Monday, May 27, 2013

Sam in the bosun's chair

We'll work towards using a harness just for security, rather than as a hoist. In the meantime, at least we know that Sam can get on and off a Storm...

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Well, here we are on board a Westerly Storm, Cyclone of Langstone, in Chichester Marina, all tucked up and ready to sleep.

Thank to the generosity and ingenuity of the Storm's owner, Rob, Sam has been on and off the boat twice. The best option seems to be to use a bosun's chair & topping lift to help him get up on to the boat and then walk/stagger along - the only problem being that it's quite hard to walk in a bosun's chair, even when you're fit!

After Rob rejoined his family and friends for the evening, Sam came up the companionway steps with only me to help and we sat in the evening sunshine drinking wine and eating M&S lasagne. How very lucky we were to have such a lovely evening. There are 1100 boats in this marina and it's a bank holiday weekend, but still remarkably peaceful and very beautiful.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We're going back to Augustenborg...

Augustenborg, last time we were there....
On our return from the P&O cruise, our next priority was to decide what to do about Kalessin. Sam finishes rehab at Icanho on 19 June, so after that we are more free. I was sure that we should all go out to Denmark and if possible get Sam on board and sail about a bit before bringing her home, or getting a delivery crew (AKA Guy Brown Delivery Services) to sail her home for us. However, Sam made it quite clear he wanted to have a damn good go at living on board before making any final decisions.

For the last few days I have been researching, dithering, agonising and generally messing about. However, as of yesterday morning, we have a Plan, as follows:

Sam, Guy, Ben and I, plus car and a lot of equipment, will be on a Stena ferry overnight from Harwich to the Hoek v Holland on 24 June, and will then drive up to Augustenborg.

There is a direct DFDS ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg, which is only 90 minutes' drive from Augustenborg. However, the return trip via DFDS would cost over £800, with no option to cancel, a charge for changing dates, and a four-berth inside cabin. The Stena ferry to the Hoek means a six-hour drive to Denmark for me, but costs just over £400 return. Stena is also much more flexible - you can change dates or even cancel - and allows us to book one disabled cabin and a separate one for the boys at modest cost. I had made up my mind to do DFDS direct to Esbjerg going out and Stena on the way back, then I went to the DFDS site to make the booking and the price had gone up another £50 overnight, so I got cross with the whole thing and went for Stena. The main thing is I MUST go to bed when we get on board - I have always failed so far because I love seeing Harwich harbour from the ferry as we leave, and then I don't get to bed until after midnight and end up with about five hours' sleep.

We will arrive in Augustenborg on the afternoon of Tuesday June 25, DV, and then have two full days to do antifouling and all the below waterline stuff. We have asked Anders Dahl, who runs the marina, to prepare for a launch on Friday 28th so we can sleep on board thereafter. With luck we will be able to sail early the following week. Guy will probably stay with us for a few days while we shake down. We can head down to the Flensburg Fjord on the Danish/German border, which is said to be very beautiful, very sheltered, is close to Augustenborg if things go wrong, and gives us access to Flensburg station where Guy can get a train south. Thereafter we can explore the Schlei (which we visited in 2011 with Ben, when we we spent a night at Maasholm and another at Kappeln) and the Eckenforde, and see how things go. If all is ok we can then loop up into the Danish LilleBaelt, explore a few islands and ports, and then go back to Augustenborg. Our return ferry is booked for 24 July but this may change.

Fallback plan: if things go very wrong we can (a) come back early or (b) take the car to Wulkow. The advantage of Stena is that we can come back any day they have space, as long as we pay any extra fares for that day. If things are ok but it becomes clear that sailing Kalessin is not a sustainable option we will take her back to Augustenborg, return to the UK by ferry, and arrange a delivery crew to bring her back to the UK.

The biggest challenge is going to be getting Sam on to and off the boat. His is walking more and more, but his right leg is still very weak, his right arm and hand non-functional, and his balance uncertain, and he depends on grab handles or a stick. We have had various thoughts about using a bosun's chair and a block and tackle slung from the boom, but because Kalessin's freeboard is relatively low we think the easiest option may be to lower the guardrails, get Sam to sit on the (wide) side-deck and then he can slide, crawl or stagger into the cockpit. Obviously this will only work if we have an alongside pontoon or jetty - we haven't worked out an option for a box mooring yet, other than the fact that we'll have to be stern to. Kalessin has a split backstay which will get in the way of any possible access over the stern. Sam may just have to stay on board!

On Saturday we're going down to Chichester to spend a night on a Westerly Storm - I asked for advice on the YBW forum and the owner offered us his boat to get on and off and has now offered it for an overnight so that we can practice living on board, which is incredibly generous (he isn't using it this weekend, but even so....). It will also allow me to measure up a few things which we might need.

There's a lot of preparation to do over the next month and it's all rather terrifying, but I think we are all agreed that we have to give it a go. Anyway, it means at last this blog can return to what it was meant for, and report on our adventures on board Kalessin of Orwell.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

After the cruise

Farewell to Madeira
We got back to the UK on 10 May and updated many friends via email about how we got on. This post is a slightly adapted version of the email.
We were on P&O Oceana, a "medium-sized" cruise ship with a mere 2000 passengers. We had an adapted cabin with a sea view on Deck 8 (out of 15). We sailed from Southampton and visited Lisbon, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma and Madeira.

On the whole we had a really good time. The weather was pleasant, not baking hot, but when the sun finally came out Sam got sunburned for the first time I ever remember, so probably it was just as well that we had some hazy days. P&O were very helpful in ensuring Sam could get anywhere he wanted to go, with assistance to get on and off the ship, on and off coaches (we went on three tours and also used transfer buses) and in the restaurants on board. Pretty much all of the ship was accessible to a wheelchair with the occasional heavy door and/or lip to make it interesting. The down side was that because it's a big ship Sam spent much more time than usual in the wheelchair, which was probably not ideal for him and hard work for me!

Our cabin was spacious (to allow for a wheelchair), which was nice, but the main adaptations were in the bathroom where there is a roll-in shower and a good range of hand rails. I gather bathrooms in normal cabins are much smaller. The wide open spaces proved a bit of a liability on the last couple of days when we had force 8 winds and a big swell on the beam - Sam finds balancing difficult in bare feet, so using the shower and loo were a bit tricky. The motion of the ship was really not a problem otherwise, although it did make wheelchair pushing a bit difficult. My main issue in the cabin was with a mysterious noise, apparently from a hydraulic feed to a lifeboat - after a couple of appeals from me they managed to reduce the decibels and the frequency, but I did have a few nights of rather poor sleep.

Life on board was pretty luxurious with a wide range of activities - we had six sea days in total so plenty of time to enjoy them. We weren't too bothered about the evening shows and cabaret acts, but I enjoyed yoga and used the gym, and Sam went to art classes (see pictures, link below), and attended several lectures relating to WW2 history and the operation of the ship. Food became a bit of a preoccupation, although we did manage to stick to three meals a day, but there is always something to eat available (I think there is a hiatus between 3.30am and 6.30am but we coped ok with that). The standards are high but I did develop a longing for crunchy bread and bean salads, neither of which were on offer. In between times we spent a lot of time on the promenade deck which is how cruising ought to be, with steamer chairs, teak decks, quoits and other deck games, and the opportunity just to gaze out to sea. (There is a lido deck on top of the ship with swimming pools and plastic sun-loungers for those who like that sort of thing). P&O offers a middle ground between formality and relentless fun, but it is a rather Daily-Mail-reading, ITV-watching kind of world. Unfortunately, I don't think we could afford a cruise for Guardian readers and BBC4-watchers, if such a thing exists.

Many of the ports of call slope up from the sea, with lots of steps on the steeper islands, so generally we didn't venture too far inland. Nevertheless we managed to find some delightful, quiet spots away from at least some of our fellow passengers. It was lovely to see Lisbon again, although it was a bit of a rush, and we also loved Madeira where I had never been before, and would be more than happy to go again - we took a coach tour a little way inland to see the fantastic views and plant life. On Gran Canaria we visited the little port of Puerto de Mogan, which was lovely (at least compared with the rest of Gran Canaria, which displays Spanish enthusiasm for covering hillisides in concrete boxes) and where I managed my only swim in the sea - I couldn't persuade Sam to venture in :-). Santa Cruz de Tenerife brought back memories for me of being there in a hurricane in 2005 and we found a lovely area near the church for lunch.

The $64 million question is, would we do it again? I've been looking at alternatives for this time next year (or a bit earlier), including a couple of weeks in a nice hotel on Madeira, different cruise lines, and even a trip on Tenacious (the wheelchair-accessible tall ship). At the moment I'm veering wildly between views. I think part of the value of a cruise, which is hard to quantify, is the feeling of being part of a community - there was always someone for me to talk to, which certainly wouldn't be the case if Sam and I travelled alone, and always someone to organise things or offer help. It was wonderful for Sam to be able to participate in so much with very little worry about whether things would be manageable. On the other hand being part of a group of 2000 people everywhere you go, and having only a few hours to explore each destination, is not my ideal kind of travel. Any thoughts you may have on the best option(s) would be very welcome!

There are more pictures of the cruise in a separate post.

Cruise 2013

Little black dressMonument to the discoveriesPuerto de MoganTapas, Puerto de MoganSanta Cruz de Tenerife
Funchal and OceanaThinking pinkOver the edgeFloral Funchal
A taste of SpainFinished elephant
Two shades of blue

Cruise 2013, a set on Flickr.