We are now officially green. We installed our solar panel, and hooked up the wind generator so that the energy being generated was powering our battery. What a glorious feeling to be sitting on a buoy with a refrigerator running, the radio going, household lights on and watching the battery voltage increase!
Neil spent past few days running from item to item taking apart the control panel and asking me where I packed away this tool or that tool. My favourite request to date is, ‘hey babe, can you get me the thing with the thing?’ Some descriptive hand gestures are included here, but mostly it’s as descriptive as it sounds.
The good news is now, things are pretty much in order. We popped over to a marina in Gillingham to have our rigging checked out (the stuff that holds up the mast), worked on the bilge pump (the thing that pumps water out of the bottom of the boat if some gets in), did the final wiring of the mast (running wires through the ceiling), and even fixed the table in the cockpit to make it a bit more stable.
Yesterday we were ready to set off but the winds were a bit too gusty for our liking. As such we had a free day and decided to visit the town of Whitstable – a beautiful little seaside town where Neil proposed last year. While the visit was lovely getting there seemed to be a colossal effort. When it was time to go the seas were rough and the tide strong. We have the kayak which will cut through the rough water with no effort, but we decided taking the time to assemble it just wasn’t worth the effort and that the little rubber dingy would do just fine. We moved our boat to a mooring closer to the dock at Neil’s insistence (thank goodness). Along the way, I managed to jam a wayward small rope around the wind generator we have dubbed Kylie (as she spins ‘round and ‘round). It took us a good hour to untangle the poor girl to get her going again. However, it was a great team effort, with Neil fastening a knife on the end of the boat hook to saw part of the rope free, and after much insistence and nagging on my part, a very reluctant Neil hoisting me up in a harness to untangle the remaining rope. It was a great role reversal for us, as it is usually me who is hoisting him up worried sick on the safety of the deck as he dangles several feet above me. However in this instance it was him worried sick as I happily requested tools and finally wrangled Kylie free. Relieved we had our green power restored, we decided to head to shore.
In my childhood I did a LOT of rowing buoyed on by the encouragement of my parents who were no doubt just trying to rid me of some energy. One of my favourite childhood memories is rowing my dad across the Puget Sound to our beech cabin, the boat weighed down with supplies. My dad would sit in the back of the boat with a beer and a paddle acting as the ‘rudder’ and I would be the engine fed with praise and granola bars as my little arms powered us across the bay.
Given all of the ‘practice’ I had as a kid, I am our designated rower. Even though seas were rough, and we had moved the boat closer it was only about 40 yards to the dock and I was confident I could handle it – despite the rough sea, the wind, and the tide being against us. About 5 minutes into the row, we had moved about 10 yards away – about 3 body lengths from where we set off! Neil was trying to encourage me on with positive words – ‘you are doing great – we are making progress’ – all I could muster in return was ‘shut up – no talking’. Already getting grumpy, I needed all my energy to move us forward. About 10 minutes in – half way to the dock, having moved about 20 yards it turned into me saying, ‘we are getting a “*&^ing outboard motor’. Neil’s response being, ‘oh we have an outboard motor, I’m just not sure if it works...’ at which point I replied with ‘”%$^ing shut up!! No talking!!’. (Note to my Niece Veronica – do not ask your mom what those words mean those are abbreviations for naughty words you shouldn’t say – ever). Luckily there was a little row boat half way through the 40 yard journey. We grabbed onto it to give me a rest (and give me a chance to pummel Neil). Rested, and with promises to look into getting the outboard motor in working order, we tackled the last bit of the journey and make it successfully ashore together.
In re-reading the above I am aware that I haven’t cast Neil in the best light. However, I must assure all of you that I am constantly amazed at how well he is taking care of us. The man can fix ANYTHING. He has had infinite patience with me as I have bumbled through this sailing adventure, and has been patient as I have made rookie mistakes, forgiving when I have forgotten things he has told me a million times, and cautious and thoughtful at every step of the way. While I will continue to rally for an outboard motor – I really have no room for complaint and am always grateful that he is by my side to get us out of whatever sticky situations I get us into!
Whitstable was a lovely opportunity to stretch our legs and pick up a few bits and bobs. To our dismay we quickly learned that anytime we went in doors we became ‘land sick’ – a new phenomenon for me. The water moves a lot more on a mooring buoy than it does in sheltered St Kats. Within a few minutes of being in any shop we were forced to jet outside for a peak at the horizon to steady ourselves. Not the most pleasant feeling when you are indoors on dry land and you know perfectly well that the ground shouldn’t be moving.
Despite the constant need to return to the outdoor world, we had a lovely day and even had the opportunity to enjoy some fresh oysters and locally brewed beer by the seaside. We topped the day off by returning to the boat and enjoying a dinner of spaghetti con Vongole Neil whipped up with fresh clams we picked up in Whitstable. We ate it in the cockpit with a bottle of champagne we found in a storage locker that was left over provisions provided by the lovely Mrs Katy Farrell-Wright who has much superior tastes to Neil and I! As such we took the opportunity to re-christen Ranger back to the Sea by sharing a bit of it with Neptune (god of the Sea) who is said to protect sailors who share some good bubbly with him.
This morning I am writing to you from the cockpit of the boat. It is a beautiful, sunny, calm day with the water as smooth as glass, and the black headed gulls circling around skimming the water until they find something close to the surface to their liking, at which point they dive in and out seemingly effortlessly to catch their prey. It’s gorgeous – and I can’t wait to begin the next leg of the trip. Today we are off to Ramsgate. It is our first stretch in the open sea and further afield than Neil and I have ever taken Ranger together. If nothing else we are certain it will be an adventure! For now, I need to get the boat ready to go!