With Rudy leaving from Heathrow on Friday we decided to book some berths at the Cruising Association located at London’s Limehouse Marina.
We joined the CA last year and have taken advantage of their inexpensive rooms and warm welcome by Jeremy Batch whenever we’ve needed to spend the night in London in order to catch an early morning flight.
The three of us took the train in after planning what sites to see over the day and a half we’d be in London, similar to our Road Trip approach the previous week. Rudy then researched locations along with opening-closing times, and we mapped out our itinerary and associated routes beginning with our train ride into London.
Our first afternoon was spent poking around the British Museum
where you see a lot of artifacts ‘borrowed’ from their original sites, such as those from Sutton Hoo:
First we poked independently, scouting out various exhibits of personal interest, then as a group joined a guided tour through the reconstructed walls of an Assyrian king’s palace dating from 800 BC. We were all very impressed by the carved scenes, many of which highlighted the King’s triumphs in war.
From there we walked to the British Library’s collection of rare literary items, one of Max’s favorite sites, and perused various items, from one of the four original Magna Cartas to a letter from Galileo prior to his trial to Scott’s diary from the fatal South Pole expedition to Paul McCartney’s scribbling of lyrics for “Yesterday”.
A dinner at the Prospect of Whitby pub, built in the 1500s and frequented by pirates, politicians, Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, and many others, ended our night with all feeling happily sated culturally and gastronomically.
Thursday, September 24
Full steam ahead the next morning beginning with Rudy’s visit to Churchill’s War Rooms located underground (a site both Max and I said should not be missed).
Max and I filled some time touring England’s Supreme Court building followed by St. Margaret’s Church, both of which were close to our rendezvous point at Westminster Abbey.
While Rudy and Max were touring the Abbey
I walked to Kensington to scan the Victoria & Albert Museum until 3p when I’d meet up with them
at the Natural History Museum.
Both Rudy and I were keen on seeing the Treasures Room in this cavernous museum, another of Max’s must-sees. We understood why after circulating around the fairly small gallery hosting 22 specimens, each one selected based on its contributions to culture, history, or science. Amongst the items on display was the original fossil which first proved a link between birds and dinosaurs, and one of the three Emperor penguin eggs collected after a horrendous journey in the Antarctic winter during Scott’s expedition (and later described in the book “The Worst Journey in the World”)
From there we headed to Diana’s Memorial in Hyde Park,
then home to Limehouse for some drinks and OH HELL games in the Cruising Association’s bar/dining area.
While playing our first round a couple entered, ordered drinks and sat at the bar. They asked us where we were from and then we invited them to join us. As the introductions continued we discovered we had actually met one another (via email correspondence)! Both Daria and Alex (Blackwell) are authors and Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) folk. Max had reviewed their book HAPPY HOOKING (it’s not what you might be thinking, trust me–it’s about anchoring), and I had done some work on OCC’s website of which Daria’s the webmaster. Happy shouts in exclamation marks all around :)
After sharing stories about sailing, Ireland (where the Blackwells live), and travel we decided to go to dinner together and left for a pub Daria and Alex had heard of. Without reservations we couldn’t squeeze in, so we set off in the other direction and found another eatery close by. On the way I pulled Daria aside and mentioned we were planning a surprise celebration for Rudy’s upcoming 21st birthday.
Dessert time came and the waiter who was in on the surprise convinced Rudy to try the tiramisu versus some gelato-type concoction in which candles (we had snuck some to the wait staff) wouldn’t disappear in goo. It arrived (a humongous slab) , Rudy was shocked, and the entire restaurant broke out in a rowdy version of “Happy Birthday”.
Thankfully, Daria had a camera to document the event. It was a fabulous way to celebrate Rudy’s last night with us. Daria and Alex enhanced our evening ten-fold, making it even more memorable. There’s nothing like sharing a meal and laughs with new-found friends.
Friday, September 25
The next morning Max and I travelled with Rudy as far as Earl’s Court tube stop.
With tight hugs and good-byes, he boarded the correct train to Heathrow Terminal 3, and we watched the train depart full of thanks for the time spent together.
But, before I end our adventures with Rudy, there’s just one more group of photos to show.
In 2004 Max snapped a photo when Rudy was aboard for a sleep-over…
so, Max took another one 11 years later in our traditional pose.
Then, we decided to add another pose featuring two adults:
We were sorry to leave the East Harting cottage that was quickly becoming ‘our’ cottage after two wonderful nights, but onward we went, this timea couple hour’s drive away to Hastings where, you guessed it, the Battle of Hastings occurred on October 14, 1066. Again, we walked outside in glorious September weather. The battle field sits below an Abbey constructed by William the Conqueror a few years later as a monument to the 8,000 who died (to put the number killed in perspective 2,500 represented a typical town’s population back then).
The actual site was dotted with plaques explaining the battle and the two primary antagonists: William, the Duke of Normandy, and Harold Godwinson.
What both Max and I found interesting was seeing panels using the Bayeux Tapestry, which we saw in Normandy, to augment the text on the plaques.
In spite of the tapestry being biased towards William’s view (it was commissioned by him and his Bishop brother, Otto, as propaganda), the pictorial panels complimented the audio guide’s detailed description. I required the modern description because I definitely couldn’t interpret the woven little guys’ actions.
Having been slightly prejudiced myself towards William (de Bruses/Bruces came over from Normandy), a first cousin once removed from King Edward the Confessor, I was pleasantly surprised to see Harold Godwinson, a powerful noble, gifted politician, and brother of Edward’s wife, portrayed in a more objective manner. He was well-loved by the nobles and easily could have made a great king.
Unfortunately, Harold was impulsive, which resulted in his marching his tired troops from York (over 250 miles away) after they had just won a battle with the Norwegians on September 25. If not for that–OH, and being killed in the battle–he easily could have won, one reason being he held the better terrain – the top of the hill where the Abbey now stands – whereas the Normans occupied the bottom of the hill.
Yet, William successfully employed a tactic that initially occurred by mistake. Basically, some of his troops turned and ran causing a contingent of the enemy to follow. In doing so, the enemy’s line became broken, and the pursuers became isolated, and easily cut down as they were surrounded by the Normans. Unusual at this time, the battle lasted all day ending with William becoming the conqueror of the Anglo-Saxons.
During our stroll we noticed blackberries scattered around. Pretty soon a big clump captured our attention, and for a bit, battles and historical figures were forgotten as we succumbed to berry picking.
A quick stop-in at the abbey, noting where a guesthouse had been constructed for a possible visit from Elizabeth I, then
a cup of take-away java from an old house across the Abbey’s entrance
put us back on the road again, this time to a small village north of Dover.
Our second airbnb was also difficult to find not the least due to directions being a bit confusing (there were two gates to the place and the one to the coach house was located on a lane with no sign). However, this place, too, was lovely. And, it had a T_U_B!!! It lacked a proper kitchen but a grill served us just as well, especially since it was the first one we’d used since Max’s and my stop atHelnessund in July with Betsy. No s’mores, though :(
Friday, September 18
The next morning we headed to Dover where we had two missions: for Rudy to see Henry II’s castle, and to tour the headquarters hidden in the cliffs where Operation Dynamo (the Dunkirk rescue) was run…
and, for him to meet the family on s/v LEANDER who may have a possible crew position available.
Since this was a repeat visit for Max and me, I opted, once again, to tour the castle and associated Military museum then head for a coffee shop on the premises. And, yes, it was raining… NOT that I’m a fair-wather tourist… Okay, somewhat, yet, fresh water coming down is a heck of a lot better than that salt stuff.
Just an aside, touring with someone who’s excited about what they’re seeing opens my eyes even wider to appreciate the significance and/or beauty in which I’m immersed. I also tend to experience something new from that site. And, Dover’s repeat visit fell into this category.
Two interesting facts I picked up during this visit were: (1) during Henry II’s and subsequent kings’ castle stays, it could be one big sleep-over for guests; extra mattresses would be flopped down on the floor all over the royal bedchambers to accommodate guests; and (2) England’s army was established after Charles II (1630-85 ) was convinced by the Duke of York that professional soldiers (versus everyday residents) were necessary to defend the establishment.
After a few hours Max and Rudy returned with Rudy wanting to see one more area, the medieval tunnels; so, Max and I lounged in the returned sunshine.
We then left to meet up with Sima andPaul and their two little ones in the Dover Marina. Paul, originally from Lynn, MA, and Sima, from Turkey, had met in Boston and are on the last legs of a circumnavigation. It’s always interesting hearing other cruisers’ thoughts on passages and sailing, and this time was no different.
After an hour or so, we left for Hawkhurst and to prepare for our last day on the road.
CHARLES DARWIN’S HOME
Saturday, September 19
We had located several other sites to explore on the way back to Ipswich, one being Charles Darwin’s home, Down House in Downe, Kent.
I won’t go on and on about this man and his family but, if you’re ever in the area, it’s definitely well-worth a visit. Be warned, allow at least two to three hours because the exhibits throughout the home and the gardens are fascinating and very informative.
The home on the ground floor (1st floor to us) had rooms furnished the way the Darwins had lived in them, including his study, sitting room, and fabulous dining room. I say fabulous because of the huge table, comfy chairs, and sunlight streaming in floor-to-almost-ceiling windows. We left this site full of Darwin’s personality and accomplishments. Unfortunately, you weren’t allowed to take photos indoors, so the following are pulled from the Internet only to provide a sense of the home.
The upstairs rooms were filled with displays on his HMS BEAGLE voyage (he suffered from seasickness, poor guy), his discoveries, and his family life. As we traipsed from one room to the next, I realized just how large this home was (he and his wife had added a separate wing, much needed, no doubt with all those kids).
Some interesting bits:
His family didn’t think he’d amount to much. Both he and his wife (whose father was the famous founder of Wedgewood china) came from wealthy families, which meant he had plenty of resources and time to indulge his curiosity about nature.
He was a very affectionate family man, unusual for the Victorian times, and, subsequently, well-loved by his wife and children (they had ten with seven surviving childhood).
He achieved his discoveries using very simple instruments.
He was a famous hypochondriac possibly begun when he was bitten by a Benchuga bug from his time aboard HMS BEAGLE (1831-36), which left him debilitated at times. There was also a small foot-tub in his study where Darwin would soak his feet to help alleviate his eczema.
He was agnostic while his wife was very religious.
He weighed everyone who visited him as well as his relatives. Why, I don’t know, but I do know I wouldn’t want to visit after one of our pasta passages.
He and Alfred Russell Wallace, who also devleloped a theory of evolution similar to Darwin’s, actually became lifelong friends. Wallace shared his idea of evolution in a letter to Darwin. Alarmed to learn someone else was working on a similar theory, Darwin hurried to finally publish his “Origins of Species” in 1859. However, in 1858 both of these naturalists’ ideas were presented to the Linnean Society in London, the world’s oldest active biological society ; yet, not much was made of their theories of evolution. (On a side note, Darwin along with three friends persuaded Prime Minister Gladstone to put forth a proposal to Parliament to grant Wallce a much needed pension of £200 a year.)
After touring the greenhouse and gardens
we headed to our last stop of our Road Trip:
LULLINGSTONE ROMAN VILLA
This surprise site is one of the best examples of an English Roman villa. Constructed in roughly 100 c.e. and renovated over the next two hundred years, the foundation and associated mosaics are housed in a museum with simple wall exhibits explaining the history and layout of the house.
One of the most significant features of this site was a room deemed a house-church with artwork representing some of the earliest evidence of Christianity . Interestingly, underneath was a hidden room dedicated to the pagan gods and goddesses and only accessible via a ladder.
The museum descriptions were pretty simplistic (geared towards children), which only meant I was in my element when we hit the gift shop. What’s that saying? When in a Roman gift shop, do as Romans would do?
After five full days of touring this part of England, we were happy to be heading back to JUANONA.
But, wait! A mini-road trip occurred the next day (Sunday, September 20) when we piled into our road warrior vehicle and headed to…
Another beautiful day and another repeat visit for Max and me, resulting in Rudy heading into the museum housing artifacts and displays from this early medieval burial site (assumed to be the burial site of Raedwald, the Ruler of East Anglia (560-620 c.e.). But, before the three of us figured out who was going to do what, we had to check in at the ticket office.
Remember when I mentioned how miraculously entrance fees disappeared when with Rudy, e.g., Warkworth Castle at the beginning of his visit? Well, we approached the young man at the counter saying we’d like to purchase a ticket for Rudy who was an adult. The young man asked if we were going in, and we said, no, since we had visited earlier and now wanted our nephew to see it. However, when the transaction was completed and we were exiting the building, Rudy exclaimed he had received not one but three tickets (in the form of stickers) for the price of one child. Hmmm… as I said, there’s something about Rudy!
Max and enjoyed the sunshine as Rudy toured the small museum for the next hour or so. He seemed entranced by the history, enough so we went looking for him and found him asking questions of one of the staff. We finished the visit by walking up the path and through the field to the actual burial sites where we spotted humongous mushrooms whose necks were bent/broken due to the weight of the caps.
And, where, once again, Max proved why he’s married to such a goofball as I.
NOW, we had completed our Road Trips and were ready to stay on JUANONA doing boat errands and R&Ring prior to heading for Rudy’s last tour of his voyage,
After arriving that morning and settling JUANONA into a temporary berth at our winter marina, we were already planning our next adventure: watching the second-to-last stage of the UK’s highest ranked cycle race. Anne had mentioned it the day before when we met at the Pin Mill, and she followed it up with an email asking if we wanted to join them at the finish line and see some ‘hunky thighs’. I could do that, no problem.
So, early afternoon we headed towards the center of Ipswich with Anne and Peter and some other boaters, Ange and James and their daughter Gracie. We had arranged to meet up with Helen and Gus Wilson as well, bringing our group to ten amidst 100s of other spectators.
It was a zoo, but a fun one in spite of the yelling and nudging as everyone attempted to reach the barriers next to the finish lane.
Fortunately, they had a screen so everyone could follow the cyclists as they paced themselves.
Not knowing anything about cycle racing except it’s hard and, yes, it requires those hunky thighs, I was happy just observing everyone and absorbing the high energy of the crowd. It helped that it was a beautiful day and that there would be hunky thighs to view.
Sure enough, I saw heads turn from left to right, which was the only indication of racers crossing the finish line. Then the awards were given out of which I had no idea who was who and which prize was which; however, I did see hunky thighs:
And, I felt really bad for the poor soul who raced his heart out only to receive a stuffed doll. I felt almost worse for the unfortunate guy who had to dress like the doll and present this ‘prize’.
Upon the crowd dispersing we headed to a local pub to enjoy some quiet and pints on the back terrace. It’s also where Rudy showed his affinity for youngsters, and Gracie must have reminded him of his spunky little sister, Acadia. Must say it was a wonderful Ipswich welcome for Rudy.
Road Trip: BLETCHLEY PARK
Tuesday, September 15
Because this was Rudy’s first time in the UK and he had a couple more weeks to enjoy it, we wanted to show him a bit of the historical sites. Finding meaningful places to visit is easy here. From Roman times to post WWII we’ve toured some amazing places; so, we made a list of some we had seen and thought he’d enjoy then asked him to check out those plus any others he might like to see. The list then was culled down based on geographical area (primarily SE England) and time (back by Saturday night), and a road trip became a reality starting Tuesday.
When we do this, we find staying in an airbnb or VRBO-type place allows us to not only economize (generally less expensive than inns or hotels, sometimes even hostels) since we can cook our own meals and easily make lunches, but they’re also more relaxing (generally room to sit around after being out all day and don’t have to suss out any restaurants). So, Rudy and I researched plenty of apartment/condo/cottage offerings including homestay.com and other UK-focused sites, and we hit upon two places that would be fairly equidistant amidst the six or seven sites we’d been visiting over the next five days.
First we drove counterclockwise from Ipswich landing at Bletchley Park, located N/NW of London.
We began in the main museum where Max and Rudy tried their hand at code-breaking.
Next, we picked up audio guides and started our tour of the grounds.
Due to the movie “Imitation Game” released last year I had some familiarity with what Bletchley Park meant to the Allies during WWII; yet, seeing this site in person really made one understand the scope of the code-breaking operation.
It’s a huge area: it began in the mansion and quickly grew to take over the stables/cottages, then expanded to huts; over 9,000 people worked there with 131 daily buses bringing them in. Actually, it was a good opportunity for women to get good jobs. Unfortunately, the pay (of course) wasn’t commiserate with the men and jobs reverted back to the men post-war.
I had mistakenly assumed everyone lived on-campus but only one family did. All others stayed in the nearby towns, many boarding with local families. Yet, absolutely no single person could tell anyone what they did at Bletchley Park. They all had to sign the Official Secrets Act and it wasn’t until 1976 that they were released from that agreement. Many of them were astounded to learn the scope of what had gone on around them.
I also wasn’t aware of how important code-breaking was during WWI. Two separate organizations, one established by the War Office–‘MI1(b)’–and another one–‘Room 40’ were set up under the auspices of the Royal Navy. It was the intelligence gathered by Britain that led to the US getting involved in the war thanks to an intercepted telegram (see description of the Zimmerman telegram below). Prior to WWII Room 40 and MI1(b) evolved into Government Code and Cyper School (GC&CS), and in 1939 the codebreaking division took up residence at Bletchley Park.
Churchill’s appreciation of code-breaking was evident during WWI when he followed the work of Room 40 closely. In WWII when the head of Bletchley Park sent the Prime Minister an appeal for more resources, Churchill immediately signed off and made it a reality. Matter-of-fact he requested all important translated messages to be sent to him daily. And, trust me, there were a LOT of messages with thousandsbeing derived daily to Bletchley Park from the radio interceptors located all over the UK and beyond.
What was truly mind-blowing to me was the code-breaking exercises and thought patterns used by these code-breakers. Even they (except for a few) appeared humbled by the magnitude and importance of their work.
Some were rather eccentric such as Dilly Knoxwho cogitated best when soaking in this tub.
Eisenhower said the codebreaker’s work shortened the war by two years; and, a German said thank god the war didn’t drag on, otherwise, Germany may very well have been hit with an atomic bomb like the one which horrifically decimated Hiroshima.
Thanks to the Poles who cultivated a German spy after WWI, the Brits were given a head start to some key elements of the Enigma machine. To see a sample machine used to break the code was mind-numbing. Especially when the staff started to explain what was what. [It was called the Bombe, so named because the Poles had built a precursor and called it after some ice cream they were eating (bomba); the Brits changed it to Bombe.] By the end of the war there were about 200 Bombes, mostly operated by Wrens (Women’s Royal Naval Service) and most of them at two other locations. Even the Americans had built some.
Unfortunately, all of us felt the suggested touring of the campus could have been better. For instance, at the end of our three hours of walking around, we reached Block B where there was an excellent display on the wall explaining the Bombe. We should have gone there first as the exhibits carried the clearest explanations of Bletchley Park’s work. Just to recap that linear display:
1. Y stations (located elsewhere in case of bombing) intercepted and listened to coded enemy communications.
2. The transcripts of the messages were all sent to Bletchley Park by teleprinter, underwater cable, and motorcyclists.
3. When received at Bletchley Park each message was meticulously logged and cross-indexed in the Registration Room.
4. From each batch of messages received from the Registration Room, one or more were selected to identify, if possible, the message’s topic. The messages were scanned looking for “Cribs” – frequently-used salutations or headings such as “To the Group” or “Weather Forecast”. The codebreakers were greatly helped by the fact that no letter could be encrypted to itself–in retrospect this was a fatal shortcoming of the Enigma machine.
Max observing Alan Turing’s tiny office in hut eight.
5. From the crib, electrical settings were derived and ‘plugged up’ on the back of the Bombe machine by the WREN operators. The Bombe would then test thousands of possibilities and stop whenever a possible rotor setting was found. One of these settings would be part of the Enigma key. The others were due to the effects of chance.
6. A separate machine called the ‘checking machine’ was used to test whether the possible solution worked (its rotors were set to the possible solution to see if messages typed in translated to German). The wrong rotor settings had to be identified first and rejected (are you confused yet? and, trust me, this is the simple explanation. I won’t even go into the addition of a fourth rotor…)
7. After the complete Enigma key had been found then all of the messages in that corresponding batch could be decrypted (by hundreds of women) using the British Type-X cypher machines, which had been modified to emulate Enigma machines.
8. The deciphered messages came from the machines in five-letter groups. The letters were divided into individual words so they could be translated into English, assessed for level of importance, and then forwarded to the appropriate people.
9. Before these intercepted Enigma messages could be passed on the information had to be rewritten and attributed to another source (reconnaissance plane, or a spy, for example) so the enemy didn’t realize their coded messages were being deciphered.
Max, who’s currently reading a book about the code breakers has even more information: “Since the Germans changed their Enigma rotor settings (the Enigma machine began with three, then the Germans added a fourth) every 24 hours, the entire codebreaking exercise had to be repeated daily. The codebreakers were often under tremendous stress, knowing that breaking the day’s code a few hours earlier or later could spell the difference between say allowing the RAF to intercept a German bombing raid, or having a city bombed with the corresponding loss of life. For more information go to https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombe.”
Before I sign off on my laborious description of the codebreaking, one last panel that I hope helps explain the Bomba:
At times like these I wish for a mind like a friend’s daughter named Amy who would probably have been one of those figuring out a crib if she’d been born way back when.
Max generally asks after we tour a site, a city, a region, a country (I’ll stop here) what was/were the highlights each of us carried away. This exercise enhances the memories of a particular time we’ve shared. The answers also remind me of a particular, acute informational nugget I may have forgotten when overwhelmed by a site. Rudy mentioned one that I felt was particularly poignant: The guilt individuals felt at not being able to express how they were helping the war effort. Some said their parents were ashamed to tell others that their children were sitting (safely) at a country house doing office work of some sort (standard job description when a Bletchley Park staffer was asked). Hard to imagine the regret not being able to share such an important mission, one that helped thousands survive the ugliness of war.
Still, it was a beautiful day (only a few sprinkles) and a fascinating glimpse into the efforts of many who kept a secret. Oh, what a secret.
By the time we arrived at our airbnb several hours away it was dark, which meant we had a couple of missed turns before we actually found where we were supposed to be staying for the night. We were met by Chris who welcomed us warmly and ushered us into a fairytale abode.
The little home was charming (not the least due to some wonderful artwork adorning the walls,
along with a poster commemorating Chris’s wife’s father, the late John Crittenden, a well-known British sailor who competed in numerous around-the-world races–in both directions)
and perfect for the three of us to drop our bags and cook our frozen pizza (it was late, we were tired, and, hey, pizza can be wholesome :) and nosh on a fresh salad. But, not before we had received an email from our sailing friends Helen and Gus asking if Rudy would be interested in a possible crew position aboard some friends’ boat setting off for a winter’s crossing to the Caribbean from England. Can you tell what Captain Max thought of this? :)
Wednesday, September 16
The next morning we breakfasted on our usual yogurt/fruit/cereal and coffee with Max performing culinary geometry by building symmetrical lunch wraps…
then headed to Portlsmouth on the southern coast a half-hour away.
Max and I had visited the Portsmouth Historical Dockyards when we were working our way up the southern coast last summer. With Henry VIII’s flagship, the MARY ROSE, and Horatio Nelson’s HMS VICTORY and associated exhibits and museums, taking Rudy here seemed like a no-brainer.
Rudy was in his element with his knowledge of different ships and battles. He and Max went off to visit the two ships after the three of us had perused the Nelson museum (where we snapped a shot of Nelson’s chair from HMS VICTORY. He had difficulty sleeping and often napped in this chair).
I ensconced myself happily in one of the several coffee shops leaving the boys to their boats as I enjoyed a lovely hot cup of coffee and read. Oh, it had started to pour rain, so you can imagine I was doubly happy not to be out and about. Fortunately, most of the exhibits involve inside tours so they didn’t get too wet either.
One notable fact (out of many) I’lll mention here is Nelson’s inventing a new signalling system using flags. He assigned each flag a number associated with a word noted in a special code flag. The most famous message is the one he sent prior to the famous Battle of Trafalgar located off of Cadiz, about two hours west of Gibraltar. The message “England expects that every man will do his duty” is flown even now.
An excellent exhibit in the museum covered the British attempt to halt the slave trade. The true horror of this evil business is difficult to portray, but it’s always a strong reminder of how prejudices and racism twists human souls and minds to the nth degree.
The obligatory “Nelson died here” photo
and, those from Henry VIII’s flagship:
Max and Rudy also did a quick tour of M33, the last remaining ship of its kind from WWI.
The docklands are still in use today for current naval operations, which is why some gates are guarded by police with guns. Although, when we were there, the gates were being sandbagged, which left us with a bit uneasy feeling. But, all turned out fine.
Back to our English cottage for our second and last night, we arrived early enough for Rudy to put on his chef hat and prepare an amazing, and, I mean AMAZING, homemade Ragu alla Bolognese sauce.
We gorged ourselves and just writing this makes me wish that was our dinner for tonight. Afterwards, we enjoyed the lit fire and played our nightly OH HELL game. Life was brilliant :)
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:
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.
Thursday & Friday & Saturday, September 3, 4, 5
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)
and town (Vindolanda) occurred at the perfect time:
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? :)
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.
The extensive display even includes the well-preserved leather sandal of one of the Vindolanda letters’ authors:
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.
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.
Back aboard Rudy jumped into boat chores. Washing dishes became his nightly ritual, just like Iain and Sarah.
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:
RUDY’S FIRST PASSAGE: Amble to Lowestoft
Sunday to Tuesday, September 6-8
We filled the tanks with water and then documented our leaving.
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:
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.
After watching for a bit we realized there was at least one mom and baby pair keeping track with our bow.
Monday dawned another beautiful day as we settled into the typical routine of watches, reading, navigating, eating, and sleeping.
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.
The leftover seas made the passage quite bouncy causing a rare sight: Max with a seasick patch.
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.
We walked around the town, taking Rudy to England’s most eastern point
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
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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
where Rudy and I were able to hop on for the short ride back.
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.
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,
then exited the lock and headed into our winter berth.
We were home! Or, as much home as one can be in foreign ports :)