Saturday, 3 March 2018

MAPS AND PHOTOS


We will no longer be using Iridium Go and therefore tracking services will cease. I will however update our position on the map and produce an icon showing our latest anchorage position. The link to Vessel Finder below will also be pretty accurate. 

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

LONDON TIME. TAMING THE THAMES. 24th October 2017


My favourite view of London!

Ipswich Haven Marina is a locked marina very centrally located in the city of Ipswich on the River Orwell Suffolk UK. On the 12th of September we moved from the River Deben anchorage to Ipswich to organise surveys of the hull and rig for our new Insurers. Hauling out at Fox’s Marina nearby for the underwater examination all went without a hitch and we returned to the Haven with Adrian, our surveyor aboard.  We are now fitted with new fire extinguishers and flares and are all set to go again. The rig report was also handled smoothly with the replacement of the back stay, including insulators, being the major part of the job. The surveyors were thorough and professional.
Quick haul at Fox's Ipswich
Socially its been pretty busy with John and Kara and baby Dean aboard “Sentjin”  (ex Orca) in the harbour, together with Davids brother Andrew and his wife Christine aboard their Postpub Van (aka. Taipan support vehicle). 

John and Kara at work and baby Dean practices in the Bosuns Chair.

Chris Smither ex “Akwaaba” and long time friend from the UK who we met in Phuket years ago visited and spent a night aboard. David and Candy Masters, Canadians aboard “Endeavour” were also in the harbour and it was a brief but fun introduction before they left for London to spend the winter in St Katherines dock. We met James Tomlinson of “Talisker”, in Bergen, Norway, and he lives here and visited us aboard, One evening last week he picked us all up and we drove to his lovely home in Orford for dinner. We met some of his sailing mates and had a fantastic night swapping stories.


Christine Pollers great shot of Taipan in the Ditch! Check her work out on Instagram.

We interrupted our Ipswich experience one weekend with a 55nm sail north to Southwold. A narrow brown ditch leads between some pretty dodgy breakwater structures. Its not an all weather entrance by any stretch and we did choose fair offshore winds and medium tide for our entrance. Surprisingly there was plenty of water at all tides but this entrance fuels and drains a vast marsh inshore. Current can be ferocious and even in average current turning inside the river is challenging. This tiny community on the north side of the river and its quaint sister-town Walberswick on the south attracted us because some old family friends live there. David is immortalised in the Adnams Bell Tavern for his failure to  hold his Broardside many decades ago. A plaque marks the spot. 
Family photo!

Our new Genoa, a Tri-Radial, Hi cut, Dimension Polyant cruising laminate sail from Kemp sails was on order and we arranged to pick it up in London. Now we had to take on the mighty Thames and get there. 

Sailing south from Ipswich down the River Orwell its a good plan to make sure the tide is going out but as you sail south down the coast to the Thames over or between an impressive number of shallow sand bars its good to have a rising tide or the current will be against you. So the plan was to sail 10nm out to the mouth of the Orwell to Felixstowe then strike out south 45nm the following morning on the incoming tide. The plan didn’t quite work as the following morning when we should have left to go south, the wind was very strong and gusty and altogether unpleasant so we moved just 5nm down into the Walton Backwaters where we found a good hole and were very comfortable for another night. We had another yacht pull in late and found out next morning it  was James Tomlinson’s good friend Doc, on “Tuesday of Ore”. We had been shadowing each other since the Deben River so next morning we were finally able to meet, ever so briefly, with a promise to catch up properly when we returned from London.

Heading up the Thames crossing 00.00.00E.

The morning was fine and sunny and we stuck south to the River Medway. As it was a rising spring tide we were able to cross the Gunfleet Sand and shorten the passage a little. We had current with us the whole way and made it into the Dead Mans Hole well before dark after and extremely pleasant day on the water.

View of the Tower Bridge from the St Katharines lock

Next morning the weather was horrible but current was in our favour so after pushing current for about an hour leaving the anchorage we were in the Thames Estuary and riding the current upstream for almost 40 miles. 
St Pauls Cathedral.

Leaving the Medway there is the very well marked Dangerous Wreck of the Richard Montgomery  still loaded with 1400 tons of TNT, so unstable that they cant touch it, and it could very well go off spontaneously. If it explodes it will amongst other things…. break windows in London about 30miles away. We were glad to slip quietly past that! 

Thames Barrier

The trip up the Thames was pretty uninteresting, flat, and fairly industrial for most of the way. There was some shipping but nothing alarming. As we got closer to the city itself there was some tourist traffic and the Thames Barrier to negotiate. The route is covered by London VTS Radio and we monitored 3 frequencies during the trip. Calling the Barrier for permission to pass was just a formality but the Barrier is closed to all traffic at times so it pays to check the website for closures when planning a trip up the Thames.

Thats the Skygarden.

Once in sight of the beautiful Tower Bridge we were almost at our destination. St Katharine’s Dock. By now the river was fairly narrow and as a consequence of fast moving tourist boats, fairly rough with wind against tide. It being nearly high tide we didn’t have long to wait for the lock to open to provide entrance to the Dock. Inside the lock with the door closed, things were less frenetic and we registered at the office and were issued a berth. This happened to be alongside “De  Verleiding” with Ron and Joce, friends from Enkhiuzen Netherlands, aboard. 
St Katharines Dock. Taipan and De Verleiding.

St Katherine’s Dock is situated beside the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. It’s not cheap at £470 per week but has to be cheaper than the adjacent hotels. The marina entrance Lock is easy to see but dries out on lower tides so timing is critical. Current in the Thames runs at up to 3 or 4 knots depending on the tide. There is a bit of a cross current at the lock. Facilities are good and security excellent. 


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With an underground station at Tower Hill just nearby, it was amazingly simple to see London.  Highlights included the Tate Modern, Skygarden, Natural History Museum, Soane houses, Damien Hurst Gallery and Borough Market. Mostly we just walked and walked in lovely weather. There is just so much to see we will go back again but it gets to the point where you just get overload! We had planned a week and it was enough for one trip.
Burough Market. Food lovers.
Ray and Jeananne Wells, old friends from Australia, now resident in the UK, met us on arrival and we spent two days exploring with them, and also enjoyed a fabulous evening at their home.  Andrew and Christine joined us aboard Taipan for a few days so we checked out lots of fun sites with them also. 

View from the Sky Garden.

Bit of silliness at Somerset House with Ray and Jeananne

Retracing our steps back down the Thames on a falling tide couldn’t have been easier with the change of tide at 830am we left the marina in daylight and coasted out on the current to River Medway in brilliant sunshine. A much more enjoyable ride in sunshine than the inbound trip. We had planned to explore Chatham Historic Dockyards and Ropeworks the next day but the forecast was not looking too sharp for later in the week so we overnighted in Dead Mans Hole again and caught the current all the way back to Ipswich the following day. We managed to ride the rising tide up the Orwell into the marina as well and all in lovely weather. 

Tower of London across the Thames
And on the opposite side of the Thames.

Back in Ipswich now and counting down until we can once again cross the Channel to France or Belgium to spend some time waiting for the winter to go away! The new Eberspacher heater the Captain has promised the Admiral is proving elusive. After nearly a year of tinkering with a second hand Webasto, only to have it work for one day, he has retired defeated!. The suppliers are all saying there is a wait of up to a month on delivery and the back orders haven’t been filled for 6 weeks. There are always other projects, running repairs, varnish, and maintenance to take care of so we are not just sitting sipping gin!

Taipan with my new favourite bridge.
The new Kemp sail was hoisted in the first light weather and although not as big as we were expecting, I’m sure it will be an improvement on the 30 year old Hood we have been using. Looking forward to the test sail and I hope it lasts as long!

Where are we going on the continent? Not sure yet. One of the problems with Schengen is that we can’t avail ourselves of the winter rates offered by marinas because we can only stay in Schengen for 3 months. This will mean paying for a full 5 or 6 months twice. We have yet to confirm the most cost effective place to stop. Or we could just keep moving and pay the monthly rate!



Saturday, 14 October 2017

CASTLE COAST SCOTLAND AND ENGLAND 14th October 2017



Oh for the open sea again!  Having negotiated the final lock, Taipan relishes a fresh dose of salt water under the keel after a couple of weeks in the fresh water of the wonderful Caledonian Canal. 


Leaving Inverness down The Moray Firth involves a bit of convoluted navigation around shoals for approximately 10 miles. There is quite a tidal range in this part of Scotland so judging your departure time to coincide with an outgoing tide is essential.  Once past Channonry Point Light on the left the impressive  Fort George Highland. looms large on the opposite bank. This large Star shaped fort has been in continuous use as a garrison since it was built after the Jacobite Rising in 1715.

Channonry Point Light

Navigation is more straight forward after these narrows and our first stop was a run of 40nm to Lossimouth. Entrance to some of these ports needs to coincide with a suitable tide. Many harbours on the east coast dry out. We judged Lossiemouth was one such harbour and were fortunate to get a berth just inside the entrance. The east coast harbours are often battered by huge storms out of the North Sea so there are massive protective groynes at the entrance. The entrances can be alarmingly narrow and in fact in bad weather it is impossible to enter many of these ports. There wasn't enough water for Taipan further in. Once and important fishing industry thrived in Lossiemouth but serious overfishing and the consequent depletion of stocks has seen the death of the industry. The major employment in the area now is with services to the Royal Air Force which has a station just out of town.


Weather remained fine and our passage south continued the following morning with the destination being Peterhead, 58 nm south east. Peterhead is one of the few all weather ports on the coast and has two massive breakwaters enclosing a port area of over 300 acres, inside of which it is possible to drop sails and prepare the boat for berthing without having to be out in the unprotected waters. The first harbour was constructed here in 1593 to support a growing fishing industry. Fishing remains very important here still, with the port being home base to over 550 fishermen. Peterhead also has a number of other industries including food processing, textiles and service industries for the extensive oil and gas and wind farm installations popping up along the coast and in the North Sea.



Peterhead
We berthed Taipan in the small marina in the south west corner of the harbour and after an early night we headed on south while weather held. It was just 35 nm south to Stonehaven and we made good time sailing close to the coast past Aberdeen, another busy port servicing the North Sea Oil platforms. 


Stonehaven inner harbour dries completly

Stonehaven is another of the shallow drying ports however we were able to berth on an outer breakwater in plenty of depth. Stonehaven was a charming little seaside town with a nice strand and an interesting history museum on the waterfront. Entertainment was provided by the arrival and deployment of a couple of big life boats which are used as training boats for workers on oil platforms. They arrived, each on a truck, from a service facility and were dumped into the water where, once started, smoked their way around the inner harbour for a while before being hauled out reloaded on the trucks and driven of. Presumably for a bit more work on the engines!


Dunnotter Castle appeared on the dramatic cliffs just a short sail south of Stonehaven. This impressive medieval fortress is well defended by cliffs which plunge 50m into the restless North Sea and the only landward approach is via a narrow strip of land up a steep path to the gatehouse. Seen from the seaward side it looks impregnable and it’s easy to imagine why the Scottish Crown Jewels were secreted away here to prevent Oliver Cromwell getting his paws on them. 
Dunnotter Castle

Our destination lay just another 30nm south. Arbroath’s outer harbour dries at low tide so we entered the inner harbour over a sill and lock. All this requires quite a bit of timing and research. 


We were made very welcome on arrival by Charlie and Greg, a couple of local blokes, who greeted us to secure our lines and hand us a beer each and half a dozen fresh caught mackerel which we immediately bar-b-qued for lunch. The weather closed in and kept us tied up for 3 days. Arbroath is a very quaint town and we had plenty to keep us occupied. 


Arbroath Abby is just a short cycle from the marina and it has an excellent interpretative centre. Founded in 1178 by King William the Lion for monks of the Tironensian order it was abandoned during the reformation and material was pilfered for building within the town. What does remain though is beautifully presented. Interestingly a lot of pink sandstone was used an the architecture is strikingly similar to the St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall Orkney.


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Several fishing boats still work from the harbour and David managed to negotiate for some amazing local scallops. Arbroath "smokies" or smoked herring a local cottage industry, are smoked all around the harbour. The weather here can be ferocious and the harbour becomes impassable. At times the sea has broken over the main breakwater and 60 years ago six life boat volunteers  lost their lives when their boat was overturned whilst trying to return to the harbour after a failed sea search. This horrifying event was watched by their family and friends. It serves as a reminder of the danger into which volunteers place themselves in their service to seamen.

Bambourgh Castle

With still some distance to travel we had to press on as soon as the weather abated. Farewell to Arbroath, loaded with "smokies" and scallops. Next stop, 45nm to Eyemouth, our last port in Scotland. More lovely beam reaching weather saw our arrival in Eyemouth with time to explore the town. Eyemouth has an alarmingly narrow entrance and shallows at the mouth. The tide and timing were critical but the harbour masters in all the ports were very informative and helpful.

This photo of Lindisfarne Castle from Wikipedia without all the scaffolding

We discovered a great website for the UK and some of the French and Dutch coasts at Visit My Harbour. It is very informative and has lots of well written additional information and links to more charts and sites.


Eyemouth to Sunderland is 65nm roughly and once again in lovely weather we sailed south. Sailing close inshore of the Ferne Islands, we passed Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle, built around 1550, now privately owned and currently undergoing restoration. A short distance south is the impressive, fully restored Bamburgh Castle, also privately owned. The first written reference to the site is in 547 when there was a fort located here. It was later destroyed by Vikings and has been rebuilt and modified over many years by a succession of owners. It is open to the public but we didn’t stop. 


Sunderland was our first anchorage in quite a long time. We were able to anchor inside the harbour breakwater as there was no swell. Luckily we chose a spot not fouled as we later discovered when we visited the local yacht club. A wreck lies a couple of hundred meters to the north of our position. Some yachts were racing in the afternoon and called by to invite us up to the clubhouse. Very big tides here and this meant a long climb down a slimy ladder to our dingy at the end of the night though.

Sunderland south to Scarborough is 55 nm. Its a pretty time of year with the countryside a patchwork of ripe  cereal crops, fallow ground, hay and new winter wheat emerging. We sailed in close to the coast for the views. From Scarborough we struck south in a good weather window to the Deben River just north of Felixstow. It was 180nm and one of the nicest night sails I can remember. There was very little traffic, few wind farms, and a big starry sky with full moon to light the way. Our arrival in Deben was a little anxious as the pilots make it sound rather daunting but we cleared the bar, navigated the narrow channel and were safely anchored well before dark. 

Orford Ness Light. Nearly there

Our journey south almost complete now we rested up for a couple of days on the anchor and then made our way up the Orwell river into Ipswich  He we have some work to do and a survey to complete for Insurance. After which we plan to sail up the Thames to the centre of London. Until then its all work and no play.

More Photos from the trip south.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

CALEDONIAN CANAL 29th August


Into the Corpach Sea Lock to begin our trip up the Caledonian Canal.

Caledonian Canal runs 97km, is 5.5m deep and two thirds of its length passes through several Lochs in the Great Glen.  It has 29 Locks, 4 aqueducts and 10 bridges. Neptunes Staircase is the biggest flight and comprises 8 locks rising 20 meters. 
The Vic. An old steam Puffer. Runs on coal and does trips up and down the Canal

The famous Canal Engineer Thomas Telford was commissioned to survey, design and then build the Canal in 1803. It was conceived of as a plan to reduce unemployment in the Highlands after the Highland Clearances, a period of over 100 yeas during which Landlords removed tenants from their lands in order to farm sheep. The tenants who had no security of tenure were evicted on mass and as a consequence lost their homes and livelihoods.
 
Taipan in the Corpach Basin with Ben nevis in the background.
The Canal would also provided a safe passage for ships from north east to south west Scotland. The canal finally opened in 1822 after many unforeseen difficulties and a big blow out in the budget. The shipping traffic never really eventuated because in the intervening time steam ships were invented and were too large for the canal. It was closed for a while between 1843 and 1847 for repairs after defective materials caused Corpach Lock to collapse. In 1962 the locks were mechanised. Now a Scheduled Ancient Monument the Canal attracts  over half a million tourists each year.

Taipan in Neptunes Staircase with a group heading north.

Corpach Sea Lock at the south western end of the Canal near Fort William, on loch Linnhe, was our starting point. We had anchored in a neat little puddle with the occasional sea otter coming for a look. The magnificent Ben Nevis towers over Loch Linnhe and Fort William. To approach the first sea lock we had to coordinate with the lock master and prebook a locking in. 

Looking bach towards Corpach.

Once through the sea lock we arrived in the basin at  Corpach where we met Rex and Susie Whistler old friends from Asia who drove up to meet us. With so much to catch up on we didn't go any further that day and renewed acquaintance and had a fair few ales and some of the local brew with a group of Scottish and Dutch crews.
 
The new crew settling in!!
Next morning, leaving their car in the care of the Lock keepers, we set off up the 8 locks of Neptunes staircase. This involves about 2 hours of line handling whilst steadily moving upward as each lock fills and we moved forward to the next. Its a pretty intriguing process and was made all that much easier with extra hands. The first day we did the locks and then called it quits again. We had travelled about 500 meters!
Captain Dave, Rex and Susie.

All our days were short and pleasant with good wine and food and friends to share it with. In Laggen Lock we met David and Andrea McKay, Australians on Diomedea, and we all had a great night together. In Girloch we bumped into Zen Again with Mike and Nicky Reynolds who we last met in Bermuda and who are also Australians from WA, We go back a long way. The Splash in 2002 from Fremantle to Darwin was where we first met!!

Rex David Andrea Kris Susie and David
  
In Fort Augustus, the only town on the canal, our friends Jane and Bill on Vagrant, who we met in Stromness a short time ago, were just taking a stroll up the locks and spotted Taipan proudly flying the OCC flag they gave us. Can you believe our luck. Two wonderful line handlers to help us down the 5 locks and into Loch Ness. Another fun night aboard before we went our opposite ways the following day, with us to help them up the locks.

Charter Canal boats ply the waterway with tourists. 

In all we spent seven days transiting the Canal and Rex and Susie left us about half way. We had such a great time with them and were sorry to see them off at Laggan Lock. There is good public transport following the Canal so they were able to grab a bus back to pick up their car and head home. 


Each Lock is manned by Canal Staff and they were all extremely helpful and the whole locking process was stress free. The locks of Holland and Sweden on the other hand, were pretty stressful because there was no assistance and the bollards we had to tie to were recessed into the lock walls making them very difficult to get. They were also designed for ships so were spaced too far apart for smaller boats.

One of the more unusual vessels in the canal. A Czechoslovakian  adventure sailing charter headed to Ireland. Complete with cannon.

The scenery is fabulous and for the most part the weather was really good. No wind and some nice sunny days.  The mountains were just blooming with the purple heath and the wild flowers often lined the canal. There is the occasional castle and Loch Ness has been sailed down but Nessie wasn't spotted.

Urqhart Castle. Loch Ness.

Overnight pontoons are provided at very regular intervals along the route. They are often equipped with power and water but because you motor through the canal power is not such a big deal. We paid 3GBP per night for power where we used it.

Fort Augustus. 5 locks down to Loch Ness.

The cost for us to spend eight days in transit was 283GBP and this included all pontoons overnight and water.  There was no free wifi but we had a moderate signal with the cellphone most of the way. Inverness at the northern end of the Canal has a marina called Muirtown in which we spent the final 2 nights and were able to walk to the supermarkets for provisioning.

Goodbye Caledonian Canal

Looking at the season, the shortening days and with the East Coast of Scotland and England to tackle we have decided to get moving rapidly south. Check back and see how that goes.