Take a bow, sir.

Poor Dave. He was casually pulling away from a group of about 16 dinghies, most carrying two people when he unexpectedly  became “the turn”.

It was early evening. The group were participating in what is known in boating circles as a dinghy drift. It wasn’t really my scene. A staged get together, albeit in dinghies tied together, mostly with people you don’t know. I’ve done years of chatting to random people at dinner as part of work so I’m a bit more selective these days. Or maybe the word is anti-social!

The group had drifted by us as we mooring up and several people tried hard to cajole us to get in our dinghy and join them. We politely declined to be part of the main event but about 15 minutes later hopped on our paddle boards to cruise by so as not to be wholly antisocial but to do it on our terms. We could easily escape and I wouldn’t feel hemmed in. Helen doesn’t like being hemmed!

We’d had a belter of a day prior to the dinghy thing. Dave landed us our first two lobsters. We’d caught up with our friends Thomas and Gabrielle who we originally met in the boatyard in North Carolina a year previous. We shared dinner and stories aboard their boat then the following morning, Thomas pointed out a good area to snorkel. So wetsuits on and armed with our spear off we set. 30 minutes later we had two of these bizarre fine tasting creatures. Thomas got a brace too so happy crews all round as we upped anchors after lunch and sailed our seperate ways .

In fact we’ve had a lovely few days. Some great short sails, travelling in company with our Halifax friends Rob and Betty Ann, a blue hole, lots of turtles, spotted rays, a great beach bar and several different anchorages. The paddle boards make for great journeying and as you’re high up looking down into the water,  it’s easy to spot creatures in the water. We can get to places too shallow even for the dinghy and outboard so they are proving their worth.

The paddleboards were the cause of Dave being “the turn”. Or he may argue it was me but he’s not writing this. In departing the dinghies, I’d set off and was rounding the group and to contour round the circle made a bit of turn to the right. Dave chose that moment to put a few powerful strokes in behind me and oops, collision, splash. Well actually SPLASH. In front of everyone. There was no hiding. Other than when he was under the water.

He hauled himself up, delivered a theatrical bow to the audience and we paddled off. 25m apart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You remind me of…..

My belief is it happens to us all. You meet someone or see someone and think, “oh that person reminds me of……” It could be someone nominally famous or maybe just someone who has come into your orbit before.

Although I’ve never actually had anyone say to me, you remind me of…… Well it happened a couple of days ago. We were gently sailing around the Sea of Abaco on our way to anchor off Tiloo Cay. About a mile and half offshore, a bloke is standing in the deck of his sail boat waving his arms at us. The boat appears to be anchored so it’s not in any danger.

He seems pretty stressed. We cruise by. “My engines overheating and I can’t start it.’ Dave, coolness personified says, “well, not sure I’ll be able to help but I can take a look if you like after we’ve anchored up.”

Dave became the marine equivalent of bicycle repair man over the next 36 hours, spending several hours in an engine bay. He managed to get the engine running but the overheating issue will require further investigation. Not enough water was getting through the cooling system. He also helped retrieve a dropped lost anchor. The bitter end is called the bitter end for a reason and tying it off is a top tip.

As recompense, the seemingly mismatched and kind couple fed us dinner and we came away with a selection of dock lines in much better condition than ours and a fishing spear. Thank you.

We did find time for a bush whacking walk on Tiloo Cay. The atlantic side was being battered by waves and as it’s all spiky volcanic rock, few people will ever choose to walk there. Sadly it’s aspect to the ocean means is collects plastic and the scene was littered with coloured unwanted offerings. Sobering. We did find a brand new round fender which became booty and now has a home on the boat.

The inland side by comparison was flat calm, the water wholeheartedly transparent and sparkling. We were able to create a circular walk though the overgrown interior with only a few scratches and scramblings.

So have you worked it out yet? Who do I remind you of? I’ll give you a clue. Icelandic singer. It’s oh so quiet. Perhaps you have to be of a certain age to get this one.

BJORK! Yes I know. It seems far fetched to me to me too. BJORK. Words that initially came to me were…mad crazy eclectic bizarre. I politely queried this comparison and the answer was ‘Like Bjork, there’s something about you’. Let’s just leave it at that. 😀

Water

When we kept Grace in Goole, then Hull, in the UK, the water was always brown. Seeing your own feet in a few inches of water was impossible. Although thinking about it, I don’t actually remember getting that close to the water. For very good reasons.

Swirling chocolate coloured currents harried up and down the Humber river, changing direction twice a day. Solid mud banks form and morph with the river action so the water upstream of Hull is constantly being surveyed. The channels marks are moved after each survey to show the recommended route for river traffic, including big commercial barges which still ply their trade up to Goole, 40 miles inland from the open sea.

I remember one summer not long after we bought Grace coming back up the river. It was always a somewhat fraught passage as the river runs fast and you don’t want to screw up. I was looking through the binoculars to spy the upcoming channel marks, which would indicate our safe passage. The starboard channel mark seemed to be moving. What the blinking heck is going on here? Or some similar words I exclaimed. We chased the tug moving the mark hoping our route would take us over deep water. All was well and I don’t miss the Goole run. At all.

The Bahamas is not like Goole. The water is crystal clear. Here it’s possible to drop your anchor and see the sand eat it up as the chain straightens out and the anchor holds the boat. A tightly nestled anchor means a happy Dave. Well our home is hanging off the end of a lump of metal and a few links of chain so if this combined pair is immovable, that’s positive.

Life revolves around the water here so we’ve been embracing that way of life. The paddle boards have carried us on excursions around bays and the mangroves. We’ve sailed super short passages , maybe 5 or 6 miles from one anchorage to another to reposition ourselves from the winds as they rotate their direction.

We had a great day with our friends on Muktuk when we took their boat plus a couple of dinghies out to the reef off the north coast of the Abacos and snorkelled for a couple of hours. They caught two lobsters and a couple of parrot fish. We saw all kinds of colourful reef fish 🐠, some large, some small. Not sure of any names but the iridescent blue ones were my favourites. Karl was apparently stalked by a couple of barracuda, although I didn’t see them. A little bit of underwater excitement.

Small village madness came to New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay on New Years Day. Junkanoo is a annual procession round the streets. I suppose it’s similar to carnival in Brazil or Notting Hill, just much much smaller. This year’s theme was hurricanes. It’s loud, slow, colourful, well attended and involves street food and beer. We ate conch salad and partook of a couple of beers. And bumbled around bumping into people we know, mostly boating folk but a few locals too.

It proved a fine way to spend a few hours on New Year’s Day. We had after all had a late one the night before. Think we made it to 9.30pm. Late for us!

I tried again with piccies but green turtle cay WiFi seems to be on a go slow. Ah well…..

Persistence

Persistence can pay dividends. About a year later than planned, we are in the Bahamas. (Please forgive me for a small exclamation here….yaa! That’s for you Richie and Jayne).

After what has, at times, felt like a tortuous battle to get south from Canada, we finally dropped the hook at lunchtime on Christmas Eve.  A night crossing of the Gulf Stream under a bright and full moon delivered us here.  So bright that when we reached the shallow Bahamas Bank we could see the bottom. This was a slightly disconcerting experience when you still have about 50 miles to the anchorage, sailing in such shallow water.
Dave always said we’d get to the Bahamas for Christmas….can’t honestly say I believed him as we battled 45 knot gusts across the bow one day. And this was on the protected Intra Coastal Waterway, not even out at sea. That would have been particularly unpleasant with bold capitals. However, that ‘all be history’ now. The double duvet is packed away. The kerosene stove is redundant. Hats and gloves are firmly back in their drawer. Shorts and T-shirt’s have an airing again. White flesh is on show. The brits are in town.
Christmas Day, passed at a relaxed gentle loping speed. 33rpm. Ignore 45 or 78. We’d chosen a secluded protected anchorage tucked up off the mangroves on an uninhabited cay with a sandy beach a short walk away. Dave bought me something sparkly. An unexpected lovely surprise. We had no comms so were not able to let anyone know where we were. We’d have loved to chat to family but my inability to read instructions meant our Bahamas SIM card wasn’t activated. Doh!
On reflection, now it’s over, we did have some positive memorable experiences coming south. We caught our first tuna. It was feisty. We probably didn’t bleed it for quite long enough but it was a fine way to end the day. We had our second curry since leaving the UK in July 2016, in a place called a Palm Coast. Dave provided the sweaty entertainment while tackling his jalfrezi. Definitely out of hot spicy food practice there. And we saw a rocket launch as we sailed past Cape Canaveral, a space x rocket carrying a GPS satellite up into orbit. We weren’t actually that close, 45 miles away but clearly saw the burn as this thing hurtled skyward.
I messaged my brother. His response, “an Easyjet flight to Belfast came right over our house earlier.” No bragging needed big sister!
Finally…..uploading any pictures was taking forever so revel in the written word and look forward to piccies at a later date. 🙂

 

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…..my 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!

 

 

PE

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.