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!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Woderful Welcome into Ipswitch

We departed Bradwell with a fair bit of wind, but unfortunately this was right on the nose. But, it didn’t last that long, and within an hour we were back motoring (at least in the right direction!). It really impresses me to see how people get over their fears. WeeMan wasn’t feeling so well in the beginning, but got over it and bravely took over the helm. Within minutes he was back on form. The helm is such a wonderful place on a boat – not only is it the control position, but it is also the seasick medic.
Steffy has done incredibly well this week. From not wanting to steer in the beginning of the week, I could hardly get her off the wheel yesterday! She definitely has got a knack for sailing, and when all the boys had gone down below to sleep while we were beating out of the Blackwater River, Steffy was up and working the winches like a pro. It’s wonderful to see how confident she has become on Scarlet – to the point of haggling Dan for the wheel while we were winding our way up the river. I think it was the rib driving that set her off – fearless speed demon at heart!
We got into Walton Backwaters just in time, as the tide was already dropping quite a bit. There is a rather shallow sand bar that we had to get over in order to get into the creek, and this could only be done 3hrs around high tide. The creek was beautiful… but like so many sheltered waterways around here, it was full of little boats on moorings. We were a little large for these, so ended up spending the night anchored out in the middle of the creek. There is something about being out on anchor that I absolutely love – it’s peaceful, free and independent! The clouds came down and weather deteriorated, but this just made our cosy little environment so much better, and we spent the night playing games. Articulate has taken over on the popularity scale with this crew. It is such a great game though as it gets everyone talking/shouting/laughing!
We were also lucky enough to do some British wildlife spotting, and saw a seal in the creek! Of course, we didn’t get a photo of it, so according to Frank – it wasn’t real. (A little bit like the dolphin that we saw on leg 1!).
The wind unfortunately was still not in our favour yesterday, and was blowing up to 28kts – exactly from where we wanted to go! But we did just have a trip up the river to do, so at least it was a bit sheltered. We had a really impressive welcoming committee that met us at Levington creek – an Oyster 82’ and an Oyster 655. We were then escorted up to Fox’s Marina by these two beautiful yachts. A big thank you to Liz and Barney at Oyster Marine for such a fantastic welcoming!
The Orwell River is really beautiful. Green rolling hills and fields surrounded by patches of forest. We saw the most amazing little cottage too – right on the water (with a boathouse attached), and surrounded by countryside. For me – the best of both worlds!
Skandia put on a fantastic reception at Fox’s Marina for us and had a barbeque going which we all went up and enjoyed. It was a great way to end off another successful leg. Bryony Shaw of Skandia Team GBR was also down to welcome us and say hello to the kids – it was really good to meet her, and a real inspiration to our crew. A big thank you to all at Skandia!
It was quite a squeeze getting Scarlet into her berth. I didn’t quite believe Frank when he showed me where I had to take her – a really narrow, tight corner then onto a tight berth in front of a crowd – no pressure there! Frank greeted me with yet another ‘rather you than me’. We made it in without any problems, now we just need to get back out somehow..

Monday, 25 May 2009

Bradwell fun!

What a great time we’ve had in Bradwell! The high ropes course was just so much fun, with everyone making it to the top. Unfortunately Jamie wasn’t able to take part with his broken arm, but this didn’t stop him from running around and getting involved anyway. He became our official photographer. James did incredibly well on the leap of faith. This is a tall telegraph post that you have to climb up and then stand on a tiny platform on the top (probably about 40ft high). It’s a little bit wobbly at the top, and takes a bit of balancing to settle down. From the platform you have to leap over to catch a swing rail – a bit like a trapeze artist! Anyway, James, Dan, Steffy, Karen and I all made the jump, then James was challenged by increasing the distance to the swing. Even Frodo (our instructor from the Activity Centre) was impressed, and said that the final distance that James made was pretty much at the limit of what he had seen! I was being camera man, and unfortunately as soon as James made the jump I got so excited that I forgot all about the camera to jump up and down… It does make a funny bit of footage though, and at least I did get him making it! I have been fired from being camera man though, as earlier I had also managed to not film Karen’s ascent of the high ropes course.
Jim came and met us yesterday morning for a day of activity. Sadly there wasn’t any wind so dinghy sailing was off the cards, but we did get out on a couple RIBs. Unfortunately we have now created a complete petrol-head… Steffy was fearless when on the helm, and when told it was safe to speed up, she accelerated without any hesitation and had the rest of the crew looking like dogs with their heads stuck out the window of a fast moving car within seconds! Jim took us over to Mersea Island, which is just beautiful! Apparently there is a dinghy and windsurfing race round the island, and when the boats get to the causeway (which is flooded at high tide) if there isn’t enough water then there are boat men who pick up the boats with their crews in and carry them across the causeway. Sounds like such fun!! We stopped off for ice cream (our favourite treat), then back on the water for a bit more wave bumping by Dan.
The kids went off to do a bit of archery in the afternoon (while Karen, myself and Carolyn caught up with a little boat work), and then off to the beach for an evening of flying kites. The beach is quite interesting, with layers of shells and rocks defining different tide lines. Quite an active day in the end… which is to be expected at an activity centre!! Thanks again to Jim and Frodo for all your help, and everyone else in Bradwell for making us feel so welcome!
Bradwell is really beautiful… rather flat but really green country side, with the river and creeks winding their way up. There is quite a lot of water activity – loads of boats of every description around, yet we are quite remote and rural (the nearest shop is about 25mins drive away). Bird life is really great too, and it is so peaceful to listen to nothing but the oystercatchers in the early hours of the morning.
We’re off to discover another beautiful creek today – Hamford Water here we come!!

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Round Something

Our little family of coots living under our pontoon in St Katherine Docks have got little chicks hatching. One had managed to fall into the water though, so I had to rescue it and get it back onto the platform while Dan was trying to distract a madly pecking daddy coot on the other side. He did come and find the little chick, and hopefully the poor little thing managed to get back into the nest (unfortunately this was a little out of reach for my arms). All the crew arrived on Thursday afternoon, we now have Steffy, James, Jamey and Dan, along with Big Dan and Carolyn van der Toorn, who is our Skandia volunteer for the week. We started our trip with a walk across Tower Bridge, and I introduced the crew to a habit that my mother passed on to me. We had to walk around something before turning back towards the Bridge (and back to meet Dan), so our walk was the ‘Round Misshapen Building’ walk.
We left St Katherine Docks with the legend Chris Livitt, who came and enjoyed a pleasant sail down the Thames. It was a little sad saying Goodbye… from here we really are out and about on our adventure, and probably won’t be seeing my family or friends for quite a while. But, nothing like a fun bunch of crew and a day out on the water to pick up the spirits, and we did have a really nice sail out to Queenborough once the wind picked up a bit. There was a flotilla of Belgian cruisers all making their way up and down the Thames, and it felt quite festive and nomadic, seeing people and boats going off in all different directions, all on their own adventures.
Queenborough was packed, and we ended up rafting alongside some Belgian adventurers heading for London. They were leaving on the early tide, which meant a 5:30am start for us! This actually worked out quite well though. Wee Dan was up before I could say Boo and I must admit I have never had a crew so keen and ready to go – ON TIME AT 5:30am! Must be a record..
It was a rather uneventful sailing day though, with little to no wind for most of the morning, but thankfully a little breeze set in for the last couple hours, so we did manage to get sailing for a bit. Steffy has become quite handy on the winches, and Wee Dan is glued to the helm whenever the boat moves. We had a lovely reception, with Geoff Pierce and some of his family and friends coming out on their RIBs to escort us in. This was much appreciated, as it is a tight creek to get Scarlet into Bradwell, and we had to pick our way through a field of little boats on moorings.
Jim also came down to say hello, and this evening he is going to put us all to our paces on the Bradwell Activity Centre high ropes course…. Can’t wait!
Our afternoon has been amazing. We went for a walk along the coast and in the country. It is amazing how much I miss being out in the country. We had a great time rolling around in this field of really long and soft grass, and it got the whole crew behaving just the way we should be – crazy!! What a fun afternoon. Of course, this walk was the ‘Round Random Gate’ walk.

Pizza is up, and then we’re off to have more fun.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


On Friday we took the crew back to University College Hospital for them to do a presentation. Dan Monk stood up to introduce the Trust to the crowd that had gathered. He then passed over to young Dan, Jay and Michael, who continued with the presentation. It always makes me so proud to see them stand up in front of people and talk openly about how much fun they were having. After the presentation, the hospital gave us some lunch and a chance to talk to some of the patients who had come to the presentation. The boys were really good at going up to strangers and telling them about their experiences, and I could see exactly how incredible these hospital visits really are. Not only does it give confidence to our crew, but the hope and enthusiasm from some of the patients who are still going through treatment is really incredible. It gives them a break, even just for an hour, but for them to see and meet people that have been through what they are going through, survived, and then looking so happy and confident must be such a relief.
Young Dan also made a TV appearance with Ellen on the Breakfast Show, and what a great job he did. He is just so enthusiastic about sailing, I really wouldn’t be surprised if he follows Big Dan’s footsteps and chooses sailing as his career.
The sad part of my journey happened after the hospital visit- I had to say goodbye again. We do become a real family on Scarlet every week, and I can see this happening over and over again. But, the great news is that both Dans are rejoining us for the next leg, and Michael and Jay are coming back for a leg up to Scotland! Hopefully the weather will be a little kinder to us next time, so the boys can get to do a bit more sailing.
On Friday night we had a dinner on HMS Belfast, in the Admirals Quarters. This was such a great evening, and it was really good to have to opportunity to meet people that have given us so much support. It also gave Frank and Ellen a chance to talk about the Trust. Ellen stood up with nothing planned, other than to talk about the kids. She is so passionate about them and what we do, and every time we get feedback from the parents it just reinforces that we really do help. The food was fantastic, and our dinner place cards were Belfast ration cards.. really cool.
We’re now in St Katherine’s Dock, waiting for the arrival of our new crew tomorrow. We had a chance to take a couple days off over the weekend which was good. Scarlet as always needs a little love and attention, and Karen and I have had the rather unpleasant job of cleaning oily water out of the bilges (very smelly too…). We have company though, there is a family of coots nesting under our pontoon. It was really funny when we docked up. Karen jumped ashore with the bow line, and when I asked her to take in on it, she was bent over double with laughter… the coot was pecking at her feet from under the pontoon!! I suppose it was quite rude of us to interrupt their nesting, even though we did have a boat to tie up!
Anne Cecile Turner brought her friend Jane round last night. They are in training for the West Wight Triathlon, which they are doing to raise funds for our Trust. It was a really great evening and nice to talk about the work that we do. I somehow let it slip that I was intending doing the Triathlon as well, and Ann Cecile very quickly added me to her list! Oops… I suppose this means I had better put my running shoes on a little bit more often.
Scarlet is calling… and unfortunately so are the diesel tanks. It’s time to get messy again.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Get us to the Bridge on time!!!

What a week it’s been… The weather was not our friend earlier in the week, holding us up in Dover for a couple days. But, we put the bad weather to good use, and used it as an excuse to go to Dover Castle, including a tour of the tunnels. The RNLI also welcomed us on board the Lifeboat for a tour – it’s amazing what they are capable of, and they are there purely by charity… I am really impressed with the service they provide, with most of the crew being volunteers, willing to risk their lives at sea to help others in distress. Thank you to Stewart for inviting us! Hilary Lister and her crew joined us for tea, and somehow managed to get me to jump into the harbour water to help them out on a retrieval drill…. Must have been Lottie’s charm!
So another frustration day of decision making for me… we were running out of time to get to London…. Get me to the bridge on time…. And adly the wind was a bit too strong and the forecast was not looking too pleasant. So, we had to send the boys off the boat to a hotel for a night, while Karen, Dan and I went sailing round the corner and into the Thames Estuary. Things always seem to go wrong at very inconvenient times, and as we came up to Queenburough at about 4am, we got the engine started and dropped our sails only to have the engine die on us! So a bit of sailing onto a mooring was required (in the dark-always fun J).
An early morning call to Andy at SYS alleviated some of the worry, after describing to him what the problem was (water in the fuel tank) he thankfully said that although the engine had cut out, we wouldn’t have gotten water into the injectors so all that was need was to drain the water out of the system and bleed the engine… Thanks Andy!! But, our luck was with us as it just happened that Chris Livitt (the Thames Water Man) was dropped off by his engineer, Tracey. Tracey was a legend – he turned back and put the rest of his day on hold to help us with our engine, Thank you so much Tracey!!
What an experience sailing up the Thames was – the boys were fresh and well fed and we did have perfect sailing conditions, with 15kts from the East giving us some great reaching, running and gibing practice as we wound our way up the river. Chris was fantastic and it was such a relief to be able to enjoy the sail, with some awesome sights along the way. Chris also worked his magic, and when we had to motor up to catch the West India Dock he managed to get the bridge to open a little late. The whole London experience is all thanks to Chris!
Today was another roller coaster day. I got up early to change the filters again (and drain off a bit more water) only to discover that my engineering skills were questionable…. But, knowing that he would already be sipping a coffee in his ‘office’, an early call to my great friend Haig (Afloat Marine Services) got the problem sorted – I had basically been working against myself trying to prime the engine, but in his great way Haig managed to talk me through exactly where I had gone wrong… so 30 mins later and a mass improvement to my engineering skills, we had an engine again!!! Thanks Haig, and sorry for the early call…
Ellen, Maxine and Emily joined us for the day for our super adventure up to Tower Bridge. Chris was with us again, and worked his magic and stopped traffic in London – JUST FOR US!! Emily did such a great job driving the boat under the bridge – it was quite impressive. The rest of the day was just such a great relief- we made it to the Bridge on Time!!!
And now – I’m going to rejoin the crew for Scarlet’s all time favourite game – UNO.
Good Night J

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Dover - and more incredible people!

It’s a bit of a weird feeling, but the first leg is over… Everyone has left the boat, and here I am, contemplating it all. All I can say is – ‘Wow’. It was a bit sad today, saying good bye to all my new found friends.
As you may have heard, we had quite a windy trip to Dover. It was one of those tricky decisions, where the forecast was that the wind should decrease throughout the day, and in order for us to get to Dover on a favourable tide we had to leave Eastleigh in the morning. As Ellen quite rightly told me today – better to 5kts more wind but with wind and tide in the same direction (and thankfully the same direction we were going) than to have less wind but then have to deal with wind against tide. It did make for a rather fun trip down, even though we only sailed with a headsail up, we were still cruising along at between 8 and 10kts. There were unfortunately a couple queasy tummies, and unfortunately our timing of arriving at Dover was perfectly timed for a couple cruise ships leaving port, so we had to wait outside the Western Entrance to the Port, in some rather uncomfortable lumpy seas. We did finally manage to get all the crew wet, with a couple waves sending spray over the boat, and over us! It just wouldn’t be right to go on a Trust trip and not get drenched in water at least once (although, it usually happens by means of water bombs and water pistols – not quite from the sea state!). But, everyone was very happy to get to Dover, and I am so proud of all my crew for doing so well. Jack definitely gets the perseverance award, as always, within 10mins of arriving in Dover, he was up and about and jumping around again. We celebrated our efforts with hard earned fish and chips in the park.
SERIOUSLY – WELL DONE CHLOE, RACHEL, HATTY, JO AND JACK – you guys are legends!! Good Luck for all the exams coming up (and thanks for taking time out to come sailing with us).
Today was another incredible day – after sadly saying goodbye, Simon collected me and took me off to see Ellen’s talk. I met another very inspirational woman today – Hilary Lister. She sailed into the record books in 2005 by being the first ever quadriplegic to sail solo across the English Channel, in a tiny little boat using a special ‘sip and puff’ system of straws to control the sails. She came to Ellen’s talk with her team and of course Lottie – her beautiful chocolate Labrador. She is also on a Round Britain dream, and is about to continue her challenge from where she left off. She is going the other way round however, so hopefully we will get a chance to see her again somewhere else on this beautiful coast. I always knew this was a big challenge for her, but it wasn’t until I saw her boat in the Marina that I realised how incredible her journey really is. Good Luck Hilary – we will be thinking of you and wishing you every success (and fair weather) on your Round Britain Dream!
So back on the boat, as always needing care and attention and back into grease mode I went. I was very kindly helped out by Shawn and Mic of the Dover Harbor Patrol (and I managed to get a little ride across the marina in the Pilot Launch – serious piece of boating machinery that is!). Shawn dove into the depths of our lazarette to help me with a rather stubborn bolt, but all good now and getting ready for the next adventure. Thank you Dover Harbour Patrol!!!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

To go or not to go..... followed by a great day sailing!!

After a couple days being weather bound in Brighton, it was quite a relief to finally get out sailing again, although the decision to go out was quite a difficult one. One weather forecast was forecasting Force 5 to 7 (a little too windy for our fine sailors), and another was forecasting Force 4’s. After much thought and a quick walk to the breakwater to see what the sea state was like, and watching our wind instruments, we finally slipped our lines shortly after 11am, and headed out to sea. As it turned out, it was a perfect day to be out sailing, with no more than 18kts of wind, all from the SW, which gave us a great reach over to Beachy Head. Unfortunately, because we had delayed our departure, we ended up sailing against the tide. Although we may have been a little slow over the ground, at least we were happier with what the weather was doing. A big thanks to Brighton Marina for putting us up for a few days!
Jack did his usual, he had a brave face on for the first 20mins, then headed back down to his normal sailing position: flat out on the saloon berth. It’s quite incredible though, even though he knew it was going to be a little bumpy out there he was still keen to go out sailing. Also knowing that he gets seasick but still wanting to give it a go is really quite impressive – a very brave young man!
All the kids were really great today – they did make my decision of going out sailing quite a lot easier. When I spoke to them and mentioned that it was potentially going to be quite windy and quite rocky, they were all keen to get out on the water regardless, and head off to our next destination of adventure…
We’re now in Eastbourne at the Royal Sovereign Marina and had a very warm welcome from Ed while we were in the lock. We also managed to catch up on a couple maintenance jobs – Dan Monk was all too keen to get up to the top of the rig and fix a faulty navigation light, it was only when he got back down that he mentioned to us that actually he is afraid of heights – nothing like facing your fears!!!
What an inspirational week I’ve had so far – people openly challenging themselves without any hesitation, from sailing the boat in rougher weather to speaking to a crowd about their experiences. We also went to Ellen’s talk – and without spoiling it for any of you who are planning on going to see her speak, it was brilliant! Well done Ellen!!!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Topsy-Turvy entrance to Brighton

Here we are in Brighton, after a rather interesting day out sailing yesterday. Our day started off pretty perfect, with a trip up Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth followed by a great day sailing. We had an awesome 15 – 20kts from the SW, and we had a visit from one of the biggest dolphins I have ever seen in my life. I didn’t believe Dan when he said it was a dolphin, but interestingly enough, bottlenose dolphins can grow up to 4m in these colder Northern waters. Today we are going to get hold of Marine Conservation and start reporting back our sightings, which will help them with their surveys and cetacean research. As is the way with sailing and weather forecasts, the wind picked up a bit later in the afternoon, and as we gybed to come into Brighton, we had one of the best sea state descriptions from one of the crew, our log entry reads Sea State: topsy-turvy – quoted from our great Seaman Joe Cunningham! Thankfully we weren’t that far out of Brighton, so the crew didn’t have to deal with the topsy-turvy sea state for too long. The angle of the waves on the break water into Brighton Marina also made a rather interesting entering experience. It’s still pretty windy out there, but thankfully we already had a day of shore side activity pre-planned.
Today we are going to the Royal Marsden Hospital. This is our first Hospital visit for the trip, and will give Chloe and Jack a chance to revisit their old wards. All the kids are busy preparing a presentation of their experiences and adventures with the Trust, and they will have the opportunity to show this to the kids that are currently in the ward. In just two days of sailing, we’ve already had quite an incredible adventure…. Having quite a few boats chase us as we crossed the Royal Yacht Squadron start line, who fired the cannon for us. We also had a salute from the Royal London Yacht Club as we passed them on our way out the Medina. What incredible support we’ve had, and everyone on board was really excited and happy with such a great turnout. Thank you to all that came out on Sunday to show us your support, and for all the good wishes from those further away…[05/05/09 09:30]

Saturday, 2 May 2009

We’re on board and settling in- what an amazing feeling… it is all oh so real right now, but this is where the fun begins and I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!!
We had a manic final week of preparation, with Haig Youens of Afloat Marine Services coming over to service Scarlet’s engine (and fix a leaky pipe – Thanks Haig!). We also took Scarlet over to Hamble to get her compass swung, and of course Rob and Hayden from SYS came and met us to sort out a couple issues. We’re not gone yet Rob, but tomorrow you’ll get to finally wave us off another dock. Rudi, our electrical legend, also managed to get the wind generator up and running, and even changed our light bulbs to LEDS. We were also given a Mastervolt battery monitor – Andy Willet managed to source this for us, and thanks to Mastervolt for supplying the unit. I have a lot to learn about electrical bits and pieces and power, but it’s great to see how much power is being supplied by our DuoGen. It’s also great to be able to see for our own eyes the difference in consumption between using LEDS and normal bulbs.
We have been very fortunate with some of the kit we’ve been given, and very excitingly, Garmin have come aboard as a supporter of ours and have given us an Oregan 400t, with all associated charting for our voyage – what an amazing piece of kit, I am really greatful to Lori at Garmin and to Nick Meadows for passing our details and story on to her. It was quite amusing though, Frank rang me up to let me know that it had arrived. He did mention that he was a little concerned though, as we have been supplied with Charts for Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He jokingly reminded me that I do have to turn left when we get to Dover, and actually sail round Britain, and not head off down South!

Jack and Harriet are back on board, and joining them are Jo, Chloe (who came sailing with me last year, and even remembered my now legendary special!!) and Rachel.
Dan Monk also joined us this evening, and luckily for us we get the pleasure of his company and his experience all the way to Bradwell… What funJ
Everyone has also done the first official complete crew blog – so make sure you head over to their blog page if you haven’t seen it yet.

I really do feel at home right now, and what a wonderful feeling that is J. Good night!