The weather has affected my ability to write over the last few months – I find it difficult to focus when the boat is bouncing around so here is a little look back at the last couple of months!
My mum decided to visit back in November! Not used to checking the forecast she could probably not have chosen a worse week!! We met her at the airport and took the long bus ride back, so she could see some of the island. This sort of backfired as the rain didn’t allow us to see much. As we got off the bus the rain got heavier, which inevitably meant by the time we got to the marina we were all soaked! It was pretty much low-tide, which meant a very steep descent down the ramp and it wasn’t until we reached the bottom of the ramp that mum suddenly realised the enormity of getting on board a boat in wet and windy conditions in near darkness. She appeared to freeze and I must admit that I thought she was going to turn straight around and leave. There were no major issues getting on board, so it was on with the heating and off with the wet clothes and on with the dry! Unfortunately mum’s bag hadn’t faired too well in the rain so in a “first” for her she ended up in a pair of warm joggers and fluffy heat holder socks!! Surprisingly, she declined the cup of tea and gratefully accepted the tumbler of whisky!!
We had thought that most of the tourist attractions would still be open but soon discovered this was not the case. Mum fancied going across to Sark so we looked at the boat trip details. The boats were still running but being tide dependent it meant we had one chance. Unfortunately this one chance coincided with the worst forecast of the week so we decided Sark would have to wait. We did manage a few walks out and around the marina and across to L’Ancresse and down to Bordeaux Harbour and mum managed to take some pretty good photos of sunny skies and crashing waves! One attraction that was still open was La Vallette Underground Museum in St Peter Port so mum and I spent a couple of hours going round that – really interesting and definitely worth a visit.
Up Close And Personal With A Beaucette Resident
A Beautiful Day?
Longer Legs Required!
Prepared For The Weather
I have managed to avoid mentioning just how bad the wind was. Looking back at the photos it looked like we had some lovely weather, but at the time there was an awful lot of wind. I think mum coped remarkably well, although there were times she felt she was going to fall out of bed and was worried that we might sink – the creaking and groaning of the ropes did nothing to allay her fears! She also coped with my love of rugby. One day I think I made her watch one rugby league match (it was the world cup!) and then two Autumn International Rugby Union matches. She even seemed to understand some of it!!
Steve was a little disappointed with her as he thought she would want to enjoy lobster dishes every day along with him but she’s not a huge fan! She also had to suffer some vegetarian dishes but I think she enjoyed the butternut squash risotto!
It was really good to have a visitor but I don’t think she’ll be rushing back – at least not until the weather is much, much better!
After having written about Steve’s science project last time, we have come to the conclusion that lobsters can, in fact, read and are active online. His lobster catching has become somewhat erratic, I keep saying that it must be because of the weather but Steve is convinced they have signed up to the blog and would follow us on Facebook, if we were on there!!
Having planned our Christmas trip home, we had to empty the freezer before we left, so Steve was eating his way through his supply of lobster and fish. I had to be the bad guy and told him that he had to stop fishing for the last week. He reluctantly agreed but as we all know Steve gets bored so he broke our agreement and got his rods out again. He managed to catch a wrasse very quickly and returned it as there weren’t enough days left for it to be eaten before we had to leave. That same day, after lunch, he decided to continue fishing whilst I had my mandatory afternoon kip. However, after only a few minutes in bed, I heard a load of banging and crashing and wondered whether he had managed to fall overboard so got up to check on him and looked out the window to see him fighting with a rather large haddock. I did take a photo for him as proof of catch (very generous of me I thought) as I was adamant that he couldn’t keep it. It looks like I have to forbid him to keep any fish for him to catch any!!
We had a very good Christmas break with plenty of great food and company, thanks to our hosts Sean and Laura, mum and Mac and Steve’s mum and dad and our personal taxi driver Alex! The only blemish on the whole trip was the weather for the trip back!
We had been keeping an eye on the forecast and I was starting to worry as things weren’t looking good for our return journey on 30th. We got a message from Condor on the Friday afternoon to advise that our ferry had been postponed until the evening. I suppose we were lucky that we had decided to travel on the Clipper as the Liberation (the faster trip from Poole) was cancelled for several days.
Fortunately, this time, the temperature in the quiet lounge area was fine but the captain’s announcement of “Welcome aboard, it’s going to be pretty awful, 50 knot winds and 5m swell so there may be some pitching and rolling” didn’t bode well!! With Stugeron to hand and decent food to eat I was feeling relatively confident and even had a couple of vodka and cokes. But unfortunately I had been wishful-thinking. My temperature started rising and I felt the need to lie down so Steve made me a “bed” on the floor. I may have fallen asleep for a short time but woke with the urge to throw up and I am extremely disappointed and embarrassed to say that I managed to throw up an awful lot, even managing some projectile vomiting. Steve would probably have liked the temperature a bit higher as he had to remove his jumper and wash off the sleeve. After emptying the entire contents of my stomach I didn’t move from my bed for the rest of the night – plenty of pitching and rolling, water spraying over the windows, a poor dog in the hold somewhere yelping and crying and some very unusual boat noises – disconcerting at times! I was extremely pleased when we arrived in St Peter Port. As for Steve, he had no problem with the boat motion and was a very competent and able nurse – thank you xx
The weather (well, the wind mainly) hasn’t improved greatly since then we seem to get a few nice days interspersed with several grotty ones. With our position in the marina, Shearmyste tends to cope best with westerly winds but manages fairly well with most directions. There is one particular point, somewhere between north-westerly and north-north-westerly where we get a lot of resonance through the forestay but fortunately, so far, we haven’t had that for too long. Northerlies push us off the pontoon, making getting on and off more interesting and southerlies push us on – this has been a little weird as the pontoon suddenly becomes a lot closer than expected when getting off!! The worst direction for us is an easterly. Due to our proximity to the marina entrance big easterly winds with big easterly waves would be the absolute worst but fortunately, so far, we have not had to deal with that!
Looking forward, we are planning this summer’s trip and it looks likely that we will be heading back to France especially as Steve has missed his attempts at communicating in another language. This has become quite apparent recently as he has found a fellow chess enthusiast – Bogdan. Bogdan comes from Poland and doesn’t speak very much English – which isn’t much of an issue whilst playing chess. However, it is very entertaining to sit and watch/listen to Steve slipping into French when talking to Bogdan! It certainly proves that Steve learnt more French than he thought during our 10 months there!!
Well, what have we been up to in the month since returning from our “holiday”?
Steve has decided to commission the freezer as he cannot keep up with the quantity of lobster and fish that he has been able to catch! We made this decision before heading back to the U.K., so immediately on our return we switched it on! I am quite pleased about this as it means I can now have ice-cream and frozen peas! A Chinese-style mushroom curry is much enhanced by frozen peas!!
On our first shopping trip on our return, Steve bought himself a large piece of gammon and a pack of Lincolnshire sausages. So far he has eaten half the sausages and not even a third of the gammon – thank goodness we put the freezer on!
Jam On Toast
We have been foraging – as previously mentioned we have made blackberry jam/jelly and apple chutney but have now also made haw jelly. This is not a spreadable jelly but more like an “adult sweet”. The book where we got the recipe from suggests serving it with a coffee. (Thanks for the book, Caroline!) The texture is pretty much like American Hard Gums and the flavour is really interesting, almost savoury but fragrant. Steve decided to try and turn some into haw vodka by adding some of the jelly to a small bottle of vodka. The jelly is still dissolving in the vodka but it has taken on a pinkish hue and when you open the bottle it smells like a very strong whisky – tastes pretty good, all the same!!
As many of you are no doubt aware, my tipple of choice is vodka and coke and I tend to get through rather a lot of coke, so before we left Hull we purchased a Sodastream to save the extra weight of two litre coke bottles on shopping trips. This has served us well so far, the gas cylinders and concentrate are easy to find in England and France; however once we arrived here in Guernsey we were struggling to find it anywhere. Fortunately we managed to find this wonderful store called Aladdin’s Cave, probably ½ – ¾ hour cycle away that stocks it, so every so often we (or Steve on his own) make our way to pick some up. One particular return trip is memorable as Steve very nearly became a hood ornament for a shiny black Range Rover. There is a one-way road with a designated cycle lane in the opposite direction and we were busy cycling along. Coming up to a junction with the traffic light on red, we were slowing, ready to stop when this Range Rover started to pull out of a driveway. Somehow Steve just managed to stop in time, with me very nearly crashing into the back of him! The poor lady driver was extremely shocked and so apologetic it was quite funny – especially as it could all have turned out so differently! She had obviously checked for cars coming from her left but forgot about the possibility of cyclists using the cycle lane!
Back to our (or should I say, Steve’s) main activity. Since returning on 20th September and re-baiting his pot that day, he has caught:
Lobster – 30 (8 returned)
Wrasse – 7
Brown Crab – 4 (3 returned)
Spider Crab – 3 (2 returned)
Pollock – 1
Haddock – 2
The biggest lobster he has caught so far weighed in at 1.4kg and took a lot of cooling down so that he was dopey enough for Steve to squeeze him into the pan!
Just About Fits
Bigger Than The Board
Surprisingly Steve kept up his science project of recording his catch and has come to the following conclusion:
Start with some going off gammon, a lobster will usually take the bait within 24 hours; use that lobster head as bait and within 24 hours (but sometimes as short as 6) a wrasse is caught. The wrasse bones will then take approximately 48 hours to catch another lobster and the cycle continues with the occasional white fish getting in on the action.
As I am sure we have said before Steve is allergic to crab. However, after catching a number of spider crab he decided to play “Russian Roulette” and risk trying one as he had only ever previously eaten brown crab. After taking inspiration from a devilled spider crab recipe he found, he created his own version, using the sauce from his mummy’s devilled kidney recipe. After freezing, killing, cooking and dressing the spider crab, he was then baked in the sauce in his shell in the oven. The next 24 hours would be critical for Steve!! Surprisingly, he suffered no ill effects at all and is absolutely delighted that he is able to eat any more spider crabs that he catches, even though they are far more fiddly to deal with than lobster.
Freshly Cooked Spider Crab
Devilled Spider Crab
The pollock he caught was huge (2kg)! He didn’t quite fit in the fridge (he had a bit of a bow!) and even though he had been killed and gutted I found it quite unnerving to open the fridge door and see his tail flapping up and down. We haven’t eaten him yet; he has been filleted and is now waiting in the freezer for a non-windy day for his battering!! Steve has also kept the head as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a recipe for Baked Pollock Head – I can’t wait for that day to come, I think I might eat elsewhere!!
We have celebrated yet another wedding anniversary (31 years!) and decided to go for a nice walk along the coast towards Pembroke beach. Steve even remembered to take his wallet so we could stop at the little kiosk at L’Ancresse for a coffee so we were a bit disappointed that it was closed when we got there with the possibility that it may be closed permanently. We thought we would continue to Pembroke and were sure we would be able to find a drink there. The Beach House (bar/restaurant place) looked pretty closed when we passed it on our way to the other little kiosk, which was also closed. However as we walked back past The Beach House we could see people inside and a worker sorting out the outside tables so Steve went in (leaving me outside as I would have melted going inside!) and returned with his cup of coffee and that was all!?! I was a little dumbfounded (!) and it wasn’t until he sat down with his coffee that he realised for the FIRST TIME EVER he had bought something for himself and nothing for me! Happy anniversary, darling!! (I did have a bottle of water that we had brought with us so I wasn’t going to die of thirst!!) After he finished his enjoyable coffee we set off again, across the common this time and for some reason I had my “fungi-eye” in and kept spotting mushrooms! In the end I succumbed to his pressure and agreed to pick and potentially eat a large field mushroom. We also saw quite a few parasols but we didn’t pick any of them as I thought one at a time is enough for me! I had it as a very tasty mushroom curry!!
On Guernsey a lot of the restaurants take part in the “Tennerfest”. It is a way to try and encourage people to eat out during the quieter autumn months and runs from 1st October until about the middle of November. In the past most of the restaurants had £10 menus but most now are slightly more expensive but still cheaper than at other times. Several people had told us about it and then Mark and Helen asked if we would like to join them at the Beaucette Marina restaurant. Of course we said yes, although I was quite apprehensive as I do not always have the most successful restaurant experiences! Obviously to help keep costs down the restaurant has a special “Tennerfest” menu and doesn’t cook their usual menu, this then meant that there was only one vegetarian starter and main. For starter I chose the Cantaloupe Melon with seasonal fruits and berry sorbet, I found it a bit weird eating such a sweet starter but it was very nice! Good start! It took me a while to decide on the main; it was either Sautéed Mushrooms Garlic on Croute with rocket leaves, truffle oil and shavings of parmesan cheese or Beaucette Fish ‘N’ Chips, mushy peas, sauce tartare. After confirming there was no cream anywhere near the mushrooms I decided to go for that. As Steve had chosen the fish and chips I could nick a couple of his chips! When the food arrived I was pleasantly surprised with how mine looked and when I looked at Steve’s fish and chips I was really pleased I’d gone veggie! For the first time in a very long time I had a very nice meal in a restaurant! Steve was a bit disappointed with his as we cook better looking and tasting fish and chips on board! Dessert was Sticky Toffee Pudding for me and Ice Cream for Steve. Again my choice was definitely better especially when Steve passed me his ball of vanilla ice cream (after trying to fob me off with the chocolate one – not for me, that!) A thoroughly enjoyable evening, thanks to Mark and Helen for inviting us out!!
We have been watching the forecasts quite closely, what with Storm Ophelia and then Storm Brian! Brian, the storm they call Brian! (Apologies to Monty Python!) Storm Ophelia had no impact on us fortunately, but it looked like Brian might. It was good to see that the forecast was improving as one day it showed gusts of 75+ miles per hour but eventually it went down to 40-50 miles per hour. Winds were mostly from the south – southwest which, fortunately, is not a bad direction for us. The marina entrance faces east so any storm with any east in would be a major worry! It did provide some beautiful looking seas (seen from land obviously) and we made the small walk to Fort Doyle to watch the waves on both the north and east coasts of the island.
Yesterday morning, whilst pottering around inside the boat, there was a “twang” followed by a “thud”. Steve was busy in the galley and called up to me to ask what was wrong. At this point I was having a look out the window to see what had hit us (the sounds were definitely like a bird of some sort hitting the rigging and then the deck). Sadly there was a beautiful, healthy-looking pigeon except for the damaged wing and the pool of blood underneath him. We weren’t really sure what to do but, with the state of his wing, it didn’t look like he would be able to “shake himself off and fly away” so Steve went to see if he would be able to catch it. He was unsuccessful on his first attempt and suggested we should contact the RSPB or some other organisation. I was a little unsure as, after all, it was only a pigeon, but looked online and couldn’t find a contact number for RSPB on Guernsey so instead we called GSPCA – the Guernsey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Steve spoke to them and they agreed to send out their ambulance. The pigeon had found himself a relatively safe position under one of the seats at the back of the boat by the time the ambulance arrived (approximately 20 minutes) and the GSPCA chap climbed on board with Steve on the pontoon to make sure the pigeon didn’t try to climb over the toe-rail and fall into the water. Within a matter of seconds the pigeon had been caught and was secure in the carrier the GSPCA man had brought with him. I doubt if we will find out whether he survives but if he doesn’t I think we did all we could to help him.
I can’t actually believe that we are now in October! Where has the time gone? We seem to have been quite busy however we don’t know what we’ve done!!
Steve has continued with his pot-fishing and has decided to try and turn it a bit “sciency” to see if he will be able to predict what he may or may not be able to cook for dinner.
We have finally had our first (and only) visitor – our first-born, Sean!! The day before his arrival, Steve commented that it would be ideal if he was able to catch a couple of lobsters to feed the protein-hungry child, but then thought that two in the same pot wasn’t a good idea as they would fight. However, that morning Steve lifted his pot to discover two lobsters, one being the largest he’d caught to date – weighing 1kg. Steve then started to worry whether it would actually fit in our biggest saucepan.
Sean came for a long weekend (and I think he found it a little bit of a culture shock as the pace of the life can’t be further from his usual London lifestyle). However, the restaurant that is Shearmyste, may have made up for the other short-comings, including a lobster roll breakfast, made with homemade bread roll and freshly caught lobster. We did try to entertain him but our choices of entertainment were quite limited – generally either shark fishing with daddy (with son as bait) or snorkelling/swimming with mummy. Surprisingly he chose to go swimming with me – this then caused me to return to being the worried parent with small child at the beach. I did very little swimming as I was panicking that I couldn’t see where he was – it was like he was four years old again and not twenty-nine! It was absolutely brilliant to see him and we hope he will join us again!
One of the major jobs we had on our Job List but kept putting off was the coach-roof leak repairs. We had planned to replace some small sections to see if that would cure the leaks using the wood supplied at Christmas by Mac. Unfortunately this repair, although looking good, actually created other internal leaks. This meant that we could no longer put off the inevitable so, before starting to rip it off, Steve checked with the local timber merchant that they would be able to supply a hardwood. As the price wasn’t too eye-watering the job could commence. Steve was adamant that it would be a relatively easy job and take a maximum of five days. We have a large tarpaulin that would cover most of the roof and provide protection from any rain. What a mistake to make!! Without paying too much attention to the weather forecast he decided to start ripping off the old teak-faced plywood after removing the grab rails. Unfortunately the rain decided to come with a vengeance and the tarpaulin acted like an old frame tent and as we all know frame tents when touched from the inside leak like sieves. Removing the handrails had created an extra 24 holes and with the two large window openings no longer fully secure the rain came in. To make matters worse as the rain came in Steve was busy in the galley filleting a wrasse! I was running around grabbing buckets and towels and trying to catch as much rain in my hands as I could! Happy Days!!! Four or five buckets later we had been able to catch the majority of the water ingress. Once the rain abated Steve was more focussed on getting the job done. Once all the wood was up, it was time to fill all the holes (at least another 50 grub screws!) The wood would take two weeks to be delivered so we had that time to do all the prep work and this also pushed us to remove the teak under the sprayhood as this was in poor condition as well (but didn’t leak!)
The Start of Five Days’ Work
Another Bucket Please
When the wood arrived we fixed the centre sections of the panelling then we had to wait for a two day weather window as we knew we would be unable to complete the hatch areas in a single day. Our first planned start of this next section was going to be the Sunday/Monday following the Beaucette Marina BBQ on the Saturday. However, due to the free-flowing free beer and good company, Steve woke with a headache along with a large number of other marina berth holders! (As did I, however I took headache pills and neglected to tell Steve!!!) This caused a two day delay as more rain was forecast. We managed over the next ten days (in between the rain showers) to fit the remaining wood sections and seal and return the boat to a watertight state (ish). Unfortunately we were still experiencing leaks around the hatches, so more sealant was applied. We are now pleased to report that we are leak-free!!!!
The other debate whilst we were fitting the wood was how to finish it. Neither of us are keen on silvered hardwood so our options were oil or varnish. As we have not had a great amount of success with oiling, varnish was always going to be the preferred choice (for Steve especially, as varnishing always seems to be my job). We set up the tarpaulin to protect the newly varnished surfaces form our resident seagulls who like to deposit from the top of the mast, but this seemed to turn the space into a greenhouse and also happened to coincide with what felt like the three hottest days of the year! We managed to apply it over the three days and are extremely happy with the result.
Overall Steve’s five day job took from 26th June until 28th August – the longest five days I’ve ever heard of. Did he really earn a living as a project manager?
With Steve catching all this stuff (fish) that I don’t really like eating, his focus has widened to try to provide other foraged meals. The first foray was mushrooms. With a newly purchased book in hand off he went to return with the following items:
With a view that these would cooked and placed on my pizza that evening, Steve prepared the mushrooms and cooked them in a bit of garlic & butter. First I tried the fairy champignons, they slid down, slimy and tasteless – urgh. Then the field mushroom – which was pretty bland and finally the puffball – the worst of the lot – the texture of undercooked lamb fat – bleurgh. So I had tomato and pepper pizza instead!! This hasn’t stopped our foraging but has stopped me trying any more mushrooms so far – he is still working on me. So, on the island, non-fish based foraging has resulted in finding blackberries (which has renewed my love of homemade jam – without bits, sorry mum!), apples (spicy apple chutney), chestnuts (still to be eaten), wild garlic (our very first foray, back in April!), nasturtium flower heads and leaves (very peppery), wild onion and wild fennel. We are still searching for nut trees on the island but have been informed that there is a walnut tree within an hour’s cycle! We now have our eyes on the haws. Haw jelly is the next planned test.
Having received a call from our youngest, sometime in July, suggesting daddy might like to go to the rugby double-header as his birthday present (perhaps I should swap birthdays with him as it is more a present for me!!) we decided to make a “holiday” of it as this may be the only way to see our families as they don’t appear to want to travel to see us – or perhaps it’s just the sleeping on the boat putting them off! With the Southampton Boat Show also on in September we decided to arrive just in time for the rugby and leave just after the boat show. The most convenient route for us was to travel overnight on the Clipper, arriving in the early hours in Portsmouth and then take a train into London, stay with Sean and Laura for the weekend and then travel north to see my sister in Skegness and my brother in Burton on Trent and then return south to spend time with our parents before returning via Poole to Beaucette.
This gave us a deadline to work to, to finish the coach-roof and to reduce the contents of our fridge. Steve was reluctant to quit fishing, as he needs his twice daily fix of pulling his pot. We carefully planned our last ten days of meals, not accounting for any new arrivals. The lobster were obviously unaware of our intentions as in those last ten days Steve probably had lobster every day and also supplied three other boats with at least seven adult portions of lobster – even providing an evening of instruction on the best way (his) to dress one. This, in turn, added to our predicament as, after instructing, we were too late and too inebriated to bother to eat our smoked eel or Mediterranean veg quiches! We did end up leaving some cooked gammon behind in the fridge but Steve had decided to allow this to go off to use as his first bait on our return!
With our bags packed, off we trundled with our faithful trolley loaded, bus to the ferry and proceeded through Customs! This was the most lax customs we had ever seen, I’m sure they carry out more checks on the Isle of Wight ferries!! We hadn’t booked a cabin as there hadn’t been the option to do so online but had booked reclining seats in the quiet lounge (unbeknownst to us at the front of the boat). We had seats 3 and 4 – giving us a dual aspect view right at the pointy end! Leaving St Peter Port we were escorted by a large pod of dolphins (always makes any trip better!) The route was via Jersey to Portsmouth with a two hour stop in Jersey. Just before entering St Helier another pod of dolphins greeted us. The crossing itself was calm (fortunately) but the seats weren’t that comfortable so Steve took to sleeping on the floor. We were not as prepared as others, who appeared with mattresses and sleeping bags! We had booked a 10 o’clock train so we would have plenty of time to get to the train station and also find breakfast. As soon as Steve spotted the Sainsbury’s he promised me almond croissants (remembering back to Lancaster – best almond croissants ever!) Unfortunately we were half an hour before opening so had to wait outside on a bench, feeling like we looked like bag people. Steve returned with a pecan plait for me (a suitable alternative as they had no almond croissants!) and a plain croissant for himself. It was a really lovely train trip to London Victoria, passing Arundel Castle in all its glory although the train did get a little busy at Gatwick! Still, it was certainly better than going into Waterloo as they had issues with overrunning engineering works!! We finally arrived at Sean’s in the afternoon (23 hours after leaving the boat – compared to Sean’s four hour trip the other way by plane!!) and Alex arrived early evening. Chinese takeaway for tea! The following day’s plan was to leave Sean’s midmorning, grab some lunch with a view to getting to Twickenham in plenty of time for the first match kick off. Having navigated our way across the smoke we found a lovely little chip shop with a park opposite. Sitting down to eat our lunch we were joined by some very inquisitive and tame squirrels – who also enjoyed the chips! Probably not the best diet for them, but they looked pretty healthy!
The rugby was pretty good although Harlequins did lose. The first match was Saracens v Northampton and as we were sitting amongst a large number of Northampton fans, it was very entertaining as they well and truly got their arses kicked!! Fortunately (as I am not a big fan of Sarries), I didn’t make too much of it, which was just as well when we lost!!
As Melanie (my sister) failed to respond to phone call and voicemail we changed our plans and Alex drove us to Mac and Mum’s instead. We spent about a week there, foraging whilst walking Jake (the dog). Steve found hazelnuts, beech nuts, more mushrooms including chicken of the woods and an inedible bracket fungus. He roasted the hazelnuts – very tasty. The best smelling man in the world (brother-in-law Kevin) joined us for a few days and it was decided that we would take him back to Burton on Trent and meet up with David, Zoe and the kids for a pub lunch. Squeezing the five of us (and Jake) into Mac’s Mazda 3 was entertaining – we almost thought we’d have to put “granny” on the roof Griswald-style (National Lampoon’s Vacation), although David suggested we might look more like the Clampetts!?! Mac had put Steve onto his insurance so Steve got to drive a car for the first time in over a year – and a manual one at that! Mac finally managed to get rid of us by very kindly driving us to Steve’s parents, I think he did it to make sure we got there and didn’t reappear on his doorstep!
We planned a week with Steve’s parents as well. With the weather being good, we went for a relatively long walk one day and Steve found an apple tree a stone’s throw from his parent’s house. So he started climbing and picking. Steve’s mum thought we had been up to no good when we returned as I brushed the remnants of the tree off his back! Steve took his dad and a large bag back and they managed to pick 9lb of apples from a tree that his dad had no idea was there! Plenty of apple wine on the cards now.
Whilst we’d been at my mum’s, she’d mentioned that she and Mac were keen to get a map of the footpaths around the village and she wanted to ‘posh up’ her cake eating with some of those little cake forks – the ones with the little knife-like bit on one of the prongs, so this was in the back of our minds. As usual we found ourselves in the charity shops in Hythe and Steve spotted a map section in the Oxfam book shop. Amazingly, in there was the Ordnance Survey map covering Owslebury – result! Steve had spotted, whilst returning from his sisters, a large catering shop in Southampton so a plan was hatched. When the opportunity arose to go into Southampton, we got dropped off nearby and investigated the shop. The only suitable forks available came in a pack of twelve so we purchased those and packaged them up with the map and posted them. The next day I got a phone call thanking us, although mum did say we should have bought her bigger cake tins if we expect her to provide cake for twelve!
I’m not sure whether it was because he took over or was encouraged to take over but Steve cooked every other day at mum and Mac’s and every day at his mum’s (except one – the traditional pea fritter and chips or fish and chips night!!) I did do some things – I gave my mum a bread making lesson and we had homemade bread, rolls and pizza! We also had at least four crumbles there – different fruit each time (and requested by us!!) Steve made fish pie, devilled kidneys and toad in the hole for his parents. We also had fruit crumble with Steve’s mum and dad – we certainly overdid the puddings on this trip!
One of the most unusual things to happen, food wise, was that on the day we arrived at my mum’s she had made cheese scones. Now I haven’t had cheese scones in I don’t know how long and Steve wasn’t even sure if he liked them – funnily enough he did! That in itself wasn’t unusual, however the day we arrived at Steve’s mum’s she had also made cheese scones! What a coincidence!!
The boat show was very quiet. We went on the Monday but speaking to some of the exhibitors it hadn’t been any busier over the weekend. We had a good wander around and got the information we were after about possible berths for 2018, potentially on the southwest coast of England and a few bits we were after. A good tip: if you are going to the boat show and fancy a glass of wine at lunchtime visit the insurance brokers!!
Our return ferry was the faster Condor Liberation out of Poole. This should have taken 3 hours but was slightly delayed as, apparently, they made a mistake loading the cars and then because of tidal constraints we had to take a slightly different route, going through Big Russel instead of Little Russel. Again we were extremely lucky with our seats, getting a huge amount of legroom, right next to the duty free shop. Yet another smooth crossing – thank goodness! Arrived back at Shearmyste having had a very good break and fortunately Steve helped me put everything away before getting to his most important job – baiting and lowering his lobster pot!!
Having spent the first three weeks in Beaucette checking the weather for an appropriate weather window coinciding with a favourable tide time, we did quite a lot of soul searching and wondering just what it was we were doing. Whenever we saw Ricky (the marina manager) and advised that we would be staying a bit longer, his response was: “stay as long as you want”. I believe this sowed a little seed in Steve’s head and made us face up to some difficult questions – What are we doing? What do we want out of this life?
It felt like all we seemed to do was watch the weather, looking for the opportunity to move to another marina to do the same thing again there – relax, drink and people watch. Neither of us particularly enjoys the sailing side of things but absolutely couldn’t go back to living in bricks and mortar. Steve felt that he wanted to put down some tentative roots – in fact it appears that we are not the gipsy/roaming types we thought we were after all!
Why is Guernsey the right choice for us?
The people are amazingly friendly. When we have been out and about, looking blankly at our map of the island, people stop (whether on foot or in their vehicles) and offer assistance
Steve can understand the locals
The ‘hills’ aren’t big
Honesty boxes are prevalent for local produce
The marina is picturesque, gnarly (being an ex-quarry), entertaining during strong easterly winds with a good mix of friendly live-aboards
Great walks – as we are in probably the least populated part of the island where beach and cliff walks are plentiful
Even in hot weather, as we are a stone’s throw from the sea, it is at least 5 degrees cooler
Why is Guernsey a poor choice for us?
Wine at English prices
Bread selection is poor as there doesn’t appear to be any small bakeries on the island (only the supermarkets)
Haven’t managed to find an egg supplier yet (other than supermarkets)
Shower block/toilet trips are best planned to coincide with high tide (the ramps are a tad challenging at low water). This also applies to trailer shopping trips as the decline is quite impressive which could result in a runaway trailer!
After chatting with Sunil in the marina office and then Ricky, Steve returned to the boat with the figures for a year’s berth here! Could we do that? Should we do that? We could always do some sailing from here and return but it would mean that Steve could have his required roots and he would be able to find something, other than the boat and the weather, to occupy his time. This again caused more conversations and we agreed that it might be a good idea so Steve ‘paid up and looked happy’, but this then caused more issues!!
After having spent practically every day for the last year together (ok we did have one 24 hour period apart when he took off with a French man!) we were starting to realise that we have absolutely nothing at all in common. So after many hours discussing matters we have decided that it is in our best interests to follow our own particular dreams and go our separate ways.
Steve and friend
To be honest, it is not as bad as it sounds! We have both decided to return to our great loves. Steve’s love is food and cooking and being the hunter/gatherer type he decided that he would try his hand at fishing. He bought himself a tin of sardines and put them into his lobster pot and dropped that over the side of the boat. He didn’t have any luck for the first few days so decided to try the other side of the boat, closer to the pontoon. I think he had pretty much given up and was going to wash off the pot and put it away when he pulled it up and discovered a decent sized lobster inside. He was like a kid in a sweet shop, so excited!!! This was all the incentive he needed.
Surprisingly my love is for getting fit again. We have walked and cycled around some of the island and have discovered some lovely beaches – good enough to encourage me to “take the plunge”! So now I cycle the ten minutes to L’ancresse beach and spend some time splashing around in the water! When we first arrived we noticed a blackboard proclaiming “Bendy Beaucette Yoga”. I have wanted to try yoga and thought perhaps a small group here might be a good introduction – although I wasn’t sure if I would be confident enough to do something on my own. However, Steve encouraged me (or should that be, pushed me) to give it a try and so far I have been to two sessions and that combined with the swimming and cycling seems to have helped me with my intermittent back aches and has also resulted in a marked increase in my fitness level, such that on our most recent cycle ride together I had to brake whilst cycling behind Steve as he wasn’t going quick enough!
One particular cycle ride stands out in my memory – is this the unluckiest woman in the world? We had bought a picnic at the supermarket after visiting the largest car boot sale we’ve ever seen (well , at least ten cars!) and ended up at L’ancresse beach, sitting with a nice bottle of cider and some bread and cheese. The only other occupants of this part of the beach were a young family and then after a while a woman and her son stopped to chat with them. I suddenly heard a “thwack” and the standing woman fell to her knees. The poor lady had been hit by a stray golf ball. The fairway that the golfer was aiming for was at least 150 yards away. The man from the couple disappeared off and, according to the kids, was going to “go and tell off the golfer”. He returned shortly with two men – they had both hit their balls off course towards the beach so were unsure which one had actually hit her! Amazing, considering how much empty beach space there was, that one of them managed such a direct hit. Fortunately the lady had turned to reach her phone so it hit her on the side of the neck and not smack bang in the middle of her face. She was a bit dazed and shocked but I don’t believe she suffered any serious damage and the rather embarrassed golfers were extremely apologetic.
There have been some very large, beautiful yachts visiting here. At one stage we were one of the smaller ones, having been dwarfed by an Oyster 62, Hallberg Rassy 64 and a possible Contest 60ish. When I went to my first yoga session, inevitably I was asked which boat I was on so pointed Shearmyste out. Comments were made about Beaucette becoming a ‘Super Yacht Haven’ and I believe Shearmyste was included! Quite chuffed about that, although I already knew she didn’t look out of place amongst them!
The buses here are cheap (£1 per journey) so we have taken advantage of them and have been into St Peter Port (Town) a few times. You can also go all the way around the island and if you want to sit in the bus station for about 20 minutes that still only costs £1. We did the trip but broke our journey in Town. This did mean that our ‘round the island’ cost £2 but to be honest I think we would have quite happily paid at least £5 each. The nearest shops to the marina are at St Sampson which is about a 10-15 minute cycle away with a Co-op and an Iceland and there is an Alliance (Tesco) fairly close too. There are lots of small produce stands dotted around, so far we have purchased tomatoes, strawberries, cauliflower, new potatoes, cucumber and lettuce. As they all have honesty boxes it is necessary to make sure you have enough pound notes (yes I do mean notes!!)
Liberation Day back in May – we took the bus to St Peter Port, saw the parade and had a little mooch about. We walked past a lady who was the spitting image of Shane Spall (wife of actor Timothy Spall) and “star” of one of my favourite TV programmes – Somewhere at Sea where they sailed their Dutch barge around the UK. It is one of my go-to DVDs as they visited quite a few of the same places we have and I have noticed a lot of similarities in our relationships! I didn’t approach her as I thought it was inappropriate but when we got back to the boat I looked for her on Twitter and she had posted a photo of the life boats taken from the exact spot I had seen her! I am just amazed that she didn’t recognise me from my avid viewing!!!
Steve has now become quite a proficient fisherman. In his lobster pot he has managed to catch three lobsters (one too small to keep), a haddock, a brown crab and an eel. He took the dinghy out of the marina the other day and attached himself to one of the waiting buoys and caught himself two mackerel. I must admit that the only item I have eaten was a small portion of the haddock in a curry! I did try the first lobster but I really didn’t like it and I think Steve was quite pleased about that as he won’t have to share any!
Steve then turns from fisherman to chef, so far he has made:
Lobster with lime and caper butter served with coconut rice
Lobster fusilli with a lobster bisque sauce
Haddock jalfrezi with boiled rice (this was for me!!!!)
Crab and Haddock with a spicy noodle broth
Smoked mackerel on toast
Smoked mackerel quiche
As I write, the smoked eel is sitting in the fridge, excellent taste test results, no dish yet created! (Cooking time 45 minutes, preparation time a day and a half – so not your Jamie’s 15 minute meal!!) Recipes will appear on the Recipe Page!
Other food highlights have included, I’m sorry to say, yet another falafel based meal. I had made a rather tasty pea risotto and as is normal I’d made enough to feed an army! So we decided to use up the leftovers as arancini – mozzarella stuffed rice balls. Steve thought about putting breadcrumbs on the outside but then suggested using falafel mix – hence the creation of Falancini! Served on a spicy tomato sauce they were bloody lovely!!!
Haven’t done a foodie blog for a while, so here’s a very tasty treat. A family favourite adapted to ingredients we have on board!
Steve’s mum always makes these for us (mainly because Steve demands them!). Below is her recipe with my changes alongside.
6 oz Butter or Marg. (Butter – salted)
3 oz Soft Brown Sugar. (Whatever sugar I have available)
6 oz Self Raising Flour. (I add bicarb to my plain flour)
1.5 oz Sweetened Drinking Chocolate. (Cocoa – unsweetened)
Salt (I never add salt as I use salted butter)
3 oz Walnut Halves. (Steve doesn’t like walnuts so we don’t have them)
Chocolate chips or chopped up chocolate bar to suit taste/availability
Soften the fat, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. sift the flour, drinking chocolate and salt and stir into the creamed mixture. Knead until smooth. Roll mixture into small walnut size pieces and place 4 inches apart on a greased baking tray. Flatten each piece with the base of a wet jar and top with a walnut.
Bake on the second shelf from the top in a moderately hot oven (375 deg F, gas mark 5) for 8 – 10 minutes until cooked through.
DO NOT ALLOW TO DARKEN as the flavour will be spoilt. Cool on a wire tray.
Makes approximately 36
Soften the butter, add the sugar and beat until as light and fluffy as you can be bothered. Add the flour and cocoa (don’t possess a sieve) and stir into the creamed mixture. Add choc chips or chunks. Knead until smooth(ish). Roll mixture into small balls, flatten with palm of hand and place on a baking sheet.
Bake in the oven at about 180 deg C for as long as it takes for them to look cooked but not BURNT.
Cool on an upturned pizza tray (COOK’S TIP – any breakages are cook’s perks!)
Makes approximately 18 (if you are lucky)
Steve will not be drawn into whose cookies are best! Even under the threat of violence, the most I can get is “they are two different cookies – both excellent!” What a creep!!!
Well, here we are sitting in Beaucette, Guernsey, looking at the black clouds and missing the French language and especially French tv – it is amazing how much! Yes, even Steve, he is devastated that he can no longer watch his “Les Carnets de Julie”! A wonderful programme about, yes you’ve guessed it, food!
So a quick recap of what we have been up to.
In total we spent two weeks and two days in Cherbourg. The marina was great, although the walk to the showers/toilets was quite long – we were on Pontoon H and almost the farthest from the Capitainerie – but the exercise did me good! The biggest issue was, as it is an all-tide access port, the pontoons rise and fall with the tide resulting in inclines especially with Spring tides (the highest highs and the lowest lows). This meant careful planning (if at all possible) of shower and shopping trips!
The first week was a focus on using the clear waters of the harbour and removing any signs that we had been so friendly with the ugly French buoy, so Steve set about removing the evidence of the up-close and personal kissing of the buoy. The first stage was cleaning the topsides, this was done both from the pontoon and then from the dinghy. My role was Safety Officer which, on occasions, I took seriously but with so much going on around us I did get a little distracted, this was evident to Steve when, several times, he had to ask me for something more than once. With the topsides back to pre- kissing condition it was time to clean under the boat. Steve rigged up a 10ft cleaning brush which proved successful at cleaning off the winter growth (well impressed with the Jotun anti-foul , it has been on since the re-launch in 2014). He then undertook his underwater survey (which was done during one of my now traditional afternoon siestas). His 20 Euro video camera worked a treat, it showed that the anodes were in good condition and the only area that could do with a bit of cleaning was the prop and prop shaft. This meant that he had a chance to try out his newly purchased face mask and snorkel (for some reason he thought the flippers were a step too far!) He donned the wet suit and he was going to get under and give it a clean. He hadn’t taken into consideration that what looks like the Med isn’t always the Med and that the water was obviously still in its winter plumage. As he stood on the ladder at the back of the boat with most of his body in the water, “getting used to the temperature”, and even with my encouragement to “man up and just get your head under” it was, in his words: “bloody freezing” he stated that perhaps that’s a job for when we get to warmer waters! The rest of the underneath was good to go; the prop work would only cost us a bit of drag which he was prepared to live with on a big ship.
French Kisses – but no tongue
Look no evidence!
We went out on the bikes a few times – mainly to the supermarkets (Carrefour and Lidl) but also along the seafront and across to La Cite De La Mer (which, although was probably only 200 metres from us as the crow flies, was a pleasant enough 10-15 minutes’ cycle). There are three major attractions there:
an aquarium – the deepest in Europe at 11m (but in our opinion not a patch on The Deep in Hull)
a Titanic exhibition and
Le Redoutable – France’s first nuclear submarine. The main reason we wanted to go there and also the subject of one of my better “blonde” comments. Whilst sitting on the back of the boat on our first rising tide there I commented that it must be floating as I could now see more of it. Steve pointed out the reason I could see more was because we were rising not it. I think my head was still at St Vaast where even though we were going up and down I couldn’t see any difference but then again I couldn’t focus past the bedroom (that’s my excuse anyway).
Topsides of Le Redoutable
Spinny, go forward thing
Our berth at Cherbourg was next to the Allures/Garcia yacht berths. It seemed that this was where they were put for the new owners to take possession. These are “shiny, new” aluminium go-anywhere yachts. When we arrived there were at least four new owners taking possession, a mix of nationalities – Swiss, French, Dutch. Shearmyste sat proudly alongside these ¾ million Euro yachts! But I think you can buy a hull for less than 100,000 Euros (dependent on the current price of aluminium).
In line with our usual naming of individuals we had John Le Measurer (a French man and not the English actor with a similar name!!) So named as the back of his padded gilet said “Measurement” which we later found out was because he was part of the scrutineering team for dinghy racing at international and Olympic level and not a QA man as we had assumed and was, in fact, a banker by trade! He liked his tape measure and also had a very lax approach to health and safety – highlighted by grinding his brand new Fortress anchor with no safety gear whatsoever. He then later used both his favourite items (tape measure and grinder) to cut his anchor chain with his hands just millimetres from the spinning disc. He and his wife were very friendly and must have taken pity on us. She enjoyed baking and on two occasions they appeared with cake and then tart. The cake was definitely the best cake we have eaten in France – we thought it was pear and chocolate cake but it might have been apple. The tart was not as successful for me as it was an apple tart but with a custard-type base. Steve asked her if it was ‘Crème Anglaise’ and her response was “no, it is milk, sugar and eggs”.
During evening drinks on our old tub, which John couldn’t believe was aluminium so had to go outside and tap it to be sure, he explained his sailing style and the fact being that he now has a “push button”boat. He can just push the buttons and sit inside as he gets seasick. He accompanied his comment with a gesture – he would lick his forefinger and then imitate pushing a button. He also explained that it was “an old man’s boat” – he is 62 and not getting any younger or stronger. He also said that he didn’t like using the engine very much and admitted that his wife was a better sailor than him. During this conversation we said that we don’t mind using the engine and that almost made us a “push button” boat too where he conceded “15 all” as Steve had mimicked his gesture.
Enjoy Life’s maiden voyage, John at helm
Enjoy Life returning. Wife at helm, John not visible
We got in touch with Serge to let him know we had arrived and he invited us out for a meal. He knew that I was a vegetarian and thought that there must be a vegetarian restaurant somewhere in Cherbourg or at least a restaurant with a good vegetarian selection. However as it turned out he couldn’t find one so he and Francoise invited us on board Kazan 4 for a completely vegetarian home-cooked meal (Steve was a little worried as he is not the biggest vegetable fan!) We had a wonderful evening conducted entirely in Franglais! At one point Francoise was speaking away to Serge and he replied “you can speak to me in French, I’m French, you’re French!!”
Close to the end of our pontoon there is a public toilet block on the quayside which Serge had warned that it wasn’t the cleanest of facilities and when Steve had been there before, Serge had commented that “ladies of the night” frequented it. Every day, whenever we passed the facility, on route to the town or the ‘sanitaire’ there were two suspicious, not very young or pretty, “ladies”. We only ever saw them in daylight so they couldn’t possibly have been ”ladies of the night” although they may have made more money if they were! Being a country girl it was a first for me when, one afternoon as we were returning to the boat, a “Mr Magoo” lookalike on a three wheeled moped kept circling the area. Just after I spotted one of these “ladies” he parked up and appeared to go shopping! I may be paying him a disservice but this was the first time I had ever seen a man shopping in the public toilets! It made me smile and I had to keep looking back to confirm my suspicions!!
Our next “Everest” on this trip was to be the notorious Alderney Race – where Walti lost his mast last season. We planned to leave on as calm a day as possible knowing full well that the white flappy things were not going to be used as we didn’t want to spoil the start of the season!! We had decided to go to Beaucette marina, as it had been recommended by someone on a Cruising Association forum where Steve had asked about refuelling – diesel in the Channel Islands is a lot cheaper than it is in France. I had tried to contact them by email, but on reading their website they seem to prefer phone contact – great, we were still without one. We then contacted them via the “Contact Us” page on their website and waited patiently for a response. Steve started thinking that we would have to go to St Peter Port instead and wanted me to contact them, but I held firm – Beaucette appealed a lot more than St Peter Port!
The trip to Beaucette marina was 40nm so should be completed well within my 8 hour wellness window!! So we spent a few days watching the weather closely and looking at best tide days for a daylight trip with a dignified wake up time and waiting for an email response from Beaucette as I still had no phone. We decided on Saturday 22nd April and everything seemed to fall into place – North-easterly winds (Beaufort 2-3), 6am high tide at Cherbourg which meant an 8am leave and a tide window at Beaucette of between 2 and 6pm – and we had even heard back from them!! “John” got up especially to see us off – what a nice man!!
The pilot books and almanacs recommend that leaving Cherbourg two hours after high tide is about the right time to get the most comfortable advantage from the Alderney Race which started 14 nm from Cherbourg at Cap De La Hague. We arrived there at 10 am as planned and this is where I got the boat speed record (although admittedly under power). We were receiving five knots of assistance and my top speed was eleven knots, which beats Steve’s nine knots under sail around Norfolk! The race was like a slightly bubbling mill pond and was nothing like I’d expected from what I had read and been told previously. We had encountered quicker tides on the West Coast of Scotland when we travelled round Britain. The weather was slightly overcast although we had been able to see Alderney from 12 nm out. This is where I saw my first ever Shag (enough of the giggles, we aren’t in Cherbourg anymore!) They are slightly smaller than Cormorants but with a wonderful quiff on the top of their heads. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to get a picture (sounds familiar).
With the fair tide we decided we should slow ourselves down as our ETA at Beaucette was looking to be at least two hours before entry was possible. We arrived outside the marina just after 12 (BST) and, luckily our phone had been reconnected the day before, so we were able to contact Ricky the harbourmaster to ascertain the earliest time to enter due to our draught and the height of the water above the sill. Ricky confirmed our calculations and said that 2.30 would be a good time to enter. So this then gave us the opportunity to look at the entrance from afar and bloody hell was it scary! All we could see were rocks and a brick wall! As we had to wait a couple of hours we thought we would have a little sightseeing tour along the coast and to check out the “block of flats” I had previously spotted anchored just outside St Peter Port. It was, in fact, the sister ship to Ventura (we’d seen in Cherbourg), the Azura.
Ventura in Cherbourg
Azura anchored off St Peter Port
So, at 2.30 we met Ricky on the fairway with the plan to follow him in – however he took off at great speed and we were only doing 4 knots! I stood at the mast so I could easily see the entrance and be in a position to do anything if needed. Steve’s suggestion that I get my boobs out was not well received!! (Too cold for that nonsense and I wasn’t even standing right at the pointy end!) Now, imagine this, our 4.5m wide boat going through an 8m gap (however with the tide higher the gap was slightly wider, thankfully) with the most jagged rock face, no smooth sides to bump against and a brick wall dead ahead.
Beaucette Entrance from above
Look at the wall!
Guess what? No dramas here, my super skipper followed Ricky and made the turns (even though he was probably going a little fast!) and we calmly moored against a nice long pontoon! Ricky helped with our centre line and left us to it as he had other customers to attend to. Beaucette Marina is Beautiful (with a capital B!) if you like rocks and couldn’t be more different from Cherbourg. Here for at least a week, possibly two!!
Following on from our false start the day before with the pea soup, we arose on Tuesday 4th April to a favourable outlook, fairly good visibility, no real fog and just a little bit of drizzly rain. Bearing in mind this was our first movement since 15th August we were a little apprehensive! We left the mooring with absolutely no issues whatsoever almost as if we had been practicing all winter rather than just sitting about drinking wine and vodka! On leaving the marina we were confronted with a trawler coming down to get the same SAS as us. We got out of his way quick and decided it would be better for us to follow him rather than lead especially as we were getting no feedback from the port via VHF even though we could hear them talking to the fishing boat – do we have radio issues again?
We had pre-planned to pick up two vertical wires to secure our lines to in the larger lock as they were still trying to fix the smaller one. I asked Steve which one he wanted me to get, followed by: “should I get this one”, “should I get this one” – but he seemed to ignore me and by the time he was ready for me to get one they weren’t any close by. There were helpful markings on the quayside, showing where the lines were meant to be, however there were an awful lot missing!! We had a little drift around a bit in the lock and I was wondering if I should perhaps put some fenders on the other side as the boat is a little stubborn when we want her to go backwards. As it was Steve managed to get her alongside the quay on the right side and he jumped off with the rear line in hand. I threw the front line up onto the quayside and returned to the cockpit, where I was to be in control (me?!!) Steve told me when to apply reverse or a touch of bow thruster so I wasn’t really “in control” but it was close enough for me!
We left the lock and our winter home with no major issues – NEW SEASON, here we come!!
We had decided that we wanted to ease gently back into this cruising lark and wanted to make sure that our first trip would be a nice, flat, calm one so we motored from Ouistreham to St Vaast La Hougue. We took turns helming and I was, by far, better at sticking to the compass heading! So when we encountered a fog bank, I steered and Steve kept lookout (my eyesight really is poor!)
We picked up a hitch-hiker on route – a little bird (some kind of warbler from the looks of him). He only stayed for about five minutes but obviously got enough of a rest to continue his journey. Our only other wild-life sighting was a solitary dolphin in the distance.
As Steve had previously spent a windy night (with Serge) at anchor at St Vaast, he knew the holding was good so we had decided that we would have a go at anchoring ourselves, but coming up to the anchorage Steve noticed that there was a mooring buoy marked on the chart in the same vicinity. Steve pointed it out but I thought it was a little boat in the distance. However, once we were closer I could see that my “people” were in fact cormorants! The buoy itself was definitely ugly, however Steve insisted that it would be less stressful overnight than trusting the anchor as the wind was forecast to get up to 20 knots plus. Having arrived exactly at high tide we could have entered the port, but with the weather being ok and me feeling fine we chose to give it a go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It was like a scene from Custer’s last stand as we circled the buoy three or four times attempting to catch hold – Steve’s grabbing hook thing (the ideal tool for the job) was too heavy for me to manage at full stretch with the sea state not helping my aim/footing. Steve then decided it would be better if he did it (thankfully!) and a few minutes later we were rubbing alongside and attached. After attaching a few more lines to the buoy off went the engine and a successful first foray was over! I hadn’t felt the slightest bit seasick all day and had even managed to go below and make Steve a coffee – I think that is the first time ever (whilst moving!)
Unfortunately for me, this started what is possibly one of the worst 36 hour periods of my life. I was a bit cold and had a slight headache so decided that it might be an idea to have a lie-down whilst Steve enjoyed the view with a well-deserved glass of wine. When I got up again (still cold & headachey), our pre-prepared menu choices did not appeal at all so we decided on a bowl of noodles. This helped to warm me slightly but all I wanted to do was go back to bed – so I did. Steve waited for low-tide before coming to bed and then was up again at 2am to check the lines as he noticed the boat position had changed and this was when the wind was predicted to be at its strongest. He did come back to bed but, in his words, didn’t sleep and so he subsequently got up at 4am and stayed up. Steve used my phone to check the weather, now that I had changed my EE contract to a 4GEE Max, allowing us data access.
Apparently he spent a very pleasant day on the Wednesday, enjoying the nice weather and the comings and goings of St Vaast with a couple of glasses of wine in the afternoon. I showed my face at least three times during the day but never for more than 10 minutes at a time. I did manage to eat a couple of bread sticks and a couple of plain Pringles. Steve did the planning for our next stage on his own (we normally do this together but he couldn’t be sure I would even get out of bed before we left). He decided to check the weather again and discovered “No Service” on the phone. He came and asked me what he was doing wrong but I could only do the same as him and it was still “No Service”. A little niggle hit the back of my head when I thought of the date. (More on this later!)
When Steve came to bed (stinking of wine – urgh!!) he advised me that he had had a lot of “alone time” and had been doing a lot of thinking. His thoughts had been along the lines of: perhaps we are not cut out for this life, he can’t imagine not living on a boat but perhaps it is another type of boat we need (without sticks or keels and only ever goes on flat water). He had even thought about selling the boat, buying a smallholding and raising pigs. I thought this was a bit drastic but couldn’t really argue as although they say nobody has ever died of seasickness I would have quite happily been the first!) We agreed to discuss it at a later date as we hadn’t really given this season much of a chance.
The next morning Steve’s plan, if he felt that the weather matched his last available forecast, we would catch the fair tide around Pointe de Barfleur which meant leaving the mooring buoy at 08.45. Steve’s day of doing nothing had obviously given him the opportunity to plan in minute detail how we would extricate ourselves from the ugly French buoy. My only job was to stand at the helm and if required apply some backwardy or forwardy drive. As it was all fenders were cleared away, lines were slipped and we drifted majestically away just as Steve had hoped. We left the buoy at 08.43 (not bad planning Stevie!!) The trip around Barfleur is renowned, like most headlands, for fast running tides that can be uncomfortable and treacherous but with a favourable forecast the seas were fairly benign not to say that it wasn’t a little bit lumpy in places. I became reacquainted with Fred (but only the once) during a particularly confused, lumpy bit of water. I then had a bit of sleep (surprise, surprise)well I had been up for at least two and a half hours. I regained some level of brain function as we were approaching the outer harbour of Cherbourg (Grande Rade). Steve called up Jobourg Traffic on the radio where a very pleasant man told us we didn’t need to contact him and could just contact the marina – well that at least proved the radio works! He then placed the fenders and lines whilst I steered having been given instructions from the marina staff that we were going to the deep water pontoon just inside the marina entrance. Coming up to the pontoon we noticed a few people sitting on the back of a Garcia and we wondered if they would give assistance. They immediately came to help and it turned out one of the individuals was Walti, the Swiss owner of Alunga who we had previously met in Dieppe. Shearmyste parked herself beautifully and we were secured. Minutes later I was feeling much better!!! Unbelievable. Initially we thought we would stay here for a week, however considering it will be Easter next weekend we have decided to stay for two weeks before considering the next appropriate weather window to move on to Guernsey.
Now back to the phone situation:
We had discussed getting rid of my EE account as it was quite expensive for what we were using, even though it was my comfort blanket. So, as my contract was due to end on 5th April, on the 3rd March I rang EE and asked to cancel my account at the end of the contract. They suggested some other plans that might be suitable but we decided no, we would cancel. On reflection this decision was not a good one as there are times we do actually need to use a phone. So on 8th March I rang EE back and said I would take up one of their new plans. The girl I spoke to made a point of saying she was cancelling the cancellation and setting up the new plan. I got confirmation of the new plan by text and also on the myEE app – so thought nothing more of it – except we now had data so could check the weather etc even if we were not in a marina on Wi-Fi.
So, back to St Vaast on 5th April, with the phone showing No Service – I thought, oh dear, they’ve closed my account. No worries, nothing we can do until we get to some Wi-Fi. So once settled in Cherbourg I decided to see what I could do to sort it out. The only way I seemed to be able to contact them was by using Twitter. The guy who responded said I needed to phone Customer Services or go to the EE help pages and launch “Live Chat”. I tried this “Live Chat” business as, obviously, I couldn’t phone them. After unsuccessful attempts at the live chat I reported back and was told that as that wasn’t working the only thing they could offer was for me to ring as soon as I was able. They seemed unable to understand that we only have one phone and didn’t know anyone well enough to ask to borrow a phone to make an international call. This continued for two days, me asking if there was any way that someone from customer service could contact me or if I could contact them by email but no – I could try “Live Chat” again or call, and the live chat still wouldn’t work. It finally dawned on me that as EE had closed my account maybe I no longer had access to the ”Live Chat” page – why on earth couldn’t they have just told me that at the beginning and saved Steve two days of me sitting in front of my iPhone, iPad and computer getting more and more frustrated?
You can contact EE on Twitter and EE Community but all they can do is tell you to contact Customer Services
You can contact Customer Services by live chat (if you have a live contract)
You can contact Customer Services by phone (if they haven’t cut you off in error)
Hooray for EE.
So in a nutshell we no longer have a phone and will be relying on Wi-Fi in the marinas we visit! (Another reason for no more nights at anchor or mooring buoys!!!!)