It was a bit difficult leaving Oregon. First, there was the gorgeous weather which had finally arrived, then the rhodies coming into bloom and the berry blossoms full of potential. But we were about to face new and unknown challenges to get back to Sequoia, waiting for us at Suffolk Yacht Harbour near Ipswich, UK.
I had started to write this blog post with a narrative of all the various challenges we have faced (and surmounted!) over the last week, but it just got too long-winded and depressing. I'd rather write about happy stuff.
Here's the very brief summary of some of the challenges and aggravations; then I promise to leave it alone and go on to happier things:
• Original Delta flight delayed 6+ hours by engine trouble
• Flight rebooked on British Airways, one bag came with us; the other didn't.
• Train tickets no good because we missed the time due to flight delays.
• Too late to pick up rental car - as it turns out they rented it out to someone else, but still charged us. The next day we had to wait 2 hours for them to find a rental car.
• Lost bag finally reappeared with huge ripped seam on one end. Apparently, we didn't lose anything other than the usability of that bag...
• Sequoia's relaunching delayed by 2 or 3 days because of the yard's failure to sooner complete tasks they had agreed to last September. (Requiring us to move hotels once, if not twice.)
• Sails (which had been in storage for the winter) redelivered to us 2 days early so they'll be in bags on the deck, in the way during the relaunching.
There were many other petty aggravations, having to do mostly with a change in cultures, change in expectations, high levels of bureaucracy and our unfamiliarity with things like the British mobile phone system. And did I mention the usual slow torture of flying coach for long distances? And did I mention jet lag?
Don't get me wrong; there have been many delights and wonderful interactions with the British people. We find that people want to talk about Trump and Brexit and our respective opinions about what's going to happen next. People in shops, stores and cafes have been, for the most part, delightful, helpful, and apparently glad that Americans are coming to visit. Although the news media seem obsessed with the royal wedding, no one has actually talked to us about that.
We were invited for dinner and an overnight stay by Ian and Pauline Lowe, who live on Mersea Island, an hour south of here. We had met Ian as we were transiting the Göta Canal last summer in Sweden - he was heading east in his boat as we were heading west in ours. He was the one who suggested we need not go as far as Portsmouth for winter storage - that we would find a less expensive but just as fine moorage and boatyard in the Orwell River. Ian and Pauline are just about to set off for their summer expeditions in the Baltic, but they made time in their schedule for us to join them and several of their friends for a nice dinner at the West Mersea Yacht Club. That club, in a town of about 8000 people, has 1000 members!
Above: View out the yacht club's southwest-facing windows.
Above: Ian introducing Craig to friends at the yacht club.
One of the fascinating things about Mersea Island is that it's only an island at the highest tides, and there is a causeway that is - most of the time - open for car traffic. You have to consult tide tables when planning a visit there.
Above: the Mersea Island causeway. Notice the depth indicator at the side of the roadway.
The yacht club has a round-island race once a year, for rowboats, kayaks, canoes, and other small boats that don't need much water to float. It's held on a day that has one of the highest tides of the year. Each participant gets to decide what time to start and which direction to go. Currents are strong, and of course you want to be at the causeway when it is the most deeply flooded (i.e. at high tide). So quite a lot of strategy is involved in balancing water depth, strong currents and predicted winds. It's apparently a race that attracts a large number of participants and spectators, and it's reportedly quite a party.
After dinner at the yacht club, we stopped by the West Mersea Parish Church to listen in for a half hour of their annual "Mersea Island Music Marathon". We happened to catch an R&B group, and the church was absolutely packed out. At other times they had classical music scheduled, but I guess not at a late hour on a Friday evening.
At breakfast the next morning we picked Ian's brain about where to stop along the south coast of England, and of course a bit of politics crept in to our conversation. A truly delightful time, and we regret that we live so far away from these gracious people. Perhaps they'll come to visit us in Oregon?
We headed back to the boat, navigating the incredibly convoluted roads with vast collections of round-abouts strung together. It was certainly easier Saturday morning than it had been the night before during rush hour!
[Six days later]
We were originally scheduled to launch on Tuesday. But that didn't work for the yard, and it was a good thing, because Craig was having a lot of difficulties with replacing the dripless shaft seal. (This is a device that connects the propeller - outside of the boat - with the engine - inside of the boat. Obviously you don't want the connection to leak, so it's definitely a good thing.) The device - which looks like a heavy rubber bellows - is supposed to be replaced every 6 years. It's been 18 years, so it would seem to be about time. I was not part of this project, but it involved a lot of awkward positions, head scratching, tool invention, dirty, oily hands, and quite a few strong words. Ultimately, Craig enlisted help from a mechanic, and the job was done.
We also got the graphics replaced - both the word "Sequoia" and the designation of our home port on the stern of the boat. Those graphics - dating from the boat's commissioning back in 2001 - were showing the effects of 17 years of weather and an occasional encounter with a dock or lock wall. Now the boat looks great - just like new! (See photo at the top of this blog post).
We then hoped to be put into the water on Wednesday, but it turned out the yard still had things to do that were going to take more than 24 hours. So Thursday it was. Our characterless but perfectly fine Holiday Inn had no room for us Wednesday night, so we moved to the Orwell Hotel, a Victorian establishment in Felixstowe. It had impressively grand but somewhat worn down public rooms. When we arrived two of the big rooms were devoted to a well-attended wake. We walked down into the center of Felixstowe (a beach resort in its pre-season) and found an excellent Vietnamese restaurant. Returning to the hotel against bitterly cold wind, we tucked into the hotel's Library and spent a pleasant hour reading newspapers and our Kindles. Our room, on the second floor (third floor for us Americans) was very short on water pressure, and was otherwise nothing to write home about (so I won't).
Above: Orwell Hotel Library
Thursday (yay) they lifted Sequoia off her hardstands, where she had been since last September, and lowered her into the water. The new dripless shaft seal DID NOT LEAK. Yay! We motored to our assigned dock and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Of course, a tremendous amount of work awaits us, doing provisioning, laundry, getting those big sails bent on, and otherwise putting a certain amount of order into what now looks something like chaos.
Above: Sequoia at the dock in Suffolk Yacht Harbour
Last night we had dinner at the Yacht Club's "light ship" restaurant. (It's actually aboard a historic lightship, painted red, permanently docked here at the marina.) They have a restaurant and bar which are very pleasant, and always full of yacht club members. We got to talking with a group of sailors who were just back from a days' outing providing sailing experiences to local blind people. They described the people's reactions to sailing - everything from scared spitless and cowering in a corner to exuberantly participatory. One of the fellows we met at last night's dinner offered to come over and help us bending on the mainsail this afternoon - something that really requires three people to do on Sequoia - and we're really glad for the help.
Above: The Lightship which houses HPYC restaurant, bar and meeting rooms.
We'll be on the move in a few days - heading toward the south coast of England. Before we go, Craig plans to take an on-the-water exam to get his "ICC" (International Certificate of Competency) - something that is reportedly required by European bureaucrats we're likely to encounter over the next few months.
I'll leave this here, so it doesn't get too interminable. Look for more to come!
More photos for this blog post