Back across the pond

We spent the last couple of weeks in the UK relaxing and preparing for our return to Sol Purpose.  We got most of our UK Christmas gifts bought, wrapped and mailed off (so organised!), and I made a few more Christmas items for the upcoming craft fair.  We contacted the marina to see where things stood with the repairs and booked in for the remaining work that needed to be done (more of that later).

One thing we had planned to do in Bristol was try one of the many Escape Rooms that have sprung up recently.  The one we selected was Puzzlair.  We chose the Secret Agent Room, which as you can guess is a James Bond themed room.  There were a lot more puzzles to solve and some were a lot more devious than the ones we had experienced in the New Bern Escape Room.  Added to that, this time it was just the two of us, rather than 6 people.  We needed to get a few clues, but we made it out within the hour!  Next time we go, we want to get a group together and try to break out of the prison van (take a look at the website!).

The next week we went to the Concorde exhibit at the Bristol Aerospace Museum.  Concorde was designed and built between France and the UK and the last concorde to fly is on display here.  It was great to walk through the plane and learn details about the ridiculous design and build costs that were incurred.  That was only eclipsed by the amazing details of the planes engineering and performance.

We also had a great night catching up with Sue & Dave Harding and Debbie Haynes.  I worked with Sue and Debbie many years ago, before I left for the USA.  It was a great trip down memory lane!  See you next time I’m back!

We rounded off the 4 month trip just as we started it, with an evening at Avery’s, tasting wine and watching a classic movie – this time, a Cary Grant classic, Arsenic and Old Lace.  Cary Grant, then known as Archibald Leach, was born in Bristol and is one of the city’s favorite sons.

On Tuesday, October 31st, at the totally unacceptable hour of 4am, we headed to Bristol Airport to start the mammoth trip back to Sol Purpose.  Flight 1 was to Brussels, then Flight 2 to Newark.  That was all fairly uneventful and we arrived in New Jersey at around 2:30pm.  We picked up a rental car and headed for North Carolina.  Moray was a trooper and drove the first 6 hours, so that I could grab some sleep.  Then I took over for the last part of the journey.  Given that it was halloween, we looked out for ghosties and beasties all the way back, but all we saw were several deer, just as we approached Wayfarers Cove Marina.  We pulled into the marina at around 1am, climbed up a ladder into the boat, and crashed in the rear quarter berth for a few hours sleep.

Jet lagged, but needing to get on, we realised the holiday was over!  Before Sol Purpose could be put back into the water, the propshaft drip seal needed to be replaced.  We had started on this task before we left, but had been unable to complete it.  The boatyard guys had worked on removing the old seal while we were away, but we needed to replace the seal ourselves.  After a couple of hours of Moray working from inside the tiny engine room space, while I stood outside under the boat, we got it done.

While Moray was working on various little tasks, I moved some things around so that I could unpack and put our bags back into the storage below our bed.  That meant I had enough room to move other items to the rear quarter berth, and make up our bed.

One of the problems of being on  boat that is out of the water is that there .is no a/c which makes cooking on board almost unbearable.  Added to that, the fact that we had not yet replaced the water tank, so we had no water for cooking, and couldn’t drain water out into the boatyard, meant that meals would be sandwiches or takeout.  Wayfarers Cove Marina, while very pretty and with an excellent boatyard, is literally miles from anywhere, making takeout totally impractical.  Luckily, Gail and Bill on Spireserpula, who we had met in the Bahamas, were also out of the water in the boatyard, and had found some restaurants.  We thankfully joined them for dinner and enjoyed catching up with their adventures over the summer.  Then we headed back to the marina and up to the boaters’ lounge to watch game 7 of the World Series.  Woohoo!  Finally!  The Astros did it!!!!!  Very tired, but elated, we headed back to the boat and spent the first night in our own bed in over 4 months!

The only thing left to do before putting Sol Purpose back where she belongs was to finish the bottom paint job.  The boatyard had done most of this just before we came back, but the last part – painting the patches where the stands had been – is done once the boat is back in the sling.  The original plan was to do this on Thursday, but the boatyard is a very busy one, and when we realised that they weren’t going to get to us that day, we did the only thing we could – we got in the car and drove to New Bern to go to Duelling Pianos at Circa 1810, with Bob and Claire!

The revised plan was to get back in the water on Friday, but unfortunately, the boat lift broke that morning.  By the time the repair was done, it was too late to get the painting done and dried, so we resigned ourselves to waiting until Monday.  This was very frustrating as we had planned to spend the weekend installing the new tanks and getting the subfloor replaced, once back in the water.

On Saturday morning, we noticed that there was a gantry not being used in the boatyard.  We put it up against the side of the boat and figured that we should be able to lift the tanks up to the two platforms and then into the boat.  I was not too keen on this, but we pressed on and managed to get the new diesel tank on board and into place relatively simply.  Inspired by that, we moved on to the water tank and got it into place.  That meant that Moray was able to plumb everything in, while I drove to Oriental to fill the jerry cans with diesel.  I made one run, and we emptied the cans into the new tank, with fingers crossed that nothing leaked.  Everything was great, so I headed back and refilled all the jerry cans.  While I was away, Moray closed up the inspection hatch on the fuel tank, which we had left open during the first fill so we could see that everything was working properly.  We started to pour the next can in, when suddenly Moray yelled for cloths etc.  Diesel was not going into the tank, but down the side of the boat.  After a few minutes of panic, he figured that the only difference was that the inspection hatch was now closed, so the problem must be the tank vent.  He reopened the hatch and the problem was resolved.  On further investigation, he discovered that the tank vent had become clogged by a mud dauber, a wasp that builds its nest using mud.  It had got into the thru hull vent during the summer and done its thing!  Once that was cleared out, the problem was completely resolved.

Next, Moray reconnected the water tank and water maker, before working on the final fitting of the plywood subfloor.  It took a few lifts in and out, with a little sanding each time, but eventually it fit perfectly.  This made walking around the boat so much easier!

Monday came, and I headed off to the boaters’ lounge to watch TV and knit, as I would not be able to be on board when they lifted the boat.  At around 3:30pm, the paint was dry and the time had come!  Slowly, Sol Purpose was lowered into the water, the motor started and we made our way round to a slip.  We were finally back in the water!

The only task left to be done while in Wayfarers Cove was to replace the teak and holly veneer.  As this needed to be matched up to the veneer in the forward cabin and galley, we hired a professional, Rick Vogt.  He was great and gave us lots of advice for refinishing the existing veneer, which we planned to do ourselves.  He was held up by the weather to begin with as it rained for a couple of days, making it impossible for him to bring the veneer to the boat.  Once it stopped, though, he got the veneer measured, cut and into the boat as quickly as possible.  I have to say, it looked amazing, which showed just how bad the rest was!

During the work with Rick we got a message from Ron and Karen, two friends who stayed on the same dock as us in Kemah.  They left to go cruising three years ago and were heading back down the ICW towards Florida in their Benetau, Polite Compromise.  They found out where we were and turned up at Wayfarers the next day.  We went out for dinner that night and went to Duelling Pianos the following night with Bob and Clare.

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Moray, Bob, Ron, Debs, Clare and Karen.  Texas cruising chapter

That Saturday we took our rental car and drove to Washington (NC) to meet Al, a cruiser friend we had met last winter in the Bahamas.  He was on the hard in New Bern working on his boat, Stout Wench, before heading South to the Bahamas again.

On Wednesday, with our fingers crossed, I helped Moray cast off and leave the slip, to single-hand the boat to New Bern.  Once he left, I drove to the airport at New Bern and turned in the car.  Claire picked me up and took me back to New Bern Grand Marina, where we waited for Moray to arrive.  His journey up was thankfully uneventful.  He switched between the two tanks with no issue, so that was great!  Having the increased fuel capacity of the boat, from 60 gallons to 140 gallons, is going to make our future cruising plans so much easier.  If you are interested in the full details of the tank project see the following blogs…

Sol Purpose has no Sole (part one)

Putting the Sole back into Sol Purpose (part 2)

Thursday morning, Moray headed up to the boaters’ lounge to do some last minute study for his FCC Technicians exam.  I started work on removing the varnish from the teak and holly veneer in the forward cabin and the hatch covers.  After a few hours, I cleaned everything up and prepared for Moray’s birthday celebration.  Bob and Claire came over for a light meal and a cocktail.  Then we headed to the Bear Town Escape Room where we escaped from Poe’s Study.  That was a lot of fun, and we got out with 14 minutes to spare.  From there, we went for a meal and then for a few drinks at Prohibition, our favourite bar in New Bern.  It was a great evening, and I think the birthday boy enjoyed himself.

It was back to reality the next day, with Moray spending one last day studying and doing practice exams, while I removed more varnish, this time from the galley floor.  On Saturday morning, Moray headed off to Morehead City to sit his exam, which I am very happy to announce, he passed!  He is now able to broadcast on the SSB, another big step needed for our trans-Atlantic crossing.

By the end of the day, the floors were clear of the old varnish, and had been treated to remove as many of the water stains as possible.  They would have to sit for a couple of days to dry out properly, before we would be able to start on the re-varnishing. We were trying to figure out how to do this, while living on the boat, as we wouldn’t be able to walk on the floors for several hours each day.  Moray contacted Tom and Joy, and they kindly agreed to let us stay on their boat, Belle Ile, which is in the same marina, up for sale.  This was an absolute godsend, and we can’t thank them enough for their generosity.

Over the next week, we sanded and applied a coat of varnish each day, before heading over to Belle Ile each night to sleep.  As cooking wasn’t an option, we made the most of a number of the eateries in town, apart from Thanksgiving.  Beth, from Happy Girl, organized a Thanksgiving Dinner for the marina, and about 30 people attended.  Bob and Clare joined us for the dinner and then a few hardy souls braved the chilly weather to sit around a fire pit, drinking beers and getting to know each other’s sailing past.  It was a lot of fun!

The enforced exile from the boat gave us a good excuse to walk up into town and look at the Christmas decorations, especially the Santa’s grotto, with falling snow!  It was magical!

Once the 8 coats of varnish were applied and dried, we were able to empty out the storage unit and put our home back together.  There’s nothing like sitting on your own sofa, watching TV!  That done, we set to finishing off a few tasks, such as repairing some broken zippers on the enclosure, and replacing the rusted out clips on the dinghy straps.  Moray cleaned up the dinghy and attached some patches to protect the sides from chafing on the davits, while I made a cover to protect the gas can from the elements.

All this time, we were watching the weather and were excited to be getting ready to leave around December 7th, the same time as last year.  Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas and as the leaving date approached, the weather window disappeared.  Oh the joys of sailing – never make plans!  Resigned to the fact that our departure would be delayed, we put together some alternative routes and started looking forward to those.  But now, it has been raining for the last few days, and we have both had colds, so we’ve had an enforced stay inside the boat.  It’s actually been nice – watching TV (both of us) and knitting (just me!).  Oh, and of course, watching our friends’ posts about the snow in Houston!

Our current hope is to star tour southward trip in two days – fingers crossed!

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Putting the Sole back into Sol Purpose (part 2)

If you remember, the first part of the project ended with the fittings being bought for the new tanks including a fuel supply and return selector switch.  The idea was that we could draw fuel from either tank and return excess fuel to either tank as well.

Our first few days back from the UK were spent doing odd jobs to get the boat back in the water.  Unfortunately, as the travel lift was out of operation for 3 days when we were due to get put back in the water, we had to install both the new tanks while on the hard.  This meant Debbie and I used a gantry to lift the tanks the 9 feet from the ground over the lifelines and down into the boat 😦

The tanks were a tight fit through the companionway and a perfect fit into the existing spaces vacated by the old tanks.  First in was the diesel tank.  We placed a strap under the tank before we dropped it in so that we could still remove it if required during the installation phase

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I had already plumbed in the 2 three-way valves for the pick-up and return lines for the fuel tanks.  I placed these under the inspection hatch for the original fuel tank and simply tied into the pick-up and return lines from the old tank.  This simplified the plumbing and still had all fuel going through the existing filtration system.

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pick-up valve is on the left.  Return valve is on the right.

This plumbing was then attached to the new tank.  The diesel vent was tied into the existing vent in the engine room roof to ensure that there could be no crossover of fuel between tanks in a seaway.  Several years ago I removed a 15 gallon holding tank from under the starboard settee as we plumbed the aft head directly overboard.  I used the old deck fitting for the new diesel tank fill.

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Next was the water tank.  As it was a straight swap with regards to fittings so there was less to do there.

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Once both tanks were in, I sprayed insulation foam around each corner to hold the tanks firmly in place.  Then it was time to replace the struts that ran over the tanks to add support to the floor.  These were made from Douglas fir as it’s a wood with good rigidity.  The trim to support the new subfloor around its edges was then epoxied and screwed in place.

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struts and trim epoxied and screwed in place

I measured the position of the fittings in the new tanks, fore and aft, and marked those locations on the starboard settee front so that once the new subfloor was laid down I could mark those positions on the top of the floor for the inspection hatches.  As I was using the original inspection hatches for the new sole, the position of the hatches athwartships was restricted by the teak and holly pattern that would be on the new sole and the existing hatches.  As the new sole would tie in with the teak and holly of the old sole, I stretched a thread from the teak and holly pattern in the galley to the forward cabin.  I then used this taut thread to mark the old hatches position athwartships so that the pattern would align.  This had to be done as the inspection hatch holes would be cut in the new subfloor before the ¼” teak and holly ply was epoxied down to the subfloor.

With these holes cut I then cut, epoxied and screwed in trim to support the hatches.

 

After the subfloor was epoxied and screwed down I enlisted the skills of Rick Vogt of Vogt Yachts to install the teak and holly ply on top of the subfloor.  He used a 1” strip of teak athwartships at either end of the new floor so that any minute inconsistencies between the new and old floor would not stick out.  He also ran the new teak and holly ply under the edge of the port settee so that it would be easier to get a clean edge.  He therefore had to shave ¼” off the height of all the vertical settee pieces that had been removed to facilitate the floor removal.

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Once the teak and holly ply was epoxied in place he routed out the inspection hatch holes and the small holes for the plates that accept the table legs.

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He then replaced the vertical sections of the settee.  During the deconstruction of the port settee I managed to tear some of the teak laminate of the front of one of the pieces.  Rick epoxied a new piece of teak laminate to the old board.

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As the new subfloor was visible under the port settee, I floated it with epoxy to remove any joins and screw holes.  I then sanded and applied 2 coats of EZ Bilge to the complete floor of the inside of the settee.

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epoxy used to float the new subfloor

I moved the boat back to New Bern and on the way there I swapped the three-way fuel valves back and forth several times to ensure that fuel supply was maintained.  No problems arose.  Debbie and I then spent the next 9 days sanding, cleaning, filling bung holes and varnishing the complete sole, 8 coats!

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all sanded down and ready for varnish

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eight coats later…

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It is good to have the boat back in a condition where we can move around freely and another major project is completed.  As the old fuel tank had no pitting I feel secure in the knowledge that the new aluminum tank will outlast the boat.  As the new water tank is polypropylene, there should be no issues with longevity there either.

 

 

Three weeks, three countries

Before we start this blog I just wanted to show the path we have taken for the last 2 months in Scotland…

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After a lazy weekend, on Monday, Katie, Moray and I headed to Blairgowrie, near Perth.   Jane & David, along with four of their friends, had rented a couple of cottages just outside the town, and had a week of golfing and fly fishing planned.  We arrived mid-afternoon, and looked around until the others arrived back from a day’s fishing, with Jane being the star of the day!

The next day, we all headed out to the river, for another day of fishing.  I have never been salmon fishing in my life, and confess that I had never really understood the attraction.  I’m a convert!  The river was so peaceful, and it was really relaxing.  I even managed to catch a couple of twigs!  Katie caught a fish but unfortunately it got off the hook when she and Moray were trying to get it into the net.

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Katie, fish hunting!

While the others remained at the river, Moray, Katie and I drove to Guildtown, where Katie used to live.  We had a nice pub lunch, followed by a trip down memory lane, before heading back to Blairgowrie to cook a traditional Scottish meal of mince, mealie jimmies (white puddings), and tatties (potatoes) for the group.

The next day was a bit dismal so Katie and I decided to spend the day watching TV and knitting, while the others went back to the river.  Moray didn’t catch anything, but David came back with a nice salmon.  That evening we all went out to a fantastic fish restaurant, called Little’s, for a great dinner.  Thank you Jane, David, Johnny, Nessa, Martin and Liz for letting us crash your holiday and being such gracious hosts.

After driving back to Turriff, I spent the next few days knitting more items for the upcoming craft fair, while Moray finished off some tasks that Katie needed doing, as well as helping out with the pointing work at Sunrise.  We also accompanied Katie to her bowling club, her scrabble club and her knitting club!

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the fruits of Debbie’s labors

On Friday, Ken came over to spend a couple of nights, as he had been working so hard on his new kitchen the whole time we had been in Scotland.  Just like his brother, he can’t sit still for long, so on Saturday, they both headed over to Sunrise to carry on the pointing work with the Angus and Robert.  Then on Sunday, everyone headed to Aberdeen for the official kitchen unveiling.  It was a lovely afternoon, and a nice end to our two month stay in Scotland.

On Monday morning, we started our southward journey.  Our first stop was Stirling.  First of all, we took a look around the Church of the Holy Rude, where the kings of Scotland were crowned.  The church is beautiful and there is plenty of information available to the public, in many languages.  Now that is not uncommon at tourist sites, but I have to say, I have never seen an information sheet in Doric before!  That is the dialect of the Northeast Scots.

Next we climbed the hill to Stirling Castle and spent a couple of hours there.  There is a lot to see, from the old kitchens, the king’s and queen’s chambers (where we learned all about the official animal of Scotland – the unicorn), to the Royal Dining Room.  We also saw the carefully reproduced ceiling panels – absolutely stunning.

We left Stirling Castle and took a quick detour to the William Wallace Memorial, before heading south, back into England, to spend the night at Tebay motorway service station.

The next morning, we drove to Bowness, on Lake Windermere in the Lake District.  We bought a “Walker’s Tour” ticket , and hopped on to a boat.  This took us a little way up the lake to Ambleside, where we stopped for a drink, before taking the next boat across the lake to Wray Castle.  We didn’t look around the Castle, but stopped outside to eat our packed lunch, before starting our 4 mile walk along the side of the lake.  It was absolutely stunning scenery, and I couldn’t help thinking about Swallows and Amazons which was set in the Lake District!  We arrived at the ferry port just in time to take a boat back to our starting point.

From there, we drove down the M6 towards Liverpool, stopping to spend the night at a motorway service station.  This wasn’t anywhere near as nice as Tebay, but had showers and was a safe place to spend the night.

After a noisy night, on Wednesday morning we drove to Liverpool.  I went to University in Liverpool and so this was quite a day for me.  I loved getting to show Moray the wonderful sights that I remembered, as well as enjoying all the changes (for the better, in most cases) that have happened since I left.  We parked up at the Albert Dock and walked from there into town.  From there, we headed up to the Anglican cathedral .  The cathedral is indescribably beautiful, so I will let the pictures tell the story.

Next, we walked along Hope Street to Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral  This building could not be more different but is equally beautiful.  Just across the street, is the University of Liverpool campus.  It has changed since I was there, but we took a wander through the Guild of Students (the Student Union building in my day!).  The cheap bars have all gone, replaced with coffee shops, and the main hall where I saw Yazoo is now a coffee lounge.  Next, we walked back to Abercromby Square and took a nose around the School of Classics, where I spent three years of my life!  Not too much has changed there.  Having made myself feel really old, we next walked back down the hill towards China Town, for a quick bite to eat, before walking past Lime Street Station, back to Albert Dock.

We took a look at the Liver Building with the famous Liver Birds…

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Next, we spent an hour or so looking around the Slavery Museum.  This was really interesting and I wish we had more time there.  Our day was almost done, so we headed back to the car and started the next part of trip, but with one final detour via Carnatic Halls, where I lived in student residences for two years.  Nothing much had changed and it brought back lots of good memories.  We had originally planned to stay in a motorway service station that night, but we hadn’t slept well the night before and decided to see if there were any campsites available.  We found the Erw Glas Campsite in Colwyn Bay and booked a place for the night.  This was a great decision!  The campsite had great showers and facilities, the host was very friendly and it was very quiet!  Having paid up and settled in, we went to a nearby restaurant, called Tal Y Cafn, which our host recommended.  Unfortunately, our first choice of food was unavailable, but we had a lovely evening.  And after getting back to the campsite, we had a great night’s sleep in the peaceful surroundings.

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Debs showing off our sleeping arrangements (note all windows have blackout shades)

After a lazy start to the day, (and great showers!), we headed to the seaside town of Llandudno.  We had a good breakfast and took a walk along the pier, before heading to the island of Anglesey.  This was going to be a quick trip to visit a little town called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch!  That’s right – that really is the name of the town and is the longest town name in the world!

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The town name means “Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave”.

Having taken a few photos, we headed back over the bridge and drove to Caernarfon.   This is a walled town with a wonderful castle, built by King Edward I as a fortress.

We spent several hours looking around the castle and the town, before setting off towards Brecon, where we planned to find another campsite to spend the night in.  We had driven or about 15 minutes when Moray said “uh-oh”.  That never bodes well!  I asked what was wrong and he said that the battery had just died and we needed to stop.  We were literally just arriving at a service station, so we pulled in, just as the car died.  The service station checked the battery and confirmed that the problem was our alternator.  That was bad news in itself, but worse was the fact that they were short staffed and wouldn’t be able to fix it that day.  They suggested another service place, got our battery charged enough to get there and pointed us in the right direction!  We made it to B&K Williams and went it to tell them our sob story.  They were absolutely amazing.  They sent us off on foot into Caernarfon (Only 15 minutes on foot) while they obtained the part we needed and fitted it – all in under four hours.  We can’t praise and thank this company enough!  We got back on the road, but decided not to tempt fate and headed straight back to Clevedon!

The next few days were mainly taken up with knitting for the upcoming sale, but first, we attended the “Last Night of the Proms”, Clevedon-style!  It was a lot of fun, and we thoroughly enjoyed joining in the very loud rendition of Land of Hope & Glory!

On Saturday morning, we loaded up our sale items and headed to the Clevedon Community Centre for the sale.  The weather wasn’t very nice, which was unfortunate, as neither I nor my nephew, Will, made many sales.  Ah well, there is a craft fair at the beginning of November, which Mum is going to, so she will put my items on her stall – watch this space!

On Sunday, Mum and Will headed off to a car boot sale, so we spent the morning watching Outlander.  We had heard so much about this show, and having just spent two months travelling around Scotland, we thought that maybe it was about time!  We got part way through the first season, so we still have quite a way to go!

Monday was a treat day for Moray – we drove over to Cardiff to the IMAX theatre to see Bladerunner 2049.  All I will say is that Moray thoroughly enjoyed it!!!  And that I get to pick the next film…. [Moray’s Note:  It was freakin’ AWESOME]

We are now entering the last two weeks of our trip, and still have people to see and places to go.  Thank you so much to my Mum, who has given us use of her car as – yay! – we sold ours this morning for the same price that we bought it for!  It was the perfect solution for our travels around England, Scotland and Wales as we would do the same thing again if we decide to spend an extended period exploring another country.

From Sheds to Sheilings

August has been a very busy month!  Part of the reason for coming back this summer was to help Moray’s cousin, Angus, work on the remodel of his croft, Sunrise.  As is always the way of these things, planning permission for the major remodel has not yet been forthcoming, but there were still plenty of projects to work on!  So for the majority of the month, we split our time between staying with Moray’s Mum and staying at Sunrise.

Just to give you an idea, here are some of the projects we worked on with Angus and Paulette:

Building a shed (with a chainsaw)

Building a bed (with a chainsaw… seeing a pattern? 🙂 )

Giving a new lease of life to a garden seat, by repainting the metal frame and replacing the rotten boards

Digging a drainage ditch to allow the shed wall to dry out

The walls of the croft were built with stone and lime mortar.  At some point, someone had repointed using cement, which looks ugly and also allows damp to be retained in the walls.  Over the years, this has become a problem, so the job was to remove that cement and prepare the walls for Angus to repoint with lime mortar.

Of course, it hasn’t all been working!  Alongside sleeping late, scrabble, backgammon and knitting clubs, time was spent traveling.  I went to Pennan with Moray’s mum while moray was helping his brother with a kitchen rebuild.  Pennan is a pretty little coastal town on the Aberdeenshire North coast.

When Moray came back from helping his brother he made a batch of home brew which he set aside to be ready when we returned from Edinburgh.

We were then off for a long weekend in Edinburgh, attending The Fringe and The Tattoo.  We camped in the car at the Festival Campsite, run by Camping Ninja.  This group sets up campsites for most of the major festivals in the UK and is very well organized.  There are great facilities and it was right on a bus route, so we could avoid the astronomical parking fees at the festival.  Of course, it also meant that we could both have a drink or two…..

We arrived at the campsite around 1pm, enjoyed our welcome beer, and then set off by bus to take in some of the Free Fringe Festival Acts.  Most of the acts are in little rooms in various pubs and clubs or in the streets, and last about an hour.  The first one we saw was “Pottervision!”  – two young guys who re-enacted the whole of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” – just the two of them, using various props.  It was absolutely hilarious!  After that, we saw Erich McElroy, a stand-up comedian.  He’s an American living in London, and he gave a really funny account of how he was treated by his English friends and acquaintances when Trump was elected!  Finally, we were lucky enough to see Stephen Bailey’s “Can’t Think Straight” show.  Trust me, if you get a chance to see him, do it!

We took the bus back to the campsite and headed to the Big Tepee.  There were a couple of the acts staying there, and they were giving free previews to try to drum up attendance. (There are lots of acts that are free at the festival, but they rely on contributions after the show to pay their expenses).  There was a reason that they needed to drum up business, but it was fun to watch them!

One of the funniest things we saw in the streets was Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour.  All the people on the tour had on headphones and were tied into Guru Dudu’s waist mounted sound system.  He was a able to talk or play music to all the people and all other festival goers could hear nothing.  Its hilarious watching about 60 people all singing and dancing with no music to hear…

The next morning, we got the bus back into Edinburgh and spent the morning walking around, seeing the sights.  It is a beautiful city and with the street artists for the festival, was a really fun thing to do.  The first act we saw turned out to be our favourite of the Festival, Harriet Braine’s “Total Eclipse of the Art”.  She has very cleverly rewritten the words for popular songs, to accompany her “lecture” on various artists and famous paintings.  She is also a talented mimic, and her Kate Bush meets Edith Piaf needs to be seen to be believed!  We were really disappointed that she only had an hour!

Our next act wasn’t great, so we left and headed to another that had received great reviews.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t agree but it was one of the few events with a closed door, so we were stuck with it for the full hour – ah well, as they say, you get what you pay for…..

We had a couple of hours to kill before the next show we had selected, so we headed to Il Castello, for a superb Italian meal, before taking in Kate Butch’s show – and yes, I have spelled that correctly.  It was a great drag show, but we knew we would need to leave just before the end in order to get to our main reason for being in Edinburgh – the Tattoo.  We had been lucky enough to get tickets for the very last show for the year, and were very excited when we took our seats.  It started right on time, as you would expect with a Military event.  It was absolutely fantastic – military marching bands from around the world, including one from France who played Daft Punk songs and had the two pipers in crash helmets!  We joined in the singing of Auld Lang Syne, hands linked all around the arena.  The Scottish dancers were amazing and the light shows playing off the Castle walls were wonderful, but the stars of the show had to be the pipe bands, and especially, the lone piper on the Castle battlements to close the show.  It was an absolutely amazing experience!

We slept a bit late on Sunday, before heading back towards Turriff.  On the way we stopped of at Dunnotar Castle to see the beautiful scenery.

When we got back to Turriff, we spent an anxious couple of days watching the plight of our former home in Houston.  My heart goes out to all those who have lost so much, but I am very grateful that our friends all appear to have been spared.

We split the next few days between relaxing and working at Sunrise, before setting off on our next adventure.  Moray’s Mum was born in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, and a few years ago, he, his brother Ken and his Mum, spent a few days there, visiting the island and learning more about their roots.

Our first stop was Drumnadrochit, on Loch Ness, to take a look at the ruins of Urqhart Castle.

Then we walked the Abriachan Trails.  The views were incredible.

Next we went to Fort William, to look at the Caledonian Canal and Neptune’s Staircase.  This is a staircase lock comprising eight locks on the Caledonian Canal. It was built by Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822 and it’s the longest staircase lock in Britain and it makes up some of the 29 locks on the Caledonian Canal.  Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the locks were closed for the night so we did not get to see them in operation but it is still a pretty interesting place to visit.

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View down the staircase

We drove into Fort William for a birthday dinner at The Tavern, before driving to Loch Linnhe.  There was a lay-by at the side of the loch, where we parked up for the night.

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On Thursday morning, we awoke to a glorious day and a beautiful view.  We drove just down the road to a café, where we ate a lovely breakfast before heading towards Skye.

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On the way, we stopped at Eilean Donan Castle, an ancient castle at the Kyle of Lochalsh.

After a brief stop, we got back on the road and headed across the bridge to Skye.  Our first stop was the pretty little town of Portree.

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Next stop was our main reason for stopping on Skye – to walk the Quiraing.  The walk was really hard work – steep hills, very windy and soggy underfoot.  We made it to the top, where we were disappointed to find that there wasn’t much of a view at the top because of the clouds.

Short video showing the vista at the Quiriang…

We needn’t have worried – we only needed to wait a few minutes before the clouds cleared, the sun came out – and so did the views….

It’s turning into a broken record but the views were indescribable.  We drove to the Ferry Terminal in Uig where we found a safe place to spend the night.

We had Tesco’s quiche and salad for dinner and then headed to the bar at the Ferry Terminal.  While we were there, we saw a flyer for the Blas Festival, which is an annual celebration of Gaelic culture and music that takes place over the Highlands of Scotland in early September.  We found that there would be a Ceilidh in Tarbert the next night.  As our ferry arrived in Tarbert the next afternoon, we went on-line and bought tickets.

The next morning was a fairly lazy one, of coffee in the local café while waiting to board the ferry for the short trip over to Tarbert on Harris.  Right on time, at 2pm, the ferry departed.

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all aboard!

Our first stop on Harris was the Ferry Terminal offices, where they have public showers.  The shower was clean, the water was hot and plentiful – and only 50p.  Duly refreshed, we started our tour of Harris, the south end of Harris and Lewis.  We drove to Luskentyre to see the beach at high tide, before heading to Scalpay where the Ceilidh was to be.

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Luskentyre at high tide

We found the community centre and a place to spend the night, and headed round to the only restaurant in town.  Although they were busy, they said they would be able to fit us in, which was great as the food smelled delicious.  Unfortunately, they then said that they only accept cash and we didn’t have enough on us.  So we drove back to Tarbert and had dinner at the Hebrides Hotel.  While we were eating, several other tables were talking to the waitress about that evening’s Ceilidh – it turns out that this was THE event of the month and everyone was going to be there, including all the bar staff!  So we headed back to Scalpay.  The Ceilidh was to be a joint event to celebrate the 80th birthday of local lady, Morag McLeod, as well as the Blas Festival.  There were a couple of tables of food, along with the cheapest bar we have seen in a while!  The first few hours were the birthday celebration, with local artists performing songs and playing the accordion and guitar.  The music was fantastic, even though we didn’t understand any of the words as it was all in Gaelic!  After the birthday celebration, all the tables were pushed back to the walls and the band set up – an accordion, a guitar and bagpipes.  The music was great and most people got up and danced.  I was even pulled up on to the dance floor by one of the local ladies and, while I can’t say I danced, I was guided around the dance floor to the Gay Gordon!  It was a fantastic evening, which wrapped up around 1:30am.  We didn’t have far to go as we were sleeping in the car park!

We spent Saturday exploring Harris by car.  We went back to Luskentyre to walk the beach from the north side.

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Debbie is the dot on the beach near the right hand side

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Next we drove to Leverburgh, the plan being to get lunch at the famous Butty Bus.  Typical – it was closed that day!!  We were a bit disappointed but found a Co-op which was well supplied so we bought enough stuff to feed us for a couple of days, before carrying on round the coast to Rodel.  This is where we found St. Clements Church, which was built for the chieftains of the McLeod clan.

After visiting the church, we sat next to the harbour at Rodel and had a picnic lunch

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harbour at Rodel with the hotel in the background

Then we headed back up the east coast of Harris, along the Golden Road, so called because it cost so much to build!  We went right the way round the southern part of island, then back across the isthmus to the northern end of the island.

We stopped at Glen Meavaig, walked up to the North Harris Eagle Observatory, and then continued on to Loch Voshimid, a 9 mile round trip.  There were a couple of people fly fishing in the loch, but we didn’t see anyone catch anything.

After the walk we needed another shower, so we popped back to Tarbert, cleaned up and then headed back to Huisinis (pronounced Hushinish), where we planned to spend the night.  The drive around the mountain was a bit hair-raising, but well worth it.  We even saw 5 deer on the way.  We discovered on arrival, that three days before, a new facility had been opened up for tourists.  There was plenty of parking, recycling bins, toilets, and (from 8am to 8pm), a shower block, more toilets and a viewing room, with picnic tables and double glazing.  The story behind the need for the facility is that with the growth in popularity of campervans, tourists had been blocking the access for the local crofters, and, I’m sorry to say, leaving rubbish lying around.  There had been public toilets before, but in the summer, the demand on the local water supply had been so much that they had been forced to bring water in by road.  Obviously, this wasn’t good for anyone, so first, the locals got together and installed two wind turbines, which supplied power to the area and provided an income by selling off the surplus.  That income, together with grants, provided the £270,000 needed to build the new centre.

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inside the new camping facility overlooking the beach

After a very windy night, with the car rocking almost as much as Sol Purpose, we awoke to some strange sounds.  On looking out of the window, we saw several highland cows and sheep!  They had wandered down from the hills above into the car park and were just wandering around!

It was pouring with rain for most of the day, so we decided to just stay put, making the most of the viewing room.  We read books, chatted with the intrepid bikers and walkers who showed up, and generally enjoyed the views.

On Monday morning, we headed out from Huisinis, and started to investigate the west coast, which has several historic sites.  We drove to see the Calanais (pronounced Callanish) standing stones.  Although not as well-known as Stonehenge, these standing stones are older.  Again, unlike Stonehenge, the stones are not really a circle, but more of a cross.  No one really knows what their purpose was, but they are very impressive.  It was initially a stone circle, a small chambered tomb was added later and the the cross was added still later.

Our next stop was the Carloway Broch.  This is the remains of an ancient homestead, probably of a powerful family, built on several levels.

The weather was a bit unsettled, so we took a side trip to Stornaway, the biggest town in Lewis, to visit the museum at Lews Castle.

The museum describes life in the islands from pre-history through the present day.  They make great use of oral histories, which brings it very much to life.  We spent several hours looking round the museum, before heading over to the west coast of Lewis and Great Bernera.  Bosta, at the north end of this island is home to the second of five of the time and tide bells installed by Marcus Vergette in 2010.

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time and tide bell in the distance

Right next to the bell was a recreation of an iron age house on a site where 4 were found.

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iron age house showing how they dug the entrance partially below ground level and partially walled to protect the entrance from winds

That evening we had dinner at the Doune Braes hotel restaurant.  There was a film crew making a movie there, but we weren’t able to find out much about it.  So after dinner, we headed to our stop for the night – Adroil, near Uig (Moray note: there is an Uig on Skye and Lewis).  This is the place where, in the 1800s, a beachcomber discovered a set of Norse chesspieces which became known as the Lewis Chessmen.  This was a beautiful beach with a lovely campsite, providing clean showers, toilets and trash cans.  All this for £2 per person per night!  It was already getting dark, so we parked up and settled in for the night.

The next morning, we took advantage of the lovely showers, before checking out the coast and beaches around the area.

Then we carried on up the west coast to check out some more of the sites.  During the drive, we marveled at how beautiful but bleak the scenery was.  The people who live and farm here must be a hardy breed!  This was borne out when we visited the Black House Village.  This was an inhabited village until about the 1970s, but was abandoned when the last inhabitants moved out.  Recently, the village has been restored.  Two of the houses are now a museum, while the rest can be rented out as holiday accommodation.  One of the highlights was watching a weaver making traditional Harris Tweed.

The loom was fully operational and the weaver was working when we were there…

We continued on up the west coast, visiting a few more sites, such as the Whalebone Arch,

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and a huge monolith

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and a Norse Mill, which has been reconstructed.  Unlike most mills there was never a vertical wheel.  The water was diverted under the mill and passed a paddle wheel directly connected to the mill stone.

Finally, we arrived at the most northern tip of the island, the Butt of Lewis.  Aside from the couple of hurricanes I have unfortunately experienced, this is probably the windiest place I have ever been!

We also visited the town of Ness, before heading down to New Tolsta where we planned to spend the next couple of nights.  The following day was another wet one, so we spent the morning reading and watching the locals show up to walk their dogs on the beach.

There was a break in the weather, so we decided to walk the Bridge to Nowhere, and take a look at the waterfall.  We were very lucky in that the rain held off the whole time we walked.  Almost as soon as got back to the car park, the heavens opened again, so we went back to reading!

Thursday was our final day in the Outer Hebrides.  We drove to Stornoway and got showers at the local YMCA.  As it was raining, we popped into a café and, while we enjoyed cappuccino and hot chocolate, we made use of the internet to catch up on the news and contact the boatyard who are caring for Sol Purpose.  At this point she is in the line of fire of Irma, though it is always possible that Irma will turn inland and we will dodge a bullet.  Not so much for our poor friends in Florida, and our thoughts are with them at this terrible time.

We took a drive out to see the memorial for the Iolaire disaster.  On January 1, 1919, a ship was heading back to Lewis, carrying 280 passengers, most of whom were servicemen returning from the war.  There was a terrible storm and the Iolaire got off course.  She ran aground on some rocks called the Beasts of Holm, just a few yards off shore.  One man, John McLeod, managed to swim to shore towing a heaving line, and it was used to guide some 40 of the passengers to shore.  However, the seas were dreadful, most of the passengers couldn’t swim, and several were weighed down by their heavy uniforms.  Over 200 people died, and some villages lost all their young men.  The monument is very moving.

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not the best weather for a walk.  The beasts of Holm can be seen between Debbie and the monument.  Now there is a navigational aid mounted there.

We headed back into Stornaway, and checked in for our ferry crossing the next day.  Then we went to the Royal Hotel, which has a restaurant called The Boatshed.  We had a superb meal there which was a great end to our trip.  Then we headed out for drinks at a local pub and then to the car park behind the ferry terminal where we could safely spend the night.

We were up at 5:30am to catch the 7am ferry to Ullapool.  The crossing took 2 ½ hours and was uneventful.  On arrival, we had a nice breakfast in Ullapool at the Frigate Café (sausages, bacon, egg, haggis, black pudding, hash browns).  Then we had a leisurely drive back to Turriff where we are now relaxing while the laundry is washing!

Quite a month!

UK or Bust

When I last wrote an entry, I said that my next blog would be all about our UK trip, as all we had to do was move the boat and head for the airport.  The best laid plans etc., etc. – on Friday morning, the plan was to take Sol Purpose to the pump out station and the fuel dock, before heading to the boatyard.  I would drive there, while Moray would single hand the boat.  We settled up with the marina, started the engine, and left the slip.  Just as we turned into the fairway, the motor died.  Moray started it up again and we headed toward the pump out dock.  We had just made the turn, when the motor died again, leaving us drifting toward the railway bridge.  Unfortunately, in an effort to be efficient on arrival at the pump out dock, we had moved all the spare anchor chain in the anchor locker onto the primary anchor chain so we could get to the pump out deck fitting, so now we couldn’t drop the anchor.  And of course, we had removed all the sails to storage for the summer, so we now had no means of propulsion and no brakes!  Moray was trying to get someone’s attention to help us, while I took the wheel and tried to steer the boat away from the bridge.  We realized that we still had some control over the direction, so between us we managed to get into a slip, and get Sol Purpose safely tied up.  Moray immediately took a look at the engine to try to figure out what had happened.  Before long everything was fixed – just a couple of pipe clamps tightened a little too much on the new fuel lines he had just finished installing.  This caused the fuel pipes to be restricted.  With much relief, we started the motor and headed to the pump out station!

Moray took the wheel and drove the boat down the river to Wayfarers Marina, where Sol Purpose was lifted out of the water and onto the stands where she will spend the summer.  We packed bags for the trip home and then headed to our Air BnB for the night.  The next day, we went back to the boatyard, to complete a few final tasks.  I cleaned the now defrosted fridge and freezer, while Moray worked on some repairs to the prop shaft.  It was very hot in the boat, and the work was tough, but eventually everything was done.  We spoke with the boatyard manager and a craftsman there to organize work that would be carried out while we were in the UK.  This included the repair to the skeg, new bottom paint and some small gelcoat repairs.  We then headed back to the Air BnB.  Sunday morning saw one final trip to the boatyard to wrap things up and secure the boat, before heading to the airport to pick up a rental car.  Then it was back to get an early night as we would have a long day the next day.

Monday morning, at 5:30am, we began the long drive to New York.  We took turns at the wheel, and arrived at around 4pm, dropped off the car and checked in for our flight.  Of course, it was delayed, but not too long, and by 8pm we were on our way to Brussels.  We arrived at around 7:30am, picked up our bags and stowed them in an airport luggage locker.  Then we took a train into Brussels to spend the day sightseeing.  We didn’t have a huge amount of time, and we were very tired after the traveling, so we didn’t do too much, but we enjoyed seeing the Manneken Pis and his sister, the Jeanneke Pis!  Something caught Moray’s eye, in the same area as Jeanekke Pis was a Space Invaders Pis!!

We stopped for a Belgian beer or two, while people watching in the town square.  We walked around a beautiful park, and had a picnic lunch.

Finally, we bought some Belgian chocolates, before getting the train back to the airport.  Right on time, our flight to Bristol departed and by 10:30pm, we were at Mum’s house in Clevedon.

We had a relatively lazy day on Wednesday.  Mum had a list of tasks for each of us, so we researched what was needed to complete them.  We also started looking on Gumtree for a vehicle.  Our first thought was to get a campervan, but those proved to be far too expensive, so we started looking for an estate car that would be big enough for us to sleep in.  In the meantime, Mum kindly insured us to drive her car so we would have transport.

The next day, Mum dropped us off in Clifton, and we went on a trip down Memory Lane (for me, that is!)  First we walked through Clifton, where I used to work, then down Park Street, stopping off at Browns for a cold drink.  Next we went to Bristol Museum, and saw Alfred and the Gypsy Caravan.  The next stop was Brandon Hill and the Cabot Tower, which Moray climbed to see the great views of Bristol.  Then it was time to head to the Waterfront.  Since I left, the whole area has been revitalized and now is a bustling area with restaurants and bars.  We had a lovely dinner, sitting watching the boats, before heading to Avery’s.  I had found that there was a classic film festival going on and had bought tickets to see Casablanca in Avery’s wine cellars.  We were really excited about this, which was a shame, as the film was actually being shown on Friday!  Luckily, Mum was still in Bristol, so we called her and then headed to the Llandoger Trow and had a drink while we waited for her come and pick us up!  This is a pub that has been open near the waterfront since 1664.

After a quiet day working on our task list, Mum took us into Bristol and we went for a meal before round two of trying to see Casablanca.  This time we had it right!  We were welcomed with a glass of Prosecco, before heading into the candlelit cellars to watch the film.  A representative of the film festival gave us some interesting details about the film, before handing over to the Avery’s representative.  He explained that the film would be stopped at a number of places, and we would then be given a glass of wine from a country related to the film.  We had four glasses – one each from America, France, Germany and Casablanca (which is in Chile!).  We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and will be signing up for another when we get back to Bristol!  Once the movie was over, we headed to the bus stop to get the bus back to Clevedon.  The bus was late, but it was not a big deal as we met the Nailsea Nutters – a great group of older gentlemen who all meet up at a pub on Friday evening, have a few drinks and then ride back home on the bus.  They sang songs all the way home!

We spent most of the weekend working on our task lists.  Mine was easy – all knitting and crochet based.  Moray’s was much more difficult and involved building shelves in the pantry, the kitchen and the bathroom, as well as hanging mirrors and mounting a TV on the wall.

On Monday, Mum, Moray and I took the train from Yatton into Bath.  First stop, straight off the train was a coffee shop which is manned by, and in support of, people with autism.  Then we walked around Bath, looking at the Roman Baths (outside only!), and Bath Abbey, before heading to Sally Lunns Bun shop for lunch.  After lunch, we walked across Pulteney Bridge, past the Weir, and over to the Royal Crescent, before heading back to the train.  Bath is a beautiful city, and we hope to spend a bit more time there later in our trip.

Our next trip was to visit my aunt Chris and her husband Bryn in Ross on Wye.  After coffee, a chat, and a haircut for Mum (!), we all jumped in the cars and took a drive through the Forest of Dean to Symonds Yat.  There is a lovely pub on the river bank, right by a working ferry crossing.  It is fascinating to watch the ferry as it is pulled across the river by hand.  After a lovely pub lunch, we drove a little further up the road to Symonds Yat rock.  This is a huge rock, where the views are amazing.

Mum left on Sunday for a week’s holiday in Germany with my nieces and one of my nephews so we decided to travel a little farther afield for our sightseeing while she was away.  On Monday, we drove over to Cardiff to do a little shopping, including looking at a car.  We had arranged to see a car at 6pm, so went to St Fagans for the afternoon.  This is a park with a castle, and over 40 buildings which have been moved from various parts of Wales to St Fagans as a museum of Welsh history and culture.  There is a mill, a tannery, a number of farms and shops.  Our favourite buildings were the weaver’s workshop and the terraced ironworkers houses.  The former has someone taking the wool through the whole process (after the shearing), through to woven blankets and shawls.  The loom was huge and very complicated to work, but fascinating to watch.  Each of the houses in the terrace is decorated differently, starting with the fashion of the period when the row was built, and then progressing along the row to the 1970’s, when the row was moved to St. Fagans.  It was really interesting, but a bit odd to see a house furnished exactly like my grandmother’s house!

After a few hours walking around the park, it was time to head to Caerphilly to view the car.  We had already seen a few other cars, but this was the one we liked, so we made a call to get insurance in order that we could take it home.  We ran across a by now familiar problem, in that the insurance company couldn’t accept a foreign credit card (and while I had opened a bank account, my cards had not yet arrived).  Disappointed but not too bothered, we paid a deposit and headed home to Clevedon.

The next day, we set out reasonably early to drive to Donington, to visit Moray’s sister, Jane and her partner, David.  Moray’s brother and sister-in-law, Ken and Lorraine, had been on holiday touring  England, and had arrived the day before.  After coffee, we had a tour of the wonderful house and garden.

We then drove to the Royal Horticulture Society’s gardens at Wisley.  There, we met up with Moray’s uncle, Alistair and his friend Pam.  Moray hasn’t seen Alistair since he was about six weeks old, so it was quite a meeting!  After a wonderful roam around the beautiful gardens, we headed back to Jane and David’s for a wonderful dinner of BBQ and home grown vegetables.

After a late start on Wednesday, we headed off to Caerphilly to buy the car.  We had found that it is possible to get car insurance for 24 hours to cover test driving and buying cars.  While it wasn’t ideal, it meant that we would at least be able to get the car home to Clevedon, while waiting for my debit and credit cards to arrive.  Everything went smoothly, and Moray drove the Ford Mondeo Estate back, while I drove Mum’s car.  Once back, we went to the Post Office to tax it, which entailed rushing to an ATM to get cash because, surprise, surprise, the Post Office couldn’t accept a US credit card!

On Saturday, July 22, we took our next road trip.  We had hoped to be able to use our car, but luckily, we were able to use Mum’s.  First we drove down the M5, then headed on to the B-roads across Dartmoor.  Moray thoroughly enjoyed driving on the small country roads, as well as the great views across the Moor.  At one point, we had to stop as our road was blocked by a Dartmoor pony!  When we came to a halt, the pony came up to the car, obviously expecting to get a treat.  Moray wound down the window to take a picture and the pony reached into the car itself.  It was hilarious! [Moray Note: until it started chewing the windscreen wiper lever!]

That encounter over, we continued across Dartmoor, past the prison, to another landmark – Jamaica Inn.  We stopped at the Inn for lunch, but I must admit to being a bit disappointed.  I had visited the Inn about 30 years before and loved it, but over the years, it has become much more commercialized, and there were a couple of coach loads of people there.

Then it was back to the country lanes, heading for Port Isaac, which is called Port Wenn in the TV series, Doc Martin.  We saw the buildings used as Doc Martin’s house, the school and the pharmacy.

After a short time there, we headed to Mount Hawke, where my Aunty Joan and Uncle Brian live.

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Aunty Joan welcomed us with a traditional Cornish cream tea – a cup of tea, and a scone, smeared with jam, then clotted cream.  (If you reverse the cream and jam, it is a Devon cream tea!)  After tea and a chat, we drove down to a nearby town, St Agnes.  Uncle Brian’s sister-in-law and nephew live in St. Agnes, and they came out to visit with us, bringing coffee, cake and a jar of honey, which we enjoyed, while sitting on a bench overlooking the harbour.  Then it was back to Mount Hawke for dinner.

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St. Agnes

You may well have noticed a recurring theme in this blog – every time we get to someone’s house, or reach a town, coffee/tea and cake seem to appear.  We are going to be huge by the time we get back to Sol Purpose!

Early on Sunday morning, Moray and I headed off to another nearby town, called Porthtowan via some abandoned tin mines which are prolific in the surrounding countryside.

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There is a popular surfer’s beach in Porthtowan, so we sat having breakfast, watching people arriving to surf.  Moray was really interested in one house, which is a converted tin mine.

After a traditional Sunday lunch, we said goodbye to Joan and Brian, and took the motorway back to Bristol.  We had intended attending the closing event of the Harbourside festival but as it was pouring with rain, we decided to head straight back to Clevedon.  And finally, we had fish and chips for dinner!

We spent Monday getting the car ready for our trip.  I bought a black bed sheet, and Moray got hold of some cardboard boxes.  We cut out blackout covers for each of the windows, and covered them with the black sheet.  We bought an inflatable bed and pump which fits perfectly in the back of the Mondeo, so we were all set.  On Monday evening, Mum got back from her holiday, arriving at Tracy’s house at around 8:30pm so we drove over and picked her up. We finally managed to get our car insurance sorted out, so we were now all set to start the next stage of our trip.

On Tuesday morning, we said goodbye to Mum and headed away from Clevedon towards Oxford.  We parked in the Park & Ride and took a bus into the town to spend a few hours sightseeing.  We saw the School of Divinity, which was used as the Infirmary in the Harry Potter movies.  We ate lunch at a lovely old pub, just next door to Diagon Alley!  We spent a couple of hours walking along the Canal, looking at the narrow boats.  We stopped to chat with one of the boat owners, and learned a lot of interesting information about the logistics and costs of canal boating in the UK.

After leaving Oxford, we headed towards Letchworth, in Hertfordshire.  The reason for visiting is this is the home of St Christopher’s School, the boarding school where Moray spent 6 years of his childhood.  We walked around as much of the school as possible, reminiscing about the good, bad and naughty times he had there!  As the school is closed for the holidays, we decided that we would spend the night in the back of the car in the school car park!  Obviously, there are no toilets there, so we forced ourselves to go to a local pub, have a drink and, thus felt justified in using their bathroom.  Then we parked in school car park, put the window screens in and turned in for our first night in the car.

We spent a remarkably comfortable night, and slept well, though of course, we woke up when the sun rose at about 6am!  We headed straight to Tesco, where there was a Costa Coffee and bathrooms!  After a delicious coffee, and picking up some lunch, we drove to Stamford.  This is a beautiful old town where several period dramas have been filmed, for example Middlemarch.  While walking along the river bank, we met a pike fisherman, who regaled us with all sorts of interesting stories!

Then we continued our journey northwards, across the Yorkshire moors to Tebay service station in the Lake District.  We had researched places to stay overnight, and found that newer motorway service stations, have to offer shower facilities and a place to park overnight.  We parked up and immediately made use of the free showers.  We then paid our £10 fee to spend the night, before going to their café and picking up some pies for dinner.  Then we moved the car a little farther away from the petrol station before settling in for the night.

The next morning, we had breakfast, bought some lunch from the Farm Shop, checked the air in the tyres, and then headed back to the road.  We drove to Falkirk, where we had two sights to see.   First we went to the Kelpies.  These are two gigantic sculptures of horses’ heads.  I must admit, I hadn’t been too enthusiastic, but they are spectacular!  After a while walking round the sculptures, we headed to the Falkirk Wheel.  This is an amazing feat of engineering, which is the only one of its kind in the world.  Rather than have a series of locks to move people up and down the canal, there is what I can only describe as a ferris wheel with a bucket at the bottom and the top.  The boats travel into the buckets, and the wheel moves round.  I’m not explaining this well, but maybe the pictures will help!  It is also possible to spend the night in the car park, for a fee of £15, which includes access to bathrooms and showers.  That all taken care of, we headed out to dinner at the Wheelhouse, before heading back to the Kelpies.  Although the Kelpies were fabulous during the day, we had heard that at night, they are illuminated.  Moray wanted to try to get some night pictures.  We got there far too early, so went for a walk until it started to get dark, at around 10:15pm!  It was worth the wait, as you will see from the pictures.  Pictures successfully obtained, we headed back to the Wheel car park, to settle in for the night.

After making use of the shower facilities, we left the Falkirk Wheel at 10am and drove to Balmoral.  We spent a few hours looking around the Castle and grounds.  These were absolutely beautiful, as we were there just a few days before the Royal Family were due to arrive, and the fruit and vegetables are timed to be ready just when they arrive!

Our journey was almost done, but first we stopped off in Aberdeen to see Sarah, Martin and new baby Amira.  We had a lovely visit and took lots of pictures before setting off, finally, to Turriff, to stay with Moray’s Mum.

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Amira, a genuinely beautiful baby!

On Saturday morning, we headed to Crossfields, to have coffee with Moray’s Aunt and Uncle, Fiona and Robert.  While there, Fiona showed me the yarn-bombed bicycle which had been put together for the CLAN booth at the Turriff show.  There were a couple of uncovered spots on the bicycle, so I crocheted a couple of flowers to add to the wheels!

On Sunday, July 30, we went to the Turriff show.  This is my first time at an agricultural show!  It was interesting, but would have been better if it hadn’t been pouring with rain!

We had planned to meet up with our friend, PB, but that didn’t happen.  No worries, as we got hold of him and met him and his friend, Scott, at the pub later that evening.  As the Turriff show is a huge annual event, the pub was absolutely packed, so most people were actually outside with their drinks.  We stayed for a while and then went back to Scott’s house for a while, before heading home.

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From left to right, Moray, Debs, PB and Scott

The next morning, we stopped off at the bakery where we purchased a baker’s dozen of rowies, before returning to Scott’s house for breakfast.  After a wonderful breakfast of bacon rolls and rowies, we said farewell to PB and the children, who were soon to head home to Calgary, before heading back to the Turriff show.  This time the weather was much better, and we got to see show jumping, Clydesdales, golden sheep and the Highland dancing competition.

It has been a great month – great sightseeing, great visits with friends and family, and a car purchase.   Below is a link to the path traveled so far…

https://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=19232174

We are now working on the next thrilling installment…..

USEXIT (aka BRentrance!)

The adjustment to the Code 0 done in record time by Mack Sails, we set out on Wednesday, May 17th, to head back to New Bern, NC.  The original plan was to go out through the St Lucie Inlet, but the conditions didn’t look favourable, so we headed back up the ICW to Fort Pierce.  We went out through the Fort Pierce Inlet at about 3:30pm and headed out towards the Gulf Stream.  With high winds and lumpy seas, the ride was not as comfortable as we had hoped, and we considered heading back in to Cape Canaveral.  We decided against that, as we would be arriving after dark, and while it was uncomfortable, we felt safe.  The worst thing was that the autopilot wasn’t able to handle the conditions, so we manually steered.  This meant that instead of our normal three hour shifts, we took one hour shifts.  From Wednesday night to Friday morning, we were able to make good headway under sail alone, helped by the Gulf Stream current, but at about 4:30am on Friday, the winds died, so we motored until 2am on Saturday, when we started to motorsail.  At 10:30am, we entered the Beaufort Inlet.  There were lots of boats headed out for a day on the water, many of whom turned right round and went back in when they realized how rough it was out there!  We were getting anxious that we might not make it to New Bern – so near but so far – but right at 5pm, we pulled into a slip in New Bern Grand Marina.  We had covered 534 miles in just over 75 hours which meant we were covering 173 miles a day, or an average of 7.2 knots, which we were very happy with.

We connected the power and water, went to Bayleaf Indian Restaurant, one of our favorite restaurants in New Bern, to pick up a takeout, and then settled in for a good night’s sleep.

The reason for being in New Bern was to take care of several projects before hauling the boat out and storing her for the summer, while we go home for 4 months.  These included…

  1. Remove and replace the 2 water tanks, one with a plastic water tank and the other with an aluminum tank for diesel.
  2. Plumb boat for shore water so we could remove the tanks.
  3. Autopilot drive unit replacement.
  4. Replace anchor 1 ton shackles with 2 ton shackles.
  5. Investigate blockage in forward sink.
  6. Installation of a breaker for the solar panels so that they could be turned off when on shore power.
  7. Pickle watermaker for the summer.
  8. Service PeekaBooo shades.
  9. Replace the overhead hatch and install a recessed screen for the forward cabin
  10. Clean all stainless.
  11. Clean all teak.
  12. Organize flights/cars for travel to the UK

Most of the time here has been work, work, work, but we have managed to get in a few fun things.  First of all, the marina provides cable TV to each boat, so we were able to watch the live coverage of the America’s Cup.  It was amazing to see, and now we are waiting to hear the schedule, so we can start working on our plan to visit the southern hemisphere in 4 years’ time!

We took the opportunity to renew our CPR/AED first aid certifications, both because it is always good to refresh your skills, but also because it is a useful certification to have when applying for volunteer positions which we hope to do next summer.

We also visited the local Escape Room one Saturday evening.  Along with another group of 4, we had an hour to solve the clues to escape from the office of the serial killer doctor, who wanted to add us to his list of victims!  It was a lot of fun, and I am happy to report that we escaped with over 15 minutes to spare!

Now we are getting very close to hauling the boat out.  We have rented a storage unit to house the items that will be better stored in air conditioning, and the fridge/freezer is all but empty.  To prepare Sol Purpose for hurricane season, the sails have all been washed, dried and stowed, and the bimini cover and dodger have been removed.  On Friday, we will move Sol Purpose to Wayfarer’s Cove Marina (we are praying that the water level will come up a little so that we can get in!), and haul her out of the water, so that she can be cleaned, painted and repaired.  We will spend the weekend working on the repairs, while staying in an Airbnb nearby.  Then, (at last!) we will be driving up to Newark, to fly home.  4 months in the UK – here we come!

We will write a couple of blogs while in the UK as we travel.  We intend to buy a second hand camper van to tour around the country which we will then try to sell before we leave.  This will help with hotel costs and give us more freedom to explore.

One last thing, we have to give a huge shout out to Bob ad Clare, who lent us their brand new truck while they were in Bermuda for the Americas Cup.  It was a major boon to us for everything from grocery shopping to getting us to our first aid training.  It’s great to know people like this when you are a cruiser.

Sol Purpose has no Sole (part one)

Back in January we had tried to convert one of the water tanks to a diesel tank to increase our motoring range.  Leaks in the tanks put a stop to this project.  We knew that the issue would have to be addressed eventually and so we have used our 6 week stay in New Bern to remove the cabin sole, remove both the old water tanks, measure them and have new tanks made.  As we are leaving to go to the UK for 4 months over the summer, I wanted to get as much of the work completed before we left so that we could hopefully take no more than 2 or 3 weeks to get it all installed and the sole back down before heading South in the fall.

The project had many issues to face, not the least of which was that the sole is fixed in placed and tabbed to the hull.  The furniture sitting on the sole would also have to be removed first as this is also tabbed into the hull.

It took half a day to remove the port settee “uprights”.  I did not want to remove the seating surface as this is what is tabbed to the hull behind the seat backs.  As the seating surface was supported at the hull, galley bulkhead and forward cabin bulkhead I was not concerned about leaving the settee this way over the summer.

The removal of the sole took another two days.  Firstly I removed the trim around the inspection hatches and then took the sockets for the table legs out.

With this done it was time to remove all the fittings and hoses from the tanks to make sure that, while cutting out the sole, I did not damage any of them.  I then used a jigsaw to cut out the sole above the tanks, removing as little sole as possible.  I had to cut two inches off the jigsaw blade so it would not bottom out on the top of the tanks.

The cross members that border the fore and aft edges of the tanks were not where I expected to find them.  I thought the forward member would be directly under the bulkhead between the salon and forward cabin but it was about 4 inches aft of this.  I expected the aft member would be under the bulkhead between the galley and the salon.  It was about 3 inches aft of this.  This caused 2 sets of problems.  The first was that the removal of the aft water tank was difficult as I could not pull it directly upwards due to the galley bulkhead overhang.  The second was that the sole was 1 inch thick and was comprised of a 3/4″ marine plywood sub-floor and a 1/4″ teak and holly plywood glued on to the sub-floor.  When replacing the teak and holly part of the floor I would have to line it up with the teak and holly sole that was not removed.  The original join between the teak and holly in each area was the doorway through to the forward cabin and the bulkhead between the galley and the salon.  I would therefore have to route down all the teak and holly above sub-floor that was not being removed in the salon area to bring it level with the new sub-floor.

With the sole removed, I was able to see that the tanks were held in place with spray foam which held the tanks away from the walls and off the hull.  Both tanks had fill holes in the top of the starboard walls.  This caused an issue with the aft tank removal and so I had to cut the fill off.  I wanted to have the fill holes in the top of the new tanks so this would not prove an issue on reinstallation.

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aft tank fill fitting removed

I now had to pry the old tanks out of the holes.  There was not enough room to get anything of any strength down the side of the tanks so I cut four slots in the top of each tank near the corners.  I was then able to insert a crowbar into these slots and pry the tanks out with the assistance of a car jack and fulcrum

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crowbar and slots

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technique to lift tanks out

With the tanks removed I could clean out the area beneath the tanks ready for the reinstallation of the new ones.  The space was surprisingly clean.  I had expected dead cockroaches and dust bunnies galore as the mast base drains through this area to the bilge but there was very little to clean up.

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Now that the tanks were out I was able to clean up all the edges, route down the teak and holly where required and cut and fit sections of wood to screw the new sub-floor into around the perimeter of the holes.  With this done I bought 2 pieces of 3/4″ marine plywood and cut them to fit the hole.  This was problematic as the hole was not rectangular due to the inability to make cuts where desired.

The sub-floor was screwed down temporarily to allow us to move around the  boat till the new tanks arrived.

The second major issue regarding the project was that I was not able to find a manufacturer that would custom fabricate a plastic tank for both the water and fuel tanks.  I had to order the fuel tank in aluminum which is not an issue as our existing aluminum tank is 22 years old and has no signs of pitting whatsoever.  Boyd Welding in Ocala, Florida took the order for the fuel tank and was very helpful through all stages of the process.  I sent them the original design drawings that I was able to get from George McCreary at Caliber Yachts.  I tweaked the drawings to reflect the fittings required for a diesel tank as opposed to the original water tank.

I did not want to make the water tank out of aluminum as this is what led to pitting in the original tanks.  I was able to order one made from polypropylene from Dura Weld in Lake Worth Florida.  They were also very helpful through the whole process.

We intend to haul the boat just before we head to the UK to get the crack in the skeg repaired and also get a bottom job done.  We will leave the boat on the hard until we return at the start of November.  Luckily Tom at Wayfarers Marina and Boatyard agreed to accept delivery of the tanks and store them in his warehouse until we return.

I spent the next week ordering all the hoses required for the new fuel tank along with all fittings.  I will run all hoses that I can before we leave.  I plan to install two 3-way fuel valves.  One will be used to choose which tank supplies fuel to the engine.  The other will be used to ensure that the fuel return line goes back to the same tank.  These will be attached under the inspection hatch for the aft fuel tank.

Part two of this project will be completed when we return from the UK…