The last lap
21 June 2012 | Clyde Marina, Ardrossan
The sky is icy blue, broken with beautiful clouds, every different kind of formation. There is barely a ripple on the surface of the water, a gunmetal grey. There is not another vessel in sight either. We are all sitting in the cockpit sun downers in hand like we have always done in the early evening, but this time instead of the endless ocean there is so much to look at. We are crossing the North Channel. I scan the horizon. There are all the familiar landmarks. Over to the west there is Sanda Island outlined against a backdrop of the Mull. The Mull, the dreaded Mull, not looking nearly the scary place we once thought it to be. Davaar Island, a sentinel at the entrance to Campbeltown Loch, Arran, Goat Fell its peak sharp in the setting sun, finally Ailsa Craig. There are so many layers as island after island headland after headland stretch far and away into the distance. We reminisce, waxing lyrical over time spent in and around the Kyles of Bute. Clyde Coastguard are having a busy evening. A yacht has gone aground in Loch Ranza and a catamaran is adrift if the Sound Of Jura. It is hard to put into words how it feels to be coming home but I must try. I want so much for everyone to understand what a truly wonderful cruising ground, a yachtsman's paradise we have here and right on our doorstep. And today we see it at its very very best. Never have we seen it more beautiful. What a treat, what an absolute treat. Thank goodness few know our secret for if it was discovered some of the magic would be lost. The sun goes down, twilight descends, the sky still streaked blood red and it is now nearly eleven o'clock at night. The harbour lights of Ardrossan come into view. We motor, motor, motor. We might just make it in before dark. We enter the port, the traffic lights showing three greens so we can enter into the inner basin. It looks a tight squeeze but of course as we get nearer there is more room than at first appears. Donald calmly directs David through the narrow gap and as we creep around the last corner there is huge space ready and waiting for us on the pontoon. All the lines are made fast, the log is completed and reads 4578nm, the BVI's to here, twenty nine days at sea. Then comes the moment, we crack open our last bottle of French champagne bought in La Rochelle three years ago. It hits the spot and it is gone midnight when we call it a day and hit the sack. Donald and I sleep the sleep of the underworld but poor David does not. I think he has too much adrenaline flowing through his veins. It is a huge responsibility for him as skipper to see us safely to land but Donald has given great assistance.
Happy to be home
Up bright and early the following morning the weather is looking anything but bright. The barometric pressure has plummeted to 1002, a drop of thirteen millibars since we arrived last night! Well, we knew we had to get here before the new low arrived. The train station is a few minutes walk from the marina and we see Donald off on his way home via Glasgow and Inverness to Glen Affric. Then it is time for me to start the laundry, six loads, which takes all day but at least there is no one else competing for the one machine. David lasts until lunchtime before the central heating has to go on. Either we have forgotten or it is unseasonal for this time of year but we cannot believe how cold it is. Instead of ice cold beers we have cup a soups at lunchtime, possibly a lot healthier too. It rains almost the entire day. I make a pot of soup, we tune in to Radio 4, we phone the family, we are home!
We set out eight years ago to cross Biscay. Little did we ever imagine that we might sail around the world once let alone twice. Two most exciting moments, our entry into the first lock in the Panama Canal. That is the moment when you know for sure that you are on your way around the globe, and now.... going home to our family. Two happiest moments, reaching landfall after nearly three weeks seeing nothing but a vast expanse of ocean and sailing under a tropical night sky. The scariest moment? I was never terrified but there were times when I was scared, on our first circumnavigation when 25nm from Dibjouti in the Gulf of Aden, four men in Balaclava helmets came racing towards us in a high speed rib, negotiating our way through the passes in the Tuamotus, the echo sounder registering zero depth in the maelstrom of water, a gale in the Indian Ocean. We had a dream and lived that dream to the full. Now our next adventure begins.....
Seize the day, put no trust in the morrow
Happy the man and happy he alone
He, who can call today his own
He, who secure within can say
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I (we) have lived today
Latin Poet Horace
Thank you to all those who followed our journey on the website.
Back into Britain
20 June 2012 | North Channel, Irish Sea
We sailed or rather motored into UK waters this morning, the 18th June for the first time in over eight years. Pinta are now just 100nm away from Falmouth. Looking at this morning's grib file we think we will carry on all the way to Scotland. We have enough fuel even if we have to motor all the rest of the way which it looks pretty much like we will be doing. We are now just desperate to get home. We cannot ever remember seeing so many dolphins, they come early mornings and evening, sometimes staying for an hour or more. Donald knelt at the bow and waved to them. One jumped right out of the water and almost touched his hand. And during my watch for the last two nights running we have had a wonderful sunset, the sky changing from fiery orange to blood red. The sea is so calm now that I spent most of the day in the galley, first making mackerel pate for lunch, then chocolate biscuit cake (I cannot keep up with the demand), and finally prepared a roast chicken dinner with rum baked bananas and raisins for pud. Now it is early evening and after sailing in a south westerly force four all afternoon things are a bit bumpy down below. I am beginning to regret that roast dinner....
We have spent the last twenty four hours passing well known landmarks marked on our electronic chart, Ushant, Bishop's Rock Lighthouse, The Isles of Scilly, Lands End, St David's Head, Tusker Rock, but I see none of them. We could be anywhere on the sea but the light and the temperature tell us we are most definitely in the northern latitudes. This morning Tuesday the decks are soaking wet with the morning dew. That tells us there will be no wind again today but the sun will shine down from a clear blue sky. We have just 280nm and two days to go. We now must be the only ARC Europe yacht still en route to our destination. On the 6pm SSB net we learned that Pinta had just 45nm to run to Falmouth, Emilia were just 150nm away from Malahide so they will arrive there today.
We spent the day reading in the cockpit, warmer today in the sunshine. It was another lovely sunset as we swept up St Georges Channel with the tide, doing up to 10.1kts. When I came up on watch at 5am the next morning and looked out we were surrounded by a thick har, a real 'pea souper'. David was navigating his way by radar through a large fishing fleet and must have counted over three dozen. By 8.15 the fog had lifted, we were opposite the Isle of Man and had less than 100nm to go. The boys are working the tides and so we will now head over towards the coast of Ireland hoping to pick up a favourable current to take us on up through the North Channel. Then keeping over to the west we will lay a course for the south east corner of Arran and Ardrossan. All going well we will be in tucked up in our marina berth by the early evening.
Off across Biscay
17 June 2012 | Bay of Biscay
David has plotted a course on the computer to Dublin, 590nm away. Our grib file is showing headwinds by the time we reach that latitude so a couple of days in Howth just south of Dublin may be on the cards but we are keeping our options open and ideally would like to complete the passage in one hop. The alarm was set for 6.45am but we cheated having an extra five minutes. The mornings and nights are cold so I don’t leap out of my warm bunk with the quite the same enthusiasm. We are almost looking forward to putting on our central heating. We left just after 8am, Emilia and Pinta already away. The skies were still overcast but at least the wind had fallen away overnight. We motorsailed until a useable breeze came up from the south west. It turned into the most lovely sailing day, blue skies, sunshine, steady force four to five winds on the beam. It doesn’t get much better than this. The seas are quite lumpy but one would expect that after four days of big winds. Donald plays with the sails with a tweak here, and a tweak there. He is great at sail trim and every point of a knot of boat speed counts. Oh, but it is cold. Every day I seem to have to add another layer. David cheerfully reminds us that next week is mid summer’s night after which the nights will start to close in.
Today, Sunday, there is just no wind at all and we have been motorsailing all day. It died away around 5am but we had at least covered 162 nm under full sail. What a dreich drab day but we all had extra sleep and the swell has died right down making life easier down below. We spent our watches dodging ships, there must have been dozens. It rained almost the entire day. We thought we were going to bring the sunshine home with us but it appears it could be the other way round. We hear Scotland is enjoying some great weather. We have kept the morning and evening SSB radio net going and everyone else heading north has run out of the wind. At 10 pm we were over the continental shelf the depths having risen sharply from over 3500 metres to just over 100 metres but with flat seas we would never have noticed.