Staying healthy while sailing the world is as important as keeping the boat in good condition. Over the past ten years, we’ve been fortunate to remain in good health, although battling the effects of a moderately sedentary lifestyle in this cold northern climate was a challenge. Every couple of years, prescription glasses and dentistry creep into the annual budget, but we’ve been careful not to break bones, lose fingers, poison ourselves with ciguatera, get sick from any one of a thousand types of maladies or suffer from too many careless on-board mishaps. Below: Skipper ripped off his thumbnail in Norway in 2018 – ouch!

The best medicine we’ve found over the past ten years is fresh sea-air, exercise and sunshine. Just the thought of sailing along, soaking up the sun’s vitamin D and swimming around in warm water makes me feel healthier. But there’s always a chance something could go wrong. We’ve recently renewed our travel insurance and although it doesn’t cover COVID, it will cover us for any unforeseen medical emergencies. That’s the drawback with any insurance; you have to have an accident or catastrophe to reap the benefits.

The good news is that we’ve had our second COVID jab and we’re ready to depart the UK. Countries in Europe are easing travel restrictions for those with full vaccinations so it should make travel a little safer and more straightforward. The NHS is encouraging people to self-test so we’ve grabbed a pack each of the free COVID self-tests to have on board.

Life as we knew it is slowly returning here in the UK and it seems that wearing masks and completing track and trace forms is becoming second nature. The vaccine rollout appears to be well-organised with over half the population of 68 million having had at least one vaccination. Last week we popped across to the Spice Island Inn in Old Portsmouth to catch up with friends from Southsea for a drink. It was great to be able to relax and enjoy a laugh. Oh, and ‘hugging’ is officially allowed in the UK!

While walking to Old Portsmouth, we watched the HMS Queen Elizabeth warship enter Portsmouth Harbour along with hundreds of others. The Royal Navy’s Flagship vessel, affectionately known as ‘Big Lizzie’, cost over £3 billion.

HMS Queen Elizabeth approaching Portsmouth Harbour, May 2021

Looking back on the past four years since Blue Heeler sailed across the North Atlantic to arrive at Baltimore on the south coast of Ireland, I’m so glad we decided to sail to this region and spend time north of 50 degrees latitude. We’ve met some great people, and experienced so much – we’ll take with us fond memories of traveling through the canals of the Netherlands; sailing in the sweet water of the Baltic visiting the cities of Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, Riga, Talin; Christmas in Flensburg, Germany; across the cold North Sea to the windy northern isles of Shetland and Orkney; to the remote and unique isles of beautiful Scotland, plus the experience of sailing Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast. A train-trip through Germany, France, Austria, Czech Republic, Bratislava, Hungary, and Switzerland was an opportunity not to be missed – something we may not be able to do at present. All our travel around these northern European countries wouldn’t have been possible had BREXIT happened a couple of years earlier. Now we may only enter Schengen countries for 90 days for every 180 days, but at least we had a chance to enjoy the Freedom of Movement before the UK slammed this door shut. Below is our route over the past four years:

2017 to 2021

With that in mind, our plans are sketchy for the coming summer months and at this stage we plan to sail south – France, Spain and Portugal – into the Mediterranean. I’ve wanted to visit Spain since I learned Spanish back in 2004 – not sure how much I’ll remember though and I’m sure it’ll get mangled with the bit of French I’ve learned.

It’s a good feeling to know we will be on the move again. Soon.

Until next time…

Posted on by blueheelerhr39 | 3 Comments

Since my last post, we’ve sailed very little. In fact, over the past year I’ve probably cycled or walked further than we’ve sailed. We’re biding time and staying busy as best we can until we leave; until then, there’s plenty of riding and walking on England’s south coast.

A walk around Brownsea Island takes around two hours. It is the birthplace of the Scouting and Guiding.

Dotted along the trails are interesting quotes and questions to spark childrens’ interest.

Slowly exploring the south coast of England, we discovered the currents in Poole Harbour are particularly fierce at spring tides. After relocating from the South Deep anchorage across to the west side of Brownsea Island we dropped anchor in the narrow waters. In the wee hours with an outgoing tide, Blue Heeler touched the bottom to rest a couple of hours before popping back on the flood tide. The strong current had swept us into the shallows, despite the 25+ knot north-east winds which we’d hoped would keep us in the deeper water.

Looking towards the calmer west side of Brownsea Island from the PHC moorings.

The west side of Brownsea Island is narrow and shallow with poor holding, and I don’t recommend it to any deep keel boats certainly during springs.  To the north of the island are the Poole Harbour Commission moorings – a better alternative for a good night’s sleep. None of the moorings have pickup lines which makes it difficult to grab. Plus, the mooring numbers were difficult to spot with up to 30kn of wind and tide splashing over the tops. An easy method to tie-up to a mooring without a pick-up line is to lasso the entire mooring with a long line, then tie off to the cleat, after which set lines properly through the swivel on the top of the mooring. This proven method was recommended to us and certainly works a treat. The days of strong easterly winds eventually eased allowing us to leave Poole and take advantage of the fast east-flowing current.

Sunrise, Poole Harbour

The approach to Lymington is clearly marked, but there are literally hundreds of boats here, so it pays to keep a good lookout particularly when the current is strong. The Wightlink ferries on the eastern bank leave for the Isle of Wight at regular intervals, so be sure to check the outgoing and incoming timetable before navigating the river.

Dog friendly High Street of Lymington

Lymington has a reputation for being slightly ‘posh’ and not generally a haven for the budget cruiser looking for an anchorage. However, at the northern end of the harbour, there are fore’n’aft, or ‘trot’ moorings for vessels no bigger than 12m, managed by Lymington Harbour. No bookings required and it’s first-in-best-dressed. The trot moorings are better value at £120 for one week (compared to £55 per night at the nearby marina). The trot moorings are close to the town quay where there’s secure showers and refuse facilities, plus supermarkets and self-service laundry in town a short walk away.

Trot Mooring – Lymington. Town Quay in background.

Tying up to a trot mooring can also be tricky. There’s a mooring ball fore and one aft with a line connecting the two. The knack is to use the boat-hook to grab that line and fix it over the forward and stern cleats. But with a beamy boat like Blue Heeler, I could only place the line on the centre cleat. I threw a lasso over the forward mooring, but it had to be threaded through the ring which I couldn’t reach. Skipper helped me fix the line and the Harbour Master came by to lend a hand for the stern line. Sorted!

Lymington Town Quay

The town of Lymington has a busy High Street with the typical shops for any seaside town. The Bank Holiday weekend attracted visitors from afar to visit the High Street Market or sit at the quay to eat fish’n’chips while black-headed seagulls squawk and flap about.

During our stay at Lymington, a strong sou’wester with a forecast of over 50 knots blew over us. I don’t think we experienced winds over 35kn, but it was strong enough and had Blue Heeler tugging on the lines and lurching in the gusts. Friends Brian & Chris from London came down to see us which was really lovely to see familiar faces after so long, even if we had to ‘air hug’ (apparently ‘hugging’ will be allowed after 17th May!). And thanks to Dave and Sydney from Southsea who popped by to drop off a new WiFi router and other gadgets for skipper.

Wild horse, New Forest

Lymington is located at the south of the New Forest National Park. This park was established by William the Conquerer almost one thousand years ago and today it’s a popular place for horse-riders, cyclists, campers and birdwatchers. Due to the relentless logging over the centuries there is plenty of open space to cater for the 5,000 or so ponies residing in New Forest. These ponies are managed by the New Forest Commoners and have right of way on all roads in the forest.

Getting the bike ashore

To the east is the interesting village of Beaulieu and surrounding estate. The Beaulieu River is privately owned and the history of Buckler’s Hard harbour traces back through the centuries. Nowadays boats can grab a mooring or stay at the marina.

With less than three weeks until our second COVID vaccine jab, positive news regarding relaxing of rules to enter EU member countries is filtering through official sites such as the Schengen Visa site. We’re hoping a full vaccination will not only give us longer protection from the severity of the virus, but also help us to cross international borders.

The many cycle and walking trails throughout New Forest, plus buses to towns such as Bournemouth and Southampton, Lymington is a good place to hang out, at least for a little while longer.

Until next time…

Walking trails around Lymington
Posted on by blueheelerhr39 | Leave a comment
Wanderlust: A strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.

Cruisers, like us, typically don’t stay too long in one place. In fact, we’ve met many cruisers that completed a circumnavigation in less than three years; less common are those that spend decades living aboard. We’re somewhere in the middle; now in our eleventh year living aboard.

Our suspension is only intensifying our wanderlust – we must temper that feeling for a little while longer.

Now that the economical winter berth rates have concluded (Oct-Mar), from April 1st we are faced with inflated summer berthing rates here on England’s south coast; certainly not an option for the budget cruiser. The challenge over the next few weeks is to discover inexpensive places to anchor and save our pennies.

Blue Heeler spent the first couple of weeks of April on the hard stand – a bottom scrub and coat of fresh antifoul paint, plus a survey to keep the insurers happy. A successful couple of weeks to finish off some less-important jobs and Blue Heeler is looking as smart and shiny as ever.

Unlike past seasons where we would have a plan and set off towards a destination, for the next couple of months, we’re in a state of limbo as we wait for our second vaccination jab. Sure, we could leave now, but after waiting over a year during the pandemic, what’s a few more weeks? While the vaccination is positive from a health perspective, there’s a small possibility that having a full vaccination may open doors to expediency at foreign ports. This is still uncertain though and may not be the case.

Nonetheless, while on England’s south coast, we’ve resumed our typical life at anchor, visiting places we’d not visited before, particularly avoiding expensive marinas in preference to peaceful anchorages.

On the Isle of Wight, the Newtown Anchorage is a popular place to grab a mooring or drop the anchor and watch the seals. This was our first stop after leaving the boatyard. It’s very shallow with little swing room for a boat with a 2m draft. While anchoring is free (donations appreciated), moorings fees are a hefty £26 per night. But it is a lovely quiet spot – sometimes you have to pay the man.

At the same time as our stay, the crew of Aussie boat Zen Again, who we first met in Indonesia in 2012, motored by to say hello. At the time of writing this they are already on their way for a speedy sail down the Atlantic coast on their way to Spain. Below is a snap of Zen Again leaving Newtown anchorage.

I’ve joined the Facebook group for Aussies & Kiwis in the Med, as I’m interested to learn more about everyone’s experiences as they do the ‘Schengen Shuffle’* and hear how they manage the COVID situation at each port over the next few months.

* Schengen rules dictates that Aussies, Kiwis, and now Brits (and others), can only stay 90 days out of every 180 days.

Gorgeous weather for exploring Lulworth Cove

The Jurassic Coast of 95 miles begins in Exmouth, East Devon to Old Harry Rocks at Studland Bay, near Poole, Dorset. It’s England’s only natural World Heritage Site and attracts visitors by land and sea. Over time, erosion and movement have shaped the unique geology of this coastline. The sandstone and chalk cliffs make a stunning backdrop against the blue of the water and sky.

Woo-hoo! Catching the current makes for a fast trip!

With an easterly wind, we sailed west 35nm to reach Lulworth Cove located on the Jurassic Coast. A light northerly wind was forecast for a couple of days so it was an ideal time to visit this tiny scenic anchorage as it’s unsuitable in southerly winds. After a couple of days exploring the coastal path and small village of Lulworth grabbing a hot sausage roll for lunch, we took advantage of a westerly wind and strong current and had a fast sail east back along the same route. With the state of calm weather, we pulled into the anchorage at Swanage harbour.

Swanage Harbour

The town of Swanage is touristy and with COVID restrictions eased, there are adequate tourists to keep the shopkeepers optimistic – fish and chip shops, icecream shops and plenty of souvenir and trinket shops. There’s a coastal path overlooking Peveril Point and the old Pier, continuing along to Durlston Bay with views across the Channel. Anchoring at Swanage is free, and there are moorings available too. Shore access is via a water taxi, but he wasn’t operating when we were there. It’s difficult to land the dinghy anywhere so skipper dropped me off at the shore.

Old Harry and his Wife

After a couple of days at Swanage we sailed north, passing the brilliant white chalky cliffs, Old Harry and his Wife, then into Poole Harbour – allegedly the second largest harbour in the world, but certainly not the deepest.

Although we’ve visited Poole by car a couple of years ago, we’d never entered by boat. Once inside the shallows of the harbour, staying well clear of the chain ferry, we turned south and navigated to the South Deep anchorage. This would be our home during calm weather while a high-pressure system moves over the UK. The area around Brownsea Island and south of the harbour is designated as a ‘quiet area’ with a 4kn speed limit. We dropped the hook in 4m on the edge of the channel and settled in to enjoy some quiet time at anchor.

Peace and quiet, South Deep anchorage, Poole Harbour

The town quay is a 3nm and 40 minute dinghy ride away. Poole Haven Marina allows dinghies to tie-up for a day rate of £5 which is very convenient to shops and nearby Force-4 chandlery; Tesco is across the road or Aldi is a 1km walk away; the marina has two large washers and dryers and a load is £3.50 washed and dried. The central shopping strip has a variety of shops, Boones Hardware has interesting stock; plenty of op-shops in town to pick up a summer shirt or two or to peruse their collection of used books; fish and chip for lunch, plus the waterfront has a variety of pubs and cafes all open with customers enjoying the fine sunny weather.

Poole
Isolation at South Deep anchorage
Brownsea Island Ferry, Poole Harbour

During the summer period of April to September, a typical berth in this part of the world will set you back at least £45 per night (A$90), generally inclusive of harbour fees which are typically between £6 to £10 per night. For the budget cruiser, the cost to anchor in Poole Harbour for a week is an affordable £38.

The fine weather is a welcome change from the damp and coldness of winter. It’s still chilly in the mornings, but the days are filled with full sun

Skipper is delighted with the input from the new solar panels and with the sun still fairly low in the horizon, we are still pumping in around 2.5kW per day. This is a huge benefit and now we have gadgets and appliances operating during the day and still enough to fill the batteries.

With Europe’s COVID situation ever-changing, we keep abreast of entry requirements for France, Spain, Portugal and Morrocco in anticipation of leaving. One day.

Until then…

Posted on by blueheelerhr39 | 2 Comments

What comes easy won’t last;

What lasts won’t come easy.

Anon

The reality of owning a boat is not publicised as much as it should be. The reality of ‘living aboard’ is starkly different from ‘living the dream’. Still, the migration of people shifting from land to sea in search of a new, less encumbered lifestyle, seems to be growing, if YouTube is any indication.

While the illusion that cruisers spend their days sailing azure tropical waters; sipping Mai-tais at night; watching dolphins frolic at the bow (although we have done this…), the focus of our existence, and the reason we’ve managed to stay ‘afloat’ for over ten years living aboard is the attention we give our vessel and sticking to a budget.

The main focus of our lifestyle has to be keeping the boat afloat.

Blue Heeler, Southampton haul-out, 2021

This year is no exception. Our last haulout was 2019 when we put in a new engine and propeller. At the time, our hull was in great condition after a year in the fresh water of the Baltic. This year, the same excellent condition – I found only one barnacle tucked behind the cutlass bearing housing. Back in Trinidad in 2016 we stripped the bottom paint off right back to gelcoat and repainted completely. Since then, antifouling the bottom has been relatively easy and straightforward.

With Blue Heeler hauled for the eighth time in 12 years, we set about giving the waterline a light sand, then wet-scrubbed the rest of the hull before applying two coats of Hempel Cruising Performance ‘True Blue’. The growth up in this part of the world is minimal, unlike the heavy growth of the tropics, so that made the work so much easier.

With Blue Heeler looking schmick, we also arranged for a survey – a requirement of continued insurance for a boat over twenty years old.

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but for some reason in the UK, marinas and boatyards don’t like people staying aboard their vessel while it’s on the hard stand. I don’t know why, as we are aboard during the day fixing things and moving up and down the ladder. The good news is that we found a no-frills boatyard for the work we needed to do. Itchen Marine Towage at Southampton on the River Itchen is a small boatyard and has all that we need to do the work ourselves. Sure, the ablutions are not fancy, but they’re clean and now that we’ve figured out the settings on the instantaneous hot water system, showers are hot and luxurious after a day of sanding and painting. The town centre of Southampton is about 1km away and chandleries, hardware stores, and so on are nearby too.

Living aboard during maintenance is ideal for cruisers around the world.

To keep costs down, we do all the work ourselves. Anything from dropping the rudder, replacing the engine, prop and shaft, through-hulls, bow thruster and so on (actually, Wayne does the thick of it, while I’m his enthusiastic assistant). If we need to have anyone do work on our boat, it’s usually because we don’t have the tools to do the job ourselves, such as removing a stubborn seal, or lathing out a cutlass bearing, or welding up an aluminium engine part. There are some things that we just don’t have the resources to do ourselves. The UK is a great place to source parts and products and delivery is usually within a day or two for most things.

The truth is, living aboard a boat is a numbers game. 90% of the time you’ll be planning, preparing, saving, scrimping, covered in bilge muck or antifoul, or waiting somewhere for a part to be delivered, or just waiting for the seasons to change. You’ll be away from your family and spend most of your days in isolation within 3m of your better half (who you’d better get on with).

The remaining 10% of the time you might be out sailing; and maybe 10% of that it’ll be just perfect.

From Melbourne’s Port Philip Bay to the Gulf of Mexico and Cuba; it’s that little percentage of heaven that makes this lifestyle worth it.

BLUE HEELER in 2011 Port Phillip Bay – and 2016 Sailing to Cuba

With summer approaching, despite the pandemic still raging across Europe, there is a developing optimism here in the UK re COVID – rightly or wrongly. COVID restrictions in the UK are gradually easing, and by 12th April non-essential shops may open, including hairdressers, outdoor venues/pubs, and so on. Boatyards are filling up with weekend sailors polishing and preparing their hulls and others with ideas of sailing the world planning their futures; there’s a sense of anticipation in the air and movement on the water as yachties, cruisers and sailors, look towards the horizon and set their sails accordingly.

With no firm plan due to COVID restrictions in Europe, we too are looking towards the horizon, ready for the next stage of our sailing adventure.

Until then…

Posted on by blueheelerhr39 | Leave a comment

“I’m looking forward to the future, and that’s a good thing,
because it’s coming” – Anon.

Already a year has passed since Boris declared the first UK lockdown. Now there’s over 121 million cases of COVID19 worldwide; 4.2 million in the UK and mercifully, less than 30,000 in Australia. The UK has a population of around 68 million and already an incredible 24 million (almost the population of Australia) have had their first vaccination jab. I’m happy to report that figure includes us.

The vaccine rollout in the UK is quite impressive and is example of what the Brits are famous for. We had our first jab a week ago and we’re booked in for a second jab in 12 weeks. Mild tiredness and a sore arm is all we both experienced. With summer almost upon us (no proof yet, mind you), it’s certainly a step in the right direction as we prepare our imminent departure.

Living ‘off the grid’ and living a simple life has made the past year a lot easier for us than many others, and we’re grateful for that. But now our focus is to get outta here and continue our voyages.

With everything closed during lockdown, we’ve had no distractions and have busied ourselves keeping our Blue Heeler in ship-shape and making sure all is ready for ocean passages.

To make Blue Heeler even more prepared for offshore sailing and anchoring in tropical islands (can’t wait!), we finally bought some solar panels to fit onto the bimini roof we installed in 2013.

We’ve always planned to fit solar panels over the past seven years, but never found panels that were the right size, the best wattage, and the best price. Our bimini size was the deciding factor and sizing the panels was a little like a jigsaw.

Here’s a short video on the installation of the solar panels plus the MPPT controller.

Researching the right panel took us down the road of looking at semi-flexible panels. While they would have looked great aesthetically, they cost twice as much and allegedly live half as long as solid panels, so those on Facebook tell me. The three new Victron 175W panels on the bimini roof, plus 250W on the davit, give us a total of 775W – triple the solar of previous. The VictronConnect app shows the solar input and even with the sun low on the horizon it’s pumping in plenty of amps into our batteries. So now, we just need to find some sun…

Next week we depart Southsea and make our way to Southampton where Blue Heeler will be hauled out so we can paint the bottom and have a surveyor inspect the hull for insurance purposes. The forward cabin is filled with 4x 2.5 litre tins of antifoul, paint rollers, thinners, and everything else we need to do the job so hopefully we won’t be on the hard stand for long. The way it’s going here in the UK, non-essential shops and business are likely to begin opening after Easter so things are starting to look a little more positive.

Can’t wait to be back out on the water. Just need a little more sunshine and warmth.

Until then…

Our little visiting neighbour – Matilda
Posted on by blueheelerhr39 | Leave a comment