Category Archives: 2015 Passage

Adventures with Rudy: PART I

Let’s start at the very beginning…

In March 2004 Max and I were in Antigua to meet up with family vacationing on the island:   Max’s to celebrate his mom Eileen’s 80th birthday; my mom and Betty Loc to enjoy some warm sand between their toes. Rudy, our nephew who was nine at that time, spent a night aboard JUANONA where we practiced an ancient ritual:

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Fast forward eleven years and Rudy was joining us again much to our delight, this time to make his first passage and help us take JUANONA down the coast to her winter berth in Ipswich.

AMBLE

Thursday & Friday & Saturday, September 3, 4, 5

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We picked Rudy up at the Edinburgh Airport Thursday afternoon (that morning Max and I stopped at Melrose Abbey) and drove back to Amble where we were waiting for winds to blow in the right direction (a typical sailing ‘plight’). Friday was not favorable for sailing so Rudy and Max visited Hadrian’s Wall where we’d been in May and then again with Iain and Sarah. I should preface our time with Rudy with a warning:  he, like me, is a history buff only he, unlike me, remembers well.

Anyhow, his and Max’s tour of the wall (near Housesteads fort)

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and town (Vindolanda) occurred at the perfect time:

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while scrutinizing the ongoing archaeological excavation at Vindolanda, they met THE lead archaeologist, Andrew Birley.  His grandfather began the dig in the 1930s and it’s still a happening place. Matter-of-fact one of the archeologists showed Rudy a pair of table legs they had unearthed that day – a piece of furniture last seen by a Roman some 1800 years ago.

And, speak of the devil, a Roman soldier approached the site and asked what they were doing in ‘his house’. Andrew immediately replied, ‘Oh, right. The utility bills are due for the past 1,890 years.’ Who said archaeologists don’t have a dry sense of humor? :)

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Like us earlier this year, Rudy was enthralled with the letters penned in ink on wooden tablets discovered at Vindolanda, which tell so much of daily Roman life and are now considered one of the top treasures in the British Museum.

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The extensive display even includes the well-preserved leather sandal of one of the Vindolanda letters’ authors:

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That night we headed for the local yacht club where we’d also taken Iain and Sarah. Once again, we were made to feel extremely welcomed. The club’s volunteerism reminded us of our own club back home on Orr’s (OBYC) as the Amble club’s commodore was serving as bartender.

On Saturday it was my turn to show Rudy an old site, only this one was a bit more recent:  Warkworth Castle. Iain, Sarah and I had walked up from the marina along the Coquet River when they were here. It was wonderful being with those two young folk, and time with Rudy was no different.

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My annual English Heritage membership had just expired, but the two kind people manning the ticket counter said no problem and then asked Rudy his age saying he must just be 16 (the cut-off for free entry there). He corrected them stating he was 20 only to have one of the women say, no, you’re 16.

After several repeats of this Q&A, they said my membership card still shows active, and he’s considered a child at age 16, so here are the audio guides and enjoy your stay. There must be something about Rudy for this happened more times than not.

We walked all over this castle, originally built in 1200, and serving as a Percy home back in the 14th through the 17th centuries. One of the Percys, Harry Hotspur, is featured in Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” and is the hero of many Border ballads thanks to his raids against the Scots. Their family history makes for an exciting read for anyone interested in old English families. For Rudy and me, we just enjoyed checking out the keep (main house) and exploring the ruins.

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Back aboard Rudy jumped into boat chores. Washing dishes became his nightly ritual, just like Iain and Sarah.

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While we prepped below, Max frequently checked weather and email. Because the wifi signal was weak below, this was the view the two of us often had of the captain when in Amble:

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RUDY’S FIRST PASSAGE:  Amble to Lowestoft

Sunday to Tuesday, September 6-8

We filled the tanks with water and then documented our leaving.

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The North Sea demonstrated its power as we steered our way out of Amble’s narrow and shallow entrance for the 210-mile passage to Lowestoft. It’s difficult to capture but you can see the waves surging under the pier below–the remnants of the storm that had kept us in port the previous few days:

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Later, the seas calmed down and the sun created a delightful day of sailing. At one point, someone yelled, ‘Dolphins!’ resulting in the three of us being entranced by several of these synchronized swimmers.

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After watching for a bit we realized there was at least one mom and baby pair keeping track with our bow.

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Monday dawned another beautiful day as we settled into the typical routine of watches, reading, navigating, eating, and sleeping.

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During this passage Rudy experienced the North Sea ‘game’ of dodge the oil rigs. Luckily they are well-lit at night and equally visible during the day.

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The leftover seas made the passage quite bouncy causing a rare sight: Max with a seasick patch.

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In spite of having to motor due to some lighter winds (which we rarely do at night unless far enough offshore to avoid the inevitable crab and lobster pots), we arrived on schedule Tuesday morning and pulled into a berth at Hamilton Docks, part of the Associated British Ports Haven (ABP) Marinas of which our marina in Ipswich belongs.

Rudy, as the Brits would say, was brilliant :)  He completed his first passage with flying colors and, as he said, with the added bonus of not getting seasick.

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We walked around the town, taking Rudy to England’s most eastern point

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and enjoyed meeting up with our friends Helen and Gus Wilson of s/v WINGS who sailed in from Whitby where they had attended the annual Folk Week. We shared a dinner

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and the next day (Wednesday, September 9)  walked with them to The Broads, a network of shallow lakes and waterways formed in the 13th century by the flooding of medieval peat diggings. With promises to meet up again when in Ipswich, we parted and checked weather for our next-day departure to the Orwell River. Then took our usual positions after a full day.

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HOME WATERS:  Lowestoft to Ipswich

Thursday to Saturday, September 10-12

The winds were perfect for heading to our home waters Thursday morning, so we left on a strong breeze under bright skies. Knowing it’d be another seven months before JUANONA would be under sail again, we turned off the autopilot and took turns steering her home.

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It seemed appropriate that the seas would be bouncy, almost as if JUANONA knew she was heading for the barn; and, with frisky winds come frisky waves resulting in Rudy’s baptism by the North Sea.

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We entered the Orwell River on nearly the same date as we did last year. When the wind increased significantly Max furled the jib; however, all it took for the jib to be unfurled was Rudy’s and my comment that a sailboat under full sail was gaining on us. Out goes the jib and we maintained our lead with the sailboat behind us most likely oblivious to us Yanks’ machinations.

We were thrilled to be moored along this beautiful river again, and even happier to share it with Rudy. We snapped the requisite ‘end of voyage’ photographs…

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and prepared for the night. Anyone who’s crewed with us quickly becomes indoctrinated to our dental ritual. We’ve even got my sister in tune with this. Rudy’s time aboard was no different as we merrily shared brushing time.

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Friday we had arranged to meet up with our friends Anne and Peter of s/v SACRE BLEU at Pin Mill, a popular pub dating from the 1450s halfway up the river to Ipswich. It was wonderful being with them and introducing Rudy.

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The day was perfect in spite of our dinghy being caught in the mud by a rapidly falling tide. Fortunately there was enough water for Max to push his way to a landing

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where Rudy and I were able to hop on for the short ride back.

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To ensure Rudy received as complete a cruising experience as possible, we decided not to enter Ipswich Haven Marina on the high tide when the lock gates remain open for ‘free flow’ (at high tide the water heights are the same both inside the marina basin and outside on the river). Rather, we’d go through the lock at mid tide. This entails hailing the Lock Master to ask permission to enter the lock… wait for the first gate to open… enter… tie up as the gate behind closes… let the water rise/fall to the same level as in the basin… wait for gate in front to open… then proceed into the marina.

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While Max steered us into the lock, Rudy and I, being kindred spirits, broke out into a Bear naked happy dance (so termed by our friend Shawn) prior to entering.

We tied up,

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then exited the lock and headed into our winter berth.

We were home! Or, as much home as one can be in foreign ports :)

More Rudy adventures to come!

Heading to Ipswich: Peterhead to Amble

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Monday, August 24

A favorable forecast, or as favorable as we seem to get these days, has us leaving around noon for an overnight to Amble.

We had enjoyed our stay in Peterhead, primarily due to the folk we met such as Chris, Rita and Mike on s/v GRIFFYN, Nigel on s/v RASSY LASS, Ray and Lynn on s/v CRYSTELL, and two Dutch guys, Lucas and the captain whose name we never did learn how to say. In addition to fellow cruisers we also appreciated Peterhead’s marina staff and that of the local library.

Having landed Wednesday, August 19, we were primed for heading south to our winter berth in Ipswich.

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Since we’d been in the area before, we had pretty much explored the town a bit, so this time we got on a bus to hike part of the North Sea Trail.

While waiting for the bus we spotted an electric car charging station. Would have been really interesting to see someone use it, but in lieu of that, we just took photos.

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We caught the bus, which took us to Cruden Bay, 20 minutes away. We began the short coastal walk first coming upon Slains Castle, rebuilt in the late 1500s, and sitting close to the sea cliffs.

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An easy stroll along fields of grain

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and purple heather

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brought us to a hole in the cliffs

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followed by a collapsed sea cave called the Sea Caudron located

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at Bullers o’ Buchan, an old fishing community where fishermen beached their boats and hauled gear and fish up the cliffs.

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Other than that walk we watched weather, provisioned and caught up on emails and Internet tasks. There’s also a sailing school sharing the same cove as the marina, and the weekend brought several sailing clubs as well as kayakers. Seeing the young kids enjoying these water sports entertained us as well as reminded us of the AF sailing school at our club at home, OBYC.

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Discussing when to leave seemed to be the topic on everyone’s mind with two of us heading south, two heading north, and one sailing across the North Sea. For us, Monday-Tuesday seemed doable in spite of knowing 25 knots of wind were forecasted starting midnight Monday and building into Tuesday. But, it’d be WNW so would give us a good run down to Amble hitting the noon high tide with time to spare (because of the sill bar, we have to time our entries and exits to be +/- three hours of high tide).

As we were leaving the marina, we realized (thanks to Ray) we needed to contact the Peterhead Harbor Master. When we did, he said to hold up for 15 minutes as a fishing boat was exiting and an oil rig supply ship was entering. We circled around while getting the mainsail ready to hoist since it’d be easier in the protected harbor than outside the breakwater. Considering the roller-coaster swells coming into the harbor, we could only imagine the extent of the roll once outside. And, the best clue as to how it’d be was the Harbor Master’s instructions to watch ourselves out there as there was a strong swell. With the waves crashing against the stone jetty, we took his caution to heart.

Well, there’s a reason they call some sailing outfits foul weather gear. We sure were glad we had ours on as we began our exit from Peterhead following the fishing boat out before we turned south.

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That famous Bette Davis quote ‘Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night’ came to mind as we proceeded to pick up where we left off on that windy passage from Norway to the UK.

With harnesses strapped on and clicked in we began our sail as JUANONA bucked against the current, which fortunately wasn’t too strong, while the wind howled from the SE. We had the motor on as well because we needed to have as much power as possible to make 5 kts/hour.

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This also required a sharp lookout for the fishing buoys that popped up in the most nerve-racking spots, such as right off the lighthouse rocks.  The last thing we needed was to get one caught in our prop so close to land in an onshore breeze. Thank gods and goddesses it was daylight and thank gods and goddesses the buoys were bright orange.

Fortunately, I had made sandwiches before we left and had also picked up some scones. The former we ate for lunch and dinner while the latter helped offset some queasiness with their baking soda ingredient. To give you an idea just how bouncy it truly was even Max slapped on a seasick medicine patch halfway through the passage.

We skidded off and sledded down the sides of waves as we made fairly good time going against the current. Since we had 24+ hours to cover 130 nm, we knew the first part could be a wee uncomfortable; but, the winds were forecasted to die down early evening, eventually swinging to the WNW at midnight and grow to 25.

Catnaps in the cockpit allowed some rest.

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Eventually Max took a much-needed break and went below, and I stood watch. At one point a bird fluttered aboard. Wherever it blew in from it sure looked happy to be able to rest; and, the need to perch itself somewhere outweighed the fear of being close to a human. Our birding friend Jayne will need to identify it. Always nice to have company as I entertained myself with snapping photos of our feathered friend.

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Late afternoon the winds died down as forecasted, but they did so too much requiring us to motor-sail up to 10pm or so when the wind began to pick up again. At this point we were far enough offshore where fishing buoys wouldn’t pose a navigational hazard.

Our watches were flexible, with whomever was the most tired heading to the main cabin and cozy berth.

At one point the AIS showed a cargo ship getting a bit close, so I hailed them on the VHF to see if they’d like us to change our heading. They kindly replied they’d alter their course to go behind us. More times than not, we’ve received this courtesy whenever we’ve contacted larger ships. This consideration makes for an easier sail for us.

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AMBLE

Tuesday, August 25

I woke Max up at 2am saying the winds were clocking up to 17. Time for the second reef in the mainsail and furling the jib. While he navigated forward to the mast I shined the flashlight while trying not to beam it right into his eyes. As he worked his way down the boom to tie up the sail, I got more and more nervous finally yelling watch out as a wave bounced us up and down. He was double clicked in (our harnesses have two leads, a short and a long one) so all was fine; but, I must say I’m never happy when he’s on the foredeck in the dark, in bouncy seas.

With only the mainsail up we were making 7 knots. As morning dawned the winds continued to grow, eventually reaching 25+. It was a beautiful sail, though, with the wind slightly aft the beam, and with seas relatively smooth since they were blowing off the land.

While I was asleep in the early morning hours Max was visited by both a dolphin frisking about

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and a windblown, female kestrel (Jayne, this one we could identify… we think!). Max came below to tell me. Both of us were mesmerized by this bird’s beauty. Being visited by wild life can seem pretty magical when at sea.

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In addition to the scones, sustenance were some pistachio nuts brought by Nigel during a shared cocktail hour several nights previously. Generally, we’re much better outfitted for passage meals but the short length of this one (24 hours) and the snacks we had prepared (sandwiches and scones) were enough to get us through the night.

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The day dawned a bright blue, and as we neared the shoreline, we watched for buoys and local fishing boats

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while enjoying the onshore scenery.

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Soon Amble came into view.

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We radioed the marina asking for a hammerhead berth (it’s at the end of a pontoon that looks like a capital “T”) if possible. They said no problem, and we headed in. Thankfully, once we turned into Amble’s harbor we were going into the wind. With 28+ knots it was a bit of a relief giving us better control than if going with the wind.

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Mick and Ben, whom we knew from our stay earlier in the summer, greeted us, and JUANONA eased onto the dock. We finally relaxed. We’d made our destination with some great sailing.

That night we opened a bottle of wine, the same label as our friend Libby and David gave me so many years ago and that was used for Max’s and my first date. It was a perfect way to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary and a safe landing in Amble.

Now, onto the next adventure!

Passage to the UK August 2015

Monday, August 17

When we awoke Monday morning, we checked the weather, and, once again, found our plans had changed. Instead of dinghying to the next island to view a medieval church, we were going to cross the North Sea.

Christopher on SILA thoughtfully let us view a great app (Weather Track, which we’ll be downloading) that overlaid our track from Norway to Scotland. The view confirmed the decision:  time to go.

JUANONA  was pretty shipshape anyhow; but, Max took the anchor off the bow (in case of plunging seas, this saves the anchor from banging around and also limits our taking water into the anchor chain locker, which can find it’s incipient way into our V-berth bedding).

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We stowed the cruising spinnaker below, stashed our toothbrush pot holders (Christmas-themed yogurt containers from our time spent with Betsy and the Sumners last December), and put sleeping bags in the main cabin for hot bunking (one of us would be off-watch and in the sleeping bags while the other would be on watch).

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Last photos as we exit this scenic harbor, and we’re off!

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As predicted we needed to motor, then motor-sail to get a good start. We had 320 miles to cover before we reached Peterhead. With our eyes on that Low coming across our path, we wanted to get as far west and south as possible before it overtook us, so that when the strong winds arrived they would not be forward of the beam.

When it’s dead calm, there’s not a lot you can do so you just sit back and read while scouting out the area and hoping for some wind.

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Our views consisted of oil and gas rigs; at one point we counted seven all around us.

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One was being towed,

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some looked like robotic creatures stalking the sea while others appeared as modern Stonehenges.

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When your chart looks like this:

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it’s not surprising to know you’ll be maneuvering around those rigs.

We were hailed by a security boat warning us to keep clear of the exclusion zone in one of the gas fields ahead. So we altered course for a mile then switched back to our original heading. It’s a bit odd to be sailing along in our own little cosmo only to be startled by someone calling out ‘JUANONA’ over the radio. A voice over the radio definitely is an event, breaking into the sameness of gray-weather cruising.

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The beautiful day slowly moved into a dark night fell around 11:00 p.m. and visibility was difficult due to dark, cloudy skies.

Knowing the remainder of the passage could be windy, we put a reef in the main and added the staysail, a smaller jib, to our sail configuration.

Tuesday, August 18

The day broke beautifully with streaks of mauve, rose, cream and blue. Nothing to hint of the wind that would be blasting us later in the day except for that old adage ‘red sky at morning, sailor take warning…’

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With only two of us, our watch shifts were flexible. One of us would be up and looking for obstacles (rigs, ships, and fishing boats via the AIS, radar overlay on our chart plotter, and eyes). The other would be grabbing up to three hours of sleep.

We always had a physical check (every 15 minutes or so) versus relying solely on any electronic ‘eyes’, which is how we saw two large fishing vessels dragging nets headed in our direction. Fortunately, it was daylight for the boats weren’t broadcasting their positions on AIS. I just hope they turn their lights on at night.

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As forecasted, the wind was slowly edging its way up to 30+ knots as the day progressed. We had the main sail (with one reef), the staysail, and our regular jib up.  As the winds built we put a second reef in the main and eventually furled the jib as the seas began rocking ’n rolling. Waves crashed across the deck causing water to stream down on either side of the cockpit while below-deck started on spin cycle.

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When you see the gimbaled stove tilting crazily you start doing the same, becoming a walking italic.

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Before too long we were navigating below by clutching at any hand railings. JUANONA began squeaking and moaning as our two-water tanks (55 gallons each) located under the main cabin seats sloshed in tandem with the salt water outside.

More oil rigs caused us to adjust our course frequently through the night. At one point someone announced ‘you’re clear of the Fair Isle channel.’ Since we weren’t cognizant of any channel needing to be crossed, all we could think of is that the message was for two fishing boats mentioned earlier.

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With such high winds we were making up to 8 knots per hour. And, just so my navigational description is correct, I asked Max to explain our strategy… “We were intentionally steering up to 25 degrees south of our rhumb line (the direct course to Peterhead). We did not want to take any chances in case the wind clocked more to the southwest, which would bring the wind well forward of the beam and make for very uncomfortable or even treacherous conditions. I know from racing that steering up to 15 degrees off course increases the distance sailed only slightly, and even 20 or 25 degrees not excessive, so it seemed well worth the trade off to build some safety cushion to windward of the direct route.”

Wednesday, August 19

Finally, about 1:00 a.m. we cleared the last of the major oil fields and adjusted our course to Peterhead.

The seas and wind had calmed down a bit, and we realized we could be in Scotland by early afternoon.

With gray skies and 17+ knots of wind we arrived outside the entrance to Peterhead’s harbor and ghosted through fog to the pontoons.

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We had landed with neither of us nor JUANONA the worse for wear. At least, nothing that fresh-water rinses, clean clothes and a celebratory drink or two couldn’t revive.

Freshly showered and with the last load of clean clothes I walked the pontoons back to JUANONA hearing, believe it or not, the ice cream truck merrily announcing itself on the streets above the marina with, of all tunes, ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’.

With fond memories of all the sights and all the people we met, our summer cruising was drawing to a close. We still have our UK coastal route to voyage down before reaching Ipswich, our winter’s home, so some good sailing is hopefully on the horizon, just not requiring crossing a sea or ocean to enjoy.

And, to that, we raise our glasses and shout ‘Skaal’! :)

Ja!

Norway Passage

Tuesday, June 16, to Thursday, June 18

Because north winds were forecast for the following week, we decided to skip the Shetland islands (our planned next port of call) and head straight to Norway, our ultimate destination for this summer. The winds would be good for for the next two days (direction and speed) then lighten up on Thursday but still favorable direction (west).

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So, early Tuesday morning we left Peterhead at 4 a.m. with our course set for Alesund, Norway. It’s not as far north as we wanted but at this point we’d be happy just to be anywhere along the coast of Norway.

And, I can’t leave this port town without, once again, commenting how exceptionally gracious and warm these folk are. From the town librarians who helped us with our wifi to the guy who saw us with our load of groceries and insisted on driving us back to the marina to Charlie the car rental man who shared some good road trips with us to Billy at the marina who made us feel at home just from his huge smile and Scottish Burr. These harbor towns are amazing in their hospitality.

The weather was beautiful Tuesday as we made excellent time, reaching seven knots with the wind directly perpendicular to our sails.

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And, I made sure I had my crackers just in case I got a bit of queasiness.

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Throughout the day Max doublechecked weather and course while we settled into our watch routines.

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Believe it or not, there is a body (Chris) hidden in that bedding. We have similar snaps of our crew Ricardo (to Flores, Azores) and Steve (to Falmouth, England) from our crossing last summer :)

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The few obstacles we had to avoid were the oil and gas rigs sticking out of the ocean waters. Like the wind turbines we saw off the coast of the UK, these large, metal, man-made structures just seemed odd to be poking up out of something so natural and fundamental as the sea.

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Because we’re so far north, night watches were almost twilighty, which always makes it easier for me to keep my eyes open.

Wednesday, our second passage day, dawned cool and gray; and, for those who want to know what it’s like, it’s like a whole lot of nothing at times.

But, then it’s pretty spectacular to be out there surrounded by the North Sea with two other people and your boat watching the steely waters. A few gulls come sweeping by eyeing you while continuing their soaring highs and lows. You’re part of a vastness that goes on and on and on.

And, it’s pretty wonderful to go below where the heater’s on.

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Once again we were thankful for our AIS as we were hailed by a ship towing seismic cables. He told us we needed to keep a minimum of two miles (from his bow and sides) and five miles (from his stern) to ensure we wouldn’t be in his way. Happy to comply, we tracked him and his accompanying ship via the AIS.

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On Thursday we were hoping to make Alesund by 9 p.m., and, we motored for most of the day as the wind slowly died.

We were excited to see our first glimpse of Norway in the early evening, and we were all thinking of hot showers (if you notice, we have the same clothes on Thursday night that we left in Tuesday morning), celebratory drinks, and a full night of sleep.

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Then, the engine starting acting up–no cooling water coming out of the exhaust. So we quickly killed the motor and unfurled the jib while Max began problem-solving. After an hour, he found the culprit:  the impeller wasn’t spinning. With a quick repair (thankfully, JUANONA has tons of spare parts), we were able to head to the harbor.

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Max raised the Norwegian courtesy flag and our OCC burgee as the three of us just gazed in awe at the coast appearing out of the clouds.

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We docked with no problem in this very protected harbor,

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then pulled out the bubbly compliments of Anne and Peter in Ipswich and used flags that Max’s sister Krissy had given us a year ago to decorate our cocktails.

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It was a perfect ending to a good passage.

And, with a visit from Frank Cormer, Ocean Cruising Club’s Alesund Port Captain, our first morning here, we feel really welcomed and oh so glad to be able to cruise in this lovely land.

Tomorrow night we’ll be celebrating Summer Sailstice (www.summersailstice.com) by watching a huge burning bonfire with a whole bunch of Norwegians.

At least that’s the plan :)

Ja!