Thursday, 3 November 2016

..give us this day our daily bath...

Haven't blogged for a few months as other things have been keeping us busy and anyway I wasn't really in the mood to write. But a recap of what has happened and where we now are.

We had hoped to wander up the Outer Hebs and, if the weather looked settled, have a look at the west coast of Lewis. Didn't happen of course and we ended up sailing across to the mainland to Rhum (one of my favourite anchorages. Although wide open to the east, the depths are good, shelter good and in the event you need to make a rapid escape it is very easy.) and then onto Tobermory. The harbour remains very busy and we still never made it ashore as we left early the following morning, motoring against a foul tide to make use of a favourable one later in the day. As we pootled down the Sound of Mull it struck me that this particular stretch is a really lovely part of the world. Nothing dramatic but all very easy on the eye - fair lifted my spirits. We plugged on, through the Sound of Luing, skirting the Gulf of Corryvrecken, picking up swirling chaotic water that boosted boat speed before we slid into a wonderful anchorage outside the entrance to the Crinan Canal. One other boat for company and a wonderful peace and shelter. We had toyed with the idea of using the Crinan Canal to avoid rounding the Mull of Kyntyre but the cost is prohibitive - from what we could work out the 11 mile canal trip would cost over £100! The following morning we watched the other boat haul their anchor and head north - a couple in their 70's or more. We headed south and at the end of a long day pulled into Ardminish Bay, Gigha for the night picking up the last available buoy in a very crowded mooring field.  
As the anchorage began to empty the following morning we were roused from below by a call of "Heh Hannah" and found Dougie and Bev, a couple we'd last seen in Portsmouth Va. They were heading up to the islands for a week of racing but gave good advice on rounding the MoK before they headed off for the start. We left soon after, plugging another foul tide for hours in order to get far enough south to enjoy a fast run around and then north. And so it was. Although the first part was patchy because of the wind shadow and the general direction of the wind when we began turning toward the north we picked up speed. Normally with the wind gusting 20knots plus I would change the jib down to the working jib but this time we simply left it and revelled in the way Hannah just moved so well. It comes with a risk of course as the genny is so old and patched that we think it'll blow out any moment. But it held and we tacked on. With a couple of miles to go I noticed another boat rounding the headland as we had. A bigger boat for sure but it caught us before the entrance to Cambletown and I was struck by two did look magnificent as the boat came by, lee rail awash, acres of clean antifoul in view and the sails trimmed perfectly...but I also thought who on earth really wants to travel at that angle for any length of time. So we plugged on, enjoying our own speed and boat before we finally downed sails and moved into the harbour for the night. Ever onwards we again sailed north to Rhu the following morning enjoying a good day on the water with our new best friend the genny. The scenery was good, the weather mostly good too apart from a deluge at one point in the day. As we rounded the headland and the sprawl of Gourock and Greenock were exposed the scenery seemed much less attractive and we pondered when we had last sailed by a town as big..... and we couldn't remember. Thankfully as we turned the corner into Gareloch the urban sprawl fell away and we were again surrounded by hills and a sprinkling of houses. 

True further up the loch was a large nuclear submarine base but at this end it seemed fine. We motored toward the anchorage puzzled by the large tanker tied up to a commercial dock. Nothing odd in that as such but the ship was surrounded by boats on mooring buoys... We anchored in 10 metres between two mooring fields well content with our day.

The following day we moved up the loch a little and picked up the mooring buoy of good friends Mike and Eileen who we met years ago in the Canaries. Mike was away sailing in Iceland (where we'd hoped to meet up) but Eileen hailed us from the shore and we rowed ashore for a welcome shower and catch up. Over the next month or so we did something we have never done and that was to leave Hannah and head inland and go visit friends Robin and Jac. Partly because we obviously wanted to catch up but partly because the last Atlantic crossing had left me unsettled and with the distinct feeling that I had had enough and needed to do something else but not sure what. The time away would, hopefully, allow some peace and equilibrium into my confusion..... not sure that it did although it was good to do different things including driving 1500 miles but once back on the boat it is as though we had never been away. One thing had been decided though was that we needed to find somewhere for the winter and we checked out local yards to get hauled. A little cheaper than yards down south was an attraction but as day after day passed, far too often accompanied by rain, we began to think of moving south. 
The wind remained consistently out of the south but a brief window presented itself... should we leave that night or the following day.... The forecast was for enough wind overnight but where we were anchored remained deathly quiet and our experience of the forecasts suggested they often bore little semblance to what is actually happening and so we trundled off the next day. In fog. With little or no wind. We persevered, happy that we'd spent the night in bed rather trying to drift, and now sailing along slowly but at least moving south despite the fierce tides that rush up and down the Irish Sea. We thought we'd do it in day trips but in the end just kept going albeit in some strange directions at times as we tried to work out tactics for possible wind shifts. As we slowly got south the forecast began confirming what we'd seen on Passage Weather - the northerly element would shift to the south or south west making the rounding of Cornwall difficult. On the morning of the 18 Sept, the supposed day for the wind shift, we were becalmed some 25 miles from Wolf Rock, which marks the end of Cornwall and the entrance to the English Channel. We motored. In fact we ended up motor-sailing all the way into the Helford as the winds were poor and the tides are fierce. At one point, as the tide was with us, I cut a corner and ended up in the rips of Lizard Point giving us a bumpy and unpleasant 20 minutes or so. I'll make sure I don't do that again.

We thought we'd have an easy couple of days getting to Plymouth but a phone call the next morning informed us we'd be hauled the following morning at 8 and we were on our way, motor-sailing again, up to Plymouth where we were hauled at 8 and where Hannah sits now. We were interested in seeing how the bottom looked as we'd been sat around for the best part of two months and how the two very different types of antifoul we'd applied  18 months previously (one to each side) had fared. No doubt that the better quality the better the protection.

Initially we had decided to go house sit for R&J but the weather was so benign we changed plans and began working on the boat. 
For once the task didn't seem arduous and we rattled through the tasks, helped by the new sander and vac we bought. True the sander began to emit unhappy screeches after a week of sanding the hull. Bee never phased by misuse of equipment simply took it back and they gave her a new one whilst I skulked in the car. We ordered the Jotun paint and applied it

Hannah, nothing if not colourful

Slight change of colour which meant we had to remove the dolphins we'd put on several years ago to piss off the purists. We also took the opportunity to get the gammon iron repaired as the eye that holds the bottlescrew from the inner forestay had worn a fair bit. 'course while it was off we had it galvanised too and I've now replaced the leather on the traveller as well so things are really moving along.

Traveller: about half way through the job..
In the course of getting a small job done I was directed down to another yard and wharf a few minutes from where we are. Two things came out of this: we'll be moving to this wharf when we launch in a few weeks, great shelter and a quirky feel.
Deep Blue Engineering windlass
However the biggest thing was coming across a guy called David Webster who not only makes manual windlasses that are wonderful but he will also rebuild parts for any windlass going. 

He is one of the few people I've met who instantly knew what an SL500 was and
took me through a number of the points I had no idea of. I'm looking forward to getting to know him better over the winter months. Check out his site.

For the last couple of weeks we've been back in Berkshire, house sitting for Robin and Jac who are wandering around parts of Europe on their motorbike. The space of a house seems enormous and  unnecessary after a boat....BUT the luxury of an oven, hot water and a bath are very enticing. 

Millbrook, Cornwall