Friday, 6 May 2016


Ordinarily we take the view not to be critical of the countries we're visiting, after all they didn't insist on us coming,  but on this occasion we came to the conclusion that the incident merited a mention...
   As the temps began to warm a little and we came down to the last 15 days of our visa we contacted the local Customs and Border Protection agency in Bangor about extending our stay to give us a better chance of a kinder weather window and to complete outstanding work.... the only way, we were told was to present ourselves at the nearest border crossing and make the request. We hired a car, drove 125 miles to the border and explained what we needed. The woman spent 90 minutes interrogating me about how we funded ourselves, how many times we'd been in the US, when were we back in the UK and for how long, were we legally married (?), did we ever work in the US etc. All fairly regular questions although slightly odd as we were already legally in the US and simply enquiring, and hoping to get, an additional 5 weeks. In the end she said No we couldn't have any further time and had we wanted to leave in May or June, rather than April, we should have arrived in the US later in the year...... I kid you not. Pointing out that a) crossing the Gulf of Maine in October is cold enough, trying to cross in Nov or Dec could be dangerous and b) we had, on two other occasions been granted in excess of 8 months was met with a blank look. The best she could offer was that we go back to Belfast, complete as much work as we could and then try again just before our visa expired. Was I angry? For sure, having endured a 90 minute examination of my motives, honesty and financial integrity, obviously been found wanting and then be told to try again in two weeks struck me as ludicrous. What could possibly have changed? What could happen over the next fortnight that would reverse the decision? Well what happened is we wrote an extremely critical account of the incident, slept on it, re-wrote it and sent it to the Port Director. Nothing happened for a week and then we had an email asking us to contact them. We would, we were assured, if we returned to the border crossing be received favourably and the outcome would be different. Good friends drove us up there. We parked up, walked, as instructed, across the Canadian border and re-entered the USA. A CBP officer greeted us by first name and we thought "Heh mebbe they have been told to expect us..." The guy inside presented a blank face, asked the same questions that were asked 10 days earlier, queried the May 31 date we were asking for and behaved as though we were just another set of, possibly, dangerous cretins trying to damage the integrity of the USA.... Yeah right! How the hell does he think the rest of the world views the nonsense that passes for the Presidential nominations? I digress. Without warning the mood switched, the guy addressed us by our first names, fingerprinted and photographed us (this is at least the sixth time we have been finger printed/photographed -don't they keep records??) and then produced a pair of pre-printed I94's, the slip of paper we needed to remain legal until May 31. Pre-Printed! So all this shite questioning, all this quizzing of how we funded ourselves etc was just this bored guy jerking us around 'cos he could. How many brain cells does it take to work out that these two people have 1) hired a car; 2) driven a 250 mile round trip; and 3) are asking for a 5 week extension all in an effort to remain legal. Not one US citizen we spoke to, not one, thought we'd done the right thing in bothering to ask in the first place.... Almost as annoying is being told by a number of  these same citizens that if we were Mexican we could pretend to speak no English and we'd be allowed to stay. What nonsense! Particularly in a state where non-white people are almost non existent so the experience of immigrants may only be gleaned from Faux News or other rabid news stations. But someone needs to remember that for everyone visiting ANY country the Customs people create the first impression. Anyway onto other things.

From time to time folks ask us about the "north" and how cold it is, thinking, perhaps, that the temps are always around freezing, the sun never shines and you need rum coursing through your veins to stay warm - I wish! What most people don't realise is that British boats have an unfair advantage on the rest of the northern wanderers. The UK may have been the last of the northern clime countries to understand the "benefits" of central heating; I can vividly remember, as a small child, leaving the only warm room in the house where an open fire burned, and climbing stairs getting colder with each step until finally reaching a bedroom on the top floor. If it was 75F near the fire it must have been closer to 35F in the bedroom but we knew the bed itself, or at least parts of it, would be warm. The secret?
Our collection of HW bottles..
 Nowadays many boats have electric blankets believing them to be superior to the hot water bottle....but how can this be? Many is the time we have wandered around the deck, a bottle stuffed inside our clothing, as we've reefed, sat out in the cockpit watching the shenanigans of a fishing fleet or the northern lights pulsating above us. Sitting below decks with a bottle inside your clothing warming your belly or easing an aching back; a bottle placed under a pan of rising dough or to help kick start a batch of home-brew; to make the bed Toots is in enticing enough that she'll lie there in contented purrdom. It is the sheer versatility that makes them a winner. At anchor with the fire burning we always have a kettle on the go, at sea it takes a few minutes to boil a kettle. Contrast that with the energy consumption of an electric blanket that needs to be run through an inverter but perhaps that is the draw (a poor pun I know)... Yotties seem to love having energy intense items on board, seemingly feeling that they should be entitled to live exactly the same life on board as they do ashore? Water-makers have been popular for a few years now, despite their reputation for being prone to failure, and folks seem happy to run their generators for hours on end to produce gallons of fresh water. Not content with using all that diesel to produce the stuff they then install electric toilets that use fresh water to flush.....
At the end of last year we got in touch with Dayle Ward who with her husband Tom run Traditional Rigging. Tom spliced up much or our rigging in 2004 and now we needed Dayle to make us a mains'l. Well the main is here, bent on and looks great. But different. Although we could have used Duradon as before it would need to have been imported and the duty would have made it as expensive as the Oceanus cloth we opted for. We looked at using tanbark but in the end went for cream. Walking into the loft and seeing the sail stretched out we both thought "we don't like the colour" but having lived with it for a few weeks find it has actually grown on us. Dayle made some subtle changes to this sail compared to the last and we'll report back on how we've fared. Typically as we took delivery we received a raft of emails from folks commenting on how they loved our red sails.

We've made a few changes to the boat in the month we've had to get stuff ready. Some of it involved nothing more than a paint brush whereas others took a winter of mulling or arose out of a visit to Morgan's Cloud last year. For years we have put up with the inconvenience of the main blanketing the reefing cleats when we happened to be on the wrong tack. The cleats were on the starb'd side of the boom so a port tack reef inevitably meant fighting your way beneath a pile of wet main, particularly with the second reef, to get a clean pull at the pennant. Taking a lead from MC we've now installed cleats on both sides of the boom and the pennants, rather than ending in a thumb knot at the port side, are led back to the new cleat. Now we simply heave on the pennant on the windward side, making life a lot simpler. John and Phylis use winches but the principle remains the same and whilst their boat is much more high tech than ours it was the seamanship of the idea that grabbed us. One of the other changes we made was to use a modern line rather than 3 strand. For the most part we use 3 strand everywhere but using different colours enables a far quicker identification when vision is restricted and with the combs well greased with tallow they should slip through particularly well. We've done the same for the mizzen too. Incidentally if you're not aware of their site Attainable Adventure Cruising it is well worth, as I've said before, having a look.

Some of the amazing shots Russ took last year.....

With May now well on us we're looking for a window to leave; firstly to friends Philip and Helen before crossing to Nova Scotia and then back to Europe, probably via Iceland and Norway. We're looking forward to a change of cruising ground even though we will miss the amazing 'bergs and bears of the northern end of Labrador. If you see a yellow gaffer with a cream rather than a red main, do drop by and say hello.


  1. Well, first off let me apologize for the rudeness of my country. If it makes you feel any better, it wouldn't matter who you were. If you are checking in by boat, you are suspect until proven innocent. Actually, even then you are suspect. Even american citizens are treated poorly at their own border when checking back in by boat. Interrogations such as you describe are not uncommon, even for those born and raised here. There is no excuse for it except for small people with too much power. Our daughter's boyfriend, from Scotland, was interrogated for 2 hours in Houston at the airport, it was filmed the entire time, he almost missed his plane, and they suggested next time he wants to come to the US, he needs to apply for a Visa, even though he is from the UK and no application is required for a 90 day stay. Big huge sigh of pain here. I mean, why would someone from the UK try to sneak into this country? Could it be for our excellent and well-funded social programs whereby we take care of anyone and everyone? (whoops, getting a little carried away there.) Sorry you got jerked around. Glad you got your extension. Fabulous photos. I enjoy your blog.

    1. Hi, Thanks for your quick response. No need to apologise of course as, it seems to us, that many of those Customs folks have forgotten how to be American.... their attitudes bear no resemblance to anyone we know.

      That's an interesting site you have.