Pandora’s Legend – June 2012

We were living in Hartlepool with Pandora’s Legend berthed at Newcastle, Royal Quays.  Steve was working out of head office at Barnwood, Gloucester which meant lots of time on the roads and living out of hotels as his work involved site visits to various power stations.  Alex had bought himself a flat and was in the process of sorting that and moving out.

 

The time seemed right for yet another house move to allow Steve some sort of home life.  It was agreed as the first step in this move to relocate Pandora’s Legend to Portishead Quays near Bristol and probably only about three quarters of an hour from Barnwood.  This meant I had to leave my job of six years (the longest I had ever lasted). So it was decided, I would leave work at the end of May and we would take the month of June to sail the boat round to Portishead.

 

We were initially undecided as to which route we would take.  We had already “sailed” (well to be honest, more like motor-sailed) her from Hamble near Southampton up to Newcastle when we bought her and so thought that it might be nice to go up to Scotland and through the Caledonian Canal and then down to Portishead.  Having looked at the weather forecasts this appeared to be the best route as the south of England had been forecast some pretty horrendous weather.

 

What follows is my account of our adventure!

 

3rd June (Steve’s Plan – Eyemouth, redrawn to Amble due to the time we left Royal Quays)

Leaving Royal Quays

All seemed well as we made final preparations to leave our berth for the last time. That was until Steve did the radio check. Graham (bless him) advised that it was “a bit lumpy out there” and another vessel (whose name I didn’t quite catch) had turned round and come back in. On confirming the vessel with Steve I discovered it was an ex-life boat! Oh good, just what I needed to hear.

Alex waited in the lock to help us in, even though we managed quite well, just the two of us and then we filled up with fuel, said our goodbyes to Rachael and Alex and left just after Princess Seaways – one of the big ferries. Thank goodness we had to fill up otherwise she would have been chasing us down the Tyne!

Leaving the Tyne
Leaving the Tyne

Rachael and Alex drove to North Shields so they could see us off and it was wonderful to see Monaghan tradition upheld – Alex in a pink shirt and Rachael in blue!! They walked along with us for quite a while and ran up a hill but when the rain started they gave up with a final text message!

The piers loomed with some waves breaking above them. We motored out and started the up and down motion. Steve asked me to tighten the boom using the blue rope and I gaily wrapped the red one round the winch – colour blind or what – no idea! Not a good start!

Newcastle Pier Head
Newcastle Pier Head

I must have managed about 20 minutes to half an hour before I found it necessary to feed the fish. I really regretted the orange juice I’d had at breakfast – burns like acid on regurgitation. Throwing up abated for a while so I sat in silence looking at the horizon and watching the lobster fisherman’s boat disappear and reappear. I finally plucked up the courage to visit the toilet – it is a necessity for me to throw up whilst sitting on the loo! My layers of clothes reduced and even though the up and down motion didn’t stop and I was facing the opposite way to the direction of travel I started to feel better. Decision made to go back on deck; I tried to stand up and promptly threw up again. There is absolutely nothing better in my life (at the moment at least) than sitting on a toilet, hanging on to a tap and resting my head on cold Corian work surface. I must have stayed there for at least an hour (if not longer) and thankfully the camera was still safely packed away in the cupboard so first “most embarrassing photo” opportunity missed!! A couple of aborted attempts to swap the loo for the bed and then Steve’s head appears in the hatch to let me know that because of the swell instead of continuing to Amble we were heading into Blyth and the smooth waters were not far away. What a relief. Slowly the motion changed and when the engine changed her tune I knew I would have to put my clothes back on and be ready for action.

RNYC at Blyth provided a fantastic reception – people on the pontoon directed us to a berth and waited to take our lines – the boat came to a halt – Hooray – we’d made our first landfall in 2 hours! Feeling refreshed (it is amazing how quickly my seasickness goes once we are stopped) I managed to drink some 7-Up and ate four packets of hula hoops (one of each flavour) and then 2 granola bars. Suffering from a headache I asked Steve if he minded me going down for an afternoon kip while he went and paid for the night. The next thing I heard was “Sweet Pea” as Steve tried to wake me at 5.30 as he was worried I would not be tired enough to sleep later. Tea was decided on – egg/cheese and avocado salad – very tasty. Steve on the wine but no alcohol for me – not yet anyway!

Looking at the weather it looks like a rest day tomorrow already – good job we’ve got a whole month to make it round to Portishead. Already a day behind schedule!!

Monday 4th June – Blyth

Didn’t do much, Steve did a couple of little jobs and we wandered out to look at the sea. The Yacht Club had organised a Parade of Sail to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee – we were invited to join in but decided to watch instead. Several boats struggled to get off their berths – good decision!

Isn't it supposed to be summer?
Isn’t it supposed to be summer?

Tuesday 5th June – Blyth to Eyemouth

Steve woke me at 6am, we went and showered, I made Steve’s coffee and I decided to try water! Left Blyth at 7.08am – nicely off the pontoon. Weather – blue sky, fairly big waves but long, so motion not a problem. Managed to eat a granola bar and drink some water without throwing up. Quite talkative so not affected with sea sickness so far. However 4 hours in decided to try another granola bar – oats and honey – couldn’t eat it all – then had to throw up – didn’t make it to the water so Steve got to use his bucket to slosh the sides down! Decided then that best option was to lie down – which worked well – no more seasick, but spent the next hours prone! Sun was very hot and gave ideal photo opportunity for Belisha beacon head!

A bad day on the water
A bad day on the water
The results of a bad day on the water
The results of a bad day on the water

Started getting colder once we’d passed the Farne Islands – out came the woolly hat – managed to eat a packet of plain hula hoops – more sleep! Then the winds changed, waves became confused, the rain came. Steve was a bit worried about the engine as the temperature seemed a bit high so turned it off and actually did some sailing – I wasn’t really aware – felt incredibly vacant!

The Farne Islands
The Farne Islands

Seas outside Eyemouth were quite rough and on approach I was worried that we were going to get bashed against the wall (after we had moored up Steve admitted he had had the same thought – although he wasn’t going to tell me!) Couldn’t get hold of the harbourmaster (perhaps he had gone home) so we circled for a while putting out fenders and ropes and then headed to the visitor’s pontoon – there was a gap but would it be big enough? I thought it would (just about) so we made our approach, nerves kicked in and I was worried that I’d made a mistake – but two men on the small yacht next to where we wanted to be (Dancer from Newcastle – Priors Green I think they said) came out, took our lines and helped us in – RELIEF!! Whilst tidying up ropes etc another yachtie walked past and commented on an excellent piece of parking – Steve admitted it was pure luck! The space must only have been about 42ft!

No phone signal on the pontoon so when the rain stops we will have to take a walk to send the checking in text to everyone!

Wednesday 6th June – Eyemouth (Steve’s original plan has gone completely out the window!)

Rest day in Eyemouth – went to the chandlery, the Co-Op and the café – rainy weather. Steve changed the impeller to see if that sorted the temperature issue out, topped up the coolant – I read!

Thursday 7th June – Eyemouth – Arbroath

Up at 6am, decided to try sea sick pills – Stugeron – took 2. Had a lovely hot shower (£1) back to boat, had a Maple Syrup granola bar and a chewy fruit and nut bar. Steve had found our “bike cups”, made Ribena in them. Left Eyemouth at 7.58am – blue sky, gently rolling waves, I felt fine. After a while I started to feel sleepy – but no seasickness, slept again. Saw the very pretty Torness power station through the mist. After about 24nm the fog descended, Steve woke me to advise that he might have to use the foghorn and not to worry – I went back to sleep – only to be woken by the foghorn as Steve spotted a fishing boat. Steve woke me again when we were a couple of miles from Arbroath – feeling a little muzzy from sleeping but “compos mentis” as I didn’t feel seasick – I even started spotting the lobster pot markers! When we were quite close to Arbroath Steve finally managed to spot the harbour – my super skipper had got us here! We were asked to raft alongside a dive/survey boat – it was much higher than us! I used my boat hook to “catch on” while Steve attached the lines!

Rafting in Arbroath
Rafting in Arbroath

I must be the world’s worst sailing companion – Steve has to keep himself occupied whilst sailing/motoring – as if I’m not asleep, I am in a sea-sick induced stupor!

At least no throwing up today and we were sailing for 7 and a half hours! I did top up my Stugeron after 8 hours as recommended and wore my band – felt pretty good when we finished!

Friday 8th, Saturday 9th June – Arbroath

Nice couple of days in Arbroath, lovely new shower area, lovely hot shower! Spent Friday wandering around the town looking for a Camping Gaz stockist – no luck – did Home Bargains shopping – Alex would be proud of us! Steve took the shopping back to the boat and we then went round the Signal Tower museum (it used to be the shore station for the Bell Rock lighthouse – really interesting about how they built the lighthouse as Bell Rock covers at high tide). We then went to a restaurant to have lunch – Steve had Arbroath Smokie Chowder, I had Potato and Leek Soup, both followed by Haddock and Chips – very good.

On Saturday we walked around another part of Arbroath, found the train station and caught the train to Dundee. Wandered around the shops, saw a person dressed up as an elephant advertising a jewellers as being Open Boxing Day??????!!!!! What was that all about! Saw Discovery – Captain Scott’s ship – had lunch between the Tay Road and Rail Bridges. Caught train back (just started raining whilst we were waiting for the train). When we got back to the boat it was really hot and sunny, I ended up in my vest with my trouser legs pulled up, Steve was in shorts and even took his shirt off! It was funny because we were out of the wind whereas the people enjoying a walk around the marina/harbour were dressed in coats generally; even saw one woman with a woolly hat and gloves!!! I now have one red arm – hopefully it will go brown like my face has! For tea Steve had his Arbroath Smokies, I did try a taste but had fajitas!!!

Struggled to get to sleep as hot and sticky but as soon as I took covers off, I was instantly freezing! Steve then decided to invade my space – so I had no room to move and his gentle breathing keeping me awake!!

Sunday 10th June – Arbroath to Aberdeen

Woke up to a damp morning – rained through the night. It looked as though Steve’s thought that we might not need oilies today was going to be wrong! Took my Stugeron at 6.45 along with a glass of Lucozade Orange and two Nature Valley ginger crunch bars. Got off our berth easily and made our way to the fuel berth. Came alongside a fishing boat nicely and filled up the tank. Set off, just as we were leaving the harbour I asked Steve if he’d remembered to give back the key – NO – oh dear we’ll have to post it back to them with a letter of apology!

When we were on the fuel berth a German yacht(Carigo) with two men and one woman who didn’t seem to speak much English and appeared quite aloof also left Arbroath. We followed them for a while but they went further offshore so we “overtook” them.

Feeling quite hungry today, ate cereal bars, plain hula hoops and even a spready cheese sandwich! These pills are certainly working. Made a concerted effort to stay awake. We both thought we saw a dolphin (in the same place at the same time so I think we can say it was one!) just off Montrose.

I started to feel tired and nearly dozed off but Steve started singing “The first time I met her” and woke me up. We had tried singing various songs earlier but couldn’t remember all the words – The Last Waltz, Kids In America, A Little Respect, Bye Bye Baby amongst others!

Steve suggested I have a half hour kip (I suppose he was sick of me being awake!) when we were about 5 or 6 nm away from Aberdeen with the promise that he would wake me for my pill if I slept longer. He woke me just before radioing Aberdeen VTS. When asked our length overall, he replied 2.1m – I nearly choked!! He did immediately correct it to 12m!! We were told to approach the south pier but DO NOT ENTER THE CHANNEL. Steve radioed in our position and the reply was that they could see us on radar! That was good to know! Aberdeen is a busy port with big ships in and out so we had to “mooch around” for about 20-30 minutes and then we were allowed to enter. We rafted next to a boat that ‘ferries’ crew to the ships at anchor. Their telephone number was on the side of the boat so Steve rang them to see if he was due out but he hadn’t received any calls so hopefully we wouldn’t have to move in the “wee small” hours to let him out!

The harbourmaster appeared to take our fee and he said that an incident was taking place but wouldn’t/couldn’t elaborate. I have a feeling it might have had something to do with a vessel called E R Athena (not completely sure of the name but it sounded like that or something similar – Steve said it had reminded him of Undina – Griff Rhys Jones’ yacht). We had heard them calling the coastguard earlier several times and then when we were on VTS we heard them told that they had to anchor and wait for the powers that be. Later, over the radio, they were told to weigh anchor as they were to come in as soon as possible – the pilot went out to them as we were coming in – we will never know!

Oh, by the way, Steve was wrong about not needing oilies! It didn’t rain but there was no sunshine and it was cold. I swapped my normal gloves for my heat holders and still had cold fingers (oh and I even managed a few cigarettes on this leg too!)

On one of Steve’s many ciggie breaks once rafted in Aberdeen he noticed that the Germans on Carigo had also come in, we had the better berth so he tried to make some joke about having our towels on the best sunloungers!

Early evening in Aberdeen
Early evening in Aberdeen

My mum phoned to tell us she was enjoying the updates and to check how we were. She did comment that she was concerned by one text as they received it in two parts but the first part finished with ‘all well for 4 hours then Steve’. In keeping with his previous antics on our delivery trip her first thought was “had he fallen in!!” She was relieved when the 2nd part came through!! Decided to continue tablets through the night as we were going to be off first thing, so set alarm for 22.45 – woke and took my pill but then didn’t sleep very well as I was worried I would miss the next pill at 6.45!!

Monday 11th June – Aberdeen to Peterhead

Woke fairly early (6.30), Steve already up as usual! No showers here so two smelly sailors today – a splash of water and deodorant! Once we were prepared to leave we checked with VTS when we would be able to leave. They told us that there were two ships coming in so it would be about 30 minutes. Plenty of layers today – Musto undershirt, rugby shirt, oilies, windproof jacket, cowl, Steve’s Buff (neck thing), woolly hat and gloves! Got it right! Wind was cold, no sun really but not much rain either. Sea was relatively flat leaving Aberdeen but picked up a bit further on. Still managing to eat cereal bars (Nature Valley) and plain hula hoops and had a couple of cigarettes.

A good day on the water
A good day on the water

Singing today was a wide variety from Grease to Jerusalem, Kum-ba-yah, Meat Loaf, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Delilah, Scottish and Irish national anthems, Michael Row The Boat Ashore, Oh You’ll Never Go To Heaven, Blondie – I really think the sea birds thoroughly enjoyed it!!

A sliver of blue sky appeared above Peterhead – looked promising! BUT THE SMELL – FISHY OR WHAT!!! Made our way into Peterhead Bay Marina – first time we didn’t do a perfect parking. The fact that I ended up on my arse while putting out the lines and fenders may have had something to do with it – I don’t know what happened but one minute I was standing bringing the front line back to the middle, the next I was sliding gracefully to a sitting position! In super slow motion! Steve only saw the end and was worried I was hurt – perhaps the pills?!!

Once we were secured we decided to check out the lie of the land – but the Marina Man (self-named) doesn’t work between 12 and 4 (and it was 2 o’clock). We decided to walk into the town but were thwarted as the only way out was through a “key-required” gate and we wouldn’t get a key until the Marina Man came back. Steve’s dodgy past came to the rescue though as he spied a possible escape route so we went through some fencing and out through a turnstile. Steve thought he was the dog’s b******* until I let him know that I had pressed the “Press To Exit” button! We walked around the bay and I spotted a heron in flight, a bit further round we saw another one so I took a couple of pictures. Then a fishing boat (trawler) appeared – photos again – I wonder if it is one that is filmed for the tv programme Trawlermen!

As we got closer to the town the stench of rotting fish was almost unbearable – thank goodness Steve didn’t get that job up here years ago!! A quick walk around the town, found the post office, Steve phoned Arbroath and asked if they wanted us to post their key back – they were very pleased with that suggestion so we did. Found Morrisons, stopped for a drink and did some shopping – no way were we walking back – “TAXI”. Must be the grumpiest taxi driver ever and the most expensive – £7 and it must only have been 2-3 miles!

Back at the Marina we asked to be let in and thankfully ‘Marina Man’ let us in. We paid for the night and a gas bottle and discussed how to go round Rattray Head – he said 1 hour after HW Peterhead – 9am tomorrow and keep at least 4 miles out. Put the shopping away – we are ok for butter – have 5 packs!!

Tuesday 12th June – Peterhead to around Rattray Head

As per ‘Marina Man’s instructions we were ready to leave the pontoon at 9am – Stugeron taken at 7, wrist band on. The Germans had caught up with us again and this time were willing to speak. They hadn’t had a good trip from Aberdeen, the lady particularly so were going to stay an extra day in Peterhead. We set off at the same time as Lysa Blue from Tayport & Findhorn and Sea Fox (from Newcastle, although the “Captain” was himself from Hartlepool and a member of RORC – my assumption that he was from Blyth because of the blue ensign and the Storrar Marine dinghy was wrong!) I did a bit of steering (well holding the wheel anyway) while Steve put away the fenders. He took over as we left the piers and we were immediately bouncing up and down. Due to the size of the waves and the way they were breaking over our bow, Steve asked me to close the hatch. I then stood under the sprayhood looking through as we were launched skywards, bashed down onto another wave and then nose through the next – IT WAS FANTASTIC!!!! The feeling of how insignificant we are, the power of the sea and the adrenalin rush was immense. I was like a kid on their first enjoyable roller coaster ride! The sun was out and I felt good!

Unfortunately, as so often seems to be the case my luck was to change! I started to feel a bit sicky/hungry but couldn’t let go of my handholds to eat anything (as a measure of how rough it was Steve didn’t make a cigarette for at least two hours! Unheard of previously!!) My breakfast choice of blueberry muffins and Lucozade Orange is not one I will be repeating anytime soon. I think I managed to hold on until at least after Steve made that first ciggie but not for long – the smell of that cigarette was about the worst smell I’d experienced (and considering the stench of Peterhead!!!)

After hanging my head over the side of the boat Steve handed me his bucket with the words that I couldn’t throw up out of the boat as there was a risk that a wave might hit us and I would go over too (and he had had strict instructions from Alex to look after me!!) I sat in the same position for absolutely ages, facing forward through the sprayhood, one hand hanging onto the sprayhood strap and the other gripping an upright in the centre of the table! Steve kept pestering me to move to sit in the hatchway as I would be safer there. Eventually I plucked up the courage to move the 2ft (if that) distance. I was out of the wind but with a gentle breeze on my face – braced against one side with my arm around my new best friend – the small winch! By this time I am feeling dreadful and find it best to sit with my head down and eyes closed, hanging on to the rope attached to the bucket – what a relief Steve doesn’t suffer the way I do! With Alex’s threat ringing in his ears Steve decided to partake in a bit of bondage – he tied a rope to my lifejacket and tied me to the boat so he could stop worrying about losing me – if I had been capable of talking I think I would have asked him to help me into the water! He tied himself on too and we kept hitting those waves!

Apparently Steve confided later, he had needed to go to the loo, but with me sitting in the hatchway he didn’t want to move me to go down into the boat so the only option available was to use the bucket! I couldn’t believe that he had managed to relieve himself in front of me and swill the bucket out with lemon and lime water (all he had available!!) without me being even slightly aware!

After a couple of hours I started to be able to think a bit clearer – I started to hope that whatever harbour or marina we ended up in was going to be a busy one where we would have to raft – because that way there would already be fenders out on the other boat and I wouldn’t have to try to do anything. Steve admitted he was hoping for the same thing as he didn’t think I would be able to help either.

As it was Steve decided to head to Whitehills – he made several radio calls to the harbourmaster asking if it was safe but we couldn’t understand the replies and headed in anyway. A man standing on the side taking photos of us turned out to the harbourmaster – a little service he offers – if he knows you are coming in he takes some photos and lets you borrow his card to download the photos – very nice! Apparently though he would have managed to take more of us if he had known earlier that we were heading in – never mind a couple of good photos! A very tight turn into the marina where Lysa Blue and Sea Fox already were – I managed to get a rope attached to the boat and threw it to one of the waiting men and we put fenders on afterwards! Steve said that we had a wind reading at times of 33 knots – that’s a Force 8! And not the Force 3 or 4 forecast – no wonder I was bad and I may still worship Stugeron – well I’ll at least give it another chance.

Safe and secure in Whitehills
Safe and secure in Whitehills

Apparently the weather had affected the others as well, the two guys on Lysa Blue decided who was less sea sick and they would take the helm! They had sailed quite a bit of the way (he is relatively local and knew how he could get round Rattray Head). Apparently The Captain on Sea Fox wouldn’t allow his crew to do any sailing!

Whitehills is a very pleasant place – even has Wi-Fi but no Vodafone signal – Steve’s Orange works though! Good haddock, chips and mushy peas for tea. In bed before 8.30!!

Wednesday 13th June – Rest Day Whitehills

Decided to stay in today – as did Lysa Blue and Sea Fox – sea didn’t look as bad but apparently even the local crab fishermen wouldn’t go out!

There are washing machines and tumble driers here so an ideal location to get some laundry done! As there is Wi-Fi Steve updated the blog, I emailed Dowens and downloaded a selection of books on my iPad! Steve bought local, home-made Cullen Skink for his lunch, I had cheese and pickle sandwiches! Didn’t even taste his Cullen Skink but he said it was beautiful.

Oh, forgot to mention yesterday – we managed to lose the bow fender – hitting all those waves – we think it might even have gone underneath us as at one point the engine made a strange noise – it might have been that or perhaps the prop came out of the water! We’ll never know!

Got chatting to Keith from Lysa Blue, he has two moorings – one at Tayport and one at Findhorn, last year he travelled all the way around the UK – his almanac was well and truly thumbed!! He had a lot of local knowledge but whilst chatting we also discovered that his parents live in Hythe, Kent and one of his daughters works for the Tall Ships Youth Trust! Small world! He invited us aboard for a drink so Steve took his bottle of wine and I took 7-Up. His friend David crewing with him was a knot fanatic – making little monkey’s fists. Steve saw his opportunity to get his Turk’s Head on his steering wheel – so it was agreed that they would go off for their fish and chips and when done they would come visit and do the Turk’s Head for us.

Mushroom curry for tea and my turn to cook with Steve playing sous chef! Curry cooked and I had a “flush” – sweatshirt off, started to eat but didn’t feel right, managed to eat some but then, at Steve’s suggestion I go and lie down. By this time though I am cold, so sweatshirt back on! Laying on the bed shivering – oh great, let’s hope I’m not coming down with the flu!

Steve’s pals turn up and at times it sounds/feels like they are running around the boat! No way could I go and be sociable. Steve finally came to bed at about 11pm, smelling of white wine. Keith and Steve had got through over 2 litres of white wine and David had had a couple of small whiskies!

Thursday 14th June – Whitehills to Inverness (revised to Lossiemouth!)

Woke up feeling better at 7.15. Plan to leave Whitehills and head for Inverness – see how I feel. Pills taken and ginger crunch bars eaten. A lovely shower, farewell to harbourmaster, back to yacht. Sea Fox already left, we got ourselves ready, Keith and David helped us off the berth amidst my apologies for my anti-social behaviour and we headed out to sea. No white horses today – good news.

Started to feel a ‘hungry’ feeling in my stomach so grabbed some hula hoops – that seemed to work. No rain, not much sun but we did definitely see a dolphin! Although Steve reckoned it looked more brown that grey – so would it have been a porpoise? Started to feel sleepy so settled down for a nap. Steve did put the genoa out but still motored as well. After a while Steve suggested that, as it was getting colder and Inverness was about 7 hours away we head to Lossiemouth (approximately one hour away) I agreed, although I wasn’t feeling sick I was a bit chilly! When we were about 4 miles out Steve radioed the marina – no response perhaps we were too far away? A bit closer in, radioed again, still no response. We don’t have a lot of confidence in the new Commandmic, nobody ever seems to hear us (or if they do we don’t hear them!), tried the handheld – no response, ah, flat battery in that one, put it back on the charger.

Lossiemouth Entrance
Lossiemouth Entrance

Even though we’ve had no response we still decide to go in, Steve double checks his calculations to make sure there is enough water for us at the entrance – there is. Steve sends me down to get the handheld again and as I start to come up he barks “keep your head down”. Unbeknown to me we were just entering the narrow harbour entrance. I try the harbourmaster again – no joy but I am sure I could see someone in the office?

We make our way to the visitor’s berths, Steve asks me to put a couple of fenders out, open the gate, get my green rope, grab my boat hook – HOLD on a minute, only got one pair of hands! I stuck one fender out on the waterline, opened the gate and grabbed my green rope. I managed to catch the cleat with my rope but unfortunately I had the rope over the guard rails and not under. Managed to hold it though and Steve got off through my opened gate!! No major rubs or scratches this time – we put out a load more fenders and secured the boat. One last try on the radio, still no response!

We decided to wander to the harbourmaster/marina. A very friendly welcome and he said he’d seen us come in. Steve said we had tried to call them on the radio and he turned to the radio and showed us a disconnected wire! No wonder they hadn’t responded! Maybe the Commandmic isn’t faulty!

A coffee and coke with chocolate brownie break followed by a wander around the town – really lovely place, wide roads, wide pavements, several takeaways, restaurants, Co-Op etc.

Now time to plan our way into Inverness or straight into the Caledonian Canal!!

Friday 15th June – Lossiemouth

Looking at the weather, decision made to stay in Lossiemouth until Sunday. A nice walk around the town, Steve bought venison sausages from the butcher and we spent the afternoon reading and chilling!

Lossiemouth
Lossiemouth

Saturday 16th June Lossiemouth (Steve’s original plan was to be in Belfast by now!! Oops)

Caught bus into Elgin – Scotland’s smallest city. Quite a pretty place, had a look in a posh whisky shop – the most expensive bottle we saw was £13,100.00 – crazy!! Bought a cover for my iPad – Steve happy now as it means the box can be binned! Made cannelloni for tea (Steve used the venison sausage meat for his, I had onion, pepper and carrot in mine) and settled down to listen to the rugby. However as South Africa score their first try Steve calls me up to help a boat.

A Dutch couple on a beautifully coloured yacht (greeny/blue) Prinsehof (must have been 50-55ft) were trying to berth. Steve suggested they raft next to us – it had bow thrusters but the skipper was having all sorts of problems (the wind wasn’t helping matters!) Steve, as so often happens, took charge (or at least tried to) but language was a definite barrier! After a lot of trying and Steve nearly going in the water as he tried to pull them to us, we finally got them in.

Then the Germans (Carigo – they’ve caught us up again) suggested if we moved the yacht behind us, Crusoe II up a cleat, they could then move and Prinsehof could berth alongside the pontoon – making it easier for everyone! Moving Crusoe II was no problem and neither was Carigo, but the Dutchman didn’t really understand either Steve or the Germans. It was quite interesting to watch the interactions! We got their stern line on and Steve and one of the Germans tried to the get the Dutch to move forward so it would bring his nose round – he either didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand – to much shrugging from Steve and the German (proving body language is the eternal language)!! Eventually though they were secured! Got back to hear the second half of the rugby – if only we’d listened to the first half – England might have won!

Steve thoroughly enjoyed his venison cannelloni and my veggie version was good – suitable as a boat staple! Spent the evening reading and watching Czech Rep v Poland Euro football match.

Sunday 17th June – Father’s Day Lossiemouth – Caledonian Canal

Left Lossiemouth at 6.10am – nicely off the berth, just a couple of prods to Crusoe II to make sure we wouldn’t hit!

Still windy but seas looked flatter. Took Stugeron last night and topped up this morning. Felt pretty good. Saw a seal almost as soon as we left Lossiemouth – hopefully a good sign that we might see some sealife on this leg. Seas were flatter and got flatter the closer we got to Inverness. I was able to look out for buoys etc. Saw a couple of dolphins, but couldn’t see (for absolutely ages) the green marker for Meikle Mee – we were less than a nm from it when Steve eventually spotted it! The Kessock Bridge loomed in the distance. The bridge looked decidedly low and our mast exceptionally tall! Held my breath as we passed under! Steve saw a dolphin off the port side just as we passed under.

Kessock Road Bridge
Kessock Road Bridge

A call to Clachnaharry Sea Lock, we had to wait for about 20 minutes as a yacht was coming out – it was Dancer – our neighbour all that time ago at Eyemouth! We made it into the lock, managed to get my rope up on the second attempt. They let you in, raise you up and then make you pay before letting you out! We will be in someone’s holiday photos – they were watching us going through. Managed to get her out ok, but her nose didn’t want to leave the lock wall but two of the lock keepers pushed us off and away we went. A couple of hundred yards and a swing bridge followed by another lock – swingbridge and lock both open so straight in. Yet again I cocked up with my first throw, but managed with my second.

Start of the Caledonian Canal
Start of the Caledonian Canal

Decided to spend the night at Sea Port Marina and wait for the swingbridge and locks at 9.20 tomorrow morning (first opening of the day), we need fuel before we leave. Finding a pontoon – Theresa cocked up again – managed to get the rope over the cleat but have no idea what I did but didn’t manage to keep rope round cleat? I am so crap at this – Steve jumped off and managed to sort out my mess. So frustrated with myself – started crying – what an idiot. I suppose I just feel like I am letting Steve down, he says I’m not and mistakes are the best way to learn. He has suggested that instead of standing right at the front I should stand nearer to the stanchions – giving me more room to ‘swing’ my throwing arm! Went and had a shower – worst showers so far, clean but you have to keep the button depressed and the floor slopes but not towards the drain! Never mind it was lovely and hot! Back to the boat for cider and some crackers and cheese – listening to the radio and the debacle at Queens – Nalbandian kicking the hoarding at one of the line judges! Steve now dozed off – my turn next!!

Oh, by the way – End of Chart 2.

Monday 18th June – Caledonian Canal

Have decided that yesterday must have been my “mid-cycle emotional day” known in our household as “egg release day” – although it has come at the wrong time in my cycle!!! Steve says it is because I am menopausal, I tell him I’m not as I have a letter from the hospital saying I am pre-menopausal – he made some comment along the lines of “well you might have been when you were at the hospital but you won’t be forever!”

Good start to the day, got off the berth with no hitches, went and filled up with diesel – no hitches, moored up to wait for swingbridge – no hitches. HOORAY today is a good day! Weather quite nice and warm with occasional showers. The swingbridge opens into the first of four locks, I can’t remember but I am pretty certain that I got my rope up first time at this one! Four to go through – no problems at all – all of yesterday’s doubts/concerns slipping away – not that I was getting complacent, just not worried if I cocked up!

Tried calling Tomnahurich swingbridge but no reply – a couple of yachts coming towards us so he has probably seen us and is waiting (let’s hope so!) As we approach we see him, see the barriers come down, gate opens and through we go! Power cables to pass under, they are 35m above the water line – plenty of room!

Next is Dochgarroch, another lock, tried calling them on the radio, again no reply – but yacht in lock coming our way – El Toro – very nice yacht but it looks like they might have scratched it as they moor up to inspect it.

We get in to the lock, I ask the lock keeper if he wants stern line first – all the others have asked for it – he said he didn’t mind so I threw mine at him! Last lock before Loch Ness, a few markers to follow through Loch Dochfour first though – easy peasy!

Loch Ness looks fabulous, dramatic scenery but very samey – I’m sorry to say we got bored quite quickly! To the point where Steve pipes up “Ooh, I heard a beep, what’s that?” expecting something on the instruments/engine – to which I reply “It was your watch”. He was very disappointed. The water on Loch Ness was so flat I was able to go below and make Steve a cup of coffee and a bit later on sandwiches for lunch! Steve, bored again decides to do some fishing – for all of about 10 minutes – the speed of the boat was no good apparently! No wind to speak of so no point trying to sail. We even got excited when a pleasure cruiser passed us and his wash gave us a couple of waves! The boom bounced and sprayed Steve with last night’s rain! Glad he was steering!!

Arrived at Fort Augustus – again no reply on the radio so we followed the advice to moor up and seek lock keeper. We had passed 2 yachts undersail and one came in just behind us – Einder from Holland. Steve said he would let the lock keeper know there were two yachts wanting to go through. He climbed the lock flight, found the keeper and returned saying we could expect to go through in about 1 and a half hours. By this time the other yacht, Scardyburg, came alongside and Steve offered him to raft against us. What an absolute prat that man was. No manners or idea when it came to boat etiquette. There we were sitting in the cockpit and he comes waltzing through without as much as an “excuse me” or “do you mind”. (It is standard practice, when rafted, to walk around the front of a yacht especially if there are people in the cockpit). He set off to see the lock keeper and a few minutes later one of the lock keepers came along and said “20 minutes”. Quite a difference from an hour and a half! The lock keeper also said that we should move closer to the swingbridge. Steve asked if there would be room – the lock keeper said as long as we stay close to the moored boats and he wasn’t expecting any traffic anyway. Scardyburg set off – Steve decided not to as we would be able to get there quickly enough – we were to go starboard to at the rear. Next thing over the radio comes, “Scardyburg, Scardyburg, the canal cruiser, Royal Scot is leaving, please get right in”. Steve’s decision was vindicated; Royal Scot was quite a large cruiser. (And a motorsailer came out of the lock!!) Started to wonder if that lock keeper was a fake!!

First lock, they took our lines but for all subsequent I had to walk the front line up to the next – no major problems, but an awful lot of people watching. We are going to be in a lot of people’s holiday photos! Scardyburg had all sorts of problems in the lock, he had two lock keepers helping him but his rear end kept swinging out!

Decided we didn’t want to moor anywhere near Scardyburg but thankfully he carried on and we decided to spend the night at Fort Augustus. We decided to raft next to a cruiser crewed by two Swiss couples – our first attempt failed as the wind took us and tried to spin us – we did make slight contact with our anchor on another cruiser – this one had been hired by Mark from Middlesbrough and his dad!! Who’d have thought it! Anyway no visible damage – so no problem. The Swiss were booked for the 8 o’clock lock so we knew it would be an early start.

Fort Augustus
Fort Augustus looking toward Loch Ness

Went for a wander to find somewhere to eat, one pub had nothing that I would eat, another was a “prettied up” kebab house, another pub had food we’d eat but as some people came out the smell of fish coming from it was awful – that left the chippy!! Fish, chips & mushy peas for Steve, I had fishcake for a change! On quite a high from a successful day!

Tuesday 19th June Fort Augustus to Fort William (Corpach)

6am wake up again, shower to try and wake me up!

Left Fort Augustus just before 8am, first lock and our first lady lock keeper – Linda Moore (her name was on a board!!) Canal seemed a bit more interesting this morning. I spotted some animals through the trees just as Steve said “we haven’t seen any deer yet”. Well, what about those there! Great photo opportunity but camera down below again.

Whilst travelling along a swan came alongside, he then flew just above the water level alongside us and landed. He did this loads of times – it was so unusual to see, it was like he was accompanying us. Steve wondered if he was the swan that he had fed last night at Fort Augustus looking for more food! The sound of his wings whilst he was flying alongside and then swooshing to a landing was incredible. The second lock keeper was a youngish (and sounded English) man. He was grumpy and seemed to complain when he let my line free “Thought you had a loop on so you could take it off”. Apart from the fact that there was no way I could have reached it – grumpy git!!

Next was a swingbridge and we were into Loch Oich, the highest point above sea level we would get. Rain on and off so Steve was wearing shorts under his oilies! We locked out of Loch Oich into Loch Lochy in the company of a Beneteau, Lady Q (since worked out that she was a charter yacht but the owners were on board). At the end of Loch Lochy was a loch and swingbridge but it was lunchtime so we had to moor up. We ended up rafting against Lady Q – I don’t think they were too pleased. Cuppa soup and sandwich for lunch, then the call on the radio, the loch was ready – a cruiser in first, us behind it with Lady Q next to us. Through Loch Lochy in a slow convoy – boring again!! At Banavie the cruiser peeled off as they cannot go through Neptune’s staircase – EIGHT LOCKS DOWN, here we go!!

The lock keepers here were really helpful and friendly, not too many dropped ropes – absolutely loads of people taking photos! The whole procedure was relatively painless and whilst we were waiting in one of the locks a steam train went by! A sudden downburst of almost tropical-like rain whilst waiting in the lock, getting wetter and wetter – although we were lucky – we had our waterproofs on, some of the holiday makers watching didn’t!

Steam train passing lock
Steam train passing lock

The boss lock keeper came along and asked us if we would mind staying in Corpach basin as the Three Peaks Yacht Race was taking place and if we spent the night at Corpach he would get us out first thing in the morning – apparently first thing is about 8am! Yet another early morning! Steve said that was fine, no problem and the lock boss called Steve the Jolly Sassenach (he himself came from Newcastle!).

Only Corpach double lock to get through and we have completed the Caledonian Canal – just the final sea lock to go through. At the double lock I again managed to get my line up to the lock keeper first – this caused Steve all sorts of problems, I should have felt guilty but I was alright!!!

Absolutely beautiful evening – sun, mountains with snow on the tops in the distance. We can’t make up our minds as to whether we can see Ben Nevis from here or not! (Local lady confirmed our suspicions!).

Is that Ben Nevis?
Is that Ben Nevis?

Oh, forgot to mention once we got through the double lock, we were told to go against the wall starboard to (my favourite at the moment!). I took a leap of faith and actually jumped/large stepped off the boat onto the quayside!! Really, really successful day today! Back to salt water tomorrow!

Wednesday 20th June

Early morning start again, Steve got me up at 6, shower and ready for the off by 7.35am!!! We had been told they were going to let one yacht in and then let us out, however, the gates start to open and we were called by the lock boss – thanking us for our patience (?!). Same lock keeper as last night so he commented on Steve’s steering (which was a marked improvement from the final lock yesterday). One of the lock gate mechanisms is leaking hydraulic fluid at the moment so they try not to use the leaky one – which meant that it took a long time to open the gates. Eventually ready after a chat about friendly people and their final words of advice were “Turn Left”! Loch Linnhe was very beautiful, plenty to look at, markers to follow, charts to read – back to proper boating! Even saw porpoise/dolphin quite close and for a few minutes! Got buzzed by the RAF.

How calm is that water?
How calm is that water?

Good day again and happily sailing along and Steve decides that if we want to go to Oban, we need to “go over there now!” Got the sail down and headed in. Oban Marina is nice, long pontoons, free water taxi to Oban itself as the marina is actually on the island of Kerrera. We had a wander around the town, caught the taxi back sat and enjoyed the afternoon sun then we had a passage planning session. Ideal destination is Port Ellen but that’s about 8 hours away – couple of possibles if weather/Theresa not good! Does mean another early start – best time to leave is 8am, so awake at 6am to take my pills!

Dramatic skies
Dramatic skies

Absolutely brilliant day! But I thought this was supposed to be a holiday – when’s my next lie-in!

Thursday 21st June Oban – Port Ellen, Islay

Woke at 6 to take my pills (well, to be honest (!!!!) Steve woke me). Maple syrup cereal bar, shower and ready for the off. Didn’t have a good night’s sleep as lots of slapping water and creaky pontoons!

Left Oban Marina at 8am, overcast so oilies on. Water flat to start with, bit of navigation but uneventful – feeling good!

The Sound of Luing was amazing, bits of completely flat water, wavy areas and little whirlpools. The wind picked up and we were doing 12 and a half knots, had the genoa up but still had the engine on. It was amazing how quickly things were disappearing behind us! Almost had an issue, as chart showed two lights but we could only see one, so Steve was deciding to steer to one side of the light but the GPS said we were going to go straight over the rock! So discretion being the better part of valour we changed course and realised that the second light marked on the chart was actually the lighthouse we had been trying to identify! Had a short nap (20 minutes to half an hour) but this was tiredness related, not seasick! Steve asked if I wanted to go into Craobh but we had only been going for 2 hours so I said I was fine to carry on, so Port Ellen here we come!

Weather got rainy but still everything ok. Got strange waves and winds when passing gaps between islands – but no issues. Turned for Port Ellen (this is after 7 hours – can you believe it!) and the seas picked up, the rain came again and so did the wind. We got the genoa in under load and Steve managed to break two of the clips attaching the rope to the boat! Again, near navigational indiscretion as Steve wasn’t sure which side of a large rock to go! Right decision made though – I have an excellent skipper! Steve promised that the seas would quieten down in Kilnaughton Bay and they did so I did some steering whilst Steve put fenders out, quite nerve-wracking at times!! We decided to go next to a Beneteau, Ellen Vannin, Steve asked if I thought there would be enough space – I said “I think so”. But the guy on the boat came out and insisted we were too wide and to go round the other side of the pontoons. Because of the wind and the space available (not all the area is dredged) we aborted that attempt and went back to the first side – only problem was the only available pontoon was a short one (approx. 8m). Two men helped with the lines and we landed!! Only problem being that the fender step is over the water and not the pontoon – problem solved Steve moved the fender step for me!! At least I can get off now!

Port Ellen is the main town on Islay, the home to 8 distilleries, although they are very peaty whiskies. Will probably give at least one a go as the weather looks like we’ll be here for a couple of days.

Saw a strange looking seabird – Steve took a photo but we can’t really tell what it is – my best guess is a baby cormorant! Had a good dinner – barbecue chicken and noodles. Had a couple of drinks and didn’t go to bed until 10.30!!

Oh, forgot to say, the man we are next to, Ian from Essex on Pure Joy is sailing clockwise round the UK, he has been gone for 62 days so far and had apparently only sailed 17 of them! He is very chatty, his wife won’t go sailing so I think he looks for someone to talk to whenever he can.

The marina isn’t really a proper “posh” marina but it is great, ideal for us. We have shore power and the overnight charge is £14, someone comes around in the evening to collect the fees. If you want a shower you go to the B&B and use them there – but this is an ideal opportunity to try out our shower!

Friday 22nd June (longest day I think)

Got up at about 7.30 – please don’t say I’ll change and become a Tigger like Steve!! Lol! Showered on the boat, really good – the shower discharge pump didn’t want to work so Steve gently encouraged it with a few taps from his tapping stick! Dehumidifier working well, boat doesn’t feel damp and neither do our clothes.

Steve decided to put extra lines on as the wind is expected to pick up but we are actually protected a bit by a building. As it was raining he did that by himself, he then filled up with fresh water and fixed the bits he broke yesterday! We are having cannelloni for tea again so Steve went to the shop (dressed in full oilies!) for tomato sauce, more Pepsi Max and wine. He also brought back raspberries and nice bread too! I didn’t get off the boat at all today – it rained constantly!

Saturday 23rd June

Storm forecast so we are staying put!

No rain today – decided to go for a walk. Laphroaig distillery just up the road, so we set off. It must have been at least a mile / mile and a half, walked into the visitor centre to be greeted (well perhaps that is not the right word) by two miserable, sour-faced staff members. Steve asked if they were doing any tours and they replied yes at one o’clock. Steve asked if they had a café – no, Ardbeg does. Steve asks where’s Ardbeg – about three miles that way with a point of the finger. It was like pulling teeth trying to get any information out of them – such helpful people I am sure Laphroaig must be so proud of them. We, for sure, would not be returning at 1 o’clock for the tour.

Friendliest distillery we found on Islay
Friendliest distillery we found on Islay

Set off again, found the next distillery – Lagavulin. Went in and two very pleasant smiling girls greeted us, yes they did have a tour but it wouldn’t be until 2.30, sorry no café but there is one at Ardbeg which would take about 10-15 minutes to walk to and hopefully you’ll come back for the tour. What a complete opposite reaction to Laphroaig. Yes we would definitely come back for their tour! Off again to Ardbeg – very nice café – Steve had haggis and chutney baked potato. I had cheesy bean baked potato. Back to Lagavulin – the tour cost £6 per person. The girl was very informative, knew what she was talking about, we had a taste of the “beer” – just after the first fermentation. At the end of the tour we were given a small (but not that small) taster – not bad at all, nowhere near a peat bog! And we were also given a taster glass each to take away – and yes it was all included in the £6! Amazing!! Caught the bus back and had crackers and cheese for tea as we couldn’t be bother to cook and we had had a “cooked” lunch!

Sunday 24th June

Woken at 6am, took pills! No rain, got off berth no problem. Steve’s mate, Ian, spoke just before we left – he has now arranged to go through the Forth and Clyde Canal – it will take some time off his circumnavigation – although he did say it didn’t seem so bad when the sun was shining!

Put the genoa out and motor-sailed. Very little wind. Saw a seal – my comment was “oh, it’s only a seal” then I felt guilty because they are lovely!!

Lots of coastguard / lifeboat radio traffic. Even one call from the coastguard to “all vessels in the vicinity of Groomsport Bay” (we weren’t).

As close as I ever want to get
As close as I ever want to get

Weather stayed nice all day and did even get quite hot – de-robing and re-robing! Steve made us both a sandwich (and it stayed down!)

Steve called up Bangor Marina, it is a Quays Marina so will be free!! He gave us very detailed instructions as to where he wanted us to berth but it was actually a lot more straightforward than he had made it sound! I took over at the helm (well the autohelm was on but I was there in case I had to take over!). Steve started putting fenders out. One heart-wrenching, stomach-churning moment when Steve nearly launched himself over the side!! What an idiot – I was absolutely terrified!! He was lucky, all he got was a large bruise!

Nice bruise
Nice bruise

Another yacht looked like they were heading in undersail – this was only because their engine had overheated. Steve offered assistance but they managed. We made our way to E Pontoon and had a pick of any of the empty fingers between 2 and 23. We chose two as it was so easy to swing round into it. I used my loop to catch the first cleat – everything perfect! What a difference a week makes! Bangor Marina is really big and the town looks nice, it’s even got ride-on swans!! I wonder if Steve will want a go on them! Possibly staying here tomorrow as we technically made up a day – as we motor-sailed for 9 hours!! I need to replenish my Stugeron stocks – apart from two short naps I was awake the whole time! Steve’s singing today was mainly Mull of Kintyre, Irish songs – Ireland’s Call, Molly Malone, Fields of Athenry and whistling World In Union!! It is amazing we are still friends!!

Monday 25th June

Day in Bangor. Wandered around the town, found Boots so got my pills. Did a bit of shopping, stopped for a bite to eat – Steve had a bacon sandwich with large salad garnish, I had toasted bagel with peanut butter (smooth). We then spotted a “shiny shop” (or as it is more commonly known – a chandlery!). We came out of there financially poorer – 2 jerry cans, some bulkhead gland thing for my Navtex antenna and two really nice kapok cushions in traditional Monaghan blue and white stripe!! Back to the boat to try out the cushions! Weather not very warm but sat out for a while and the cushions worked!! The chandler man said he orders mainly from Holland as they are cheaper and quicker than UK wholesalers!

We had decided that we might try to get to Milford Haven in one trip so Steve went to the supermarket to get pork pies / cheese and onion rolls etc.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing / reading. Had lovely spaghetti and tomatoes for tea.

Tuesday 26th June

Up at 6 for shower, took pills at 6.45ish along with two cereal bars. Left the pontoon, no hitches and made our way to the fuel berth. Filled up the jerry cans and the fuel tank. Cheaper fuel here than the Caledonian Canal. Left at 8.30am, skies a bit overcast. Decided to go outside Copeman’s Island. Seas were decidedly strange – yet another headland!

Fog started descending, crashing through waves again – didn’t feel seasick as such – just not quite right! Hit one wave and “BANG”, the boom swung, a knot had given up, I told Steve (he hadn’t noticed! Maybe I do have my uses after all!!) He tied it up and lashed it to a cleat and said that when the sea state improved he would sort it. Thankfully neither of us was stood in its way when it went!

I spent a lot of time asleep again. I did look out for things in the fog so Steve could fix the ropey thing!

By this time Steve had decided that we would head for a port – Ardglass as there was no way we would be able to cross the Irish Sea in the fog. What a hidden gem Ardglass is – they responded on the radio and everything!

(Forgot to say yesterday that I was really disappointed with the Irish people – nowhere near as friendly as North East English or Scottish people – today though the lad in the marina restored my faith – he was great).

Ardglass Marina
Ardglass Marina

Pontoon was really easy to get to and after last time I said I would put the fenders out. A man on the next boat (Bimba) came to take our lines, I asked him to put the loop on but he didn’t – he held on which then caused us all sorts of problems. It is great when people offer to help but for some reason they can’t always understand the telepathic conversations Steve and I have! We now know to always get the middle on first, Steve can then get off and secure the rear and we don’t go anywhere. However today that didn’t happen and we were spread across the double width of the pontoon! Never mind we were in!

Saw a heron on the sea wall and an oystercatcher smashing a shell – oyster maybe! (Think it was a limpet really!)

Ardglass (Phennick Cove) Marina is lovely – really picturesque, great shaped building – Steve so impressed he wants to buy the place!

Doesn’t look like we’ll make Portishead by Sunday – weather not looking too good for the next few days – contingency planning – maybe leave the boat in Howth and fly back or Steve takes an extra couple of days leave.

Had a bit of a nose around the marina building. Looks like it all started in 1999ish with European funding but it does now feel unloved and could really be made fantastic. Steve won’t shut up asking if we should buy it! He keeps saying “You know there are places you go and you don’t ever want to leave ….”

Evening has turned out lovely and he is even more enamoured with the place. He reckons that the heron (when we got here) was a sign! Especially as it was only due to the bad weather that we came here anyway! It is now 10 to 10 and he has decided to try fishing again – any bets we’ll be in bed by 10!! He gets bored so easily!! I was wrong, he is just giving up now and it is 10 past 10!! 20 minutes – must be a record there somewhere!!

Ardglass Marina at night
Ardglass Marina at night

NEWSFLASH – he wasn’t giving up, just changing bait! He has managed to catch: seaweed, dinghy, his own rod and his jumper!! No fish yet, they seem to be able to tell how far he can cast and keep just that little bit further away – clever fish!!

Wednesday 27th June

Spent day in Ardglass, decided what to do, trying to get weather forecast but phone signal very poor. Steve has decided that our best option would be to head for Conwy, North Wales (Quays Marina) so we could leave the boat there.

Charts, tide tables and tidal stream charts out – best time to leave 11pm!?! Forecasts not great but looks like this was our one and only chance to make it back to the right side of the Irish Sea. Because of our intended departure time we decided to have our cooked meal at lunchtime. Fresh chicken Kiev from the local butcher with noodles – very good although the garlic gave me some indigestion! Afternoon kip time in front of some tennis. Steve seems a bit distant – I think he is busy weighing up all the options.

After about 5pm the fog started to roll in – so no further doubts. Decision made, we would not be heading to Conwy at 11pm, we would wait until the morning and return to Bangor and leave her there. Went to bed, I really struggled to go to sleep – thinking that we weren’t going to achieve our original aim, how we were going to get back into Bangor, loads of stupid thoughts playing through my mind! Eventually I must have fallen asleep as I can remember stirring and becoming aware that Steve was checking his watch (when I spoke to him afterwards he had no idea he had done it!!)

Thursday 28th June

5am up and pills taken, everything ready for the off. Got off our berth no problem, grey and raining but sea not too bad. Felt really tired and only one hour from taking my pills. Fell asleep and slept for quite some time – although I was awake for the last two hours. The sea was a bit rolly! (That makes a change). I did steering towards the marina and Steve put out the fenders – no near accidents this time! Our space from before was free so went for it again. One of the Germans from Lille Bee came to help so I missed the cleat! He put it on for me and we got in – no problem!!

Steve secured her but didn’t put the springs on as he wasn’t sure that they’d let us leave her here and might want us to move her once they knew we wanted to leave her there for an extended period of time. He went off to the marina office to find out and I had an anxious wait – worrying we would have to come off and go back on again!! Well, I saw him come back onto the pontoons (we were some way away but I had a rough idea of how long he would be). That time came and went – no signs of Stevie! Decided that he must have found someone to talk to! More time passed and I’m sure I could hear his whistling in the distance – perhaps he was checking out the berth we were going to have to move to?

Eventually he appears with a bright and breezy “do you want the good news or the bad news”, I said, “oh, just tell me! The good news was – it was free, the bad news was we had to stay on E2!! So no bad news at all – I could take my wet clothes off and start getting settled! He had, in fact, found a couple to chat to. They were in their 80’s with a motor boat. They had travelled from Peel to somewhere on the Irish coast (you know Steve can never remember names!) to be greeted by a local fisherman with the words “That must be a f****** good boat, cos we wouldn’t go out in this weather”. (Steve was quite shocked that the old man had sworn like that!) Another couple on a Nicholson 45 who had been sailing 30+ years did the same trip as the old couple and apparently the first thing they did on arrival was pack their bags and put the boat up for sale!! So maybe the weather really has been bad!

Afternoon spent catching up on the washing, Steve went to Asda for wine only – we have quite a bit of perishable food left – Feast Day tomorrow!!!

We booked our flights so our journey is done for the time being! Time to start planning Bangor to Portishead, Steve would like 2 weeks of NE’s 3-4 if someone’s listening – PLEASE!!!

Sean has text to say that if dates are suitable he might like to come along – I have promised to share my pills but have also recommended that he reads this first!!

TUESDAY 7TH AUGUST

Flew from Birmingham to George Best on my own! Got the courtesy bus to the train and the train back to Bangor and finally I am home – ABOARD PANDORA’S LEGEND!!

Had a few days to clean and tidy the boat and do some washing. Weather was really hot so didn’t get too much cleaning done – sun and I don’t mix well.

Pandora's Legend in Bangor
Pandora’s Legend in Bangor

Saturday 11th August

Steve arrived on the 7am flight – although it had been delayed. The beautiful weather I have been enjoying has decided to up and leave! Our original plan was to leave at 1am on Sunday but the weather has scuppered those plans. Steve pumped up the dinghy and decided to create his own Olympics inspired sport – overweight man in a dinghy – Alex asked if he was a dnf or a grw (got really wet!) I joked that he came second in a one man race.

Monday 13th August

Still not moving but looking at the forecasts if we leave at 3am tomorrow we’ll be on our way. Pills before bed and just top-up before we leave!

Tuesday 14th August

Awake at 2am, last minute preparations undertaken. We left the marina berth at 3.30am. No problems, quite warm and good visibility. The lighthouse on Copeman Island looked amazing – can’t say I’ve ever seen a complete ‘revolving light’ one before!

The gap between the main land and Copeman Island was quite confused – we hit a couple of big waves and my thought was “oh no, not Peterhead again.” Fortunately it wasn’t that bad – not that I know much about it. I slept, then I slept some more and then a bit more. We hit more waves. We had decided that depending on how we were feeling that we might continue to Howth – however the spin cycle was also having a bit of an effect on Steve so we stuck to our original plan and headed into Ardglass. Steve motored gently in the fishing harbour so I could put the fenders and lines out and headed in – the marina office responded on the radio asking our length and eta and directed us that pontoons were available straight in.

Back again
Back again

As we were approaching a lady came to help – I cautiously passed her the loop (remembering my last experience here) and she asked if we wanted it on the middle cleat but I said no the end one – she obliged and we were in! It was quite funny as her husband/partner came along as well saying “oh you’ve got about 6ft” (which seemed to be his stock comment as we heard him say it to another yacht that came in!) and before we were fully tied up they were both like flies around the proverbial asking what it was like out there and then another couple came along and asked about the weather and conditions out there – it was like we were the first people they had seen for weeks!

Time for a shower – nothing changed there apart from Flash Liquid in the shower trays!

Hey, the sun has come out this afternoon –beautiful and warm except the wind is a bit cold. However the forecast is not good – we’ve paid for two nights and may have to stay an extra one!

Had a couple of breakages this trip – the front cupboard / drawer unit under the front bed and the anchor had bounced about a bit and chipped some of the gelcoat – oh well it will give us something to do!

Forgot to say – once it was daylight Steve asked me to go down and turn off the lights. I couldn’t manage to do it and after some time he decided he would do it. So he set the autopilot and went below. I was sitting near the spray hood, clipped on away from the steering wheel. The next thing I knew was the boat veering off course so jumped up as best I could and grabbed the wheel with Steve appearing in the hatch saying “what’s going on?” My reply was “it looks like the autopilot failed, I’ve got the wheel but I don’t know which way is the right way to steer!” So, my hero (lol) came back up and pointed us in the right direction and admitted it had been his fault – he may have switched it off whilst doing the lights – knowing that he had told himself “Don’t turn that one off”! But of course it was all my fault anyway because if I had gone down and done it when he’d asked me……………………..

Wednesday 15th August

Not going anywhere today. Strong winds forecast. I had never been sea sick in a marina before! I spent a lot of the day lying down with my eyes closed. Occasionally feeling a bit better but not for long! Steve managed to fix the front cupboard with minimal input from me.

Went to bed early – Steve said he’d check the fenders first so as he went out I got into bed – what I thought would be a couple of minutes seemed to turn into hours! So much so that I almost got dressed again to go and look for him – but then I thought I didn’t want to be the one who found him if he’d fallen in – among the Lions Mane Jellyfish. Eventually he appeared but was he ever cold!

Thursday 16th August

Still not going anywhere. Weather quite dry/bright/sunny so we decided to go for a walk. We ended up in Killough – very pretty bay, quite a few pubs and a small supermarket.

What a view
What a view

Bought some bread/butter etc having decided to catch the bus back. We had seen two on the walk there and decided that they must run on the hour. Got to the bus stop and checked the timetable on my phone – next bus over an hour away (they did run one an hour for part of the day then there was a two hour gap – lol). We thought we’d walk to the next pub, have a drink and then catch the bus – PUB WAS SHUT! (Anne Boal Inn) so we thought we may as well walk back hoping that the butter wouldn’t melt! We made it back to Ardglass before the bus! Steve went to the garage and discovered a large Spar!! So wanted to know why I had made him carry the shopping all the way from Killough! Spent the afternoon reading and listening to cricket (Alice Cooper meets Aggers!!) Filled up with water in readiness for the off on Friday. Early to bed again.

Friday 17th August

Weather not promising again so we’ll wait til tomorrow to leave. Went to the Spar and did some shopping – managed to buy a packet of Tayto Wuster Sauce crisps! Bought a fuel funnel to help fill the diesel from the cans and went back to the boat to use it! Didn’t do much else. An old guy went out to find his pots (Miss Olivia) and when he returned he asked if we wanted some crab – Steve went off with the intention of saying “Thanks but no thanks” only to return with his entire catch – several crabs and a lobster! Apparently he doesn’t eat it just likes to catch them! Steve then spent some time cooking and prepping them – whilst removing the claw meat he kept having tasters!! I wasn’t feeling hungry for dinner so he bagged up the crab meat and lobster and we stuck it in the fridge.

Fateful meal
Fateful meal

Once in bed Steve had a sudden urge and let’s just say that he is allergic to crab as well as oysters. There can’t be much crab in crab sticks as he can eat them! After a disturbed night we got up at 5 to prepare to leave at 7.

Saturday 18th August (11 ½ hours)

Showered and pills taken – crab and lobster (in case of any cross-contamination) defridged and binned. We left the berth at about 7.15. I don’t think Steve felt right but he was adamant that we would leave, the weather was ok to make the trip. Plenty of seals and my heron to see us off.

I didn’t feel too good for the start of the trip and then Steve spotted dolphins. We even had three or four swimming alongside us and if it hadn’t been for our oilies we’d have looked like those adverts for Scotland – blue skies the lot! The water was an amazing colour. Then in the distance a black colour in the water – our first minke whale sighting! Wow, it looked so majestic, so slow in its rise and fall compared with the dolphins. We had at least 3 sightings – whether it was the same one or not I don’t know. The second half of the trip I spent looking out for them and dolphins along with the pot markers of course.

We called up Howth Marina and they had space for us. However it was towards the bottom end of Pontoon A – no problem getting in and the yacht next to us was quite small. The marina is a yacht club marina and they were hosting an RS fleet race weekend so it was incredibly busy but I can honestly say it was the most unwelcoming place I have ever been. Nobody would make eye contact – if they did look our way they just glared at us! The guy in the marina office was friendly though. We went and had a drink in the bar – a half of Guinness between us and a Bulmers each – but it was weird sitting there with people all around not acknowledging you in anyway so we went back to the boat and finished our drinks there and had a bowl of noodles for tea. Our original plan had been to stay maybe two nights there but one was more than enough!

Sunday 19th August Howth – Arklow (37nm 7 ¼ hours)

Best time to leave 1pm. This meant waiting around for the morning – did some washing. Steve bought more diesel in the cans, washed the boat down, spilt his coffee and washed the boat down again!

It was quite a tight space we were in as the yacht club tenders berthed behind us. I asked Steve if it would be better for the small yacht, Brandy Cove, to leave first he agreed. Steve spoke to the skipper and we discovered we would be leaving about the same time and he thought it would best for us to leave first! By this time a yacht had come to the fuel berth also behind us so we wouldn’t be going anywhere fast! The skipper of Brandy Cove had damaged his leg so some friends were helping him take the yacht back and the men decided it would be best to pull us back, clear the pontoon finger and tie up alongside the fuel berth (once vacated). This involved long lines, one guy in a yacht club tender, one on the fuel berth, Steve on the helm and me on the pontoon with the bow. I had to push the nose out and walk the boat back, we cleared the pontoon but the next yacht had its anchor out as ours is and we were very close to touching as one of the blokes loosened the line thinking we were clear – the lady from Brandy Cove jumped on the other yacht and pushed the anchor clear – hooray we were round! They then turned Brandy Cove around in the pontoon space and were away. We finished getting ready and suddenly people seemed happy to speak – they were obviously pleased we were leaving!

We saw some seals when leaving Howth, I felt pretty good, waves not too bad but not as hot and sunny as yesterday – had to put an extra layer on! Stayed awake for the best part of the trip – there were a couple of places where the waves couldn’t decide which way they wanted to go! We had the tide with us a lot of the way. Saw a pair of dolphins that’s all, no more whales! Headed into Arklow, tried calling the marina but they were shut – Brandy Cove had told us to take to the pontoon on the river and not to go into the marina as it gets full of rubbish. No pontoon berths free but a friendly Swede pops his head out and Steve asks if he minds us rafting, he said that wasn’t a problem but he wasn’t sure if he should be where he was – nobody moved us on! He was leaving at 8am Monday to go to Dublin so we would need to be up and get out of his way! Chicken Kiev and noodles for tea – absolutely delicious.

Oh, forgot to say, when putting the fenders away leaving Howth I managed to break the flagpole – Steve is devastated as now as well as having a smaller ensign than most he now has a smaller flagpole too! At least he’s got a very tall mast!!

Sunset over Arklow
Sunset over Arklow

Monday 20th August

Tee up at 6.30?!?!? What is going on!

A yacht left one of the marina pontoon spaces so we thought we may as well take it but the next yacht along, Sophren from Cherbourg looked like they were preparing to leave so Steve (in his best French) asked and we decided we would move out of the way for the French (2 adults, 2 kids, 2 cats!!) and the Swedes and would then have more space to play with once they’d gone. However a fly in the ointment – Helfion came in (a small yacht) and took the space behind the French – still enough space for us but not as easy to get in. Speaking to Helfion’s skipper’s wife, once she arrived later by ferry due to a broken wrist, he had crossed from Milford Haven on his own overnight. No wonder he didn’t make any efforts to be sociable when he arrived!

The French and Swede both left at exactly the same time, swinging round in perfect synchronicity! We headed to the pontoon and two men were chatting so they took our ropes and we were in. One of the guys works for the marina and asked how long we were staying – we said two nights and showed him where we had spent last night, “Oh, “ he said, “that’s private we don’t charge for that, the owners are a company making wind turbines if they’re around they send you on your way but at the weekend no-one’s around” (so we had a freeby).

Brandy Cove was right about the marina basin, debris everywhere – however the shower/toilets were immaculately clean and fresh (Ardglass take note!) We wandered in to town, stopped by the river for a coffee and coke break, found Aldi but it didn’t have everything we wanted. Steve was desperate to take the dinghy up the river – it looks absolutely beautiful so I eventually gave in and agreed to go. We set off and got to a bridge with lots of arches. We must have chosen one of the shallowest to go through as the propeller hit the bottom! Steve then tried to row us out – this involved some manoeuvring around as I was sitting in his preferred rowing position and I wasn’t going to row! We managed to hit the bridge and the oars kept hitting the bottom! I commented how shallow it was and that I could just get out and walk to the bank and the next thing Steve is out of the dinghy pulling me along! Once the water was above his knees I started the engine , he climbed back in and we took off again.

Shortly after a young girl (late teens/twenties) waved us down and I thought she was going to tell us we couldn’t go up the river – how wrong was I to be. A young man had gone missing Saturday night/Sunday morning and she asked if we wouldn’t mind keeping an eye out – of course we said we would but I know I didn’t want to be the one to sight a dead body. Not much to see along the river, some swans, a heron in flight and a couple of dragonflies oh and a horse fly that tried to have a bite of me! No body sighted either.

We returned to the yacht after a ride around the fishing dock and a closer look at the Tall Ships waiting to go to Dublin. Steve got his bike out and cycled off to Tesco – now we knew there was one (my iPhone does come in handy!) Once back we put the dinghy back on the back and he has now fixed the ensign to one of the backstays.

On the river trip I even did some tillering! I couldn’t quite get the hang of it and found on several occasions I was steering towards the bank I was looking at!

Also forgot yesterday when coming into Arklow, sun shining right into ours eyes I was worried (as normal) about Steve’s steering whilst I was putting the fenders out. He seemed to be heading for the fish dock wall so I told him to “concentrate on your steering” to which he replied “yes, no problem” and immediately turned his back on the wheel to grab another fender!! Talk about not listening to the wife!

Sat reading and relaxing and a yacht came in with four men on – they did a lot of “shouting and almost arguing” – turns out the guy steering had just bought the boat and the others were only doing what he told them – so they had no rear line on as he hadn’t told them to do it – one way to learn I suppose!!

Forgot to mention the lady from Helfion decided to do some sunbathing on the pontoon – Steve changed his seating position (not sure if it was to protect her modesty or his embarrassment).

Shortly after another yacht came in. As they were coming up the river they didn’t seem to be getting ready to moor – no fenders out, no lines on. Steve said if they couldn’t bother to help themselves he wouldn’t bother to help them! They were American. Shortly after they were successfully moored (the guys from earlier helped), their cats (2 big fluffy ones – one ginger, one tabby) appeared and got on board – the man followed and Steve chatted with him. To make conversation Steve asked what he used to do (as he was retired) and he almost raised his eyebrows as if to imply we wouldn’t understand his reply. Apparently he worked for the government for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission – I just burst out laughing and then they spent the next ten minutes or so discussing matters nuclear!

Tuesday 21st August

Staying in Arklow again today with the plan to leave tomorrow. We had a wander around the shopping centre – had a coffee and a brain freeze break and saw a guy who looked exactly like Matt Moran the Australian chef! I don’t think it was him though! We found a Dunnes store which had a large food section – almost supermarket size – got a few bits that we needed.

Spent the afternoon passage planning to cross the Irish Sea, we will need to leave at 7am.

Later a bit of activity as the search and rescue seemed to be searching for the young lad, quite a few people loitering around expecting something but it doesn’t look as though they have found anything.

Wednesday 22nd August

Up at 5, pills taken, going to be difficult getting off the berth. I asked Steve what he wanted me to do and he kept saying “If you just ……” I felt pretty useless but he admitted he was still trying to figure out how to do it! As it was it all worked well and we left the pontoon at about 7.15. Had a good first six hours – pills working and eating when hungry but seas were quite big, beautiful emerald green colour, rolling waves, sunny, quite windy. Started to feel tired so Steve suggested I have a sleep. When I woke up it was time to take my pill, foolishly I didn’t eat anything when I took it – something I would come to regret (big time). I sat towards the back of the boat facing forward and my eyes kept closing so semi-dozed it was lovely.

Steve had some genny out and it helped stabilise the boat a bit. He needed a wee so got his bucket and whilst he was sorting himself I turned and projectile vomited all over the genny ropes – I did apologise profusely! But that was only the start. I decided my best option was to assume my sea sick best position – on the loo, grabbing the tap. Fortunately – again – I had not got the camera out so Steve missed another opportunity! I must have sat there for at least 2 – 3 hours and ending up throwing up bloody/phlegmy type stuff – I thought I was going to die. The boat was rocking quite a bit and the toilet door (which I hadn’t closed) kept releasing from its clip and banging into my leg, my other leg was getting bruised from the door frame. I was launched off the loo seat several times and bruises seemed to be appearing there too. I managed to steel myself to get up but needed to put some clothes back on – didn’t manage so laid on the bed – only problem was with all the motion I had to grab the edge of the mattress to stop me from ending up in a heap at the top of the bed – more bruises! I stay there for at least 2-3 hours (it seemed like days) and did start to worry as I couldn’t hear Steve. What if he’d fallen overboard (I did know he was clipped on)? All I could do was think that eventually we would hit something and I would be rescued and I could only say that I’d lost him somewhere on the course shown on the plotter! I do love him dearly but there was absolutely no way I could move or do anything to check on him.

After a while I thought I should try to get up and made it as far as the loo! Bruised forehead from the work surface – Steve appeared in the hatchway (hooray he was still on board!!) “You must drink something” and chucked a bottle of Pepsi Max – I managed one small sip. The boat’s motion didn’t change – all I wanted to do was get off – my conversations with Steve’s dad about the merits of a motorhome over a boat playing over and over in my head.

Steve reappeared and said we would be in calmer waters in about half an hour. As is usual – either because I have no concept of time or Steve tells lies – it seemed a lot longer than half an hour. It was dark by now and we made our way into Dale Bay (7nm from Milford Haven) looking for the pontoon – I managed to get my long johns, wellies and waterproof jacket on and made it up to be Steve’s second pair of eyes. I spotted a few mooring buoys that he hadn’t and then we saw the pontoon – hooray maybe not quite terra firma but almost! All I had to do was get a line on, Steve got off and secured us. I went back to bed! Steve force-fed me more Stugeron and two dextrose tablets and Pepsi Max and he sat and chilled for a while – he’d had a pretty tiring day himself!!

I really think it was lucky that we had decided to go for the pontoon because if we’d been on dry land I may well have left the boat, never to return.

Thursday 23rd August

Still didn’t feel that good when I woke up, stomach hurt, ached right across the front of my chest and bruises everywhere! If only I could get off.

Steve had already decided last night that we wouldn’t be leaving at 4am as originally planned as he was knackered. The next appropriate tide was going to be about 1 o’clock ish so plan was to leave at 2pm.

Alex rang to check on progress and to see where we would be when they tried to join us on Friday. Told him what an absolute horror of a time I had had. He offered to come to Swansea (our next port) on Friday and Rachael could drive me to Portishead and he would sail with Steve the rest of the way. Initially that sounded like the perfect option – Steve wouldn’t have to sail alone and I wouldn’t have to sail! Although almost as soon as I put the phone down I started to think that I couldn’t do that – I had started on this journey and there was no way I wasn’t going to finish it. How could I tell all my stories if I wimped out and didn’t finish! (Alex admitted his conversation with Rachael went along the same lines!)

There are few things worse than sitting around waiting to go especially as I wasn’t feeling good about going anywhere on a boat ever again – a muzzy head from dehydration to top it off. Ate some cereal bars and drank – felt a bit better!

Left the pontoon at 2pm and headed out to open water again. The wave motion wasn’t too bad and I started (secretly – I wasn’t going to tell Steve yet) enjoying it again.

There were some strange sea states – at one time it looked like the water was boiling or there were millions of fish in a feeding frenzy as far as the eye could see. It was strangest when one side of us was like that and the opposite side was a gently rolling sea. We spotted a dolphin, it swam beside us, came out of the water and shot back underneath the boat. With the clear water and my sunglasses I could easily see it just below the surface, alongside us. Two smaller ones were swimming at the bow, then another and another. I stood holding the sprayhood pointing them out but it was a case of “over there”, “over there” so Steve suggested I shut up as he could see them too – they were everywhere! They must have stayed with us for a good 15-20 minutes and then as quickly as they appeared they were gone.

By the time we were approaching Swansea Bay it was getting dark – the lock into the marina stops operations at 10pm but they have 2 orange mooring buoys in the middle of the channel and a pontoon. The pontoon dries so no good for us and when Steve had phoned Swansea they said the buoys had a least depth of 1.5m – our draught!

As we started approaching the main channel a ship could be seen in the distance – it looked quite amusing as it seemed to be scurrying across the marina and fish dock channel and was lit up like a Christmas tree. This was only because my eyes couldn’t distinguish the colours clearly – but it still brought to mind a brightly coloured beetle beetling back and forth.

We made it into the marina channel – lots of lights around and timing things so we wouldn’t have to go into the marina (as it didn’t open until 7am and we wanted to leave at 6) made it quite difficult to spot the buoys. I was standing at the bow scanning the water ahead – I could see the red lights showing no entry to the lock, the port and starboard markers for entering the lock and a line of orangey street lights across in front of us. I said to Steve that I couldn’t see the buoys and he said perhaps they were further up – it then became clear that the orangey lights were on a bridge across in front of us – I turned to Steve to say “there’s a bridge that goes right across”. His reply was “does it go all the way across?” As I turned to say “yes it does, we can’t go much further”, I saw a mooring buoy – we had nearly run over it – it was passing very nicely down the starboard side – my eyesight can be rubbish at times! Steve manoeuvred the boat, I tried to attach a line with Steve’s new-fangled tool (I had practiced at Dale Bay) but failed. Steve came forward and got it first time (typical). We were secure and time for a drink and relax and something to eat. I had some leftover couscous that I was dubious to try but once I did I thoroughly enjoyed it! Steve ate cold hard boiled eggs with wine! We sat outside eating and drinking and were in bed by about 12!

Where is that buoy?
Where is that buoy?

Friday 24th August

Awoke at 5 – had had a good night’s sleep! There was only one orange mooring buoy! (and we had managed to find it!) Everything ready and we left at 6.03am. I did some steering out of the channel and didn’t get as close to the green marker as Steve had the night before! The weather was overcast, the seas were ok – the water was muddy and the expectation of the tide rushing us along failed to happen (perhaps those people who’d told us that were telling porkies!!)

I think we had both thought we would be able to make it all the way to Portishead especially if we were to get the tides suggested. As time went on we knew we wouldn’t make it and plans were made to go to Penarth instead.

Really looks as though I’ve finally got the hang of my sea sick pills – eat when taking them, eat when empty pit feeling, eat when taking top-ups – it worked yesterday and again today!

Made Cardiff barrage lock for the 12.45 opening – no problems dealing with a lock – even though we hadn’t been in one since Corpach sea lock at the end of the Caledonian Canal! Penarth is another Quays marina so another free night! Steve called up and we were told to go Upper Basin H33, portside to, then as we approached the lady in the marina lock office appeared at the window saying “Now I’ve seen you, you’re bigger than I thought, I’ll put you somewhere else – B17. Steve asked if that was still portside to, she said we could choose as the whole berth was empty. SHE LIED!!! But fortunately portside to was the free side and two people from a cruiser came and helped us in. The pontoon was covered in duck droppings! The couple were chatty and used to have a Legend themselves but after injury/illness they had changed to a cruiser.

We settled ourselves in and then decided to go for a walk to the town centre – only problem being it was uphill! At the top of the hill we saw a sign for town centre so followed it but then got confused and asked a woman how to get there, she pointed to the corner and said, “Up there, see that hill (it’s called killer hill), go up there and then it goes down into the high street”. Oh great I thought we’d already done the uphill bit! Surprisingly it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be – I must be getting a bit fitter! We found a coffee shop (Coffee #1) and sat in comfy chairs, gently rocking! Best caramel shortbread we have had in years!!! We then found a Co-Op, needed to buy ciggies, milk and bread. The lady on the checkout was the friendliest person we have seen on the whole trip! Back to the boat for final passage plan and to wait for Alex and Rachael to arrive. They arrived at about 7.30 and we had pizza for tea. Great to see them!

We had been running the dehumidifier once in Penarth to make sure that the kids had a dry bed to sleep in. But obviously we had it running for too long. Poor Ali, I forgot he suffered from asthma. The air was too dry for him and he thought he was going to die as he couldn’t breathe, so he vacated the bedroom, opened the hatch and slept in the saloon with a small hand towel for a cover (as he didn’t remember there was a blanket right next to him!)

Final leg to Portishead – all that’s left – quite sad really – what’s next!?!?

Saturday 25th August

Woke at about 7, breakfasted. Steve originally thought we’d leave at 9 but changed his mind and we’d leave at 10.

Alex and Rachael left at 9 to do a bit of shopping in Cardiff and to drive around to Portishead. We were ready to leave on the 10 o’clock lock out of the barrage. We slipped the lines and Steve radioed the marina “please open the gates”, no reply. He tried again, still no response. When I saw someone in the office – the penny dropped (bet he’s on the wrong channel). When questioned he said “it is channel 12” isn’t it? In stereo he heard “no, its 80, eight zero”. Me and the guy from the cruiser in unison!! Sean in the lock office had seen us move so opened the gate anyway! Steve was busy chatting away to the guy on the cruiser and we seemed to be heading to the wall so I shouted from the bow “Concentrate on your steering”. To which there was a chorus of approval from a gin palace and comments of “Yes, listen to the boss, do as you’re told!”

We made it out of the marina unscathed and then were circling waiting for the barrage lock to open with another yacht. Steve managed to worry me again by making it look as though we were going to hit another wall!! Through the lock and out to the muddy water of the Bristol Channel.

No wind, however it was sunny and Steve even took his oily legs off. I was determined to finish as I’d started so steadfastly kept mine on.

Tried calling Bristol VTS at the first reporting point but they weren’t responding – we could hear radio traffic so were a bit confused. We reached the second reporting point so tried again using both radios – still no response. Eventually they heard us but said we were crackly – at least they could now hear us!

We reached the crossing point – King Road and I started to get a bit tearful. I don’t really know why. Whether it was the fact that we’d almost finished and I was sad or maybe it was relief that it was nearly all over?

Portishead lock

We locked in and Steve got chatting to a couple watching who had just done competent crew and were deciding whether to get a boat or not. The marina staff gave us instructions as to where our berth (new home) was and once we left the lock I had loads of time to sort fenders and lines out. We are on M pontoon and as we turned there was someone waving, it was Steve’s colleague, Elliot who lives here. He helped with the lines and then Steve took the green line off the middle. I am standing near the mast and say “we’re moving forward, we are going to hit”. We gently touched at the front and I thought “oh, that’s ok”, but unfortunately she moved slightly to the side and managed to gouge some gelcoat – well it was the first damage we had caused but it was also frustrating as it could so easily have been avoided! If only I had grabbed a fender, if only Steve hadn’t removed the line, if only, if only!!!!

Congratulations and a bottle of bubbly from Elliot and then he left us to get sorted and invited us to his berth for a drink in the afternoon. I left Steve sorting out the lines and went below to open our celebratory can of Magners!

WOW, THAT’S IT!!! WE’VE DONE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sent the check-in text and got one straight back from Rachael to say that they too were in Portishead, just driving into the marina. They had hoped to beat us but failed by about 10 minutes!

Pandora's Legend at Portishead
Pandora’s Legend at Portishead
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