Monday, 5 September 2011

Back in Falmouth - 5 September

We have made it to the Scilly’s and are now back in Falmouth waiting out a storm. While I won’t go into the details just yet I can assure you that the Scilly’s were just as lovely as promised! Pictures and more details will be posted soon!

Fowey to Falmouth – 28 August

This passage was rather uneventful. It was a four hour passage that went by rather without incident. Perhaps we are getting the hang of this sailing thing after all! We spent two nights in Falmouth enjoying the town – visiting the beach, getting some supplies and generally preparing ourselves for the Scilly Isles. A place that has been dubbed ‘heaven on earth’ by other yachtys, the Scillys aren’t accessible except by boat or helicopter. About 22 miles off of the Southwest coast of the UK they are supposedly much like the Caribbean. Without major marinas we had to make sure that things were ready to go. Tomorrow when we head out we may not have access to internet or phones – so we have to make we haven’t left a vital piece of information ‘in the cloud’. Also tomorrow marks our movement out of the English Channel and into the Atlantic Ocean. Can’t wait!!!

Dartmouth to Fowey – 26 August

Another rather brief one. The passage started out rather rough. Early starts and pouring down rain is just not so much fun. We got soaked early on and started looking for ‘ports of refuge’ (ports along the way that you can safely pull into if you don’t want to keep going). It wasn’t that conditions were particularly bad – it’s just not that nice sailing in the rain and this is meant to be a holiday!!!

Each time we approached a port of refuge we planned our way in – but by the time we arrived the conditions had improved just enough that we agreed to press onto the NEXT port of refuge. This continued all day – past 3 different ports until we finally reached our destination – Fowey.

Fowey was a beautiful little seaside town where Neil had been previously and had always wanted to return to on his own boat. It was a beautiful little place, and after a quiet dinner at anchor we used the dingy with the new outboard (GO OUTBOARD) to motor ashore and explore the town.

We explored an aquarium in Fowey where you are able to pick up baby crabs. This is me attempting to get over my childhood fear of live crabs. As you can see from the pic, I am not too convinced. However Neil came good on his part of the bargain by getting me a Cornish ice cream cone to reward my bravery.


It feels like we have finally arrived at a destination I didn’t even know we were heading for. Here we are sitting in Dartmouth Harbor, known as the Riviera of the UK. It seems we have stumbled upon regatta week, a weeklong festival celebrating boating and the seaside community. We are rafted up outside a large yacht who was delivered a day earlier by a delivery crew. They unfortunately forgot to top up the water tanks and so we got quite friendly with the neighbors whose yacht is much more ‘yachty’ then ours.

You see there are two types of people in the boating world. The first are people who are out not because they love it and have made sacrifices to afford whatever boat they could in whatever state it was in so that they could be on the water. You can spot them because they have miss-matched fenders, chipping paint, old tatty lines that tie their barely floating boats to the pontoons. Then there are those people with the big shiny boats that have lines without any scum on them and fenders that are so shiny you could use them for mirrors. Their boats are almost like museum pieces. They glimmer in the sun, have cushy deck chairs and are stocked with gin and tonic. The people who own them also like boats but are wealthy enough that they can have their vessels delivered by crews and they could then fly in to enjoy them. We are tied up alongside one of these yachts.

We had to help them in and out of their space while they cruised around looking for water. We saved them a spot and helped them with their lines as they returned into the port. As they returned they asked as if it was the most casual thing in the world… ‘Do you guys like lobster? You have been so kind to us we just thought we would bring you one.’ I thought Neil was going to fall off of the pontoon he was so excited. The previous day we had walked around town for hours popping into a local restaurant that gets its seafood catch in daily waiting for the lobster to arrive. By about the 6th trip into the shop to wait for the lobster delivery Neil made me go in to ask if the lobsters had been delivered yet (he was just too embarrassed to ask yet again). Luckily we did get a lobster meal, but as it was a bit overcooked, we vowed we would have to try and cook one ourselves (OK so Neil would cook it and I would provide moral support – but it’s a TEAM effort around here people!!!). Dan and Katy were planning a visit, so we picked up another lobster which we named ‘Pinchy 3’ (pinch two having been given to us by our kind neighbors’. It was a marvelous feast. And as always Neil did the cooking much better than the hoity-toity restaurant.

Other exciting news is that WE GOT AN OUTBOARD MOTOR. Don’t get me wrong – I am still the rowing champion but this beautiful harbor (and waiting nearly an hour for a water taxi) made us realize how much more mobile you can be with a little outboard motor for our dingy. It’s so great – it’s like having a little car for your boat! And as an American – I LOVE the freedom of the road. We can zip into town from our mooring buoy whenever we want. Neil does the driving as even giving the outboard motor a little rev makes me feel completely DRUNK with power!! I just can’t take the excitement. It is GREAT!

Pinchy 2 and Pinchy 3!!

Our outboard motor is so exciting I am including a pitcure of it!!!

Even the dogs are cuter here. This one was tied up to a post in a bid to collect money for charity!

Weymouth to Dartmouth - 22 August

Now it is true that I can be rather wordy – both in speech and in my writing. As my blog posts have waned off people have tried to tell me that I can just write up the highlights and leave out some of the details and people would be just as happy – ‘we just want to hear about where you are, where you are going, and that you are ok, that’s all’ they said to me. However I think my cousin Jana said it best when I asked her why she didn’t regularly read my lengthy emails home to friends and family about my time in the Peace Corps. She said, ‘They were just too long. I just needed the highlights – bullet points like:

• My first host family were mean and didn’t feed me
• A donkey stepped on my watch and smashed it
• Crazy men follow me around in the streets telling me to give them money
• Kids throw rocks at me sometimes
• But most of the people are really nice, and I am learning a lot.

So these next few ones are in honor of my cousin Jana – and just for her, and for the sake of keeping you all updated on our progress I am going to make this one a bit shorter and more concise (or at least give it my best effort).
The update:

• We left Weymouth way too early in order to get around Portland Bill – a nasty headland that is notoriously difficult to pass and should only be attempted in certain tidal windows
• We actually managed a 4am start – that is 4am pulling away from the pontoon which means a 3:15 wake up time for me while I stow the boat, and rousing Neil out of bed with a cup of tea at 3:45 to get us moving.
• Watching the sunrise from the boat is phenomenal
• Not so phenomenal is starting off a passage in the pitch black and 3 hours later at sunrise realizing in your haste to get off you forgot to turn on any of your running lights
• Portland Bill was anticlimactic after the drama we encountered on our way to Brighton. We were relieved that not all headlands are as horrible as that. It gives us faith that we might be able to manage them after all.

Sunrise on the Boat - could anything be more peaceful?!

A mid-day nap after a 3am start is required. Harrold is more than happy to help...

I don't know what Neil is doing here or why I am taking his picture - but with a hubby this cute - can you blame me?!

Poole to Weymouth - 21 August

The next morning we started things off with a cooked breakfast and set off at about 9am from Pool to Weymouth. While some rain did fall in the early part of the sail, ultimately Sunday ended up being a phenomenal day as well. This was the kind of sailing that UK sailors wait all year for. We were able to sail for part of our Journey, and ultimately made it into Weymouth in time for Tom to catch a 5pm train back to London – leaving Neil and I to prepare for the next leg of our journey.

With Tom’s encouragement, Neil and I were ready to press on. Tired after two days of great sailing and plenty of wine, we contemplated settling in for a day in Weymouth – a charming town you could easily lose yourself in for days! However, the weather for the next day was superb – high pressure meant low winds, and still water. The tides were with us if we made a departure at 4am to get around Portland Bill – a headland legendary for its tough passage. While the whether looked good for Tuesday as well, anyone who has spent any time in the UK knows that tomorrow’s weather forecast is mostly right, but predictions for two days out are consistently unpredictable. With this in mind we took our window and ran with it.

Tom and I enjoying the Sail!

Cowes to Poole Harbor - 20 August

The next morning the sailing gods seemed to be smiling on us. The winds were at our back, the sun crept out from behind the clouds, it became a beautiful day!! As we sailed into Poole harbor after a satisfying 30 mile sail the Red Arrows (the UK equivalent of the Blue Angels) began performing their Bournemouth show. They danced around the sky screeching over and around us creating a wonderful display for a thrilled audience. While it was a beautiful display – unbeknownst to us, it was to be a fatal flight for one of the shows pilots whose plane didn’t recover from one of the death defying turns. Still under investigation, future Red Arrow performances have been suspended.

We cruised into and around the harbor and found a beautiful anchorage just off of Brownsea Island – or as I like to call it Red Squirrel Island. It is a national trust sanctuary for the red squirrel who has been overrun and decimated by the more aggressive and disease ridden grey squirrels native to North America. While I recognize the potential parallels in the red and grey squirrel story to the ‘Neil and Rebecca/Hallie’s story, it seems dangerous for me to draw comparisons here – so I will leave it to the readers discretion to do so if they please.

We successfully anchored outside of Red Squirrel Island and I rowed us ashore. As I mentioned previously I am the designated rower on Ranger. While our visitor Tom made a heartfelt attempt to ‘overthrow my position,’ his power grab was ultimately unsuccessful, and my position as ‘top rower’ remains intact. However I must admit, I did enjoy abdicating my throne if only temporarily to be rowed back to the boat. The Island sanctuary was beautiful, we spotted a few red squirrels, a deer, and even a few wild mushrooms.

We returned to the boat where we used our wild mushrooms to make some lovely mushroom and fois Gras bruschetta, coupled with some lovely Champagne Tom brought. We toasted the day and all of us agreed that this was the life! We finished off the night with some lovely Lamb Tagine Neil whipped up and a bottle of red wine. As the sun set around us we wondered how we ever considered living on the boat roughing it!

Neil and I enjoying the sail!

Tom and Neil Cruising Along at speed

Neil's Glamour Shot - What a STUD!!!

Me showing off my rowing prowess

Gourmet Cuisine - we eat like this all the time - honest!

Tom enjoying the sunset after a beautiful day on the water. If only all British summer evenings were this beautiful!

Early August - Back on the boat

Being back on the boat has been a rollercoaster of emotions. At first we were so thrilled to be home again. While we loved our time visiting folks in the US and then in Guernsey, it was heaven to sleep in our own bed once again. There is nothing like unpacking from a great holiday and being back in your own space once again. We couldn’t believe how exhausted we were from it all. All of the visiting and endless cocktail parties had taken their toll on us. It took us a day or two to recover before we set off on our first Journey – Portsmouth to Lymington. While the journey was in the protected waters of the Solent it was a precarious trip. The water was rougher than normal, and the engine just wasn’t sounding right. It was also the start of the FastNet race – a legendary race that starts in the Solent, goes to FastNet Rock off the coast of Ireland and back. Particularly when that many yachts are on a starting line there are bound to cause incidents. We heard several ‘Pan Pan’s’ which is a call over the radio saying that while we are not in life threatening danger we do need assistance, and then we heard a mayday – there were five men in the water in a precarious bit of water just outside the Solent called the needles. Neil was getting more and more nervous as we sputtered along and were tossed around in the sea. We were both relieved when we made it to Lymington, the first part of our journey completed without major incident (at least that we were involved in). However some of the not-so-nice realities of living on a yachts were hitting us again. Showers were spotty, my hair was in tangles, I had thrown out my back getting us tied onto a pontoon, and the journey was an unforgiving reminder that everything had to be stored properly on a boat or else it would end up in a jumble on the floor after a passage. Our confidences knocked Neil cleaned the fuel filter on the engine, and I re-stowed the boat. We limped around the Solent doing little day trips from Lyminton out to Yarmouth with a small sail in between and finally from Yarmouth to Osborne bay and then back to Cowes. The Solent offered us protection from the seas that had been so cruel to us leading up to our trips to the states. We were still recovering from wedding-a-polluza and felt unable to take on any more. Luckily for us, Tom a friend of Neil’s from RBS planned to come visit us for the weekend. Tom is a more seasoned sailor and our confidence was boosted by having an extra more experienced sailor on board. With Tom on board, we decided to head out of the Solent the next morning and to Poole, a lovely harbor.