My Laura Kuenssberg Impression


Windswept beachIn writing a blog, I feel I want to share ‘something of myself’ otherwise what I write has no individual character. I do however operate a sensitivity filter which is set to monitor how much I reveal about what we do, what I think and who we meet. Otherwise I could easily dig some humongous big holes for us!

Generally if something makes me laugh, it ought to be shared. That’s a rule. Why deprive others of a smile. Just because something is a little embarrassing is not a reason to keep quiet about it. Like the time I came out of the shower in my altogether one morning several years ago, opened the bedroom curtains and the window cleaner was plumb outside the window, up the ladder. I’m not sure who was more shocked. I shared that story when I got to work as it felt right for everyone for enjoy the humour of my discomfort.

I write this as a precursor to sharing how we went out to dinner recently with an enthusiastic and spirited republican. In my world of free speech and democracy, everyone is rightly allowed an opinion. However, listening to someone with such diverse views to mine was uncomfortable. I’ve thought about this this quite a lot, and my underlying number one value is integrity. It shapes and colours who I am and what I do. If I say I’m going to do something for someone, then that’s what I strive to do. If I don’t deliver, I’m embarrassed. Saying x then doing y destroys trust and respect in the big bumper book of how Helen sees the world.

So back to the republican story. It was really the first time I’m heard a true republican first hand, talk in my presence about why they love and respect Trump. (We’ve chosen previously to stay away from politics on our trip). His whole misogynistic history and blatant lying episodes were deemed irrelevant. He was described to me as a brilliant negotiator who will definitely win another term in office. When I heard this I could feel my world shrinking a little bit and become a shade more inward looking.

I’m not an American so I don’t truly understand the call to ‘make America great again’. I do know I want to live in a world that is outward looking. It was dinner. We were out having a good time. America is an amazingly diverse country and I’ve enjoyed being here. We’ve been welcomed by so many people.

So what’s my point here. I’m not a political animal. Politics is pretty weak in my DNA. I believe difference is to be appreciated. However when your fundamental values are jarred, discomfort is inevitable. What’s my point… point is Trump is an ass and the sooner he and his ego disappear from front line politics, the better. So my foray into political comment ends here. Probably best.

Back in boat-world, we have a new stainless steel arch at the back of the boat which supports two new solar panels. And a second battery charger too. The weather is not cooperating with a weather window to the Bahamas so we’ll likely continue down the US coast towards Georgia / Florida at the start of next week.

Heading south to the beep of the alarm


The past few days have had a similar shaped format. Alarm, 6.03am. I have this strange habit, (according to Dave), of never setting the alarm with a 5 or a 0 at the end. There maybe some bizarre and batty psychological reasoning behind this. But I have thought it through and this is my bamboozling logic.

If you always set the alarm with a 5 or a 0 at the end, you are cheating yourself out of a few extra delicious minutes in bed. Alarm goes off at 6.03. That means there’s two full minutes till 5 past or seven full minutes till 10 past. I actually get out of bed when the clock has a 5 or 0 at the end. By having another number, I can squeeze an extra modicum of time in bed before starting the day. 

I know, I know. It may seem like cranky thinking with Swiss cheese sized holes in its logic but it works for me and for an easy life, Dave seems to trundle along with it too.

In brief précis, the alarm clock got us from just north of New York to Beaufort, North Carolina. In that time we’ve had our first and hopefully last snow storm of the year, a transit through New York for the second time, a day in Norfolk where we had a look round a retired warship and a pre opening show round of the annual toy train extravaganza in Belhaven. 

We also helped out and towed a couple of stranded boats (not at the same time you understand) on the Intra coastal waterway, one which had run aground and another with transmission problems. The ‘pay it forward’ phenomenon I really like as a concept and I’d never heard of it expressed in such a way until, spending time in the states. Help someone out, could be a random stranger, and as ‘payment’, ask them to do the same for someone else in the future. So a ripple of kindness spreads out and a more caring society is created. 

Sounds good to me. 

We are back at Bock Marine, not to re enact the massive boat works we completed last winter. But to call in and see some friends, reprovision up, tick off a few small running repairs and improvements, and wait for a window to head to the Bahamas. Only a year late…..if we get there!




Wednesday morning at school was PE. I remember being irritated by other members of the class who took ages getting changed, thus shortening the length of the lesson. Some of us, aka ME, thought PE or Games were the best lessons of the week. Stop fussing and get changed.

This Wednesday morning off Provincetown, Cape Cod was PE for the aquatic and bird life. The ocean was thrashing. We saw loads of dolphins leaping, birds diving and blows from whales. Certainly more active than the majority of the girls in the Wednesday morning PE class at Haydon Bridge. Motivated by a substantial breakfast, there must have been a feast of food down there to create all the activity.

We’d seen a Right Whale about 100 feet off the boat coming in in the rain and fog the previous evening. Don’t know how big it was, but we thought what we saw above the water line was about 10m so maybe it was 13m to 14m in total. As long as the boat. Don’t want to hit one of these babies. Not good for us or the whale.

It was a great welcome to the USA, after our long wait to escape Shelburne, Canada now behind us across the Gulf of Maine. It had been quite a wait. A blow of 50 knots had came through. The sea were ugly. We hid in the commercial harbour tied to a fishing boat then the following day, four boats nudged out to turn right for the two day passage to the US. The nights were long, dark and chilly.

A warm welcome from a super friendly Borders Officer in Onset, Massachusetts helped us quickly forget the passage and the rollercoaster ride down the Cape Cod Canal with standing waves and cross currents.

We had an amusing conversation with the border official comparing similarities of ‘The Donald’, Doctor Seuss and Monty Python. Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans and spam, Sam-I-am, Sam-I-am, Sam-I-am Green eggs and ham, and Bad, Bad, Bad, Mad, Mad, Mad people. Doctor Seuss and Monty Python delivering more credibility and sensibleness than the US president….some would say! 😀

So to today. Newcastle have just beaten Bournemouth. Well done Rafa’s boys. Little run of two victories. It’s blowing a steady force 6 to 7 here in Port Washington, near New York. Hope the anchor holds firm. We’re not quite on constant anchor watch but we are pretty vigilant as to what’s going on. The forecast suggests another 4 hours of strong winds before they ease. Our friends on Muktuk, another cruising boat, have dragged so they’ve headed off to find somewhere more sheltered to anchor. It’s never straightforward being boat based.

In the meantime as we can’t get off the boat, my socks will have to be recycled as a laundrette trip is out of the question. Sure Dave won’t be too offended. Baking is tricky as we are out of eggs and it seems everything I wish to cook requires eggs. Dave is spannering.

I did suggest going into a marina then we could get off the boat and crack on with the chores….laundry, gas refill, food shopping, phone card, revisiting civilisation etc. It wasn’t the money that seemed to bother Dave. It was loosing credibility amongst others who liveaboard. Marinas are places to be avoided. We’re still here at anchor.

Slower than a hedgehog

Our experience log book has another entry. Trying to motor sail to windward in 30 knots with an uncooperative tide and big seas is a pointless uncomfortable escapade. I’m not sure exactly why we thought this would be possible. We wanted to make an ‘out and in’ 18 mile journey along the coast, of which about 5 miles was directly to windward. Forget that for a game of soldiers. We were making 0.8 knots so that 5 mile section was going to take over 6 hours. That’s almost measuring time in eons. A hedgehog in short bursts can do 4 mph. The space shuttle does over 1 mile per second during take off. We were much slower than both of these diverse examples.

Our slow escape from Nova Scotia continues. We’re in Shelburne. Not quite semi-permanent locals but I have bought a temporary gym pass in anticipation of being here a few days. Dave’s diving efforts, auditioning for the October entry in the Nova Scotia 2019 ‘Men in Rubber’ calendar were superseded today by a chap called John.

We made a speculative phone call to John, a commercial diver about the barnacles on our prop. Not kidding. 25 minutes later this bloke lumbers down the pontoon dressed in his full commercial dive gear, flippers, mask, weights, the whole caboodle. Dave spoke to him and explained our barnacle predicament. John said nothing. He nodded, walked to the end of the pontoon and jumped in. I burst out laughing. It was the modern day equivalent of a John Wayne film. Few words. Big actions.

By the time I got back from the bank, a trip to get cash to pay our very own quiet man, John was out of the water and walking round in jeans and a sweatshirt. I’d wanted to get a photo of him suited and booted but all the action happened when I was away.

It’s Halloween today. Some kids came round trick or treating but they were collecting donations for the local food bank. Nice idea I thought though. Rather than hassling for 4lbs of Haribo crap.

History repeats itself….

I do remember Dave and I having a conversation in late autumn 2017 about getting south quickly from Massachusetts to avoid the onset of winter. We lingered, didn’t get south and subsequently felt the cold.

Well it seems like history is repeating itself. We are not quick learners. Halifax, Nova Scotia had its first snow flurries last Thursday and this morning in Lunenburg was decidedly frosty.  Beautiful but chilly.

We motored 30 odd miles along the coast to Liverpool on the river Mersey. No, we didn’t sing the song about ferries, thank you very much. Similar to last year, docks are being dismantled around us. Our thermals are out. Weather watching has become a full time occupation as forecasts seem to change too regularly for our liking.

Furthermore, the pitch of our prop seems to be little squiffy. How do we know….motoring speed is slower than normal. With the cold, we want to motor quickly. You get my drift.

We thought initially we just had a dirty bottom. No one with a boat (or without for that matter) wants a dirty bottom. Dave suspects there is some underwater growth which is stopping the prop from feathering. A rogue barnacle or a collection of sea squirts maybe.

Options….find somewhere to dry out, wait for low water and investigate when the water has recceeded. Option two, get the boat hauled out and sit in some slings long enough for us to clean the prop. Or option three. Perhaps the least attractive but also the most straightforward. Put a wetsuit on, pretend to be a child having a good time swimming in the North Sea in early June (with no central nervous system) and take the plunge.

Writing about the cold then contemplating diving on the boat don’t really reconcile themselves. No definitive way forward as yet.  Dave is having another ‘Dark and Stormy’ while he ruminates.  I’m certainly not going in!

The Quickening… interpretation

Porto....2 year’s ago today

Two years ago today we were in Porto. The Portuguese coast has just been hit by the remnants of Hurricane Leslie. Glad we’re not there.

The quickening is coming here in Halifax. If you don’t know what the quickening is, you’ve never watched Highlander.

Highlander was a film we often watched on returning from the Copper Beech Pub in Abercrave when I worked at the Outdoor Centre in South Wales, my first job after college. There wasn’t much choice on the vhs front. Maybe 6 tapes, all of diminishing quality and spooling capacity. (Nice word….spooling)

Highlander and The Blues Brothers were the most watched. I much prefer the Blues Brothers as a film, less angst and outright ridiculous fantasy that Highlander. 😀 However, back to the story, the quickening, as I understood it, was something coming to a head. Time for moves to be made.

Actually I’ve just looked up The Quickening on Mrs Google and my recollection of what it means is actually completetly wrong. In the movie its actually associated with energy release and swords and loosing ones head, literally. Goes to prove, fantasy is not a genre of film that holds my attention. The whole plot was lost on me.

At least 5 boats here in Halifax are waiting for our quickening, a time for moves to be made. The winds sorting themselves out so we can depart west then south. We are in esteemed company as we wait. One boat has been through the North West passage 3 times. Mum, Dad and young son. They were the first to turn round this year apparently when they realised the ice was not going to break up sufficiently for them to pass. Having been there before they recognised the pattern. They are genuinely trend setters.

Another boat operates as a charter boat for scientists, expeditions and adventurers. They take people to remote corners for research projects or adventurous jaunts. Previous destinations have included Antarctica, Greenland and remote parts of the Pacific. I particularly liked a story of cross country skiing while penguins slide on their bellies alongside, occasionally glancing up to smile at the inadequacies of the skier.

While we wait, our sails are back on, the bimini / solar panel arrangement has been improved and our Taylor’s Heater has had a work out. Plus the freezer has been restocked, meals have been made so we are good to go when the winds do relent. Dave had a quick trip up the mast this morning and everything looks okay.

We’ve had a whole heap of social stuff this week too….dinner at a friends, several walks, a trip to the Maritime Museum, an arts festival in town with acrobatic fire eaters and a trip round the governor’s house.

But we’re both ready for my version of the quickening now.
However, just checked the weather again. We’re not going anywhere. Bugger.
Tonight and Tuesday.
Gale warning in effect.
Wind southwest 15 knots increasing to southwest 25 early this evening and to south 35 to 45 late this evening. Wind veering to west 40 early Tuesday morning then diminishing to west 30 Tuesday afternoon.

Spanner Man

Our UK, “work – family – friends’ triangle is complete. When I say complete, I mean it’s over and resides in the history books as we’re now back in Canada. It was manic and lovely. Time, four week’s in fact, passed at an alarming rate and we always seemed to be playing catch up.

Maybe it was because we missed our flight from Boston to Heathrow as the Air Canada connecting flight from Halifax to Boston was delayed. Seeing a man with a spanner and the cowl of the engine removed is a bit of a give away as you get onto the plane, only to be be told to get off again. We were told it would take 45 minutes. I knew instantly this would not be so.

My interpretation of how long a job will take is to double the time and add 30. It’s a bit like a rough calculation of Celsius to Fahrenheit. Any man with a spanner saying 45 minutes actually means 2 hours. I will allow myself to be smug here. Please forgive me. I was bang on.

My experience of the length of spannering time comes from living on a boat. I’m going to leave it at that. Dave will read this!

We were first off the aircraft when it landed and started legging it from terminal x to terminal y. I don’t recall the exact detail but I do know they seemed to be the two furthest away points in the airport. The Virgin Atlantic check in desk was in a tucked away corner of terminal y and had closed about 5 minutes before we materialised in our dishevelled panting and sweating state. Oh, how lucky our seat neighbours would have been if we had actually got on the flight.

It wasn’t to be. Even after persuading a friendly American passport officer to go and chat to the Virgin Atlantic representatives as the gate, we were left standing flightless in Boston airport without a boarding pass at 10.30 at night.

The ramifications of missing that flight were mostly financial but getting into the UK 24 hours after we had planned to, we never seemed to catch up that lost time. Although I have been to Reykjavik (airport) now.

Grace was in really good shape after a month in solitude on a mooring in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The trees are just starting to turn here and show their full red glory…..third week in October a local told us.

We plan to be around for at least a week. Sails come back from a service today. We are meeting a friend of friend, who I last saw in Namibia many moons ago, for a catch up tonight. Then dinner with some local Nova Scotia sailors at their house on Thursday. So boatlife eases back into becoming the norm and heading south will our focus.

A little bit of France 🇫🇷

Anxiously waiting for our go at jousting!!

So we went to France. I kid you not. And competed in the annual Jeux Nautiques in Saint Pierre. We came 8th! The other international team, a bunch of well prepared, motivated 25 year old Spanish lads, who have been working in the construction industry in Saint Pierre for a number of years came first. No matter. We fought well and kept up our end .

The rules for each game seemed mightily complex. And my French doesn’t stretch to complexities such as “the priest and the mayor bring the bride and the unicorn back with the signed contract and champagne”. Let me put a bit more context on that phrase…In one of the games, Dave and I got married again, an inflatable unicorn playing a significant role. That’s all you need to know.

Thankfully we had Amelie and Agathe in our team who did the translating of the rules. Plus Hans who was a star at diving for gold coins. I was rubbish at this being a natural floater rather than a sinker.

Our team was formed from the small gaggle of cruising boats in Saint Pierre. Our paths have crossed on more than one occasion as it seems we are the boats plus maybe 5 others who seem to make up the cruising contingent of south Newfoundland this summer.  Oh, and the two French islands, Miquelon and Saint Pierre. Mustn’t forget those as they provide the focus of this little report.

We are now sat at anchor in St Peters at the southern end of the Bra D’Or Lakes having made the overnight crossing back to Nova Scotia. All officially checked back into Canada with a shiny new Canpass number and no access to cheap French wine. It’s maybe 150 miles back to Halifax and ‘ta da”, we will have wind with some north in it for the next few days which is fine news for us sailing folk. The engine had a hearty workout coming back across the Cabot Straight and now deserves a long and well deserved rest.

Dave has woken up with a sore throat and an irritating cough. Both for him and me. (Perhaps wife should be more understanding and supportive?) I mused if it was a reaction to the thought of doing some work in a couple of weeks time. Unfair I know.

A few sailing decisions still to make….do we sail to Halifax in one hit or break the journey up which will give us time to see a bit more of the Nova Scotia Coast? Jury is still out. It may depend on how Dave feels. I will look after him, honestly. 😀

And yes, I guess I should tell you this too. There were 8 teams in the Jeux Nautiques.


La Hune Bay

We found what we came to look for in Newfoundland. No U2 ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’ for Dave and H. La Hune Bay is a truly stunning place. The understated Mr Savage has spent the last three days saying ‘wow, this places is just amazing. I’m blown away by it’. For those of you know Dave well, that’s praise indeed. It’ll be tough to top this place for grandeur, scale and pure beauty. Plus we saw an otter.

We availed ourselves of a little rock climbing expedition one day. With no guide book, it was ‘make it up as you go’. Dave was route finder general. It was impossible to have a good gauge on how high this particular cliff actually is or how difficult it was all about to get. In the end, the rain came and stopped play and we sensibly backed off. We were 5 pitches up with the climbing being relatively easy but the position was quite committing. We abseiled off in 3 rope lengths with a bit of scrambling and hand lining at the bottom. Drinks deserved that evening.

Now we are in France. I kid you not. Miquelon and Saint Pierre are two French islands off the Newfoundland coast. We have been visited by customs, dug out the euros to buy bread and been filmed by French television who were collecting footage and stories for a piece on visiting boats. It all feels a bit bonkers but the French atmosphere pervades and St Pierre, where we will head to tomorrow, is apparently a tourist destination with restaurants and gift shops. That’ll be a contrast to uninhabited fjords you can only access by boat.