I stayed at Wolverstone for two nights before I pottered up river and into Ipswich Dock via a lock. The lock is really easy as there is a floating pontoon on the inside meaning there is no need to adjust your lines as you either go up or down depending on the state of the tide. You simply tie up to the pontoon and wait for the green light to proceed. Lovely. Ipswich Haven Marina inside the dock is yet another favourite of mine and puts you right near the town of Ipswich and all that is going on yet it still feels really peaceful moored up in the perfectly calm water of the dock. As I approached the pontoon a kind gent took my bow line and I was later to learn that he is John, a 32 year old Californian who is the type of guy that you speak to and quickly realise that he can tell you how it’s really done! He and his girlfriend bought a 30ft boat when he was 24 and promptly set off on a round the world cruise. Having completed the journey safely this still wasn’t enough for them so they properly committed to eachother by getting married, having a baby and buying a bigger beautiful 1978 aluminium yacht which already has a round the world pedigree. They bought the boat in Holland and then sailed it to Ipswich where work to get it ready for their next adventure is well under way and that adventure is to ‘sail in circles’ as John put it in the vicinity of South America. Fair play to them. I think this is a fantastic example of what you can do if you dare to dream. And what a life of adventure their very young son is going to know right from the start.
I learned all this from having a few beers and whiskies onboard John’s boat with another chap called Benn who lives on his catamaran in the dock. Benn is also amid preparations to go to sea with his wife and their dog in the name of adventure and discovery. Before I knew it, we had been drinking and shooting the breeze for five hours or more! It was great and I absolutely love how three random people from different backgrounds can sit down together and talk sh*t for hours about a shared passion!
Sarah arrived on Saturday having made the shortest journey so far on this trip to see me. It also happened to be her birthday so as a surprise all my family also arrived on Saturday and we had a celebratory birthday lunch in great place on the side of the dock called Isaac Lord which is a pub, pizza parlour, restaurant, sports bar, wedding venue, pick up joint and pretty much anything else that you want it to be kind of place! It was also a day for running into familiar people as we bumped into two old family friends on the dockside and also Russ and his wife, Mrs A.
A complete surprise to me and very nice to see them both. We had a drink in Isaac Lord before Russ and Mrs A went off to someone else’s birthday party nearby although not before Russ demonstrated one of his born and bred South London life skills by picking up someone else’s bag assuming it was Sarah’s (in fairness it did look like a birthday party bag) as we moved from one small downstairs bar to the bigger upstairs area. No one noticed his stealthy manoeuvre and it was only when Russ presented it to Sarah and she looked at it blankly that Russ realised the error! Good work Russ! Despite receiving a surprise light fingering, the old bag was returned to the downstairs bar none the worse for wear. It was very funny!
My Mum, Joanna, James, Tom and Jack stayed for a few hours and then drove home leaving Sarah and I to chill out in the warm on Fiesta. However, I soon noticed that Sarah was starting to look a bit too comfortable and not for moving so I insisted that we go back to the bar for a few drinks inclusive of some shots, the imbibing of which is one of Sarah’s least favourite activities but it was her birthday so she really didn’t have a choice! Isaac Lord is a great place by day and a busy bar by night. They play the kind of music that no one of our age should really like and yet many of the clientele are in their late thirties or even in Sarah’s age range!
We had a great birthday celebration for Sarah and having had a few beers on John’s boat on the previous Friday and having had a few beers on Monday night with Iain Conway, last seen in Woodbridge, I felt like my celebrations for completing this voyage were already underway albeit slightly prematurely.
Sarah left on Tuesday and I left the dock on Wednesday evening for a short hop back up to Harwich where I spent a very bumpy night in a windy Harwich Harbour, once again on Ha’penny Pier. However this visit wasn’t quite the success that my previous one had been. This time, I got on the pontoon only to discover that the gang plank linking the pontoon to shore had been taken away. Maybe the Harbour Authority thought I was cheeky using it before and that this would thwart me but it didn’t. It just meant that I couldn’t take Max ashore but I was still very grateful to use it and take shelter there. After one night I left and headed for the Walton Backwaters which was to be my last stop before making for my home port on the Crouch. It was only a six mile hop but I was extremely thankful for that because the northwest wind made for a wind chill below zero and I had pretty much all my clothes on and was only just warm enough! It was literally freezing so there was ice on the deck which meant I had to tread very carefully.
I went into Titchmarsh marina where I have been many times before with friends, family and my late Uncle Jack and was extremely grateful to be able to plug in and thaw out.
I left there this morning in a stiff northerly breeze which made for a lovely easy downwind sail for the homeward leg. Keeping moving and generally jumping around like a cock was the only way to keep warm but it was an excellent sail. The wind died down as I got into the Crouch and I closed in on a marker buoy at Holliwell Point which sits just in the entrance of the Crouch. To me this buoy was the starting point of this circumnavigation of Britain some eight months ago and sailing past it marked the completion of that circle. Wow! Ok, so I’m not quite home yet because I turned left (sorry, I do of course me port) once in the Crouch and disappeared down a little creek for one more night before I set foot back on Burnham soil tomorrow but still, wow! I can’t believe this trip is complete. Back in the 80’s two good friends of my Mum and Dad called Fred and Frankie set off for a cruise to the Med on their catamaran although that trip grew it’s own legs and they didn’t return for ten years by which time they had sailed round the world! To a budding little sailor boy, that was the spark that ignited something in me and before I even knew what my third leg was for I knew I wanted to sail off somewhere one day too. Trust me, I’m not getting delusions of grandeur here because sailing round Britain isn’t the same as sailing round the world is it but I am very proud to have done what I have done and to have scratched that itch. Or have I? No, of course not! Unfortunately in this case there isn’t a cream or a course of antibiotics that will get rid of that itch but I’ve made a start and I am absolutely thrilled to be sitting here in the warmth of Fiesta anchored in one of my favourite creeks with seals swimming round the boat and this trip tucked under my belt. I am very happy and I feel content.
So what else do I write for the final blog entry for this trip????
Well, something profound would be good but I’m not sure I can muster such content!
Over the last few days I have been feeling a little emotional and have found myself talking to Fiesta regularly about us nearing the completion of this journey. I always talk to Fiesta when I’m working on her or cleaning her and I say ‘I take care of you and you take care of me, ok’. She has taken unbelievably good care of Max and I on this trip, she has been incredible, she is part of me and she is home.
Tomorrow when I make landfall at Burnham it will be eight calendar months to the day since I left. Really? How is that possible? It’s gone by in a heartbeat albeit a heartbeat that is jam packed full of the best times of my life. It’s been awesome, amazing, incredible, exciting, sometimes frightening but never too bad, certainly never dull and never lonely. Relatively long periods of isolation brought neither madness nor hallucinations and thankfully I haven’t grown tired of the sound of my own voice. If I had then that would have made for many long periods of silence! No, actually I still find myself reasonably good company but in order to get a balanced opinion I asked everyone else here what they think and I’m pleased to say that they all agree but please, will you lot just shut up for half an hour while I write this? Thank you! Honestly, some people….
I keep looking at my chart plotter or at google maps and find it quite incredible that Fiesta has taken me all the way round, some 2,321 nautical miles. It would have been quite feasible to do this trip in a third of the time but I wasn’t under any time pressure so what would have been the point in that? I have thoroughly enjoyed the pace and time this journey has taken although I now appreciate that I could have spent eight solid months on the West Coast of Scotland without getting near to exhausting the seemingly endless anchorages, lochs or Islands. I consider my time on the West Coast merely as a reconnaissance mission for a future rendezvous! If I were to do this trip again, for the sake of making it different I would go anti clockwise but not round the top, I’d go through the Caledonian Canal as I am reliably informed that this is a beautiful trip in itself and that would mean I could pop out onto the West Coast and enjoy all that again along with some of the Hebridean Islands. I feel that the cruising possibilities around our Island are almost infinite and I haven’t even thought about troubling the West Coast of Ireland! Hang on though, if we are talking about the latitudes of the UK then what about the Orkney’s, the Shetlands and what about the Baltic????? More beauty, the calm sea that is the Baltic Sea and not a crowd in sight! See what I mean? This is why this trip can only be described as a reconnaissance mission but without a lottery win or a filthy rich previously unknown relative doing the decent thing and bequeathing everything to me there are limiting factors but then again, what did I say earlier about daring to dream?
So has this trip affected me? I won’t say bulls*t things like ‘It’s changed me as a person, blah, blah, boring blah’ because it hasn’t. I am still very much the same person just with a little more sailing experience and a thicker file in the memory department which will bring a huge smile to my face whenever I drag that file out. To put it in very straight forward and simple terms, this trip has been the best experience of my life. Full stop.
This whole blog thing has surprised me. Before I actually created the web site I was hesitant because I was worried that it would be like a thorn in my side having to sit down and think of something worthwhile to write. I’m not sure I have always fulfilled the worthwhile part but I have actually enjoyed doing it and selfishly, it has helped me keep track of everything and remember some of the little bits that I would probably have forgotten had I not bothered to write this so thank you Nick for telling me ‘You’ve got to do a blog’!!! I’m glad I listened.
Finally, I do need to say this next bit but it’s taken quite a few attempts and no matter how hard I try I can’t help sounding like a knob when I type this. However, that hasn’t stopped me before has it so it is what it is! I’d like to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to my thoroughly and utterly fantastic family, to Sarah for being a cracking and incredibly supportive girlfriend and to great friends for their full support and encouragement and also a thank you to everyone who has made the effort to keep a track of my progress by means of marine traffic or by investing time that they will never ever get back by reading this blog! I know they are pretty long!
I’d also like to thank my old mate Max for being a first-class shipmate. Whilst you don’t contribute anything to sailing, the bills or any boat maintenance jobs, you have been the perfect partner on this trip and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. As I have said before, you are never alone when you have a doggie and he’s been a vital crew member and thanks to keeping a good supply of tinned food onboard and regular visits from Sarah, I haven’t once looked at him and thought, mmm tasty!
Fiesta, oh Fiesta – thank you so very much for keeping Max and I safe. You never reply when I speak to you but you have indeed looked after me and you have been the star of this show.
Lastly but by absolutely no means least, a million thanks to Neptune for letting us pass. You can prepare everything to the nth degree and beyond but you still need his grace….
So here we are then. I guess that’s it. Yes I suppose it is. In which case, for now at least………..This is Fiesta, out.
Kingfishers right in the middle of Ipswich!
Sailing past Walton-on-the-Naze and some ominous clouds on the way back to the River Crouch
These guys pulled up alongside for a friendly chat. However, when they asked where I had come from I don’t think they expected my life story for the last 8 months! Still, they were polite enough to wait for me to pause for breath before quickly shutting the window and making a getaway away! Nice friendly guys.
Holliwell Point buoy – the completion of the circle!
Nice to be back amongst familiar East Coast friends
I was treated to a very special final moon rise and sunset for this trip. What a perfect way to finish.