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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July 6

Scotland

We made the crossing from Northern Ireland to Campbeltown, on the Kintyre peninsula. A good crossing, with very calm seas. On arrival in Campbeltown, I discovered that there was almost no internet service available- either using the phone, or the town services. This has continued throughout our Scottish adventure, until today and our arrival in Oban.

Campbeltown, Kintyre peninsula, Scotland

Tarbert, Kintyre: the harbour from the castle ruin

Tarbert Castle ruin

more approach to Tarbert!

the view from inside the Tarbert Castle ruin

Crinan canal entrance/exit at the west end

a steam ‘puffer’ boat, the last one floating, designed to work back and forth through the canal. Here, just after bunkering with coal on the port side!

Port Ellen, formerly a distillery, now a malting plant

‘align with the ‘LA’ on entrance to Port Ellen harbour…’

the Lagavulin distillery from passage to Port Ellen

Texa island in front of Lagavulin distillery

Texa Island ruins

We spent a very wet day in Campbeltown, learning the Scottish words for driving drizzle: smir (maybe phonetically spelled!). The day was ‘dreak’ (again, maybe phonetically rendered!). We explored the town a little, and especially the hotel bar which was a whisky tasting place. Then, on up the eastern side of the peninsula, taking advantage of the lee of the Isle of Arran to make our way to Tarbert (a very common place name in Scotland) and then Ardrishaig, and the Crinan Canal.

 

 

 

Tarbert harbour from our mooring. Tranquil!

At Ardrishaig, into the sea lock, and up a high ladder

on the wall of the lock to deal with license and all, then back down the ladder, which then failed and pitched me into the lock. My first unintended canal/sea bath! All was well, though, and I simply crawled onto the swim platform of the boat, and changed to drier clothes. We enjoyed the lock experiences again, with the need to work the locks ourselves as on the British canals. We shared with some other boats that had less experience, and made some new friends, especially on the Swedish boat ‘Resolute’. We spent one night on the middle of the canal, then on to the northern terminus at Crinan. The lock failed with the boat ahead of us, and enforced a 48h delay (which was fine as the weather was NOT conducive to cruising!). Then, on to Islay and Port Ellen on a perfect day, with gentle winds and smooth seas.

 

We ‘studied’ the distilleries on Islay, with a significant taxi ride across the island to get to our first stop. then back to Port Ellen with a couple of stops along the way. We claimed rent on our plots of Scottish land, deeded to us by Laphroaig. Then, back up the Sound of Jura, to Loch Melfort for another long day of perfect cruising.

A gorgeous mooring in Loch Melfort, in a little bay with about 20 other boats, and a very peaceful evening.

June 6 morning, fog and mist greeted us, so we gingerly made our way through Cuan Sound, and up the Firth of Lorn, to Oban.

the approach to Tarbert Harbour

Crinan canal

east Loch Tarbert, Kintyre

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June 25

Northern Ireland

We crossed from the Isle of Man, passing a square-rigged sailing ship that had sailed into the harbour the night before, full sails, then fired a saluting gun, and moored along the breakwater wall. An impressive sight.

alongside the breakwater at Peel, Isle of Man

The crossing was mostly uneventful, though a bit rough at times. We maneuvered between the islands and tide race at the entrance to Belfast Lough, and into Carrickfergus marina.

The weather deteriorated, and so a good excuse to spend time exploring. Carrickfergus Castle sits next to the Lough (Belfast estuary), and has been extensively restored. A very good introduction to older Northern Irish history. I tried to ring at the local church (St. Nicholas), with a separate bell tower, but it appears that there is no band at present, so no ringing.

Celtic cross in St. Nicholas churchyard

Carrickfergus Castle

a very large cannon, reputed to be able to break windows across the estuary , in Bangor, just with concussion

 

 

 

 

 

the Titanic museum, built on the site where the ship was built and launched

one of the many murals painted with respect to those that were involved in the violent struggles between Unionists and Nationalists

We spent a day in Belfast, and really got to understand a lot more about the long difficulties and disagreements between those that wish to stay as part of the UK, and those that want a separate Ireland. Originally labelled Catholic against Protestant, it seems that really the view is much more based on political power. Certainly, the ‘civil war’ or ‘the troubles’, caused a great deal of heartache and damage to all concerned. Thing as MUCH better now, and most people would never want to return to the conflict styles of the past. We visited the Titanic museum, and gained an appreciation of how important shipbuilding was to Belfast. Today, not so much building as repairing and constructing wind turbines: the power source of choice in this part of the world. Lots of the rest of Belfast on display, and we saw just a little. I was able to ring here at St. Thomas’ and was made to feel very welcome.

Another day of exploration saw us driving around the north-east of the country. We visited the Dark Hedges, also used in the TV series ‘Game of Thrones’. Quite spectacular.

another tree tunnel discovered as we drove along the lanes

the ‘Dark Hedges’ aka ‘The King’s Highway’

Giant’s Causeway stones, of 6-sided basalt columns

HM Coastguard, at work. Carrick-a-Rede

Old Bushmills was next, and a comparison of Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky. Then, to the Giant’s Causeway, and a crawl on this famous geologic feature. We then headed off to a rope bridge to a small island, used previously by the salmon fishery. After paying the obligatory fee, we hiked along the coast trail to the bridge, only to be stopped by an officious and frantic young museum worker, who imperiously commanded all to step aside for all the rescue workers. Reality- they were already on the island, working with the very obvious coastguard helicopter, to rescue someone who had apparently fallen from the island cliff. Some people just don’t respond well in emergency situations… The coastguard rescued the injured, the workers departed, and so did we, without actually seeing or crossing the bridge.  We continued leisurely along Irish roads and tracks, and finished the day back aboard.

 

Next: Scotland and Campbeltown!

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June 20

Isle of Man

We made our way from Whitehaven in Cumbria on the northwestern English shore, to Peel on the west coast of the Isle of Man. This was an ‘interesting’ trip, partly because we tried on Saturday and returned to Whitehaven as the seas were uncomfortably rough given our direction of travel, especially given we had an 8h journey. However, Sunday morning was much more benign, and we had a good day- made even better as the seas continued to moderate through the day. This was my first journey where there was a period where we couldn’t see land at all. The sea mist, and haze contributed!

We made landfall at the northern tip of the Isle of Man, and were impressed by the lush greens of the hillsides. Arriving in Peel Harbour, we were part of a grand parade of more than 20 boats coming and going in the first opening of the tidal harbour gate

the ruins of Peel castle and St. German’s cathedral, on St. Patrick’s Isle

and swing bridge. This was ‘enhanced’ with about a dozen kayaks along one side of the narrow channel, and many kids jumping off the quay on the other. The busiest traffic I have encountered! We made it to our mooring without major mishap, though we received the wrong directions from a ‘helpful’ person on the pontoon, and had to make our way against traffic to get to the assigned berth.

We spent the day exploring Peel, and the castle/cathedral ruins on St. Patrick’s Isle, at the mouth of the harbour. Peel is a city, because it has a cathedral. The Cathedral of St. German’s replaces the one in the castle, and is the seat of the Diocese of Sodor and Man, which is the smallest diocese in the Church of England.

Peel from the harbour

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June 14

North west England

We set sail from Liverpool mid-day because of the tides and the lock. We used the ebb tide (water moving down channel and out to sea), to help us along, and headed out the Mersey dodging the many large vessels sharing the channel.

We then headed northwards along the coast, noting the tower and large amusement park of Blackpool. The way was a little bumpy, but we persevered and made it with about 2cm clearance to the sands, across the bar at the entrance to Fleetwood. A night in a nice little harbour, on an swinging buoy, and then an early exit to allow a little more water (and a calmer skipper), in the exit further north.

Fleetwood harbour from our swinging mooring

We enjoyed the views of wind farms, gas platforms, and dolphins, seals, and countless waterbirds of all sorts.Rounding the prominent St. Bees Head, we made our way with a following sea and light winds.

candlestick ventilation stack, and pit head, for the Wellington pit coal mine beside Whitehaven harbour

observation tower at the old quay harbour entrance in Whitehaven

Whitehaven outer harbour

keeping watch for further American invasion!

Then, into Whitehaven, which is a very old harbour and once one of Britain’s largest. Coal, mined at the harbour mouth, and easy access to the rest of the Cumbrian minerals, made this a very important (and wealthy) area in its day. The site of the only invasion of Britain for hunderds of years, the American, John Paul Jones made an ill-fated attempt to disrupt the port. Quite famous here, but not an effective invasion, even in its day! Today, revitalized, the harbour has a large marina, and lots of commercial boats servicing the wind farms and the gas wells. There is also a fishing fleet, so lots of boat movements.

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June 13

Liverpool

We have been in Liverpool for 3 weeks. The weather has been unpleasant to really nasty, and the seas very lumpy as a result. We have explored Liverpool quite a bit, and I’ve had a good chance to ring some of the heaviest bells anywhere.

We set off for London for several days and explored the Royal Albert Hall with a guided tour, and then spent lots of time at the Victoria and Albert Museum complex. We stayed in a B&B in the Harrow area so had a chance to ‘enjoy’ the challenges of the London Tube. Nothing nasty, just really crowded at times.

We then set off towards Lincoln, where we met our friends Nick and Chris on their narrowboat ‘Pendragon’. I have shared many moments with them throughout the past years, and it was good to be back on a canal in a narrowboat again, even for just overnight, tied up alongside.

Back to Liverpool, restocking all ready for the weather that looks promising, if we can get out through the tidal lock. We are on our way to Fleetwood, north of Blackpool.

the largest, heaviest, and highest peal of bells in the world, including the second largest bell in Britain (Great George) in the center of the picture

interior of the Catholic Metropolitain Cathedral with ethereal blue light from the stained glass

Exterior of Liverpool Cathedral, the largest in Britain

interior of the vast Liverpool Cathedral. Amazing reverb time for music.

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May 31

Wales to Liverpool

Bardsey Island from Bardsey Sound

Sorry folks, I’ve had some technical issues, now resolved. I made my way from Pwllheli, single-handing (which in boat terms means with no crew to assist). I was advised by every guide and publication to me especially aware of Bardsey Sound, which is a major tidal ‘pinch-point’ in the Irish Sea. The tide runs sometimes to 8 knots, with 3m standing waves. I was very cautious, and in the event, the transit was through calm waters, with only a little 2 knot push from astern. Too easy!

I made my way around to the tip of Wales at Holyhead, and moored, to the accompaniment of the wash of ferries. Nothing nasty, just no mill-pond smooth.

the westernmost point of Wales at Holyhead

Holyhead harbour on exit

Then, on to Conwy. Another nice journey, though the late afternoon breeze across the lowlands made a cross-chop that wasn’t very comfortable. I arrived up the tortuous channel into Conwy, and was

part of Llandudno from the sea: the longest pier in Wales

advised that the marina was full, so went to the smaller, but accommodating marina in Deganwy. I was able to arrange a ring in Llandudno, and had a chance to observe a rally of about 500 Porche cars along the seafront. Llandudno is certainly a resort town, with a seafront reminiscent of Brighton, with a long pier, and huge beach.

I then cruised through the huge wind farms in the approaches to Liverpool. another nice day, though I had to go very slowly, because of the tidal gates at both ends (Deganwy and Liverpool). I therefore drifted and circled for a while (the AIS track you can examine on the link below the picture shows this apparently confused track). I arrived at Brinswick Lock early, and had to wait for the tide to rise enough to get me into the lock. Up the Lock and into Brunswick Dock where Liverpool marina has been established in the huge old docks, now re-purposed from the major port that used these in pre-container days.

a couple of ‘companions’ on the approach in the Mersey

Liverpool is as vibrant as ever, and I have had fun exploring the city again. Ringing has also been fun, and I’ve collected a couple more towers on my list.

Albert Dock warehouses on the left, with a few landmarks of Liverpool

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