Thursday, June 25, 2009

Emma's 3rd birthday

Plans for the birthday party went into execution last night with the baking of the birthday cake (see photo). Leonie and I then spent 2 hours making hats and wrapping presents (while the boys pretended to help but actually played/ worked to get our SSB radios working – also very important). After several attempts, Emma’s princess hat was a bit of a disappointment. This was a feeling that she obviously shared the following morning as she immediately shunned it in favour of Macsen’s much cooler crown.

The day was planned almost to the minute. Taps sounded at 0730 and we dressed and readied ourselves for the day. This was followed by a visit from the Elena crew at 0900 for coffee, croissants, party hats and presents. We then took a mini-bus to the seal sanctuary in Gweek (1/2 hour away) where we wandered around, watched the seals, played in the rock pools and had a kinder-champagne brunch. The highlight of this visit were the little fish that Emma and Mees got to throw to the fur seals (some of which were gulped up straight out of the air!). Back to the boats for naptime followed by cake and more presents. Then we had some unscheduled activity…Emma and Mees found a tube of zinc salve (for diaper rash) and smeared it all over their faces, hair, clothes and the playroom on the Elena (see photo). This unscheduled activity (and the subsequent clean-up) was run in parallel with an unscheduled diesel tanking of both boats so we were temporarily a little more chaotic than usual. Finally, we settled in for a pancake and strawberry dinner at 1800. Emma closed off her busy day with an international Skype session with the Netherlands and Canada before collapsing (very happily I think) into her bed at 2000 (or shortly thereafter).

Photos of Emma's birthday

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why is a ship called she?

Found this on the wall at the Chain Locker pub in Falmouth.

Photos South England II

South England II

Fowey, Falmouth and a Free Evening

Beautiful evening sail from Cawsand to Fowey. Set off just after dinner, put the monkeys to bed and enjoyed a very fast and smooth (though again upwind) sail. The seas were flatter and the wind steady and the Pjotter was performing extremely well. Arrived in Fowey and navigated up the narrow entrance in the dark. Pulled up to Albert’s Quay and enjoyed a drink with Adam and Leonie to celebrate a beautiful sail before heading off to bed. We stayed in Fowey for 2 days and the boys let Leonie and I go out to the pub two evenings in a row!

The last morning before our departure for Falmouth we took a walk around the Fowey harbor. This walk was touted as one of the 100 most beautiful walks in England and intended for the ‘more energetic’ walker. It was indeed a very beautiful wooded walk with great views over the harbour and our boats and a perfect bridge and stream for bathing the little ones about halfway along. After four miles of up and down climbing, carrying Macsen and Pieter on our backs and frequently carrying Emma and Mees and/or their bicycles, we were happy to plop ourselves down for lunch at the Ferry Inn.

And now we are sitting in the Falmouth Harbour. Adam and Leonie kindly offered to look after the little monkeys last night and Seb and I had the treat of a great dinner with just the two of us followed by a beer in the local pub (Chain Locker) on the pier, opened in 1742. Emma was briefly awake but Adam expertly cuddled and read to her and after a little negotiation on whether to have another book, was able to coax her back to bed. Seb and I are now ‘taking care’ of Mees and Pieter this evening to allow Adam and Leonie a free evening dinner out. Our boats are lying side by side and the children are all in bed so this entails listening to the baby monitor and stepping in to cuddle, console, read a book of sing a song if required.

Falmouth is generally considered the jumping off point to the rest of Europe for the sailing community. It is quite a thrill to be here. We intend to use it for a relatively small jump to the Scilly Islands (still England) and will depart, weather permitting, on Friday after celebrating Emma’s 3rd birthday on the 25th.

Dartmouth, Cawsand and Crabs

After a shower, a laundry and a very good curry we left Weymouth and headed for Dartmouth. The entry to Dartmouth is very dramatic, with huge castles on either side. We pulled up to a quay in the middle of town and settled in for a two-day stay. Seb and Adam had time to speak to the local fisherfolk and came back with new tricks and tackle, followed up with a visit to the local pub to hear some more of the local fishing yarns. Leonie and I were able to sneak in a secret ‘knutsel’ session and Emma and Mees (with the support of Peter and Macsen, Macsen least effectively) created fabulous paintings for father’s day. They were both strictly instructed not to tell the papas about this surprise but both excitedly disobeyed this instruction almost as soon and the papas returned.

The Elena family then spent the morning exploring the Dartmouth area on a really cool steam train while the Pjotter family went to the local doctor to get their last injections. We had done all of our injections except Macsen’s standard 12-month MMR (measles, mumps, rubella, because he was too young) and our yellow fever (because we didn’t want to get sick just before leaving). We were unable to convince Emma that our program was as interesting as Mees’ steam train but she took it very well.

The trip from Dartmouth to Cawsand was unpleasant and uncomfortable. Only 15-18 knots of wind but it was a long and bumpy upwind beat with current against for most of the trip. We arrived in Cawsand at about 2000 and dropped the anchor in the well protected bay with relief. We went to bed early and were greeted next morning with a happy whoop over the radio from Adam. The crab pot that they had set the night before had 8 crabs in it and at least 2 of them were enormous!

The villages along the Southern coats of England have a few things in common: the people are friendly, they are charming, they are full of lovely little houses clinging to the side of the hill/ cliff, and there are amazing views from the top of the village…but there is always a very long, steep and tiring climb (particularly carrying children and bikes) before you can enjoy them. After such an invigorating walk through the village of Cawsand we returned to boats, opened a bottle of wine and cooked up two enormous crabs and had a most delicious lunch. Yum!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Photos Hereford & South England I


South England I

Channel Havens

After two fun and lazy days in Cowes we were off to our first anchorage. We found a great book of secluded anchorages in Southern England and have been using this as our travel bible for the last few days. It is much easier to trust your anchor hold when an expert says that you are on good ground. And I must say that in addition to the great fun we are having with the Elena and her crew, it feels much more comfortable to lie in a completely secluded anchorage when you know there is another trusted boat bobbing about next to you. We have been moving from amazingly beautiful bay to stunning beach to breathtaking cliff walk and we are all already running out of adequate words to describe what we are seeing (and this only a month into our trip). I personally will be adding two of these places in particular, Worbarrow Bay and Lulworth Cove, to my vocabulary of superlatives. Please review the picture gallery for a more adequate description. Suffice it to say that the South of England is delivering in spades and we have only come as far as Weymouth! In addition to the beautiful surrounding we are having a wonderful time with the Elena crew. Mees and Emma race about on their bikes, with their buckets or in their birthday suits, laughing and splashing and exploring. Pieter and Macsen have spats of interaction and spend the rest of the time smiling at each other or some other diversion, both very cheerful, happy chappies. Last but not least, we really enjoy spending time with Leonie and Adam and all in all it creates a comfortable, relaxed, interesting and exceedingly enjoyable travelling experience.

Oh, oh, oh, and I forgot to add on be of the most exciting little tidbits of news. After several frustrated attempts trawling along the way, Seb and Adam headed out in Spikkel yesterday evening to try some new fishing tackle suggested by an expert in Cowes. This involved some white feathers and hooks tied in a row on a bit of line weighted down with a washer (very high tech) – these are trade secrets so I’m afraid I cannot share any more details. Within a few seconds of their departure, whoops of delight started to echo through the bay. Within the hour, they were back on board, flushed and excited with wild descriptions of the 12 fish they had caught, sometimes 2 on a line!!! The weight of the 12 fish combined would have made an very nice dinner but each was too small to be more than a few bites alone so they were carefully placed back into the sea to grow another year. The search is now on for a new expert who can help them to catch bigger fish. Bigger fish are apparently much cleverer...

London to Cowes

We had a lovely visit with my Gu. “Great”Uncle Owen joined us for the first night and we had a nice evening that went deeper into the night than planned. We celebrated Macsen’s first birthday on the June 6th. Gu made him a perfect Macsen-sized cake with Dutch ‘klompen’ containing a single candle on top. I have never seen him more delighted. He stared at in wonder for a few seconds and then began to shovel great handfuls into his mouth giggling with glee. Perfect! We also had some good chats, tried to solve some of the world’s problems, relaxed and ate extremely well. We hope to visit again soon sometime around Gu’s birthday next March.

We arrived back at the boat in the late afternoon, after a 5 hour drive (2 hours longer than expected due to some road closures in downtown London). At this point we were completely sick of London and ready to be on our way. A fabulous package of surprises was waiting for us. Azita and Amer had offered to pick-up some handy things for us and had completely outdone themselves. More fishing lures (some as big as the fish I thought we would catch – one that suggested it was good for catching “even the largest predators”), special fishing lines, miso soup, sushi rice and powdered wasabi to accompany our first catch, and some great wool t-shirts (icebreakers) that keep you warm when it is cold and cold when it is warm (and don’t stink even after they have been worn for 2 weeks straight!).

Monday was a @#$%@^day. Pardon me. The locks at Saint Katharine’s didn’t open until 1300 so we had some time to bustle about in the morning. Someone had taken our 2 loads of laundry out of the dryer (apparently we had overfilled it a little) and left it in a stinky damp pile. This seems like a small issue but we didn’t know when we would have access to easy laundry facilities again (plus it was just irritating). Made it through the locks at 1315, having arranged to fill our diesel tanks at the barge in Gravesend, some 30 nm down the Thames. It was an easy and uneventful trip down the Thames, a bit boring if the thrill of arrival in London is gone. The current was nicely with us the entire way but the wind directly against so we needed to motor. The water began to get choppy as we approached Gravesend, direct effect of wind vs. tidal current producing very short choppy waves coupled with a strong driving current. These conditions came up fairly suddenly so were not really prepared. We waited for a large boat to finish at the fuel barge and then we approached ourselves. The waves were really crashing us about by this time but we continued anyhow. It was not until I was handing my bowline over to the barge owner that I realized that there were no fenders on the barge. Our fenders were crushed between the two boats, the netting ripped and one fender flew off. Suddenly ‘crash’ as the bow smashed into the side of the barge. Perhaps it was the irritations of the day but neither of us reacted as quickly as we usually would and it took several seconds and one more bump before we both yelled to the barge owner to release us and we pulled away bouncing in the waves. We circled around to fish out our fender and then limped further down the Thames to survey our damage. Two huge white scrapes in our new paint and a chip out of the rub rail. Both were feeling very upset, frustrated with ourselves and a little shaken and wondered if we should continue or just pull into the nearest harbor for the night. After a quick discussion we decided that we would still continue down the coast to Dover given that the winds and weather were favorable and we had just enough fuel.

Put the monkeys to bed at 2000. Seb had the first watch. I slept fitfully as we were heading upwind and it was a rather bumpy and loud sail. I woke at 1am to a wildly bucking boat and banging on the deck. I jumped up and Seb called out to put my foulies and my lifejacket on and come outside, “quickly if possible”. The waves were very high and were tossing us about in gust up to 29 knots of wind. We were just rounding a small cape at the mouth of the Thames and the weather build up resulting from the land and tide effects were astonishing. The genoa roller furler was jammed and Seb couldn’t get the flapping sail in. I took the helm and struggled to keep the bow in the wind while Seb went forward to study the problem. The boat was pitching about with fury and we needed to tack to avoid coming to close to the coast. We decided not to drop the genaoa manually but to finish the sail out to sea. Within ½ hour we had rounded the corner and were suddenly in virtually flat seas and a 15 knot wind right on our beam (90 degrees), perfect for a sail. Seb settled in for a well deserved sleep and I settled in for a very easy and beautiful watch. It started to become light at about 0500 and I had a fantastic view of the white cliffs of Dover. We pulled into the harbor in Dover at 0700, fueled quickly and decided that we were still in good shape to keep going. The tides were with us almost all of the way from Dover to Cowes so we wanted to take advantage and it was a fast and easy trip. Pulled into Cowes at 0600 after two full days at sea and docked up beside a beautiful big yellow boat, the Elena. We hopped back into bed to try to get a little sleep before the little monkeys awoke. Just after we awoke we heard a cheery welcome from the Elena crew, Adam, Leonie and their 2 boys, Mees and Pieter with an invitation for a welcome cup of coffee. We begged leave for a little time to shower in order to be more presentable companions….

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Photos London


Paddington arrives in London

Left Woolverstone at 7am on Thursday morning and had a long but beautiful sail down the coast and entered the Thames in the late afternoon. Continued on to pick up a mooring in Gravesend halfway up the Thames at 8pm and settled in for the night to ready ourselves for our sail into London. We waited until 11am on Friday morning for the 3-4 knot tidal currents to turn and sailed speedily along the Thames with a 15 knot wind from behind. At around 1pm, we were suddenly approached by an unmarked speedboat with four menacing looking men dressed in black safety suits and helmets. They pulled up alongside and identified themselves, to our relief, as customs agents. Despite their looks they were very friendly and teased Emma as we filled them in on our plans. They left after about ½ hour with a very cheery wave and a small comment of regret that the they always seem to target the wrong boats.

Our excitement grew as we approached the Thames tidal barrier and I busied myself in re-checking our Reeds almanac for the seemingly strict radio protocol for crossing the Thames tidal barrier. After reminding Seb for the 7th time to let me know when we were at Margaret Ness so I could call in and ask ‘permission to proceed’ I finally got the go-ahead. I took a deep breath and radioed in our intentions and was instructed to proceed through the ‘Golf barrier’. As we motored through the space-age looking barrier we were suddenly surrounded by the city, big skyscrapers and structures of every shape and size. Continued along until we came to Greenwich and crossed the meridian with me and Emma fore and Seb and Macsen aft. Macsen was wriggling about in a makeshift crib in the cockpit dressed appropriately in a yellow Paddington bear hat. At 3pm we arrived at Tower Bridge, an amazing sight from a sailboat. Just next to the Tower Bridge is a small secret door in the wall of the Thames. This is actually the entrance to the locks at St. Katherine Docks and it opens only at high water. We waited on a bumpy mooring buoy until the secret door opened and we were able to enter the tiny locks with footbridges on either side. St. Katherine Docks is a pretty little harbour surrounded by fancy shops and restaurants, luxury apartments and full of ducks and coots and enormous carp swimming about to entertain the monkeys. Unfortunately, a large ugly hotel blocks the view of the Tower Bridge only 200 metres away but even this does not spoil the location.

Martijn, an ex-colleague of Seb’s who has become a good friend came down to the docks to welcome us. He is working for Skype in London at the centre of the Web 2.0 world and brought us up to date on all of the latest trends in the world of internet technology including ‘augmented reality’ and ‘virtual goods’. We put the kids to bed together and then took the baby-phone to an Italian restaurant next to the dock with a view over our boat to continue our discussion there.

Seb’s mother, Wouter and Linda arrived on Saturday and we spent the day walking around Notting Hill under the guidance of Martijn, and finished the day lying about in Hyde Park while Emma and Martijn cavorted about. We spent a really nice weekend taking very long walks around the city, eating huge meals and generally enjoying the feeling of sleeping on our rustic little sailboat surrounded by a huge modern city. Seb’s family left on Tuesday morning and Seb felt the need for a little cheer up so he filled the cockpit with water and Emma and Macsen splashed about in their birthday suits. Well, Emma performed very important chemical experiments with her buckets, scoops and the outdoor shower and Macsen squealed insults when she sprayed him with cold water. Hard to believe that this charming activity took place in the middle of London.

Our last day in London was spent touristing about to see the changing of the horse guards and to visit the London aquarium. Emma was fascinated by the fish, touched a starfish and gave Macsen a very knowledgeable explanation of how turtles work. We had a wonderful dinner with Azita and Amer. Azita was Seb’s ‘exchange’ when he worked in the Richmond office of eBay in 2006 just before Emma was born and we have stayed friends with them since. Amer gave Seb some new fishing lures and waxed eloquent about the finer points of both fly and deep sea rod and reel fishing. They also gave us some excellent tips on how to get the most out of our trip (“only do the amazing things”) and thrilled us with some great descriptions of their travels in South America. Amer left Emma with an important but little known fact; “Your hair grows faster when you sleep. Mermaids have very long hair because they sleep a lot, that’s why you never see them.”

Tomorrow morning we are off to visit my grandmother and ‘great uncle Owen’ in Hereford where we will celebrate Macsen’s first birthday.