With winter approaching 'we' (it was a joint decision) figured it was best to get ourselves somewhere maybe a bit warmer, or somewhere with a job, or maybe a bit of both.
The search was on for a job that's near a pontoon...After sifting through a ton of jobs all over the country, a few emerged as potentials, and it eventually came down to just one.
The only issue was that it was kinda far away from where we are, but having looked at everything, it seemed like there was a window of decent weather to go South with before it all gets a bit cold and nasty...so after confirming a few things with the new employer, I set about getting things ready to move.
Getting things ready to move involved a bunch of messing around in finding a new place to keep the boat down South that's not too far from the new job, adjusting insurance for a new winter berthing, deposits, as well as finding some extra cash for the trip itself, it was all very annoying but I did actually manage to get everything arranged just in time.
It was all a huge stretch but, somehow it all came together in the end...it all seemed a little too good...
Berwick-upon-Tweed to Scarborough
We had to wait a few extra days as the weather wasn't quite right, but on the first available morning, we left, bound for the South Coast of England.
Southampton is a place I skipped over on our way around the UK, it wasn't just Southampton, but the entire Solent - and I had been looking for an excuse to get back down there, so when this job vacancy appeared, I was keen to make it happen, and apparently the new employer was also quite keen, with an offer on the table, it was all sounding very promising.
Just before we left I emailed the new employer just to let them know I was on my way, as they had requested, and didn't think much else about it.
Getting out of the harbor before sunrise was a breeze, and once out, we were able to pick up the wind relatively quickly, before we knew it we were making pretty good time.
The first few hours passed quite quickly, before long it was midday and land was nowhere to be seen. Phoebe was asleep in her bed, but Chloe decide to come up and spend some time on my lap, just watching the sea.
The winds were a steady 20kts and this kept our speed up around 7 or 8 knots - even faster when the currents were in our favor...and this continued for as long as there was daylight, but that was soon gone...
Once it got dark, things picked up, larger waves, a bit more swell, and definitely more wind than I wanted. As soon as you'd put a reef in the wind would ease off - take the reef out and back up to 35kts of wind - I eventually gave up and just left the reef in, and it seemed to work out fine.
Despite the reefing ups and downs, we were still making good progress and somewhere around 4 am, just after low-water, after dodging a bunch of fishing pots, we made it into Scarborough.
I got the boat tied up - filled in some paperwork - got the codes and keys for the pontoon - but then it was time for some food and sleep - I was feeling ok, not too tired, the crew were doing fine, the weather was holding, and all seemed to be going as planned.
Later that day, I woke up around 4pm - I took a quick walk along the seafront to see if I could get one of those elusive 'lemon top ice creams' that I saw being advertised last time I was here - no joy - the stall that sells them was still closed due to the 'Rona Restrictions'...so I ended up just grabbing a 'fish supper' from a takeaway, went back to the boat and shared it with the cats.
These cats are a bit strange, they both aren't fans of 'fish cat food', refuse to eat freshly caught North Sea fish - but will beg for, and eat any fish that's been deep-fried and seasoned. Not sure if they are being inconsistent, picky, or smart.
After dinner I didn't waste too much time, I quickly grabbed a shower, topped off our water tanks, and checked over the next leg of our trip. We had a little more than 130nm on the next leg, this was gonna be the longest jump in the trip, but after this leg, it was to be enjoyable 60nm jumps over the Thames Estuary and along the South coast to Southampton.
I opened my laptop to check emails and had what seemed to be an unexpected reply in my inbox from this new employer, just some strange terminology that didn't quite line up with previous correspondence - I thought maybe I'm more tired than I think, and I'm reading too much into this. But something just seemed 'a bit off'...
I replied, detailing my proposed arrival date, and asked about an approx starting date for working - previously, terms like 'Very keen to fill this position' , 'How soon could you start?', and 'How quickly can you get here?' were terms that were thrown about, but now that I was on my way - the tone seemed to have changed - but I thought I was just being a bit silly and figured I just needed some more sleep.
In the morning, I was still thinking about that email, but the weather is the weather, and we have to go - if we hang around for a reply we'll never get around Dover in time as the winds were expected to change in a few days time, so off we went...
Scarborough to Lowestoft
I dropped off the keys and cards for the pontoon in the dropbox, radioed the harbour for dispatch clearance, and by 7:30 am we were well on our way again.
The winds were ok, not quite enough to keep us going fast, but moving nonetheless at a steady 4 to 5 kts. I was a little sad about the winds, had really been hoping for the winds to stay strong so that we could make good time on this trip as it was the longest leg, but it just wasn't to be.
Despite keeping a healthy 15-20nm offshore, we had enough signal for the internet for most of the trip - so most of the day was burned up listening to podcasts and long interviews.
I listened to at least 10 hours of old Norm MacDonald radio interviews - I was quite sad to hear of his recent passing, he was absolutely my favorite comedian. But the funny thing about the internet these days - Even though he's gone - it's like he's still here in a way, 100's of hours of content and somehow the audio and video goes on and on, frozen in time - never gets any older - there's something I like about that, a certain form of immortality...
I think people used to do radio and tv show appearances, and these appearances would fade into the past as shows would stop, and re-runs would slow and eventually cease - but now, they put that stuff on the internet, and it lives forever...
It was a long day, and I still had the night to go...and progress, in comparison to the last leg, was slow. The hours seemed to drag by - somewhere around the 15-hour mark, I had to start the pattern of keeping watch and not falling asleep or anything stupid like that.
Every 15 minutes I pop up and check radar, AIS and do a visual of the horizon to check for any ships or small vessels or anything weird in the water. Once I'm sure our path is clear, I wind up my egg timer to 15 minutes, sit down on the couch and just close my eyes, I don't try to sleep, just rest - and when the timer goes off - the process repeats.
Chloe, bless her - would sit on the couch and wait till I would complete my checks and sit back down - then she would hop back into my lap and snooze for 15 minutes - and making little noises of protest each time I had to get up...
Most sailors that I know, prefer to do about 20-minute intervals, but for me - there's just something about that 17th minute that gets me a little too sleepy. I can do the 15-minute cycle for hours and hours and even days - and I prefer 15-minute slots as some of these ships out there are huge and moving very fast, they can come over that horizon and be right on top of you before ya know it - I just don't like taking risks - especially at night - better safe than sorry.
But I do like sailing at night, I like how the thought of it sounds sort of scary, but when you're out in it, it just isn't scary at all. Something about having to be more dependent on your instruments and having to let go of certain fears - and that whatever happens, just happens - They say you can drive from New York to California in the dark with one headlight, as long as you can read the signs you'll get to where you need to.
(The deck light is only on as I was trying to take pictures - it's not normally on at night)
I think just being able to see less of the immediate road ahead removes a certain degree of control that you normally feel or think you have, if you can't see it, all you can do is experience it, more of a passenger than a driver - I think it's nice to let go of the wheel from time to time if you can - certain things you just can't control.
And, of course, watching the complete starry darkness as it gives way to the light as the sun slowly takes over the sky again, the transformation from night to day, as viewed from offshore, is really something else - I don't think a person can tire of watching that, no matter how often you see it.
After things brightened up, we could just see land on the horizon, and a few hours later I could clearly see Great Yarmouth, a place that I had intended to stop at but couldn't find anywhere to dock that wasn't a hassle. The hassle being in that, it seems to me, quite a few places around here have marinas, but they tend to be up a river, or behind some bridge that only opens at certain times, or is just too shallow to be practical, so we just pressed on.
The waters around Great Yarmouth are a bit sketchy as well, sandbanks, shifting depths, and lots of current and plenty of ships all doing their thing - although the shallows and channels are all well-marked, there's just a lot of activity to watch out for. All kinds of warnings on the charts, it seems there's a lot of accidents around here...
The only issue on this leg was that just before we got into Lowestoft we ran out of butane gas for cooking. It was kinda funny, I put the kettle on the stove, and after a while, I was thinking it was taking longer than usual to boil...although, it wasn't funny - I really wanted/needed a coffee.
Anyway, 27 hours after leaving Scarborough, we were radioing in for clearance to enter Lowestoft Harbour.
Can't say I was feeling too fresh after this trip and trying to find butane gas for the stove was a pain. Apparently, there is some sort of nationwide shortage and just finding a place that sold it in some form, was not easy, and when I did find someplace that did sell it they wanted an outrageous price for it...
I carry regulators for every kind of gas cylinder you can buy in this country, so no matter what brand of gas they sell, we have a regulator to fit - they occasionally come in handy, this was one of those times...
The nearest place was miles away...ffs...after a three-hour bicycle trip and a gas regulator change, I was finally able to make a cup of coffee and let the crew have a sniff about...
By now I was feeling pretty tired, I think I'd been awake for too long and as we didn't need to leave here until the following afternoon and didn't need any more supplies - I just went to sleep - well, I didn't mean to go to sleep, but Chloe hopped in my lap and I laid down on the couch, then Phoebe laid on my chest....and that was the last thing I remember.
I woke up around midday (the next day) and immediately started getting stuff ready. I went for a quick shower, took the trash to the dumpster, made my way back to the yacht, and was just looking over our route when I decided to check my email...
I logged in and saw that I had a reply from this employer, I opened it expecting to get a rough start date for work, but instead, there was no promise of work, and no reassurance that me traveling down there was, in any way, worth it.
I was told that they wouldn't be able to meet me until the end of the month, then there were additional checks that could take weeks - in short - it was gonna be a month later than previously stated before I actually started working, and probably two months till I got a paycheck.
Once I got down there I was gonna have bills to pay like anyone else and I was a little taken aback by the attitude that I should travel down there on the whim that I might get a job - this was very different from what was said before - Had I known this was the state of play, I never would have left, plus I certainly didn't have enough to prop myself up for a few months in one of the most expensive areas (for boats) in the UK while they get their affairs in order.
This just wasn't going to work, the annoying thing was I'd offered to travel down for an interview by train, and they could have done all the checks they wanted before I traveled all the way down there by boat... it's not like there wasn't time before I left, the process up to this point had taken a little more than 3 weeks...I basically pulled the plug on this one.
Perhaps I dodged a bullet - maybe, I over-corrected and missed out on an opportunity - either way, I just didn't feel it was worth the risk. Sometimes you can just say, "No, I'm not doing it" - So we're just gonna turn around. Easy as that. Where one door closes...
Lowestoft back to Scarborough
I stayed in Lowestoft for another day while the weather swung around and I got over my disappointment as I had kinda been looking forward to this job - I was looking forward to getting to work right away, getting a little cash, and making some repairs - but it just wasn't to be - so, now I had another 27hrs back to Scarborough. Phoebe seemed less than impressed by the situation.
Rather than ruminate on the disappointing situation I got an early night and an early start. It was a race to get down South for the right weather to get around Dover, but now it was going to be a race to get back North before some nasty weather moves in...nothing is ever straightforward around here, but at least getting out of the harbour was.
I put out as much sail as I could, the winds were strong - a solid 25 knots for the next 17 hours was just what we needed, and that's what we got - the seas were actually quite calm with only a touch of swell, and that made for comfortable fast sailing - by nightfall, we were again way offshore in the company of oil rigs, fishing boats, wind farms, and big ships.
At night, one of the coolest things, I think, is when one of these ships overtakes you, they seem so close, even though they always leave about half a mile between us, they always have lots of lights illuminating their decks, and as they cruise past you, you can almost always see someone walking the decks or people moving around in the illuminated windows.
During the day you'd be able to see the modern lines of the ship, as well as all the tech attached to it, and it would look like an altogether modern vessel - but in the dark, for all you know, it could be a steam-powered paddle ship cruising up the Mississippi...as all you can see are the lights, and all you can hear is the throbbing of the engines...it could be the year 2021 or 1921, the whole scene is a little removed from time, or maybe your imagination plays a little in the dark...or maybe it's just mine...
We were making terrific time, too good a time actually, and ended up arriving 5 hours early - although being happy about being there somewhat sooner but we essentially arrived at exactly low water, and getting into the harbour was a bit tricky.
We touched bottom on the way past the breakwater, and then again as we tried to cross the harbour to the marina. We didn't get stuck, but we wouldn't be able to cross the harbour over to the marina for a few hours yet, so I rafted onto one of the local pilot boats for a few hours and then moved over to the pontoon when there was a bit more water.
The usual process of showering, feeding, and falling asleep covered in cats played out again. Waking up early in the evening gave enough time to reconsider the next leg. I mean, the weather was going to hold for a few days so rather than doing 120 odd miles to Berwick, I figured we could split this leg and add a bonus destination.
I worked out a course for Blyth and left it as an option, I figured I'd see what actual conditions were like in the morning and decide then whether to do a short trip or a long one. If the winds were good and strong I might be best to make the most of them...
Scarborough to Blyth
I got out nice and early and things were going fine, with light winds and calm seas.
But a short time later came some strong winds, lumpy seas and just became generally unpleasant but we were moving fast, and that was good - but after only an hour or so, the wind just dropped to a sluggish 10-15kts, the seas smoothed, progress became very slow and the decision was made just to go to Blyth - plus the currents were going to turn on us, and with the light winds - it just made sense just to stop for sleep and finish of the trip the next day, no point in fighting it in such light conditions...
Blyth is only about 60nm from Scarborough and can easily be done in the daylight hours, so leaving at first light should see us arrive at last light. We haven't been to Blyth for a few years, it was one of the first places we went shortly after I purchased this vessel way back in those early days, but I'm sure it's much the same.
So, a slow, then fast, then slow again start to a day that was only broken up by a fishing boat that I recognized - and some little lost birds.
Was quite surprised by these folks - they're quite far from home! They're based out of Portavogie, Ireland - just out here drifting about...
I was laying down in the cockpit when I noticed the first Bird up in the spreaders on the mast.
Within an hour we had 4 more, 3 small brown birds and a larger grey-brown bird...and for a brief time we had, including ourselves, 8 souls on board, that's a record for us - sometimes we get one or two birds, but never this many at once.
It was nice to have some extra passengers. I did my best, as host, to make them feel welcome, even donating some biscuits to the cause.
We arrived in Blyth at last light, got clearance to enter the harbour from the Port Authority, made our way to the visitor pontoon, and got tied up quickly, but it was very quiet, spookily quiet...
The whole pontoon was covered in bird crap, the power was off, it was like a ghost town. I gathered from a stray member of the yacht club that the place hasn't been the same since the restrictions went into effect some time ago. There was no staff anywhere, the toilet and showers were open - but everything else was locked up.
Having been there before, I looked up the codes I had in my notes - luckily - the inner gate code hadn't changed. I did venture out to a nearby shop, and in my haste, I didn't notice or check to see if the outer gate code had changed, and of course, it didn't become an issue till I got back from the shop.
I got back to the gate, put in the code - and it just flashed red. Wrong code. I thought, well shit, I must have put the code in wrong...after about 5 tries I finally accepted I was going to have to find another way in, but I couldn't be bothered.
Screw it - I slid my groceries under the gate, climbed over the gate defenses and razor wire, and calmly walked toward the inner gate - fully expecting to be stopped by some security or something, but nobody was around at all - when I got to the inner gate, put in the code and got back to the yacht with no further issues. The place seemed deserted, I know it's not, but it sure seemed that way. Hopefully, things will go back to normal for them soon!
After getting back onboard, domestic duties were taken care of and there was nothing left to do but hope there were more consistent winds tomorrow than there were today, but my prayers, apparently, went no further than the deck...
Blyth back to Berwick
The morning was cold, foggy - and damn it, there wasn't even enough wind to fill the sails, but at least this was the last bit of the trip but the main goal on this day was to get into Berwick before the wind shifted, and according to the latest reports, it gonna swing a little sooner than previously predicted, so the fact there was no wind was particularly annoying, but we do have some diesel.
Progress, all day, was again slow. I had considered stopping into a little place called Seahouses for a late lunch, but there just wasn't time, plus we were a little behind schedule and I didn't fancy going into Berwick in the dark again - so we pressed on.
By late afternoon we were passing the Farne Islands, and then Holy Island, and we were almost back, but for the last few hours the weather had been threatening to do something but it didn't amount to too much until we got into Berwick Bay where the wind seemed to be waiting for us.
The last 4 miles saw more wind than we saw for the whole dang trip. From 8kts of wind to 30+kts, and as we'd turned in toward Berwick and the wind, we were beating into this wind. The yacht was heeled over pretty hard but the sea was quite flat so it wasn't entirely unpleasant, and we were finally making good time, and luckily it seemed to ease as we approached the harbour.
Back to Berwick
So, we're back where we started from, oh harumph!
We, basically, just sailed the whole English East Coast for nothing, but it wasn't completely for nothing I guess - when it comes to sailing, experience is everything - so every mile under the keel, is another nail in the structure, plus we helped a few birds in need, and the girls saw some new places - sooooooo, maybe it was worth it - I dunno.
We're not even sure If we'll stay here for the winter - we'll just see what jobs are available and see what happens. We need quite a few little things, and a few expensive things - but nothing we can't live without for a little while - but either way, we'll figure it out. In the end - everthing'll work out just the way it was supposed to, whether I like it or not...
Does catnip make cats pee?
On a positive note, Phoebe seems to be doing a bit better. It seemed for a while there she was ill every other week. She seems to be on a better track at the minute with no bouts of illness for well over a month, long may it last!
Although, sadly her catnip days are going to be limited, and supervised.
I did not know that catnip can make some cats spontaneously pee. Now, this is new for her, she didn't used to do it. Also, this isn't one of those situations where the cat uses the toilet outside of her box, or in an unusual place due to illness - this was the catnip directly.
Twice, I found a small puddle of urine next to her toy box, but I wasn't sure who did it...then the third time I observed Phoebe go over and get all high - then at the height of her 'highness' she suddenly stopped, squatted, and produced a small puddle, not a 'full-pee' - just a small amount...
I took the catnip away/out of her box - the puddles stopped. I tested my hypothesis by putting the catnip back, and hey presto - a puddle appeared. A google search also yielded tons of documented cases, evidently, it's well-known fact - I'd never heard of such a thing!
So, yes - Catnip can make some cats pee! Not all cats, but Phoebe is a part of, or recently joined, the percentage that does.
To be fair, she does have some pretty banging dank catnip, perhaps it's too strong and she just loses her mind and pisses herself like an elderly alcoholic - I wonder if you get a 'lite' version of catnip, something more 'bladder friendly'...
But for now, the catnip stays locked up, perhaps I'll let her have at it on the deck where a bit of pee is less of a problem! You know, where a person is less likely to stand in it after having just woken up, first thing in the morning, before coffee, and before having even having rubbed the sleeps out of one's eyes...
It's staying locked up for now.