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.
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!
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