The lockdown for pleasure boats in England finished on 4th July (Scotland followed up a couple of weeks later). Consistent southwesterly winds held us in Whitehaven a few days more, and within a week a short period of north-westerly wind offered us the chance to depart and begin our journey southwards. A big thanks to the team at Whitehaven Marina for all their help during our longer-than-expected stay!
We knew that the Isle of Man was closed to visiting yachts and a VHF call from the IOM coast guard reinforced that restriction as we sailed by. I’d always wanted to visit, as it was spoken of favourably by my grandmother. So it was also for the Lake District, another favourite stomping ground of my nan’s. With camping grounds closed and most tourism businesses in a state of uncertainty for hikers and tourists, we had little choice but to be satisfied with what we did see during our visit to the region.
I’m delighted to report that our new Volvo D2-50 engine is running well with already over 50 hours on the counter. Wayne’s bespoke watermaker is also working a treat, producing up to 75 litres per hour – more than double what our antique Spectra watermaker made. All the work we did on Blue Heeler over the months at Whitehaven certainly paid off and we are really pleased that our boat is in top condition.
Making the most of the north-westerly wind, we sailed 200nm overnight from Whitehaven to Milford Haven in South Wales where we stayed at anchor for a few nights. Along the trip with clear dark skies, we had a great view of the Comet Neowise on the western horizon, but our cameras aren’t good enough to capture any image.
From Milford Haven we sailed overnight to the Scilly Isles, the most south-westerly group of islands in the UK. We had good sailing, mindful of the various eddies, overfalls and strong currents where the coast meets the Irish Sea.
The Scilly Isles “the Scillys” located at the south-west of the UK is a small archipelago with channels of shallow shifting sands, and it’s recommended to go there during a spell of good weather. Lucky for us, we had a few days of light winds and calm days and stayed almost a week.
The main harbour is St Mary’s and we grabbed a mooring there for one night. This allowed us to dump some rubbish and recycling, pick up some fresh groceries and have a walk around the town and garrison. It’s a pretty place with a maritime history typical of this region. Fortunately the islands aren’t closed due to COVID19, but we had to wear masks in the Co-op Supermarket and other small shops. I was happy to walk around the town and up to the star fort for views over the harbour.
The island of St Martin’s offers some great views and walks to either end of the island. A few tourists had made the journey to the Scillys, and I image in a normal year there would be many more. The small bakery sells out fast of Cornish pasties in the morning, but they also sell cake treats and bread. The water still too cold for us to go swimming – 15degC is way too cold. But it was nice to walk along the sand on the beaches.
Making good use of a south-westerly wind, we departed the Scillys and had a great 55nm sail to the Helford River anchorage, just south of Falmouth. After a few days at anchor reading books and enjoying the sunny but cool weather.
After three weeks living at anchor, we’re now at a marina in Plymouth and will spend a few days exploring, shopping, laundry and so on.
Future plans? Like most people around the world in these crazy COVID times, we’ve had to cut back and budget wherever possible, so we are happy enough to stay at anchor and live within our means. We had planned to be somewhere deep in the Mediterranean by now, but we’ve decided to stay in UK waters for the time being. Besides COVID19, entry requirements for UK visitors to Schengen countries will soon change come January 1st when BREXIT kicks in. In the past, UK citizens enjoyed freedom of movement within the EU, but out of the EU, UK folk will only be allowed to stay 90 days out of every 180 days – the same as most other countries visiting Europe, such as Australians. But there are rumblings from various maritime bodies seeking to have this rule changed and extended to at least six months – I don’t fancy their chances though. So we’ll likely head to the Med next summer and copy with the 90/180 day thing, and eventually make our way back to Australia.
The news from Victoria in Australia isn’t good regarding the increase in cases of COVID19 and I hope they continue to be vigilant, as we see how quickly this virus gets out of control. Stay safe everyone and for the sake of others, please wear a mask!