Days out

 

We’ve lived in Derbyshire for a number of years. It’s a gorgeous county with varied and stunning countryside, epic historic properties and pretty, welcoming villages.

Our trip to the uk this time round has been longer than previous ones. So I was keen to get out and about in Derbyshire and enjoy what it has to offer. You know how it is. You live somewhere for ages and rarely visit the great places on your doorstep.

Friends came to stay do we went to Chatsworth for the day. Dave cracked the maze, Ollie got wet at the Emperor Fountain, Sam kept up remarkably well on his crutches, post his knee surgery, as we hiked upto the lake that feeds the fountain and Biddy completed the dog agility course. And her dog Ilka did some of it too!

My sis, family and cousin came over too. Charades continued late into the night after Aunty Helen had taken the kids swimming while the parents went for a quiet afternoon coffee / beer. Good Aunty.

We flew over to Jersey for a couple of nights. Our friend Ken said, “You’re the only people I know who can have a holiday from a holiday and then go on holiday”. The weather wasn’t great but we still got some beach walks in and Dave got his fix of boat conversations chatting to Ben till late at night.

Time ticks. Less than a month till we fly back now. Hope Grace is behaving herself.

 

 

Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is an unremarkable terrace. It sits proudly above Cromford in Derbyshire and boasts 8 houses. No cars reach here. Access is on foot via a switchback path that heads upwards towards the sky.

The properties are pretty darned small. Front doors open into front rooms with a galley style kitchen nestling behind. Upstairs, a bedroom, a bathroom and most have second bedroom up in the top of the house. Most have a garden but the garden is not necessarily next to the property. Weird I know.

The bare facts reveal so little. The views are stunning, the day light hours long and warm as the sun confronts the cottages for most of the day. The community is tight and secure. No one goes to Mount Pleasant without a reason. It’s a bit like Norwich.

This terrace was our happy happy home for many years. Until boat life. As we’re back in the UK we called by to say hi to our new tenants. And to check out painting the windows. By complete chance we bumped into the owners of one of the properties. It was lovely to see them and catch up on their news.

That night I started thinking about the amazing people who have lived, or live in that terrace. And what they’ve done with their lives. Here’s a very small snapshot. Made an award winning feature film, walked the Pacific Crest Trail (2700 miles) with their two kids aged 10 and 13, run a small holding, been a semi professional actor with a passion for musicals, set up a massively successful well know business then sold it to be able to retire super super early, studied at Cambridge and now works in Russia, makes beautiful bespoke guitars from tin boxes and sells them occasionally to the rich and famous, a professional storyteller who spent a lot of time in Palestine working with disaffected children and that’s just for starters. You get my gist. Mount Pleasant has been home to some remarkable people.

And just or maybe more important, it’s about who people are, not what what they’ve done. So many good eggs have passed through that terrace. My friend Becca who is sadly no longer here being a prime example of that. Kind, generous, selfless, stuff that matters.

Mount Pleasant, a place that inspires.

Boat life seems so distant. But life is still full and happy. We’ve been out cycling a bit and Dave’s been out climbing while I went to work. Yes, I know! He has been holding the fort at our temporary home which is just lovely and much appreciated. Thank you Grist’s.

 

Dangerous cheese

I have a minor cheese injury. I was scrapping cheese from the inside of the grater when a small solid piece got lodged under my finger nail and dug into the skin underneath. It’s a bit stingy but probably not serious enough to get me out of washing up or getting the boat ready for her two month abandonment. Perhaps I need to big it up a bit more. Watch out for dangerous cheddar.

We got hauled the day before yesterday. Not straightforward and an all round slightly anxious procedure. 20 ton Grace was maybe two feet out of the water when the boatlift driver started staring at one of the pulleys high up which was making a strange noise. So back we go into the water as spanner-ing and new parts are required. Glad he heard that before we were fully out of the water and relying on the lifts integrity to keep the boat from splatting onto the ground.

A few hours later, the machine is back in place and we’re ready for take two. It’s tricky to line up the two slings that will support Grace as she is hauled out. Because we have an arch at the back of the boat where a couple of solar panels reside plus the wind generator, the boat can’t sit too far back in this lift or this array of power generating appliances will get mashed.

I wander off as there’s nothing I can really contribute here. I chat to a couple on a boat who tell me a story about watching a very expensive Nordhaven Boat get dropped by a boatyard in Trinidad and smashed to smithereens. Cheers guys. Time and a place for such stories and now is not it. Then the guy starts lecturing me about boat-lifts and marking where the slings go for the future. What I want to say and what I do say are quite different. My body language and looks obviously not landing anywhere near his sensitivity radar.

I start to walk back to the boat and there’s a unpleasant screeching slipping sound as Grace settles into the slings. Will Mr Insensitive get another tale to tell? Thankfully all is good and the boat gets hauled. She’s a bit lopsided in the slings but she’s not going anywhere.

It’d gone 4pm by now so we spend the night in the slings and the following day we get moved to the yard where Grace will stay on her lonesome for a couple of months. So it’s two days of sorting the boat in preparation for leaving her. Sails are off, running rigging is off, holes in the hull blocked off so no nasty creatures can crawl in and make a home. It’s super sexy this boating lark.

The contrast to life on the water where there’s some breeze, to being parked on land where there’s none, is palpable. By 11am yesterday it was in the low 90’s. Not massively conducive to being productive and getting chores ticked off. Ah well, the outdoor swimming pool and bbq will call around 5pm. That’s the carrot for day’s end.

We fly tomorrow. Fingers crossed our taxi to Dulles Washington turns up.

Nice hat!

A very brief post script. We pulled up onto the dock in Great Bridge this evening after day three of motoring up the ICW. I’d been writing a proposal for work for several hours while Dave has been Cap’n, steering the boat.

We were both ready to stretch out legs so did a loop round the woods before a later dinner on the boat. On our way out, a jogger coming the other way stopped. “Nice hat” he said. Completely unprompted.

Linguini Hat

The Cat in the Hat

I’m not a hat person. I believe they are primarily things to be worn of necessity in the hills and mountains to deter chilliness. So unsurprisingly, my personal hat collection is limited. One baseball cap from a client event about 7 years which serves to keep the sun off and is really a bit on the skanky side of pleasantness now. A woolly beany for warmth and a back up warm waterproof hat with deputy dawg ears should I loose the aforementioned woolly garment.

My reasons for not being a hat person are two fold. Number one, when I wear one I look like an idiot. Number two, I feel ‘hemmed in’ wearing one. I will generally resist the necessity to wear one until basic reasoning takes over. What I really mean here is, I’m too hot or I’m cold.

My friend Biddy is a hat person. She looks great in a hat. And I think she’d appreciate the new addition to my collection. Where’s this all leading……well I have a new hat!

We’ve been in warm places of late. The sensible gene kicked in and I decided hat protection was the way to go. Budget allocated $12. Requirements…big, straw, stiff not floppy, lightweight plus a string to stop it blowing away. I can report all requirements were met other than I blew the budget. I frivolously spent $12.95. We were exchanging texts with some friends and I sent a picture of my new hat as part of the conversation, well he said, you can always use it to strain pasta!

So with my new linguini hat in position, we are heading up the Intra coastal waterway from Morehead City, North Carolina towards Norfolk Virginia. We spent 4 days at sea getting from the Bahamas to Morehead. It turned into a trip of contrasts. Some great fast sailing, periods of no wind where we turned the engine on and some relatively unpleasant beating into the wind with confused seas and occasional waves in cockpit. That bit wasn’t much fun as I wished to be miraculously teleported to somewhere….anywhere.

We are on a bit of a deadline to get up to the Chesapeake to get the boat hauled out for summer. We will back in the UK from mid July to mid September, a trip that’s been planned for several months, although we haven’t actually booked flights yet as we wanted to be 100% sure of being close to the airport. Too much previous history here!

A last snippet. Three years ago today we moved onto the boat. She sits slightly lower in the water as she now has to transport an extra hat.

It’s all lies.

We’re two nights in to our 1400 mile passage from Jamaica to the USA, passing east of Cuba then up through the Bahamas chain. Guantanamo Bay is prominent on the charts. The relationship between the US and Cuba has not always been straightforward so I’m curious to know how the US have / had a detention centre there? No internet at sea so I can’t look that up and find out the history. That thought will disappear into the ether. Bye.

We bought a couple of paperback books each in anticipation of reading lots on passage. I’ve read both of mine plus one of Dave’s too. Hmm. It’s a bit like buying a large bar of chocolate and thinking, ooh, that’ll last a long time then gorging on it mercilessly.

I do read fiction although my preference is more for something based on real life. Travel stories, personal accounts, biographies, that kind of stuff. Forget sci-fi or fantasy. Can’t get into that bizarre malarkey and I have an 8 year old ally.

We met an American family a few weeks ago who self school on the boat. Their daughter was eight and son eleven I think. Advice from their schools was as long as the kids are up to date on their maths and english for their academic year, they’d be fine. They set off with a stack of school books and resources, occasionally FaceTiming into their class to catch up with school friends, be part of lessons and share what they’ve been up to on their year long sailing trip.

The children were fun to be around, although they always went back to their own boat at the end of the day 😀. Mum was really struggling to get her daughter to read. This was how this 8 year old evaluated fiction. “I’m not reading it. It’s all made up therefore it’s all lies.” Difficult for mum to argue that one.

Quick boaty update. We have anchored off a Bahamian island to rest up after 4 days at sea. My the water is so amazingly clear here. All good. All safe. Some fine sailing. My only grumble is some blinking fish took my lure. Probably a barracuda. So tinned tuna for tea not mahi. Grumble.

3 days and counting

 

Parcel Force. You will know them if you’re based in the UK although they do claim to be worldwide operators. (Jesus, more overseas embarrassment to add to the brexit debacle) I’ve just looked up their customer promise. How sweet it is.

…..sets the standard for exceptional quality of service. You can trust us to deliver your parcels and your promises at home and abroad, taking the same care that you would yourself. We’re equipped with the latest technology and you’ll discover that good quality can also be good value.

Well, there’s a fine load of meaningless twaddle written by some corporate marketing bigwig, over promising and massively under delivering, actually not delivering anything in our case. Dave has just driven to pick up a parcel at a depot 30 minutes away that was collected last Friday, should have been with us on Tuesday according to our contract with them and it’s now 7pm on Friday night. Dave has been polite and measured when chatting to the help line. It’s now time for for the metaphorical double barrelled treatment.

I’ve dipped in and out a little bit in the past, admittedly at a distance with the corporate world. Some organisations just seem to get it right and be creditable and believable in what they stand for and how go about their business with staff, customers and suppliers. Parcel Force you are up there in the ‘bloody awful’ category. Shoddy systems, over promising and blatantly lying are just a few of our gripes. I’d like to state categorically that this is not the kind of care that matches mine. See above.

Why am I grumpy and ranty on a Friday night? Well it’s three sleeps till we fly back to Jamaica. Said parcel is a new ‘second hand’ hot water tank for Grace. If we don’t have it in our possession today, we will have no hot water. Yeh. You get why the package is important. Sure, we could manage but I DON’T WANT TO.

So Parcel Force its unlikely we’ll be using your services in the near future. Buck up or your business is done for.

Boating life seems far away. Once we get back, it’ll be a few days to get the boat shipshape then at the first opportunity, we’ll be off north towards the Chesapeake. I always get this feeling of apprehension after being away from the boat for a while. Will I know what I’m doing? Guess we’ll find out soon.

 

Unexpected UK trip

 

Never take a Transatlantic flight from the States with us. That’s two in a row that we’ve missed. Arriving 24 hours later than we planned is becoming an established pattern.  If we get three in a row will we win a prize? Perhaps three pottery planes ✈️ to put in a row rather than three ducks 🦆. 

We came back to the uk as Dave’s mum did a gravitational experiment using telephone cords and a flight of stairs. If you were in any doubt about the world being in a constant state of change, I can assure you that gravity still works in the way in which you’d expect. No apples required.

Good news is that Dave’s Mum is very much on the mend, broken arm healing, bruising disappearing, painkillers being banished. We felt comfortable booking flights back to Jamaica for the beginning of June.

Yesterday we took a drive to Hull which is where we started our trip from almost 3 year ago. The water is still a deep chocolate swirly brown and decidedly uninviting. Yes, we are spoilt having been in the Bahamas where you could drop your car keys in 30 feet of water and see exactly where they have landed. However, traipsing up and down the Humber River on the flood and ebb, negotiating commercial traffic, never ending navigational buoys, fog and whirly twisting water is tip top preparation for any sailing adventure. The Bahamas in comparison is child’s play.

We caught up with a few folk from the boatyard, marina and shop. And took a walk around some old haunts. Our local was starting a Gin Festival Weekend but not till 6pm so we left dry mouthed.

Dad and I had done much the same up in Berwick a few days previous. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Berwick on such a beautiful day weather-wise. We walked the walls, ate ice creams and took some photos. Being in the UK with its visible history is not be sniffed at. We have been to some fantastic places but the UK is up there too.

Shaken……not stirred

I do like a modern day James Bond film. Not too sure about Roger Moore and his smug quips and glances to camera from yesteryear. I guess that stuff is of an era now. But Daniel Craig has stamped his own interpretation into the character and the scripts and story lines have improved. Big action, great locations with Judy Dench and Ben Wishart giving the cast-list more credibility.

We have found ourselves experiencing James Bond vibes here. The Bond DNA oozes throughout Jamaica. We made landfall in Port Antonio. An lush island sits in the bay which incidentally was once owned by Errol Flynn. Hollywood stars apparently used to party big time there back in the day.

The bay has been ‘booked’ by the production company making the next instalment of James Bond. In fact we just missed the auditions for extras by a few days when we arrived. Although whether middle aged white people dressed in worn out shorts and T-shirt’s were the demographic needed in shot is up for debate. Locals were abuzz with this news and we understood the filming was due to start in the next couple of weeks. Port Antonio is a town which tourism hasn’t really touched. We crews from visiting boats in the marina stood as the anomaly. I hope the community enjoys the Bond interlude.

Ocho Rios was our next stop. A posh resort called Goldeneye sits on the headland. It’s here that Mr Fleming chilled out and wrote 13 Bond novels so I believe. He built the property and named it after a navy operation in World War ll and apparently used to rent it to Noël Coward too. From our selfish perspective, a posh resort has the wherewithal to install good WiFi and we could pick it up on the boat. Always a bonus not to have to go tramping around town for comms. The podcast collection got a boost and we also made use of our Netflix subscription to download some telly.

This morning Dave is making Saturday morning pancakes as we sit in Discovery Bay. We had a brisk sail here yesterday, the wind occasionally touching 30 knots. It was from behind and with just the yankee up (that’s the triangular sail at the front of the boat if you’re not au fait with such boaty terminology) Grace performed just fine taking it all in her stride.

Dave has his pancakes rolled up and lined up on his plate, all lemoned and sugared. “Nice piece of linear work” I said. “You mean I’ve lined them up’ he replied. “Helps with the shovelling” with that he’s disappeared into the cockpit to watch a large boat navigate out of the bay and to commence shovelling.

Old Habits

Old habits die hard. A gang of 11 of us hiked up to the top of Blue Mountain Peak. More later but the headline is it was a two day excursion to just over 7,400 feet, the highest point in Jamaica. Indeed the highest point in the Caribbean.

While demolishing well earned food back on the outskirts of Kingston, I asked Dave if he’d had a good time. Yes he said. It was great, lots of fun, especially watching you get into ‘group organisation mode 😀’ Well, like I said, old habits.

Jamaica is a complete contrast to the Bahamas. A 48 hour sail and we could smell the land and hear the music from far out. Jamaican music is “LOUD” with unforgiving bass meaning your chest vibrates. Volume controls seem to start at 10 and have no upper limit. There’s always a few more decibels to be had.

The country is “GREEN”, the landscape lush, vibrant and parts of it pretty mountainous. The culture is most welcoming, big smiles and fist touches. Nothing is a problem. Especially in the smaller towns and villages. Everyone seems to on the make. A few Jamaican dollars here and there. Whether you’re being charged a fair price when bartering can be hard to tell. It’s generally all done with pretty good humour. The marina however does feel like a bit of a sanctuary from the mad hustle and bustle of the street.

Then there’s the driving, the most useful accessory in the car being the horn. Driving is not for the timid or faint hearted. We hired a couple of 7 seater vehicles as transport for our gang. Dave drove one, I drove the other. Traffic allegedly, but not always, is supposed to stay on the left, so being the two Brits in our multicultural gang, it was more familiar for us than our Americans or Canadian friends.

One day, we took the main road to Kingston to get visas from the Cuban Embassy. It’s a two and a half hour trip across the mountain. We came back in the dark. In hindsight not such a great idea. Getting out of Kingston was, well, mental. Cars, buses and motorbikes piling in from all angles, a cacophony of horns, people hanging out of buses, some random, almost certainly stoned individual directing the traffic made it a full on sensory experience. My passengers occasional screamed, put their arms over their heads, yelled it’s the yellow bus again and winced as cars passed us with molecules between vehicles. This was the A road experience.

So much fun, we took the B road the following day across to the start of our hike. Twists, switchbacks, narrow bridges, over hanging rocks, the road just kept giving. We stopped at a family run coffee plantation on the way which had amazing views across the hills. Then onto the police station in Mavis Bank, the meeting place for the 4×4 which would take us the 5 miles to the start of the hike.

The gang was made up of Dave and I, the family from S/V Piper, Mum, Dad and two kids aged 8 and 10, the family from `S/V Andromede exactly the same makeup as Piper and a lass from a boat called Barefoot Two. Her bloke doesn’t do walking so he stayed home.

A really good time was had by all. We hiked up to the basic hut, cooked food, hung out, chatted then summited the following day, retracing our steps back to the drop off spot. Some slept. Some didn’t. Some were cold. Some worried about bugs. Dave and I were just fine.

There were lilies, fuchsias, wild strawberry plants, red headed woodpeckers, yellow berries, cigar plants, humming birds and inevitably a bit of rain and cloud. Well it is a rainforest. And a hike.