Who’d have thought it?

Who’d have guessed that a global pandemic was going to thwart our plans to head north to Greenland this year ... you couldn’t make it up or at least if you did no one would believe you! Hey ho, a  postponement of our adventure but by no means a cancellation; some would say it gives us extra time to make sure the good ship is ready ... we say we are ready and we want to crack on!

Anyway, enough grumbling. The thing that really matters for the moment is that the very cuddly Nicola S has given us the thumbs up to travel to Scotland AND not be quarantined for a month at the border AND stay on the Brimble AND visit certain places ... awesome. You gotta luv her, one team GB ... go go go

Planning continues for the Summer

So, its the 2nd February and our idea of two years ago of heading north is slowly coming together. It should be an epic adventure. The current plan is to depart from Troon in mid July this year and head north along the west coast of Scotland. We will leave the UK with a 3 day hop up to the Faeroe Islands, then 10 days across to Iceland possibly stopping at Husavik and Isafjorour on the north coast where there is an excellent fish restaurant. Finally, and subject to ice conditions we will make the 3 day passage across the notorious Denmark Straits to either Ittoqqortoormiit or Tasiilaq, two of the remotest villages in the world. We will make the decision of which to go for when we get to Iceland and can get a picture of ice conditions. It’s not quite as obvious as you might think because although Ittoqqortoormiit is further north it is not necessarily harder to get into, so best to keep our options open. The end game with respect to coming home is not quite finalised and probably won’t be until midway through the trip. The current thinking is either back to Rejkavik for the winter or if time permits we will try and make it to Scotland. I have 6 weeks off work for the trip so getting back to the UK could be a push.       Crew for the trip is largely agreed with Rob P on board for the whole adventure. Selma will be with us for the shakedown sail in Scotland, Tom Parsons from Scotland to Iceland and Ella and Chris Perkins for the leg over to Greenland and back. We should be able to find some really exciting spots for the crew-changes that make the recent record of a 6 hour train ride and then rocky ferry trip look like a walk in the park!       Planning this trip has a number of special challenges. The most novel is the need to carry a firearm for protection against polar bears but there is a long list of other, rather vital, bits n bobs. Survival suits, Satelite Phone to pick up ice charts and weather en route, pilotage where charts either don’t exist or are of very limited use, learning about navigating in ice ... the list goes on. Thank goodness I got ahead and bought my new, Guy Cotton, non-breathable oilskins last year.       It is all very exciting and provides an extraordinary opportunity to make essential improvements to the good ship to make her ‘adventure ready’.     We have just been up to Troon to check that the good ship is OK and check on a few pieces of work that the excellent WCMS have been doing which include a new prop, two new winches and a new cutlass bearing. A new sprayhood has been made but I’m worried now that the new bright blue may reveal that the mainsail cover is really quite faded and so must also be replaced. Whilst not the most important issue, every detail counts. Watch this space.            

Bangor to Troon and home (12th July - 14th July)

The last leg of the Four Nations Tour was from Bangor to Troon via the Isle of Arran

As we left Bangor we saw Cunard's, luxury cruise ship Queen Elizabeth. 12 Deck, 900 crew, 1043 cabins. 90,901 tonnes, with a top speed of 24 knots. I'm not sure but I think she may have altered course to get a picture of the good ship B; 1 deck, 2 crew, 2 cabins, 4.7 tonnes, with a top speed 6 knots.

A few hours out from Bangor and Chris spotted what we think was a Northern Bottlenose Whale ... this photo shows what we saw ...

This photo shows what we thought we saw!

By lunchtime, we were sailing past Ailsa Craig. I don't know why I really love this island but I do. It's just charming.

... and by early evening we were sailing up into Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran

The good ship was soon snuggled up on a mooring buoy in Lamlash Bay

A great supper and a few pints at The Pierhead Tavern followed a really great sail over from Northern Ireland

The following morning we took a trip to the brand new Lagg distillery. It's so new they don't actually have any whisky but strangely the tour was the best I've had. You can really see how they have designed and built it from a blank sheet of paper. Well worth a visit.

After our trip to the distillery we were off again for our final sail from Lamlash to Troon and what an amazing sail. The sun was out, a beam reach and a calm sea except for one wave that had 'Chris Perkins' written all over it. This snap was pre-impact.

The spinnaker up again and we stormed along. It was awesome and a very fitting end to a great 2 week sail.

The approach to Troon. Last time we sailed in here it was at the end of the infamous Scottish Isles Peak Race - a monstrous affair.

So, there you have it. An hour or so later we were tied up and moored in Troon Marina. The following day we caught the train home. 6 hours to cover what had taken us 2 weeks. An awesome little sailing adventure that puts us in a good place for next years passage north.

Caernarfon to Bangor, Northern Ireland (10th July - 11th July)

The reason our destination was set as Bangor was that we wanted to sail from Bangor (Wales) to Bangor (Northern Ireland) ... a small thing but something that appealed to those on board the good ship. We enhanced this by enjoying a curry in Bangor (Northen Ireland) at the Bangla Indian Restaurant thus allowing us to say 'we went from Bangor to the Bangla in Bangor. It is a moot point as to whether passage planning should be built ostensibly around a single amusing sentence but we say yes. No doubt the RYA will, in the fullness of time, add this approach to their excellent Yachtmaster Training Programme.

I feel like I need to explain a little about the Menai Strait. So here you go. It is a narrow stretch of shallow tidal water about 16 miles long, which separates the island of Anglesey from the mainland of Wales.

The strait is bridged in two places: the Menai Suspension Bridge and Robert Stephenson's 1850 Britannia Tubular Bridge.

The strait varies in width from 400 metres from Fort Belan to Abermenai Point to 1,100 metres from Traeth Gwyllt to Caernarfon Castle. It then narrows to 500 metres in the middle reaches and then it broadens again.

The differential tides at the two ends of the strait cause very strong currents to flow in both directions through the strait at different times, creating dangerous conditions. One of the most dangerous areas of the strait is known as the Swellies between the two bridges. Here rocks near the surface cause over-falls and local whirlpools, which can be of considerable danger in themselves and cause small boats to founder on the rocks.

We left Canaerfon as soon as the adjustable sill in the entrance was lowered. This gives you enough time to carry the tide up the Strait past Bangor and out to sea. We left late afternoon, waving goodbye to Selma and Ella who promised to take pictures of the good ship as she went through the Swellies.

Timing is everything for a safe passage and unusually for us, we timed it right!

Approaching the Britannia Bridge and Menai Suspension Bridge

Rob led navigation; Chris steered, and I made tea

A medieval document quoted in the book 'The Menai Strait' states: In that arm of the see that departeth between this island Mon and North Wales is a swelowe that draweth to schippes that seileth and sweloweth hem yn, as doth Scylla and Charybdis - therefore we may nouzt seile by this swalowe but slily at the full see. Roughly translated this means 'it's a bit choppy'. Our pilot seemed more positive.

Eider duck, always the serious member of the team, advised that we should wear Wellies as we sailed through the Swellies ... we thought it was a good idea.

We tried to stay icy calm as we approached the infamous Swellies but sometimes maintaining a poker face is difficult.

As you approach the bridges you come across this statue of Nelson on the shore. 

The statue was erected in 1873, by an artist experimenting with concrete.

Art lover and sculptor Lord Clarence Paget, a former Lord of the Admiralty, lived at Plas Llanfair, up the slope behind the statue. He had used concrete to make statues for his grounds and noticed they were more durable than marble in this exposed area. He found that concrete was much cheaper than marble, bronze or stone and could be manipulated easily.

The Admiralty happened to be surveying the Menai Strait at the time, and Lord Clarence accepted its suggestion that, with only a small alteration to the statue’s planned location, the artwork would serve as a navigation aid for mariners travelling in either direction along this difficult stretch of water. The Admiralty had already marked the statue on its newest chart by the time of the ceremony

Approaching the first bridge. You travel under the starboard span heading for a small obelisk on the shore. You then use a shore transit to determine when you alter course. You get perilously close to the shore. Very exciting and great fun.

As promised Selma and Ella took a video as we shot down the Strait under sail. We did consider using the engine but, hey, we are a sailing boat!

First Britannia and then the Menai Suspension Bridge

Chris calmly sailing us through whilst Rob and I shouted instructions

Just noticed this house on the shore of Anglesey and liked it. What a great spot. The sail out past Bangor was fun. Solent rig with a F5-6 right behind us and a strong tide made for a fun sail.

Having passed Bangor we then headed out into the Irish Sea leaving Wales behind us bound for Northern Ireland

Supper was put on as we sailed at a cracking pace northwards aiming to shave the SouthWest coast of the Isle of Mann by dawn the next day ... which we did. Happy hour continued our PG Wodehouse audio book before we turned in to our watch pattern with Chris kicking off.

Approaching Bangor the following afternoon. 

Couldn't resist it ... play with sound ... and yes I know its the wrong Bangor!

A well-earned pint of Guinness. We were practising our 'stern' look. No idea who owns the fourth hand?

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The award-winning Bangla at Bangor

Falmouth to Caernarfon (6th July - 9th July)

Chris 'The Perk' Perkins at the helm as we leave Falmouth on a three day leg round to Caernarfon

Falmouth is a great place but we were glad to leave. We were now behind programme if we were to make it to Scotland so had to get some miles under the keel.

We left Falmouth at 1700 and flew the spinnaker until supper. We enjoyed a lovely sunset. Happy hour was filled with a spot of PG Wodehouse. What's not to like?

We had a lovely sail around Lands End. It seemed so quiet as we did our 2 on 4 off watch pattern but when you look at AIS you can see we were not alone!

The Navionics Plot as we rounded Lands End

I'm not quite sure why but we enjoyed just loads and loads of visits by dolphins. Really lovely as ever.

We had an uneventful sail across the Bristol Channel other than encountering several fishing vessels without AIS transmissions. This is a bit of a sod really because Fishing Boats are the ones that you really could do with picking up. We wondered if it was so they didn't reveal where they were fishing?

The following morning we made a breakfast stop at Skomer Island, an uninhabited island just off the coast of South West Wales. We picked up one of two mooring buoys and sat amongst the Puffins and many 'other' birds. At this point, we had no bird book so I can only describe them as 'other'. 

The ducks were in their element enjoying chats with many old friends and acquaintances. After breakfast, we cracked on with a favourable tide to head up the coast of Wales to Caernarfon. Arrival time to enter the Menai Straits was really important so we decided to stop in a small bay at Nyer a few hours south so we could better time our arrival.

I sailed into Nyer just as dawn was breaking. Rob and Chris were off-watch asleep so I picked up a mooring and then went to bed ... nice

Drone-time. It was great practice and we were able to find out what happens when you put your fingers into the whirling blades ... well, Rob was. I think the medical profession would describe the effect as minor bruising, abrasions and some shock. We concluded that this should be avoided.

A drones-eye view of the good ship

We left Nyer at 1113 for the few hours sail up to the entrance of the Menai Straits.

The route into Caernarfon Harbour

The tides were strong as we expected but Rob 'No Fingers' Parson's (navigator) timing was perfect and it was all very controlled.

Approaching Canaerfon Marina with Snowdonia in the background. The entrance into the marina was an interesting experience with a 3-knot cross-tide. As the Harbour Master said 'the entrance sorts out who knows their boat'. Selma and Ella were on the shore waiting for us. Ella had decided that we must have hit the harbour wall which was absolutely not true. We just missed it. But as the saying goes 'an inch is as good as a mile to a blind donkey'; not that I'm suggesting Ella is a blind donkey.

The marina is in the heart of Caernarfon.

Brimble all snugged up and looking good.

Selma and Ella met us at the dock and we enjoyed a good catch up and dinner as well as exploring the castle the following day. But as St Marher said in 1225 'And te tide and te time ├żat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet' ... which roughly translates to 'if you want to get to Troon then crack on'. So the following evening off we went again bound for Ireland.

Plymouth to Falmouth to Mylor (3rd July - 5th July)

As Robert Burns said in 1765, whilst ploughing a field: 'the best-laid plans o'mice an' men gang aft a-gley (often go awry). How Robbie Burns knew about our plans on board the good ship is a mystery to me but there you are, he did,  because otherwise why did he write about it in a poem. Our plan was to nip from Plymouth to Falmouth and having picked up Robert D to pop round Lands End and up to Skomer Island and then Milford Haven in Wales. This we did not do and so yet again Robbie Burns gets it right with his prophecy of a wryness. Mind you, as is almost always the case, we had lots of fun not doing what we planned to do so that was alright!

Having dropped Jeremy off to return to France it was just Rob and me setting off out of Plymouth Sound on a lovely sunny morning.

Looking back at QE Battery

Heading out between the breakwater and Cawsand

Breakfast was the all-new Brimble Hot Dog. Half a baguette with a hole made for it with a knife - NOT SLICED. Sauce injected in followed by the sausage. Risk of accidental sauce release avoided. The Bilge Cleaner in the right of the picture adds a boaty flavour.

We decided that it was time to set up the spinnaker and so we spent a happy few hours setting up a proper grown-up spinnaker system. The good ship loved it.

After a lovely sail, we moored up in the shadow of the excellent Falmouth Maritime Museum (you must visit) at Port Pendennis Marina. 

The following morning we set off with new crew Robert on board. The wind was moderate but the sea state was rough. So rough in fact that Robert felt obliged to reject the previous night's dinner and then after a few more minutes his breakfast ...I can't remember exactly what Robert had for supper. but breakfast was a delicious cheese and ham panini made on the excellent GSB Panini maker. 

Such things happen and we decided that as we were on holiday we should turn round. It was entirely my mistake to rush off in such haste. We decided to return to Falmouth and visited Mylor Marina which
I've never been to and which is really lovely.

Entry into the beautiful Mylor marina is straightforward and the team were welcoming. We talked about payment but they weren't that interested ... so refreshingly different to MDL (#moneygrabbingmarina)

We ate dinner on board and as we were clearing up a couple went past ... it transpired that the man here with his wife (them on the right of the picture) holding the pan, invented the Boatie Pan.  How cool is that? Nice chap.

Drone practice. Robert D is an ex-cameraman and understood camera stuff. We were impressed with all sorts of technical advice he gave us but didn't really understand much of what he said; well, any of it really. The challenge with the drone onboard will be how to land and take off when there is no room to land or take off. We decided that hand take-offs and landing were the only way. We started to practice

Take off was OK. The landing was scarier.

Excellent aerial view of the three of us. It's great to get close-up pictures of  the crew like this one that shows
just why a drone is a vital part of the equipment on board

... and this one. The sun glare on the left-hand side is apparently a recognised good thing and some professional photographers add it for authenticity. We found we could do it very easily by accident.
This could mean we are naturally professional.

Mylor church was super fab. The gravestones had some amazing epitaphs. My favourite was the whole story of a man unfairly shot by customs officials and what rotten sods they were for doing it. Still, with Brexit approaching we will need to get more used to this sort of event.

Great detail ... makes a spin round the churchyard a real must

This was a great story. In the boat in this pic is fisherman, Ned Bailey and his dog Bleiz.  As he went past, on his way into the little harbour at Mylor, Bleiz jumped over the side as Ned shook his fist at him and shouted, 'and don't come back'. We had a right giggle. It transpires this is their party trick for people watching from the shore. Bleiz has a nice cooling swim and them rendezvous' with Ned back at the harbour a few hundred meters down the river.

Chatting later, Ned said that a few years ago Bleiz had genuinely fallen over the side. It was some time before Ned missed him. He was beside himself and contacted other fishermen to help him search for his dog. After 4 hours they gave up knowing that Bleiz couldn't have made the mile or so ashore. They were wrong though. Bleiz was picked up walking along the shore by some tourists, taken to the local vets and shortly after was reunited with Ned. 

The following day we mooched around the corner and back to Port Pendennis. It was only a mile away so we decided to go aground. This happened whilst Rob and I were studying the wind instrument that is immediately next to the echo sounder. At the moment we went aground we knew exactly what the wind speed and direction was but unfortunately not the depth. This was our mistake. Robert was intrigued to understand how Rob and I knew we were aground. We explained that it was the way that the boat lifted up in the air whilst making a scrunching sound before stopping moving.
Experience shone through and must have given Robert real confidence in our ability.

A rather flashy yacht at Port P. The owners probably walked round to look at Brim but we didn't see them.

That afternoon we visited the Falmouth Maritime Museum. It is double excellent and gets a triple Brimble Rating.

Our quest for the best pasty started and finished today. The problem with this sort of quest is that there are only so many pasties you can eat in a day without overdosing and expiring. Current medical advice is one or less.
So we had one but not from this shop, although we nearly did. But didn't.

Our consciences were sorely affected by the pasty so we decided to go for a run and a drone flight to lose some calories, pass the time and of course further polish our piloting skills. We needed to wait for Chris 'The Perk' Perkins to make his way down from London, England before we set off again in search of a new country ... Wales. Chris had demonstrated his usual pragmatic approach with the last-minute change from a pick up in Wales to a pick up in Cornwall. 

The view from the drone-field was amazing

On the way back we ran back past Port Pendennis docks. The Shipyard looks to be thriving which is fabulous.

Shortly after our run we rendezvoused with The Perk and prepared the good ship for the next leg. Learning from our previous mistake of rushing off with a new crew we decided to give Chris a good couple of hours to settle in before we left!