Friday, 8 August 2014

Circumnavigation completed. Arrival at Shotley

Yesterday, 7th August 2014, was a very special day. Andrew was the last man standing, the sole remaining member of my 20 strong support team that took me around the whole of Britain. You will recall that he and I had said good bye to Woody and William at Southwold and then sailed from Southwold to Shotley where Alexandria has her berth.  We had a deliciously lazy day, sailing the last remaining passage of only around 35 nm, which meant that we could sail at a slow rate. So we chilled, listened to some music, chatted, ate Mr Kiplings, drank tea, ate through our stock of fruit lest scurvy should strike, and chatted some more. It's what sailing should be like, ruminating on life at a stately 4 or 5 knots, and it was quite different from the demented dashes which have characterised our adventure and which have been at once so exciting but also sometimes so tiring. No wonder my crew gets exhausted!

We ambled past Aldebrough, slipped past The river Deben both of which are familiar haunts of mine and we found ourselves converging on the shipping lane at Harwich. Andrew took us over and we marvelled at the number of yachts around, quite different from the rest of the country where, with the exception of the East Coast and South Coast we were usually alone for much of the day apart from the ubiquitous trawlers. 

Suddenly, our day became more focused. Shotley marina called to say that there were people to meet us, cameras, photographers, so perhaps we should hurry up a bit. So, a quick change from shorts and no shoes to slightly smarter and we adjusted our sails and hurried towards Harwich. We elected to do a sail past as an act of vanity and to reward any photographers waiting. As we did so, at low water, it occurred to me how ironic it would be that we had safely travelled around 2100 miles around Britain, moored and berthed in really difficult places and had sustained no damage whatsoever, yet we might yet run aground feet from the lock! The sail past was terminated, and the business of fenders and lines was undertaken. It felt odd to be calling on the VHF to Shotley after all this time. "Shotley marina, Shotley marina this is Yacht Alexandria. We have returned from our curcumnavigation and would like to lock in!" " Approach on green, welcome home, the lock is ready for you".

And so, having briefed Andrew how we would squeeze our 6 metres wide vessel into the 7 metre lock at some speed to counteract the cross current, we made our final approach. We were both so focused on getting safely into the narrow lock, that we had not seen the large number of people on the lock side waiting to welcome us. Suddenly, clapping and cheering, THREE CHEERS FOR ALEXANDRIA, hooray! Then horns and sirens sounding, and as I looked up to the edge of the lock, Leslie and a dozen of the Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra. We answered their welcome with a long blast from our fog horn. Exceptional and moving! Thank you.

There were a lot of photos and a serious looking camera, and BBC Look East were rumoured to be around as well as the local papers. After welcoming Les back on board for the last 50 metres of manoeuvring into our usual berth, two bottles of Champagne were produced, and 12 people and 2 children boarded the boat. I had forgotten what is was like to have polite society, so just as well I changed. 

Having put the boat to bed, Andrew and I were taken on to Bury St Edmunds where we had a completely spontaneous meal at a local restaurant, and where Andy, Matthew, and Ian joined us with some of their wives. It was a very special evening of about 14 people, all local friends. 

This afternoon, having slept very well indeed I went down to Shotley to clear up and clean after the last 6 weeks intense activity. I reflected as I was driving down, that it was a sudden surprise to realise that we had actually completed a circumnavigation, as the regular and predictable progress every day belied the cumulative progress we had made. 2100 miles, without injury or mishap, all safe and sound. Quite a relief. I was delayed returning home so that I could make a very short live interview by 'phone for BBC Suffolk, which was quite fun. Inevitably, there was much more I wanted to say than I could in the short time, so I shall keep that for another blog, tomorrow, plus some footage of our arrival.

In the meantime, here is the last complement snapped on our last morning together.

...and Andrew getting excited about a 3G signal nearby.

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