Aug 4

Well, July has been lovely weather, and France has lots to offer, but my world has been rather smaller than anticipated. I have another mechanical problem, this time with the stern gland (for non-boating people, this is where the drive shaft, which connects the engine with the propellor, exits the boat. It is important that the gland seals against water entering, yet remains lubricated- and that is my problem). I am also facing trying to communicate about the issues and understand what those that are trying to tell me. A crash course in technical French! So, I am back in Dunkerque, out of the water. I have had time to address other boat projects, but also found that the underwater painting I had done in Hartlepool, has failed, and I am now sanding and painting that, so not so much exploring the wonderful historic town of Dunkerque. I do hope to be on my way soon…

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July 6

The official end of my British explorations by boat. I arrived in Shotley Marina, on a peninsula between Felixstowe’s container port, and Harwich’s ferry terminal, which is the site of the former boy sailor’s training school, called HMS Ganges. More than 100,000 boys attended this establishment over the years, providing the Royal Navy with many trained sailors. Now disestablished, the marina is the site of a wonderful museum about the school.

The passage from Lowestoft to Shotley was one of the roughest I have experienced, ending in force 6 winds. Not a pleasant trip, but I at least had the tide with me to hasten the voyage.

yellow 2016, purple 2017, dark green 2018 to complete journey at Harwich

Nick and Chris arrived, and after re-provisioning, we set off on July 5, five years to the day from when I started my British explorations by boat. Harwich was the last stop on my circumnavigation of Britain (except for northern Scotland, where I crossed by the Great Glen and the Caledonian Canal). A wonderful experience and I have learned a great deal about the history, people, and places. Thanks.

Crossing the channel was absolutely easy with calm seas, and a beautiful day. My crew were less enthused, finding the gently rolling swells providing discomfort! However, ever wanting to give me a challenge, we made the last 90 minutes in fog, thick at times, and especially as I was entering Dunkirk harbour. Navigating by chartplotter is an experience! Encountering a tacking sailboat within the fog obscured entrance added even more to the tension. However, we arrived, safe and secure without sinking either ourselves nor the sailboat, to moor, breasted up, in Dunkirk (now Dunkerque!)

Nick harvesting mussels from the huge lock wall

moules (mussels, fresh and done in garlic and white wine, with creme fraiche) Delicious!

Now, on to explore the continent, starting with France.,

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July 1 Canada Day

Made the trek to Lowestoft, and all seems now to be well with the boat. Dealt with visa issues with the very helpful Border Force patrol boat, and contacts within British Immigration who helped solve a problem with common sense and goodwill. Much appreciated (and unusual, I think!).

Good ringing in Lowestoft, with a ground-floor 8. Likely the last ringing I will get to do for a long time, and how I will miss the many friends I have made ringing around the country.

Awaiting good weather (at sea: the weather in land is wonderfully warm and sunny, but this brings an on-shore sea breeze and very uncomfortable swells in the direction I have to go). Then on to Harwich and await arrival of Nick and Chris to take me across the Channel.

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June 26

Onward south on the English coast. Engine cooling problems behind me, things are looking good. I enjoyed a magnificent day in Wells Next the Sea with Daniel in idyllic weather, that I hadn’t seen since last year in Wales. It has been a while since short and t0shirts were the dress of the day outside. We explored the vast beaches of Wells, and walked more that 10km in the sand (my feet are a little tender…). The sand also makes for a most interesting entrance to the harbour, and Wells arranged a pilot boat to lead me in so that I didn’t embarrass myself by going aground. Even so, there were a few moments when the depth alarm was going off! No touches, though, and the harbour itself is dredged to accommodate boats.

Daniel then had to return to Germany, and I made my way further south, around the Norfolk coast, to Lowestoft. A good day, though the length of the journey meant that I had to fight the tidal current for several hours.

Now, to deal with visa and immigration to make sure things are proper, before I set off for France.

 

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June 21

Howdy!

I’m on the move again after the protracted repair of the cooling system while marooned in Scarborough. All is well, and I’m presently in the major fishing port of Grimsby. Things are a bit grim here in terms of the town: lots of abandoned buildings and decaying infrastructure, but the Humber Cruising Association, who operate the marina, are the most welcoming and accommodating people I’ve met in a long time. Thanks to them, mooring here has been great, while I made a quick trip back to Vancouver for my daughter’s graduation as a nurse.

I will now be making a much more hasty passage down the eastern English coast than I had intended. No longer going to visit Hull, Boston or King’s Lynn, I’m going on to Wells Next The Sea. I will have to give all of the Wash, a miss on this trip.

I have my first visitor for cruising this season, as I welcome a former student, Daniel Rothballer. From Germany, Daniel joined me briefly on the canal boat near Burnley. Now for some ocean cruising!

Bull Sands fort in the Humber estuary. I know where Star Wars gets their inspiration!

I continue to try and visit each bell tower along the route, and was welcomed in Whitby, Scarborough and in Grimsby, all with rings of 10.

Scarborough south bay and sands at low tide

Scarborough Harbour. Wandering Canuck Too is just at the tip of the orange tiled building.

Scarborough Harbour at low tide. Not much water, nor room to maneuver!

Proud father and newly graduated nurse

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May 24

Not the most pleasant reason for being here, but Scarborough has lots to see. I made my way (very slowly) from Whitby, where the issues in engine cooling went from concerning to critical. I had changed the main impeller in Whitby, on the advice of the local experts, and thought that would solve the problems. Not so: in fact, the main engine heat exchanger has failed, with a combination of long standing corrosion, over-wintering deposits , and sudden disruption of those sediments. In short, rebuild the heat exchanger- and it is made in Europe, by an unknown (no makers’ mark, number plate or identification…). So, I await the local experts’ advice and assistance.

I’ve been able to ring with the locals on a wonderful ring of 10, and they push the envelope! First ring in three new methods last night at practice. Nothing like a challenge.

I have explored the local castle- prominent on the headland, with commanding views, the town, and many nooks and crannies on the boat that deserved attention. Not exciting, but likely helps to prevent issues later…

 

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The Start of this year’s tour

departing view of the headlands area of Hartlepool, with St. Hilda’s church

HMS Trincomalee, a wooden ship built in India, and one of the oldest wooden ships still afloat. Part of National Royal Navy museum

part of the Green Man festival in Clun, Shropshire

Whitby Abbey ruins that dominates the skyline of Whitby Harbour, on arrival

Wow! I’ve been in Hartlepool longer than anywhere else in the UK as part of my adventure. Not exactly what was planned, but the people of Hartlepool have made this abysmal winter season much more bearable. I have a newly painted boat, some needed maintenance issues have been addressed, and I made significant progress in ringing. All very good. May weather has been spectacular, and I spent a most wonderful time with friends Steve and Sandi in their new Shropshire home, observing the ‘Green Man ‘ festival in Clun.

I’m officially on the move, and made my maiden voyage this year from Hartlepool to Whitby on a very nice day. Unfortunately, the boat is reacting less favourably from being woken from winter sleep, and I have a few things to do in Whitby before proceeding. All part of the adventure.
I am most impressed: as I arrived and dealt with mooring, I hear the bells of the local tower. I must check that out!
Thanks to all those in Hartlepool who made my sojourn there so memorable. A first quarter peal of Bob Doubles inside, and so many chances to work with amazing ringers as they made their memorable progress moments. Jack, Andrew(s) and the ladies: thanks.
And now, on to new places and experiences. I’ll have more photos as I figure out how to transfer pictures easily across Mac and Windows platforms.
Best wishes to all.

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December 9

Wow, it has been a while, and loyal followers, I apologize.

I am on the north east coast of England, having made the journey in September along the coast from Eyemouth, to Amble, then to Newcastle, stopping at Blythe overnight. (and that was long enough!)

Amble marina looking out towards the North Sea

Warkworth Castle in Warkworth, with view from marina

Amble and area was enjoyable, and there is a great boatyard there, but they didn’t get back to me about the work, and there are no bell towers anywhere nearby. Staying for the winter with little to do would be less fun than I wish. Amble has lots nearby to see, and I spent a day at Alnwick, wandering the castle grounds, and visiting the greatest used bookstore I have ever been in.

Newcastle was great, and I stayed there for 3 weeks, exploring the area, ringing bells at every tower I could get to, and enjoying a very secure and peaceful mooring at St. Peter’s Basin marina. The ringers made me very welcome, and it was great to get back to lots of involvement in that community. I rang at Jesmond, Fenham, North Shields, the Cathedral, and Gosforth. I also spent a significant time trying to find an appropriate boatyard for the planned winter works. St. Peter’s basin has no facilities, so onward.

Hartlepool marina

outer harbour at Hartlepool Marina

HMS Trincomalee, moored beside the National Museum of the Royal Navy

I am staying in Hartlepool for the winter. There is a good boatyard with (especially) someone with a reasonable quote to repaint the boat. There are 4 local towers, and an enthusiastic community of ringers of all ages. The marina is large, well serviced, and affordable, especially considering the easy access to shopping, facilities, attractions, and things to do. In the same marina is the second oldest floating warship (HMS Trincomalee) and the national Royal Navy museum. More on that in a later posting.

The boat was out of the water for a month, and I was very busy assisting with the cleaning, supervising, coffee provision, and removal of the foredeck. The hull is repainted and the boat back in the water as of Monday. The foredeck and upperworks will be completed in the new year, as the weather (even for Hartlepool, I’m told) was very foul. However, I had ringing at least 6 times each week, so am actually starting to improve again.

I will take a break from boatwork, and off to Canada for about 6 weeks of visiting with family and friends.

Merry Christmas to all of you who have taken the time and effort to persevere and follow this blog. Thanks. Post a message if you are frustrated when I don’t post!

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September 8 (Scotland)

Long time since last posting, but much happened- and Scottish internet connects are difficult!

I travelled across the Caledonian Canal which follows the Great Glen- a geological rift valley, filled with very narrow, long and very deep lakes. The start is at Fort William.

Ben Nevis, the highest point in the UK

The canal uses these deep lakes, connecting them with canal segments, and locks. The canal was quite busy with two boat rental companies that cater to families and groups. Being August, lots of families taking advantage of school holidays. Many very unfamiliar with boating (and no license nor training required!), means that there is lots of drama as these people navigate along the canals and through the locks!

There are also many gongoozlers (spectators) along the lock flights, and they are also much amused with the attempts of people to use the locks. Locks in Scotland are all manned and operated by canal staff, so very different than England.

Loch Ness, in the Great Glen, as part of the Caledonian Canal

a Scottish castle ruin, one of hundreds seen along the waterways- both inland (Loch Ness) and coastal

The weather wasn’t very summer-ish, so lots of rain, cool temperatures and windy days.

Fort George, guarding the entrance to Moray Firth and access to Inverness

I then made my way to Inverness at the end of the canal, and picked up a couple of very kind people (Chris and Nick Seager) who agreed to cruise along the Moray Firth with me.

still an active military base

Despite unsettled, and rather rough weather,we made our way to Buckie harbour, where we overnighted in a commercial dock, between a service platform, and a guard ship. Quite intimidating for a little boat like this one!

an amazing Fresnel lens used in lighthouses, to intensify a gas light to allow visibility to 20 miles

the oldest Scottish lighthouse at Fraserburgh: now the site of the Scottish Lighthouse museum. An amazing place, with the accumulators for the foghorn at the base

another amazing fresnel lens. They say on a lake of liquid mercury to allow easy rotation. This one is double flash.

the foghorn at Fraserburgh, now disused (as are all foghorns in the UK). I REALLY wanted to hear it honk!

the needle eye, a natural arch along the coast

Then, on to Whitehills, with a lovely little harbour just west of Banff. We toured around Banff, and has a good day there. Then, on around the corner at Fraserborough, to Peterhead, where Chris and Nick left me to return to the sunny south.

I was there for a few days, trying to identify cooling issues with the boat, to no avail. I gingerly made my way south to Stonehaven, where I enjoyed being immersed in their harbour festival. A small village party on the harbout front, with raft races, a sea cadet demonstration on their dinghies, and sandcastle building. Arbroath was next, with (finally!) a boatyard to assist with the issues. Steve also joined me there, and we enjoyed Arbroath smokies (smoked haddock) while fixing the cooling issues.

Overnight in Dunbar (on the south of the Firth of Forth), after a good day from Arbroath. My first mooring in a shallow harbour where I was resting on the sandy bottom at low tide. Then, on to Eyemouth, where we are awaiting tides, weather, and opening times, to continue south. My last Scottish harbour.

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July 31

Scotland (and Canada!)

To Oban in the rain and fog… We moored at the marina, which is actually on Kerrera Island, just across the bay from Oban town. There is a marina ferry regularly, and we alternately explored Kerrera Island and Oban. Another distillery (though no tour here for us) and some provisioning.

Pat and Kerry have to return to Canada, and I took a week out to visit family, at a reunion in Alberta and then to visit my daughter in Vancouver. It was a wonderful time with nice warm, Canadian summer weather. Both visits were exceptional!

Then, back to Oban, where I had some warranty work done on the boat, before I moved on to Dunstaffnage marina, just 5 km along. The weather got nasty again, so I stayed there for a couple of days, and set out up towards Port William and the Caledonian Canal. I had thought to explore moorings along the way, but the weather was unkind again, with rain and poor visibility, so finding that ideal mooring wasn’t possible. I explored 3 different bays, but decided to carry on up Loch Linnhe. Just as I was trying to find a mooring in Port William, I was called by the lockkeeper on the Caledonian Canal, wondering if I was going up, and if so, he would hold the lock for me. So, up I went. I stayed in the basin overnight, then up two locks and finally up Neptune’s Staircase (8 staircase locks) the next day. Lots of spectators, and the locks are all worked by Scottish Canals people, so really not a trying afternoon.

I’m now attempting to see Ben Nevis, the highest point in Britain, but it is (and has been) shrouded in clouds and mist, so no views (nor climbing) to be had. Port William is a cute, touristy town, obviously a center for exploring this part of Scotland. A stem excursion train to Mallaig is exceptionally popular, and fully booked for two trips each way, each day. I watched from the boat!

More in little stages as I cross the Great Glen- the Caledonian Canal through Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, and finally Loch Ness.

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