Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Tides, Rips and Overfalls....

From an earlier time- mizz stays'l and nbf = bliss
 After a lot of checking of tides and winds we began to move from the wonderfully sheltered safety of the anchorage. Night was less than an hour away but, as ever, with the winds probably picking up later the following day we wanted to get moving. Although we left at slack the wind over tide situation soon dragged our speed down and down regardless of what we did. Patience was the only answer and victory's were counted as increments of a tenth of a knot. Once properly underway and clear, speeds shot up and Cape Wrath looked to be on target for early the following morning. Not to be as winds eased of course but we rounded the corner about a mile offshore with a following tide in the early pm. A few miles down the coast the seas went flat, totally flat and our speeds, briefly, exceeded 9knots as we worked our way down to Loch Neddy, an anchorage we had, Bee assured me, last visited some 10 years earlier although I had absolutely no memory of it. Deep and long with a collection of local boats on buoys, a number of houses along one side, many hidden amongst the trees it was a welcome stop. But with another tidal gate to meet we had to leave early the next morning to round Stour Head and back into the familiar waters we've sailed so many times on our way south. Familiar perhaps but it won't stop interesting times with the tides.

The days followed their usual pattern, some progress, some delay but we were getting south. We sailed into Tobermory to find a huge gaffer anchored in the centre. 
Atlantic at Crinan

A super yacht of some sort and as we slid by the stern we saw it was Atlantic. Our offer to swap boats was met with a smile... I'm sure these boats are impressive but I can't get excited about them. They left well before us the following day heading, like us, down the Sound of Mull. We anchored off Kerrara, the island that protects Oban, to sit out a stiff SW before fighting our way down the Kerrara Sound toward Ardfan Point for the night where we were joined by another boat whilst across the way could be seen at least 7 masts using the usual, Puilladobhrain, anchorage. 

We joined a procession of boats, at the back of course, heading south through the Sound of Insh and then the Sound of Luing. We were early for the first and struggled but the tide had turned for the second and we swept on through. It brings you out at the eastern end of the Corryvreken, somewhere we have yet to traverse. The wind was fluky and soon after we raised the genny it increased dramatically to 30 knots and we had too much sail for comfort. The prospect of beating was overcome by simply turning, albeit against the tide and heading up to Crinan for a bit of shelter, where we again found ourselves anchored off Atlantic. Weeks afterwards we saw a fb post from a young woman we had last seen as a 10 year old in Bonaire on Lily Bolero and is now crewing aboard superyachts. But we didn't know that and so missed the chance to catch up with her. A shame.

We left with the tide the following day, a tad early as usual to get down toward Gigha. An ok day as we could sail once we got clear of the rips although the wind was, inevitably, from ahead.We opted to go on past the usual anchorage/mooring field at Ardminish for the little used anchorage off the overnight ferry mooring. 

Deserted when we arrived there, pretty good shelter and a warm friendliness from the ferry when it did eventually arrive for the night. Only a mile or so further south but quiet and empty.

Leaving the following day we had to buck the tide to make sure we were able to make good use of the tide out past Kintyre and across to Ireland. A number of other boats were out there too, most much quicker than us but we plodded on with very little (4 knots) wind from astern but bright sunshine. After a day of motoring we arrived off Carrickfergus as dusk arrived and anchored off the town, bizarrely buzzed by a drone as we did so. A passing fishing boat slowed down to our hail and explained the layout of the harbour for our morning fuel visit, even offering to take me in to check it out. Luckily I turned them down as motoring in the next morning we found ourselves in a tight area with little turning room and had to deal with it, reversing onto the occupied fuel dock. As we needed to fuel up and stock up we decided we'd stay a night but got two nights for the price of one as we paid up front. But we couldn't stay where we were but needed to move to the adjacent marina which necessitated more "to-ing and fro-ing" in order to turn around in a restricted space, to the consternation of those still aboard already moored boats. Ah the joys of long keels and bowsprits.

The marina was fine, the folks friendly and helpful, the town has, to us, a strange, slightly menacing air about it... union flags in abundance and large Loyalist murals on several walls.

The SW blow that came through caused a bit of a swell in the marina but as it began to ease we thought we'd head across the bay toward our usual anchorage off Bangor. Thick weather, foggy and still blowing 25knots  gave us a wet, hairy bash across, dodging incoming ships before we made it into sheltered water and peace and quiet.  

Old stays'l out of retirement

Another earlyish start but little wind, creeping through the sound between Copeland Island and the mainland, hoping the wind remained westerly as forecast. It didn't and when it came in SW we kept as tight as we could but all the time were getting further from the Irish coast and closer to the Welsh one. We persevered, the south running current helping our track but as we were now well across channel and the tide about to change I stupidly made the decision to ease sheets a little and head into Port Dinllaeen to wait out the tide. Well it didn't seem to be a good decision once we'd anchored but with the tide now running hard it would have been a bear to do anything other than wait. We watched a boat leave and butt into the tide without sail attempting to make their way west, the bow dipping and water cascading down the deck as they appeared to stand still for minutes at a time. When our turn came to leave hours later, the tide was with us but the wind over tide made life miserable and at one point we blundered into rips and over-falls forcing us to head almost north to clear it safely. 

We'd heard from the forecasts that severe weather was forecast for a couple of days time so wanted to get into decent shelter. For us that meant getting to Milford Haven and up the river when we could. However first we had to beat our way south, around St David's Head through a narrow part of the Irish Sea, at Springs with a head wind for much of the trip. It is at times like this I seriously wonder why we do this as the journey involved rips, ferries and juggling the tide to try and reach the right point at the right time. It became obvious that we were not going to make the entrance to Milford before the tide changed but perhaps an hour after. We approached the entrance and some 3 miles out the tide changed and the seas rapidly built up as the wind strength had also increased. Quite possibly one of the least enjoyable hour or so we have spent as the seas grew in confusion and height; 3 metres or more and we were thrown around, hanging on to the tiller and trying to maintain the course and not gybe . The rain fell, the vis. was poor and we hoped desperately that no ships were either entering or leaving when we were. In that respect we were lucky and as we slid between the cliffs and the rocks that split the entrance in half, the seas eased and we could look forward to shelter, a fire and a stiff drink. The anchorage, Dale Bay, had a few boats in, more on buoys but we easily found somewhere and settled for the rest of the day. However the forecast hadn't gone away so we opted to move up river where the wind should have less impact and motored the 12 miles or so up to anchor off the Carew River. We had a better time in terms of wind although the tide kept us on our toes. However back at Dale all had not gone well for a 15m yacht on a buoy that dragged its buoy before going ashore on rocks, ending up completely destroyed. Luckily no one was aboard but only the epirb alerting the CG to the fact that it was sinking.

We left from Dale for the last, we hoped, leg back. We'd indicated to Alex that we'd like to get back on the quay for the winter but throughout the summer we'd had little hope there might be space and had had no reply from Southdown either so we weren't really sure what we'd do. But as we made our way south and still in telephone contact a text arrived with a message saying we had a quay space! 

Winds were good and 20 hours after leaving Dale we rounded Lands End and made for the Helford for an overnight stop before getting up to Cawsand Bay to rendezvous with Nick and Nadja and an easy pilotage back up the river from where we had left almost 5 months and 4300 odd miles ago. Not without a cost it has to be said as we'd blown out one sail and ripped two others. The stays'l had simply split from UV and chafe wear forcing us to dig out the original stays'l from when we first had the boat and was luckily still serviceable although smaller than we were accustomed to. And our lovely new main has torn through my own stupidity when I wired a ratline to the main shroud and didn't cover the wire properly.
Penance - hand sewing the stays'l

And finally. Somewhere on this trip I read or perhaps re-read Helen Tew's story. In part it covers her crossing the Atlantic in a 27' boat at 89 accompanied by her son. But what gave me pause for thought and, as I battled the tides and headwinds of the Irish Sea, no end of encouragement was her tales of how she sailed with her dad as a child venturing as far as Iceland and covering much of the ground that we had on this trip. Well worth getting hold of.


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Norway to Orkney

We cleared the Norwegian coast and settled down to make the best of the light winds forecast. The week it took to cover the 400 odd miles back to Shetland were almost drama free, slow and although I would sometimes look at the chart and cogitate about "pulling in" and waiting for a better wind, experience has shown us that keeping going is a better option. Even if that involves drifting gently. 

 Just two days out we were moving along comfortably in 5-10 knots with the big, light heads'l boomed out and pulling. We were below when a loud bang on the foredeck alerted us to trouble and we nipped aloft sharpish. The multi-coloured ""engine" had ripped, dumping the pole onto the capping rail. Bee ran forward and grabbed the foot of the sail ready to bring it down. Releasing the haly'd we could only watch in dismay as the sail, already split from tack to clew, 
gently ripped from one end t'other and we knew we would be moving a lot slower from now on. Our own fault as we had watched the wind strength increasing, topping 15 knots and more and we should have dropped it and reverted to the genny. Laziness. Of course we missed the NFB (new best friend) sail that now lay in shredded tatters in the forepeak but little could be done about it. 

We drifted, beat and, eventually, motored our way through the oilfield that lay on our route and a day or so from Shetland heard of impending gales for much of this northern area. From the SW of course but not yet. For the moment we had NW winds, picking up and getting us south. The choice was either sneak into BaltaSound from where we'd left or get further south. We chose south, discounted an anchorage on the north side of Fetlar in favour of what looked like decent shelter on the south of the island. It meant beating our way in for the final 4 miles before we settled on a spot that would provide the best shelter. In the end we were there several days and the SW wind backed more S giving us a rolly few nights alleviated somewhat by the reefed mizzen sheeted in to steady us. But it felt great to be back in Shetland and we gazed around happily.


The blow passed and we edged further south, a slightly iffy anchorage at Levenwick turned out to be a cracker, one of the best in terms of scenery and holding and would have been a great spot to sit out that blow. Now we were keen to get south, at least to make it around Cape Wrath and into "home" waters. If we only knew....

With the weather suggesting we might get head winds early in the morning we pushed off on the last of the favourable tide to get down to Grutness. Although it meant arriving in the dark we were fairly confident of getting a spot to anchor, if only because the only boats we'd seen had been fishing boats. So it proved as we snuck in using the radar to centralise ourselves. I say using the radar but it is almost tongue in cheek as it has for some years been playing up. We thought we'd cracked it when we improved the grounding but it was very temporary. By now it would only pick up a target less than a mile away and often only .5 mile away. Then we'd switch it off for 20 minutes or so and get nothing. Frustrating to say the least. We left early the following day and motor-sailed our way down to Fair Isle. Stiff 25k winds and a rapid tide had made for a long, cold morning and the thought of beating against a foul tide to Pierowall some 40+ miles away was ditched in favour of a day or two exploring this small community. First we had to get alongside as the only other boat was tied up in the middle restricting access to all but the smallest. However they shuffled up, telling us they were heading out in an hour or so for Pierowall! Wow - the joys of youth. They did leave and we watched them, from the comforts of the rain swept hillside struggle to get their main up before reefing as the waves bounced them around with seemingly greater force. 

The following a large Norwegian boat came in and we too had to shuffle further forward to create enough space for the soon to be returning ferry. On its return the ensuing scene reminded us graphically of Nain; local people coming down to the wharf to greet the ferry, collect items ordered or returning friends and family. Whilst the Good Shepherd is far smaller than any of the Labrador ships that supply the communities on that coast, the local reactions are mirrored.

Above the tiny Fair Isle Hbr

Both us and the Norwegians left the following morning on their homeward legs. We tried to get south around Fair Isle to give us a better wind angle but the fierce tide made it pointless so we turned, roared back up the way we'd come and turned westish toward  the northern end of Orkney. With the wind forward of the beam and the tides that race through these waters it could have been a bear of a trip but sometimes you get a bit of luck...the wind was freer than we thought and the tides were a positive influence. The vis was poor and once we'd gained the shelter of the islands the last few miles were calmer. The anchorage however looked a tad wind blown and I was easily persuaded by a figure waving from a dock inside the harbour. Pierowall is a small harbour that shelves soon after the pontoons, the wind was blowing straight in and the turning room tight...hmm. Bee was waiting patiently for me to decide which side we would tie to. Ideally it would be better to turn around but with the wind and space that was going to difficult so I opted to go straight in and go port side on. The wind had other ideas, blew us off and past and we had 10 minutes or so have waltzing around as we had to turn the boat in a narrow space without poking the 'sprit though the deckhouse of an idling fishing boat. The crews from the other yots crowded the small jetty to grab our lines as we finally made it alongside. The jetty looked small but was, we were assured, good and would cope with our weight and the forecasted blow. Seems the harbourmaster had seen us sailing up toward the anchorage/harbour and rung down to tell a local where we could tie up to. We were there a couple of nights, filling our diesel jugs from the local fish plant and having a wander around. Most of the other boats had left leaving just us and a small boat. He was bound for Estonia I think and was hoping for a wind reduction before he crossed the North Sea and into the Baltic; we were just trying to knock a few miles off. We left with little wind and motored down to Rapness, a small harbour that is also a ferry stop. We anchored far enough away we hoped for the ferry to come in and settled down to wait. A local fisherman came by and offered us someone else's buoy for the night, but confirmed that where we were would pose no problem for the ferry. And so it was.

The next few days were not enjoyable. We left soon after a strong NW, the seas had not died down and the trip was wet and uncomfortable and as wave after wave seemed to come aboard I opted for comfort and turned for Stromness. Bee felt it to be a mistake; we were out there and if we kept going etc. Plus we would have to get the tides right to exit Stromness. Despite the words written in the opening paragraph I remained deaf to it all I'm sad to say. The entrance was fine although the wind picked up to the low 30's as we approached Bay of Ireland to anchor. No matter. The water shallows to 4 metres or less and the shore is 200 metres away, the holding is good and the wind could blow - we were in. Now, of course, we had to get out. 

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Arctic again....


Having negotiated the Yell Sound we left on an evening tide with a reasonable breeze and sunshine. Opting to sail under mizzen and heads’ls we had one of those experiences that come so rarely aboard a boat, relaxed, comfortable with interesting navigation that, on arrival at our next anchorage, we thought we should retire as it could never get better than the last couple of hours. 
But we’d found our way into a gem of an anchorage, Burra Voe on Yell, well sheltered from everywhere but the SW, a small marina and a scattering of houses that make up the settlement. There was even a derelict Grade 3 listed building for sale to whet our land urges and we spent a peaceful couple of days there which netted us a goodly supply of driftwood for the stove. 

But time was running away and we were bound for Lofoten via the Norwegian mainland and so positioned ourselves up on the coast at Balta Sound on Unst to sneak across in a weather window. The window proved to be a cracker as, with a reefed main and genny, we covered 151nm in a 24 hour period at times exceeding 8 knots. Of course the wind eased, the murk and rain descended and closing the coast increased the amount of traffic. The AIS proved invaluable and when a target indicated we were going to get very close we were able to call the vessel by name and ask if they were aware of our presence, by now under 2 miles. They weren’t, could see no evidence of us AIS(?) and after requesting a repeat of our lat/long said only a faint trace of a target was showing on their radar. By now we had a visual on them and warned them  to maintain their course and we'd pass starb'd to starb'd. Soon after passing they called us back asking how we knew their vessel name and suggesting, with good humour, that we may find it worthwhile to invest in a transceiver.... It was meant well but it reinforced my belief that ships are more reliant on AIS than radar these days and that they expect everyone to be similarly equipped. There is a very good article on the AAC site about recreational AIS that is worth reading. It may be a members only page in which case if you aren't already it may pay you to join - $19 a year I think?
We cracked on and slid into our first ever Norwegian anchorage: Haroeydsundet; well sheltered with neat houses around the edge, fishing boats tied up and an air of quiet prosperity. As ever after such passages our thoughts and actions turn to the basics: fire and sleep. We’d arrived. Over the next few weeks we would be working our way north, taking advantage of the inside passage which gives great shelter from the sea whilst still allowing you to sail. Except, as with winds in any higher latitude there’s either too little or too much and another truism we seem to have discovered: favourable winds are never as strong as forecast whilst unfavourable ones inevitably are stronger. The forecasts are given in Norwegian understandably enough but a quick vhf call will get you an English version. Whatever we began heading north, pulling into Honningsoeya on the second night. Leaving the following morning I stupidly went the wrong side of a green starb’d marker. 
Port marker...obvious really!

Stupid because the “pole” marks are a little like signposts in that they clearly point to which side you should be on and I’ve been back on this side of the ocean long enough to get the rules right…..luckily the water was deep enough and we got away with it but I had to warn myself to take more damn care in future!! The days followed on; the anchorages varied but for the most part were normally easily found at the end of a days run. One thing we were grateful for is our gaff rig as many bridges are a mere 16m high, about 52’, and any Bermudian rig boat of any reasonable length had to take the long way round!

July 13th was a frustrating day as the winds were heading us and strengthening. The possible anchorages turned out to be a mere slit and rolly to boot leaving us with little choice but to beat onwards but once we were able to free the sheets the wind died of course. The anchorage, on the southern end of Kvaloeya was ok, suffered a little from rolling but we were now into real island country where the route slid between rocks and islands turning through the compass in order to make a safe passage. 

Eye marked with a bulleye
Many of the anchorages had succumbed to mooring buoys or small marinas and many were tiny with mooring rings hammered into the rocks for boats to tie off to and reduce swinging room. 

One such place was near Jensoeyholman and very restricted. We chose our spot carefully, the winds were light and we were confident of staying off the rocks. 

Rapidly launching the dinghy and we headed ashore to harvest several useful looking logs for firewood, returning with a 3metre plus length that we hung over the dinghy stern to transport it. Then dragged it ashore to a beach area so I could split it into shorter lengths. Our first landing on Norwegian soil! The following day we made it up to Rorvik and took the opportunity to get some fuel. The fuel dock was easy to approach and tie up to and the guy selling fuel extremely helpful. We’d only just finished paying and started moving the jugs and realised he’d shut up shop and left - we’d arrived minutes before he closed for the w/e. Sometimes a little luck is needed as we were about to find out. We motored north to what looked, on the chart, a sheltered cove with reasonable depths. It was but it also had a small marina, with small, narrow pontoons and after circling a couple of times we decided to carry on with Plan B. I say this loosely of course as it had to hatched on the hoof as it were and involved several hours motoring. The next fjord entrance had the inevitable fish farm which are pretty well marked (and need to be as they’re not small) and the trip along the fjord was several miles but the anchorage was just great. Excellent holding with only a couple of houses overlooking the shelter. As with every place we’d anchored no one pays you the slightest attention and you go about your business as though you’re invisible…. The following day we headed up to a place that looked as though it would offer good shelter, passing several anchorages mentioned in the pilot book. Of course when we got there we found out why it didn’t merit a mention as large “NO ANCHORING” signs were on display as power cables ran underwater to nearby islands. Another Plan B came into action and we motored around the corner to a narrow but deep river for the night. Onwards, ever onwards as by now we were within 100 miles of the Arctic Circle and we anchored in Hjartoey for the night but were soon joined by 2 small powerboats. This is an anchorage that is overlooked by the Seven Sisters, a nearby mountain range, although much of it was hidden by mist or fog, We were also nearing the ??? glacier. The scenery was becoming very mountainous, cruise ships increased but almost every yacht we came across was heading south… 

The glacier is pretty spectacular even from a distance of 15 miles and we felt little need to join the throngs of vessels making their way down the fjord to get a better view. Some of the communities we passed were relatively small but a large town was clearly visible as we cruised by which all added to our growing feeling of disconnect which I’ll come back to later. The mountains had steadily become higher and although we could see it and recognise the fact it wasn’t until we got back to the West coast of Scotland that we appreciated just how high they were. 
Marking the Arctic Circle

As we closed the Arctic line we smelt the unmistakable odour of a farm! The scent of cow manure drifted across the boat, a sure sign of how benign the temps are around here we thought. By now the number of yachts were increasing quite rapidly including a number of UK boats; charter and super yachts amongst them, the majority of which were heading south.

On the 24th July we crossed to Lofoten which had been one of the aims of the trip…it’s hard to justify our disappointment I think. We had been thinking about heading to Norway for at least a decade and in that time have traveled to other northern areas, principally Labrador and Greenland. Labrador is, for us, the benchmark by which we “judge” our cruising grounds; its wildlife; solitude; scenery etc. It is a remarkable place whereas Norway had little wildlife or solitude to hold us. We have been spoilt I know and when we arrived in Lofoten we both knew that we would go no further. Possibly had we arrived here first and then gone north from there we may have found what we were looking for; had we headed straight for Norway rather than wander the offshore islands off our own country we may have had more time although that’s a poor excuse. Whatever after a couple of days we turned and began our journey south; looking for different places to stop, different routes to follow. Sometimes we were successful and once we had one of those, hopefully, never to be repeated sequences. We'd been looking for somewhere to anchor that wasn't in the pilot we approached our first choice though a narrow channel the sky grew increasingly dark and a squall was obviously lining itself up.... the room inside was tight but possible but no sooner had we made our turn so we now faced the way we'd come in when the squall exploded with torrential rain and gusts in the high 30's. It was made worse by the fact the wind had completely switched direction and was now blowing hard into the entrance. We struggled out, blinded by the rain and using the radar to keep track of where the rocky shore was. As we cleared the channel I turned to port, trying to keep several hundred metres off the lee shore and struggling to get the speed above one point Bee, who was trying to watch our heading through the solid rain shouted she thought the wind was backing but it wasn't; just my inattention had allowed the head to fall off toward the rocky shore. We plugged on, very slowly but at least maintaining a distance from the disaster that waited us off to port. In the end, of course, the squall passed through and unable to find anything satisfactory we turned and motored past rocky shoals and outcrops to the nearest anchorage mentioned in the pilot book,Sjoyea. By the time we arrived several hours later it was getting on for 11pm but the wind had died and the sea calmed down which was just as well as the entrance is possibly 15m (50') wide , very hard to identify, involves crossing a bar with a sharp turn to starb'd the moment you're through and as you make the approach the mind (or mine anyway) was screaming "don't do it don't do it".  The anchorage has a small marina, perhaps half a dozen boats on mooring buoys and looks, on paper, to be a tad open to the swell but in reality the rocks and small islands that exist around the 3 gaps break everything up. In the end we found it to be one of our favourites with excellent shelter and holding. Getting out was interesting and it is certainly not one to attempt with any sort of swell  but by Aug 3rd we’d called in at Rorvik once again, fuelled up and began the journey south. The winds looked to be fairly light so not really what we wanted to hear but we had to deal with what was and made our way out through the islands to the open sea. Shetland lay 480nm to the SW and looked like being a slow haul…

Saturday, 8 July 2017

North to the light....

Another few weeks pass, another 500 or so miles slide past the keel and still we're heading north.....well why wouldn't we?

We crept out of West Loch Tarbert and continued northwards stopping briefly in Canna, another place we hadn't been to in several years and I'd forgotten how attractive it is with a good sheltered anchorage and visitor buoys available. The only open direction is from the east and when the wind duly turned easterly early the following morning we left, reefed, for the Hebrides. The winds were strong, the fog was thick and the rain too frequent. The Hebs remained invisible until we were much less than a mile from the shore and we were about to enact Plan B when we caught the dark outline of land and plunged on. I don't know if you have ever been in one of those situations when your mind races through “worst case scenarios” but this rapidly became one of them. A lee shore coupled with a narrow entrance and rolling waves. The entrance was a sharpish turn to port leaving the seas abeam. Thanks to some exceptional deck work from Bee we had the main down at the last minute to minimise the rolling and we motored slowly in against the ebbing tide toward the gap. It was narrow and had the engine packed in or faltered there wouldn't have been either time or space to get sails up. Inevitably you allow these thoughts to tumble through the mind working out possible solutions even though reality suggests there isn't much chance . Of course we got in, the seas moderated and we worked our way into another cracking Hebridean anchorage where one other boat lay.

A brief sail up to Loch Maddy, joined briefly by Bob Shepton and Dodo's Delight and then on to one of the summers objectives: across the Sound of Lewis and onto the west side of Harris. The sound was achieved reasonably easily apart from a bit of confusion with a couple of buoys and then onto the magic of the western coast. Several things struck us as we sailed gently toward our evenings anchorage. Firstly far more people lived this side than we had imagined and houses were dotted along the shore and hills and the beaches were a stunning white, almost Caribbean with the green sea breaking gently across the shore. True the folks strolling along had more than Speedos' on but...
Although we were initially disappointed at the anchorage it turned out to be very well sheltered even if room was restricted. However the following day gave us a wild ride with a fair bit of beating as we made it up Loch Roag. The east and west Roags are spectacular; well worth the effort to get here and a great chance to relax, gaze at the Callanish Standing Stones where we anchored one night and sort things out for the trip around the top of the Hebrides toward Orkney/Shetland.

We continued northwards with a hope of getting ourselves up to Shetland...of course the winds died come the evening and the prospect of a fast passage wandered off into never never land. We altered course for Orkney with its heaving tides and overfall's. Get the timing right and they remain a joy and a wonder...wrong and they represent, if you're lucky, a waste of diesel and a very slow passage. It rarely happens but this time it did and we hit the entrance to the Eynhallow Sound at exactly the right time and we swept through with speeds briefly reaching 10 knots before we were back under our own sail power at a more sedentary 4 or 5 k. A beat down to Kirkwall to anchor for the night and we were back in the Orkney's. After the drama of the Scottish west coast the Orkney's strike us as a tad tame, gentle hills rather than mountains and bays rather than dark foreboding lochs but those tides!! The only other time we came here I found myself completely freaked by them to the point we cut short the journey and went elsewhere. This time my mind seemed more at ease. The following day, luckily, didn't change it.

We left Kirkwall with the tide running strongly with us. The journey wasn't a long one but looked to be interesting from a nav viewpoint. Up the west side of Shapinsay we romped and in order not to get swept sideways I kept off the coast line somewhat, a tactic, had I read the pilot book properly, that could only end in disaster. We sailed straight into a particularly unpleasant and dangerous overfall where the seas suddenly became more than 2 metres high and determined to come aboard at every opportunity and direction. I bore away sharpish and back toward the island noting, the 50 degree difference between track and compass, and once sanity had been restored we looked aghast at where the course was taking us. Bee, thankfully, had earlier seen the southbound ferry come very close to the shore before swerving to starb'd which gave us some comfort and reassurance. The gap ahead looked very narrow and the “obvious” choice seemed to be further over to port. Across our path lay gnarly water and Bee went up the bow to watch for anything untoward but of course it was fine and we slid through and onto the next bit. The bay we'd picked was big, well over a mile wide but good shelter, out of the stream and had the benefit of a washed up pallet which we split and burnt. Ah the joys. Another day or so and we were leaving Orkney. We had thought of having a day off but the next bay on Sanday proved large and uninteresting. The wind, forecast to be light and fickle, was blowing a steady 12 knots at anchor and a quick check of the streams suggested we might just make use of the last of the favourable before it turned with a vengeance through the North Ronaldsway Firth. Well the forecast turned out to be correct and we didn't quite make the cut and struggled our way NE towards Fair Isle, that tiny island that is half way between Orkney and Shetland. I think we opted to stop there (and in part leave when we did from Sanday as the next day forecast was for stiff winds and a sub 40 mile trip sounded better than a 60+ mile trip)

 One of our better decisions we have to say. Fair Isle is a gem with one of the most interesting entrances you can a narrower version of St Johns Nwfld without the space inside and certainly not the houses. It is small, not tiny but certainly small. There is room to turn around and possibly anchor too but the wharf was available with two other boats tied (Dutch and Norwegian) already. We joined them. Up to the Bird Sanctuary building for a much needed shower, shuffled the boat along to allow another boat (French)to tie up astern of us before topping up the water tank. 
Birds were everywhere; puffins in the harbour; gulls nesting on the cliffs and we regretted not having the opportunity to remain. The charge is £12 for 4 nights and is well worth it. Wonderful place but with the winds forecast to pick up we wanted to get up to Shetland and so left before 5am the next day. Logically, to take full advantage of the tides we should have gone to Lerwick but we wanted to see the west side so opted for Scalloway. The winds weren't that strong perhaps 15k or so and with the favourable tide the seas remained flattish as did the view as a heavy mist or rain accompanied us. Sumborough Head remained hidden as we ran up the coast toward our destination. The entrance to the old capital of Shetland is behind several islands which do a great job of breaking up the seas that had now built up. As had the wind which was a constant 20 with higher gusts as we roared into the harbour before rounding up to drop the main. Scalloway has a boating club that provides a convenient pontoon for visitors, four of which were already tied up. We circled trying to see if we could squeeze into the gap on the lee side before opting to take our chances on the windy side. Easy to get into of course and the big balloon fenders we have kept us off. 

There we stayed for 3 nights as the wind came roaring out of the SW keeping us pinned to the jetty; not that much of a problem for a us but the 33' something behind us was suffering as too light to resist the waves that thumped into the hull or the wind that pushed the boat over, the boat began to suffer the following day, slamming constantly into the jetty when the winds picked up. We dug out several 100' foot lines to help pull the boat away from the jetty before creating, with another guy, Jason, a cats cradle of a bridle to try to improve the situation. Fenders were dug out of the forepeak to replace the ones that had been crushed and eventually while not perfect at least Paul, the owner, might be able to get a nights sleep. Blows pass of course and by Sunday all was settled, Jason was off to head around Rockall before continuing down to Ireland whilst the rest of us made plans to leave the following day as we did leaving one small 26' Francis to luxuriate in the space. Scalloway is a good stopover; the Club charges £15 a night that includes showers, washing machine & dryer and electric. A bus from outside the club takes you into Lerwick where a decent sized Tesco and Coop trade so stocking up is relatively simple. Fuel too is available across the harbour and we were sorted leaving around midday for Skeld. A gentle pootle through the islands ending in a beat up to the harbour. We'd opted to come here as some years ago we'd met the guy who runs the marina here – well we ended up not using the marina but anchored in the natural harbour outside. Like Fair Isle this is a great place to be. We loved it, rowing ashore to meet people, seriously considering it as a winter stopover. Jim, the guy we met was out with his son fishing so we had little chance to see him but perhaps on the homeward bound trip.

From Skeld we had a short but rewarding sail up to Walls, magnificent cliff scenery and an easy entry into this quiet harbour. With a very secure harbour that yachts can use if space is available and whilst it was we still chose to anchor clear of the channel and in less than 5 metre depths. No doubt about it the Shetland so far has had great and secure anchorages. 

  Another short leg saw us moving through the islands, fish farms and mussel lines before the inevitable beat up to Hamar Voe where the pilot book spoke of a secure anchorage with good holding. We just made it through the sound at Papa Stour having left Skeld late so suffered to tidal effects as we beat NE into a headwind. The entrance has the inevitable fish farm in it but easily enough room to get by. Rounding the bend in the voe Bee, gazing intently through the bino's said “There's a gaff ketch in the anchorage”. Given that she has a propensity to joke about such things I didn't believe her but there it was a 50' fishing boat that sported a gaff rig and was moored to a buoy as were several other boats. Our sheltered, quiet anchorage has been somewhat reduced in size by the sensible locals making good, permanent, use of it. It is a good anchorage, very well protected and land locked with good holding. We left today, after a quiet night, for Humna Voe when we should have known better. The forecast was for NE5-7 and whilst we had an easy and comfortable ride along the coast turning the corner had us running into it. The coast deflected the wind a little to NNE and the seas were definitely N and getting bigger the further the tack took us from the coast. Nevertheless all was going well and it was only for a short distance.....but doubts were growing...the next anchorage would be fine once we were in but we'd need to dump everything before we gained the shelter and the entrance was only 60 metres wide with rocks. When the winds hit 30k and then 33k more doubts crept in and our fate was sealed when we tacked, got into irons bore away and tacked again only to get several seas aboard that we looked at each other and both said “Lets go back” and we did bearing away to retrace our track. Probably the best decision we made of the day as the winds continued to build such that even in the comparatively sheltered waters of where we'd come from the seas and wind made life difficult. As ever Bee gets the foredeck sorted, sails down and main under control as we slowly, slowly made it back to the anchorage we'd left 20 miles previously.

And finally. The inevitable came to pass as our good friend Mike succumbed to the cancer that had ravaged him. Our paths had crossed numerous times since we met him and Eilean ten years ago in Graciosa including Senegal and the very end he was compiling his working list for Cooya but no more. We will miss him.

60 28.32N
001 26. 36W
Humar Voe

Thursday, 8 June 2017

West, west

We left the sanctuary of Millbrook on a fine spring evening for somewhere else. Within 400 metres I had managed to run aground twice but a flooding tide (and more attention) had us off and away to Cawsand where we anchored for a couple of nights, sorting things out and gearing ourselves up mentally for another summer of wandering.

A hectic day's sailing to Falmouth followed with decent speeds and exhilarating sailing which were made to feel pedestrian by several cats that came by us at double digit speeds....With very strong winds coming in over the next few days we remained at anchor in the harbour but headed off eventually for a non stop trip to Ireland. The first part involved too much motoring but we needed to be clear of Cape Cornwall, the circular tides and the shipping lanes before we could drift in comparative peace until the winds came in. The slow trip across was notable only for the fact that the self-steerer would only work in strong winds leaving us with hours of hand steering when the winds fell all to frequently light. But dawn arrived on the last day and we pulled gratefully into Schull (Skull) Harbour for a couple of days. It's a big, natural harbour but affords good shelter with excellent holding. We needed it of course as we sat out another 30knot plus blow.

Over the next few weeks we worked our way northwards; Valentia, Smerwick, Cashla and then a triumphant entry, through a stunningly green sea, into Clifden with the most spectacular accompaniment of leaping dolphins we have ever had. 

Even the local fishing boat crew stopped what they were doing to snap pics and watch several of the mammals exuberantly leap clear of the water by a couple of metres. There is no doubt in our mind that dolphins, detecting a boat in their “patch” will immediately come racing across the gap toward us then play in the bow wave, dive under the boat and seem to relish the chance to interact with us. I have no idea how many times we have seen dolphins over the last 17 years but they never cease to captivate and entertain.

We spent a week pottering around the Killery area, some days in Little Killery of which we wrote about enthusiastically on our first visit there some years back and then into Ballynakill. Although the two only a few miles apart they are very different with the latter having a feeling of openness and light. The bay we anchored in had reasonable depths – 5-6 metres, excellent holding and great views. The beat out the following day to Inishboffin took a lot of tacks as the channel is narrow, rocks available for chance encounters if you're not paying attention but on a sunny day it all made for a great day's sailing. A quick wander across to Cleggen the following day produced the first (only we hope) failure of the trip. As we turned the engine off after anchoring Bee thought she had pressed one of the buttons out of sequence and started it again to be sure all was ok........ Whilst the engine ran for some reason we now had no electrics at all and thrown by the failure seemingly connected to the engine controls that is where we concentrated our reasoning and fault finding. By the end of the day we'd only established that it was nothing to do with that but seemed to be coming from the Vetus 3 way switch. We went to bed in darkness knowing we'd have to sort it the next day. And eventually we did by checking the connections to the batteries and finding the negative lead connecting starter to house had come off! Just before we had left Millbrook we'd bought a pair of s/h winches from a guy up in Scotland who turned to be a Marine Electrician. We sent him a text asking if he would care to advise us on what he though the problem might be and soon after we sorted it out came his suggestion that it might either be the Vetus or a faulty connection at the battery. We might well get John to undertake sorting out the nightmare that our electrics have become over the years!

Dating from 600Ad I think...
Our time in Ireland was coming to an end; we needed to get up into Scotland to catch up with a terminally ill cruising friend and we left Cleggen bound for Rhu. We'd managed to get the self-steer working, although mods are planned for the winter. We rounded Bloody Foreland and made good speeds toward the narrow gap that separates Ireland and Scotland. We were hopeful of making it through in one hit but as time was running out on the favourable tide we opted to slide into White Bay at the top of Lough Foyle. 

As we approached we had misgivings about its suitability but in the end it was a welcome stop. Good shelter and holding gave us an undisturbed night before heading on down to Raithlin Island where we anchored to await the change of tide. We had a choice of anchorages on the other side; about 20 mile away lay Sanda, the useful passage stop when rounding the Mull of Kintyre, Campbeltown or further on to Arran. We'd let the tide and wind dictate. Sanda was passed as we still had hours of favourable tide to go and we swept up to the easy entrance of Campbeltown, dropping anchor in the early evening.

The following morning came in still and foggy but we wanted to get a move on and so motored out of the bay and into more fog. A yacht passed us as we drifted, tooting its fog horn and minutes later we resorted again to the engine to make progress. But the fog passed, a breeze of sorts came in and we sailed slowly northwards. A “PAN PAN” on the vhf alerted us to a possible issue and the CG reported an overdue small aircraft. Reports started coming back from yotties that various bits of wreckage had been seen and then a body. All this just a few miles north of where we were. 

We slid into Loch Ranza for the night, staggered at the number of yots on mooring buoys (we joined them), watched a brigantine from Holland anchor at the head of the lock and then we left early the following day.

All in all we were about a week around Rhu, managing to see Mike and Eilean, in good spirits despite his illness before saying our farewells with a promise to drop in on the way back. We'd had a day or two away when we were in Rhu, managing an exhilarating sail down to Lamlash on Arran one evening and then motored back the following day. This time we opted for Rosneath before another early start with no clear idea of where we might end up. It began easily enough with a breeze that carried us south under main, genny and tops'l. The wind began to pick up but nothing to worry about and we carried on. When we began to get 20 knots I realised we'd still got the top up and we needed to get it down sharpish. Luckily we were on starb'd tack and the main blankets it when we drop. Nevertheless it proved to be a handful, at one point the 5 metre yard hanging horizontally as we struggled to contain it. All this time the boat kept thundering on, a line looped over the tiller to keep us straight.

A lumpy, probably over canvassed, beat along the eastern side of Arran was endured as the wind direction indicated we'd have a fast sail to Campbeltown......but no as we cleared the light (just) the wind fell away if not the seas and we were forced to motor clear of the ugly patch of water we'd got into. The wind which had been west of south now came round to north of west giving us another on the nose flog to Camp. Looking at the tidal charts and the current wind direction it seemed logical to abandon that course and turn instead to Sanda which was not only an easier sail but the current would soon be turning in that direction. With a fading wind we motor sailed the last 6 or so miles as the current, overfall's and eddies around the Mull can be interesting. We slid into the anchorage, despite a counter eddy which wanted us on nearby rocks, safely about 10pm joining the other boat silently at anchor. By morning they had gone and as we left we were soon joined by half a dozen more boats making the journey around. What wind there was was on the nose creating a wind over tide situation luckily not at its worse as we were still early in the cycle but off the SW corner the overfall's, standing waves and general unpleasantness built up as we crashed through at 8k+. The favourable tide we managed to carry all the way to Gigha although the wind was down 7 or 8 knots. Gigha which is normally packed with visiting boats had 7 and more spare visitor buoys than occupied. Perhaps it is still too early.

Across the sound the following day and into the Sound of Jura, sweeping tides and whisky distillery's – with the engine on tickover the speed frequently exceeded 8 or even 9 knots and when the wind picked up we dumped the engine for the genny and “beat” our way pleasurable up the sound. Rarely have we managed such tack angles as the current showed 30 degrees difference between actual and perceived. As we rounded the top and shaped up to enter West Loch Tarbet a solitary Swedish yot was heading south through the Sound under power against the tide. Slowly. No headsail set to make use of the 15k of favourable wind just a serious amount of fuel to be consumed. We've witnessed numerous boats intent on getting wherever, no sails set but engine and auto pilot engaged as they plough into steep waves. Each to their own of course but...

Finally we entered what was to be our home for a few days as a stiff NW came through. We anchored outside the inner harbour as we'd preferred the outlook to that of the inner when we were last here. Tucked away in a corner of the inner could be seen a small yacht, the crew returning in the dinghy as we dropped anchor. A few hours later another visitor arrived, Silver Shoes out of Rhode Island no less, also bound for the inner where, it has to be said, the depths are easier to manage at 4 metres or so than the 10-15metres we have beneath us.

The rain fell, the wind blew and we remained snug and warm, startled from our sleepy state by the sound of voices....4 guys in kayaks were drifting around the boat! We'd seen them outside a bothy on the southern shore of Islay as we'd made our approach to the Sound. They'd paddled though it and spent the night camped out at a large house on the shore of Glenbatrick Bay about half a mile from where we currently are, before continuing past us and into the inner loch where another bothy awaits them.

Finally. For a number of days, perhaps weeks, we could hear a particular squeaking noise whenever we ran the engine. Although we checked, listened and tested the tightness of various possible offenders it remained elusive.... The engine showed no sign of anything untoward so our searches became a little half hearted. And then we found it. Turned out to be a squeaky toy belonging to Toots – the vibration from the engine activates the squeak it seems. Ah the joys.

West Loch Tarbert

55 57N 005 56W

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Bluebells and mudbanks...

Winter eases away (not that it has been a hard one), the days lengthen, boat work gets squared away and thoughts turn to the summer and possible destinations. We seem to have spent time and money on making things better/more comfortable although little would be obvious to a casual glance but enough to give me a degree of enthusiasm that seems to have been missing for a year or so. Time will tell...
As I mentioned a post or two back in the absence of sailing we've taken to wandering around the local hills.... well to be honest I've walked, usually with Bee, whilst she runs on alternate days having got back into running after a 25 year break. Just about every winter we've tied up some-place it has been on the cards but this time it all came right. If there is a drawback it would be that Cornwall has many things going for it but flat surfaces are not one of them and consequently every run is either up or down. As are the walks of course but somehow it seems less intimidating, to me, to crawl slowly up rather than run for 2 hours or thereabouts. 

BUT off into the trees, along the wooded trails a whole new world opens up and particularly at this time of year when the bluebells come into bloom and whole areas of woodland are brought to life with swathes of blue. Today we wandered the trail with bags and a small axe as the trails are littered with felled trees and the wood left to rot back into the ground. Nothing wrong with that but some, we felt, could benefit us and the stove. Luckily we'd sorted the route to end up laden but with a downhill stroll to the boat, watched closely by small gatherings of deer. Down below and across the fields the creek lay exposed, the water a trickle. 

Like this the channel can be easily distinguished and I use the opportunity to try and memorise it. Of course once the tide turns and the narrow channel is swamped everything is different and much less obvious. Years ago as a young squaddie in Kiel I used to sail around the Danish Islands...Fyn, Aeroskobing and there the channels would have withies, sort of brooms, with the handles pushed into the mud, with the "brush" made from twigs and either the bound end pointed up or down depending on whether they were a port or starb'd mark. It would be great if they had them here but as a big spring tide here is almost 6 metres rather 6 centimetres I guess the issues are a little different. We'll see how we get on next week when we hope to leave.

Years ago we took the perceived wisdom of good binoculars were a waste of money as the chances were they'd be dropped over the side or ruined by sea water and bought a cheap pair. When we returned in '05 we dumped them as they were crap and shopped around for a decent pair. The best we could afford were a pair of 7x50 Bushnells with a compass. The difference was remarkable as they didn't fog, seemed easy to use and the compass was a definite plus. However. We're not the most careful of sailors and on one lumpy day I watched in horror as the "gogs", stupidly left lying in the doghouse, were thrown by a particularly lumpy section and dropped 2 metres plus into the saloon. Result: the distance measuring thingy inside was on its side and the focus/eyepiece slightly bent. The distance bit was no loss as we'd never used or understood it but the focus needed two hands to make any adjustment. But we got used to it and continued to use them on a daily basis whilst cruising. When we got back to the UK this time, flush with a state pension, I thought we might treat ourselves and did a bit of research, stumbling across the fact that Bushnell offer a life time warranty. I read it again and then looked at the binos - no eyecups, battered, with all the issues I've mentioned previously but thought I might write explaining the situation and find out what a repair might cost. By return came an email stating I needed to print the attachment, then complete and return the item to the UK address shown, only then could they be returned to Germany and an assessment made. We did as instructed and the weeks went by. Three I think before we had an email informing us that Bushnell were repairing the item FREE OF CHARGE and we would be notified when the item was returned. And we were, by phone...."Did they need my card number for the return postage" I asked but absolutely not. So here we are with a pair of refurbished Bushnells, new eyepieces, focus restored etc some 12 years after we had made the original purchase even though we had no supporting purchase receipt. Not only are cheap binos a waste of money in terms of usefulness and quality but getting the degree of service we did coupled to the quality make the company a real winner for us. 


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Newfoundland to Australia NON STOP...

Not so much an update from us but after a long wait the account of Trevor Robertson's journey from Newfoundland to Australia has been written up and posted. Create some space, settle down and read an entertaining write up of a great trip. Remarkable.

Click here to read..

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Stick in the muds.............

How quickly the months slide by and I search around for excuses. Little point in blaming the Christmas/holidays as we neither celebrate Christmas in any form and, it may be argued, we’re permanently on holiday. Whatever, nowt has been written but we have continued with our life afloat. Here’s where we currently are.
How we spend most of the day....
As we had had such a successful winter “refit” we opted to get back into the water rather than spend the time on the hard and we duly recruited Nick, on a sister-ship to Hannah and from the quay we were heading for, to act as pilot on the unmarked channel. I’d been down at the quay the night before to check out the berth and was a little taken aback to see a 60’ fishing boat coming in and tying up. The space didn’t look big enough to take them and us but Daz, the quay owner, assured me everyone would jiggle around to ensure a space. A few hours before we were due to launch I nipped down to check that space and found it too tight especially as we’d just re-fitted the self-steerer. Back to the boat, removed the s/s and on the only tide Nathan could launch us on we splashed at 6pm as darkness settled in. Luckily Nick brought along his gps and his track in and out which made things a little easier……well apart from we always use “North up” and Nick uses “Course up” which threw me as I hadn’t bothered to check. We crept slowly through the channel, Bee and Nick eyeballing the numerous mooring buoys and occasional yacht whilst I tried to stay within the parameters of the convoluted gps track. Funny how the same berth spot looks different at night from daylight…. I opted for discretion and tied up to the fishing boat for the night as I didn’t fancy trying to finagle my way into a gap slightly longer than we are. In the end it may not have been my soundest idea as , although the bottom was mud about 60cm (2’) thick, the ground below was hard shingle with a slope away from the quay wall/fishing boat.

Hillyard, sea-mist and calm water.
All this knowledge was, of course, still in the future and we had Nick and Nadja on for a drink whilst the tide ebbed rapidly. In our defence I would say we’re not usually so lax when we’re in this type of situation but we were this time as we sat chatting and drinking the keel touched the gravel and Hannah began the slow slide. The keel went out, the masts came in. And in. By the time we cottoned on the damage was done and we had no chance of getting the boat upright. The starb’d nav. box crept ever closer to the hull of the fishing boat until it rested against the solid oak planking. Still we slipped and the only way of saving the box from destruction was to rapidly undo the lany’ds on the main stb'd shrouds and allow them  to swing freely. The mast is keel stepped of course and gaffers tend not be set up so tightly that the temporary “loss” of the shrouds causes chaos. Anyway with that done we could do nothing but slink below and perch on the sea-berth at a very uncomfortable 30 degree angle. Not until the early hours of the morning would we be able to climb into bed without the prospect of sliding ignominiously out. Not a good start. The following morning we were up ready to move but with the wind howling. Various folks were roused from their beds by Daz to ensure no damage was done and in a lull afforded by the wind shadow from the Mill we squeezed into the berth. Still tight but hoisting the anchor inboard and judicious adjustment of warps saw everyone at ease. The quay is part of a B&B and the website covers the rebuilding of the mill. It originally dated from the late 1500's is

The big lugger that features in some of the quay shots is called Grayhound and their site can be found here. The section on the actual build is excellent.

One of the many jobs we have been meaning to tackle for several years is the installation of a cabin heater using the engine coolant. We had tried it once before (on the previous engine) using the heater from a mini but it was never really successful and when one of the fittings broke off on the engine block some years back we pulled the whole thing out. However the experience of cruising in Labrador and the frequency that lack of wind can push us into motoring meant it came back up the agenda. Rather than search the scrap yards for a unit that might or might not give us a working unit we bought a new one from a car heater specialist. We talked to the local Yanmar dealer for advice, bought a kit to enable the tight space to be negotiated and finally got the whole unit in and working. Except it leaks a little so we will remove the ptfe tape we used and use a compound to get a proper seal. Running the engine for 20 minutes or so gave us a decent amount of heat from the unit which should make life a little less uncomfortable. Other tasks have been more mundane; painting the rigging etc but all have been helped by the wonderful mild weather we’ve been experiencing.

Although we’re in a well sheltered creek we are only about 2 miles from the English Channel via the lanes or Public Footpaths on the Rame Peninsula. The lanes, so typical of Cornwall are narrow. Very narrow in places and steep but steady walking gets you over the hill and onto Whitsand Bay. With that comes the chance to pick up the South Coast Way, part of which winds its way through a collection of single storey buildings that are, in some ways, reminiscent of the outposts of Labrador.
 They perch on the cliff side, are one or two bedroom dwellings built of wood with wonderful sea views. However, being English, they’re called chalets, can cost anything from £150,000 to £250,000 and many, of course, have neat squares of lawn. The majority are empty as they seem to be holiday lets. Curiosity pushed us into checking some on the internet. Not cheap when a two week spell in August would cost around £4400..... We didn’t book. But the walks are pretty neat, some along the beach, some following the coast, some further inland and wandering along narrow, muddy Public Footpaths. The beauty, as far as I’m concerned anyway, is we’re into solitude and our own company within 15 minutes of leaving the boat. Not sure what we’ll do with all this fitness when we head out again.

Books, as ever, play a big part in our lives. I’ve just reread John Rowland’s account of his trips to Labrador, Baffin and Ungava for the Grenfell Mission. It’s a remarkable story; trips north delivering small sailing boats for the Mission use, a time when navigation was very different; when charts were far more scarce and the detail often very suspect. All this over 100 years ago and with far more “primitive” equipment yet carrying out voyages that ranged much further than we ever have and most yotties who venture to Labrador. If you get the chance it is well worth a read partly because despite the advances in equipment and electronics it is still a testing journey. What counts here, as always has done, is the individuals ability to deal with situations. The book is:North to Adventure by John T Rowland. Long out of print I think but occasionally libraries sell off copies which is where ours came from. Another book that is easier to find and worth reading is Paul Heiney's One Wild Song, his account of his trip down to the Beagle Channel and back - except it is more than that as he comes to terms with the death, by suicide, of his son.