home, let him collapse into bed while you’re back is turned for half an instant, struggle unsuccessfully to remove his jeans, shoes and bulky jumper while he rolls around giggling, and then, when he’s finally in bed, suffer through a sleepless night of him snoring, and getting up to stagger to the loo, alternately. The only positive consequence was the craving for a greasy breakfast, so we wandered up to that same cafe again for breakfast, which was once again excellent. I had the Cornish pancakes, wondering: what makes them different to normal pancakes? Sadly, I continue to live in ignorance on this point. They looked and tasted pretty normal to me.

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So, some exciting news. Despite the seemingly never-ending grey cloud, tomorrow marks the end of the low pressure system which has, as the weathermen say, dominated our weather over the last few days. Which means: we’re finally leaving! We think! We hope! We’re all provisioned up and have a 0800 departure time tomorrow morning. Our crossing will be almost 500 nautical miles, will take roughly 3 full days, and will get us to Baiona, Spain. I shall report back post-sangria!

Fabulous Falmouth

Firstly, we’re still here.

But we’re kind of okay with that. I mean, it’s still cold. And windy. And… England. But Falmouth is undoubtedly a fabulous place to wait out dodgy weather. There’s plenty of walks or bike rides to be enjoyed, and the town itself is very charming- full of cute little shops selling nautical themed pillows and picture frames, and trendy cafes selling artisan burgers, overpriced smoothies full of things like kale and cacao, and tea shops displaying rustic Victoria Sponge or Coffee and Walnut cakes (note the capitals- I take my cake seriously).

Happy Birthday to me!

Getting excited for our own big crossing

On Saturday the AZAB boats departed (I think I said in my previous blog they were leaving on Monday- I was misinformed. Blame Nick). Our friends were amongst them, so we wandered over to Pendennis Marina to say goodbye. There was an awesome atmosphere of excitement and nervous anticipation; lots of people in their wet weather gear, camera crews, and officials in their polo t-shirts rushing around with clipboards. We didn’t linger, and instead walked up to Pendennis Point to find a spot to view the start of the race. We weren’t alone- the point was soon lined with people who had turned out for the occasion. Nick and I got pretty excited knowing that in 6 months time, we’ll be setting off on the ARC, in pretty similar conditions. Hopefully it will be a bit warmer though…

AZAB Departure

AZAB Departure

Our crew arrived Sunday night- Neil and Viv are friends of ours from Conyer who kindly offered to help us out on our Biscay crossing. Neil has crossed Biscay something like six times before, so his experience will be invaluable. Plus he cooks a mean beef wellington. We’ve already put in our order. We’re having it for a birthday dinner on Thursday. At 29, I can no longer claim I’m in my mid-twenties, can I?

So the last few days have really been about getting Neil and Viv settled in, reminding them how we like our tea and waiting for them to offer to cook or do the dishes, and then being like, “Oh, you don’t have to do that! But if you insist…” There’s also been quite a bit of time spent down the pub, but to offset this, Neil’s a keen walker, and so we’ve all been galvanised into getting off our arses and doing some light exercise.

Having a little lie down on our walk

Having a little lie down on our walk

We- okay, Nick- continues to make friends with all our neighbours, as well as anyone else he can get his hands on. I sit on deck, sipping green tea and reading my book, and await his return to hear all the latest gossip. Today he went to pay for another couple of nights, and he came back saying, “You know the girl in the office? It’s her birthday on Thursday too!” I mean, how does that come up in conversation? So I grumpily replied, “Oh yeah, the young one? How old is she turning, then?” Nick loftily declared that he had no idea. I muttered into my tea, “Bet I’m older than she is.” On cue, the reply came, without even the slightest hint of hesitation: “But faaaar more beautiful, my love!” Well trained, this one.

There’s another Southerly 38 here, to our delight. Nick was quick to introduce himself, and compare notes. I understand that the conversation went something like this:

Other Skipper: “Has your starter motor broken yet?”

Nick: “No….”

Other Skipper: “What about your sails- any problems with them?”

Nick: “Nope.”

“Keel pins leaking at all? “

“Negative.”

“Oh, we’ve had huge problems. Lots of things going wrong.” (They continue on this vein for some time. Then conversation turns to sailing plans.)

Nick: “What’s your plans then?”

“Crossing Biscay this week. We’re heading to Spain.”

“Oh great! Us too! Except… hang on. You realise it’s going to be, like, Force 7, Force 8 in the Bay all this week?”

[Force 7/8= Bloody Windy for those non-sailory types reading this.]

“Yeah, we’re not too worried. Besides, our crew has a flight to catch. We’re leaving regardless.”

Nick, to himself: “I’m starting to realise why you’ve had so many breakages on your boat, mate…”

Joking aside, braver- and more experienced- souls than us might be perfectly happy leaving on a Biscay crossing knowing that there’s 3 days of very windy conditions to follow. But Nick and I just want a quiet life, not to mention a bit of sleep on passage, if that’s not too much to ask for. Something that becomes increasingly difficult when the conditions deteriorate.

There’s a certain level of obsession with the forecast at the moment. As I’ve just mentioned, this week has a big fat red cross through it on account of the high winds in Biscay. That’s looking to pass through on Thursday, to be replaced with southerlys and rain. Not much better, but we’re hoping to leave on Saturday. All we can do is keep an eye on the ever-changing forecast and continue to explore Falmouth and its surrounds. Not too great a hardship.

(Addendum: we have just heard that our friend in the azab is getting hammered out there. We are so glad to be tucked up here out of the weather, but wish him and his crew all the best)

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Winter is Coming…

Seriously. It’s cold. I know I’ve been living in the UK for 5 years now and should probably just learn to man up and get on with it, but when I check the weather for Falmouth, and then the weather for Adelaide, and the two are EXACTLY THE SAME despite having opposite seasons, I can’t help but feel a little short-changed.

Baby Swans!

Proof that it really IS spring!

Anyway. I should actually be feeling thankful right now, because the supposed 50 knots of wind that was forecasted never materialised. Or, if it did, I slept through it. We’re tucked into the Falmouth Yacht Haven, a small visitors marina, and have pretty decent protection. So maybe we were just lucky. I was speaking to a gentleman in the laundrette the day after the night before- he had been at anchor and had spent a sleepless night checking that he wasn’t dragging.

Looking after the kids.

Looking after the kids.

Falmouth is one of the UK’s most popular yachting centres. There’s several marinas in and around Falmouth, as well as plenty of opportunities for anchoring upriver- something we would have loved to do, but, well, refer to the moaning above. At the moment, things are particularly busy, and I suspect this is just the beginning of a season full of sailing- related events. On Monday the AZAB (Azores and Back) departs, so there’s loads of yachts coming in for that event. Falmouth is also a convenient jump point for Biscay crossings, and a lot of the people we’re meeting are preparing for passages south. Several have already left, taking advantage of the high pressure system creeping in. Alas, we’re unable to follow as our crew don’t arrive until Sunday.

Getting back to nature

Getting back to nature

There’s certainly an international flavour to the yachts here at the Yacht Haven. Everyone is extremely friendly, and Nick- probably desperate to talk to anyone that isn’t me- has done the rounds and come back full of gossip and other people’s plans. It’s exciting hearing what other sailors have done, and what adventures they’re planning. A lovely couple from NZ and Holland popped over to have a nosy around our boat, and, when I said that I was from Australia, they casually mentioned that they’d also been to Australia.

“Lovely country, Australia,” said the Kiwi bloke.

“Yes, yes it is. Nice and hot!”

“Yeah, you must miss that.”

“I sure do. So. Where in Australia did you go?”

“Oh, everywhere. But our favourite thing was cycling between Darwin and Fremantle.”

“… Sorry?”

“Yeah. Fantastic country.”

“I’m sorry… Darwin to… Fremantle?”

“Yep.”

“On your… bike.”

“Took us three months. Went through the centre. Had to carry all our food and water- we wouldn’t see anyone for days. But we soon learnt! If we saw a pack of gallahs flying in the early evening, we followed them, because they’d lead us to water!”

“Wow…. Just. Wow. That’s hardcore.”

“Oh, that’s nothing. This one-” (points to his Dutch wife) “- she cycled Amsterdam to Amsterdam. Went right around the world on her bike.” Wife nods modestly.

“…”

“Anyway! Thanks for the tour! Good luck!”

Really puts what we’re doing into perspective,  right? People think we’re being daring and adventurous, but I’d never be crazy enough to cross the Aussie desert on a bike with nothing but a couple of panniers of water. Hell, I’d be reticent about doing it in a car!

The Coastal Path

The Coastal Path

So, once the clouds started to break up a bit, we went for a walk along the coastal path. More energetic souls than me can choose to walk the South West Coast Path all the way around Devon and Cornwall. Nick and I managed about an hour. But we have high hopes for round two on Saturday!

Cornwall Beaches

Cornwall Beaches

To be honest, as beautiful as this part of the world is, we’re ready to get going. It’s just too cold to do many outdoor activities. Just sitting in the cockpit is uncomfortably chilly. The paddle board is strapped to the foredeck and hasn’t seen any action since we were in Salcombe. Our staple diet is still hearty fare, such as porridge and chilli con carne, we’re in hoodies and woollen socks every evening, and I’m desperately missing my winter boots, which I optimistically left in our storage unit.

Rocky Beaches in Cornwall

Rocky Beaches in Cornwall

Still. I must remind myself. We’re heading south to the tropics, and have no intention of leaving them until we’re good and ready. Eternal summer awaits, and soon we’ll be looking back on these chilly British summers with fond nostalgia.

 

Another Year, Another Ankle Injury

It’s a warm and perfectly still morning in Salcombe. We’re sitting in the cockpit at 8am, drinking our morning coffee and admiring the stunning surrounds. Now, this is what we signed up for! Absolute perfection. We were thinking of leaving today, but now… well, I don’t want to go anywhere.

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But first- Dartmouth. We visited Dartmouth last year, and sometimes when you return to a place that you have positive memories of, the second experience doesn’t quite live up to expectations. However, this did. It was a short motor-sail from Brixham- we barely had time for a cup of tea- around the headland, then into the Dart River. Dartmouth on one side, Kingswear on the other and a huge amount of activity on the river between. Last year we came during summer holidays and had to stay on one of the island pontoons, meaning a fairly long dinghy ride to Dartmouth town. This year, we were lucky enough to secure a walk-ashore town pontoon mooring, and we had prime position for people watching. Not for the first time, we were glad of our mirrored windows. We could peer out and curiously watch all the people milling on the pontoon, waiting for the passenger ferry. Out of the starboard windows, we had an excellent view of the quayside, and all the activity taking place there.

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On the Friday my friend Kate caught the train down from London, bottle of Prosecco in hand- she’s a good girl. We immediately made a beeline for the pub, where we had beer and burgers to celebrate the beginning of the bank holiday weekend.
Saturday morning, we emerged to warm sunshine. Sitting in the cockpit, in the sunshine, in shorts for the first time this year, drinking coffee and eating our fry-up brekkie, whilst watching the quayside slowly become busier and busier was absolute perfection. Once fed and energised, we all got into the dinghy- miraculously, Kate didn’t fall in the water- and went for a jaunt upriver. The scenery was just gorgeous. Green rolling hills and woodland rose up on either side of the river, dotted with the odd pastel-coloured house or hotel.

Entrance to the Dart River

Entrance to the Dart River

Once back, it was 11:55, which only meant one thing: pub.
In the afternoon, we managed to rouse ourselves to go for a walk- well, two of us did. Nick had a nap. Kate and I walked along the river towards its mouth and the castle that stands at its entrance. We had to pay to see the castle, which was just not acceptable, so we spent that money much more sensibly: on a cream tea in a cafe overlooking the English Channel, which was still as a pool and full of sailing boats. Bliss!
Sunday, Kate returned to London, and Nick and I did very little. Monday, we cast off and made our way to Salcombe, a nearby seaside town which had a reputation for being very beautiful and very busy. Well, it certainly lived up to that reputation, and more: as we entered the stunning river, it appeared to be very similar to the approach to Dartmouth. However, as we rounded the bend and Salcombe came into view, the differences became apparent. One was the series of small beaches to our starboard side, all of which were practically overun by beach-goers. The other was the sheer number of people around. This was the busiest waterway we’d ever experienced. Salcombe itself was beautiful- like Brixham and Dartmouth, a hillside of pastel houses and a teeming quayside. However, we weren’t really able to enjoy the view, since we were busy dodging boats at anchor or on mooring buoys, racing boats, dinghies, paddleboarders, jet-skis, ferries… you get the idea.
We finally found the visiting pontoon- about a mile upstream, which was so peaceful and a world away from the madness of Salcombe town- and tied up. It was just so beautiful, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Perfect spot for a paddleboard

Perfect spot for a paddleboard

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We had a quick lunch, then jumped in the dinghy and joined the throngs of holiday-makers in Salcombe. We explored the town, which was mainly full of expensive nautical shops, and delis or ice-cream shops, not to mention the hoards of middle-class families enjoying the bank holiday and half-term. The yacht club was our next stop, which had an excellent outside courtyard with a commanding view over the harbour. All the tables were taken, so I milled around outside looking for somewhere to sit while Nick waited for drinks inside. And that’s when I managed to roll my ankle.
It was embarrasingly undramatic. There were two steps leading down to the lower seated area, followed by a little tiny mini- almost microscopic- step. It was only about 2 inches high, if that, and, looking around for a seat, I didn’t see it. To the casual observer- and there were plenty- it looked like I’d simply walked down the steps and then froze in place, bent over, and clutched my ankle, effectively blocking the pathway for everyone else. I’m not sure if a spectacular fall would have been more or less embarrassing. A lovely lady helped me to a low wall, where I sat and tried to appear polite and thankful, while effectively telling her to just leave me alone. Nick walked out of the bar and, beer clutched in each hand, spotted me sitting opposite. Needless to say, he was like, “I leave you alone for five minutes…”
My ankle was quite literally ballooning in size in front of my eyes, and so I sent Nick back into the bar for ice. He came back with a glass of water, and some ice in it. Back in he went, this time for a tea towel. Finally, we got an ice pack sorted, the people on the table next to us cleared off, and I was able to sit with my foot elevated on a chair. We were stuck there while the ice and elevation did its thing, so there was only one thing for it… a beer in the sunshine!

Something Fishy

We’re in Brixham, one of the major fishing ports of Devon. Apparently this is very much a working fishing harbour, although the only trawlers we’ve seen have been the ones that take tourists on a jaunt around the bay. Also- only one fishmongers in the entire town! Which is a ten-minute walk from anywhere! Most odd.

Brixham is very pleasant. The town clings onto the hillside, a jumble of pink, blue and yellow terraced houses. The main action is centred around the small drying harbour in which are moored many small fishing boats and dinghies. And, inexplicably, a replica of the Golden Hind. Needless to say, you can’t move for fish and chip shops or ice-cream parlours. On the weekend the place was absolutely heaving, creating a buzzy atmosphere. The sun even made a couple of appearances, which was an unexpected boon.

The lovely drying harbour in Brixham

The lovely drying harbour in Brixham

The high street is less appealing- lots of charity shops and old fashioned cafes. I think the proprietors know their crowd though- I hope it’s not too rude for me to observe that almost every person sitting in the sun enjoying a crab sandwich and cup of tea were also likely enjoying their retirement.

The sail here from Lyme Regis was bracing, but not too awful. We had winds of around 18 knots about 50 degrees off starboard, and were heeled over, but it was only four or so hours. I think it’s also worth mentioning that our mooring was absolutely text book. Nick ferry glided the boat in (sensibly ignoring my calls of, “Watch the bow! Slow down, watch the bow! A metre at the bow!”) with admirable precision. And our bow, of course, was ideally placed half a metre from the pontoon. For my part, I managed to sort out our lines without any major catastrophes. Once again we had an audience, but this was the variety we actually like: sailor-y types who not only come and help with your lines, but then compliment you on a job well done, before clearing off and letting you get on with things.

For the eensy weensy percentage of people reading this who a) don’t know what ferry gliding is, and b) actually care, the best way I can describe it is thus: you know when you’re driving a car, and you find a space along a road which you need to parallel park into? Well, imagine you simply drive up to the park, position your car next to it, then use the current or a strong wind to blow you sideways into the space. That’s what it is. If only that worked in a car, right?

The marina here is full of very well cared for yachts; every time we step onto the pontoon, we pass several people (well, men of a certain age) crouched down beside their beloved boat, with a paintbrush or a bucket, or some other unidentifiable implement used for sprucing up their vessels. The boats are all immaculate.

View of Brixham town from the marina

View of Brixham town from the marina

I was also delighted to discover that we have a new contender for Best Showering Facilities. Brixham draws first with Plymouth (which we are visiting next week, so I’ll come back to you with an up-to-date comparison). You get your own little room, which is quite the novelty- it’s usually cubicles. In your own little shower room there is a shower (obvs), a loo (we all love a private loo), a SINK (we’re getting spoiled now!) and, finally, the ultimate: a hair dryer. It’s clean, you can spend as much time as you want without the water turning cold, or having to listen to everyone else’s inane chatter. You can sing in the shower, shave your legs, apply a 10 minute hair mask, lather yourself in various lotions and potions that are hugely expensive and probably do very little- it’s perfect.

Very pleased about the showers.

Moving swiftly along, we’ve been stuck here waiting out poor weather. Once the weekend was over, the clouds descended and dumped a load of rain on us, the winds picked up and the temperature dropped. Nick has used the opportunity to try out a variety of culinary delights: beef ragu with spaghetti (or spag-bol to you plebs); lemon roasted chicken with stuffing, roast potatoes and greens; plaice fillets with lemon, butter and capers, served with boiled new potatoes and asparagus tips.

You know what, excuse me while I get a snack.

Okay, that’s better. So, apart from napping, switching between Judge Judy, Homes Under the Hammer and BBC 1 o’clock news, and checking the weather forecast with a frequency bordering on obsession, we’ve just been chilling! Catch up with you in a couple of days- tomorrow we’re heading to one our favourite places: Dartmouth.

Pasties, Cream Teas and Fudge

The last few days have been a festival of pasties, cream teas and clotted cream fudge, which can only mean one thing: we’re in the West Country. And what a spectacular part of the world it is too.

Picking up from Nick’s last entry, our first impression of Cowes was a big fat “Meh.” That was upgraded to a polite “Nice” after we went for a bit of a bike ride, but frankly, it’s not somewhere I’d return to. Which is probably a real shame, because the rest of the Isle of Wight is meant to be gorgeous. We did enjoy a bike ride along the river and back, but the real highlights were the quiet mooring- seriously, the boat hardly moved an inch in two days, it was like floating in a still lake- and the Waitrose around the corner.

We rose bright an early on the Wednesday to a glorious morning; there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. However, it wasn’t quite time to crack out the summer clothes- the air temperature was bitter, and we were still wrapped up against the cold. My new sailing trousers have been seeing quite a bit of action, which I find extremely irritating. They were meant to stay in the cupboard.

Now, my experience with sea sickness so far is fairly limited. Nick and sea sickness are old buddies- they know each other well. However, it rarely affects me. When it does, it will invariably be on a day like Wednesday was: perfectly calm, the wind gently blowing us down Channel, and bright sunshine. So there I was, curled up on the couch chewing ginger sweets, eating everything I could get my hands on, and knocking back ginger tea. It’s still the beginning of the season.

So, I was glad to get into Lyme Regis, although by the time we were approaching land I was happily sitting on the foredeck enjoying the sunshine.

The coast of Dorset is absolutely stunning. For those who haven’t seen it, well, you’ll have to turn to Google or something, because even though I’ve finally summoned the energy to unpack my camera from its locker, actually taking photos seems to be a step too far. So, sorry, no photos for you. Apparently this stretch of coast, a World Heritage Site, is nicknamed the Jurassic Coast, because the rock that makes up the spectacular coastline is from the, you guessed it, Jurassic period (also the Triassic and Cretaceous periods, but thanks to Stephen Spielberg, no-one really cares about them). Because of this, you can’t move for fossils, something the tourism industry has gone to pains to capitalise on. Fossil walks, fossil museums, more fossil shops that you can poke a stick at. I excitedly imagined myself the discoverer of a new species of dinosaur or something, but no. It’s more fish and those spiral-looking things (called Ammonites, as I now know).

Our destination was Lyme Regis, which I had never heard of, but apparently it’s well known as a holiday spot for British families. I can see why. It’s extremely quaint. It’s small enough to give you the impression that you’ve just stumbled across Dorset’s best kept secret, yet it has enough going on to create a vibrant atmosphere, even mid-week in May. The drying fishing harbour (more on that in a minute- bet you can’t wait!) is at one end of a gently curving bay. There’s a couple of pubs, a convenient shop, the tiny Yacht Club and a row of shacks along the beach selling fish and chips, ice-cream and burgers. Walk along the promenade next to the pebbled beach, and only a few hundred metres away (if you can’t walk that far without stopping for a cup of tea or an ice-cream, don’t worry- there’s plenty of small cafes along the beachfront) is the town. I say town, it’s tiny, with a short high street with yet more cafes, but also a few bakeries, fossil shops and a Tescos. It was very atmospheric.

View of the bay from Lyme Regis beach

View of the bay from Lyme Regis beach

Back to the harbour. We had called up the day before leaving the Isle of Wight to confirm the harbour would have somewhere for us to moor. They assured us that yes, there were the summer pontoons which they had put out in the outer harbour that very day. Perfect. However, as we approached and radioed for permission to enter, they told us that the pontoons weren’t in use thanks to the Easterly wind. We’d have to go in the inner harbour and tie up along the wall.

The harbour

The harbour

Well, it was an interesting experience. Not the first time we’ve had to tie up to a harbour wall, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, but we didn’t have a fender board and that presented a challenge. There were several ladders and pipes running down the wall which offered even more opportunity to damage our hull, and we scurried around trying to arrange our fenders and lines so our boat was protected as much as possible until we could make a fender board. Of course, this part of the harbour was also a 12th century wall and a site of interest in itself. So, of course, we had an audience. We love an audience, especially when we’re manoeuvring in very close quarters and trying out a mooring technique we’re far from comfortable with. And this seemed to be of the participating kind. So we were peppered with questions as we tried to work:

“Is that your boat? Is it just the two of you? Goodness me, it’s huge [it’s not, but all the surrounding fishing boats were tiny- it’s all a matter of perspective]. How do you manage it, just the two of you? Do you live on it? Where have you come from? Oh, my sister lives in Kent, whereabouts were you? Ohh, yes, I know where that is, it’s near Whitstable, isn’t it? So where next? Spain? Will you cross the ocean? Oh, how adventurous. Well, I’d better leave you to it. You look busy! Good luck!”

Anyway. Very nice people. And my spirits lifted considerably when, instead of wooden blocks for making a fender board, the harbour master and Nick returned with a fender literally the size of a dingy, which we rammed between the boat and the wall. Finally, after about an hour, we were settled in, secure, and reasonably confident our hull was going to remain in one piece.

It was a sunny evening, so we did what any self respecting person arriving into a seaside village would do: went down the foreshore and got a pint of beer and takeaway fish and chips, which we enjoyed on the beach. The fish had been caught that day, we were assured, and boy it tasted like it. Absolutely delicious.

The next day, Thursday, was a bit of a washout- literally; it was raining all day- but Friday dawned bright and, if not warm, then at least not icy cold. So we decided to go for a walk along the dedicated coastal path. Well, it may have been near the coast, but all we could see was wooded forest. Lovely, but not what I was expecting. The path was sodden, and quite slippery in places, so we returned to town and had a cup of tea in the sunshine on the beach instead. Perfect!

We could have stayed several more days, but sleep was a struggle- the boat swung around madly when the wind got up, and the lines creaked and screeched all night. Once the water was out and we were dried out on the bottom it was fine- lovely, actually- but that only lasted a couple of hours. So we decided to get going and move to our next port: Brixham!

Balls, cards, boxes and balls!

This week saw our schedule become tighter as a week that could have been spent preparing for a circumnavigation was spend instead eating various pork products in Germany.
As the blog is meant to reflect sailing,I won’t dwell too much on Leipzig.Suffice to say that it was warm and pretty.
We did however purchase a lovely and totally impractical addition to our yacht:balls.To be more precise 20 cotton balls with Christmas light in.I have seen these in every Thai market I have ever been to, and they cost next to nothing. However,add some fancy packaging,a good choice of neutral colours and the gay man that hides in all of us jumps out and spends 30 Euros on a set.

Cotton lamp balls. A practical addition to any yacht

Cotton lamp balls. A practical addition to any yacht

They are however lovely,and until we get caught in a rough sea where they will be smashed to bits,they’re staying.

Trevor in the marina was kind enough to open up on a Sunday and allow me to retrieve our deliveries. It looked like the dullest version of a Dickensian Christmas as I opened package after package to find ,lovely gifts like burn cream, first aid supplies ,oil and fuel filters.

Spares, emergency supplies and boxes

Spares, emergency supplies and boxe

 

 

We did however finally get our business cards delivered. Now for those of you who may have seen or read American psycho, I have a thing about business cards. I mean, I haven’t as yet come close to murdering anyone for having a superior card. However I wanted ours to look good. Very good. Unfortunately , I will be handing them out over the coming weeks whether you want them or not.

Spangly , spot varnished business cards

Spangly , spot varnished business cards

Now I have a week ahead to tackle another set of tasks on our list, which has ” sort out the forecabin” at the top.
Our forecabin has spent the last six months being filled with sails and all the stuff we have accumulated for our travels. It now looks like a bloody jumble sale.

The Devils work. Our forecabin

The Devils work. Our fore

As you can see, there is all manner of junk to store effectively, including a stand up paddle board, my surf board , which I am going to string up from the roof, and buckets of other things. I have a long week ahead!

[powr-about-us label=”Enter a Label”]

We are running short on time!

I think that our last blog entry was back in the shortening days of last September. January has now rolled around and passed. And we are now sat in front of a coal fire in London contemplating what the next few months are going to involve.

As we set the blog up to chart our sailing progress, I am not going to dwell too much on the interim months since our last entry. Suffice to say that we went to the sun in the Southern Hemisphere for a couple of months.

So where are we now? Well we are off to Spain tomorrow to see Seville and all it holds. We keep telling each other that there is no point in doing work on the boat when it’s this cold. And it does need work! Good friends of ours kept an eye on Ruby while we were away. However, we have returned to find a lovely patina of verdigris covering her decks, lines and woodwork. Through necessity,we have acquired a bountiful collection of heaters to keep warm on these long winter nights . Our eberspacher heating does no quite cut the mustard when it drops below zero, so electric radiators, fan heaters and electric blankets keep the boat at about 24 degrees. However when it snows or falls far below zero, we cut and run back to my parents, which is where I am sat now. An open fire and enough tea and biscuits to sink the Lusitania are constantly on offer. It makes for a very pleasant alternative to life aboard in winter. So as we prepare to leave for warmer climes, our attention is being drawn to the ever increasing list of chores we need to complete before the big push. First on the list is the fitting of our self steering gear. The unit is called a hydrovane and is essentially a set of very , very expensive tubes and cogs which steer the boat mechanically . The fitting manual seems complicated, and I can envisage many a day covered in Conyer mud screaming at it, while I drill holes in the back of a perfectly nice yacht. After that comes the update of our communications kit. Santa was kind enough to bring me a specialised marine router and a wifi booster which picks up wifi signals from about a mile away at present. It is jury rigged at the moment, so running the wired inside the boat still needs to be done. This again is going to involve a lot of swearing and grazed knuckles. We need to get our satellite phone up and running and connect all the relevant bits together to allow us e mail and weather forecasts while at sea. We also splashed out on a very good quality sprung mattress for the boat which we have been promised before the end of March. Then we have (hopefully) minor chores: polishing the hull, rė-repairing the scratch in the hull as my ocd is not quite happy with the colour match, buying charts and memory cards for our route, lifting and antifouling the boat, updating bank accounts….. And so the list drags on. We hope to leave at the end of April or the beginning of May. We have a lot to do and it’s not helped by our regular disappearing acts to find sunshine. However, we hope to leave for Cornwall then pick up crew and jump from falmouth to Gibraltar. A week offshore. Eek!   Hydrovane positioning   Hydrovane bracket

The End of the Sailing Season

We’ve been back in the UK for exactly a week- down to the hour- and we’ve just been so run off our feet that I genuinely haven’t had time to update this blog. But there’s actually not too much to report because the last few days of sailing were boring at best. We had long days in average weather, but we saw no reason to dilly-dally once we were on the home run. After all, The X-Factor had just started back in the UK and Nick was desperate not to miss the preliminary auditions where all the freaks come out to play. Plus Simon’s back!

 

After leaving Cherbourg we sailed to Fecamp, an uninspiring French town on the Normandy coast, arriving late in the evening and departing before the break of dawn the next morning. From there, we sailed north until we reached Dover, and once again left first thing the following day. The sun finally came out as we were sailing down the Swale and as we made our familiar way down the creek to Conyer marina, we were able to enjoy some decent weather at last. Our friends were kind enough to ensure there was a drink waiting for us at the pub, so we paused only to secure the lines before joining them for a celebratory pint.

 

We have quite a few things to sort out before we leave the country again- this time by plane rather than boat. We’re not going to return to the UK until just before Christmas, so we need to ensure the boat can be left safely which basically means we need to stow everything properly. We also have the boatshow next weekend which we attend every year whether we need to buy anything or not (we usually do!). The list for this year is a self steering hydrovane, which will allow us to turn the autopilot off on long passages, an outboard crane so that Nick no longer has to precariously lower the outboard engine into the dinghy himself, a stern shower, pilot books, and probably a load of other things that Nick hasn’t bothered to tell me about. Or, more likely, he has told me but because they involve electronics or something, my eyes just glaze over and I start daydreaming of my next meal.

 

We’re then travelling to Malaysia, Thailand and Australia for 3 months before returning to the UK for Christmas and the winter. Because I consider this blog to be a sailing blog, rather than just a chronicle of our every-day life, I won’t be updating regularly over the off-season. Our plan is to depart for our circumnavigation (eeeeeeeeeeeiiiiii!!!) (that was my squeal of excitement) around Easter next year. Firm plans are a thing of the past, and so our exact itinerary is unknown, but we plan to register with the 2015 ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) next week at the boatshow, so we’re definitely crossing the Atlantic next November. During the season, we plan to sail the Western Mediterranean in the hope that we’ll experience an actual summer, something I don’t believe I’ve encountered since leaving Australia five years ago. Then again, from now on Nick and I will be chasing the sun from season to season, so short rainy summers will soon be a distant memory.

Recovery Time

We’re in recovery mode.

 

It’s been a long and, at times, difficult week. We knew beating into the wind for a few days would be a slog, but I fear we rather underestimated how bloody tiring it was going to be. At the start of the week we had rather romantic notions of sailing Conyer to the West Country in one hit, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it to be honest. Those of you who think sailing is nothing more than sipping cocktails in the sun are sorely mistaken! (Well, not yet. In a couple of weeks, perhaps.) This sailing thing ain’t easy sometimes, and as I looked up the trains from London to Dartmouth for our friends who are joining us tomorrow and saw that travelling by rail takes a mere 3 hours- as opposed to 3 days by boat- I simply sank my head into my hands. And then fell asleep, because we’ve been in a permanent state of exhaustion all week.

 

The Dart River, Dartmouth on one side, Kingswear on the other. Gorgeous.

The Dart River, Dartmouth on one side, Kingswear on the other. Gorgeous.

Last night we motored into the stunning Dart river in the gentle yellow sunlight of early evening, wearing only short sleeves and shorts, our wet weather gear back in its cupboard where it belongs, and we were met with the spectacular sight of Dartmouth’s pastel houses spilling down the hillside to meet the narrow river full of boats of all kinds- ferries, dingies, motoboats, sailing yachts, fishing boats. And we realised all that hard work was worth it. There’s a sense of achievement that, frankly, just isn’t the same as when you board a train and then spend a few hours alternating between staring blindly out the window and leafing through a trashy magazine. I mean, where’s the challenge in that?! I know the English Channel isn’t exactly the Southern Ocean, but we’re still young and naive. For us, it was challenge enough for now. I’m sure by the time we’ve returned here via the rest of the world, we’ll look back on this week fondly.

 

So, to bring everyone up to speed, for those who are hankering after the finer details of mine and Nick’s week so far (hello Mother!), the last time we touched base was in Dover. We woke to an overcast and windy day, Westerlies again, and agreed that our time was probably better spent exploring Dover castle and having a pub lunch. Nick left to find the shower block, but returned moments later to announce that the plan had changed: we were leaving. Our neighbour from the night before, a Dutchman called Yap (yep), had intercepted Nick and declared that he was heading to Eastbourne in a few hours with his wife and two teenage children. In the spirit of “what you can do, I can do better”, Nick immediately decided that we, too, were leaving today, sod the weather. A couple of hours later Nick and I stood in our wet weather gear, waving goodbye to Yap who, while maneuvering out of his berth, collided with our stern despite the efforts of 4 people fending off, leaving us with a scratch in our gelcoat as a souvenir of our Dover stopover. We took a certain smug satisfaction in that, and I wondered if I should ask for my bottle of wine back.

 

That day, Tuesday, was rubbish. The wind was right on the nose, the sea state was lumpy making the boat slam and I spent most of the day wiping sea spray off my face. We couldn’t even face the palaver of making a cup of tea or getting the crisps out of the cupboard in those conditions- things were getting serious. After a very long day of sitting in miserable silence, making far less progress that we were hoping, we decided to stay the night at Eastbourne marina. Nick made a truly stupendous sausage and bean casserole which we inhaled while staring blearily at the tidal charts, forcing our sluggish brains to make the necessary calculations to form a passage plan for the next day which would hopefully have us making progress above walking pace. Then we crashed.

 

Wednesday was an improvement. The sea state had calmed and the winds, still Westerly, were lighter. The sun was shining and we were happy. Nick even made a proper lunch: burgers! Nothing makes me happier than burgers. Later in the day, we got the sails up and belatedly realised that we’d failed to check our possessions were stowed properly that morning when the contents of the entire boat went crashing across the floor. We’re still a little rusty.

 

We possibly could have continued through the night because the sky was clear and we were making good progress, but the tide was starting to turn and we decided that, instead of punching tide and making only a few knots, we’d anchor in the Isle of Wight to get our head down for 6 hours and rise early the next day to sail the 105 remaining miles to our destination.

 

Thursday therefore started at 3am.  That’s early. Did anyone know that this time of year, dawn is actually  breaking at 3:30am? I didn’t. Sunrise was shaping up to be a real stunner, but once we were away from Southampton’s shipping lane and set on course, I stumbled right back to bed leaving Nick to enjoy it by himself.

 

We were in high spirits on Thursday, despite getting up at such a ridiculous hour. The winds had swung around and were now coming from the east- to anyone a little rusty on the basic geography of England’s southern coast, and/or hasn’t been paying attention to what I’ve been saying (can hardly blame you; I am going on a bit), this meant the wind was coming from directly behind us. However, now that we finally had a comfortable point of sail, the winds had dropped off completely, meaning we still had to run the engine all day. Never mind, the sun was not only shining, it was meltingly hot, and we were soon stripped down to the bare essentials. The crotch straps of the life jackets ensured underwear was, to Nick’s consternation, classified a bare essential in this instance, but still. I’ve been living in the UK long enough to appreciate that just being able to bare your arms and legs is a cause for celebration.

 

As mentioned, that evening we arrived in beautiful Dartmouth, was directed to a mooring, and we’d barely cleated our lines off before hailing the water taxi. He asked where we wanted to go. Our answer was immediate: “The pub!”

 

Ashore in Dartmouth

Ashore in Dartmouth

Today, Friday, we had grand plans of a lie in, but were rudely awakened by water slapping against our hulls thanks to the windy start (don’t worry, earplugs- two types!- have now been purchased). This morning was dutifully spent getting started on our long list of chores on the boat, mostly of the cleaning variety, before heading back to the town center to run some errands: bank, post office, pharmacy, chandlery, fishing tackle shop, groceries, lunch and, ahem, bakery. Twice.

 

So now we await our friends who will get the, as far as I’m concerned, absurdly timely train from London tomorrow and as soon as the forecasted thunderstorms pass we will be turning south towards the sunshine.

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