Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Jean says:
There have been so many facets of our trip around Britain, the most obvious being the challenge of keeping Bella Rosa the right way up and pointing in the right direction. Some might say that we were crewless and clueless, but having been to The Isles of Scilly and back last year, and been forced by Alex to 'get to know our boat', we felt that we were ready to tackle what was left of the British coastline, which was nearly all of it.
Stress free passages were going to be all about making the right decisions based on the weather, the wind and the direction and strength of the tides. Timing is everything and this sometimes meant leaving a port in the wee small hours of the morning. A well timed bacon butty also helped still the waters of an early start.

We'd initially agreed that if a force six was mentioned in the forecast, we wouldn't leave port. Unfortunately, Bella Rosa had different ideas and refused to be stuck for long anywhere that didn't have a decent pontoon, a good chandlery and other posh boats to mingle with. With Bella Rosa's unrelenting determination to carry on, we soon realised that it's not possible to sail round Britain within a lifetime without going out in stronger winds.

We had very few dodgy moments, which was a big surprise as we were braced for all sorts of problems from bits of the boat falling off, the engine packing in, personal injuries, being stuck in a force 10 or even running out of Fox's Classic biscuits. The closest we ever got to a possible sinking were the two near collisions, one with the rampant Danish lady, and one with the badly positioned Black Deep red buoy in the Thames Estuary. If we'd had to choose between which one of the two was going to take us down, we would have opted for the the Danish boat, then at least there was someone else to blame. It would be hard to sue a static red buoy.

The second to last day. The end is nigh...

As for disappointments, we struggle to think of many, but the Cornish pasties we bought to have during our night sail, were an absolute travesty. We were also under the impression that the prevailing winds in Britain were meant to be South Westerly, but in reality, the prevailing winds frequently came from wherever we were facing, which made the sailing harder work.
We were expecting it to be cold, but not quite as much as it was. Sometimes I did feel a bit worn down by it, but was saved by my trusty hot water bottle, and having taken several hundred thermal vests with me. A big thanks to Marks and Spencer's for doing the three for two offer just before we set off.
We were thrilled to have sailed to The Outer Hebrides as it hadn't been on the schedule, but we didn't manage to set foot on land because we didn't want to leave the boat anchored alone in strong winds. She may have done a runner.

Our list of highlights is endless, the biggest one being that we've actually circumnavigated the whole of the British Mainland, enjoyed every minute of it and had the most tremendous adventure. Every single day has brought forth a new challenge, and the chance to reflect deeply on life in one of the most natural and unspoilt of environments - the sea. The simplicity of the sailing life has been truly liberating, and being constantly in the company of so much glorious wildlife from dolphins to puffins has been awesome.
Every day, even just stepping up into the cockpit with a cup of tea in hand in the morning, we've been able to appreciate nature in its rawest form. The sea can be wild, isolated, hostile and dangerous, but it can also be the most soothing of environments, a place of unadulterated beauty, and a refuge from the niggling details of everyday life onshore. There are no traffic jams. You are in your own little wilderness and yet not very far from the security of civilisation.

We'd always felt that there were so many places in Britain that we'd never visited, which was one of the reasons we wanted to do this trip in the first place. Travelling by boat, we've been able to see so much more of our Island home than we'd ever envisaged, from the more affluent areas in the South, to the struggling fishing ports in the North and East. We came across so many deliciously pretty tourists towns like Fowey and Tobermory, and very remote but strong communities on the islands off Mull and the Orkneys. We stopped in sophisticated marinas in big towns like Newcastle and Dun Laoghaire, tiny fishing harbours like Arbroath, big working fishing harbours like Lochinver, picked up mooring buoys in places like the Kyles of Bute and Otter Ferry, and anchored in out of the way places like Inverary and on Canna island.
The variety of terrain was vast, but the common feature in all these places was how interested, encouraging, kind, friendly and helpful the people were, no matter what their circumstances. We had the warmest of welcomes from so many locals, and met some of the loveliest of harbour masters and marina staff. We came to the conclusion that contrary to what the press lead you to believe, British people really do put the great in Great Britain and I think that we've both come back with a stronger sense of being proud to be British. We're so lucky to live here.

Circumnavigating Britain is without doubt a challenge, and as with all challenges, there is an accompanying camaraderie with others embarking on the same thing. A particularly special moment was when we were finally setting off to round Cape Wrath, and we found that we were in the company of Dawn Treader and several other French boats. Not only was it reassuring that they must have done the same calculations and had come to the same conclusions about the best time to leave, there was an unspoken bond unmatched by anything else we've ever done. We were setting off with similar feelings of excitement and trepidation, had the same lofty goal and were keen to watch over each other with the hope that they too would achieve what they set out to do.

As for our own situation, despite living together in a tiny space for twenty four hours a day, for three months, we had rare moments of snappiness. I think it was the knowledge that here was an opportunity to have the experience of a lifetime and we weren't going to let any bad humour spoil it. We were continually excited about what we were doing, and thoroughly enjoyed working it all out together. Even after 34 years, when you embark on something new together, you not only learn more about yourself, but more about each other. I think we'd both agree that it was all favourable. We were Team Tyrrell and having a tremendous time.

One of the most heart warming aspects of our challenge, was how much amazing support we've had from our family and friends. We've had huge encouragement, help and advice from well before we set off. Frances has been so constant in her support, she could well have been on the boat. The Randoms (you know who you are) gave us a great Union Jack theme send off party. Mark very kindly set up this blog for us, which has been such an enjoyable thing to do, and we've ended up with quite a regular following, which has been lovely. We've had the wonderful Vivien holding the fort for us back home, and checking the house regularly for deluges and acts of God and hugging Bonnie intermittently. Our dependable friend Stuart has looked after the garden and Bonnie dog for us as well as send on the post. Our next door neighbours David and Annie have been fending off squatters for us, and giving us loads of encouragement.
We've had the best sailing advice and encouragement from our sailing expert friends, particularly Mike, Janene and Jules. We especially liked the comment from Jules when we were about to do Cape Wrath, which was 'how bad could it be?' Jules has sailed in 70 knots of wind......
Louise and Peter came up specially to see us in Tarbert to check that we hadn't gone bonkers, and helped us check out a fish restaurant there - so selfless! We've had constant newsy e mails from so many friends keeping us in touch with what was happening back home. We've had great recommendations about where to go and which restaurants to visit from friends who knew an area well. Chris has been watching out for us on various webcams and doing screen shots of us coming in to various ports. My sister Sue has printed off the blog every few days and sent it to my parents who don't have a computer, so they've been able to keep up with our exploits. Sue and Richard not only appeared just before we left with a couple of customised 'Round Britain' sailing caps, but met us at the end with a Union Jack bottle of champagne and sailed back to Lymington with us. Melanie and John provided us with a boat bag of necessary equipment without which we'd never have got beyond Milford Haven - particularly the 'Laughter' hand wash. You have no idea how essential that was to our morale!
It was this warm wave of friendship and support that stayed firmly under us every single nautical mile that we travelled, that put the cherry on the cake for us.

All dressed up in our summer sailing gear for our final day heading back to Lymington.

There's so much more that could be said, but I'm going to stop here with a quote:

"Cruising has two main pleasures. One is to go out into wider waters from a sheltered place. The other is to go into a sheltered place from wider waters".
Howard Bloomfield.....'Sailing to The Sun'.

We may circumnavigate Ireland next year, but it won't take as long............promise!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

10th July 2012. Our Last Day.

Jean Says: Boo Hoo

The last breakfast before the end sounds rather drastic, but we climbed over onto Violet the super boat to have our last breakfast with the Owens. Bella Rosa (the wonder boat), and Violet (the super boat) had been rafted together for the night on a big fat white mooring buoy that could hold six boats if necessary, so we were told. Two boats was enough we thought.
We didn't want to leave until just after midday because we wanted to get to Lymington at about high water. Mum and dad were coming to meet us, and it would be safer for them to negotiate the ramp to the pontoon if it was relatively flat.
We left Chichester harbour entrance in South West winds gusting to 24 knots.
We knew that we would have to tack regularly to get down the Solent, and it could take longer than we wanted to get to our home port. We zig zagged our way across the East side of the Solent, and as we rounded the estuary at Cowes, the winds increased. It was becoming a force seven with wind against tide. We'd lost sight of the Owens quite some time back, and left them a message to say we'd have to put the motor on to get a more direct route, otherwise we would arrive in Lymington very late.

The Spinnaker tower in Portsmouth.

It was grey, very blowy and raining sporadically, but this was our final leg after twelve weeks of continuous travelling, passage planning, big decision making and dramatic changes of scenery.
Mum and dad were on the pontoon taking photos when we arrived in Lymington. With a bit of effort climbing over the guardrails, they came onboard to celebrate our grand finale with champagne. An hour later, we went off to The Ship for dinner, and the Owens came to join us.
It's going to be sad to say goodbye to Bella Rosa for now. She's a great boat and a major team member.
This won't be the final jeannbobroundbritain blog. We'll be doing a final reflection blog in a few days time.

Bella Rosa dressed up and back in Lymington.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Monday 8th July:

Farewell Eastbourne. I was wrong about the Rhinestones. The ultimate accessory here is a bull terrier, with matching tattoos.

Jean says: Today makes it exactly twelve weeks since we set off from Lymington on the 16th April.
This is our penultimate day of circumnavigating Britain. We could see the pale grey shadow of the Isle of Wight as we went South of Selsey Bill and the Owers shoals. Ted Heath's nephew was killed here gales in 1973, sailing Morning Cloud. The conditions today have been a lot less threatening, we still chose to go South of the shoals to be on the safe side. although it had been touching a force six when we set of at half past six this morning, the rest of the day was a consistent force four to five.

Sue and Richard and a lovely surprise for us. They were going to come and meet us on their new superboat 'Violet'. We considered meeting in Cowes, but that would have meant a fifteen hour journey for us, so we all decided that Itchenor was going to work better. The conditions were right for us to cross the shallow bar at the entrance to Chichester harbour, and leave at the right time the following day. We arrived in Itchenor at 18.00 to the warmest of welcomes. Violet was sporting a welcome home banner, and Sue and Richard had a bottle of Union Jack cold champagne at the ready. We were very touched!!! We sat on deck for a while in the sun drinking the champers and nibbling nibbles and then dinghied off to the pub for dinner. We hadn't seen them for three months, so we had a lot of catching up to do, and there was a lot of boat talk.

Here are Sue and Richard waiting for us on the lovely Violet.

Tomorrow, we'll be sailing back into Lymington and will finally close the circle round mainland Britain. We'll be flying some Union Jack bunting, (Poundstretcher Ramsgate 99p), but it's made of paper, so it better not rain. It's both strange and familiar to be in this area.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Sunday 7th July

Jean Says: Our mission today was to watch the men's tennis finals, and there were two places in Sovereign Harbour marina that had big TV's. One was a dodgy looking bar on the marina front, and the other was the yacht club that welcomed visiting yachtsmen. So Bob being a man, off a yacht and also visiting, went to the yacht club, and I had to go to the bar. Actually, that's not true. We both started off in the bar and ended up at the yacht club. I think they let me in without question because of the beard and the eyepatch I'm now sporting. We also had a trip to Asda. So all in all a very exciting day. What a shame Murray didn't win. It would have been so good for British morale to win Wimbledon the same year as hosting the Olympics and having the Queen's Diamond jubilee.

Bob says: what a shame about Murray, but even more depressing was the way the Sunday Times decided to cover the pre-match story on its front page. Rather than talking about the tough challenge he would have, what an example to young people his application and effort to get to the top of the game was, the boost to British morale if he won, or any number of other sporting and character themes, they decide to major on how his fortune would rise by another £100m. What a bunch of toss pots! Maybe going around Britain has turned me into an even grumpier old man and maybe we get the media we deserve, but I just thought, what a pity, just feeding the celebrity voyeuristic culture and encouraging people to think that money is all it's about. They didn't even temper the story by making the point that all these guys aren't driven to achieve what they do because of the money, it's the ideal of sport, competing and winning - or have I got it wrong? Rant over!

We're now only two passages away from the end of our adventure, the first tomorrow takes us to Itchenor and meeting up with Richard and Sue on Violet. Then it's Lymington on Tuesday and the end. Bill and Margaret, Jean's mum and dad, will be there to meet us and no doubt we will raise a glass or two to the hero of the trip, Bella-Rosa-the-wonder-boat (to the tune of Champion the Wonder Horse of course).

Here's a picture of 'Jambo' who we met in the Orkneys and then again in Ramsgate. This is them sailing with us to Eastbourne yesterday

As well as Jambo we've met three other roundbritainers on this trip. We met Miss Amelia in Arklow, and they finished in Eastbourne a few weeks ago. Alize is pottering around the Thames estuary and has to get back to Cardiff for their home port. We spent a lot of time with Dawn Treader and shared a few gin and tonics and glasses of wine with them. They are one port behind us right now, in Ramsgate, and we hope to see them in Lymington before they make their final passage home to Dartmouth.
Saturday 7th July:

Jean Says: Ramsgate was an experience we wouldn't have missed, and we were sorry to leave without trying out the karaoke, the Jazz bar, the folk festival and going to the Spitfire museum. Maybe we'll come back by car one day.

It made a change to have few restrictions on our next leg to Eastbourne. All we needed was to have the tide with us when we left Ramsgate, and we'd surf all the way there. Despite the grey clouds, we could see France in the distance and were almost tempted to turn to 180 deg. to pay a quick visit. On other occasions, we might have done that, but a normal bed and a hot bath is beginning to beckon. We passed quite close to the off white cliffs of Dover and didn't expect to see any blue birds, because they're an American invention to make the song sound more colourful. There are seagulls over the grey cliffs of Dover doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

The Seagull has landed.......

The English Channel is one of the busiest shipping channels in the world. The main shipping lanes go straight down the middle and ferries cross at right angles from ports on either side of the channel. It's only about 22 miles across at the narrowest point, which is between Dover and Calais. Earlier, I'd seen a pilot boat which had 'channel swim support boat' stamped on its side. Dover to Calais must be the route that most channel swimmers choose because it's the shortest distance. France looks deceptively close which makes the swim seem almost feasible, but realistically, you could get mown down by cargo ships, swept off course dramatically by strong tides, stung by hoards of jellyfish and poisoned by raw sewage. What's more, you' re not even allowed to wear a wetsuit. I've just crossed that idea off my 'what next after the circumnavigation' list.

After Dover came Dungeness.

Dungeness is the place to come if you want to find empty beaches on the South coast in the summer! It has a certain amount of industrial charm and certainly adds to the landscapeitudinal melting pot that is the British coastline.

Eastbourne marina is called Sovereign marina and is a way down the coast from Eastbourne proper. It's one of those new developments with attitude. An all encompassing experience of outlet shopping, high living, boating, cinema going and also apparently having cosmetic work done on your teeth. In the marina brochure, it states that there are at least three cosmetic dentists on site. If Bob had known that at the beginning of our journey, we might have gone anticlockwise. If we were to have a permanent berth here, it would be fitting for Bob to wear an ingot and all that goes with that particular look. I'd have to wear white jeans with Rhinestones on the derriere. Come to think of it, I may already have some tucked away in the locker that contains our holiday clothes.
There is apparently a bar here with a massive TV in it, and we're hoping to be able to watch the tennis tomorrow. We wouldn't miss this momentous occasion for anything. Let's hope they don't have in switched on to 'Cash in Your Attic'.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Friday 6th July:

Jean Says: We had a lazy day in Ramsgate today and apart from doing the passage planning for Ramsgate to Eastbourne, and Eastbourne to Itchenor, we just went to Waitrose. The Royal Temple Yacht Club welcomes visiting yachties, and so we're now taking advantage of their hospitality and watching Andy Murray versus Tsonga on a big Plasma TV in the bar. Wouldn't it be great if for once he made it to the final!
It'll be an early night for us tonight as we have an early start tomorrow to catch a fair tide to Eastbourne. If Murray gets into the final, we may have to stay there on Sunday and find a TV.

Quiz: who were the 'Smack Boys'?
Clue: nothing to do with cocaine addiction.

Thursday 6th July

Jean says: The Thames Estuary was always going to involve some serious forward planning. It's about 34 miles as the crow flies from Harwich to North Foreland Point, but the long fingers of sandbanks mean that it's not possible to go straight across. The navigable channels that lead you into the Thames have great names like Black Deep, Knock Deep, King's Channel and Wallet. They are dissected by smaller channels called gats that enable you to work your way across but in a rather circuitous fashion. All the channels are very well marked with buoys, so if the weather is acceptable, and the tides are heading in the right direction, they should pose no problem at all, provided of course, you can see where you're going.
There are many different recommended routes across the Thames Estuary. We chose to go right round the outside of the sandbanks, skirting the most Northerly tips of some of them. We slipped our mooring at 5.30am and sailed East to round a cardinal buoy called Cork Hole and then turned South across the busy waterway and round the Northern tips of the main sandbanked area to catch the flood tide down towards Ramsgate.
I'd peppered the chartplotter and the paper charts with waypoints at all the significant buoys. When we started off, there was quite a light mist that already looked like it was burning off in the early morning sun. Leaving the harbour entrance which we now know virtually by heart, the sun was still glimmering behind the mist, so we foresaw no problems.

The morning sun at Wrabness on the River Stour

We were committed by the time the fog really set in and turning back into a foul tide was not an option, so we got the foghorn out, put the life jackets on, rubbed the sleep from our eyes and pinned back the ear flaps. We had AIS and our radar at the ready, and there's something so unreal about sailing in fog, that it's almost quite pleasant. That's possibly a slightly misguided state of mind, but at least it keeps you relaxed.

The fog isn't on the Tyne, it's in the Thames Estuary all around us!

We could hear a regular fog horn on our port side and once we got ours to work, replied regularly with two blasts until we realised it was a fixed fog beacon and wasn't another boat. I'm in two minds about using a fog horn as they're so deafening, you almost feel disorientated each time you use it. I thought it worked better as a means to persuade Bob to put his life jacket on, I'm thinking of using one at home during domestic negotiations.
Everything seemed to be going well despite the visibility being down to 30 metres,. We couldn't see the Black Deep Red buoy on our starboard side where it should have been, but thought it was that the fog was just too thick. Bob suddenly discovered that despite being male, his intuition kicked in, and he helmed with even more intensity. I'm so glad he got in touch with his inner female, because within seconds, the red buoy appeared right on our nose and we had to turn quickly to avoid it. We discovered later that it had been moved this June to allow for the movement of the sandbank, and we thought by having a 2012 chart, we were bang up to date. So that was our second near miss of the trip (the first one being the mad Danish lady), and also a lesson in sailing anywhere near sandbanks. They move regularly and it's a very good idea to check if there have been any changes the day before you go near them.
Eventually the fog cleared and we consoled ourselves with a sausage sandwich and coffee, and carried on unscathed to Ramsgate. I don't think that the Thames Estuary would be our cruising ground of choice.

Ramsgate Harbour in the evening

We had a long afternoon in Ramsgate. The last time we were here, we'd been refused entry onto the ferry to Ostend on our way to live in Belgium, because we had a hamster called Scrabble in the car and didn't have the relevant papers. We had 2 goldfish as well, but I suppose they don't count as livestock, and in any case, being fish, you could pop them in the sea and tell them to make their own way across and you'd meet them at the other side. I have to say that I'd tried so hard to find out if we needed documents to take a hamster abroad, but it was customs at Dover that said they weren't sure what the procedure was and not to worry and take it anyway. So I did.
Bob was already out there, so It was just me and two very distraught daughters, who didn't want to be parted from their adorable hamster. It's not easy to find an emergency vet on a Sunday in a small seaside town, but we did find one. He has no idea about documents either (wailing sound getting louder), but eventually offered to look after Scrabble in his five star animal menagerie and write to the girls regularly to let them know how he was getting on. They would also be able to visit whenever they wanted. This clever bit of hard sell mollified the girls and we left with me wanting to press hoards of money into the vets hands in gratitude.
We haven't visited Scrabble yet, but may try to visit him later today. He should be about 17 by now.
Ramsgate looks entirely different from seventeen years ago. The streets are perky and bright, and there are people of character on every street. This is Bethnal Green, Bohemia, Trinidad and a refined Georgian seaside resort all in one. The harbour is full of support vessels for the all the under construction wind farms in the area, which is a new and thriving industry here. There are pound shops galore, and we've bought some Union Jack bunting to adorn Bella Rosa on her final leg through the Solent. It was 99p. You could go berserk in a poundshop. I've never been in one before. The street that frames the harbour buzzes with life, restaurants and bars and the tables and chairs spill out of open frontages onto the pavements. In parts, it's almost continental.

Look closely at these two characters on the balcony....

We went to a brilliant fish restaurant in the evening called Eddie Gilbert's. You could choose whether you had your chips fried in lard or vegetable fat. We've never come across that before, but the implication is that some people don't come here just to boost their omega three reserves. It was a tough choice and I was tempted to ask them if they could do mine in organic hemp oil.
Returning to the boat later that evening, it seemed a lot less threatening than it did in the pound shop during the day.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Wednesday 3rd July:

Jean says: We realised that we couldn't visit West Mersea today because the timing was all wrong to get over the shallow bar. We had to leave Orford at 9.00 to have enough tide to cross the entrance without bashing the bottom. The River Stour was a good alternative, but first we tied up on the town pontoon at Harwich in search of fresh bread. The backstreets of Harwich are made up of wonkey old seafaring houses and historical pubs, all reminiscent of the days of press gangs. It's very idiosyncratic with several Chinese restaurants housed in Tudor buildings, and antiquarian bookshops wedged between tattoo parlours. We didn't find any bread, but decided that it didn't matter.
It was a lovely breezy English summer day today. We were able to amble slowly down the coast and bask in the sunshine at the same time with our goal for the day being to moor on a buoy down the river. The Stour and the Orwell are wide, very easy to navigate and incredibly peaceful considering that they're so close to the busy ports of Felixstowe and Harwich. Despite the fact that it's July, and the weather is good, there are very few other yachts about. It's surprising that you can escape the crowds so easily when you're this close to the South coast and London.

We were in awe of the Ore......


Ambling Down The Stour

Tuesday 3rd July Jean Says: We weren't the only ones slipping off mooring buoys in Pin Mill at 6.30 this morning. There were seven other yachts setting off. We were worried for a while that they were all going to Orford as well, and wondered if we ought to speed up in case they got to all the buoys before us. Once out of the estuary though, they all scattered, and we were thankfully on our own heading back up North. It wasn't the first time we've backtracked on this trip. The previous time was when we were heading South for the Caledonian Canal from the Outer Hebrides, did a three point turn in the middle of The Sound of Mull and went up to Cape Wrath instead. No such momentous decisions this time, Orford is only 15 miles North of Harwich and is a little tricky as opposed to downright scary. After visiting Orford, we will point Bella Rosa in the right direction again (which in this case is South), and have a look at West Mersea, and I don't mean the one that Gerry and The Pacemakers did a song about.
We had to go by dinghy to get to Orford village, but the outboard was sounding like a sheep with a sore throat. It's conked out before as previously mentioned, so we're constantly suspicious of it, but went anyway. It's just one thrill seeking adventure after another for us now. We got there and back, but decided against a return trip for dinner later in the evening, just in case our luck ran out. It's not that we can even row properly because one of the rollocks has sheered off. Who knows where we might have ended up without the motor. Neither of us fancied spending a night on the nature reserve despite the rich variety of birds and wildlife.
Orford is yet another quaint place stuffed to the gunnels with quintessentially English cottages adorned with roses. This is the right time of year to visit Suffolk because the flowers are at their best and frame every doorway. There's a castle, three pubs, a general store and a smart deli in Orford. The general store was also a post office and a cafe, so we stopped for a cup of tea and sat outside until the smoke from someone's bonfire completely obscured the view. Either they don't have rules about acceptable times to have bonfires in Orford, or it's full of ageing anti establishment rebels. Back in the safety and fresh air of our seaside home, we settled down for a quiet rest of the day and reviewed what was in the fridge.

These lemons will help with the scurvy

How quintessentially quintessential can you get? Oh - I've just noticed that they aren't thatched. Does that make them less quintessential, which would be quintelessessential.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Jean says: We've left Shotley marina now and are back at Pin Mill for a night on a mooring buoy. Today was spent getting a bus back to the Suffolk food hall. It's like a magnet, but I think a third visit including lunch has finally got it out of our system. They have huge fish and meat counters as well as all the fresh fruit and veg and deli stuff, and we came away with enough food for 3 nights, so that we can anchor where we like, and stay on board without starving to death.
I could so easily have spent the rest of the day lying on deck with a book in the warm breeze, but we have to leave early tomorrow morning for the river Ore, and it's far easier to slip from a mooring buoy than go through a lock at 6.00 in the morning. Bob cooked the dinner tonight gas cooker style and has proved that he can be very versatile when it comes to cooking. We had salad, followed by halibut and sliced chip type things. I've still got to do the washing up.
As previously mentioned, the river Ore has one of those dodgy entrances that silt up, and you can only enter or leave at two hours either side of high water. Bob is particularly drawn to sailing up the Ore, but knowing Bob it's most likely to be the lure of dodging treacherous sandbanks, and nothing to do with the interesting grasslands or bird life. Once inside the river, we'll make our way to Orford and pick up a mooring buoy.

Little and large share the River Orwell......

The rivers and creeks around here are extensive, and local knowledge is advisable to be able to negotiate them safely, but it's well worth the effort. There is such a lot to offer, dipping in and out of the rivers, and as a sailing experience, it differs yet again from hopping down the coast from port to port. These rivers are the essence of Suffolk, and we would have missed all this remote beauty if we hadn't had the help and guidance of Janene and Jules. Suffolk is about detail, and the longer you spend here, the better it seems to get. It's one humungous Constable painting, English to the core, largely unspoilt, with the prettiest of villages and heart stopping countryside. There are fields and hedgerows of bright red poppies everywhere, and wild flowers of all sorts line every country road.
Being able to get to know our own island better was one of the reasons we wanted to do this trip, and our delight at discovering how lovely Suffolk is, typifies one of the many things we'd hoped to experience. Britain is a marvellous place, and we've still got Eastbourne to come!

We were a little piggy today in Suffolk Food Hall.....

Sunday 1st July

Jean Says: Today was a no sailing day because we spotted there was a 'Bluegrass' music festival nearby. We didn't manage to get in until it had almost finished, but that also meant we got in free without having to climb over a fence, and managed to watch the last band. We stayed for a few hours, had ice cream and then J and J took us by car on a whistle stop tour around East Suffolk, including the amazing Framlingham Castle, and to have a look at the entrance to the river Ore, which we're hoping to do on Tuesday. The sand banks shift all the time, which makes it a difficult entrance, but they move the buoys regularly, and once past the bar, it's a long and interesting couple of miles to Orford, where you can either pick up a mooring buoy or anchor. We've had full instructions how to avoid disaster, and been shown what to expect, so we've got no excuses if we end up getting stuck.
Janene and Jules have now gone back to London, which is rather sad after such a fab weekend and we're on our own again. We've had a really enjoyable sociable weekend, and re-learnt the art of communication, all good preparation for re-entry into normal society.
Janene has taught me how to make something called a dongle and I can't wait to spread the word.

Jules, Janene and Bob eating ice cream.

The boys from the New Essex Bluegrass Boys!

The amazing Framlingham Castle

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Friday 29th June:
Jean Says: J and J took us up to a large food hall which involved going in a car for the first time in weeks and presented us with a rare bulk buying opportunity. We started with coffee in the attached garden centre and then wandered amongst tastefully set out counters, burgeoning with some of the best produce Suffolk could offer. Between us, we managed to get a whole range of naughty treats and delicious goodies to see us through the weekend. Once we'd offloaded the spoils, we braced ourselves for a brisk sail out of the estuary to see how the sea was behaving. It was very gusty and a force six at times. Janene and Jules know the area so well, it was good to be taken and not to need to do any thinking. Up wind, the going was difficult and quite hard work so we didn't stay out in the open for very long. A more relaxing option was to find ourselves a buoy at Pin Mill and visit the Butt and Oyster pub for dinner. We had a lovely sail up the River Stour which is wide and accommodating and although still a bit gusty, it offered more shelter than out in the open sea. We found our buoy, put the kettle on, and worked our way through tea, scones and jam, followed by gin and tonics before going by dinghy to the pub. The Butt and Oyster has a good reputation for being worth a visit, and it lives up to it. The location is unspoilt, with views across the river and a real boating community feel to it.
The nearby sailing club was going to be hosting the 51st annual Thames Barge race on Saturday morning, and all the participants were congregating in the river ready for the race the following morning. There are only about thirty of these barges in existence, and 17 were going to be taking part in this race.
The barges originated in the 1800's and early 1900's as working cargo vessels, and were designed to be sailed by just a man and a boy, presumably so that a father and son could work together and not be dependent on a crew. Their flat hulls were designed to deal with the shallows of the Thames estuary and they carried anything from linseed to manure.
On the way back to the boat, the outboard conked out (again) and Janene and I rowed back with the tide with us. Swallows and Amazons is tame compared to what we've been up to. We conked out ourselves after a fun and varied day.

The Thames Barges gathering

The Butt and Oyster at Pin Mill

The Stour near Pin Mill in the evening sun

Saturday 30th June:

Jean Says:
Waking up on a buoy in the middle of a delightful estuary on a warm and sunny morning, is one of the best things about being on a boat. We had a very lazy day, starting with breakfast on deck in the sun, a walk along the river bank and then a short sail back to Shotley marina. It might have been windy, but the sun was out and we revelled in it. In the evening, we all moved over to Temptress where Janene and Jules produced a bottle of champagne to celebrate having got this far, and Janene cooked us a big bowl of pasta with mozzarella and chorizo.

The Admirable with Janene and Jules

Friday, 29 June 2012

Lowestoft Haven Marina, the previous night


Jean says: Being in Lowestoft so early in the week meant that we had enough time to get down to Shotley and meet Janene and Jules there. They keep their boat Temptress in Shotley marina, and we sailed with them from here a few years ago. Despite predictions of quite gusty winds, we had a really great sail all the way down the coast, and the sun was lurking behind the permanent mist that shrouded the coastline. We could see very little, but caught a glimpse of Sizewell looking like something out of a sci fi movie.

This is all we could see of the Sizewell B nuclear plant. Can you see it?

To safely enter the Felixstowe/Harwich area you have to follow a designated route just outside the main shipping lanes. You can see why. It's a very busy commercial shipping port and you would want to keep well out of the way. We formed a crocodile with a few other yachts following the same route, and weaved our way up to Shotley, which is sensibly placed on a picturesque promontory overlooking the whole harbour.

Felixstowe on the way in.

Janene and Jules were waiting to take our lines in the marina. What a treat!
We spent the rest of the evening chatting, eating and drinking, and there was a lot of boat talk. There is one thing that we can do very well after this trip, and that's boat talk. It's not difficult when you've been on one for three months. I hope we can think of other things to talk about when we return home, otherwise people may avoid us. Tomorrow, Janene and Jules are coming on Bella Rosa to try her for size, but also take us round all their local haunts. I've told them that I'd like to be a competent crew for the day and have a day off thinking while they make all the decisions.

Bob says: everyone knows how the Shipping Forecast can stir the imagination, Dogger, Fisher, Sole, Fitzroy, German Bight...... A little feature of this trip has been hearing the different coastguards broadcasting safety and weather information over the VHF and being reminded how far from home we've been: Clyde, Stornaway, Fort William, Stromness ....... Since being in the southern part of the North Sea we've begun to pick up Netherlands and Ostend, but yesterday we also had a real reminder of how close to the end of this odyssey we've come when we heard from Thames coastguard for the first time!

We're in Shotley marina and that's just inside Suffolk, but sometime tomorrow we'll actually be in Essex and then it's Kent, really getting close to home.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Jean says: Lowestoft - good place to stop if you have to. We're at Britain's most Easterly point. We've gone from Geordie to Yorkshire to Cockney in two large steps. There's something very familiar about being here, and a strong feeling that we're nearing the end.
After surviving the Whitby to Lowestoft passage, we feel we've done all the really big stuff (by our standards), and are completely relaxed about crossing the Thames estuary (hopefully not mistakenly), which at the beginning of this journey seemed like it might be an ordeal. After that, the South coast is familiar home ground territory, and we sailed along most of it when we brought Bella Rosa back from Holland. A lot of water has passed under the keel since then.
We're in a rather strange marina which is the sister marina to Lowestoft Haven, several miles away. This is an annex really, and used to be the Hamilton Dock before it was converted. You need to phone the main marina to get any help from a member of staff, and they come over by launch. They had to make a special trip to bring me tokens for the washing machine. When I couldn't get the washing machine to work, they had to come back again on the launch to bring me a replacement token. When I suggested that it would be easier for them if the machines ran on pound coins, they said they couldn't risk it because it's rather remote here, and people would break in to rob the machines. It's probably best not to dwell on that too much.
Lowestoft town is yet another struggling fishing port. The old high street is dying and has been replaced by a more modern street of shops, but it doesn't look much better, despite the bunting. The annex marina that we're in is quite industrial. There's no-one else here, and we're surrounded by corrugated iron rooves, warehouses, cranes, a wind turbine and large metal storage tanks. We were after variety and this is different yet again. Today has been really warm and we've both been in short sleeves for the first time since being in the West of Scotland. We left Lymington on a sunny day though, and would really like to arrive back on a sunny day. I just thought I'd get that message out to the universe in good time! We haven't got a specific day in mind for arriving back yet, but if all goes well, it should be around the middle of the week after next.

Bit short of decent photos of Lowestoft, so here is a postcard...

Jean says: On Sunday night I had a strong intuitive feeling that we should leave Whitby the following evening, and sail through Tuesday night to Lowestoft, as opposed to waiting until later in the week. I woke up on Monday thinking the same thing. There was also some hard evidence to back up this idea in the form of a weather forecast. Stronger winds, mist and fog were predicted later in the week and we really didn't fancy risking a night sail along an inhospitable coastline, in poor visibility while expending vast amounts of energy dealing with gusty winds and both having to be on duty all night.
The least time for the journey would be 24 hours, and we wanted it to be as trouble free as possible with the opportunity to do sleep shifts. Wednesday was also a possibility, but the predicted mist was worrying me, and we didn't want to risk getting stuck in Whitby for a week - no offence to Whitby which is lovely, but home beckons.
We weren't able to leave until the bridge opened at seven in the evening, so I went off with Bob to have a look at the Benedictine Abbey on the hill above the town. The abbey was sited along with the ancient church, at the top of what they call the '199 steps'. I was happy to discover that I didn't have any trouble walking up them, despite the fact that my muscle mass must have reduced to nothing after ten weeks on the boat. Bob had already sprung up them like a gazelle, and was waiting at the top for me, so nothing has changed in that respect.
The Abbey is steeped in very significant religious history and had a huge influence on the forming of the Christian church. It was here that the original meeting was held in AD 664, to discuss how, rather than be fragmented and in conflict with each other, the different strands of Christianity could be
brought together as one cohesive system. The meeting was called The Synod of Whitby. It's not just all fish and chips and slot machines in Whitby you know!

View of Whitby from the top of the 199 steps.

The Captain Cook Tour on it's way out

We left Whitby harbour knowing that there was no going back, and keeping our fingers crossed that our first night sail with just the two of us would go smoothly.

Two sunsets beyond Flamborough Head as we headed South East towards the Humber estuary.

The dark hours were to be spent along a piece of coastline that we judged to be quite quiet. How wrong could we be. When I emerged at 1.00 am for my shift, we were surrounded by numerous anchored cargo ships and other large vessels making their way up and down the coast. While Bob slept, I had to change course twice because a ship was heading towards us, and several ships changed course to pass us from behind. There were lights and boats everywhere, but it all made complete sense, so there was nothing to worry about.

The sun coming up in the early hours of Tuesday morning as we approach the Humber area.

In some ways, night sailing seems more straightforward than day sailing. Everyone has specific lights so that you know exactly what they are and their position in relation to you. Big ships at anchor are required to switch all their deck lights on, and you can see exactly where they are because they're lit up like a fairground. We both felt that once we had the measure of things, there was something quite exciting and special about night sailing. Another good thing about night sailing at this time of year is that the dark doesn't last long. It was dark by 10.30 and at 3.00 in the morning, you could see the light forming on the horizon in the East. The overall best reason to night sail though is that you can have extra rations like chocolate and bacon butties, and that because it's dark and you can't see what you're eating properly, none of it counts.

Once it was light, the seas became less busy until we were near the Norfolk coastline, where we came across a huge wind farm under construction. Bob's done a video of us sailing past it, and some photos on a different page. Apparently, once a wind farm has been completed, you are allowed to sail amongst the turbines because the blades are supposed to be a lot higher than the average boat mast. I have no intention of putting this to the test, although I can imagine that it would appeal to Bob.

The early evening Norfolk coastline.

We were so glad to arrive in Lowestoft before seven in the evening, having had a manageable journey with no unexpected tricky moments. It had been a long and tiring journey, but it's easy enough to keep going when you know it's only for one day. We were never that excited at the prospect of this 24 hour trip in unknown territory, knowing that refuges were minimal, and not always safe or convenient. We were however, very keen to experience a night sail just by ourselves, and had little choice anyway. I don't think either of us would choose to do this journey again, mainly because there is little to attract us to sail any of the North East coast a second time. Any future visits will be by car! Having said that, we came away having learnt even more about various sailing conditions and decision making, and were very glad we've experienced it this once. It's all been an essential part of our challenge.
We're now looking forward to meeting up with our friends Janene and Jules this weekend, either here or a bit further down this coast.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Whitby and Lowestoft

Given the long passage from Whitby to Lowestoft things aren't necessarily going up in order, but here are a couple of photos from the last 24 hrs or so

First, entering Whitby harbour, copyright Chris Beezley!

The structures they employ to construct the wind farms. Good view of the blades before they go on the stands. Frank, if you see this do you know if these turbines are yours? It's the Sheringham shoal wind farm in the North

Sheringham wind farm, and it wasn't even on the charts!

YouTube Video

Location:Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind

Monday, 25 June 2012

Newcastle to Whitby

Bob says: we left Newcastle on Sunday morning with a forecast of light winds, rain and squalls and that's pretty much what we got. We were heading southish with the winds northish, so although the gusts were at one time up to 20kts we were on a nice broad reach and the windy parts of the day were comfortable. We had periods of very light winds when we had to motor, but overall it was a satisfying day's sailing. The nasty parts were the squalls when the rain fell like a monsoon. It was unpleasant getting wet, but it gave us some fantastically dramatic skies. Here's a shot to illustrate the point

We arrived in Whitby in time to get to the Magpie cafe for their famous fish and chips AND to get to see 'the big game'. We got chatting to a very nice Aussie couple sitting next to us in the restaurant, which meant we missed the first half. As we all now know, I didn't miss much. As John (Heath) rather aptly put it to me: 'did you see Italy's practice game against England?' Their 35 shots on goal to our 9, a bit of a gulf in class!

I'll leave Jean to tell you more about our day in Whitby today (Monday) but right now we're on our 24hr sail from Whitby to Lowestoft and it's my turn to go on watch and give Jean a break. I'll just put up one of the photos of Whitby Abbey, which was well worth the clamber up about 199 steps. Whitby is also worth a visit generally. Compared to a few years ago it has got a lot more sophisticated, there's even a piano bar, possibly the only one in Yorkshire (joke, haha)!

This isn't the piano bar, it's the interior of the church on the hill adjacent to the ruined Abbey. It shows a 3 tiered pulpit and the church's solid fuel stove!

Newcastle to Whitby

Bob says: we left Newcastle on Sunday morning with a forecast of light winds, rain and squalls and that's pretty much what we got. We were heading southish with the winds northish, so although the gusts were at one time up to 20kts we were on a nice broad reach and the windy parts of the day were comfortable. We had periods of very light winds when we had to motor, but overall it was a satisfying day's sailing. The nasty parts were the squalls when the rain fell like a monsoon. It was unpleasant getting wet, but it gave us some fantastically dramatic skies. Here's a shot to illustrate the point

We arrived in Whitby in time to get to the Magpie cafe for their famous fish and chips AND to get to see 'the big game'. We got chatting to a very nice Aussie couple sitting next to us in the restaurant, which meant we missed the first half. As we all now know, I didn't miss much. As John (Heath) rather aptly put it to me: 'did you see Italy's practice game against England?' Their 35 shots on goal to our 9, a bit of a gulf in class!

I'll leave Jean to tell you more about our day in Whitby today (Monday) but right now we're on our 24hr sail from Whitby to Lowestoft and it's my turn to go on watch and give Jean a break. I'll just put up one of the photos of Whitby Abbey, which was well worth the clamber up about 199 steps. Whitby is also worth a visit generally. Compared to a few years ago it has got a lot more sophisticated, there's even a piano bar, possibly the only one in Yorkshire (joke, haha)!

This isn't the piano bar, it's the interior of the church on the hill adjacent to the ruined Abbey. It shows a 3 tiered pulpit and the church's solid fuel stove!