Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The day before the day before.

Greetings from Suffolk and the dentist's waiting room. 

Tomorrow, Vincent, David and I return to Northern Ireland to resume our adventures and I thought I would mark today with a sitrep for those of you with a numerical bent. 

During the first half of the circumnavigation, we have sailed 997 nautical miles, at speeds between 0.9 knots (fighting the  Strangford Lough eddies and whirlpools) and 14 knots (surfing down large waves in the Irish sea). Winds ranged from force 1 to 7 and the maximum we encountered was entering Belfast Lough at 37 knots of wind, naturally bang on the nose! Sea state was anything from Glassy to about 13 feet high (Irish Sea). We have had beautiful weather and visibility so poor that we have had to navigate by radar. We have had 10 crew changes and visited England, Cornwall (now it's own EU defined ethnic grouping), Wales, Republic of Ireland, The Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and Scotland. We have encountered many lovely compliments about the boat, a few well meaning concerns about our sanity, and 100% friendliness from the locals wherever we have gone. We have been escorted at length by many dolphins with calves, and encountered porpoises, whales, seals, fish, many types of seabird, the occasional errant and spiteful fishing net (so far all avoided)...and a discarded pair of trousers. The longest night passage was on the first 'day' and we have been within VHF transmission range or quite near to an astonishing 9 maydays, 4 pan pans, involving others' sinking boats, diving accidents, breakdowns, crashing para gliders, children on rafts, etc. However, none involved us, although once we were mistaken for the casualty itself by a confused but well meaning trawler who had his digits the wrong way round! We have been overflown by one rescue helicopter following a too close encounter with a freighter which would not deviate from a collision course or make any contact. Notwithstanding that this encounter was tense, I am pleased to report we have had no stress, no casualties, no bad experiences, no grumps and no losses. Apart from my capped tooth which was lost on the penultimate day. 

Alexandria, meanwhile, has been completely untroubled by everything we have asked of her and has provided us with a safe and comfortable temporary home which feels impregnable and has sailed well and impressively in all conditions. Thank you Broadblue. 

The first half if our circumnavigation was actually quite challenging in places but was made easier by careful preparation, great teamwork, good humour, great companionship and mostly good weather. So that was the easy part, but now comes the harder half where weather, navigation, tides and bad luck can all play their part. 

We return to Alexandria currently berthed at Carrickfergus on 16th, and intend to slip on early morning of 17th July for the southernmost Hebridean island of Gigha where we plan to anchor overnight.  

In the meantime, here is the link to a short video of one of the pods of dolphins we encountered at length, and referred to in one of the posts. 

Finally, if you have so far enjoyed my blog, please don't forget to donate to the Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra (the donate button is on the home page) and so support the excellent outreach work and national standard of repertoire they offer. Thank you. 

Carpe diem! 

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