“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Anon.

A year ago in early 2020 we were in the midst of completing major projects aboard Blue Heeler, fine-tuning everything aboard to reach our goal of returning to warmer climates to the south. I seem to recall confidently announcing something along the lines of “Now we’re on our way back to Australia…”. At the time I couldn’t have foreseen a year such as it was. None of us could.

Waiting…

By July 2020 we’d ummed-and-ahhed whether to stay in the UK, or cut and run and continue on our voyage south. As the pandemic overwhelmed countries one by one, the uncertainty around quarantine rules and border crossings became as clear as mud. So we made the decision to sit and take a wait-and-see approach.

The number of global COVID deaths over the past year is staggering and news of mutant strains is a little alarming. Here in the UK, over 120,000 poor souls have succumbed in the UK; while just the past month the US has lost 100,000 people – a very sad year for many families.

Southsea Marina looking north – heavy rain cloud over Portsmouth

Some brighter news; the UK vaccination program has jabbed around 15 million people since the rollout two months ago. The population is divided into a number of priority groups with the elderly, vulnerable, health and essential workers high priority. The Government is working towards those in the top nine priority groups to be offered their first jab by May, and as we are in the eighth priority group we hope to be included in the vaccination program within a few months. They hope to vaccinate every adult in the UK by July. The Government has issued a ‘four-step roadmap’ and all being well, some non-essential businesses will open after 12th April, but this all depends on the efficacy of the vaccinations, etc.

Meanwhile down-under, the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has placed ‘Do Not Travel’ advisories on 177 countries. While this makes sense from a pandemic viewpoint, these sweeping advisories nullify travel insurance for all medical emergencies, as policies typically state they won’t cover countries with a travel warning/advisory in place.

Eastney Beach – a little bit of sunshine is good for the soul

Five months have passed since we entered Southsea Marina, and we have one month left on our winter berth contract and we’re hoping we can leave at the end of March. I’m really looking forward to some warmth and would love to return to places where I can swim and don’t have to wear layers of coats, gloves, hats, boots, etc.

Our immediate plan is to have Blue Heeler hauled out for some annual maintenance in April then back on the water. After that, things get a little blurry…

Until then, we keep busy and stay focused on the future and whatever it may bring.

 

We’ve had some comments from readers interested in Wayne’s Raspberry Pi project. He’s certainly kept himself busy over the past few months learning how to build a simple computer from scratch and customise it for specific use on the boat.

During the cold dreary winter, he’s enjoyed working in the warm cabin doing interesting projects, rather than the usual jobs neck-deep in engine oil or bilge filth.

For those following the progress, here’s an update.

The SensESP board under construction

Wayne has undertaken two projects – The RaspberryPi Mini-Computer which I mentioned in my last post. Since then, he’s also built additional systems using SignalK and SensESP.

The Shelly 1 WiFi-operated 16A relay switch

His second project is setting up automated systems for gathering data or remote controlling switches accessible via the iPad. For this project he’s used a combination of ESP8266 Internet Development Board Modules or Shelly1 Home Automation Switches connected to various sensors. These can be bought from Amazon or gadget shops. Information on how to setup these systems are easily sourced via the Internet.

Connecting through our on-board WIFI router, useful diagnostic data configured through Node Red is displayed to the iPad via the WilhelmSK app. This includes useful data such as engine room temperature, house and starter battery voltages, outside/inside humidity/temperature/pressure, etc.

Customised layout with WilhelmSK app

The Shelly1 switches integrated through our WIFI allow access to remotely operate electrical switches on the main control panel. Essentially, any switch on the control board can be automated via WIFI using the Shelly1. (In the image above, you can see the switches located in the centre-bottom of the image). These WIFI automations enhance the already hard-wired switching and allow for remote controlling. So far, Wayne has setup on/off switching for the engine’s additional high-output alternator, the seawater washdown pump, a water pump for the watermaker, with plans to automate other switches too.

While we don’t plan to fully convert our vessel into a ‘Smart Boat’, there are immediate benefits of just the automations above. For example, while I’m hosing off a muddy anchor from the bow, Wayne can remain at the helm and turn the seawater pump on or off at the iPad while keeping an eye on my progress at the bow. There’s no need to run below to turn off switches.

So, while Skipper’s attempting to make our boat ‘smarter’, I’ve stayed busy keeping the boat cleaner, tidier, dryer and well stocked, and preparing it for our ongoing voyages. I’ve whipped up a few more courtesy flags, but with no idea which direction we’ll take, or where we’ll be allowed entry, I’ve had to consider all possibilities!

Where to? Morocco, Panama, Columbia??

Early February brought the Beast from the East, with cold wind blowing in from Siberia. This week though the conditions are a little warmer, and there’s a whiff of spring in the air.

Despite a cold and damp winter in lockdown, our time here has gone by quickly and we are both very keen to go. Anywhere. Just to be out sailing. That’s our goal.

Until then…

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This year is described by many as ‘unprecedented’, ‘apocalyptic’, ‘calamitous”, as well as urban slang such as ‘omnishambles’ and ‘hellacious’. Hunkered in Blue Heeler for most of the year, ‘tedious’ fits our situation. Besides the anxiety caused by COVID19 around the World, unforeseen health issues, relationship breakups, and loss of livelihood have upset the lives of those I care about. The recent death of my brother’s dog ‘Reg‘ made 2020 that much sadder.

After the initial UK lockdown, the sailing season opened in early July – three months later than expected. It was only a couple of months of fine summer sailing before the commencement of the second lockdown. In neighbouring Europe, lockdowns, quarantine restrictions and ‘essential only’ travel advice gave us little option but to stay put and wait it out.

Although we all yearn for a return to normality, we know it won’t miraculously happen at the stroke of midnight on 31st December. So we stay positive. Good news from Australia – after months of strict lockdown, the virus is almost eliminated. Here in the UK as infections continue to rise daily, a vaccine has begun it’s rollout across the UK, although it’ll be months before any positive effect is known.

At the same time dealing with the pandemic, the UK is hurtling towards self-imposed autonomy from 1st January. With no clear directive on what to expect, thousands of lorries transiting the Calais-to-Dover route are gridlocked as UK businesses have begun to stockpile goods. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the drawn-out season finale of Bizarro World dominated the news, overshadowing the disastrous mismanagement of the virus. (Not tired of all the winning, the malevolent protagonist is likely to star in his new spin-off series, so I don’t think we’ve heard the last of him and his cronies. Groan…).

On a brighter note, December 21, the Winter Solstice, is the shortest/darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere with less than eight hours of daylight here at Southsea. Longer days and warmer weather are always welcome. Last week, cold northerly winds chilled the air with a top temperature of five degrees and minus figures in the evening – the pontoons and deck covered in a slippery layer of dangerous ice so a sprinkle of salt/grit improves our chances of not skating into the drink!

December 2020 is our tenth anniversary of living aboard Blue Heeler. Back in 2010, the World economy was recovering from the GFC; Australia had its first female Prime Minister and the U.S. had a witty, intelligent and popular President… My, how times have changed.

Southsea Esplanade

Southsea Mansions

Cycle Path to Havant

Ye Olde Building, Havant

The RaspberryPi Project

Fortunately, we have no major projects to do over the cold winter months. Wayne is taking the opportunity to work on his Raspberry Pi project. So what is it? Basically, he’s built a mini-computer/SignalK server using a variety of single board components, stacked and housed, that capture, read, convert, store and display different data protocols from the boat’s existing data-producing gadgets (NMEA2000, NMEA0183, AIS, Seatalk instruments, etc).  Below are a couple of screenshots – one from Grafana, the other from WilhelmSK – showing current and historical information such as seawater temperature, depth, wind speed/direction, and so on. The screens are customisable and can display input from our Raymarine chart plotter, Google Maps, and OpenCPN. The display can be viewed on the iPad as well as external monitor which he’s also set up. It’s a pretty cool project!

Grafana interface allows customisation.

WilhelmSK UI screen incorporates Raymarine chart plotter and SignalK server data.

OpenCPN via the Raspberry and displayed on the iPad.

Cold weather cycling

For me, I like to get off the boat for a couple of hours each day for regular exercise – endless walks along the Southsea Esplanade with views across to the Isle of Wight, or into Southsea admiring the mansions along the way as I pick up groceries, or cycling up to Farlington Marsh to walk around the lakes, or perhaps a bit farther on to the village of Havant just for the exercise on a fine day.

Podcasts, researching, reading, cooking, grocery shopping, eating, sleeping and watching Netflix movies and TV series make up the sum of our day. We’ve also joined in the Ocean Cruising Club Winter Series webinars via Zoom, and follow the progress of the competitors in the Vendee Globe round the World race.

England’s latest approach to tackle the increasing number of infections of COVID19 is a three-tiered system (Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have different restrictions in place). Southsea is Tier 2, which means we’re unable to mingle with friends for Christmas. No matter though, I’ve put up the tinsel, bought some Christmas pud, and we’ll stay as warm as ‘pigs-in-blankets’ in our cozy floating home and watch Christmas favourites The Castle and Love Actually for the umpteenth time.

So, as 2020 nears its end (good riddance!), we hope your year has been kind, and we wish you and your families good health, happiness, fair winds and a brighter 2021. A special thank-you to all the champions that deserve a break this Christmas and have kept the wheels turning – healthcare workers, shop staff, drivers, teachers and other essential workers.

Stay safe, stay positive, and Merry Christmas.

Ally & Wayne x

 

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Last winter I was looking forward to spending winter on an overseas island somewhere to the south. Little did I expect the island to be Portsea Island on the south coast of England in Hampshire. Not quite the tropics, but the best we can do under the circumstances!

Portsea Island is an area of low-lying land with Portsmouth Harbour to the west, and Langstone Harbour and Hayling Island to the east. To the south is the spithead of the Solent with views across to the Isle of Wight. We stayed at Gosport three years ago, but didn’t spend too much time in the Portsmouth area, so it’s a nice change to have somewhere new to explore. We did pop in to Portsmouth Harbour and Gosport for a few days and caught up with fellow Aussies Mike and Nicki from ‘Zen Again’ who we first met on the 2012 Indonesia Rally. I took a ride around Gosport and it hasn’t changed much since we stayed there in 2017.

Busy Portsmouth Harbour

Our winter home - Southsea Marina

Our winter home – Southsea Marina

Our home for winter is the Southsea Marina close to the popular seaside resort town of Southsea located at the south-east of Portsea Island. The marina has a good vibe, friendly people, friendly dogs, and a convenient Indian Restaurant (Bombay Bay) and Marina Bar and Café. A small supermarket is ten-minute walk away next to a fish’n’chip shop, but mostly I ride my bike to the nearest Lidl, Tesco or Aldi to fill up my panniers. The entrance to the marina is barred by a cill gate which is raised and lowered with the action of the tide. We entered on the top of the high tide at 4m which gave us plenty of depth for our 2m draft.

Solent Fort

Forts no longer defending but accommodating

At the south of the island is the Southsea Castle, built during Henry VIII’s time, plus the D-Day Museum and other historic places of interest we’ve yet to visit.

To defend the important Solent and Portsmouth Harbour, forts were constructed around the coastline and on the Isle of Wight, as well as a number of massive sea forts in the Solent. The four sea forts were built between 1865 and 1880 to protect the eastern approaches to Portsmouth Harbour. However, the threat of invasion didn’t eventuate at the time and the forts weren’t engaged in war. But war did eventually come to Portsmouth.

Due to the strong naval presence, between 1940-1944 over 60 air-raids caused widespread damage and killed almost 1000 people. The Solent forts were used to defend the Portsmouth dockyard during this war (and the Great War), sustaining so much damage they were eventually mothballed in 1956. Nowadays two of the forts offer accommodation for guests and something to look at for the beachgoers gazing across the Solent.

Eastney Esplanade, Portsea Island

From the marina the beachside esplanade is a lovely ride or walk into Portsmouth. Otherwise we can cut through the centre of the island along a good network of cycle paths to admire the beautiful Victorian mansions and terraced houses lining the narrow streets.

To the east of Portsea Island is Langstone Harbour and Hayling Island. A small ferry battles the strong currents ebbing and flooding in and out of Langstone Harbour and carries passengers with their bikes across to Hayling Island. The island offers plenty of walking and cycle tracks. It’s a good 25km ride anticlockwise around Langstone Harbour back to Southsea with the option to stopping at Havant along the way.

Lockdown rules were relaxed over summer and as confirmed cases of COVID have risen sharply in the UK and Europe I expect new rules to be introduced over winter. Already tighter restrictions are in place in a number of regions to the north and around London. But for now, I make sure to take advantage of the daylight hours and fresh air to walk or ride for a couple of hours exercise each day.

Ready for winter

As usual at this time of year at 51 degrees north, we’ve set about preparing the boat externally for winter – removing and stowing sails; cleaning dinghy and removing cover for its annual makeover; painting Boracol on the deck to prevent algae growth over winter; flushing the outboard(s) and watermaker; stowing ropes and other topside items; plus many other small jobs. There are also below deck tasks like sorting out cupboards to alleviate condensation; converting the binoculars holder into a spice rack; and dragging out the electric appliances for cooking hearty winter meals. Staying warm, comfortable and dry are the main objectives.

To fill in our days over winter there are the other projects from ‘the list’. This year though we don’t have such an extensive list as last year, but we still need to plan and research the ocean passages coming up next year plus improve our offshore communications and navigation tools and the like.

Wayne is currently engrossed in a commendable project of building a device that will integrate our various gadgets – for a change, a less-physical project that doesn’t entail getting covered in oil and grease!

This weekend the UK clock rolls back from daylight-savings-time and we return to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Back in March 2019, the European Parliament voted to stop changing the clocks in the EU. So, in October 2021, EU member states will change clocks for the last time, although I think with all that’s going on at the moment, I don’t believe this change is confirmed. Not sure what the UK plans to do with their time zone and daylight savings, but I expect that’s on the bottom their ‘to do’ list…

So, while we’re so far away from family and friends, we are keeping as busy as possible, focussing on what really matters in life and not worrying about the unimportant stuff.

As Alfred E. Newman says “What, me worry?”.

Stay safe everyone!

 

 

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*** Happy September birthdays Matthew and Timmy ***

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Our nomadic impulses tell us to keep moving (a rolling stone gathers no moss and so on), but this year we are travelling deliberately sluggishly due to the global pandemic. Our time is staying mostly at anchorages, and avoiding expensive south coast marinas by choosing inexpensive pontoons or moorings – decisions determined by tides, wind and access to facilities.

Conditions near Portland Bill

From the delightful Fishcombe Cove anchorage at Tor-Bay we headed east with the goal of reaching Swanage, a small bay south and east of Poole Harbour. This trip of 68nm was helped along by an east flowing current and westerly wind of up to 25kn.

The sea area south of Portland can be vicious at the wrong tide as currents collide causing steep seas. Staying at least 4nm south of Portland Bill lighthouse the wind and current moved us swiftly along, reaching up to 12kn at times.

As we rounded Durlston Head and headed north towards Peveril Point, the following seas increased in size, with some waves cresting around us. Yikes! Steering west into Swanage would have the large waves on our beam, which didn’t appeal to us, so we continued a little farther on to reach the open and shallow anchorage at Studland Bay where we dropped the pick after a long day sail.

Our plan was to take our new Safefill gas cylinders to the nearest gas fill centre (around 4kms inland from Swanage). (Side note: it’s not easy to fill gas cylinders in the UK; Safefill is one brand of cylinders which can be filled at selected outlets. Most people have Calor exchange bottles but these aren’t convenient for sailors from abroad).

Storm Francis was forecast to blow through so we prepared the boat by hoisting the anchor sail and extending our anchor chain another 20m and waited.The night before the storm dozens of boats emptied the anchorage leaving Blue Heeler plus two other boats. We had plenty of swing room and space behind us in case we should drag anchor.

Early morning Tuesday we awoke before the imminent storm and had a cuppa in the cockpit. Funny thing about anchoring; at some point overnight a boat anchored right next to us. Too close I thought considering an imminent storm. At the same moment we were discussing the advantages of anchoring away from others, our anchor let go and began to drag in the weedy bottom! Within a second or two we had the engine and windless on, hauled the anchor. We re-anchored in a better area with loads more swing room. I have to say though in the almost ten years of sailing around, I can count on one hand how many times our boat has dragged and this was one of those times.

By lunchtime the storm blew in. We hunkered down that day, night and the next day with two anchor alarms on, just in case. The wind was around 30kn mostly, but gusted up at times.

Behind us at anchor were a number of stationery cruise ships including the “Queen Elizabeth” and “Anthem of the Seas”. With a truncated cruising season brought on by the pandemic, these floating hotels (some say floating petri dishes) have no-one to play shuffle-board and watch gaudy entertainment.

Once the storm abated, we sailed from the anchorage and headed east towards the Isle of Wight.

The day started off okay; some cloud, and a reasonable forecast of 15-20kn SW winds. Half an hour later a woman’s voice blared a new forecast over the VHF “Imminent Force 8” – what the..?  This was the only alert with no other weather forecast suggesting gale force winds. We reefed the sails anyway and waited for winds to reach up to 34-40kn. But reducing sail also reduced our speed which meant we wouldn’t reach the narrow entrance into the Solent at the premium time of tide.

Marinetraffic shows the busy Solent 

A couple of hours later, with no Force 8 wind in sight, we reached The Needles at the western end of the Isle of Wight at a good enough time to ride the fast flowing current into the calm waters of the busy Solent which separates the Isle of Wight from mainland England. We reached the mouth of the Medina River and motored through Cowes to the Whitegate visitors pontoon. This pontoon is quite convenient and reasonably priced for boats that don’t require water or electricity as it’s a short dinghy ride across to the Shepards Marina where visitors can use the showers, dispose of garbage and get water if needed.

Visitor Pontoon, Cowes

We spent the weekend at the Isle of Wight walking around the river paths, walked into Newport along the river path and caught the bus back. Despite COVID19, people were out and about, the shops are mostly open and besides masks and hand sanitiser, things appeared quite normal. I expect this will change once summer is over. We took advantage of the situation and had a socially distanced lunch at the Folly Inn.

To the north of the Isle of Wight is an anchorage at Osborne Beach where we anchored for a few nights. I don’t believe we are allowed to go ashore here as it’s part of the Osborne estate, Queen Victoria’s weekender, so we stayed on board for a few days.

One area we hadn’t visited was the Chichester Harbour. As it turned out, the Chichester Harbour was a pleasant surprise.

We stayed a week on the visitors pontoon at Itchenor, again no water or electricity but paying for a week works out quite good value rather than paying daily (£85 for a week). There’s not much at Itchenor, except a jetty, a good pub (Ship Inn) and a popular café. If you plan on coming here you might want to stock up before-hand as it’s a few kilometers to the nearest grocery store.

Village of Bosham

Chichester Cathedral

Chichester Market place

It wasn’t long before we had the bikes off and rode in to Chichester, about 12kms away. The Itchenor Ferry service is convenient to get the bikes to the shore, otherwise we use the dinghy.

There are heaps of walking tracks around the area and I happily went out each day with MapMyWalk app running in the background. The beach at West Wittering is quite good and plenty of people sunning themselves. The water obviously too cold for most to swimming though. It’s about a 12km return walk to West Wittering from Itchenor along the coastal route.

As we hadn’t stayed at a marina for many weeks, we returned to Cowes to replenish some stocks and use the laundrette in town to wash a few weeks of laundry.

The ‘winter season’ for most marinas is from 1st November through to end of March, so the winter season will be upon us.  So, as we do each year around this time, we source a place to stay over the winter months. It’s not so easy in the UK to find a place that allows people to stay aboard their boats over winter. I’m not sure why, since they don’t mind people staying aboard any other time of the year. This baffles me, considering boats are designed to stay aboard. The good news is that we have found a marina that is happy to have us stay over winter and it’s somewhere different from where we’ve stayed previously so we have a new region to explore. I’ll tell you more about it in my next post, but from the photo below, maybe you can guess where.

The ongoing isolation and distance from friends and family during this pandemic is affecting everyone, even those like us, who choose this lifestyle. So, a big thankyou to some of the kind people we’ve met recently – Robert from Plymouth contacted us and offered to help us in anyway he could, and Bill and Beverley who we met in Cowes were very generous to us during our stay at Cowes. A little kindness goes a long way…

Stay safe…

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Still chilly on the water

This year our pace is more leisurely than normal, but as we all know, 2020 is not a normal year! Staying in the UK for now seems to be the most sensible option for us, so we‘ll continue our slow trip along the south coast of England.

The coast of Cornwall and Devon is rugged, but also has some amazing sandy/pebbly beaches and small bays. The coastline known as the “English Riviera” has a temperate climate attracting visitors from across the UK. From Helford River, we continued east and dropped anchor at Plymouth harbour, Dartmouth and Tor-Bay.

Plymouth

From Helford River to the south of Falmouth, we sailed 40nm to Portland Harbour and dropped anchor at Cawsand Bay. The anchorage at Cawsand Bay on the southwest corner of Plymouth harbour is a good place to hole up from SW/NW winds. With a few days of strong wind forecast, we decided to stay a few days at the Mayflower Marina, located about 3kms from Plymouth centre. It gave us the opportunity to cycle around Plymouth and replenish our supplies.

Plymouth, like most of the major towns along this coastline, has a solid maritime history. In 1577, sea captain and explorer Sir Francis Drake, departed Plymouth and was the first captain to circumnavigate the globe aboard the ‘Golden Hind’. He eventually returned to Plymouth in 1580 laden with spices and goodies from Indonesia plus booty from his plundering of Spanish treasure ships. A replica ‘Golden Hind’ is docked at Brixham for tourists.

This September marks 400 years since the ‘Mayflower’ set off from Plymouth harbour loaded with Pilgrims seeking a new life and opportunities in the New World. Over 160 years later, in 1787 the cargo ships ‘Friendship’ and ‘Charlotte’ carried convicts from Plymouth to Australia. With nine other ships, this First Fleet arrived on 26th January 1788 at Port Jackson, which became Sydney, New South Wales.

There’s also plenty of good walks from Cawsand. The walk from Cawsand to St Michael’s Chapel along the Rame Head Heritage Coast is a good 9kms return.

Dartmouth

Another 40nm or so sailing day from Cawsand we reach Dartmouth. The approach to the River Dart has Dartmouth Castle on the port side, then opens up to the picturesque town of Dartmouth. Two ferries cross from Kingswear to Dartmouth, and half a mile on a chain ferry crosses the river. The Britannia Naval College, opened in 1905, sits high above the town and remains as important to sailors today as in the past.

Despite restrictions around social distancing, cafes and restaurants are filled with tourists enjoying the few days of warm weather.

The River Dart is narrow and deep and a popular destination for a variety of water craft. From the Dartmoor National Park, the river flows its way south into the English Channel. For a yacht with a 2m draft, the river is navigable for no more than 4nm to Dittisham. There are hundreds of moorings although August is the height of the season so places on the visitors pontoon are limited. Anchoring can be found just south of Anchor Stone, located south of Dittisham on the west bank. It’s a good spot, although room for no more than four or five well anchored boats. Harbour dues are payable each night whether at anchor or on a mooring.

Dart Valley Trail

Ferries take punters regularly from Dartmouth to Dittisham where they can visit Agatha Christie’s holiday home ‘Greenway’ or perhaps take a steam train ride from Kingswear to Paignton. The river is filled with all sorts of water craft – kayaks, punts, paddle boards, as well as yachts and power boats.

The South West Coast trail is a decent 7.5km walk from Dittisham to Dartmouth on the western bank, through the fields, and the forests around Old Mill Creek.

On the east bank at Greenway Quay, it’s a nice walk to Galmpton, or all the way to Ellbery Beach in Tor-Bay.

Tor-Bay

To the east of Dartmouth around in Tor-Bay is the fishing town of Brixham at the south of the bay, Paignton in the centre, and Torquay to the north. Motoring the 12nm or so from Dartmouth, we dropped anchor at Fishcombe Cove located just outside and to the west of Brixham harbour. With the weather so calm we would stay here as long as conditions remained so.

Overlooking the anchorage is Battery Gardens. Besides great views of Tor-Bay, Battery Gardens is recognised as one of the best-preserved military emplacements in the UK. On sunny days the cove is filled with people sunning themselves and swimming in the cold water. There’s a small snack and ice-cream shop open during the summer hours.

It’s a pleasant anchorage, particularly since the wind has been favourable and no more than 10kn. A strong easterly would change the situation for the worse, but we were lucky and had no such winds.

With the sea temperature creeping just over 20degC, I threw on my togs and jumped into the cold water. Second swim in two years! With the ambient temperature in the mid 20s and extremely humid, the inside of the boat had over 80% humidity and I could feel the dampness seeping into the fabric.

This is the first time our hull has been inspected since launching in December last year. The fresh water within Whitehaven Harbour and cool seawater has kept growth to a minimum. The anodes, prop and hull looked pretty good. The remains of a plastic bag wrapped around our prop cutter was easily removed.

Not only is this a picturesque place to stop, it’s also convenient. At the small cove is a step landing. From here I can jump ashore to either walk along the coastal trails, or into town for groceries. There’s a visitor pontoon in the harbour where we can tie up the dinghy for a couple of hours. Not far up the hill from Fishcombe Cove  is a laundromat, which are not easy to find outside of marinas. It’s free to anchor here and with the average cost for a marina berth between GBP30-40.00 per night, it makes sense to anchor as much as possible.

Brixham

On a hot, humid sunny day as I walk up the steep roads with brightly coloured terraced houses, it reminds me a little of walking around St Georges in Grenada. Similar buildings from the same era I suppose.

The technique of trawling was first developed in Brixham and today Brixham remains a major fishing town. Near the ‘Golden Hind’ replica ship stands a statue of King William III (aka William Prince of Orange). With his Dutch army, protestant William invaded England in 1688 and ousted his father-in-law and Catholic incumbent, James.

Walk to Berry Head

Tor-bay is protected from southwest through to northwest winds, but fully exposed to the east. In the past ships would find refuge here from storms, or to stop to load supplies. Berry Head, the headland at the southeast of the bay, was a military site with guns positioned to defend naval ships during the various wars.

This year there are plenty of tourists around, few wearing face-masks. I imagine a typical summer would have many more people visiting these coastal towns. We are still required to wear masks in shops and on public transport.

Wayne’s just finished running the watermaker and our water tanks are full. We’ve managed to keep our batteries charged with a combination of solar, wind and Honda generator. Our wind generator worked a treat during Storm Ellen but at the height of the storm we had to turn it off as wind up to 50kn were too much.

The summer season is waning and Storm Ellen is a reminder that autumn isn’t far away. Soon we’ll continue our journey eastwards to explore the next interesting coastal town.

Blue Heeler anchored at Fishcombe Cove, Tor-Bay

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