Thursday, 24 September 2009

The final Blog

How can I sum up the last six months.... probably the best would be to do the same as we have done on each of the legs with the crew - best bits, worst bits and funniest bits.
Let's get the worst bits over with first - seasick crew! There is nothing quite like being seasick and having been there myself I could fully empathise with the crew. I always felt really bad for crew, knowing that they had already been through more than I could ever imagine in the fight against cancer, to come away on a trip that is supposed to be fun and then end up seasick is horrible... the worst places being rather long passages out of the River Humber (wind against tide) and I must say especially coming out of the Bristol Channel. We had a small window where the winds were going NW, and we had to take it. Unfortunately it was still pretty rough after a few days of big storms and a couple of the crew ended up being seasick for about 24hrs - this was also one of our longest passages with nowhere to stop, but, Land's End appeared, the wind died down and the next day Frank cooked the best breakfast ever which hopefully made it all worth while to our birthday boy.
My personal worst moment was the morning we went through Tower Bridge- after minimal sleep from sailing from Dover overnight and up the Thames, we ended up with water in the fuel, resulting in Tracey the legend engineer helping us out. However, I had to do a simple filter change in the morning, and through my own fault (lack of engineering experience) I couldn't get the engine to start again... not a good position to be in when we where about to stop the city so we could pass through Tower Bridge! But, after stressing about it for a bit, I called my friend Haig who talked me through the procedure to find where my problem was (taking in air somewhere). I finally got it sorted and the engine started only minutes before Ellen and Emily arrived.... that was probably one of my happiest moments too! Also a great sense of achievement and confidence boost to have sorted the problem.

The funniest would be the general craic - as my Irish friends would say. We had so many giggles on board it's hard to distinguish. Competitive Irish snap and UNO, some of the descriptions that came up in Articulate (Ben Murphy's Bangkok comes to mind), and the creation of poems and raps. We had a hilarious team debrief in my 'Captain's Cabin' - and anyone who has been on Scarlet knows that this consisted of a shoebox twin cabin that Karen and I shared, but somehow we managed to fit both Jo and Simon in after an overnight sail to Abersoch from Holyhead....
Some of the comedians spring to mind - Paul Gavin and Vicky Stokes where hilarious all week- Paul was Vicky's 'slave', the same as the Jake Jones - Olly Rofix duo- always up to mischief! Gerrard MacAuley was also brilliant at keeping us giggling. Generally, just people being themselves and having a good time.

The best bits - without a doubt meeting and making friends with some of the most amazing people I have ever had the privilege of sailing with! We would become like a family on board, everyone would settle in within a day or so and by the end of the week it was banter all round. It still amazes me that we had 17 fantastic legs with no serious issues and big bonding as a group of friends. There were many great moments, a walk along the sea shore that became an adventure in long grass, seeing our young crew stand up and give their presentations to hospitals with huge smiles, confidence and giggles, coming up on deck and seeing the boys dancing on the back of the boat, I could go on for days remembering all the fantastic times we've had.
Exploring the British coastline with all her wonders - beautiful cliff faces, huge mountains up in Scotland, some of the most spectacular scenery I have every sailed in. We were also incredibly lucky that we could spend a night on anchor off the Farne Islands amongst thousands of breeding birds and seals. The ocean wildlife was just incredible, we managed to see everything I was hoping to - dolphins, porpoises, whales, seals and basking sharks (incredible!). The bird life was spectacular, especially seeing all the puffins on the Farne Islands and sailing past Bass Rock, which from a distance looks like it's covered in snow, then when you get close you see that it's all birds - thousands of gannets nesting on the rock.
The sailing - fantastic sailing. We had great days in perfect sailing conditions and Scarlet just loved it. There is nothing better than the moment you switch off the engines and the boat takes off as her sails power up, and to be able to share that moment with so many people this year and for them to all enjoy it so much was incredible. Scarlet is a fantastic boat and an absolute pleasure to sail. We couldn't have had a better boat for the voyage, so again, a huge thanks goes to the Applebey family for letting us use her.
Ellen's talks were incredible - she has such an amazing life and is so inspirational. My best moments where when we could get our crew to the talks, they would all come back so inspired and amazed by what an incredible person Ellen really is, yet so down to earth when it comes to spending time with young people.
Our team - to Frank, Jo S, Tracy, Joey B and Emma - it has been the most incredible year and fantastic working with you all. To Simon - you where there for us the whole way round, even in the early hours of the morning always with a big smile. Karen, my first mate who became an incredible friend. We spent a lot of time together, lived in a very small space and never a single argument - you absolute legend!
Our homecoming was just incredible - many of our crew came down to the Solent for the weekend to welcome us home and got on board red jet 4 to escort us from the boat show over to Cowes. Solent Rib Charters had 9 boats out carrying friends and family and the weather was just perfect. Having Ellen, Ross and Jason join us on board for the final sail to Cowes was really special, then getting to UKSA and catching up with so many people was brilliant. They all played a part in completing the voyage so successfully, and of course big celebrations where in order. However, it was also just a little bit sad, as it was......... the end.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Foggy but great sailing on the South Coast!

Leg 16- can’t quite believe it. On board this week we have Abigail, Rhiannon, Claire, Barnaby and Thomas, with Kerry Williams as our volunteer from Skandia and Tracy Curtis – our legend, joining us as well. On Sunday we had Mel and Natalie from Skandia come down and help us get the boat ready for the arrival of our new crew. It was such a great help, and at least we have managed to get a bit more polishing done ahead of the boat show this week. Thank you so much for your help ladies- very much appreciated!
By Sunday afternoon all our crew had arrived and were settled in. While Karen and I tackled the bilges again on Monday morning, the crew went off to the Living Coast to view penguins, seals and other wild (in captivity) life. It is a great display, bringing the coast to the general public. Bill Butcher also managed to get them in FOC again, thanks again to Bill for all his help during our stay in Torquay.
We had a great sail over to Portland on Monday afternoon, into the evening. Unfortunately it was quite foggy though, so we didn’t have much of a view of anything, not even Portland Bill. I had to convince the crew that actually the bill is quite spectacular to see. We crept into Portland Marina by 22:30 that night, out of the fog and drizzle.
We didn’t hang around Portland too long, as all the favourable tide was in the morning, so we set sail for Poole, with a relatively short passage taking a lot longer due to the tides against us. At least the fog lifted for a while, and although we couldn’t see the Isle of Wight, at least we had a great afternoon sailing past Swanage cliffs and Old Harry – the other side of the Needles (Chalk cliff stacks extending out to sea).
Emily and her parents came down to see us in Poole. It was great to see her again, she joined us on Scarlet as we went through Tower Bridge. It’s a little surreal seeing old faces again in familiar territory… Carolyn brought us a couple of cakes down which were fantastic and greatly appreciated by all the crew – thank you Carolyn!
With a bit more breeze from the NE, but at least good visibility, we sailed across Poole Bay and back into the Solent, past the Needles. What a great sight, but very strange to see. We’re now in Yarmouth again and enjoyed a good walk up the River Yar to Freshwater and back. Frank brought his family down to the boat to say hello, it was great to see them again!
Barnaby has been fantastic on board. We had a little a small electrical fault with our sink drain switch, and while I had my head under the sink he was very helpful, and eventually took over replacing the switch for me. Being inquisitive about the way things work, he soon had the old switch opened up and fixed, and has just put it back in it’s place – great work, thank you Barnaby!
So – here we are, with a busy couple days ahead of us. We’re off to Southampton tomorrow to prepare for the Boat Show, which we will be in on Friday, then back home to Cowes on Saturday.
Cheers, Cath

Friday, 4 September 2009

Rough Ride round Land's End

Our crew of Leg 15 arrived on Friday afternoon. This week we’ve got Daisy, Chelsea, Adam, Ben and Josh on board. We were also joined by Anya Parkhouse-Turner, and were very pleased to have Frank Fletcher on board for a few days, although he did manage to choose the worst part of the leg to join us on!
The weather has not been so kind to us these last couple of weeks, and yet again we had to find the window and make a dash round Land’s End. Unfortunately this window was after it had been blowing for a couple days, so when we got out the sea state was quite horrible, with lumpy seas coming from every direction. Our window was on Friday night into Saturday, where the wind was going to the NW for a while, giving us the chance to get out the channel, so pretty much as soon as Josh arrived we slipped our lines and headed for the Cardiff Lock at 11pm. We all stayed up till midnight to wish Adam a happy 18th birthday, then slowly each of the crew disappeared into their bunks for the night, while Frank, Anya, Karen and I settled into a watch system. Sadly the seas didn’t calm down, and most of our crew ended up seasick for the entire passage. Daisy made it up on deck and within 5mins of her being there the dolphins arrived, so she is now dolphin girl! At some points both Ben and Josh also make it up, with all three joining us on Saturday night up on deck as we rounded Land’s End. Thankfully the sea had calmed down a bit by this point and we actually had a very pleasant sail over to the Lizzard, and then on into Falmouth in the early hours of the morning. Joey Bootle, her parents and Simon were all on the dock at 4am to welcome us in, it was fantastic to see them all at such an early hour!
After rearranging ourselves back into our normal cabins it wasn’t long before we were all fast asleep again. One of the best quotes from Chelsea: next time I want to go from Cardiff to Falmouth I’m going to take the train!
Frank was a legend and the next morning he treated us all and cooked a massive breakfast. The stormy weather that we were running away from came in, so it was a stormy day tucked up on Scarlet, with everyone slowly recovering from our 29hr sail. Simon Rowell also came down to visit us with his dogs, great to catch up with him, then in the afternoon we were invited to tea at the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club. They put on a fantastic spread with good old scones and clotted cream. It was a really pleasant afternoon and thank you to all at RCYC for welcoming us.
Monday was a day of shoreside adventure, with the morning spent in the National Maritime Museum and then off to Pendennis Castle in the afternoon. We happened to be there over a little festival, where they had put on a jousting display – we got to see the knights and horses being armoured up, then a full display of historical sporting. The joust was fantastic, with us all cheering our knight on, but sadly after 5 matches he was just beaten at the end.
We went down to the Maritime Museum in the evening to watch one of Ellen’s talks, which as always was very inspirational and I think our crew really appreciated seeing her. She came and joined us for fish and chips on board afterwards, giving her the chance to catch up with the crew.
We slipped out of Falmouth early Tuesday morning to try get ahead of the next weather system. Within a couple hours the wind was up again, but thankfully from behind this time and with intermittent sunshine, good breeze and a following sea we had a brilliant sail along the south coast to Dartmouth. I was incredibly impressed by our crew, as even though they had had a pretty miserable 29hr sail out of the Bristol Channel, they were all keen to get out and sail again for another 10 hr passage – so brave. Their crew work was also incredible as we did have to reef in and out quite a bit – well done team!
After another short hop round the corner to Torquay we were welcomed in by Bill Butcher from the Royal Torbay Yacht Club. He also managed to organize a trip to Brixham Coast Guard and RNLI. Thank you Bill for all your help, we really do appreciate it.
After another amazing week, sadly it’s time to say goodbye yet again to another incredible crew. Week after week we seem to be blessed with great crew… and here we are on the South Coast, only one leg away from home.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A long sail to Cardiff

Our wet, windy day ended up being spent doing some boat work. We managed to detect the leak in the water system (a pipe had come off it’s connection) and fixed the bilge pump. While Rob, Paul, Jo and I where in and out of Scarlet’s bilges, the rest of the crew were off to the shops to provision for a couple days at sea. Unfortunately we weren’t done in time for the lifeboat visit, so ended up going ten pin bowling instead. The boys were on much better form than the girls, with Ben cleaning up in the first round, and Paul taking the lead on the second with an impressive double strike.
With a break in the weather we departed Pwllhele just before high tide on Monday morning. We set sail past Abersoch, were there was a bit of keel boat racing going on. Unfortunately for us, the wind was coming from exactly where we wanted to go, so it was a rather horrible decision to put the motor on and motor sail down to St David’s Head. We didn’t quite get as much tide with us as I thought we might, so ended up punching the tide to the corner. It was hilarious, we ended up doing no more than about 2.5kts past Strumble Head Light House (our boat speed was more than double that), but at least it was a good evening with a pretty sunset and great views of the coastline.
Finally, in the early hours of the morning, the tide turned in our favour and we started screaming down the Bristol Channel. It was fantastic when the engine finally got turned off, and we were sailing at about 8kts, with speeds of 10kts over the ground. We had all settled into our watch system by then, and my early morning watch was particularly beautiful. With good wind, favourable tide and clear skies, it was pretty much perfect sailing (with the odd passing squall). Sadly, as it always will, the tide turned again later in the day bringing our great progress to a halt (thankfully I was catching up on some sleep at this time), but we finally made our way up the muddy Bristol Channel and into Cardiff bay by 6pm. The locks are really impressive, even more so as we arrived shortly after low tide, so the water was really low – about a 10m rise in the locks. Certainly the largest locks I have ever been through. We did have to make our way quite carefully up the channel as although theoretically we had water, as we discovered in Liverpool, things do have a tendency to silt up with shifting mud. But, on a rising tide and slowly creeping in, we had loads of room.
Paul and Vicky did a great job of creating a poem, which is brilliant. Ben was also the sleeping champion of the leg.
Once we were in, everyone got stuck into cleaning Scarlet up and getting her sorted after 33hrs at sea.
We’re now in Penarth Marina and are due into Cardiff Bay Yacht Club this afternoon, where Skandia will be waiting to welcome us in again. Looking forward to a great afternoon, and hopefully this ominous looking cloud gives us a little break.
Off to have some breakfast now, cheerio. Cath

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Abersoch here we come!

What a week already! On Friday night we went off to the Sailing Club for dinner and the auction. Vicky and I stood up to say a few words about the Trust. I was very impressed at how Vicky spoke, she did a brilliant job and really got the message across at how much the trust helps people in recovery from cancer. Craig did a great job as the auctioneer, and last we heard they managed to raise over £2700 for us – fantastic! The weather being the weather, and the tides being as they are, we set off from Holyhead at midnight on Friday, to catch a good tide down to Abersoch before the next low came in. Geoff and Susan from Holyhead Marina came down to give us a hand getting Scarlet out of our berth, which was a little tricky with a fair amount of wind still blowing. Thanks again to everyone from Holyhead for such an incredible time!
With a bit of local advice from Geoff, we managed to get out to the South Stack lighthouse in time to catch a fair tide down the coast. It was a bit of a bumpy start, with winds of up to 24kts on the nose and some rather large overfalls at the corner, so we managed to get everyone completely soaked. But, after an hour and a little more offshore, the seas settled down and we ended up on a beautiful close reach down the coast with clear starlit skies and easing winds. Simon Townsend came sailing with us, which was just such a great treat. Even though he had been driving all day since 4am collecting crew etc, he was back at the wheel in the early hours of the morning, but happy to do so as at least he was sailing again! We settled into watches, but with such a great tide underneath us and good winds, we were down near Bardsey Sound in no time. Scarlet being Scarlet, and things always happen at sea, I came down to check on a few things to find her bilges full of water…. Always a little concerning when out at sea, but thankfully after a quick test, it was a relief to find that at least it was fresh water. With no water coming out of the taps I think we have a leaky tank! Thankfully we keep drinking water in bottles, so nothing to worry about, and it have Robert, Ross and Paul something to do while on watch (manually pumping the bilge pump), and a good excuse to keep warm doing so. Slowly the wind died down more and more, until eventually we had to give in on sailing and motor the rest of the way to Abersoch.
Catherine and Martin from SCYC in Abersoch have been incredible. They were out to welcome us, along with quite a few boats from the Yacht Club. Bear Grylls was out in his RIB and came over to say hello to our crew. Ben is a great fan, so it was great for him to get a chance to meet Bear later on.
We headed over to Pwllheli Marina late morning, then after sorting Scarlet out we went back to Abersoch and spent the afternoon playing on the water in kayaks, dart and fun boats. Simon, Jo, Karen and I all went out on the little funboats, and the guys from the sailing school kindly set up a little coarse for us. What a great giggle!
We were invited to the SCYC dinner and fundraising event in the evening which was just such an incredible evening. The food was fantastic, the fundraising was brilliant, and then we topped it off with everyone on the dance floor with a great band playing some classics. Thank you very much to Catherine, Martin and all at SCYC for such a great welcome and evening out.
We were back on board Scarlet by midnight, and having not had much sleep in the last 24hrs, it was probably record timing for everyone to get to bed and sleep…. What a great sleep that was!
It’s now a windy, wet Sunday morning, and a very lazy one. We’re hiding from the weather on board Scarlet, with Ross and Vicky in the galley cooking up a feast for brunch. It’s hopefully off to the Lifeboat for a tour this afternoon (Karen and I will probably be able to give the tour ourselves by the end of RB) and hopefully find some other fun and exciting things to do on a wet Sunday afternoon. Cheers, Cath

Friday, 21 August 2009

Shorebased and happy ending to Leg !

With the wind still too strong to let us out sailing on Thursday, we spent the day going to some of the local attractions. First was a trip to the RNLI, where we had a tour of both the inshore and offshore lifeboats. After that, it was off to the Maritime Museum, where we started a new fact finding game. The idea was that everyone found an interesting fact from the displays in the museum, then later all read out to the crew, and the prize went to the most interesting fact, which Victoria won.
We spent the afternoon at Ellen’s Tower at South Stack, which is also an RSPB reserve. Unfortunately all the puffins and guillemots had left only a few weeks earlier, but the views out onto the South Stack lighthouse were fantastic. Some of the crew went walking down to the lighthouse (some 400 steps up and down), and quite impressively, Tylor managed to walk up to the coffee shop on his crutches – well done!
Back at the boat, we spent the evening making the video for the leg. I’ve been so impressed with this crew. Even with the bad weather, they just got stuck into everything we did, and just had such a great time. Will and James were hilarious, and having only just met, they were best mates by the end of the week. It just brings to light how the Trust really does go beyond just sailing. Even though on Round Britain, there is a large focus on sailing and completing our leg, it’s also a great opportunity for our young crew to make new friends and have a great time. I have also made some incredible new friends on this adventure, both as part of our crew and people we’ve met along the way.
Talking of people we’ve met, the team at Hollyhead Marina and at Hollyhead Sailing Club have been incredibly welcoming. Craig from Holyhead Sailing Club organised a fundraising auction for our Trust, and also invited us to have dinner at the club before we set off on the next leg.
Friday was our change over day, sadly saying goodbye (or see you later) to one crew, and hello to the next. This week we have Paul, Robert, Ross (HAPPY BIRTHDAY), Ben back again and it’s great to have Vicky on board, who I know from last summer as she worked with the Trust for the summer. Our volunteer for the week is Jo Summers (our operations manager), so it’s really good to have some old friends on board, as well as making new ones!
It looks to be a great leg, with quite a bit of sailing to do, and lots of fun along the way.
Cheers, Cath

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A long day out to Holyhead

After a well deserve rest in Liverpool, we are now on Leg 13, with Will, Tyler, James, Beth and Victoria, as well as Mike Stoner from Skandia Southampton. Our crew arrived on Monday afternoon and with an early start planned for the next day, we got through all our briefings in the evening. The evening was pretty quiet, with a board game or two keeping us entertained. Will also did a great job making dinner.
With very limited time to get out of the Mersey, we left Liverpool Marina at 8:30am. It was quiet tricky getting out though, as the entrance to the lock had silted up quite a bit, and where we were expecting to have 2m of water beneath us, we ended up with none, so had to back out again and creep around the side wall to get into the lock, clearing the silted area with only about 10cm of water underneath us, but at least we managed to get into the lock and then out into the Mersey River. It’s always impressive taking a boat through a city, and seeing the Liver Birds on top of the Liver Building from the water was quite impressive. Liverpool definitely was a pleasant surprise and yet again the people were fantastic and really friendly.
Our day out sailing was not the best day out I must admit. With tidal restrictions into Conwy, the only option for us was to sail straight to Holyhead. The plan in the morning was to try get to the Skerries (a group of rocks off the NW corner of Anglesley) by 3pm, at the slack tide. With a forecast of moderate westerlies it was looking good for a beautiful reach on a lee shore. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite like that once we were out, so we ended up with 40degree wind shifts, and speeds ranging from 6kts to 20kts, making for a rather frustrating morning out on the water – reef in, reef out, engine on, engine off…. All a little tiring. By the afternoon the wind finally filled in, but quite strong, so we ended up beating into 20 to 25kts. Unfortunately due to our slow progress in the middle of the day, we ended up missing the tide and had to punch wind and tide around the corner, extending our passage time by about 4hrs! Our crew were all quite enjoying themselves for most of the day, but slowly we started loosing one after the other to the dreaded illness of the seas… Victoria was definitely the star of the sailing day though. Even with waves braking over the bow and soaking her time after time (which admittedly everyone enjoyed in the beginning, but after a few hours of it got a bit cold and tired) Victoria was still up and involved with all the sailing going on, all with a big smile on her face! It was quite amusing, the guys disappeared into their various bunks not looking too pleased with life, but after a good sleep at sea (the best kind of sleep) all reappeared as new people, full of fun and laughter, possibly also relief at getting over seasickness. After a rather long, cold and wet day out, we finally got into Holyhead Marina at about 10pm, where we were met by Geoff of Holyhead Marina. He was incredibly helpful, catching our lines with strong winds blowing us off the dock and then helping us sort out some much needed food – Pizza! After showers and food everyone was feeling much better, but it didn’t take long at all for us all to fall into bed.
Today was a rather windy day, and I must admit that yet again, although we’ve arrived in Holyhead a couple days early, I’m really glad we took the window we had yesterday. It’s been blowing gales all day and is very wet, so after a well deserved lie in, we’ve managed to entertain ourselves with board games (Articulate being the favourite again) and Holyhead Sailing Club welcomed us in their Club house, where we spent the afternoon playing pool. Another quiet (ish… laughter and shouting over Articulate on the go again) evening on Scarlet, but the giggles coming from the saloon is very comforting. I might just have to join in on the fun.
Cheerio, Cath

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Skandia welcome su into Liverpool

Peel is beautiful. We spent the evening walking up to a monument on a hill above the town which had impressive views over the island, and across the Irish Sea we could see the Mourne Mountains in Ireland. We stayed up on the hill to watch the sunset, quite an impressive sight seeing the sun setting over Ireland.
On Tuesday we had to wait in the marina until the afternoon for the tide to come in. This gave us a chance to catch up with a couple maintenance issues while the crew went and explored the town. It has been really good to have John with us, who works for SYS. He has really helped us this week, again just taking the pressure off Karen and I with some jobs that needed doing (and not pleasant either) – valuable bonding time for Karen and her husband!
We also got ourselves prepped and ready for our sail over to Liverpool, with more fuel for the boat, and more fuel for the crew. Once we could get out of the marina we set sail for Port St Mary, passing south of Calf on Man and completing our circumnavigation of the Isle. We had a pretty good sail with good winds from the south giving us a beat down the west coast. With an early morning ahead of us it was an early night out on a mooring in Port St Mary.
Impressively, everyone was up with us at 3am to set sail for Liverpool, but with not very much wind from directly behind us, and a rather tight time schedule to stick to, we ended up motoring for most of the early morning. Gerard, Marie-Clare and I took the first early morning watch and got to appreciate the sunrise. I really do love being out on the water in the early hours, and watching the slow brightening of the sky and the pastel colours changing in the clouds is so peaceful (even with the engine on). By 10am the wind had come back to the SW, giving us a beautiful beam reach across the Irish Sea for the rest of the day, and with a bit of sun coming out (and a couple of us braving shorts for the first time in quite a while) it was pretty much perfect sailing conditions.
Skandia were waiting for us in Liverpool with another welcoming reception. This was was really good, with a load of people standing on the wall waving us in as we came up and parked next to them. The food, as always, was really good.
Iain Percy (Skandia Team GBR) was around to meet us as well. The crew were all very impressed with his two gold medals, and he was brilliant at getting them all involved in the sailing dinghy simulator competition going on, which Nial managed to win!
It has been such a fantastic craic having this crew on board. I can almost understand Irish, and the laughter hasn’t stopped all week. A great welcome into Liverpool, and with Jo, Tracy and Frank coming to join us this evening, I am really looking forward to exploring the cultural capital of Europe.
Sadly, we say goodbye to our crackin’ Irish crew – you have been fantastic- such a great craic!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Round Isle of Man, and BASKING SHARKS!!!

Wow – what a great couple days we’ve had on the Isle of Man! Sailing for the Disabled came out to meet us on Saturday, as we sailed from Port St Mary to Douglas, it was great to see them out there and to have the company on the way in. We go to finally meet all the crew in person at Douglas Marina. They had very kindly vacated their normal berth so that we could get Scarlet into the marina. Thank you to Marian, Alan and Roy for a wonderful welcome, and some yummy lemon cake.
Sunday was time to explore the island, and this we did! We took an electric tram up to the highest point of the Isle of Man- Snaefell. Unfortunately we climbed into the clouds so couldn’t see the spectacular views from the top, but we had a good giggle walking around in the fog. Just as we started our decent, the fog lifted for a brief 10mins to open up the views of the valleys and hills around us – Beautiful.
Being keen on trams for the day, we got onto a horse tram in Douglas that took us along the promenade. It’s great to see these traditional trams still in action, and the working horses look really well looked after and fit. We had a giant by the name of Charlie pulling our tram, with hooves as big as buckets, impressive.
After a great day out, we slipped our lines, waved goodbye to the Sailing for the Disabled boat which had just come back in from a day out on the water, and headed off to sea again. With a couple days in hand, and with a habit of going round things, we decided to go cruising round the island so headed north for the first time in a while, towards Ramsey, where we spent the evening out on a mooring in the bay.
Today was incredible – we set off at a reasonable hour this morning and headed for the Point of Ayre, the northern most point of the Island. With a good westerly breeze we had a cracking sail up, but sadly as we got to the point the wind went south, and the tide against us strengthened, making for a rather slow passage. After slowly making our way round the point we finally started heading south again, and then with mass excitement on board we started our wildlife spotting for the day. First was a breaching whale, then further along the coast we came across basking sharks – this was just incredible. These sharks can grow up to 11m long, feeding only on zooplankton through modified filters in their gills. We were lucky enough for one of the sharks to come up within 20m of our stern, giving us a better idea of their size, and a glimpse at a massive open jaw. This is the first time I have ever seen a basking shark- YAY!!!!
I must admit, I have been quite impressed with the performance we’re getting from our DuoGen’s wind generator. After a little hiccup with a part which finally arrived back with us last week, we have been happily charging our batteries using wind. Today’s sail was impressive, with the energy from the duo-gen catering for all our electronic needs, and a little extra.
We’re now tucked up in a great little marina in Peel, with the ruins of Peel Castle right on the entrance to the Harbour. Barbara and Marie-Claire are doing wonders in the galley again while the rest.. well, resting after a great day out on the water.
More to look forward to tomorrow as we go round the Calf of Man and back to Port St Mary, completing our Isle of Man circumnavigation and then prepping ourselves for another hop across the Irish Sea – bound for England again.
Until next time,
Cheers, Cath

Friday, 7 August 2009

Goodbye Ireland, and fantastic sail across the Irish Sea

Leg 12, here we go. This week we are joined by Gerard, Neill, Marie-Claire, Jodie and Barbara, with Chris from Skandia. We also have John Pullen on board (Karen’s husband), which is fantastic! We started off in Bangor, with a dinner with Peter and Gillian from Northern Ireland Cancer Fund For Children. They have been incredible with our entire Belfast visit, helping us out whenever needed and welcoming us. The young people we have on board this week are all through NICFFC and are really an incredible group of people. Thank you to NICFFC for all the help and making our Belfast visit so special.
We set sail on Thursday afternoon, headed down to coast to Ardglass. This was our final Irish stopover (can’t believe it), and was a really pretty little port. The marina was quite tight, but they welcomed us in and very kindly let us berth for free for the night – thank you Ardglass! Our sail was unfortunately not much on the sailing front (what wind there was was right on the nose), so we motored most of the way, getting in at around 8:30pm. After a peaceful night in Ardglass with lots of card games going on, we set sail again in the morning, headed for our next country, the Isle of Man. It was such a beautiful day, with hardly any clouds in the sky, giving great visibility of both the Island and the mountains on the Irish shore. With a light southerly breeze we managed to reach across the Irish Sea and had an absolutely fantastic day out sailing, with Gerard hard out on lookout for sharks (still haven’t seen any yet), but we did see quite a few porpoises and had the usual birdlife to appreciate. We headed round the south side of the Island, and passed through Calf Sound, between the Isle of Man and the Calf of Man, a little island to the south. The sound is quite narrow and has quite a strong tide running through it, but with light winds and calm seas we were able to cut through the sound without any problems. Even then it was quite something to see, and I can imagine that it gets incredibly rough when the wind and swell picks up.
Port St Mary’s is our harbour for the night, and we are moored up next to a fishing vessel and along the harbour wall. Chris, being a local IOM man, has been our on board info guide, pointing out places of interest and even filling us in on a little island history. After a long day on the water I was quite impressed with Barbara, who wasted no time at all in getting dinner on the go.
We’re on the island for a few days now and plan to cruise around the island, exploring all her ports. This is also the most popular spot for seeing basking sharks – so we will be out on the water looking for sharks in the morning, really hoping to see one. We’re off to Douglas tomorrow which will be a nice little hop up the coast.
From a beautiful island, goodnight!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

A window to Ireland

This week has been a little bit of an odd week, as we managed to get all the sailing for the leg over and done with on the first day. This was for good reason, however. Simon Rowell has been very good at giving us his thoughts on what the weather is doing and I have been quite impressed with his accuracy. He mentioned that we might get a window on Wednesday- Thursday to go across, and this is exactly what we got. It was a little weird for our Irish crew though, they came all the way to Scotland only to sail straight back again.
Wednesday turned out to be a perfect day for sailing. After getting a few jobs done in the morning we were briefed, fuelled and ready to set sail by noon, with the evening’s Irish stew already on the go. With SW winds of no more than 10kts we set off on a beat for Ireland. Beautiful flat seas and the light but constant breeze made for some fantastic sailing, and slowly the wind clocked round to the West, the WNW, bringing our course up to heading for Ireland, so we somehow managed yet again to sail most of the way on one tack – still starboard!
The crew were absolutely loving it, with each of them taking a turn to helm and mostly spending their time up on the rail or up at the bow, enjoying Scarlet’s dance through the water. Slowly the evening came on, and slowly we lost crew to the warmth of below decks, but at about midnight we had the whole crew back on deck to enjoy the night sail. We even had patches of clear sky letting us see the stars, and with a beautiful moon setting over Belfast and dying breeze, we slowly crept into Belfast Lough. We got into Carrickfergus at about 2am with a cheery but rather chilly and tired crew – it didn’t take long for everyone to disappear into their bunks.
Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children have been fantastic. Angela has been with us for the week, and what with the horrible weather settling in for a couple days we were off in the NICFC minibus for some shoreside adventuring.
After eventually creeping out of their bunks and a bit of brunch (well, more like lunch by the time we actually ate) we went off for a nice walk along to Black Head light house, which was the light that had guided us into the Lough the night before.
The evening was beautiful so we had to take advantage of the good weather while we could and went for a little cruise across the lough to Bangor – homecoming for Karen.
She has been so excitable about sailing home, I can’t imagine how chuffed she must be right now. Hillary and Bob (her parents) were down to welcome us in, and of course a long overdue hug with their daughter. It has been really good to meet them, and Hillary has also been spoiling us each day with treats and apple crumble (YUM!!).
We spent yesterday exploring the North Coast by minibus, but even then it was difficult to appreciate the beauty as the rain and wind were just pelting down. Today was off to a waterpark to have some fun on slides, then off to the NICFC log cabin for a rather late lunch and relaxation time. When we got back to the boat it was down to work, and Aiden, Aimee and Clodagh got down to giving Scarlet a good scrub while Molly and Rob prepared a yummy dinner. We’re all set for our arrival in Belfast tomorrow, and I think we might even get a break in the weather to have at least a final good morning of sailing for the leg. It’s been great fun having all the Irish chit chat going on, not that I can understand all the time, but my ‘Irish’ is getting a wee bit better..

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Fantastic Scottish hospitality in the Crinan Canal

I have been incredibly impressed with Scottish Highland hospitality, everywhere we have been we have been met by friendly, helpful people. Peter, Donald, Alli and Chris where down to help us through the Crinan Canal. The two young boys were on their bikes and cycled the length of the canal, helping our crew with opening the lock gates as we made our way through the canal. It was fantastic fun, with Luke doing some really good boat handling driving Scarlet off the dock and into the canal. I must admit it felt quite tight, through the first part there were times that there was only about a meter clearance on either side of Scarlet, very much like going down a little country lane. There were passing pools though, but I was quite glad that the only yachts we passed travelling in the opposite direction happened to be in the lock basins where at least there was space to pass by.
The Mid Argyll Sailing club invited us to a BBQ that evening which was delicious. All the crew really enjoyed themselves. Again, a Scottish piper came to play. He was really good – just a treat to be able to absorb the beautiful Scottish culture so much. I hope that Peter and Donald were impressed that our lunch through the canal was Haggis. A huge thank you to Peter, Donald and Hamish from the Mid Argyl Sailing Club for making the Crinan canal such a memorable occasion for us.
We did have and incredible week and everyone just seemed to be having such a great time. We were also blessed with some periodically beautiful weather, and I think we got off reasonably lightly from the midgies (although, they were still out in force a couple nights). Luke, Raechel, Fran and Gareth also braved the outdoors and slept outside a couple nights, but it was particularly pretty in Caladh Harbour anchorage without a cloud in sight. It was a rare sight but beautiful to see all the stars out.
Skandia were waiting for us on our arrival into Largs. This was a great event with around 80 people turning up to wave us in, and again, the BBQ that they put on for us was really good. Bart Simpson was around again to chat to the crowd and the kids, who were quite impressed with his gold medal (adult kids included).
After the BBQ it was off to a field for the final night of leg10 sporting events, but having given up on the Ashes series, we took to rugby and played a game of older vs younger touch rugby. Frank and Simon joined in, but even with all our seriousness and competitiveness, the younger crew still managed to run circles round us, which was hilarious.
Sadly, we had to say goodbye to our new friends again, although, it is definitely a see you later as opposed to a goodbye. Such a great crew – well done all of you on a fantastic leg!

So here we are in Largs. We now have the crew of Leg 11 on board, all of whom have come over from Northern Ireland. We have Molly, Aidan, Aimee, Clodagh and Rob on board, with Angela as our volunteer from NICFC, and John from Skandia. All our crew are from Belfast or nearby… I hope we don’t have any nationality sporting competitions on this week as I might not do too well – I am a wee bit outnumbered!!
The weather…. Is being the weather again and giving me a bit to think about. Looks like we might have a window in the otherwise grotty looking forecast, and hopefully we might be able to get out and straight over to Ireland tomorrow night. I can’t believe it – we’re on our way to Ireland after an incredible 6 weeks in Scotland.
Thank you to everyone in Scotland for making our time here so special and unforgettable – we really have loved this part of our adventure and I must admit I am a little sad to be saying goodbye…

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

West Coast Cruising!!

It’s amazing, two blinks and the time has just flown by! I realised that I haven’t blogged for a few days, not since seeing Hillary. We managed to catch up with her and her crew in the Canal, on our final full day of the second Scottish trip. Hillary is doing amazingly well, it was really good to see her again, and to see her in the Caledonian Canal after 2 months of sailing was really special. She is due to finish sometime in August, may the North Sea be as kind to her as it was to us.
A few days have passed now, and we have had another crew change. Fort William was a rather quick changeover again, but luckily we had 4 volunteers from Skandia who came to help us get the boat ready for the new crew – and another big thank you to them, it really does help especially when we have such short change over times. This week we have Gareth, Fran, Rachel, Joe and Luke on board, with Tim from Skandia and Cath, our token Aussie from EMT, on as volunteers for the week. We have had an incredible time so far, with everyone settling in very quickly, not without a few comments about the Ashes (and also the start of our own Scarlet Ashes series), but all in good spirits.
We said goodbye to new friends made in Ft William who came down to the boat to wave us off, out the sealock and off again. Ben Nevis even came out of the clouds for us for the day, which was just spectacular. What a way to enter the Atlantic cruising grounds and the start of our West Coast cruising...
I was feeling incredibly lucky again, as the weather forecast we had seen earlier did suggest that we might be spending a few days playing card games in Ft William, but thankfully that changed and out we went. We sailed down to Dunstaffnage, through Loch Linnhe. Unfortunately it was more like a drift with intermittent motoring and the occasional blast when a gust came down the Loch. We managed to get the kite out again, but not so successfully as our magic furler was not so magic, forcing us to ditch the kite and resort to just plain sailing.
Dunstaffnage is a really pretty natural harbour, tucked up in amongst some islands, with an old castle ruin on the entrance. The whole area is just so impressive, and again, we were blessed with another incredible day out today.
We left Dunstaffnage in good old Scottish dreich, having eaten square sausage and potato muffins for breakfast. Not very much wind at all, so we motored up through Kerrera Sound to Puilladobhrain, which is a lovely little anchorage. The sun came out just in time for our Atlantic Challenge, and this time most of the crew joined in and jumped into the water. It was freezing, so we pretty much all shot straight out again. However, it wasn’t long till we were back in again and swimming our lap around the boat, with some braver souls (namely Karen and Luke) heading round again.
The sun stayed with us for the afternoon, but sadly the wind didn’t materialise much at all, so we spent most of the day motoring.
We had a fantastic welcome into Crinan Canal, with a young Scot playing his bag pipes for us. Peter has also very kindly offered to send us a couple helpful hands as we make our way through the canal tomorrow, should be great fun as from here to Ardrishaig it is all manual labour that opens and closes the locks… I hope the boys are feeling strong for tomorrow.
Good night from a very beautiful Crinan,

Friday, 17 July 2009

Loch Oich - Scarlet's highest point above sea level!

Crew change – Ft Augustus was the changeover point for our Scottish Summer trips. On Wednesday we said goodbye to the first leg 9 crew, and said hello to the second lot. We now have a boatload of boys and our two youngest crew yet. We have Jo, Stewart, Brandon, Michael and Rauridh. It didn’t take long at all for the boys to settle in, and they have been running riot since… all good fun though, and it’s great having such a busy boat. We went off to see the Caledonian Ceilidh Trail again, who were playing in Ft Augustus. This time there was a proper ceilidh dance so we managed to get at least the older boys up and dancing. Young Jo and Stewart were quite happy just to cheer the others on. It was great getting involved with a bit of traditional Scotland and I think everyone really enjoyed themselves.
On our first boating day with the new crew we wound our way through the canal to Loch Oich, going up a few more locks. Loch Oich is the highest point at 32m above sea level. It’s stunning, with beautiful mountains surrounding the loch, and forests huddling the loch shorelines. We stopped at Invergarry Castle ruins, but didn’t get to see much of them as they are closed off to public (dangerous!). It did make a perfect spot to go for a swim and it didn’t take long before Stewart was in the water. Slowly, one by one, the rest of us made our way in. A little chilly, but not quite as cold as Loch Ness. Unfortunately the Loch is a little narrow so we weren’t able to set sails. We got to Laggan Locks for the night, which is at the eastern end of Loch Lochy. We had to keep the boys on their toes with line handling, as for the first time in the canal we were starting to descend back to towards sea level again, so the boys had to ease out on our mooring lines to prevent us from being hung up on the canal wall.
After yesterday’s fantastic weather, it took a little bit of getting going out into the chilly wind today. We also woke up to rain ~(which is always a peaceful sound to wake up to). Loch Lochy is a little wider, and with the wind straight behind us we could got for a great little sail down the Loch. Jo did a fantastic job driving the boat, considering he has to stand up on the seat as the wheel is almost a head taller than him. We’re now at Garilochy Locks, the entrance to the final stretch of canal down to Ft William, but with some rather mucky weather around it’s down to card games for a bit, then hopefully I’ll be able to convince some of the crew that a walk along the canal (even in the rain) is a good idea. Ben Nevis is somewhere near, lurking in the clouds, but sadly we can’t see the top today.
Hillary Lister has also been doing incredibly well and is arriving into Ft William today. We’ll be seeing her somewhere on the canal tomorrow. It’ll be great to catch up with her and hear all about her adventures up the West Coast, and share some of our East Coast stories.
I think it might be hot chocolate time…..
Cheers, Cath

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Loch Ness and the Challenge

What an experience our first few days in the Caledonian Canal have been. It’s quite impressive climbing up a flight of locks, so far we have been through seven locks of a total of 29, and three of the 10 swing bridges. The Canal was first completed back in 1822 and took 20 years to build. We spent Sunday getting up the first set of locks, with Muirtown locks being a series of four locks in a row. It’s literally like climbing a staircase – except on a boat. I must admit it was quite weird looking out from Scarlet and seeing roof tops in the valley below the canal. Locks are also a great way to keep the crew entertained, and at least most people got a chance to drive Scarlet through a lock. We did also have Fran and Shadab jump off to be our line handlers ashore.
We spent the evening in Caley Marina and went for quite a nice peaceful walk into a rather quiet Inverness City (it was a Sunday night though).
The canal just gets more beautiful the further West we go, with steep mountains on either side descending down to the canal. It runs along the Great Glen, which is a natural geological fault line which divides the Highlands with a series of Lochs, making it ideal for a canal.
I am also getting much better at pronouncing some of the Scottish names. I was a little bit shy when I had to call up Clachnaharry Sea Lock, and sheepishly just called them up as ‘Sea lock’. I got a little braver, and with a little pronunciation advice from our Scottish crew, I managed to not make too much of a fool of myself when I called up Dochgarroch Lock. I do enjoy the names, and was quite happy (although it did take a couple attempts to get it right) to moor up in Drumnadrochit last night.
Our first glimpse of Loch Ness was absolutely breathtaking. It just so happened that the sun was out and we had beautiful blue skies. I really didn’t expect to be reaching for the sunblock again up in the lochs, what an amazing day! Just as we entered the Loch we caught a glimpse of Aldourie Castle, hidden amongst the trees. This is a true fairytale castle, but is not open to the public so a glimpse from the Loch would have to do.
With not that much wind around we unfortunately didn’t get too much sailing done, but it was really good just to be able to appreciate the spectacular scenery. The Loch Ness Lifeboat came out to say hello to us, and Neil (the helm) very kindly went into Drumnadrochit Harbour ahead of us, just to check what the water depth was. It’s quite strange not having to worry about tides this week. Thankfully there was enough water for us, and thanks again to the RNLI for being our scout boat. Drumnadrochit is in the corner of Urquhart Bay, so of course a trip to Urquhart Castle had to happen. It also just happened to be that the Caladonian Ceilidh Trail Band was having their opening night at the castle. They were incredible – it was such a treat to listen to young energetic musicians enjoying playing their traditional music so much. They also announced the songs in Gaelic, and sang a few really beautiful songs in Gaelic (thankfully there was an English translation too).
Urquhart Castle, although a ruin, is stunning. This is on a headland about a third of the way down the Loch, which is also the deepest part of the Loch. I couldn’t believe it, but Loch Ness is deeper than the North Sea, and has an average year round temperature of between 4 and 7 degrees. The RNLI base is located in Urquhart Bay, and Neil very kindly showed our crew round their base. He was quite informative about the lock, and mentioned that with the temperatures so low, if someone went overboard first stage hypothermia would start after just 5mins, and would probably have to go to hospital after only 15mins (hence the RNLI being dressed in full drysuits, even in the middle of summer). Another interesting fact we learnt about this bay is that this is supposedly the most common Loch Ness Monster spotting ground…
So, armed with all of this useful information about Loch Ness and Urquhart bay, Karen and I decided that Urquhart Castle would make the perfect backdrop for our Loch Ness Challenge – and we did it! We anchored Scarlet off Urquhart Castle and went for a swim around her. I enjoyed it so much (and yet, it was cold) that I went around for a second lap – I suppose so long as you’re moving and swimming with speed it’s okay. Of course, this was great entertainment for our crew, who have probably decided that we are completely mad. It was a little eerie swimming in the dark, peaty waters, but was certainly refreshing. It was also just a little surprising to be swimming in fresh water for a change, and I bet Scarlet is also enjoying the fresh experience. [14/07/09 13:00]
Simon joined us sailing for the day which was absolutely fantastic. It was so good to have him on board, especially to experience the beauty of sailing down Loch Ness. Thankfully we did actually manage to sail! Fraser, Mandy and Emma all took to winch work, while Graham and then Shadab did a great job driving. With the wind coming straight up the Loch, we had quite a lot of practice at tacking, much to everyone’s entertainment. We’re now moored up in Fort Augustus (Scarlet was nicely parked by Emma) and have an early morning of locks to look forward to – this time a flight of five.
From an incredibly beautiful Caley Canal, good night!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Good times in Inverness

The kindness of the Inverness community just hasn’t stopped. Roddy from Highland Taxis arrived on Thursday to give us a tour of Inverness. We managed to get to the RAF base in Lossiemouth and went on a tour of the Search and Rescue unit where Flight Lieutenant John Rowe was very informative and showed us round the ops room, hanger and the Sea King helicopter. It’s amazing that these machines were built in the 60’s but are so reliable that they are still in use. It was also really helpful to see how the rescue services operate. Big thank you to both Roddy and John for a great day out!
The crew spent the evening being very creative and acting out their pirate movie. OF course, Karen and I couldn't resist the opportunity to spice up the production a bit and 'invaded' the set with big water guns - this of course started a massive water fight. All good fun, but mid water battle we were also visited by two brothers, Peter and Dennis, who are currently riding their motorbikes round Britain to raise money for Help the Heroes. They at least got a glimpse of what our trips are all about - lots and lots of fun and laughter!
We went to Inverness Hospital on Friday for our hospital visit. The crew did incredibly well with their presentation, and the video they produced for the leg was brilliant! They were all really confident and full of laughter, always a good sign at the end of the week.
Sadly, as per usual, the leg came to an end far too soon and we had to say goodbye again. Well done to Steve, Ben, John, Laura and Emma – what a great week we had! Also a big thank you to Piers, Kim and Felicity for all your help during the week.

Saturday was the official opening of Inverness Marina, which Ellen came down to open. It was a hugely successful day with 100s of people around, a great display by the fire department and RNLI as well as a flyby of the Coast Guard helicopter. We were blessed with a beautiful sunny day with hardly a cloud in sight. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society were also there raising awareness of the work that they do to protect these beautiful animals.
Later in the afternoon we had our new crew arrive for leg 9. This leg is being run as a Scottish Summer Trip so we are sailing with young people new to the Trust. They are all from Scotland and will be spending the next four days with us, then swapping over with another Scottish group for the second half of the week. The first group is Graham, Fraser, Mandy, Emma and Shadab and we are joined by Fran from Skandia, who will be helping us for the week.
After the beautiful sunny day yesterday we now have the complete opposite – rain, rain and a little more rain – Bbut, we have good kit provided by MUSTO so we will again be putting it to good use. We are heading into the Caledonian Canal today which is very exciting. So what if we get a little bit wet? We are getting quite used to that by now…
Cheers, Cath

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Fantastic Inverness Hospitality

What an incredible welcome we’ve had into Inverness! Goeff Ashton and Jamie Hogan of Inverness Marina have really been incredible, and the support from the local community has been fantastic. We’ve got Highland Taxis running us around, New City Laundrette doing our laundry, and Pizza Direct feeding us, and all for free! We have had some pretty good receptions into ports, but this really has been something special – a massive thank you to Inverness for such a fantastic welcome!
We set sail from Whitehills Marina, another incredibly friendly marina, mid morning yesterday, into a fair amount of Northerly wind. It wasn’t long before the entire crew was soaking wet with waves coming over the bow, but at least for the first hour they found this very entertaining. After a while I think it did get a bit much for some, so we slowly started losing the crew to the warmth and comforts of their bunks (and again, a few seasick casualties).
We reached an impressive turning point in our voyage – as we rounded Halliman Skerries off Lossiemouth we passed our most Northerly point, the furthest away from Cowes we’re going to be, and our halfway mark. Heading South again, we are now on our way home, but thankfully we still have a massive adventure to enjoy ahead of us on our way South. Another celebration by the crew was had, as we also managed to bear away from the breeze a bit and headed for more sheltered waters making for a much more comfortable sail – a great sail in fact!
The sail into Inverness Firth was quite spectacular and we were welcomed into the Firth by dolphins, which we finally managed to get some photographic evidence of. Not great, but proof, so now it counts and Frank might finally believe us. Inverness Firth is really nice and sheltered. We were joined by the RNLI inshore lifeboat, who came out to escort us in. All the crew had resurfaced by this point, and most managed to get a ride out on the lifeboat – a very rare experience and one they all thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you so much to the RNLI for putting some great smiles back onto rather weary crew faces.
We managed to sail all the way up the Firth and under the Kessock Bridge – our 6th bridge of the voyage. So after a magic day out on the water we were welcomed into Inverness Marina by Jamie. We are in need of a new heads pump and it wasn’t long till Jamie had one of his engineers down this morning to sort everything out for us. What incredible service!
We spent today going for a short sail in the Firth to hopefully spot some more dolphins, but unfortunately they weren’t around today. It was great to go for a little sail though. Laura finally braved taking on the helm and with hardly any instruction she did a pretty good job. So much so that I got her to drive the boat onto the pontoon – backwards! I think she’s a bit of a natural – she did such an incredible job without any hesitation at all – well done Laura!
Goeff managed to organize a Moray Firth Radio interview and very kindly took myself, Emma and Laura to the radio station for the interview. It was great to be able to spread the word to the community, who have already been so supportive. The marina is having an open day on Saturday and it is the official opening of the Marina and Ellen will be opening it. It looks like it will be a great day, which I am really looking forward to.
Thank you Inverness!!!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Whales in the Moray Firth

What luck we’ve had so far… This leg has been filled with more marine wildlife wonders. It’s funny how we were so excitable at the sight of puffins, guillemots and gannets, and now they are common sightings. We have been very excitable in the last couple days with sightings of dolphins and whales!
The beginning of the leg was rather quiet weather wise, so it was a rather gentle motor up the coast to Peterhead. On board this week we have Steve, Ben, John, Emma and Laura, and our volunteers for the week are Felicity from Skandia and Kim and Piers Rowlandson from the Trust. It’s a rather full house, with bodies everywhere, but all are getting on well.
We were quite lucky with the weather in Stonehaven, and the new crew arrived to a bright sunny, beautiful evening. We attempted going to the beach for a swim, but only managed to get as far as our knees in the water before we came up with the usefull excuse that there were jellyfish in the water and so needed to get out – nothing to do with the freezing North Sea temperatures! I was feeling a little sheepish, as we had managed to go for a swim on the last day of leg 8 with the crew, but I suppose there was a little more breeze. I don’t quite know how Karen and I are going to manage our Loch Ness challenge – we have a bet on that we are both going to swim around the boat in Loch Ness, but after seeing our poor performance in the relatively warmer waters of the North Sea, I think we might just struggle. We may just have to bend the ‘no wetsuits’ rule (although that would be cheating, and that’s no fun!).
The sail from Peterhead round the Rattray Head corner to Whitehills was better than expected. We had rather light winds forecast, but once out there was a good 10 to 15kts from the NE, giving us a good reach round the corner and then run towards Whitehills. Kim is probably more excitable than me when it comes to whale watching. It started off with a debate amongst the whale-watching crew on the stern as to what a noise they had heard was. Kim, Ben and John spent ages talking this over, then came the first splash that got everyones attention. Next thing we saw a whale come all the way out the water- amazing! This is not something seen everyday, and to see whales broaching four times is quite special. But, unfortunately they where a bit far away to get a good photograph, so according to Frank, it doesn’t really count!
We got into Whitehills marina yesterday evening, with a pretty tight entrance into the harbour. I’m glad we got in yesterday though, as it would not be fun trying to get in with a bit of a swell running (impossible at times). It’s a nice little marina though with good facilities. The little village is quaint and pretty, and comes with the usual friendly Scottish hospitality.
The wind is freshening out of the North, and again, how lucky are we that we got round the corner yesterday. It does however mean that today we will have to go straight to Inverness, as the strong Northerlies tend to cause a bit of a hazardous entrance into or out of Buckie harbour, which was our next intended stop. So, not wanting to get stuck in Buckie for the rest of the week, we will be sailing on. We should have a great day out though, with a good beam reach all along the coast.
Many thanks to BT for supplying us with a dongle which has managed to keep us online and able to update our twitters etc. WiFi is not always available at the ports we’ve been to lately, so this access has been incredibly helpful.
Scarlet has been behaving pretty well, except for a small technical issue with the forward heads. A very big thank you goes to our superhero Simon Townsend, who got into his engineering mode and helped us out – you’re a legend Simon.
Off to Inverness we go, and hopefully see some more exciting wildlife. Ben already has his whale watching dance on the go….

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Walking leg 7!

It’s been a bit of an odd leg sailing wise, in that we haven’t really managed to do much sailing at all, mainly due to there not being any wind for the past few days. We have, however, managed to do a lot of walking. Our hike over to Auchmithie from Arbroath was really good. It was a little further than expected (about 9km long), but followed the coast round along a cliff path. There were loads of geological features which make this coastline really interesting. The path also took us through a wildlife reserve, and past many breeding seabirds. Auchmithie is an old fishing village which slowly lost it’s fishermen to Arbroath. It is also the origin of the famous ‘smokies’, which are now mostly known as Arbroath Smokies. There are only a couple little boats in Auchmithie, and a rather run down harbour wall, but it is a beautiful little village tucked into the cliffs. After our walk, and to the delight of the crew, we managed to catch a bus back to Arbroath. Of course, dinner had to be smokies and salad, and I must admit that there is a reason this fish is so famous- it was definitely the best smoked haddock I’ve ever had.
Yesterday ended up being a waiting day. The morning was spent waiting for the fog to lift. We were just about to head out and go for it, and our neighbours John and Marge on 'Janus' were ready to slip us out, then the fog came rolling in again. It was great having Janus alongside for the night, and John and Marge were wonderful to meet and full of helpfull information, being quite knowledgable about the area. Unfortunately it didn’t lift before the locks closed, so we spent the rest of the day waiting for the tide to come back in so we could get out of the lock again. This did give us another chance to adventure round the sites of Arbroath. We went to the signal lighthouse, which is converted into a museum. This was really interesting, and also gave an insight into the hard lives of the fisherwives. I can’t believe it, but the women used to wade into the water carrying their men on their backs out to the fishing boats, just so the men could start the day with dry feet. They then would spend the days baiting hooks, cleaning and packing fish, selling fish and looking after the family – incredible.
We also managed a bit of a kick around in the park and played a game of touch rugby. I must admit, we did bend the rules quite a bit (probably because we didn’t really know the rules so just made up our own ‘Scarlet’ rules – something we’re quite good at doing). It was such great fun though, and the whole crew were in stitches!
Arbroath Harbor were very kind, and gave us a massive discount on our berthing fees- Thank you very much!!
We finally did get out of the lock in the afternoon, but with less than 5kts of wind we ended up just motoring up the glassy coast. We passed even more breeding birds, the most spectacular being a whole load of guillimots, which all had their little chicks out on the water. Guillimots are the closest relatives to penguins, and just like their cousins they only lay one egg a year and this they keep tucked up on their feet rather than in a nest. I can now understand how they are so protective of the chicks when they first go out to sea. It was really quite special seeing a parent bird followed by the chick, diving down or climbing up onto the parent’s back as we came passing by.
It was just one of those days, and the whole crew just didn’t stop laughing for the entire day. We all just had so much fun, and everything that happened was amusing. Maria and Larvell created a fantastic meal for us on route, with Jake being an entertainment show all on his own. Hilarious!
Stonehaven is beautiful. We attempted going out for a day sail today, but unfortunately just as we got out of the harbour, the fog came rolling back in again. With the wind not really there, we decided it was best to do what we have done so well on this leg so far – go coastal walking. Today’s walk took us to the magical ruins of Dunottar Castle, out on a little cliff peninsula, again with many breeding seabirds. The castle is probably most famous for being where a small garrison managed to fend off Cromwell’s army for eight months and saved the ‘Honours of Scotland’ (the Scottish Crown Jewels). It is also the sight where Hamlet was filmed.
Everyone really enjoyed the day and the leg, even though we didn’t get to sail that much. It’s a working evening on board tonight, with the crew getting stuck into making the video and listening to good old Bob Marley. It’s crazy how quickly the week has gone, and that’s it – the end of leg 7.
Cheerio - Cath

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Cutting it fine!

The Royal Highland Show was pretty interesting. Quite agricultural, with forestry and country displays, horse and livestock events and every imaginable tractor on display. We watched a bit of forestry rescue, show jumping, duck herding by a border collie and quite an impressive mountain bike tricks display. There was also a very interesting tent on sustainable energy, which was a great for us all to learn more about sustainability and alternate sources of energy. The wave energy display was quite interesting, but I keep on wondering how long it will take before there are tidal energy turbines in place. I think it’s a matter of trying to use any natural energy where ever possible. They also had wood chip boilers and stoves on display, which are considered carbon neutral. Larvell and Chris also had a go at the cycling power display, and raced each other. The bikes pump water up a tube with a float at the top. It was quite a close match with both boys cycling furiously, but Chris just managed to pull ahead by centimetres in the end. A bit of huffing and puffing when they got off, but what a great way to show what our energy is worth, rather than just taking it for granted all the time.
After the show it was back to the boat and a reasonably early night before our sail to Arbroath. A big thanks to Port Edgar Marina for making us feel so welcome and for the berthing over the week. We really do appreciate it!
Unfortunately, as things go, we had ENE winds – exactly where we wanted to go! What with the fog delaying our departure in the morning and a rather slow slog out of the Forth, we ended up having to motor straight into the wind to try get to Arbroath on time before the tide gates closed. We also had a few seasick crew, so missing the lock would not have been fun for them! At least the wind wasn’t very strong so we could quite easily make progress. We managed to get into Arbroath Harbour with minutes to spare, and the lock literally closed about 10 mins after our arrival. Close! [27/06/09 17:00]
Our passage today did take us close to St. Andrews – a place very special to Gordon Applebey, a great friend of the Trust and Scarlet’s late owner. Thanks to Gordon and his family we are able to do what we are doing today. The adventures we have had have been incredible, and each and every one of the crew who have sailed on board Scarlet have really enjoyed their time on her. She is an incredible yacht from an incredible family, and we really do appreciate her use. Our original plan was to go to St. Andrews and anchor off in the bay to visit, but unfortunately the onshore winds made this difficult to do.
Today is a shore side day for us. We’re going for a hike along the cliffs over to a little village about 3miles away, and of course we are going to go and find ourselves some famous Arbroath Smokies (some kind of specially smoked haddock… yum). It’s a bit of a misty drizzly day – perfect Scottish walking weather!
Cheers, Cath

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Round South Island

It feels like it’s been ages since we moved anywhere, and in fact it has. We’ve been in Port Edgar for nearly 10 days. Our new crew have arrived and are settling in, of course with a game of UNO already on the go. This week we have Chris, Jonathan, Jake and Larvell has come back for more (YAY). We also have our volunteers Olly and Maria (from Skandia).
The last week has been quite a busy one. Our Round Britain team all had a few days off over last weekend, and of course being gluttons for punishment, Simon and I got the express train back with Michael and Jay to London (only 4hrs – about as long as a flight would take with all the checking in hassles etc.) then headed back to the Isle of Wight for the JP Morgan Round The Island Race. For some silly reason (to raise money for the Trust I think) I decided to test whether I could still ride a bicycle, and cycled round the Isle of Wight racing against Frank and Simon, who were both out sailing.
We had a pre-race bbq at UKSA with the crew from both of the Trust boats and with some of the JP Morgan cyclists, who I would be following the next day. It was really good to see all the EMT team and Choe, Hatty, Joe and Larvell again, and to meet more crew, some of whom will be sailing with us further along our path. It was also Larvell’s 18th birthday – HAPPY BIRTHDAY LARVELL!!!
I can happily say that the weather was definitely in my favour, with some light winds slowing the boats down a bit enabling me to beat them round the course without killing myself. Joey Bootle and I started off together, but soon after, my need to stop and enjoy too many views of the boats behind me (and a much needed rest for my rather unfit cycling body), I was soon out on the roads on my own. It was really beautiful and peaceful, and such a nice way just to be able to recap on all the happenings of the past few months. The island is a little hillier than I thought it was, and the route slightly longer, but I still managed to crawl round the 95km course in about 6hrs. What a great experience, and I will certainly be looking up some of the cyclists I met along the way to do some more cycling when I finally return to the south. A big thank you to the JP Morgan cycling team organizers and to Jo and Nic from the Trust- all out cycling had a fantastic time, and the little energy breaks were very much appreciated (and needed!!).
After a quick catch up with various friends along the way, I had the great new adventure of experiencing a sleeper train back up to Edinburgh on Monday night. This is definitely the way forward for travelling longer distances in the UK. I don’t know if it was the novelty of sleeping in a train where my cabin and bunk where actually slightly bigger than what I am living in on Scarlet, or if it was the freshly made beds, quite drink in the lounge carriage while departing, or the early morning wake up call with a cup of tea. It was so much easier than having to wait in airport lounges, go through security, all with the hassle of queues and checking in and then still having to make your way into the city at the other end. And then there is also the added and much needed advantage of the trains burning so much less carbon than an aeroplane… Got to be a winner!
Back on Scarlet and ready to go. Karen and I caught up with a bit of maintenance work this week, and then had Elaine for Skandia join us today. She very happily undertook the daunting task of polishing stainless, and thanks to hers and Maria’s (our Skandia volunteer for the week) efforts Scarlet is looking nice and shiny again!
We have a good leg ahead of us, and we’re starting it off in style tomorrow. We’re heading to the Royal Highland Show to experience the best of traditional Scotland. Can’t wait!
Good night, Cath.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Wildlife, borders and fantastic sailing.

What an incredible island Farne Island is. Michael and I went for a little walk to get a closer look at the wildlife ashore. We weren’t technically allowed to land on the island in the morning, but some friendly wardens from the Wildlife Trust let it slide and allowed us to have a wander (we gave them a small donation in thanks). The terns were bombarding us from every direction, and thankfully we had followed the advice from the cruising guide which suggested we should wear hats. Michael, being much taller than me, had a few more pecking birds to deal with than me, but I also got a fair share of terns pecking at my head. The reason being that they are in the height of their breeding season, and all the little chicks are starting to hatch. It’s amazing to be able to get so close. The island is also home to breeding puffins, guillemots and cormorants. It was a real privilege to be able to get so close (without disturbing them too much). We were also incredibly lucky with our timing. In three weeks time most of the birds will fly away again, with the fledglings making their first journeys out to sea, where they live for most of their lives.
It was a little sad leaving the peace of the island, but more exploration of the coast was waiting. We had another nice and peaceful sail up to Eyemouth, our first Scottish stop. It’s amazing to think that we have already sailed all the way to Scotland, the time is really flying by!
Eyemouth is a fantastic little village, and we had another friendly welcome from the local harbour master. The whole crew went on a beautiful cliff walk up the coast, then back on board for a superb meal and the new game of the week – Tension. We were all quite impressed with ourselves as we actually manage to play this game by the proper rules, and haven’t yet come up with Scarlet Rules for it.
Sailing up into the Firth of Forth yesterday was yet another great day out on the water. The highlight being sailing past Bass Rock. From a distance it looks like a snow capped rock, but as you get closer it becomes apparent that the entire rock is just covered in big white birds. The gannet colony is really impressive. They are really beautiful birds and to see so many of them so close was incredible. We managed to get Scarlet quite close in next to the cliffs of the rock, and had birds flying all around us. The wind went round to behind us for the first time in a long time, and finally we got the opportunity to get our cruising chute out for a stretch, which was pretty cool and a good bit of afternoon activity, which everyone really enjoyed.
Further up the Firth we saw more seals sunning themselves on the port channel buoys. There were seals on every one, with a few more seals being on channel marker no.16. You could almost imagine the conversation of the seals, ‘hey guys, should we go hang at no.16 today – it’s all happening there’, as if they were choosing which pub to go to.
We’re now tucked up safe and sound in Port Edgar, where Scarlet will be spending the next week having a little rest. We’re all heading into Edinburgh for a bit of city exploration, then it’s a visit to Edinburgh Hospital tomorrow. Jay and Jodie are hard at work creating a picnic lunch for us, looks good!
It has however been a little bit of a slow morning, and a little sad to say goodbye to Lauren, who did another fantastic job as our volunteer this week (and thanks Lauren for providing the ‘buckets’ for our endless tea).
Right, off to Edinburgh we go…. Cath

Monday, 15 June 2009

Beautiful Farne Islands

We’re in the Farne Islands, and it is safe to say that these islands are better than expected! We’re currently anchored in the Kettle, a little haven in the middle of a horseshoe of islands, mostly rocky outcrops off Inner Farne. The islands are home to an incredible amount of seabirds, all coming ashore during the summer months to breed. There are guillemots, puffins, terns, gannets and gulls. We’ve also been blessed to have a load of seals come up and say hello. We are the only boat in our little anchorage, making it very peaceful, just us and all the wildlife. My perfect kind of place!
We’ve had a couple great days out so far. The wind has been light, but at least enough to keep us moving, and with not having huge mileage to cover each day, we have been able to take our time and cruise slowly up the coast. We stopped in Amble on Saturday night, which is a rather sleepy little fishing village on the Warkworth River mouth. As always, the marina staff were really friendly and helpful. I was quite impressed by their push for yachts to go green, encouraging recycling and providing the facilities to do it. Once settled, Michael and Jay got out the crabbing lines, but unfortunately were not that successful. Jodie made some chocolate-apple cup cakes which went down really well (both before and after dinner!).
Lauren joined me in a run along the river to Warkworth Castle. This coastline is really quite impressive, with ruined castles on almost every point. We sailed passed Warkworth Castle, Dunstanburgh Castle, and now have Bamburgh Castle in view.
Looking out over Farne Island with it’s old and new light houses with the castle in the far distance makes a beautiful landscape to get lost into. We had quite a few moments of the whole crew just chilling up on deck (and literally chilling too… the weather is not quite warm just yet), watching the wildlife go by.
Everyone was quite excited when we started seeing our first few puffins. These are really sorrowful looking little birds, but incredibly cute. They look a little like sad clowns. They are a little clumsy in the air, and have to flap their wings an incredible 300 to 400 beats per minute to fly. This is because their wings are adapted to help them swim through the water, allowing them to dive down and catch fish, mostly sand eels. They can also hold plenty in their beaks, and somehow manage to catch more fish while still holding onto the ones already caught. Apparently the record stands at an incredible 62 sand eels!!
We were met by some very friendly day touring boatmen, who know this area like the back of their hands, and helped us get settled in a rather tricky anchorage. Once they had left for the day, they offered us the use of their laid moorings, which always makes for a better night’s sleep.
A very peaceful night sleep indeed! It is just beautiful to wake up to the sound of small waves crashing over the outer rocks and the birds….. and nothing else. Michael and I are off to brave the paddle over to Inner Farne to do some island exploration, while the rest of the crew are going to fend off any pirates from our yacht.
Another fantastic day on the great yacht Scarlet!
Cheerio, Cath

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Thanks to Royal Quays Marina

Our new crew have arrived and seem to have settled in pretty quickly. Although, I suppose this is a little easier as both Jay and Michael were sailing with us on leg 2, so are pretty familiar with the way things are on Scarlet. We spent a great evening playing cricket in the park followed by a great dinner cooked by our chefs Jay and Michael. I have a feeling were in for a treat on the food front this week. Jodie and Lauren have gone off with Simon to stock up on a couple more ingredients… to make things like chocolate muffins. Yum!
I’ve been really impressed with the service at Royal Quays Marina. The staff have been really friendly and helpful. Thank you to all at Royal Quays for making us so welcome!
The facilities are also pretty good, and I am particularly impressed with the recycling facilities. We can actually recycle most things (including plastic bottles). They even had bins for used oil filters, not something you see in every marina.
We have a really good leg lined up, with slightly shorter day hops out sailing, but also going to Farne Islands, a nature reserve close to the Scottish Border.
Newcastle is our last major English stop for quite a while, and it won’t be long till we cross the border to Scotland. Yet another accent to get used to!
We’re off to enjoy the sunshine and fair breeze for an afternoon of gentle sailing up to Amble.
Cheers, Cath

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Tide Waits for No Man

Thankfully Michael from Scarborough Engineers arrived early on Monday morning to sort out our engine. It was just a matter of removing the lift pump and taking it back to the workshop to remove the end of the bleed screw that had sheered off. He was really friendly and helpful, and was back on the boat and had the engine running in no time. Lucky for us, as we had time to kill waiting for the tide to come in enough to give us water to exit the harbour.
We were blessed with one of the best days out sailing yet (again, but this was a fantastic day of sailing!).
Imagine it – 10 to 12 kts of breeze on the beam, sunny skies and one of the most spectacular parts of the English coast – the cliff faces of North Yorkshire dotted with beautiful old villages huddled into secret little bays. We were cruising along quite happily and peacefully, but unfortunately had the tide against us which made our progress rather slow. This didn’t bother us too much as we were able to sail quite close in shore and really did get to enjoy the scenery. We were just a little sad to be sailing past Whitby, it would have been amazing to stop over, but unfortunately our engine problems meant we had to push on.
Everyone on board really enjoyed the afternoon, and sailing into the sunset over Hartlepool was amazing.
The down side was that due to the tide slowing us down a little more than expected, we just missed getting into Hartlepool marina lock by a matter of minutes, so not wanting to risk bumping the ground on a falling tide we went over to Victoria Dock, where a very kind Tees VTS controller helped us find a berth for a few hours while we waited for the tide to come in a bit to allow us into the marina. This berth was a little questionable – designed for hardened sea fishing vessels rather than our elegant yacht, with broken wooden pillars jutting out. With little wind and a quiet sea we managed to hang off this dock for a couple of hours, and Karen and I settled in to a cups of tea and fender duty, making sure our elegant yacht remained elegant, and not transformed into a workhorse.
Dave joined us for the 1am transfer from the fish dock to the marina, and the boys enjoyed their sleep. We were met by Bradley and Simon in the early hours, then finally got a few hours sleep at the end of another long day.
As they say, the tide waits for no man, so our sleep was a little short lived and we were all up at 7am again to get out of the lock. Hartlepool Marina were very kind and wouldn’t accept payment for the berth for the night. Thank you!!
Unfortunately the forecast didn’t hold true for the day, and the force 4-5 decreasing 3 was more like 5 increasing 6 from the NNE – pretty much on the nose, making it a rather wet, windy day on the water. The North Sea also has a horrible habit of forming really choppy, unpredictable swells which sent water over the bow again and again. Well, I suppose at least we managed to get the boys completely soaked before the end of the trip! They all really enjoyed themselves though, and are much more hardened sailors than they were at the beginning of the week. Unfortunately Bradley was a little under the weather again, but is in good spirits now.
Skandia put on another great welcoming, and this week we got to meet Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson (Skandia Team GBR). Ellen was also down to say hello to the crew before her talk. It is really great for our crew to meet such inspirational people.
We’re all back on the boat after another great talk by Ellen. The boys have been really hard at work again, as it is already the last night of the leg which means Video making night. They’ve done really well, and guess what… are now playing UNO!!! [09/06/09 22:00]

Sunday, 7 June 2009

We're in the West from now on!

Hull was quite interesting. Our early arrival into Hull gave us a day to explore the town, and having Annelise (marine biologist) with us was great when we went to The Deep. This is the Europe’s first submariam aquarium. We basically had our own personal tour guide. The Deep was really good, and the main tank was brilliant, with about 10 different species of sharks and loads of fish of every description. We also went and visited the Maritime Museum, which was a bit of a grim eye opener to the old whaling industry. The only disappointing thing about Hull was the amount of rubbish littering the gardens and streets. A bit of a pity as it is a rather charming old town. Lizzie, Luke and Larvell did a really good job at the Nottingham Hospital, and the smile on one little boy’s face was brilliant – hopefully we will see him sailing next year, when he’s old enough.
After a really friendly welcome to Hull, we also had a really friendly departure. John from the Hull Yacht Club invited our new crew to the Yacht Club for pizzas and ice cream on Friday night. This was a great gesture and a good time was had by all. The boys had been hard at work all afternoon getting final preparations done for the next leg of our voyage. We also had an early morning planned, so the pizzas and cold drinks were very welcomed! Thank you to John for organizing dinner for us.
Another early tide for us on Saturday morning so we were up at 5am again. I’m getting used to these early starts. On board we have Bradley Boatman, Tom Broughton and Tim Able as our crew. We also have David Stead from Skandia as our volunteer for the week. I think our first passage was a little bit of a rude awakening for our new crew, what with the early morning and winds on the nose coming out of the Humber River. Unfortunately as we were coming out on the tide, this did mean that we ended up having wind against tide making the beat out of the Humber a really bumpy one, with short steep seas building up at the River mouth. All the boys were rather green and I could see that they weren’t overly impressed with this sailing thing, and I kept on promising that it would all be much better and very pleasant as soon as we were out of the river and heading North to Scarborough. And of course, as soon as we did, it did become a lot more pleasant. Pretty much perfect sailing conditions again, with a great 15 to 20kts from the East give us a good reach up the coast. The sun even came out for a little while. Unfortunately this still didn’t help for some, and there were a few seasick crew again. The afternoon was pretty spectacular sailing though, and the coast line is becoming really beautiful to sail along. It was also a rather significant sail, as we crossed over Greenwich Meridian again coming out of the Humber, then again as we headed west. This is the last meridian crossing for us – from now on it’s all in the West for us. The cliffs of Flamborough Heads are quite impressive, but unfortunately I didn’t want to get too close to explore them with onshore winds. Coming into Scarborough is magical. The town is situated below the ruins of the old Scarborough Castle which makes quite an impressive approach. Big cliffs and rolling green and yellow hills surround the town. I was a little bit worried with our earlier slow progress out of the Humber, as we are restricted on entry into Scarborough harbour due to the tide. We made it though and are happily snuggled into the old Harbour, with a welcoming wave from Neil (the Harbour Master) who also very kindly helped us out with a couple issues- thank you Neil!
Scarborough is a charming little town. It seems to be a typical old seaside town, with a busy fishing harbour filled with lobster traps. The pier has it’s usual entertainment arcades and funfair, but everything here seems to be just a little more authentic. After a walk around the Castle ruins David treated us to ice creams from the Harbour Bar, which is a great retro styled ice cream parlour, with award winning ice cream certificates dating back quite a few years.
Tim and Bradley have been hard at work in the galley this evening, and it looks like we have a feast for dinner. It’s smelling really good….. garlic mushrooms followed by lasagne – yum!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Our Eastern most point and the best sailing so far!

We have just had the best three days of sailing we could possibly have hoped for! After a rather peaceful night on anchor in Walton Backwaters, we got up at 5am to catch the early tide up to Lowestoft. The initial leg was a bit of a beat out of the Orwell River mouth, and with a steady 18kts of breeze from the East it didn’t take long before we could free Scarlet up a bit on a long close reach up the coast. Unfortunately there were a couple seasick stomachs, but this didn’t get the crew down and there were smiles all round. With the tides, wind and sun all in our favour, we made it into Lowestoft around lunch time. We stayed at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, who did a fabulous job of making us feel welcome.
After a little afternoon siesta (much needed after our early active start) we set off walking along the beachfront of Lowestoft. It’s quite quaint and just a little kitch, with the typical pier entertainment arcade and ice-cream parlours on the town quay. We actually found a sandy beach which was quite a novelty. It made the perfect space for us to do a bit of kite flying. Everyone did pretty well, but it must be said that Larvell is a bit of a kite flying pro. He was really good at doing various tricks and turns with the kite.
Simon Cadle from the RNSYC very kindly invited us to dinner a the yacht club that evening. They were having a celebratory 60’s evening, which ended up being very entertaining for us. We had a great meal, surrounded by hippies and Elvis Presley, and watched the band play. Within an hour Lizzy, Lauren and Annelise were up dancing, and soon after Luke joined them. Lizzy really is a dancing queen and looked like she was having an absolute ball!
A big thank you to Simon and Roger from the RNSYC for such a fabulous and warm welcome, we really did enjoy our stay in Lowestoft.
Unfortunately we had to call it an early night, as we had another early tide train to catch. This time it was across The Wash, and our longest passage on the trip so far. The weather Gods were definitely with us again, and we had absolute perfect conditions for our passage. A little less wind, but still a good 10 to15kts from the NE with calmer seas (and no seasickness) and clear blue sunny skies! We were sailing as soon as we left the harbour, and managed to get from Lowestoft to the River Humber on one tack! Initially close hauled have us a great sail up the coast past Great Yarmouth, and we enjoyed sailing up our most Eastern point of our Round Britain Voyage. As soon as we rounded the corner we eased off the sails and were happily close reaching for the rest of the day. We had only about an hour that we had to motor sail (due to the wind dropping a bit too much) but then the rest of the day was just perfect sailing. Luke, although starting off with a bit of serpentine sailing, soon got the hang of driving and managed to get our boat speed record for the leg of 10.4kts. Everyone loved the day, and also managed to catch up on a little sleep with various bodies scattering the decks like a bunch of lounge lizards sunning themselves in the sun. Larvell also got involved with a bit of navigation.
We managed to keep sailing all the way into the Humber River, where we picked up a mooring buoy for the night (we didn’t have enough water to get into Grimbsy at that point). It was a bit of a bumpy mooring though, with the wash from ships rocking the boat, as well as a bit of wind against tide holding the boat in a funny angle.
This morning was a rather leisurely morning compared to the last couple, and we managed to actually sleep in a little. Again, the weather Gods were with us, and we had another perfect morning of sailing up the Humber River. We managed to keep sailing all the way up, and it did feel a little like we were the only people there. For such a busy port, the Humber was rather quiet today, with only two ships passing us. Were now in Hull Marina, with another friendly welcome from the marina staff. We are here a day early, but at least this now gives us the chance to do a bit of shore side activity, after our epic three days of perfect sailing. We also crossed over the Greenwich Meridian again as we sailed passed Grimsby. This is the 4th crossing, and only two left to go.
So, in one successful leg, we’ve completed the longest day passage so far (100nm), we’re turned round the Eastern most point of our voyage and crossed the Meridian again, all in perfect sailing conditions with HAPPY PEOPLE ON BOARD! Hooray!!!

Friday, 29 May 2009

We're off again!

We had a rather quick turn around in Ipswitch. Yesterday turned out to be a quite a busy day. We had a day of sailing with guests of Skandia, but unfortunately there wasn’t much wind at all, so this ended up being a rather gentle cruise up and down the Orwell River. This did give us a good chance to appreciate the beauty of the river banks though. We did also manage to get Scarlet out of her rather tight berth without any problems, and with the help of Rob and some of the guys at Fox’s who are all pretty skilled at moving boats around tight corners with large boat hooks.
Our new crew arrived in the late afternoon, ready for the next leg. We had a brilliant reception, with Peter Cazalet organising a fantastic fundraising evening called Scarlet at Home. Ellen came down to open up the new Chandlery at Fox’s and stayed on for the evening. Lizzy, Larvell and Luke all did fantastic TV interviews, and of course Big Dan was his usual brilliant self. A very big thanks to Peter for all his efforts organizing last night – we all had a great time!
Fox’s were down early this morning to help us out with a few maintenance issues. It really was good to have someone come on board and sort a couple things out for us, just one less thing for us to worry about when we had such a short turn around. I really do appreciate the help from them and thank you to Giles for organizing this!
On board this week we have Lizzy, Luke, Larvell and our two volunteers for the week are Lauren Hall and Annelise Hagan, who both helped us out rather last minute. We’ve had a rather relaxed and quiet day, with a short passage back down the river and back to Walton Backwaters. Not a cloud in the sky and a solid 10 to 15kts gave us a bit of good sailing, and hopefully we should be in for a couple more days of great sailing. We’re anchored in the same spot as before and have just watched the most beautiful sunset, with silhouettes of the other travelling yachts on anchor all around. It’s an early start tomorrow morning as we’re catching the early tide to help us up the coast to Lowestoft (5am start), but the forecast looks good and hopefully we’ll get to appreciate a proper sunrise!
From a rather quiet and peaceful Scarlet, good night!