UK lockdown – month two

Since we left our home port of Melbourne in early 2011, we haven’t stayed in one place longer than three months. Typically a long stay means major works on Blue Heeler. As much as I like Whitehaven, we’ve been here now for nine months, which also means we haven’t been sailing since end of August 2019. But we are the lucky ones.

Other sailors are land-locked on their vessels in French canals, with no way of escaping; many are stranded in the Maldives or Caribbean, hoping to be able to sail to a safe latitude before the hurricanes roll in for the season. For the sake of their small populations, the Pacific Islands are closed to yachties. A recent article in the Guardian highlights the extraordinary challenges faced by sailors around the globe.

Horta, Azores

It’s reported that around 500 vessels are heading northeast from the Caribbean across the Atlantic to Europe, cutting short their sailing adventures to return to the relative safety of their homelands. Crossing oceans is dangerous and any under-prepared sailor attempting a crossing will be faced with a myriad of problems, usually the least of which is entry into a country. A safe harbour is critical to a weary sailor coming in from a perilous voyage so it’s a real problem for many sailors.

So, what have we been up to? Not much. I’ve been busy chronicling our voyages into watchable YouTube clips. I have thousands of photos so it’s been a major task remembering all of the places we’ve been. If you’re interested in our trip from New York to Alabama through the inland waterways, I’ve finally uploaded a playlist on that trip. I’m currently finishing off our 2014 Indian Ocean trip too (yes, 2014). Plus there’s some more recent vids too. Wayne is quietly going mad reading anything to keep his mind occupied. A 12m boat is a very small space…

With no countries near us likely to fully open this summer, there’s little we can do for now. Scotland is closed so anchoring up in the islands is a no-go. Ireland requires 14-days of self-isolation before stepping ashore, and most marinas as closed too.  The Isle of Man remains closed for the time being with no reopening in the foreseeable future. A lot of our boat work is done too so there’s only a few smaller jobs to tick off the list. The longer we stay though the items miraculously appear on the ‘to-do list’. We had thought of going to Iceland but we’d have to self-isolate for 14 days or have a COVID19 test before we could step ashore. The Faroe Islands are closed for now too. The marina is allowing people to visit their boats, but no-one is allowed to stay overnight, except people with no option, like us.

Fitzroy Island

Happier times at Fitzroy Island, Australia 2011

If I could click my heels three times and say “There’s no place like home”, and end up in Australian waters, I would do it in a heartbeat.

But for now, we continue the waiting game. The remnants of Tropical Storm Arthur broke our sunny spell, but the end of next week looks like warmer weather. There are few hours of darkness here now, as nautical twilight begins around 3am and finishes towards midnight.

Stay safe everyone.

The photo at the top and those below are from Lizard Island in 2011 – happier times…

 

 

 

 

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Gallery: Signs of the times

The lockdown rules in the UK have eased slightly from this week. Although the current notice (14 May) from Whitehaven Harbour is that the rules have relaxed for recreational boaters and that “there is no restriction on how far you can travel on your vessel”, the interpretation for us is still a bit ambiguous. There’s still the issue of having no-where we can enter if we do leave. Despite the temptation to disappear over the horizon, for now we wait and do our best to enjoy the down time.

So for a little longer, we try to get as much exercise as possible. Walking around Whitehaven are signs of closure, positive murals and decorative rainbows in windows, a display of thanks to the NHS.

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Farther afield we took the bikes along the cliff walk to the St Bees lighthouse surrounded by fields of yellow rapeseed flowers. To the east, it’s less than 20kms to reach the Lake District through an easy ride along a shady bicycle route.

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Back in Whitehaven, the streets are quiet, the playgrounds are empty, and the green sports field hasn’t been stomped on for some time.

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UK lockdown – month one

This April is our third in the region, and much the same as the past two years, the weather is fine and sunny. The sailing conditions are perfect; conditions that would have us down in France and the European continent in just a couple of days. The wind is our ticket to travel and right now we have no choice but to watch the wind blow by…

Whitehaven looking north

Looking north west across the Solway Firth to Scotland

Whitehaven Marina

The UK Government’s recommendation is to stay home and save lives – fair enough. After months of cold winter, it’s hard for locals to stay home and not enjoy the sunshine, but they are keeping their distance. A walk along the cliffs is an hour I enjoy to escape from the isolation.

Locals heading to Vagabond pub during lockdown

Restrictions on movements generally are that “no one may leave the place where they live without reasonable excuse”. As such, recreational boating is not recommended. There’s also the case that there’s nowhere to visit. I suppose we could leave Whitehaven and head towards Europe, but with the situation as bad down there and restrictions entering the country(s), we need to question what advantage it would be to travel now. Unlike cruisers locked down in other countries, we have no problems in the UK regarding length of stay, nor do we have issues with language or are we stuck on anchor. We are safe in a marina, have close access to supermarkets and can get out for a walk along the cliffs. Whitehaven is a great place to hang out. Although we are keen to get moving and begin the slow journey back to Australia, like most people, we must be patient and wait.

Looking south-west towards Isle of Man

One month since the UK lockdown and shockingly there are now over 18,000 reported deaths across the UK attributed to COVID19. Across Cumbria’s two acute NHS hospital trusts, which includes Whitehaven, a total of 233 coronavirus deaths. On the tiny Isle of Man, a day sail away from Whitehaven, 15 people have sadly succumbed to the virus.

The art of queuing

On a brighter note, it’s nice to see people out painting their fences, washing cars, enjoying time with their kids as they practice physical distancing. Brits have mastered the art of queuing, so waiting in line at supermarkets is quite stressless as people maintain their 2m distance.

So, with nothing else to do, we keep busy.

Each fine sunny day we go outside – the weather is ideal for working on the boat and there’s always plenty to do. The topsides were scrubbed and polished; the Windex was bent back into position after a crow managed to bend it out of shape; the bikes were cleaned up; the cleats were removed, cleaned and re-bedded; stainless steel is now gleaming; new ropes spliced; fishing tackle box sorted; anchor chain cleaned; cables tidied up….and so on. I think we now have the cleanest boat at the marina! In the evenings we watch various series re-runs, movies and some news. I’ve got a few books waiting to be read too.

The current lockdown period ends May 7, however, it’s highly likely this will be extended, perhaps a few months yet. The situation in Australia seems fairly under control, at least by the reported figures and updates from family. I hope Australian’s continue their vigilance against this highly contagious virus as they head into the winter months.

That’s about it. Stay safe everyone and we hope that all is well wherever you are. Here’s some springtime pics from around Whitehaven.

April blossom

Social distancing Whitehaven

Walking in the park

Wellington Row, Whitehaven

Spring flowers

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Heroes and Homebodies

This week the UK went into lockdown stating:

“People may only leave home to exercise once a day, to travel to and from work where “absolutely necessary”, to shop for essential items, and to fulfil any medical or care needs. Shops selling non-essential goods have been told to shut and gatherings in public of more than two people who do not live together will be prohibited”.

Since my last post two weeks ago the confirmed number of cases in the UK has increased from 150 to over 11,500, and sadly the death toll increases daily. The NHS has a website with clear advice for the population. The John Hopkins University interactive map is a good resource for statistics on this pandemic plus there is the WHO situation dashboard. Public Health England also has a good link.

Here in Cumbria, the town of Whitehaven is eerily quiet. Usually in the mornings we hear cars rumbling by on nearby roads as the smell of coffee and bacon butties steam out from nearby cafes. Now, nothing except screeching seabirds and barking dogs. People out for exercise are practising social distancing as they walk their pooches along the waterfront. The dogs are the clear winners at this time.

Over the past week I’ve gone out couple of times to get some fresh Irish Sea air and sunshine as I walk along the daffodil strewn cliffs, maintaining a visible distance between other walkers. Unlike a house we can’t walk around the boat so it’s nice to get out for an hour a day in the fresh air to clear the head.

A teasing Irish Sea

The winter storms have eased and the past few days have been delightfully sunny and warm – it reached 13degC today! The light breeze blowing over the Irish Sea is teasing my senses – I’ve never wanted to sail away as much as I do now!

No social distancing for sheep

Last weekend I popped into Aldi and their shelves were bursting with groceries – no problem there. Tesco’s shelves have run out of many items. Yesterday I went to grab a few ‘essentials’ at Tesco located next to the boatyard. They’ve now introduced a maximum limit of customers within the store at one time and others waiting to enter must line up outside leaving a 2m buffer between each other. Shop assistants wear rubber gloves and ask that customers stay clear of them at all times. Contactless payments in the UK are being increased to £45 from £30 to make payment easier without having to touch anything.

Whitehaven harbour in lockdown

The cruising community, people like us who live on a boat, are uniquely suited to living in isolation for weeks at a time. Not only are we fully provisioned (as we had planned on sailing away next week for the summer season), we can find a multitude of ways to keep ourselves entertained or busy. We have also fine-tuned the art of doing everything slowly – perhaps reading a book, researching or knocking off a few jobs, which there’s always plenty of. Yesterday Wayne fitted some new outdoor speakers, and today I think I’ll polish the topsides…

Keeping busy during lockdown

I keep in contact with many sailors who are also in lockdown throughout the world. The Ocean Cruising Club as well as Noonsite and other Facebook sailing pages for various sailing locations are adding details of the lockdowns around the world. Some we know have passed through the Panama Canal only to now be stuck on the Pacific side as many Pacific Islands are no longer allowing entry by foreign vessels. For now at least we are thankful to have structured our lives to live simply, but who knows how long our luck will last.

This week the Whitehaven Marina closed with only a couple to run the marina. Yesterday the female and male shower block and loos were closed leaving one unisex toilet/shower open for people to use. With the majority of users being male, I now have to share my morning ablutions with stubble trimmings and vertical toilet seats. Clearly an opportunity for everyone to pitch in and keep shared spaces clean. My hands have never been so clean!

A big thank-you must go out to the real heroes of this pandemic – the health professionals, police, ambulance, supermarket staff, delivery drivers, cleaners, etc. – all putting themselves at risk for the sake of others. Also, a special thanks to the paramedics and health professionals in Bendigo who only last week saved my brother’s life – so thankful Australia has a great health care system.

So grow your hair, clean your stove, read a book, clean your fridge, do some sewing, stop hoarding, take it easy, if you can.

For the sake of others, follow the rules, #staysafestayhome.

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Stayin’ Alive in Whitehaven

“Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother/ You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive/ Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’/ And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive/ Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive/ Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive”

 

Tucked up in Blue Heeler drinking my morning mug of hot coffee I’m evaluating the ceaseless but nonetheless important news coverage of the latest global disasters: Stock market crashes; global coronavirus pandemic; locust plagues in Africa; panic-buying of dunny rolls; all this fast on the heels of last year’s disasters. What a crazy time. The fact that Donald Trump is ‘Leader of the Free World’ and that the UK has BREXITed seems bizarrely normal now.

As COVID-19 sweeps across the world causing chaos and confusion, some are confused by the chaos caused by others. I check the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Situation Dashboard to get the facts rather than the opinions of so-called experts.

While any premature death of the vulnerable and aged is of course very sad (and I hope anyone reading this has not and will not experience this), on the flip side, a little levity and a positive attitude may cheer up those who are anxious about impending doom. For example, some are sharing the best tunes to wash your hands to such as two verses of ‘Happy Birthday’, or the Spice Girls ‘Wannabe’. Those who want to be really careful go with the lengthy ‘Stairway to Heaven’ while those preoccupied with mortality may choose ‘Death is Not the End’ by Bob Dylan.  Advice from Boris ‘BoJo’ Johnson is to wash your hands to ‘God Save the Queen’. God help us!

After nine years travelling around the world crossing international borders along the way, we’ve never experienced anything quite like the current situation. Our upcoming plan for the next few months was to sail south to France, Portugal and Spain. We still may do that, but at present news is trickling in about possible restrictions in place for vessels entering ports.  On that basis, we’re not sure where we’ll travel in the coming months during the swell of the pandemic.

For now, I’ll leave the dismal news where it is and shift my focus back to relative normality.

All is fine at Whitehaven Harbour

I’m happy to report that although the temperature remains cool in Whitehaven, we now have twelve hours of daylight and daylight savings returns at the end of March. Getting out for a walk is quite pleasant, although I was doused in a brief snow shower the other day when I walked up on the hill overlooking the town.

Some boats don’t receive any love…

Yachts that have been sitting idle for months at the marina are finally getting attention by their owners in anticipation of the sailing season. We are happy to potter around the boat for now.

In my last post I shared some of the improvements we’ve made to Blue Heeler over winter, and since that time we’ve continued busying ourselves with a variety of jobs.

Our Lewmar genoa cars and mainsheet car were all taken apart for inspection and refurbishment. These outdated cars needed a few parts to bring them back to life. Rubbers for the track ends, Torlon balls and other replacement parts were sourced from a variety of places including an Ebay store and another chandlery that had a few new but obsolete parts for sale. The curse of dissimilar metals is a constant problem on a boat and the cam plates on our mainsheet traveler has to be fully replaced. These were hard to source and we are still waiting for the backorder to arrive to complete the job.

Current project – the “Waynemaker Watermaker”

One large project Wayne has thrown himself into is to build a ‘bespoke’ watermaker. Dubbed the ‘Waynemaker Watermaker’, a project such as this may be a little ambitious for most people, but Wayne is in his element, quietly researching to make sure he has the correct pump, motor, parts, fittings, etc. The boat is littered with all sorts of elbows, tee connections, tubes and hoses but the watermaker is almost complete. The watermaker will produce around 80 litres per hour and costs around half the price of a branded watermaker. Having a watermaker is not really needed in this part of the globe, but in remote locations it certainly is a luxury. If you want to know more about how he built it, contact us or check out our future posts.

With the end of winter, our boat is ready to go sailing, almost. We hired a van from Enterprise car hire in Whitehaven to pick up our stuff from storage and used the vehicle for dropping off our old gas bottle at the Workington tip, plus had our new Safefill composite bottles filled.

Our sails were hoisted on a fine day and the other items we had stored were stowed in their respective lockers. Condensation is still a problem but the lockers are clean and I monitor them from time to time.

With all the improvements we’ve made over the past couple of years, we’ll leave the UK with a sound vessel so we can enjoy more time sailing and have to do less major projects over the next ten years. The UK has everything we need to do the work, or we can easily source parts from the EU and shipped to us here in Cumbria. Most of the old unwanted parts were sold on Ebay (our old Webasto heater went to a guy in Bulgaria) and I’ve tidied all the lockers and documented the location of everything so we can find it in future. We’re really happy having Blue Heeler in top condition as we formulate plans to eventually return to Australia.

So until such time as we leave Whitehaven, we will continue to keep abreast of any news impacting cruising yachts and alter our plans as we see fit. We may decide to head north again – Norway or Iceland, who knows. In the meantime, here’s a link with some tune suggestions for washing your hands for 20 seconds – perhaps ‘Stayin’ Alive’ for those Bee Gees fans.

Stay safe everyone.

 

 

 

 

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