August 2017

1.8.17
So, we upped sticks and travelled the 8 miles into the heart of Belfast, tying up in the Abercorn Basin. The basin dates back over two hundred years, but had a makeover when Belfast played host to the Tall Ships Race, some years ago. It’s in an area which was previously part of the Harland and Wolfe shipyard, and has undergone an amazing transformation, like most inner city docklands these days. The trigger for this was the Titanic centenary (H & W being where she was built), and includes an impressive building housing a comprehensive Titanic experience.

Belfast docks

 

 

 

 

 

2.8.17
A very wet day exploring Belfast. A trip to the Europa hotel to make sure it was still in one piece, then lunch (Irish stew, of course) opposite, in the elegant Crown Liquor Saloon. I remember this as a lively city, even back in the bad times, but today it seems very relaxed and orderly.

Bang!

Cheers

 

 

 

 

 

3.8.17
A nice NE breeze took us down the coast from Belfast to Ardglass, where it was a might busier than when we were last here. A few familiar faces, as we begin to bump into other people doing the journey back; notably a Belgian couple, Raymond and Anne, who we first met in Oban. They had been stuck in Ardglass for about a week, as a result of Raymond’s heroics – a poor solo sailor had arrived, and become so disorientated in the small harbour, that he had run himself aground. Raymond’s efforts to pull him clear had resulted in a wrecked back, requiring hospital treatment.                                                                           4.8.17
60 miles down the coast brings you to Howth, just north of Dublin Bay; and our first visit to the republic. An easy day in a moderate NE, until we arrived – just outside the harbour the skies blackened, the wind whipped up and it threw it down. We joined several other recent arrivals, and gilled around until the conditions abated. This was just a short overnight stop, so no chance to explore – judging by the price at the marina, probably not a bad thing.                                                                                                                                         5.8.17
A 50 mile beat down to the coast to Arklow, where, for once, the wind freed us at every turn; so not one tack did we preform! Arklow is an interesting little place. The place is quite a sprawling affair, but the centre retains enough of its original architecture to let you know you are still in a small provincial Irish town. The yachting facilities comprise a small marina, a visitors pontoon in the river and a fishing harbour. We chose the fishing harbour, since the following day’s weather was not forecast to be great. When we got there we wondered if we had done the right thing! The place was awash with people and boats, loud music, Viking reenactments et al – it was the local RNLI open day! The entertainment went on into the evening, but packed up at a respectable hour. What time would it recommence in the morning?

 

 

 

 

6.8.17
Sadly for Arklow, the day did not dawn fair; and though they put on a brave face for a couple of hours, eventually the rain won out.                                                                          7.8.17
An early start, as we crept out of the harbour at 0500 – just light enough to make out another English boat (Talora) doing likewise. A quick call established that they too were bound for Milford- we had, in fact, spotted these guys a couple of days earlier; and had remarked on how quickly they seemed be able to get a Sadler 29 going. The sun duly emerged, and the wind direction gave us comfortable reaching conditions, where we were well up to hull speed at times; with the Sadler not far behind. The wind petered out for a few hours during the middle of the day, but returned to give us a final flourish around Skomer Island, and into Dale for the night. A great day’s sailing – in the dry, and mostly in sun! Bumped into the Rustler, Toroa, from Pwllheli and a school friend of David Banks! 8.8.17
Today was forecast to be wet, so we had intended to cower in Neyland; and even before we had left, the first deluge of the day had cleaned the decks. This was nothing compared to the soaking we got as we made our way down the sound – true stair rods exposing the age and frailty of my oillies. The day cheered up when we met up with Leigh (from earlier in the trip) and his wife Jo for a drink.                                                                                          9.8.17
A hot sunny day spent drying out, before leaving Neyland for Dale, in the late afternoon. This gave us a simple exit the following morning as we planned to visit Padstow – somewhere else new; with a bar to cross and tides to time, ho hum!                               10.8.17
We left, with Ray and Mary in Talora, at about 5 – just light enough to see the fishing buoys! The sun came out, and so did the kite, but the wind wasn’t helpful – we were bound due south, and the wind was pretty much due north – on a day when you don’t have a deadline you can play the angles and have fun; but if we missed the gate at Padstow, it would be a long slog round to Newlyn. So down came the kite, and we poled out the genoa; and played with the dolphins until the tide turned – despite having wind, the boat speed had dropped, so reluctantly, it was on with the engine. As we closed the N Cornish coast we we able to sail again, arriving at Padstow 15 minutes before the dock gates opened!

 

 

 

 

11.8.17
A grey start to our day in Padstow, but it improved as it wore on. This is a place it’s good to come for a day – fish and chips, crabbing, teeming with holiday makers, live music into the night. More than one day would have been a stretch!

 

 

 

 

12.8.17
Leaving Padstow in the gloom, once more with Talora. Yesterday’s NW had left a decent swell in the estuary, which kept us company until we were clear of Trevose Head. The sun eventually emerged and we took a fair tide in a nice NW down the Cornish coast; making good time down to Pendeen, where we had to resort to our mechanical friend till we cleared the Runnel Stone. In the returning breeze we fair scorched the last 10 miles into Newlyn.                                                                                                                                          13.8.17
Wall to wall sunshine, with little wind as we crept round the Lizard, up to Helford River. Later we met up, again, with Raymond (with repaired back) and Anne from Drunken Duck.

Helford

 

 

 

 

 

14.8.17
A grey Helford day, with rain – lots of it.                                                                                 15.8.17
So far this year, we have managed not to pollute any of the harbours/anchorages we have stayed in. Parker, the holding tank, has come to the rescue; and we have managed to empty him when we have been sufficiently offshore. Today, tragedy struck when I was unable to relieve him of his burden – was it the pump or something more sinister? Either way, we didn’t fancy carting a tankful of sewage around for the rest of the voyage; so with some reluctance we put into (expensive) Plymouth Yacht Haven – the only place this side of Weymouth with pump out facilities. Somewhat amusingly, Dartmouth harbour’s website says that SW Water forbids any pump out facilities on the river for environmental reasons! Err, don’t they get it? All this, of course detracted somewhat from what was a stunning day, under spinnaker!                                                                                                16.8.17
After pumping out, for free (a mistake I think), with some trepidation I removed the inspection cover on the holding tank. Relief all round, as (a) there didn’t seem to be a problem with the tank and (b) the tank seemed to be doing its job! This probably means it’s the pump; and not a job I will attempt before we get home – which means that we are probably in a similar state to 95% of the yachts on the south coast! Plymouth is a depressing place; ok it probably took some stick during the war, but there a lot of grim areas. Very wet evening, with winds creating a really uncomfortable swell in the marina.                                                                                                                                           17.8.17
A grey departure, but dry with some sun as we rounded Start Point and on up to Dartmouth. We had decided we would make straight for Dittisham, a place where we have happily stayed both afloat, and ashore. On the way up river we were accosted by a strange man in a rubber dinghy – none other than Steve Tighe, from Hamble! I quickly scribbled down his (new) mobile number, with a promise to ring him later that day. Thankfully, Dittisham hadn’t changed a bit. Smugglers Cottage, the pub on the beach, tripper boats and and ferries; and plenty of free mooring buoys. Sadly my clerical skill had proved to be lacking – I rang Steve’s number only to be answered by Elaine, who didn’t want to come for a drink! Thereafter mobile phone signal disappeared for the day.

 

 

 

 

18.8.17
Obviously the phone signal is better in the morning, so after spending an hour trying different combinations of Steve’s number I did what I should have done from the outset – asked my children for advice. Sally simply ‘messaged’ Steve’s daughter in Australia, and sent me his number – now why didn’t I think of that? The day was punctuated with frequent gusts and wet squalls, but we did venture ashore for long enough to establish that the Red Lion still has a grocery shop in the lounge bar, selling almost everything imaginable; including gluten free bread!                                                                                19.8.17
We are only 24 hours away from home, so we have plenty of time; and as this is such a pleasant, relaxing place we decided to stay for a few days. So today it was on with the walking boots, and over the hills down to Kingswear; and the ferry back to Greenway Quay. Later in the evening the guys on Talora turned up, suitably windswept from their trip from Plymouth.

 

 

 

 

20.7.17
We had intended to leave this morning, but it was wet when we woke; with the prospect of little improvement- maybe better tomorrow?!                                                                       21.7.17
Left Dartmouth early for Weymouth. After an encouraging first hour under sun and spinnaker, the wind disappeared for the rest of the day. We were hoping to make the inside passage around Portland, but timing our arrival from the other side of Lyme Bay is difficult. Although, as we got nearer it became clear that we would, in fact, be in good time to take the tide around the Bill – a great relief, not having to motor those extra miles. Weymouth was well populated, but there is always room for one more inside!
Invited Talora for supper.

 

 

 

 

22.7.17
Easterlies today, so spent the day in Weymouth; culminating with fish and chips in the evening.                                                                                                                                          23.7.17
A civilised start time in order to take the route inside St. Alban’s. A warm pleasant sail around to Studland for the evening.

 

 

 

 

24.7.17
Another spinnaker run down to the North Channel, and on to Yarmouth. Quite empty when we arrived, but, as usual, by dark it was pretty full.                                                   25.7.17
And to finish? A beat up the Solent, with the tide, in 8 knots – perfect! Took a spot on the Hamble River Sailing Club pontoon, as our mooring is sublet till the end of the month. Nice to be home.

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July 2017

1.7.2017                                                                                                                                                    A grey damp day in Oban; but a good opportunity to take the (free) ferry from Kerrera to Oban to stock up on essential supplies.                                                                                2.7.2017                                                                                                                                                  All ready to leave this morning, but the incessant rain changed our minds; so we took off our oillies, and went back to bed!                                                                                          3.7.2017                                                                                                                                          Finally got away, despite the showers. Good decision, as the sun broke out as we sailed NW through the Sound of Mull, up to Lochaline. This was a location we by-passed 6 years ago – a pleasant little spot.

Lochaline

 

 

 

 

 

4.7.2017                                                                                                                                                    A short spinnaker journey up the Sound of Mull to Tobermory. The place hasn’t changed; and looked all the better in the warm(!) evening sunshine. Despite my repairs to the gas system in N Wales, the stove refused to work at anything above a faint glimmer; and in the growing darkness I finally gave up and went to bed, in a bad mood.

Tobermory

NE from Tobermory

 

 

 

 

 

5.7.2017                                                                                                                                                     I woke with refreshed vigour, and set about the gas system with real energy. I eventually found a joint – the most inaccessible one, behind the fuel tank – gummed up with jointing compound! A quick clean, and reassembly of the entire system produced the desire result; so somewhat later than planned, we set off across the sound to Loch Sunart. This was another place we had missed on our first journey, so it was real pleasure to be able sail through the twists and turns of what is a delightful location; although this was classic loch sailing – 3 to 25 knots in 5 seconds, with the direction changing madly. The warm sun accompanied us up to Salen. How is it possible to buy Calor gas at two thirds of the price in a remote Scottish loch? Methinks someone taketh the piss.

Salen

 

 

 

 

 

6.7.2017                                                                                                                                                The return journey to Tobermory started out in grey misty conditions, but eventually cheered up as the day wore on.                                                                                               7.7.2017                                                                                                                                            Woke to grey mizzle, which eventually gave way to shorter showers. In the afternoon we took a stroll out to Aros Park, to see the waterfalls. The harbour was ram-jammed full by evening with the arrival of the boats doing this year’s Round Mull Race – basically a 3 day piss up!

Aros Park

Aros Falls

 

 

 

 

 

8.7.2017                                                                                                                                        Another grey day, but we braved the conditions and set out on a longer walk up to Ardmore Bay, to see if we could spot any otters. The walk was fine, and we stayed dry; but, sadly, didn’t see any otters. We did spot a very large bird of prey, on the way back, watching us suspiciously from his high perch. The day was immaculately planned, as it poured inthe evening.                                                                                                                              9.7.2017                                                                                                                                        Leaving for Coll on a grey, calm, but hopeful morning. The day stayed fine, but the wind proved elusive. I was last here a lifetime ago, and on the surface, little had changed. Memories are a funny thing, but I remember the pub as a welcoming refuge, with a well-stocked bar and friendly barmaid. Maybe the tourist trade has taken its toll. Woolly cattle with wonky horns!

Coll

Mmmm!

 

 

 

 

 

10.7.17                                                                                                                                              Today we had intended to go to Canna, but as it transpired we went back to Tobermory. It was grey and cold as we left; and there wasn’t much wind, so we were motoring. I was wearing every piece of clothing I possessed, and I still wasn’t warm, so going further north, no longer held the same appeal. I was also suffering from cramping abdominal pains – and given my recent history we decided that Tobermory was probably more accessible than Canna. As it happens, it was no warmer in  Tobermory, and my health improved overnight; but mentally we had committed to going south.                                            11.7.2017                                                                                                                                                   A bright day, and another spinnaker run back to Oban, where the wind had all but disappeared; so much so that we had to rescue a family in a small boat whose engine had given up.                                                                                                                                    12.7.2017                                                                                                                                          Today another missed loch – just south of Kerrera Sound is the entrance to Loch Feochan, and a tortuous, shallow channel into a beautiful setting. We celebrated with a barbecue, on what turned into a beautiful evening.

Loch Feochan

First of the year!

 

 

 

 

 

13.7.2017                                                                                                                                            Grey on our departure, but it cheered as we made our way south, via Cuan Sound (very exciting!) to Kimelford in Loch Melfort. We had passed through here briefly in 2011, where we saw boats washed up on the shore as a result of a violent storm – thankfully, calmer weather today!                                                                                                                          14.7.2017                                                                                                                                            With 3 days of very wet weather forecast, we opted to go back to Ardfern, where you can, at least go for a walk, or visit the delightful coffee shop. The rain began during the evening, and was pretty unrelenting.                                                                                                   15.7.2017                                                                                                                                                As predicted, it rained – constantly till 1900; and the wind picked up, making things difficult. This, however, didn’t prevent the boat next to us trying to leave during the worst of it. Unfortunately, the skipper hadn’t heard of springs, and relying solely on his throttle, he tried to pull out into the breeze pinning him firmly against the pontoon. Sadly he didn’t make it, and gave us an almighty clout. Thankfully he still had all his fenders in place so we were cushioned from the full force. He didn’t seem inclined to stop, but I made such a fuss that he eventually returned, so I could give him the full force of my tongue. Mercifully, there seemed to be no damage – tough stuff these Sigmas!                                            16.7.2017                                                                                                                                               We had stopped briefly at Gigha on the way up, but had to run for cover; promising ourselves that we would return. Unfortunately, a combination of the time lost in Ardfern, and the tide for rounding the Mull of Kintyre meant that this too would be a brief stop – and stop we nearly didn’t! After a fabulous  25 mile beat, we approached the mooring buoy, completely under control, but then the engine cut-out. Quickly unfurling the genoa, we came round again; this time with more success. No chance of getting this sorted on Gigha, so we decided to sail on to Campbeltown the following day. The forecast was fine, the tides were great, so not much risk.                                                                                17.7.2017                                                                                                                                              The day started well, the weather improved as we beat down to the Mull and we got to the point bang on schedule. At this point the wind decided to become elusive, and it gradually eased until we had no more than 2 knots. So, engine on! All seemed ok; then it it stopped, and refused to be encouraged back to life. As sheer chance would have it, we had been overtaken by a fishing boat half an hour before, so I radioed him and and asked if he was bound for Campbeltown, and if he was, could he give us a tow? To my amazement he said he would be happy to oblige; and promptly turned round. At this point, Belfast Coastguard were on channel 16, asking if we needed assistance; and insisting that we advise them of our progress every 30 minutes! You hear such grim tales about fishermen in boats, but this one was priceless, he came alongside and threw us a tow, then on the radio told me how he would gradually increase speed to around 9 knots, and that if we had a problem, to let him know. Whilst this was going on Louise had rung the harbour master to warn him of our plight – he seemed signally unfazed, and had arranged for a mechanic to contact us on arrival. Once in the loch the skipper told me he would take in the tow, and come alongside in order to dock. He did this with such skill and precision; insisting that we had sufficient springs in place. He had clearly radioed ahead, as there was a welcoming committee waiting to take our lines, and manhandle us to the dock. One of them then commanded an unsuspecting yachtsman to come over in his dinghy and tow us to the pontoon! Once we were settled, the skipper, who sounded as Scottish as Kenneth McKellar but was in fact Ukrainian, appeared with a mighty bag of scallops! What a day!

Mmmm again

 

 

 

 

 

18.7.2017                                                                                                                                    Andrew’s birthday, and the mechanic had failed to appear the previous evening, but promised to be with us this evening; so we made the most of a the beautiful day by cycling out around the loch in both directions. Still no mechanic.

Island Davaar

 

 

 

 

 

19.7.2017                                                                                                                                               Yet again, the mechanic apologised for not turning up, and said he would try again this evening; and right on cue, as the rain decided to tip down, he did turn up. Within half an hour he had diagnosed the problem (an air leak in a line from the tank), and with me sheltering him with an umbrella as he grovelled in the stern locker to sort it, 30 minutes later we were drinking coffee whist he entertained us with his stories of fishing boats, wind turbines and falconry. At the end of all this he only wanted £20! What a character. If you ever have a problem in Campbeltown, ask for Douglas MacKenzie.                            20.7.2017                                                                                                                                         Bright and quite windy, so we took a bus across the peninsular to Macrihanish, and had a drink in the ‘Old Club House’.

Macrihanish

 

 

 

 

 

21.7.2017                                                                                                                                            Very windy, and wall to wall rain.                                                                                        22.7.2017                                                                                                                                        Finally escaped Campbeltown, but not a pleasant sail up to Portavadie – constant squalls around the back of Arran from 1 – 30 knots, from 020 veering to 320, and back again. Got pretty wet.                                                                                                                                 23.7.2017                                                                                                                                                  6 years ago we sailed round the Kyles of Bute without seeing a thing, so today bode better as we set off in bright weather. The scenery is breath-takingly beautiful, so we were pleased we made the effort. In 2011 we met a delightful couple in a beautifully restored Grand Banks motor boat, and every time we’ve seen one, since, we ask, “Is that Little Ship?” Imagine our surprise as we sailed down the Eatern Kyle when we came across the very craft! The owners just about remembered us, and texted us later to say they had found our card. Nice boat, nice people. Stopping at Port Banatyne, we cycled round to Rothesay for old times’ sake.

Kyles of Bute

 

 

 

 

 

24.7.2017                                                                                                                                                In 2011, our good weather broke as we left Arran. This year we wanted to see if we could reverse the current trend. Brodick is a bustling holiday resort, quite unlike the place we visited on a cold wet day in April, 6 years ago.

Brodick

 

 

 

 

 

25.7.2017                                                                                                                                    Needless to say, we didn’t reverse any trends, as the forecast was for several days of wet and/or windy weather. Where to go? In the end we opted for Loch Ryan, and Stranraer – where the Show was on the following day!                                                                        26.7.2017                                                                                                                                            Poor Stranraer; the wind howled and the heavens opened early morning, and didn’t shut till mid-afternoon. The people at the show (typical old fashioned agricultural show, with cattle, tractors and motorcycle stunt riders) seemed to take it all their stride, though.

 

 

 

 

27.7.2017                                                                                                                                            Grey with frequent showers, but got out for a bike ride to a wetland (apt or what?) park in Aldouran.                                                                                                                                  28.7.2017                                                                                                                                            Very windy, so went for the first haircut of the trip! £4.50!                                          29.7.2017                                                                                                                                     Another windy day in Stranraer.                                                                                         30.7.2017                                                                                                                                              Got away from Loch Ryan and suffered frequent showers on our way across the North Channel to Belfast Lough. Pulled into Carrickfergus in a horrid squall, then sat through a thunder storm, and prolonged rain.                                                                                    31.7.2017                                                                                                                                           More constant showers, some thundery. We were going to take the train into Belfast, but instead, decided to take the boat the following day.

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June 2017

1.6.17
The first sighting of puffins does wonders for the lack of sleep – their comical landing techniques are a joy to behold. The entrance to Milford Haven is horrible – I remember last time we came, the sea was awkward, and the wind was up – no different this time. – not until we were inside and bore away towards Neyland were we able to relax.

Neyland

 

 

 

 

 

2.6.17
The early rain gave us another opportunity to lie-in. We emerged for a short walk when the sun eventually appeared.
3.6.17
Going north from Milford it’s a challenge to time your arrival first at Jack Sound, then Ramsey Sound. Last time I think we managed one from two – it was the same this time!
Fishguard hadn’t changed at all – big, impersonal, and not much protection from fresh westerlies. Thankfully the wind eased during the night.

Bitches, Ramsey Sound

 

 

 

 

 

4.6.17
With the prospect of some windy weather to come, we set out for the dreaded Pwllheli- a bright, cold start made more merry by the dolphins wishing us well. Last time we were in Pwllheli we had arrived at LWS, but lived to tell the tale. This time it was HWN, so no problem? At HW the entrance channel appears to be about 3 metres wide, and with 27 knots up your chuff, it’s a bit unsettling!
5.6.17
A full gale, and wet with it, made for a quiet day. For a change we did some entertaining! It’s usually us, with the small boat, who are pitied and invited on to other peoples’ palaces; but this time we were the big boat! The chap parked next to us, Leigh, had come up from Milford in a tiny 7 metre boat; and Steve, a complete extrovert, had sailed up from Bristol in a converted wooden fishing boat.
6.6.17
A very windy night, followed by another very windy day. No inclination to move so it was a ‘jobs’ day; and today it was the gas. Before we left I had bought two new gas cylinders, and renewed the ancient hose in the gas locker; so I was more than a little disturbed by Louise complaining of no gas pressure, I changed the cylinder – no better; changed the regulator, no better. It would appear that my brand new gas hose was blocked! With the help of the local camping store I was able to cobble-up something which restored things to their former glory.
7.6.17
Still very blustery, so we took a bus to Porthmadog, in order to walk up a relatively small hill. We had no map, but we’d borrowed a guide book which made the directions sound easy – well after an hour and a half hacking through undergrowth up a near vertical wall, we came to the conclusion that we’d gone wrong! Back to Porthmadog for some lunch and a stroll along the Cobb. The slightly annoying thing for an Englishman in Wales (and in Ulster and Scotland, as it transpired) is that you can’t use your bus pass! All the years I’ve had it I think I’ve used it twice, and I thought this was my big opportunity.

Porthmadog

 

 

 

 

 

8.8.17
Another gale during the night, and into the following day.
9.6.17
Before leaving Hamble we had a vague notion that we’d maybe attempt some of the Three Peaks; and the first of these would be Snowdon – leaving the boat at Carnarvon. Pwllheli is only marginally further away from Snowdon that Carnarvon, so whilst we were weather-bound it seemed sensible to use the first reasonable day to give it a crack. The day was dry, and not blowing a gale, so it seemed like a good opportunity. Two buses later we were in the Pen y Pas car park at the foot of the Pyg Track – my word, how things have changed in the last 40 odd years! Instead of the small gravel car park there was a large tarmac version, completed with visitor centre, cafe and loos! This was a big step-up for Louise, who’d never attempted anything higher than the stairs; but, as usual, she ‘rose’ to the occasion, and virtually sprinted to the top – and at the top, another surprise. Instead of the corrugated iron lean-to selling dodgy tea, we were welcomed by a large palatial affair boasting hot drinks to die for, and yet more loos. A more leisurely amble back down the miners track, and yet more tea at the Youth Hostel, before catching our buses back. A great day!

On the way up

Fully up!

 

 

 

 

 

10.6.17
More wet and windy weather greeted the latest arrivals for the Jester Challenge – a single-handed sail (not a race) to Baltimore via the Fastnet Rock. Rather them than me.
11.6.17
Today is supposedly the start of the Jester, but it was even windier, so all the competitors were in the bar as the starting gun sounded!
12.6.17
Less windy today. One Jester competitor left, but lasted less than a couple of hours before he turned back. Maybe we can escape tomorrow?
13.6.17
Finally we escaped Pwllheli – but it wasn’t easy!
In order to make the tide at Bardsey Sound, and have enough water to get out of the harbour, we had to leave at 0300. Navigating the perilously shallow, twisty channel on a falling tide, in the dark was not great – it was a pleasure to be out beating into a fresh breeze in a (still) lumpy sea – not even another returning Jester boat could keep us in Pwllheli for another day! Not long after our departure, we saw the lights from both Leigh, heading our way to Holyhead, and Steve, allegedly making for Liverpool. We kept the SW breeze all the way to North Stack, off Holyhead, when it kindly backed for us to gybe for the harbour entrance. An hour after we arrived, Leigh duly appeared in his little craft. The weather forecast is not that encouraging for him.                                                                 14.6.17
The dawn of a beautiful day, so we donned our walking boots and took off over Holyhead mountain to the lighthouse at South Stack – a strenuous walk, but nothing to two Snowdon veterans.

South Stack

#

 

 

 

 

15.6.17
Sally’s birthday, was sunny but quite windy. A few jobs and a stroll into Holyhead.
16.6.17
Another grey day, and another fresh breeze as we set off for Ardglass in N Ireland. The wind stayed up at around 20 knots until we got to within 5 miles of the coast, when it gradually eased, before hitting 28 – was it those mountains of Morne? The harbour in Ardglass, is quite charming – the photos in all the pilots are a bit alarming, because it looks the size of a postage stamp, with craggy rocks protruding above the surface, but a nice warm place.

Ardglass

 

 

 

 

 

17.6.17
The sun made a welcome reappearance today as we made our way north to Carrickfergus. We’d previously stayed at Bangor, just opposite, but the lure of ‘buy one day, get one free’ was too much.
18.6.17
Another beautiful sunny day. We went round Carrickfergus Castle, did a few boats jobs, chilled.

Carrickfergus

 

 

 

 

 

19.6.17
A grey, but bright day, and a few more miles up the coast to Glenarm; which probably sells the cheapest diesel in the U.K. – 75 per litre!

Glenarm

 

 

 

 

 

20.6.17
A few more miles up the coast, and around Fair Head to Ballycastle, where we arrived just in time to bid Leigh a final farewell – he was returning to Milford – maybe we can look him up if we call there on the way back. Great fush and chups.

Fair Head

 

 

 

 

 

21.6.17
Much of the reason for coming to Ballycastle was so we could visit the Giant’s Causeway. One of those places you build up as a ‘must see’; and on initial impressions, we weren’t sure if it lived up to expectations; but as you get closer, it somehow takes on a grandeur that grabs you and says, ‘I’m not a World Heritage Site for nothing, you know!’.

 

 

 

 

22.6.17
Leaving Ballycastle for Port Ellen, on Islay, Rathlin Island lies right in the way; so you have to choose which side you go, and deal with the currents, races and eddies accordingly. We went to the east, and a yacht which left just before us went to the west – no contest, really. As we approached Port Ellen, the wind began to pipe up for what I fear might be another spell of very wind weather.
23.6.17
A very windy night – thank God for rubber compensators! The wind didn’t really ease up during the day, as we struck-out east along the coast road to the distilleries. First Laphroaig, then Lagavullin, and finally Ardbeg. We’d seen each of them from the sea when we were here six years ago, so it was nice to see them in the flesh.

Just a wee dram

 

 

 

 

 

24.6.17
More rain and wind, so we took the bus to Bowmore – slightly bigger than Port Ellen, and needless to say, another distillery. We were looking forward to live music in the local hotel, but it sadly, wasn’t to be.

 

 

 

 

25.6.17
The wind had dropped sufficiently to enable us to leave for the small island of Gigha, to the east – although it was still peaking at 30 knots as we felt our way through the rocky shortcut into Gigha Sound. Gigha is beautiful – the anchorage is in a small bay, with crystal clear water, and we had really wanted to stay for a couple of days to explore – the pending strong easterly winds, though, had other ideas.

Ardminish Bay, Gigha

 

 

 

 

 

26.6.17
Gigha being open to the east, we decided to head north; firstly considering mooring at Crinan, but the forecast of wet windy weather and being stuck on the boat didn’t appeal, so we made for Ardfern instead.
27.6.17
The night had been windy, and the day dawned wet, so clearly, we stayed in bed. In the afternoon we walked over the hill to Loch Shuna, for a cup of tea at Craobh Haven.
28.6.17
Further wind, so we did some cycling along the shores of Loch Craignish, to the castle of the same name.

Craignish Castle

 

 

 

 

 

29.6.17
Another vile, wet day – so bad I spent most of it catching-up with this blog/diary.            30.6.17                                                                                                                                             Today turned out to be quite comical. We left Ardfern on a grey, but dry morning with a 14 knot NW wind. We were aware that we would not arrive at Doris Mor (a big tidal gate) at the ideal time – but what the hell! Well, after an hour battling the current – and at one point going backwards at 2 knots, whilst doing 6 knots through the water – we finally squeezed through into slacker water, and had a reasonable beat up the Sound of Luing – until we got to the northern end. It was then deja vu, as we inched along at a knot and a half before finally breaking clear, and being able to bear away into Kerrera Sound, and up to Oban. Now I remember what I enjoyed so much about the Baltic!

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May 2017

24.5.17
A civilised start at 0900, under leaden skies, with the sun breaking out three hours later as we left the Solent in a light W/SW breeze. The downside of taking the tide out off the Solent is that you invariably plug it somewhere off Portland! The wind stayed elusive during the night, but things took an upward turn with the arrival of dolphins to accompany us across Lyme Bay.
25.5.17
Arrived at Dartmouth at 0545 – Dartmouth entrance is always a grand site, but this morning especially so – Lyme Bay had been clear of fog, but it lay thick in the entrance – giving it an almost sinister appearance. After a brief snooze, it was up to enjoy the wall-to-wall sunshine, and the showers at the Royal Dart Yacht Club.

Downtown Dartmouth

 

 

 

 

 

26.5.17
Another day of wtw sunshine, and a short trip to Plymouth in a fresh easterly; with a particularly exhilarating rounding of Start Point.                                                                 27.5.17
Heavy overnight rain had not disappeared when we woke, so, as usual, we stayed in bed. When the sun did eventually appear, it was a quick dash to Sainsbury’s on the bikes.
28.5.17
Hazy clouds as we left Plymouth, soon gave way to rain; which accompanied us as we motored most of the way to St Mawes.
29.5.17
A foggy start, eventually gave way to some hazy sunshine; and a light NW wind took us the short hop to Newlyn. From here it it is easy to time your rounding of Lands End so as to get max tide up the Cornish coast.

Newlyn

 

 

 

 

 

30.5.17
The first flaw in the master plan – fog around Lands End; and in the Bristol Channel. Every cloud, though………. a stroll to Mousehole – even out of season it’s busy – and a Cornish cream tea to boot! Earlier in the day I had discovered that our posh Harken furler was suffering fatigue, which necessitated a call to Lymington for spares, promised for the following morning. It seems the post could arrive anytime between 1000 and 1200; and we ideally needed to be away by 1200! Fingers crossed!

Mousehole

Ooops!

 

 

 

 

 

31.5.17
True to fashion, the post arrived at 1200, but by way of a minor miracle I managed to fit the new parts without dropping them over the bow, and we were away by 1220. Was it mist, or fog or mizzle? Either way the visibility was enough to be encouraging! The wind allowed us another opportunity to get close in to Lands End, and we were set for the night; again made just about bearable by the dolphins – dozens of them, which stayed with us hour after hour.

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Are you sitting comfortably

Having motored for what seemed like an eternity, there was a little further to go before we could get back to sailing. From Dordrecht we stopped at Willemstadt and Middelberg (both charming in their own rights) before leaving the Dutch inland waterways – in truth we should have spent more time in Zeeland, but I think we both had the whiff of salt air in our nostrils, and were keen to leave. This was definitely a great way to see Holland, but I wonder if it was much different to driving a car and staying in hotels?

At last we arrived back in the North Sea, at Breskens, where we did our last re-supply before a pleasant sail, in sunshine, along the coast to Dunkirk. The Dunkirk you see when you take the ferry is a pretty dreadful place, but yachts are restricted to the eastern harbour, which is ok; and you are able to get decent moules!

Bon apetit, encore!

Bon apetit, encore!

The following day was, again, bright, but the visibility was restricted – and there was little wind to help blow it away. Thankfully, things improved as we struck-out from the coast to cross the channel, although we weren’t able to spot the white cliffs until we were about 3 miles from Dover. Having motored (again) all day, we decided to stop in Dover – not the greatest place in the world – and with the prospect of even less wind the following day, the grim possibility of a two night stay became very real.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, so the following day we caught the bus to Deal – Louise had vague childhood memories of bracing walks along the ‘beach’, when she visited her bother at boarding school. This optimism was short-lived though, when a chance conversation with someone else waiting for the bus produced the comment, “Deal?! There’s nothing there!” – and she was right.

Thankfully the following day brought a good breeze and we were able make progress west to Eastbourne – we had made a vague arrangement to meet our son, Andrew, in Brighton; but like Dover, Brighton is not the greatest place in world to stay with a boat – particularly over a Bank holiday weekend – so Eastbourne was the lesser of 3 evils – and what do you do in Eastbourne on a Bank holiday weekend? You go to Lakeland Plastics and buy a Cobb barbeque. The smoke signals emanating from the back of our boat that evening were a bit of a giveaway!

A Brompton for all occasions

A Brompton for all occasions

Brighton was not quite as grim as I remember – the first time I stopped at the marina in 1986, thre was only one building – the sailing club. These days it has taken-on the appearance of a small city, complete with multiplex cinema, hypermarket, bicycle shop et al; and it was great to meet up with the son and heir.

Next day was an engine on, engine off day, so we decided to stop in Langstone harbour; somewhere we’d never been before; and it was really quite pleasant. It was still warm in the evenings and the low-water sandbanks were well populated by late season holiday makers. As the tide came in they all retreated, so we had the place to ourselves fully able to stoke-up the new Cobb without fear of contravening any local H & S regulations.

Cobbs-are-us

Cobbs-are-us

Later that night, as we lay peacefully in bed, a violent thud in the rigging suggested a seabird with less than perfect GPS capabilities had strayed off course – but it wasn’t till the following morning that the full extent of the damage was revealed. As Louise went forward to unzip the stack pack, it became apparent that our misguided feathered fiend had evacuated both ends at once – either in spite or fright – leaving us the most foul-smelling present – fish heads and all. Oh, the joys of sailing!

Time for a reality check. It was the end of August, and we had arranged to take back possession of the house on 11th September; so what to do? It had appeared (yet again) that we mght have a period of easterly winds; so the notion of a trip to Guernsey was still a possibility; or a trip down the Dorset coast, even. As usual, though, almost as soon as the easterlies had appeared in the forecast, they were replaced by south westerlies; and much as we enjoy the company of our friends in Guernsey, it wasn’t going to happen. This left us a week to potter up and down the Solent – Bembridge – where you realise you really are back to the reality of tides

Red on the right, but only on the way in!

Red on the left; but only on the way in!

Yarmouth, East Cowes, Gosport (to see Simon), Hamble (to put out lines on our new mooring), Osbourne Bay and Yarmouth again before spending a couple of nights at Mercury to decamp – made all the nicer by a visit from Sally and Sam on their way back from cycling round the IoW.

Vela now sits comfortably on her new mooring, waiting for her next adventure.

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Going Dutch

Having been in the Netherlands now for over a month, and, more particularly, having visited Amsterdam, it’s probably time I made a comment about the the people, their country and some of their habits.

Amsterdam is literally teeming with – yes, you’ve got it! Bikes! Most of them thankfully, though, are stationary. When we were in Copenhagen two years ago, we lived in fear of cyclists – they all hared along as if there was no tomorrow; and joining, or leaving a cycle lane was a real leap of faith. In Amsterdam things are more measured; people are polite; they wave you through, stop for you, or detour around you; but there are bikes absolutely everywhere – however, most of them are locked up in enormous bike parks outside the train station, the ferry terminals, alongside all the canals and outside everyones’ houses. I shudder to imagine the mayhem which would be caused if every bike owner took to the streets at the same time!

Now, where did I leave it?

Now, where did I leave it?

Most city dwellers seem to favour the traditional Dutch model – sit-up and beg, and as big as a shire pony; whereas out in the countryside the roads are full of the latest racing models taking full advantage of the typically flat terrain.

The Dutch don’t just do big bikes; the also do big boats – and in big numbers. My expectation was that we might see a good few examples of what I would call a Dutch barge – big wooden things with lee-boards. The numbers are staggering – every port seems to have a collection; and as well as the old preserved working boats, which range in size from 20′ to 200′, there appears to be an vibrant market for new steel and fibre-glass replicas, which are apparent in their thousands.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before we travelled to Amsterdam we were recommended to stay at Sixhaven – a marina on the opposite shore to the central railway station, and served by a free ferry – we were also warned it was very popular. Having to travel only a few miles down the coast, we arrived fairly early, and were directed to a vacant finger berth by the attendant harbour master, resplendent in his white peaked naval cap. As the day wore on, with the steady stream of new arrivals, there began the process of seeing how many boats you can cram into a small space until one squeaked. By late evening there was not one empty spot of water – you could walk from one side of the harbour to the other, in any direction, without getting your feet wet. Accordingly, no-one leaves Sixhaven early – by 11am, most people who wanted to leave, were away, just before the next set of new arrivals started turning up.

Before our journey through he canals began, we were assured that whilst there is a lot of motoring involved, there were places you could sail – what a joke! With a 1.8 metre draught, straying far from the centre of the canal was a non-starter; and the small lakes connecting the canals were also too shallow to venture too far from the fairway. Besides, anyone familiar with this blog knows that the wind only ever blows in our faces! Those lucky devils coming the other way, who could put their sails up, all seemed to have developed a standard technique. I believe this is based around setting your sails at the start of the journey and never adjusting them thereafter. This is partially understandable, since everyone purporting to sail, also had their engines on- this was the norm for anyone sailing to windward, even on open water. On our journey across the Markermeer, we spent two hours trying to overhaul a Southerly 32 – she was able to sail faster, higher and more upright than us. Only when we eventually caught her did we spot the tell-tale exhaust emissions.

Of course you cannot have a canal system like the Dutch without bridges; and boy, are there a lot! To date we have encountered 76 – these have varied in size from pedestrian bridges to motorway and railway bridges. Small bridges open virtually on, or even before, demand, whereas some of the larger ones open only at specific times; and sometimes only 3 or 4 times a day; and it’s amazing how quickly you can come to regard this as almost unreasonable! Can you imagine stopping the traffic on the M4 outside Heathrow to let a bunch of cruising yachts through – but this is exactly what happens outside Schiphol airport – an 8 lane highway is stopped and the whole section raised, 4 times every day for the benefit of sailors. It is evident though, that new roads, particularly motorways are being routed under the canals; and how weird it feels as you see 8 lanes of traffic disappearing beneath you!

imageimage

 

 

 

 

Which brings me back to canals. My stereotypical understanding of the Netherlands was that of a small country, criss-crossed with a canal system used for transportation; with a few strategically placed dams (and dykes) to prevent the sea from coming in. Well, to get your mind around what these guys have actually done is truly awesome; and I recommend you read about it, as I will never do it justice – the French apparently said that God may have made the world, but the Dutch made the Netherlands. Whilst we were waiting for a bridge somewhere or other, we got chatting to a Dutch couple; the female half of which worked for the national waterways authority, and they kindly invited us to contact them if and when we reached their home town of Dordrecht. Naturally, this was too good an opportunity to pass-up. They spent a day entertaining us, and giving us a wonderful insight into some of the history, engineering feats and future projects and challenges which will maintain the fine balance between the land and the water. The single standout, iconic symbol of all this, is, of course, the humble windmill – this simple piece of technology was largely responsible for the creation of what we see today, and it is heartening to see that large numbers of these beasts are preserved in their well-deserved retirement.

image

So it is we near the end of our Dutch adventure, well and truly canalled-out – we’ve had a great time, but it will be nice to get some real sailing done; and in the words of the immortal Jimmy Handley, ‘TTFN’.

 

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Life (not) in the fast lane

About the only place you can comfortably go to from Cuxhaven in a W to SW wind is Helgoland – this is an island 30 miles off the mainland, once owned by Britain – I believe we ‘claimed’ it during the Napoleonic Wars, then swapped it with the Germans for Zanzibar during the Victorian era – I know who got the better deal – then we tried to blow it out of the water after the Second World War. It’s somewhere everyone says you should see, but quite honestly, I don’t know why. A large piece of rock, with a paved walkway around the cliffs, overrun with tripper boats due to its duty free status, and extremely tacky – maybe it’s one of those places you need to see out of season?

The W to SW winds had seriously set-in, so it would be a perpetual slog from here to anywhere; and with the wind hovering between 4 and 10 knots all day, it was engine on, engine off accordingly; and nine and a half hours later we called it a day at the German Frisian island of  Nordeney. This is a great place for cycling – few cars, good roads and cycle ways; and it’s flat! Wonderful therapy after a long day motoring.

Being gluttons for punishment, we opted for more of the same the following day as we set out for Holland – we were intending to enter the Dutch inland waterways at Lauwersoog, some fifty odd miles to the west. Things didn’t start well with the wind due W at less than 5 knots; and there it remained until early afternoon when it backed round to SE. The only real positive was that we seemed to carry the tide for virtually the whole day, arriving at the entrance buoy between Schiermonnikoog and Ameland in time to take the flood to Lauwersoog. I’ve been over this several times since but still can’t work it out – someone was obviously looking down on us. This entrance channel was nearly the scene of our undoing on our journey up, two years ago – we took what we thought was the channel, only to find that it had been moved a month earlier; and got away with it by about 10 cms. This time we were more circumspect, identifying buoys as we progressed down the channel, and keeping firmly in the middle.

The next part of our journey was one I had serious reservations about – a journey of only 60 miles across Friesland to the Ijselmeer, but via the canal system. A Sigma 33 is a fine sea boat, and something two reasonable sailors can cruise quite comfortably. It was built as a racing boat, with an engine big enough to get you to and from the race course; never designed to be able to manoeuvre easily in reverse; and a keel deep enough to keep you relatively upright. So the prospect of a very slow passage down narrow, and very shallow canals where one is required to slow down and back-up in order to negotiate the many bridges and locks, was daunting so say the least. It’s odd how quickly one adjusts though – after having kittens across the relatively wide waters of the Lauwersmeer, with around a metre below the keel, the depth gradually reduced as we entered the canal proper – 0.8, 0.6, 0.4, 0.2; and we were hogging the middle of the channel, furiously waving aside anyone approaching from the opposite direction. By the time we arrived in Dokkum, and moored at the side with zero reading beneath the keel, we were both pretty gung-ho about the whole thing. After such a fraught day, Dokkum is the perfect tonic – it is old, picturesque, clean, untacky and completely charming – and eventually we were able to reflect on a beautiful journey through the many twists and turns of the rural countryside, sheltered either by tall reeds or trees.

View from a canal boat

View from a canal boat

Dokkum

Dokkum

 

 

 

 

 

Dokkum

Dokkum

Mobile shop with vocal accompaniment

Mobile shop with vocal accompaniment

Negotiating the bridges turned out to be relatively easy, as you travel in a virtual convoy and either tie up at waiting stages, or gill about till the bridge keeper(?) arrives. This took on a new twist as we left Dokkum, where you had to pay the bridge-keeper – in order to keeps things flowing, you approach at normal speed and he lowers a clog on a fishing line into which you place the relevant toll. Louise had the inevitable sleepless night beforehand, but rose completely psyched-up for the task, and not one Euro coin was lost over the side.

Cough up, or else.

Cough up, or else.

It was all becoming a bit ‘old hat’ as we made our way to Leeurwarden, where we intended to make our second stop. Only when we went aground trying to reach the shore did we come back to earth with a jolt – pun intended – but the mud was soft and we were soon afloat again. The riverbank through the town was very attractive, lined with trees, and trying to find a spot where they weren’t interfering with the mast/rigging was a bit of a challenge – not something you normally have to deal with in the Solent. Again, the day had been quite pleasant; bumbling along at a comfortable speed for our engine, meandering through the rural countryside.

One of many

One of many

Over the motorway

Over the motorway

 

 

 

 

 

However, on leaving Leeurwarden things began to change. It took us an hour and a half to do the first mile and a half as we had to negotiate two railway bridges and a seriously busy road bridge – up till now, the bridges almost all seemed to open, miraculously, as you approached – trains, though, run to a timetable, so you wait. In addition the landscape took on a more industrial appearance, and as we progressed further south so did the canals. The depth increased, as did the width; and when we encountered our first container ship we suspected the honeymoon might be over. We had joined the Princess Margaretta canal which links Delfzyjl in the NE of Friesland, to Lemmer in the SW – a bit of a motorway. Between Leeurwarden and Lemmer the canal is interspersed with several lakes where the fairway becomes wide enough to sail down, and had it not been for the wind still being firmly fixed in the SW, we might have been able to take advantage of  them. We chose to break our journey at one of these lakes where we were treated, the following day, to the spectacle of 14 very large (60’+) traditional Dutch working boats racing in 20+ knots across a lake barely more than a metre deep! Watching these guys in close quarters, under full rig as they rounded marks was pretty exciting. And so it was with some anticipation that we looked forward to reaching Lemmer on the shores of the Ijselmeer, and being able to unfurl our semi redundant sails for a day or three.

Needless to say, the journey of around 18 miles from Lemmer to Enkhuisen, on the opposite shore of the Ijselmeer, was a dead beat with the wind between 12 and 20 knots. Despite the Ijselmeer being an inland sea, the depth rarely exceeds 4.5 metres; so with a fresh breeze the sea soon kicks up a short sharp irregular chop, but so determined were we to sail that the general discomfort of regularly stalling was a small price to pay. Enkhuisen is a very old Zuiderzee seaport from the days of the East India Company, which today, sits at the end of the Houtribdijk – the dyke which separates the outer Ijselmeer from the inner Markermeer. Hence, we moved from one inland sea to another, the following day via an enormous lock built specifically for yachts.

Much sail

Much sail

Hoorn

Hoorn

 

 

 

 

 

The winds of the previous day had all but disappeared as we turned, once more, to our mechanical friend to carry us down the coast to Hoorn – anther EIC city.

Another brisk beat down the coast finds us in Volendam, where we have taken a couple of days out to cycle; first to Edam – you can’t come to Holland and not go to Edam – and then to Monnickendam. Edam was everything I always thought it would be – small, quaint and riddled with canals and cheese shops – perfect, in fact. Monnickendam was once a thriving boat building town, which still houses a vast fleet of traditional boats.

Where else?

Where else?

What else?

What else?

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow we are promised NW winds, so we look forward to sailing into Amsterdam, where, in the words of the immortal Ronnie Hilton, we seek the mouse, the windmill and the clogs.

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Baltic departure

Having arrived in Denmark our loose plan was to sail around Fyn – the island between Jutland (the mainland) and Sjaelland (the biggest island – the one with Copenhagen on the right hand side); and our first couple of sails took us up to Kerteminde – not far from the north-east corner. Half the reason for coming here  was to visit the Viking museum at Ladby where they had discovered the remains of a Viking burial ship – a prince was buried with his warship, a servant, nine of his horses and all his worldly wealth. The actual remains of the ship (and the horses) were on display, and using its measurements a new ship has been constructed, and launched last year.

Reconstructed Viking warship

Reconstructed Viking warship

.....and a souvenir thereof

…..and a souvenir thereof

 

 

 

 

 

 

From here we would explore some the islands north of Fyn, then meander down the western side, stopping off at the Flensburg and Schlei fjiords. Ok, so we sat out a day waiting for the wind to stop blowing from the north, then set out with a promise of brisk westerlies to take us up to Samso. Unfortunately the westerly turned out to be north westerly, and after an hour crashing along in 20 or so knots, we quickly agreed to turn round. Beating to windward in strong winds is bad enough when you have to ie.to get somewhere – we didn’t need to get anywhere, so it was just plain dumb. Having settled into a nice reach downwind we realised we could take the opportunity to visit our friends in Svendborg; so this is what we did. Svendborg is a nice place, and when you have nice people to look up, it makes it even better. Morten and Bolette Havlys were the people we met last year in Estonia, and we managed to grab an evening with them on the Sunday, before they had to do what we all did on Mondays. After a novel evening in a Sushi bar they rode off on their bikes into the gathering gloom; and I fear they wouldn’t have stayed dry on the journey home, as the lightening flashed and the rain lashed the harbour. This marked the end of what had been a reasonable spell of weather – as many dry days as wet – and the beginning of 10 days of rain.

During this damp period we made our way, indirectly, to the Schlei – this is an inlet/fjord which winds its way inland for 20 miles to the town of Shleswig (from where the area of Shleswig Holstien get half its name). We had been looking forward to this journey for a couple of years, after so many people had told us how beautiful it was. Sadly, when expectations are high, the reality can often be a disappointment; and so was our journey, as three hours in, the rain descended and the gloom set in to a point where visual identication of either shore was nigh impossible. In Scleswig we visited what will probably be our last Viking museum for a while, at Haithabu – more ships remains; and an amazing collection of Viking artefacts from what was one of the major Viking settlements.

Nefore and after

Before and after

If you ever get to Schleswig, it’s a must; along with Holm, the old fishing port; and the cathedral with its most ornately carved altar. Thankfully our journey back was conducted in much better weather, and I can confirm that it is indeed a beautiful inlet.

Holm

Holm

Schleswig cathedral

Schleswig cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

At this point the forecast was predicting a week of easterly winds, so with this in mind we made our way down to Kiel to re-trace our slog of two years earlier; down the 90 km of the canal; except this time it wasn’t so much of a slog as the winds were considerably lighter, and from behind. It was an incredibly poignant moment as the lock door closed on our Baltic adventure; but as they say, as one door closes, another opens, and we look forward to travelling through the canals in Holland.

The door closing on our Baltic adventure

The door closing on our Baltic adventure

Once out of the canal, we were back to reality with a vengeance – bloody tides again! The 15 miles journey from Brunsbuttel to Cuxhaven was negotiated into a 3 knot tide with no wind. So despite promising our poor little engine a well deserved rest after the rigours of the canal transit, it was called on yet again. Arriving in Cuxhaven we found our week of easterlies had mysteriously disappeared, and become – you’ve guessed it – south westerlies! Add to this the current presence of fog, and prospects are beginning to look a whole lot less rosy; but in the words of the immortal Mao Tse Tung, ‘the man who passes the hand of fate without suffering, is less for it’. The one saving grace was the return of some sea life; we even had our personalised seal in the harbour at Cuxhaven!

Welcome back!

Welcome back!

……..and finally, this week’s photo quiz.

Who is this?

Who is this?

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Good to be back in Europe

10 days into our latest adventure and it feels like we’ve never been away. Thankfully we were able to escape a couple of days before the referendum, and were spared the worst of the vitriol. We always thought it would be a close run thing because it is a well-known fact that somewhere around 50% of the English population (not British) are brainless morons who wouldn’t really know how to say, ‘ballot paper’; let alone have any insight into what they might be voting for.  This was typified by the performance of the English football team – having a combined IQ of 50, they believed coming out of Europe meant the European football championships! How else could a group of overpaid, overrated, brain-dead excuses for sportsmen contrive to lose to a team ranked slightly lower than Eastleigh in the FIFA rankings?

So, now the lunatics have been given the keys to the asylum; time will tell. I’m just glad to be able to postpone our return for a while, until the smug smiles have been wiped from the faces of the sad majority. Actually, maybe they will all get their comeuppance in October when that twat Boris Johnson is elected as prime minister!

With a boat to bring back, it was an early morning start from Gatwick – thanks my son and heir; then on to the Easyjet shuttle to Hamburg.

Start the day with a Gatwick breakfast

Start the day with a Gatwick breakfast

A nervous smile?

A nervous smile?

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, those nice German people had looked after Vela in our prolonged absence, and we were quickly able to get her back in the water. The jobs I had done on the fuel system during May, all seemed to have improved things – it’s a pity I hadn’t made such a good job of the electrics – the engine ran without the slightest hint of a diesel leak, but the alternator failed to toe the line – no charge. Luckily, in cases like this you simply call for Herr Smeets, who turns-up within the hour, with his box of tricks; and an hour (and 30 Euros) later, ‘Alles gudt’! I would imagine a similar service in the UK would cost a minimum of £100, and take at least a week. Before saying our final(?) goodbyes to our friends in Burgstaaken, we were able to spend a pleasant evening with Mike and Helen Clegg – why is it that lots of nice English people chose to live most of their lives abroad?

Ready to roll!

Ready to roll!

Gently does it

Gently does it

 

 

 

 

 

It goes faster with one of these

It goes faster with one of these

You left Ernst, I'll grunt

You lift Ernst, I’ll grunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of relatively short hops finds us in the land of those nice Danish people – another race where more than 50% of the population are able to say, ‘Good morning’, rather than, ‘Awright?’ Denmark is a pretty country, and it’s a pleasure being here. It only fault so far, has been the weather. So far we’ve had scorching days followed by magnificent thunderstorms, more wind than you would normally hope for, some very short-sharp showers and some interminably grey skies. In the words of the immortal Omar Khayam, ‘Things can only get better!’

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Back home?!

We sit here in Burgstaaken, which really feels like our second home, ready to be lifted out in the morning; and, as usual, there is more than a tinge of sadness, mixed with the eager anticipation of seeing family and friends. Before all that we have the yearly ritual of rubbing down the hull, in order to do a reasonable impression of the Black & White Minstrels; then winterising anything which holds water – it freezes up here – and generally putting the boat to bed for the next 6 months.

Our sailing exploits concluded in good style. From Copehagen we desperately tried our best to keep up with Philip and Lynda on our journeys to Rodvig, Stubbekobing, and finally Svendborg, from where they made a hasty dash for Kiel in order to catch some rare easterlies for the journey back to the UK. We meantime spent a few days in Svendborg with Morten and Boletta Havlys, who we had first met in Estonia. They kindly acted as both hosts and tour guides for a pleasant journey around the surrounding area.

Ever wonder what happens to old boats?

Ever wonder what happens to old boats?

It’s a short hop from Svendborg to Marstal, a very old seaport on Aero, with a long history of ship building – I am not a museum person, but the one at Marstal is brilliant – I recommend it to you. We did have thoughts to travel further west to the Schlei, but the pending forecast for some strong easterlies soon put paid to that idea; so, from Marstal we made south for the German coast, and eventually east to Fehmarn. Since arriving here the wind has howled incessantly, so we think we made the right decision!

We should get back in time for (most of) the Rugby World Cup – hooray I hear Louise shouting; then I guess it’s Winter Series, Christmas, and before you know it we’ll be packing the car for Germany again!

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