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0057 - A 'quick' recap of 2022

As we get ready for the 2023 season I thought it might be worthwhile to recap what we did last year...I don't know if this was a good year but it was a year nonetheless.

 

After a winter in Berwick (England), we departed, only to go a few miles north over the border to Eyemouth (Scotland) to get some fuel, a tiny jaunt to start the season. The next day we tried to go further North, but the wind and waves were just too strong - so we ended up going back to Eyemouth for another day...

It was much easier to just go back to Eyemouth and just try another day rather than push through it.


We were only making about half a knot into 30kts of wind, against the tide - and it wasn't very smooth either, tbh - it was just annoying, so we turned around.

After an early start the next day, we eventually got up to Edinburgh.


It was such a long day, the winds weren't much better, but better enough for us to make enough headway to get us to where we were going, not really unpleasant, just long...

After spending a night on the club pontoon, we moved around to another mooring, a quieter mooring...into the forbidden section of the harbour. You know folks, we're not fancy - and free is free, I don't care if its condemed or not, as long as there is somewhere to tie a rope and nothing nasty on the bottom to harm our hull - we're good.


We just happened to be adjacent to Nevil Shutes' wrecked yacht (again) that has now gone from a boat on the beach to a wreck slowly getting eaten by the beach...

A few people had asked about it, so I did go over and have a look - and as you'd imagine, it was a complete disaster. I'm not going to re-post all the same pictures again, but you can read more about Nevil Shute's wreck: HERE


We stayed here for a week or so while we waited for a nice big tide so we could get up on the slip and get the hull cleaned and painted...


In the meantime, we did a lot of nothing, made some minor repairs and the cats did a lot of sunbathing...It was soo warm, so I made sure Phoebe has a nice breeze to lay in - and with the absence of any wind I hooked up a fan to keep her cool!

After getting the hull cleaned and painted for another season, we hung around for another while, just catching up with various people and, partly, just waiting for the right conditions...which never seemed to arrive...


We were going to go North around the top of Scotland, but the weather was very unsettled. Not soo bad that you couldn't go that way, but it was going to be a very bumpy trip if we did - it just didn't seem like a good idea.

Plus, if I'm honest - I couldn't be bothered dealing with shitty conditions...cold shitty conditions and rough choppy anchorages are not what we're looking for this season...


So South it was, and as we left we were escorted by some new friends...These mad lads and lass salvaged a yacht that had been left for dead, and recently became sailors, fairly sure we'll bump into these nomads again at some stage!

But going South meant we'd go back to Berwick for a few days before continuing on.


Back in Berwick, we rafted on to a fishing boat, to which Chloe expressed great interest in - she's never jumped over the net - but I think this day she was close! Phoebe, on the otherhand, just prefers to be as comfy and as rested as possible...

We were only here for a few days, and after leaving Berwick, we headed to Blyth and stayed for a night before heading to Scarborough the next morning - I wanted a shower plus I'd forgotten to fill the water tanks before leaving Berwick, so this was a necessary stop, gotta have water...


The next morning we left a little later than expected, but either way, it was going to be an overnight trip, the weather was to be clear and all in, it was an uneventful trip with us arriving in Scarborough mid-morning the next day...

The intent was to stay in Scarborough Harbour for one night but on this particular occasion, it was very busy...so we didn't bother.


We just decided to anchor out, but then decided to anchor even further out as I could still hear music and people from the beach. Once we found a suitable spot, we ended up just staying for a few days and enjoying the sun...

After a few days of doing very little, it was time to leave and head for Lowestoft - the weather was perfect - zero waves and 15kts of favorable wind, it was like sailing on glass...and for the first time this season, I was really enjoying the sailing...


Under full sail, with the girls on deck lounging around, no waves, a lovely warm breeze...and a hot cup of coffee, it was everything you'd expect from this kinda life...it really was nice - perfect conditions, what could go wrong...?

As it was so warm and calm, I did have all the hatches open which are normally a 'no no' when sailing, but this day was so calm, I figured - what's the harm? And I might not have opened the forward hatch had it not been so effective at cooling down the boat, and because it was so effective I momentarily suspended my better judgment.


We were 30nm into a 130nm trip and were about 12 or 13nm offshore when I, and my infinite wisdom, went up to the bow to take a picture of a sunfish that was flopping about on the surface of the water when I misstepped and my left leg went completely down the forward hatch that was fully open.


I remember holding the camera and tapping the screen to focus the image - then I remember stepping back to compensate for a little bit of swell - it was then that I felt the overwhelming sense of falling...at first I didn't believe it and didn't react at all...


A second later my ribs took the full impact of my full body weight slamming into the frame of the hatch, followed by a quick series of loud cracks is about all I remember...its possible I may have blacked out for a few seconds, but when things came back into focus and I hauled myself out of the hatch, all I know is that I wasn't holding the camera anymore and the fish was gone.


I was quickly aware the sails were flapping and the boat was rolling a little, I picked up the camera and lens and crawled back to the cockpit, swung the tiller round to get us back on course, and engaged the autopilot - and it was about now that the adrenaline started to wear off, I looked down below and the crew was just laying around, entirely unaware of what just happened...also, entirely unconcerned.

I sat in the companionway for about an hour trying to work out how bad I'd hurt myself, and after convincing myself I was fine I tried to go down below - as soon as I tried to move I realised that ribs were definitely broken and that I was not in the best shape to be sailing a yacht...at least not safely anyway.


After a hot cup of coffee and a reality check, I figured it was best to alter course and head for the nearest safe place to anchor. We headed for Grimsby and planned to anchor behind a place called Spunhead but that didn't go as planned either.


Arriving in the dark and keeping out of the busy marine traffic lanes was easy enough, but when it came to actually anchoring, and despite my anchor only weighing about 20kg - I was unable to lift it to unfoul some chain and actually release the anchor - under normal conditions it would have taken all of ten seconds to sort...


Luckily, there was an unoccupied industrial-sized mooring ball nearby - without any other immediate option - I just tied on to that, set the anchor alarm in case my rope chaffed through (the mooring was very rusty) and checked the weather, and very, very carefully went to sleep.


The next morning I checked with the local authority to confirm that it was ok to be tied to this mooring ball - thankfully there was no issue but the RNLI came to check on us, a 'wellness check' they said - just in case I needed any supplies or anything - and should I need anything at all, all I had to do was give them a call on the radio - this was a very kind gesture, it speaks well of the RNLI there in Grimsby!


Anyway, this is where we stayed for about a week, I barely moved for a few days - only really moving to feed the crew, or brush the crew - their demands did not stop, like I said, entirely unconcerned by the Captain's plight...


We eventually ran out of water - even cat food/supplies were also getting a tad low - so rather than risk a mutiny we untied from the mooring ball and went to the South side of the Estuary and made our way to the Grimbsy Yacht Club, where food, a hot shower, and supplies could be had. I also used this time to unfoul the anchor chain and make the anchor usable again.


It'd been a little over a week since I broke my ribs and I figured I'd be ok enough to keep moving South, so the next morning we left and continued on to our previous intended stop, Lowestoft.


I was wrong, after only a few hours of being rocked about on the ocean demonstrated that one week was not enough time...As we'd left on the tide it was gonna take twice as long to go back - so I began to look for another place to hide out, someplace up a river, free from the swell of the sea.


There didn't seem to be anywhere close by, so it would have to be somewhere after Lowestoft...and Lowestoft was quite a ways away, oh harumph.

Arriving off Lowestoft in the middle of the night and having just stocked up in Grimsby, I didn't see the need to actually go into the marina - so we just anchored for the night in one of the channels, no point in depleting our funds unnecessarily...


I looked at the charts to see if a suitable hiding place could be had, for free, that is...There wasn't anywhere that I could go that didn't come with a price tag, but it seemed that about 40nm to the SW - there was, or seemed to be. At first light, we raised the anchor and cruised with the tide toward Harwich.


The cruise down to Harwich was a 'sort of' pleasant one,with lots of sun and good wind - although I didn't really fully enjoy it, my ribs were just very sore. You don't realise how much you use something till you break it, every wave, every roll of the boat reminded me of my foolishness.

As it was getting dark Harwich came into view, and I looked at the charts to figure out where I was actually going to go...I had made no provisions for this area as I hadn't actually intended to be near here. I wanted to find the most protected place I could, but that place was up a sketchy river, and it was now dark.


I say sketchy, but any river at night is sketchy, plus it was called the Walton Marsh Channel, leading up Twizzle Creek and into Titchmarsh Marina. All this talk of marshes and creeks suggests, to me, shallow water...but it was the best place that I could see on the charts, so in pitch black, we made our way toward Hamford Water where the Channel starts.


Creeping up an unfamiliar river in the dark was bad enough, but all up the river there are moorings, some, many, not featured on the chart, and came as a surprise - I was only able to see them thanks to my large trusty, super bright Cree LED flashlight, which I highly reccomend! You can get large USB rechargeable ones - they are fantastic!


The spookiest bit, I think, was just hearing someone say 'hello' off the back of their moored yacht as I passed - I later learned that many people live on their boat on the river...


I just figured it was already dark, shallow and sketchy - the last thing I need is mysterious voices coming out of the damn darkness - but before long I could see the lights of the marina in the distance. The water was dead still but we were no longer in complete darkness as we turned and maneuvered into the marina...and tied up in the first available spot.


Chloe couldn't wait till morning to check out the new place and insisted on a perimiter check before bed...

Marinas aren't exactly free, but I wanted to get a shower and some local information, top off the tanks and get on outta there and on to the river somewhere for a while.


It turns out that I couldn't have picked a better spot to hide out in - there were tons of places where a yacht could secrete itself away from the world, for free - and that's exactly what we did.


The next afternoon we left the marina and went back down the river - it was much easier during the day!! We found a quiet spot on the river, dropped the anchor - and didn't move for a week and a half. The girls really enjoyed 'river life' - so many birds and all the things that creep and crawl around the river banks...and they spent countless hours watching everything...and stalking every bird that foolishly landed on our floating home.


I'd like to point out - they didn't even come close to catching a bird. If they did, they would have to go down below - I'm pretty sure just about every species of bird here is protected...

This place was called Walton-on-Naze, they call it the 'Secret Waters' - personally, I'd never heard of it - guess it is a secret, but it really is a beautiful place - a protected nature reserve, the place was a real treat!


Even after a week and a half of doing nothing I still wasn't feeling much better, it seemed to be my back that hurt more than my ribs - reluctantly and rather annoyingly I came to the conclusion that I should probably get to a hospital to get checked out before I leave the area again, just to be sure...


Back up the river, and back in the marina I managed to arrange some transport to a local hospital. The ER waiting times, I was told, were up to 12hrs - but I was in and out in less than 4 hours - the diagnosis was, yeah I broke some stuff, but my spine was fine - prescription: take it easy - roger that.

I didn't get back to the boat till late afternoon and I still had to get some provisions and of course - the shops were nowhere nearby...supplies would have to wait till the next day.


The plan was, to get supplies and get further South - and that's what we did, we left and went 10nm SE over the Thames, then the wind slacked off, the tide turned on us, and my ribs were just still really sore - and there just happened to be a big sandbank off our starboard side.


It was too tempting, and the conditions were calm, so I just dropped the anchor and had something to eat, and watched the sunset - kinda strange that you can just drop your anchor 10 miles offshore and just live there for the night...and why not I guess.


I decided my ribs needed some more river time...

The next morning it was overcast but the water was still calm - so after a few coffees, up came the anchor and we headed back toward Harwich, but instead of going straight to the river we stayed in a place called the 'Half Penny Pier' for a night, as its name suggests - tis the cheapest place on the river, and a good place to acquire information - and nothing is more valuable than good information.

I began shopping for a new quiet spot and found a nice area just on the River Stour - so that's where we went, again just dropping anchor and staying for another week in calm waters...The River Orwell was another closeby option...although we didn't go up that river, maybe next time - I was reliably informed by the boat next to us that it's beautiful up there...

River life is definitely nice, with no swell or chop, and oh so quiet. More importantly, the crew loved it! Keeping tabs on the other boats and soaking up some rays was the daily routine, the only time they seemed to move was to alternate from one sunny spot to another, or maybe to a shady spot.

At the end of that week, I kinda felt it was time to get moving again, I was still sore but it seemed more manageable by this point and the crew was ready for a change as well...


The Thames estuary was next and I was going to be a bit more careful - as the last time I crossed this area I grounded out taking a 'shortcut'...I won't be doing that this time...


Once we got out of the River and out to sea we seemed to meander through all the wind farms and get past Dover pretty quickly, before we knew it, we were on South Coast...

Southern England


I can't say much for most of the South Coast - we didn't really stop in anywhere, just sailing during the day and into the night, anchoring in out-of-the-way places sometimes for a day, sometimes for a few.


It seems to me that the longer you stay away from land the more you get into the groove of sailing, and the more lost you become in your own meanderings, and even though you're only just offshore - the world can feel a million miles away...


The South Coast is a busy place, especially around the Solent - busy and expensive, no stops here! We don't need anything anyways. I think I've said before that the South Coast is awesome, but best enjoyed with some money, there are no free rides in the Solent - but the marinas are excellent, and the sailing there is exceptional - not saying its overly expensive, it's just a little on the thicker end - it just is what it is, just not as enjoyable on a budget if you know what I mean...


And it was busy...the radio never seemed to shut up, it was always crackling with some gossip of broken engines, dead bodies, drifting vessels - and just all kinds of random traffic chatter - it gets annoying, but you do have to listen to it for updates.


And yes, you read that right, dead bodies. There is a lot of 'unauthorized marine traffic'. These boats, filled with 'immigrants' seem to regularly capsize and souls get lost to sea only to be found by, the majority that I heard, day trip boats, fishing or survey vessels - I didn't hear any private yachts reporting finds of that nature - not to say they haven't - I just didn't hear any.


I don't know if it was just that day, but in speaking to some other yachties I learned that it is a problem and they regularly hear of people being pulled from the water, it's really quite tragic, desperate people do desperate things. Not sure what kind of paradise they think they are going to, but it does make me wonder about what kind of hell they are running from, I mean to take those risks...by grace of god go I.


We spent just over a week ghosting most of the South Coast, the weather was really moderate, and being on the South Coast it was also a bit warmer, so that was nice - the more popular anchorages were all pretty busy -but the little places we visited weren't, life was good...

All this decent weather can't last, and being the UK - it's just a matter of time before it's cold and rainy again, and sure enough - the weather was about to get groovy for a few days or more...in fact it was already beginning to roll in...

We needed to be tucked away somewhere safe, and Plymouth has plenty of sheltered places. It would work out that we would end up being there for a week instead of just a few days as the weather persisted for a tad longer than expected. Nothing major, just lots of wind and rain...


We left as soon as the weather broke - the sea was still a bit lumpy and the wind was unsettled but we left anyways, it was all perfectly manageable...Plymouth in the morning is always nice, even better with a bit of sun, and no rain!

My ribs were feeling much better...and although we had been aiming for Lands End, the wind suddenly changed and we weren't making the kind of progress I would have liked - so we just dropped anchor in a little bay, I think it was called Coverack Cove, we arrived in the dark and left at first light...


The highlight of the day was a lost thirsty wasp, who after a few drops of water was on his way again - just look at that face...

The next morning started bright but soon became damp and foggy - just generally, kinda miserable but we were making good time and as we passed Lands End we picked up a few lost birds.


I only know we passed Lands End because the chart plotter says so, you couldn't see anything out in the fog, and visibility was maybe a little under a mile...once the fog lifted and the land was visible - they flew off to continue doing whatever it is that fills a birds time...

I hadn't planned on doing an 'overnighter' but ended up doing a 'couple-day'er' instead. The wind was gonna turn on us and I figured we'd better get as North as possible before that happens - outside, forthe next 50 or so hours was wet and miserable - down below, we were all warm and comfortable...


Wales


The decision to go directly from Lands End to Wales was decided largely by the weather. We were going to try and do another stop in England but the wind kept pushing us to the West so whether we wanted to or not, we were going to Wales. No complaints here, Wales is beautiful - and I was gonna go there anyway - On top of that, I know where there's a nice free pontoon that we can go hang out on for a few days...a free pontoon, 'honey to the bee'...


We got into Milford Haven, Wales and made a bee-line for the pontoon in Dale - as expected, it was deserted - excellent. This is a strange pontoon, just out in the middle of the water, I don't know if it's maintained or not, sorta seems to be - there are a few spots you wouldn't want to dock on, its a little rustic - but did I mention it's free?


At night, in the pitch blackness - it's also one of the creepiest pontoons. Standing on that pontoon at night is like standing in the blackness of space, it just feels dangerous to walk away from the light coming from your boat and into the inky blackness of that pontoon, but it is free! :)

This served as a rest stop for a few days, luckily the rain had stopped and we were treated to a few lovely evenings of pure peace and quiet.


The girls were enjoying the nicer weather too - I think they recognize this place - and they should, they've been here a few times before - I think they did because they seemed to relax right away. We like these quiet spots, the girls are always more relaxed where there are less people and noises going on - I'd say the same is true for the Captain...


This quick stop also gave me some time to fix a power cable that had shorted out after we got hit with a rather large wave - The lesson here is don't install Caravan parts on your boat - even if they are rated 'waterproof' - I only used this plus in the absence of proper chandler - it was only the plug that was damaged, luckily I already had a proper on onboard ready to install - I'd been meaning to change it anyways...waterproof 'on land' is different to waterproof 'on the sea'...

We did go into Milford Haven for a day to touch base with a sailmaker and meet up with some 'old salts' that I met last time I was here. It was just a quick visit, we soon departed and made out way back to the free pontoon for a night before continuing North.


With Ireland in the distance, I figured I'd better look at the cat's passports and see what their situation is for going into the Republic of Ireland. The cat's passports had been issued in the UK prior to the UK leaving the EU - now that process was complete, their passports are basically garbage, expensive garbage. Terrific.


I'll have to get them some new paperwork before they can go into the Republic, so we'll have to go to Northern Ireland first, and get some new documents before going into the Republic. New rules and regulations...


After that night on the mystery pontoon, we kept on going North. We anchored for a night in Fishguard and it was this night that I noticed Phoebe was getting a bit of a belly - and I figured it was about time she had started putting on some more weight...she sure eats plenty!


The wind did eventually turn on us and progress up the Welsh Coast was slow, not unpleasant - but slow. One day we sailed from 6am to 6pm and only got 12nm...but that's fine, it's not like we have to be anywhere...but that did give me a chance to look for work, plenty of that in Ireland...


It literally took almost two days to cross Cardigan Bay, it's only like 30 miles and I could have used to engine to push us along a bit quicker, but have you seen the price of diesel? Once we crossed, I looked for and anchored in the first suitable bay I could find and got some sleep - I just decided to stay here until the wind was better - and that would turn into almost a week.

A week of no cell phone/internet is always a blessing, sure you don't get any news, but tbh - I don't wanna hear the news anyway - it soo depressing. Spending time with the girls and just watching the world and weather go by is preferable to that of being 'informed', whatever that means...


Plus, just having the ability to say, 'okay, I live here now' - and just stay for a week in some random-ass bay is actually kinda fun, very Columbus-like...


After a while, we decided to keep on going North to Holyhead and then cross over to Northern Ireland. We left our little Bay (that had no name, not on the chart anyways) and set off for Holyhead, arriving that night. We had intended to go to the Public Quay but Port Control said otherwise, and as commanded, we anchored in what I imagined was the ruins of the old marina that was destroyed by a storm many years ago...


It was fairly protected in here, but I was pretty sure I was gonna foul my anchor, but when morning came and the anchor was lifted without issue - I was pleasantly surprised! In the daylight, the Marina actually looks mostly rebuilt and perhaps I wasn't anchoring in as foul a ground as I thought...either way, we were outta there and started making our way to Belfast, Ireland.


Crossing to Ireland


It was an interesting crossing, with huge swells and some strange waves...about halfway across I heard what I thought was the sound of a fighter jet flying low...but it was actually a freaking wave! A few seconds later a rather large wave smashed across the bow, nothing too worrying but the noise was interesting - it happened about every half an hour or so after that - but stopped as we got closer to land and the waves seemed to ease.


These were freak waves, and I did adjust our course a bit so these waves would come more from our aft-quarter rather than over the bow as they seemed to be coming from the same direction - but the noise, I don't know what that's called, and these were fairly-mild conditions.


I imagine, in real weather, that noise would be a lot louder, and far more menacing as those waves in real conditions wouldn't be avoided by a simple course alteration - I don't think so anyway...t'was a bit spooky hearing water make that noise...


It was dark when we rounded the Copeland Islands and into Belfast Lough, and as it was so late, we just anchored in a wee bay just off Bongor. In the morning. I woke up to find Phoebe on my chest, purring and looking very smug with herself. But all I noticed was how she seemed a bit heavier than she should be.


Chloe did her usual security checks and we watched a couple of kids doing capsize exercises in their little Topper dingies - I remember doing those myself as a teenager when I was learning to sail!

Poor Phoebe, she'd gone from a slight belly to a medium belly a little too quickly, I thought she may have some kind of abdominal infection or something, she just got a bit too round too quickly, or maybe she was just fatter now? - either way, something didn't seem right - I was able to make an appointment for her to be seen the next day by a Vet in Belfast.


We left the Bay and had a nice wee sail up into Belfast, it was so calm Chloe was up on deck enjoying the sailing too!


We got into Belfast Marina and Phoebe went on a trip to the vet. The vet visit went ok, she wasn't fat after all, but instead had a fluid build-up in her abdomen, which can be managed to some degree with medication, but where was it coming from...?


The next few weeks went well and she lost a lot of the fluid, subsequent vet visits determined her heart was weakening and that was no doubt the source of the fluid. She'd had a heart murmur for a few years, this was suspected to be the source as it had escalated. Blood works revealed more issues with her kidneys, there just wasn't any good news for ma girl.


With Phoebe's prognosis, and 'land expenses' spiraling - our season was over, and as Phoebe wasn't going to get better - any, and all plans would be put on hold as we needed to stay within the sphere of the vet.


I accepted some work, borrowed some cash from a friend, and settled into marina life. For the next two and a half months Phoebe would continue to lose quite a bit of the fluid, but her heart got progressively weaker, and things generally just went downhill for her - not that she seemed to care, she was her usual self and enjoyed her food and all the treats she could handle, or that I could find!

I think at one point she was getting sick of her usual favorite things, so I had to find new things for her to like! As well as having to find creative ways to smuggle medication into her...I think in those months she got to try just about every cat treat available on the market!


If you're reading this, you probably know that poor wee Phoebe passed away on Dec 14th and no amount of preparation properly prepares you for the inevitable. Losing Phoebe hit both Chloe and I pretty hard, we both miss her soo much.


She had such a presence onboard and things just aren't the same without her. It was such a shame for Chloe, she just didn't realize where she'd gone and spent quite of time looking for her all over the boat...and every time I come back to the boat I'm immediately aware that Phoebe is missing, she was always the first to say hello if I'd been away for a bit...


Xmas wasn't much better, Chloe had to open her cat presents on her own, although I'm sure on some level she was pleased that they were all for her - as Phoebe would always claim ALL presents as her property!


It's always tough entering a new chapter with a character missing.

 

But really, that was it for 2022, I guess it's not everything that happened - but it's a decent rundown - I wanted to get this post put together before we started moving again - and I think I've been avoiding it - as I know that this is the last blog post that'll feature wee Phoebe Alexandra...


I do also want to put together some footage of Phoebe being foolish, a sort of clip reel of her time aboard...I feel if I don't, all these little clips will be lost to the archive and may never see the light of day...and it's not that I've had a shortage of time, it's just difficult to go through all the archives, and seeing her wee face, it's all, still, just a bit too close to the surface...


But - we are going to get a new shipmate/cadet, and a new sailing cat legend will be born...

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