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

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Anon.

A year ago in early 2020 we were in the midst of completing major projects aboard Blue Heeler, fine-tuning everything aboard to reach our goal of returning to warmer climates to the south. I seem to recall confidently announcing something along the lines of “Now we’re on our way back to Australia…”. At the time I couldn’t have foreseen a year such as it was. None of us could.

Waiting…

By July 2020 we’d ummed-and-ahhed whether to stay in the UK, or cut and run and continue on our voyage south. As the pandemic overwhelmed countries one by one, the uncertainty around quarantine rules and border crossings became as clear as mud. So we made the decision to sit and take a wait-and-see approach.

The number of global COVID deaths over the past year is staggering and news of mutant strains is a little alarming. Here in the UK, over 120,000 poor souls have succumbed in the UK; while just the past month the US has lost 100,000 people – a very sad year for many families.

Southsea Marina looking north – heavy rain cloud over Portsmouth

Some brighter news; the UK vaccination program has jabbed around 15 million people since the rollout two months ago. The population is divided into a number of priority groups with the elderly, vulnerable, health and essential workers high priority. The Government is working towards those in the top nine priority groups to be offered their first jab by May, and as we are in the eighth priority group we hope to be included in the vaccination program within a few months. They hope to vaccinate every adult in the UK by July. The Government has issued a ‘four-step roadmap’ and all being well, some non-essential businesses will open after 12th April, but this all depends on the efficacy of the vaccinations, etc.

Meanwhile down-under, the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has placed ‘Do Not Travel’ advisories on 177 countries. While this makes sense from a pandemic viewpoint, these sweeping advisories nullify travel insurance for all medical emergencies, as policies typically state they won’t cover countries with a travel warning/advisory in place.

Eastney Beach – a little bit of sunshine is good for the soul

Five months have passed since we entered Southsea Marina, and we have one month left on our winter berth contract and we’re hoping we can leave at the end of March. I’m really looking forward to some warmth and would love to return to places where I can swim and don’t have to wear layers of coats, gloves, hats, boots, etc.

Our immediate plan is to have Blue Heeler hauled out for some annual maintenance in April then back on the water. After that, things get a little blurry…

Until then, we keep busy and stay focused on the future and whatever it may bring.

 

We’ve had some comments from readers interested in Wayne’s Raspberry Pi project. He’s certainly kept himself busy over the past few months learning how to build a simple computer from scratch and customise it for specific use on the boat.

During the cold dreary winter, he’s enjoyed working in the warm cabin doing interesting projects, rather than the usual jobs neck-deep in engine oil or bilge filth.

For those following the progress, here’s an update.

The SensESP board under construction

Wayne has undertaken two projects – The RaspberryPi Mini-Computer which I mentioned in my last post. Since then, he’s also built additional systems using SignalK and SensESP.

The Shelly 1 WiFi-operated 16A relay switch

His second project is setting up automated systems for gathering data or remote controlling switches accessible via the iPad. For this project he’s used a combination of ESP8266 Internet Development Board Modules or Shelly1 Home Automation Switches connected to various sensors. These can be bought from Amazon or gadget shops. Information on how to setup these systems are easily sourced via the Internet.

Connecting through our on-board WIFI router, useful diagnostic data configured through Node Red is displayed to the iPad via the WilhelmSK app. This includes useful data such as engine room temperature, house and starter battery voltages, outside/inside humidity/temperature/pressure, etc.

Customised layout with WilhelmSK app

The Shelly1 switches integrated through our WIFI allow access to remotely operate electrical switches on the main control panel. Essentially, any switch on the control board can be automated via WIFI using the Shelly1. (In the image above, you can see the switches located in the centre-bottom of the image). These WIFI automations enhance the already hard-wired switching and allow for remote controlling. So far, Wayne has setup on/off switching for the engine’s additional high-output alternator, the seawater washdown pump, a water pump for the watermaker, with plans to automate other switches too.

While we don’t plan to fully convert our vessel into a ‘Smart Boat’, there are immediate benefits of just the automations above. For example, while I’m hosing off a muddy anchor from the bow, Wayne can remain at the helm and turn the seawater pump on or off at the iPad while keeping an eye on my progress at the bow. There’s no need to run below to turn off switches.

So, while Skipper’s attempting to make our boat ‘smarter’, I’ve stayed busy keeping the boat cleaner, tidier, dryer and well stocked, and preparing it for our ongoing voyages. I’ve whipped up a few more courtesy flags, but with no idea which direction we’ll take, or where we’ll be allowed entry, I’ve had to consider all possibilities!

Where to? Morocco, Panama, Columbia??

Early February brought the Beast from the East, with cold wind blowing in from Siberia. This week though the conditions are a little warmer, and there’s a whiff of spring in the air.

Despite a cold and damp winter in lockdown, our time here has gone by quickly and we are both very keen to go. Anywhere. Just to be out sailing. That’s our goal.

Until then…

Posted on by blueheelerhr39 | Leave a comment

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.

Southsea Esplanade

Southsea Mansions

Cycle Path to Havant

Ye Olde Building, Havant

The RaspberryPi Project

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!

Grafana interface allows customisation.

WilhelmSK UI screen incorporates Raymarine chart plotter and SignalK server data.

OpenCPN via the Raspberry and displayed on the iPad.

Cold weather cycling

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

 

Posted on by blueheelerhr39 | 10 Comments