Spring has sprung!

“You can’t always be strong,
but you can always be brave”.

Donations to – NPCD.org.au

 

Living on a boat with another person for months at a time in warm weather is one thing. But to be cooped up in a tiny living space during a UK winter has the potential to drive one round the bend! At least that’s what I thought.

So what does one do during a UK winter while living on a boat?

The last time Blue Heeler was laid up alongside for more than a few weeks was in 2010 in Melbourne. Over the past six months in Gosport, Blue Heeler has bobbed about, fenders rubbing against the finger with mooring lines stretching and tugging from cleat to cleat. Here on the south coast of England it generally doesn’t get cold enough to worry about winterising the boat to any degree, but we still had a few tasks to do to maintain a level of comfort.

Historic Portsmouth just across from Gosport, Portsmouth Harbour

Naturally the first thing is to stay warm. Wayne refurbished our little-used Webasto heater, and it’s worked a treat over the past few months, keeping our tootsies warm on cold winter nights.

The next thing to combat is dampness. There’s nothing worse than black mildew in cupboards and the musty smell of wet clothes. It’s also unhealthy to live in a damp environment. But we averted this disaster early in the season by investing in an EcoAir dessicant dehumidifier which performed much better than I expected. Inside Blue Heeler the humidity was kept at less than 45% removing the likelihood of mildew growing in cupboards, throughout clothes or in the saloon cushions. The alternative would have been disastrous. After six months I’m impressed with how dry the inside of the boat is.

Another thing to consider while shacked up in a boat is lack of physical activity. It’s not like the tropics where we can just jump off and go for a swim or hike up the nearest hill. I joined the local gym and went there most days when I wasn’t visiting somewhere else. Having a bike is a great way to get around, although it’s not much fun when it’s 5 degrees and the roads are icy. This coast is flat so walking is a great way to see the place too.

Scottish Highlands

Surprisingly over the past few months we didn’t strangle each other and managed to keep ourselves suitably amused – Christmas was a delightful affair as we joined good friends Chris and Brian and their friends and family to devour a 16 pound turkey with all the trimmings; New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh we were welcomed by strangers and invited to eat loads of traditional fare before walking around after midnight with a piece of coal, shortbread and bottle (or two) of whisky for ‘First Footing’; spent an evening listening to the plucky tunes of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra at Usher Hall; feasted on traditional Scottish fare such as Haggis and Neeps, Cullen Skink (soup), Tablet (fudge), Oatcakes, Potato Scones, Black Bun, Bannock, and the unidentified terrine known deceivingly as Head Cheese.  Coincidentally (for those that did the Sail Indonesia 2012) while in Edinburgh we met up with Mike and Nicki from the boat Zen Again – who would’ve thought!

Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

RIP Bon Scott

Peter Pan

On the trip south we popped in to the small township of Kirriemuir, the birthplace of not only J.M. Barry of Peter Pan fame, but also Bon Scott of AC/DC fame.

Statues of Peter Pan and Bon Scott are proudly on display.

 

With the generous offer of a car from Brian and his family, we spent drove through the North West England visiting relatives, south through the gorgeous Cotswolds and to Poole, later returning to the outstanding snow-covered scenery between Perth in Scotland and the midlands. During the winter we’ve visited many castles and churches, and also some unusual places such as the site of the WWII code-breakers, and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich where we stood astride the Prime Meridian – one foot in the east; one in the west. Fascinating stuff.

Cuddle time!

For a change of pace and to appreciate some of the conveniences of a house, I took a side-trip and spent a few weeks house-sitting looking after an adorable old Wheaton Terrier in Teddington.

From this handy location I could easily venture into London, take a walk to Hampton Court Palace, or stroll through the shops at nearby Richmond. Most importantly I was rewarded with regular doggy cuddles!

Back at Gosport the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is an interesting place to visit once you’ve purchased an annual pass for unlimited entry. Included in the ticket is the waterbus from the HMS Alliance Submarine at Gosport to the dockyard in Portsmouth where the bones of the Mary-Rose which sank in 1545 are on display; the 250 year old HMS Victory famous for Vice Admiral Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar; the HMS Warrior armoured frigate built in 1860 with dozens of canons which were never used in war; plus a lot of interesting naval stuff for those interested in naval stuff. Portsmouth is the home of the new aircraft carrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

By living aboard we’ve managed to keep everything on the boat running so nothing has seized up through lack of use (that includes us!). As such there’s no major work to undertake, except for the usual maintenance and checks we do before any major trip. After six months of floating, our hull is a little furry but we expect that will sort itself out once we’re out sailing.

And just like that daffodils and snow-drops are blooming and winter is over. Really?

The weather has turned decidedly colder this past few weeks with winds from Siberia dumping snow throughout the UK, including Gosport, causing havoc with commuters and traffic.  The first cold snap dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’ caused much havoc. How sad to learn that the Holyhead Marina at Anglesey where we stayed only last year was recently destroyed by the first ‘beast’. A couple of weeks later ‘The Beast’ was followed by the less imaginative ‘Beast from the East 2’. The forecast for Easter weekend isn’t looking any better as (you guessed it) ‘Beast from the East 3’ is on its way.

Anyway, Blue Heeler and crew will soon sail from Gosport along the northern coast of Europe to the Baltic. By the way, Haslar Marina is a great place to berth the boat over winter and the guys here are friendly and helpful. The town of Gosport has everything you need and what you don’t find here can easily be delivered overnight.

So I hope you’ll join us over the next few months as we voyage to the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Until then here are a few pics you might enjoy. Thanks for reading!

View from Thames river cruise

London

View from Greenwich looking across to Canary Wharf

 

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I’m dreaming of a white…?

…a white beach actually! But it looks like we could have a white Christmas!

As a final post for the year, I thought I’d look back on this year’s voyages and below are some of my favourite pics from 2017.

Starting with New Years 2017 in Martinique, we sailed our way along the Caribbean, popping in to Montserrat for St Patrick’s Day, then up to Sint Maarten to prepare for our North Atlantic crossing. In May we departed sailing three weeks across the Atlantic to the Azores. In July after another week at sea under grey skies, we arrived on the south coast of Ireland. In August we sailed up Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Coast to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Down to Dublin then across to Wales and England, ending our long voyage from the Caribbean here at Gosport.

Since the last post, I managed a trip home to hug my family, and we’ve spent plenty of sunny, but cold, days walking and cycling our way around the coast of Hampshire. A short trip through the gorgeous Cotswolds countryside we visited the villages of Painswick and Slad, and the larger towns of Stroud, Gloucester, Bristol, Bath and Oxford. Now as winter is upon us and most of the UK has had more than a dusting of snow, we look forward to a white Christmas with friends and Hogmanay in Scotland! With only a few more months till Blue Heeler is back out sailing, planning for our trip to Scandinavia next summer is also underway.

To our family, friends and everyone following this blog we wish you a safe and Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year. Fair winds for 2018!

Ally & Wayne

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Gosport

A break in the weather, blue sky and favourable winds, was all we needed to depart Holyhead.

Ahead of us was a chilly two day sail south through the Irish Sea so we made sure we had our winter woollies on. Our destination: Falmouth.

As we navigated through St George’s Channel and the Bristol  Channel we made sure to use the current to our advantage, staying clear of the inshore eddies, counter-eddies, turbulent tidal races and overfalls. Fortunately we had neap tides so the currents were never stronger than 2kn.

After 260nm and two nights at sea, we arrived at the historic port of Falmouth. Rather than stay at the marina, we opted to stay on a mooring as the weather was forecast to be okay during our stay. There are plenty of reasonably priced visitor moorings, so we snagged one, launched the dinghy then checked in with the harbour staff. The shower and laundry facilities are good so we took our time to enjoy extra long hot showers.

Falmouth is in the county of Cornwall. If you like Cornish pasties (which I do), you won’t be disappointed by the number on offer at various bakeries and cafes as you walk along Market Street. Falmouth is a little hilly and it’s an interesting place to walk around. Either along Market Street to poke around the shops, or over the hill through the cemetery to Swanpool then back along the coastal path to Pendennis Castle built during Henry VIII’s reign.  Once again we caught up with the crew of Coruisk and we bundled into a hire car so we could visit the impressive Southampton Boat Show. It was great that we managed to get there as I’d always wanted to visit this boat show. They had heaps of stuff for yachties, unlike some of the boat shows in Australia which seem to cater for fishing and power boats.

After a week it was time to continue our trip east. Our next port was Plymouth 40nm away. With noticeably warmer weather than up north (by only a couple of degrees) we enjoyed the afternoon of tacking our way into Plymouth Harbour along with other sailors out for the sunny afternoon. A short motor to our anchorage at Barn Pool Beach, west around from Drake Island, is where we stopped for the night.

The next morning we waited until we could see the channel markers through the dense fog then slowly crept out of the harbour passing a couple of warships on the way out.

Another glorious sailing day on the south coast. Dartmouth, 38nm away, has an easy entrance. There are a few options to anchor or berth the boat. Just before the three deep water floating docks (where we berthed) is a waste barge where you can drop off your rubbish and fill water tanks. There’s also a diesel barge nearby too. Reeds Almanac lists the options.

Once settled in we dinghied across to the pretty town to pay our harbour dues and have some lunch.  Across the water we could see the Dartmouth Steam Train puffing its way along the tracks. After a couple of nights at Dartmouth as a blow went over, we sailed out of the harbour passing the Dartmouth Castle onto Portland Harbour 52nm to east. Again we only stayed overnight dropping the anchor in the well protected Portland Harbour.

View looking east from Portland Harbour

From Portland we had a 50nm sail to our next destination which took us by the narrow entrance at ‘The Needles’ which leads into The Solent. Fortunately for much of our trip along the south coast the tide is at neaps and we’ve managed to catch the currents also going in the right direction. Entering The Needles at the wrong tide in the wrong conditions can be quite treacherous. But not that day. We sailed our way through the dozens of small craft to drop anchor at a quiet spot off Osbourne Beach on the north coast of the Isle of Wight. The next day we motored our way through the Saturday sailors across the short few miles across The Solent into Gosport – our home for the winter.

Our winter home – Haslar Marina, Gosport

Gosport is well positioned to catch trains or buses around the UK (a quick 5 minute ferry ride to Portsmouth then trains to London). The marina is open to the sea so the water stays fresh, unlike some of the locked in harbours. The climate is a little better down here, and the winter berthing rates are far more reasonable than London and other places along the south coast too.

The naval town of Gosport has everything we need all within walking distance – supermarkets, chandlery, cafes, library, bakeries, fish and chips, etc. It’s also a great location to cycle around and easy to take the bikes on the ferry across to Portsmouth or the Isle of Wight.

‘the Spinnaker’ Portsmouth

This whole area, which includes Gosport and Portsmouth, has a proud naval history. Many of the allied vehicles for the D-Day invasion boarded ships from Gosport and there are historic signs around the place with photos and interesting information.

Nearby is the Royal Navy Submarine Museum; across the water is the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose, the HMS Victory, from which Admiral Nelson commanded the victory at Trafalgar plus a whole bunch of other naval things to visit, including the Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower.

The largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, HMS Queen Elizabeth, recently arrived and now has its home at Portsmouth. Looks like we’ll be doing some ‘naval gazing’ while we’re here!

So that’s it. The sailing is over for 2017 and we prepare for a long stay through a cold winter. It’s unusual for us to stay in one place for any more than a few weeks so I’m hoping it will be a nice change.

We have plenty to see and do in the UK over winter, but I am also looking forward to spring when Blue Heeler heads back out sailing.

But before I get too settled, I’m taking a quick trip to Melbourne to see my family, leaving Wayne to keep warm and enjoy pies, mushy peas and a few weeks of peace and quiet!

If you’re in the area, do drop by! Until then…

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Hiya from Holyhead, North Wales

As we sail around the world, home is wherever we drop our anchor. Along the way we, like sailors of old, tend to pick up little bits of the local vernacular; in the Caribbean, it’s customary to greet with a friendly ‘Good Mornin’, in Thailand ‘Sawadee-Kai’, or Indonesia ‘Selamat Pagi’.

Here in Wales and around Liverpool we’re greeted with a chirpy ‘Hiya’. Of course the Welsh also have their own language which to the unlearned appears to have more consonants than vowels (classic example is the village in North Wales with the longest name in Great Britain: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, translated into English is “St Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the red cave”). Although I was born in North Wales, there’s little chance of me learning Welsh at this stage of my life, except for one phrase ‘Iechyd Da’ (ie: cheers!).

Leaving Dublin for Holyhead

Leaving Dublin early one morning the trip to Holyhead on the island of Anglesey, North Wales, was a pleasant 60nm motor sail directly east. The entrance to the Holyhead Marina is accessible at all states of the tide, with a wide entrance and long visitors dock at the marina from where you can tie up and visit the friendly marina office. We had considered going into Liverpool and looked at alternative anchoring/marina options along the North Wales coast, but with spring tides of 10 metres, incessant 25kn+ winds and bad reviews on some of the marinas, we decided to stay at Holyhead, where we can make a quick exit. Holyhead Marina has excellent shower and laundry facilities, with a well stocked chandlery, cafe and bar/restaurant on site too. The village of Holyhead is 15 minutes walk away.

Holyhead Port (from the Holyhead Port website)

Holyhead has a large ferry terminal with regular ferry service to Ireland and a railway station that links to the National Rail network. Holyhead is a quiet town, and would benefit from a coat of paint and improved foreshore work to make this a delightful tourist hotspot.

Holyhead Marina

Until then, there’s a plethora of charity shops, a few hairdressers and barbers, cosy pubs and even a small cinema to keep the locals entertained. On a blustery afternoon we went along with dozens of locals to watch Stephen King’s ‘It’. Centuries old St Cybis Church surrounded by a Roman fort is in the centre of town.  A little newer and not too far away are plenty of supermarkets – Lidl, and a little further on is Tesco, Asda and Morrisons.

Windy walk to South Stack Lighthouse

There’s plenty of walks around Holyhead. The Breakwater Country Park with walks to North Stack and South Stack offer peaceful trails lined with blackberries and nettles.

The old quarry at the Breakwater Country Park provided the rocks to build the 2.4km breakwater – the longest breakwater in Britain. Now there is a cafe and an old brick works displaying artworks and old photos of the area.

Where it all started..my life that is!

I had a few places I wanted to visit so we hired a car. I visited my first home, the place I spent my first few months before my family migrated to Australia.

From Bangor we traveled to my family’s home-town of Liverpool. Liverpool is only a two hour drive from Holyhead along the North Wales coast.

We could have berthed at Albert Dock at Liverpool, but I’m glad we didn’t as it wasn’t particularly inviting for yachties. Navigating the Mersey River at spring tide is one thing, but planning the escape – wind, tides – could have been troublesome.

Albert Dock, Liverpool

Liverpool’s Maritime Museum had lots of information about the Liverpool Blitz of 1940-42, the sinking of the Lusitania, the Battle of the Atlantic from WWII, the Merchant Seamen and the history of ship-building in Liverpool.

Also at this venue is the Slavery Museum which acknowledges that the prosperity of The British Empire was achieved through the misery of the slave trade.

A walk around town weaving our way through hoards of tourists and Scousers, we take a detour into The Cavern Club – rebuilt with original Cavern Club bricks and reopened in 1984. It’s a good place to sit and drink a beer and listen to live Beatles covers on stage. As we drove out of Liverpool, we took a route which took us by the old terrace houses where my relatives lived in years gone by.

Arthur, Ally and Julie at Holyhead

Our travels around North Wales included a sunny day trip through Betws-y-Coed, Snowdonia National Park and climbing base Llanberis; another day to visit the impressive Caenarvon Castle, and another day to visit Bangor and the town within Conwy Castle.

We also managed to catch up with relatives – my second cousin Arthur and his wife Julie live on Anglesey and came to Holyhead for a tour of Blue Heeler. Great to see them after so many years.

I also caught up with a distant cousin who has an interest in ancestry. My third cousin Ann and her husband Harry drove us around Liverpool and in particular around the area where they grew up, which also happened to be near where Paul McCartney and John Lennon grew up.

They took us along Penny Lane to view the Sgt Peppers roundabout, by Strawberry Fields (an old Salvation Army children’s home) and even the church where Eleanor Rigby is buried. Ann told us stories of the 1960s and what life was like back in those days. This area of Liverpool is quite beautiful with big parks and streets lined with old trees and lovely old houses. They pointed out the house where John Lennon spent his youth and I found myself humming a few of The Beatles tunes as we went along. It’s great to meet relatives along the way and I hope to meet up with others during our UK visit.

Simpson Bay complex demolished by Hurricane Irma

But I can’t finish this post without mentioning Hurricane Irma. St Martin, our temporary home over three seasons, has been destroyed by this incredibly destructive hurricane. St Barts, the BVIs, and other places we’ve visited will now take months, if not years to reconstruct. I really feel for the locals – the guy who fixed my shoes; the girl who cut my hair; Mike at Shrimpy’s; Hyacinth at The Business Point, and other businesses that support the yachting community – have no option but to stay and rebuild their livelihoods.

Holyhead was whacked with 60kn the other night – the first named storm of the year – Storm Aileen battered the UK leaving many without power and trees blown over with wind up to 85mph. We certainly woke up abruptly as it lashed Holyhead. The newspapers reported it as “Hurricane hits England”, but it was nothing like 180kn winds.

So in a day or so the wind will finally blow from the north so we can make a move south. The gales are coming more regularly now and will only intensify as winter approaches. We need to sail our floating home around to the south coast of England, soon.

Winter is coming…

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Thanks for the craic Dublin!

The sailing distance from Belfast to Dublin is around 105nm. With a light south-westerly breeze, we decided to make the most of the calmer weather and sail directly to Dublin. A strong southerly wind was forecast the following afternoon so we didn’t want to get trapped in another anchorage waiting for weather so unfortunately we missed a few towns and anchorages along the way.

Lack of sleep even on one overnighter is draining, so rather than arrive too early at Dublin, after 80nm and at 1am we pulled into a small anchorage at the Skerries about 23nm north of Dublin. The seas were absolutely flat with zero wind making night entry much easier. We slept solidly for five hours – bliss!

Early next morning making sure to make good use of the flood tide, we entered Dublin Bay. Staying well clear of the frequent ferries and ships departing and entering the busy harbour, we called VTS on VHF12 to request clearance into the port limits. A friendly voice gave us the okay to continue up the River Liffey to the Poolbeg Yacht Club located on the south bank.

Entering Dublin Port with famous red lighthouse to port

The Poolbeg Yacht Club doesn’t attract as many transient cruisers as Dun Laoghaire Marina, located further out on Dublin Bay’s southern side. But it is closer to the centre of Dublin. Most of the berths and mooring field are taken up by local yacht club members, and we met a few at the bar our first night. As they sipped their Guinness and watched a reply of their Irish lad Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather fight, they also asked about our travels from Australia. The club has showers, toilets, washing machines, a decent bar and welcoming staff.

Each morning the large cruise ships vibrate us awake

Opposite the Yacht Club on the northern bank of the River Liffey is the busy Dublin Port. Cruise ships, ferries, and other commercial vessels bring hundreds of tourists from Europe and the UK to Dublin. Each morning the rumblings of propellers and vibrations from thrusters only metres away from our hull shake us out of bed as the ships manoeuvre in the narrow river.

The yacht club is a five minute walk from the village of Ringsend, and a further 20 minute walk to the centre of Dublin. A walk through Ringsend Park to a bus stop across the road from St Patrick’s you can catch the number 1 bus right into town for 2 Euro. With Blue Heeler safely tied up on the outer dock, and with Australian song-writer Paul Kelly’s “Every F—-g City” playing in my head, our first port-of-call was a walk through the streets of Temple Bar.

The spread of gentrification in Dublin is obvious, but the city still retains its grittiness. Temple Bar is such an area; once derelict and filled with all sorts of interesting characters, nowadays the pubs are filled with hundreds of less interesting tourists listening to renditions of “Dirty Old Town” or “Irish Rover”. While the cobble roads are flat, the drink prices are steep so if you’re just in it for a beer, it pays to find a pub further out of the area (For a sample of Dublin from the ’90s, I recommend re-watching movie “The Commitments”. Great movie!).

Despite a €70 billion euro bank bailout in 2010, and after a few years of austerity measures, Ireland has managed to exit the bailout, thanks no doubt to the support of tourist dollars. Ireland is now the fastest growing economy in the euro zone for a fourth straight year. It will be interesting to see the impact Brexit will have on Northern Ireland as they exit the EU while Ireland remains.

During our stay we bought a two-day Dublin Pass which gave us discounted entry to a variety of tourist hot-spots and a ride aboard a Hop-On, Hop-Off bus which circles the city. A humorous driver talked as he drove, pointing out various buildings along the way. He even pointed out the cemetery where the inventor of the crossword puzzle was buried, saying “I don’t remember his name, but if you want to visit his grave you can find him four down and three across”. Ha!

The Easter Rising of 1916 took place in Dublin. The GPO (General Post Office) was used as the headquarters for the Irish Republicans and a trip to the GPO Witness History Exhibition is well worth the visit to learn more about this event. Further to the east along the River Liffey is the EPIC Emigration Museum; also worth a visit to find out about the people that left a troubled Ireland seeking better lives abroad. The exhibition also identifies the many people around the world who have Irish ancestry. A surprising list to be sure! Even Barrack Obama’s great, great, great grandfather was from Ireland!

Across the road at the Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine Exhibition, our guide tells us more about the famine and takes us through a typical ‘coffin ship’, a replica of the vessels used to transport the poor and destitute Irish to other lands. Finally to fill our day, a visit to Christchurch Cathedral, then it’s back at Temple Bar for another pint and a rendition of “Irish Rover” before catching the bus to Ringsend.

Not far from the Rory Gallagher walk is The Irish Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum Experience is new to Temple Bar and you can go there with your Dublin Pass. Tourists are guided through a working rehearsing and recording studio, and learn a little more about contemporary Irish bands along the way. You even get the chance to play a guitar or drums in the studio.

But of course a trip to Dublin would not be complete without a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. Promoted as the most popular tourist destination in Dublin, the self-guided exhibition shows the process of producing the black stuff, famous for its flavour and texture. At the end of the visit you’re invited to pour your own pint and drink it up on the 7th floor with 360 views of Dublin. You’ll often see trucks of Guinness (“silver bullets” as they’re known) making their journey across town.

A trip to the Jameson Distillery on Bow Street isn’t too far from the GPO. Your taste buds will be jumping for joy as the smooth taste of Jameson’s superior triple-distilled whiskey flows down your throat. But the jumping stops when you have the opportunity to subject them to the comparative tastes of the smoky double-distilled Johnny Walker and the second-rate single-distilled Jack Daniels! As you depart the tour you are welcome to stay and enjoy a free Jameson Daily Grog which will have your taste-buds jumping for joy again!

To finish off our brief visit to Dublin, we spent a quiet day walking around Trinity College, the Museums, the National Library and W.B. Yeats exhibition, a walk through St Stephens Green to read all the signs regarding the Easter Rising, then to Merrion Square passing Oscar Wilde’s house and statue before ambling back to the Poolbeg Yacht Club. Next stop, Holyhead, Anglesey, Wales.

Time for a pint! Sláinte!

 

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