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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2020 vision

How quickly the years fly by. As one year ends and another begins, I like to think it’s a chance to focus on the important things in life and try to forget about the woes of the previous year. But as we all know, life goes on.

On 27th January 2011, we sailed away from Melbourne – so we are now into our tenth year living aboard Blue Heeler. We are blessed to live this life. Despite the blustery wet conditions outside, our boat is warm and we have everything we need aboard Blue Heeler, but I do wish I could be nearer those I care about; when it really matters.

Over the past few months, it’s been hard to watch Australia burn, particularly as the fires in Victoria consume areas well-known to me. Over 80% of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales went up in flames plus all the coastal towns that have lost everything is really devastating. But the Aussie spirit will lift them out of this tragedy, as always. The scenes of burning wildlife and farm animals was truly horrible – those poor animals didn’t stand a chance and the population may never recover. So very sad.

Outer harbour, Whitehaven

So as the world turns as it does every year, our world has slowed down somewhat over winter. My last post shared the details of all the projects we’d undertaken aboard Blue Heeler since September last year. Boy we were busy! But after a very enjoyable Christmas with friends near London, we had a decidedly quiet New Year’s Eve and it’s been quiet since then. Well, when I say quiet, I mean we’ve been doing other jobs inside the boat, quietly.

I was asked recently why we are always ‘fixing’ the boat. It’s not that we are always fixing the boat, but we are always improving the boat, or at least maintaining it. Our boat is now 23 years old and so are some of the remaining items aboard. Salt, stress and constant use deteriorates everything on a boat and things just need fixing or replacing.

Our Webasto diesel heater died a slow and wretched death. Despite refurbishing it two years ago, the bit Wayne couldn’t source and replace at the time eventually stopped working so rather than keep the thing alive, we gave it the last rites and installed a new Autoterm Planar 4D 4kW diesel heater for half the price of a new Webasto (built in chilly Russia so it’s gotta be good!). So far it’s working a treat. The Planar was recommended to us by a friend in Germany last winter – thanks Andreas!

Other small jobs such as resealing the galley bench-tops and head; replacing cooling fans to the fridge, replacing our old gas cylinders with new composite Safefill cylinders, planning our 2020 sailing season, and so on – the sort of jobs that we need to do and can do during the winter.

Vestiges of Storm Brendan over Whitehaven harbour

The weather has surprised me. I thought it would be very cold (0-2degC), but typically the days are around 7degC and usually no less than 3-4degC at night. It does rain a lot though, but I manage to get a couple of hours each day to go walking or riding (I’d go mad if I had to stay on the boat all day).  Storm Brendan recently blew through the area, but despite the 60kn winds up on the hill, we had no more than 30kn tucked down in the harbour.

There’s plenty of trails and routes around the region. Whitehaven is the starting town of the C2C cycle route (it’s actually the Sea to Sea Route) to Tynemouth on the east coast. It’s around 220kms and crosses from the west coast across the Lake District to the east coast of England. It’s one of the UK’s most popular routes. I only cycled 20kms before scuttling back to Whitehaven, but it would be good to do, perhaps not during winter.

There are also plenty of walking tracks around Whitehaven. I tried to walk the route along the sea-cliffs, but it got a little boggy. So I rode my bike instead, but got bogged and had to ride on the roads. The steep hill going down into St Bees is fun, but not so much coming back uphill. There’s also plenty of walks around St Bees, including a Coast to Coast walk.

BREXIT

And finally, this week we have BREXIT. It’s been a long time coming, and still no-one is really certain how this will affect their everyday lives. As far as we know nothing will change substantially during the ‘transition period’ until December 2020, but BREXIT will have implications for us and others in the same ‘boat’ as us (figuratively that is!). We have British Passports and plan to spend time in Europe so will probably have to abide by the new ‘90 days in and 90 days out’ rule. As far as the 18-month rule for boats entering the EU, that is also unclear as to when this is triggered. So, I guess we’ll just wing it and see where the cards fall. No point worrying about something we have no control over.

So that’s what we’ve been up to. The good news is we have a couple of months left to get our stuff out of storage and fit the boat out for sailing. (we put all our sails, etc., into storage to give us more space while we do all the work). Still, there’s a good chance a cold snap will remind us that winter isn’t over just yet. Daylight hours are almost at nine hours as the sun slowly returns to the northern hemisphere.

I do hope your 2020 is filled with good times and happiness. Many people we care about have had a hard time so far this year, and we can only hope the year improves for them.

Until next time…

Sunset over Whitehaven
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