Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sophie Heals Herself

Sophie and Jeremy at home

 The best news of the last few months is that our granddaughter, Sophie, aged 4 months, no longer needs an operation to correct her hips and has avoided 12 weeks in a plaster cast from her chest to her ankles. The operation was due to take place on 12th August. Jeremy and I looked after our other granddaughter, Ellie, while Em and Ben took Sophie into hospital. Sophie was put under general anaesthetic and injected with a dye so that her bones would show up on an x-ray. The x-ray revealed that her hips had healed themselves. We are still jumping for joy. Thank you to all our friends and family for your prayers or for keeping Sophie in your thoughts.

Sailor Sophie asleep in the stern cabin
Naturally, all our other news pales into insignificance when compared with this amazing healing, but there are two recent posts underneath that you might have missed.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Afloat Again - River Deben to La Rochelle

All the time we were motoring up and down the country, Sal Darago was waiting patiently on the Deacon family mooring on the River Deben. We made her ready for offshore sailing, packed her lockers with food, clothes, spares and prepared for a 10 day trip, hoping to reach Santander in northern Spain, but booking a flight to London from Bordeaux just in case.
Jeremy, Kathy, Ellie and Sophie on the Deben mooring
First, we welcomed Emily, Ben, Ellie and Sophie on board for a family BBQ at The Rocks to celebrate Em’s birthday. The rain held off until we were eating our food. We rushed for cover under trees as the sky darkened and the heavens opened. Ellie was amazing sitting next to me, water gathering on her plate and not a word of complaint. Sophie was not amused to be woken by rain bouncing on her face. Everyone warmed up back at SD with the engine running and the radiators pumping out much needed heat. It was July in Suffolk.
Dieppe Marina in the heart of the town
On Saturday we motored in calm, cloudy weather across the Thames estuary to Ramsgate, where we anchored off the harbour. Jeremy had found the faults in the wind instrument and the log and put them right as we travelled. Crossing the Dover Straits the following morning was less scary than I had expected and we had no close encounters with the many ships, ferries and other vessels using the seaway. Once across we met a foul tide and sat it out making about 2 knots until it turned. At one point we thought we might continue to Cherbourg, but the west wind was on our nose and rose to force 5 with gusts of force 7. We turned inshore and entered Dieppe Harbour at midnight, after a scare with an outgoing ferry.

Entrance to Fecamp - not 24 hours
The bad weather set in. We managed a daysail to Fecamp and spent two nights in harbour, leaving on Wednesday with a reasonable French inshore forecast, but on the tail end of gales in sea areas Thames, Dover and NE Wight according to the BBC. We were in SW Wight. The rain stopped, the mist cleared and the wind blew on the nose again. I took Stugeron and was glad when the uncomfortable night was over.
Fecamp from Chapel de Notre Dame
The main GPS stopped working as we reached Cherbourg, but the weather was calming and the tides were right, so we continued our journey, using our hand held GPS and noting our position on the chart plotter until the main GPS started working again. We rounded Cap de Hague, took advantage of the Alderney Race and zipped along at 8 knots. Once more the wind prevented us from going in the direction we wanted (WSW) and we headed south. This gave us a favourable tide for many hours and by midnight we were close to Ile de Brehat. Now the tide turned and I again got the short straw managing only 5 nautical miles in three hours. At 4pm we were close to L’Aber-Wrac’h and our diesel supplies were depleted. The decision was made to go on in order to pass through Le Chenal de Four and the Raz de Sein. It continued calm and despite a huge (Spring) tide we crawled our way out of the Channel into Le Chenal de Four. We cleared this well lit route at 2300 and noted that we needed to be through the Raz de Sein by 0115 or the tide would turn on us and push us literally backwards. There were only 15 miles to be covered in two and a quarter hours, fairly easy with a good tide, BUT it just was not there. It had disappeared and Jeremy increased the engine to the maximum safe revs. We cleared the Raz de Sein at 0125 as the tide turned hard against us and both breathed a sigh of relief – no more tidal gates, but where to buy diesel?

Waiting for diesel
Using our pilot books, by a process of elimination, we chose to go to the fishing port of Le Guilvinec at 0800 HW Saturday. All went well and we pulled in alongside a pump proclaiming “DIESEL 24 HRS”. There was none for us yachties – just for trawlers. The unhelpful Frenchman suggested Loctudy or walking several kilometres to the nearest garage. We sought advice at a public quay and the same unhelpful Frenchman turned up. He offered to take Jeremy to the garage with cans for 100 litres of fuel and on their return waited patiently while Jeremy siphoned the diesel into the tank. Finally, this fine French chap took Jeremy back to the garage in order that our spare containers would be full. It just goes to show that you cannot judge a book by its cover.
The lighthouse at Cap de Hague
The rest of the day and night continued calm. Jeremy accused me of being smelly at 0300. This was not the case and he soon discovered that the batteries were boiling. We deployed Hydrovane, our trusty wind pilot, hoisted full sails and sailed slowly through the night and most of the next day. While testing the batteries to find out if we could start the engine, Jeremy forgot the helm was lashed and put on Neco, our electronic pilot. Overheating against the strain, Neco switched itself off and would not switch on again. We were reminded of how quickly things can go wrong on a boat. We still had sails, steering and just enough wind to make headway.
Amazing fountain in Bordeaux
The next weather forecast warned us of a 3 metre Atlantic swell heading our way. We’d decided to make for Royen at the mouth of the Gironde, just down river from Bordeaux, but the swell would make the entry dangerous. La Rochelle was nearer and protected by an offshore island, so we headed for the largest marina in Europe. Surely they would have room for us on one of their 3000 berths. Jeremy discovered that one battery was OK. The other two would need to be replaced but could take a charge so we were able to motor into the harbour and berth on the visitors’ pontoon in Port de Minimes.

Stunning stonework in Bordeaux
Two days later we were on the train to Bordeaux, having arranged for Sal Darago to stay in La Rochelle for 6 weeks. Ryanair’s flight to London Stansted was on time but the National Express bus to Ipswich was delayed, meaning an hour’s wait for us on the station platform for the next train to Wickham Market and a 5 minute walk home.

We were back in time for Sophie’s operation on 12th August.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Good News and Sad News

Closed flood gates at Westminster Underground

On 23rd June Jeremy and I caught the train to London to attend an evening Reception on the terrace of the Houses of Parliament, to celebrate 175 years since the foundation of Hild/Bede College, Durham University. It was probably the wettest day of the year and many trains to London were cancelled. Ours terminated at Shenfield in Essex. Serious flooding on the line put out signals and we had a stop-start journey to Liverpool Street on a different train. We were worried about the tube but we made it to Westminster Underground Station. The Lord provided a large umbrella, which we put to good use, once the rain water stopped pouring down the exit steps like a waterfall. Arriving at the Houses of Parliament, we passed through airport like security and had 10 minutes to wolf down coffee and cake before the cafe closed. 

Overlooked by Big Ben

Kathy and Jeremy in the Palace of Westminster

On the way to the Terrace, we were enthralled by the building and its long history as we wandered in the corridors of power catching glimpses of the chambers for the Lords and the Commons. Massive tapestries adorned the walls and larger than life paintings covered the ceilings celebrating the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Kathy and Jeremy on the Terrace
We enjoyed the evening chatting to old friends from our Durham days, sipping wine and nibbling canap├ęs. The journey home was worse than the outward trip with many underground and over ground trains cancelled. After a two hour wait at Shenfield, a train arrived after midnight and took us slowly to Ipswich stopping at every station along the way. We arrived home by taxi at 2.30am. My feet were killing me being unused to wearing high heels for so long.
Walking the Aros Path, Tobermory, Mull
Rainbow over Ledaig, Mull
A few days later we were off to Mull again for about 10 days. This time it rained almost every day. We assembled single beds, worked on the garden and had days out walking. My abused feet objected strongly and large blisters formed on the soles of them.
One new bed in place
On our return, we stopped the night at my friend Pat’s house in Lancashire. Here we received the sad news that our sailing friend, Liz Harcombe, had died and the funeral was to be held in the Lake District later that week.

The cottage in Mull
We had one night at home, booked two nights at different Travelodges and set off north again. On the day of the funeral we woke to absolute chaos on the M6 in Staffordshire. A whole section of the motorway was closed and the surrounding main roads were gridlocked. Jeremy navigated a way through country lanes, partly by map and partly by guesswork until we could join the M6 further north. We made it to the funeral, which celebrated Liz’s life including the time she’s spent with husband, Graham, aboard their ocean going yacht, Ellida. (Sal Darago and Ellida were buddy boats for 3 months on the Sail Indonesia Rally in July/August 2011 and feature in earlier posts on this blog.)

Kathy, Graham, our guide, Juli, Liz and Jeremy

Jeremy, Graham and Liz

Graham, Kathy and Liz in Bali rice fields

Jeremy, Kathy, Liz and Graham with a Komodo dragon
On the way home we popped in to see Aunty Joyce in her new nursing home unit in Brigg. It was good to see her surrounded by her own furniture, enjoying excellent care and chatting about her friends and family.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Teething Troubles

We have continued to be busy landlubbers since March, enjoying spending more time with our granddaughter, Ellie, taking her out on walks in the forest or to community events in village halls, where she was very happy to eat cake.

Ellie and Jeremy
Baby Sophie had a development problem with her hips and had to wear a harness from birth. Unfortunately, after some initial success, the harness did not work and soon Sophie will be having an operation on her hips. We hope and pray that this will be successful.

Painting the roof
Jeremy and I spent a month in the isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland, painting, decorating and gardening at the cottage, which is now jointly owned by Jeremy and his two brothers. The weather was largely fine, except for a few days of snow.
Snow at the end of April
Starting on the kitchen
I flew to the Isle of Man to see my Mum and sisters. I was pleased to see Mum looking so much better than she had on my last visit in January. She lives at home with my sister, Sara. A team of carers help Sara to look after her. Mum is walking around the house with the help of a frame and is able to transfer to her wheelchair. Sara or my other sister, Pat, take her out when they can. The three of us took Mum out for lunch while I was over.
Fixing the electrics in the Wee House

Sara, Mum and Pat
Meanwhile, Jeremy was antifouling Sal Darago in preparation for launching earlier this month (June). The weather became unsettled and windy and for the first time ever, SD was launched without sails. We motored down the river to our mooring in full waterproofs and woolly hats. 
On the mooring and still doing jobs
Soon, we were able to put the sails on and have a few days sailing from the River Deben to the River Orwell and up to Ipswich. The bilge pump for the shower had seized up but everything else seemed to be working OK. Jeremy fitted a second station for our Standard Horizon VHF/AIS radio, so we can now access all the features from the cockpit.
New front cabin portholes
Simmering in the background all the time were problems with our teeth. Somewhat bizarrely, Jeremy had started the process of having dental implants when he had his infected tooth taken out. This meant he now had only one chewing tooth in his bottom jaw. One of my wisdom teeth became infected and proved to be too complicated for my dentist to remove. Consequently, I had to be referred, so all the time I was away in Mull and the Isle of Man I was taking painkillers. Two days after my return, I had the infected tooth taken out. The day before, Jeremy spent two hours in the dentist’s chair and had four implants. We were a sorry pair back at home on a diet of porridge and soup. We are much better three weeks on and looking forward to another trip to Mull at the end of the month. This time, we hope to assemble two single beds, hang some curtains and have a holiday. 
Kathy and Guido
Earlier this week we had a visit from Guido. He had sailed over from Belgium in his “new” 34ft Hallberg Rassy. We last saw Guido on his yacht, Hinano, anchored off Union Island in the Caribbean in 2009. He has kept in touch by email and promised that one day he would sail over to see us. His new yacht is lovely and we hope he enjoys many years of sailing her. We had a good time together in spite of the heavy rain.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Boats, Cars and a New Baby

Hello again. Sorry it’s been so long. This landlubber life is very time consuming.

While we were away sailing our son, Simon, and his wife, Erin, moved to California. There were a few extra items of furniture in our house and a car on the drive when we returned home. My car was rolled out of the garage, taxed and serviced. Simon’s car became Jeremy's and was duly MOT’d, taxed and insured. We were a two car family again, but this was to be short lived.

Christmas was great. We stayed with Em and Ben for a few nights and it was delightful watching two year old Ellie shouting up the chimney to Father Christmas on Christmas Eve and opening her presents on Christmas Day.

What's this, Mummy?
A visit to Sal Darago on the hard in the boatyard was tinged with sadness. Her green hull had been complemented with green decks and a green cockpit, not to mention a layer of bird guano. The unusually warm, damp weather had led to a growth of moss and algae. She looked neglected and I guess she had been.

That's a tight fit!
She is having a bit of a refit at present. All of her standing rigging (the metal bits) has been replaced and the guard rails that run right round the decks. A new hot water tank (calorifier) has been fitted and 4 new portholes. The bow anchor chain has been replaced and we’re trying to replace the bow anchor. This is in addition to the usual winter servicing.
Who stole the mast?
My Mum was going to visit us in mid-January but she became unwell over Christmas and New Year and went into hospital early in January. I flew to the Isle of Man to see her and my sisters. That day Mum fell in the ward and broke her hip. She had a hip replacement and was later able to go into respite for two weeks. She went home on the last day of February to be looked after by my sister, Sara, and a team of carers. My other sister, Pat, is helping out as well. Mum’s progress is up and down and she is quite frail but she is happy to be in her own home. Jeremy’s remaining aunt, Joyce, was very poorly in January. She too fell and had a hip replacement. She has only just been moved to a respite home, but seems to be improving.

The outside doesn't look too bad
So, what happened to Jeremy’s car? It set on fire spontaneously at the boatyard. No-one was in it.  The keys were not in the ignition and only a warning by a passer-by and quick action by Jeremy and the boatyard owner prevented a serious blaze. The insurers have declared the 10 year old Ford Focus a write-off. Jeremy had owned the car for only two months, but Simon had owned it for four years and had looked after it very well.
Not so good under the bonnet
During the same week we had a chimney fire, our second one in only a few months of use. Jeremy put it out and a few days later we bought our own rods and a brush and swept the chimney ourselves.

Granddaughter number 2
And now to the best news of all. Sophie Catherine Lloyd Deacon was born  March, which was Jeremy’s mother’s birthday. Sophie weighed 9lbs 13oz. So well done, Em. They are now at home and mother and baby are being looked after by Ben and Ellie.
We hope to launch Sal Darago in the summer. We’ll let you know in the next blog post.