Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas message 2018

Our message is even later than usual this year because we have been awaiting an important delivery. Ivy Mae Herrmann Brown was born to Guy and Kai at 0742 on December 20. She is incredibly tiny! but has been pronounced healthy and Guy and Kai were back home with her at their new home just outside Southwold by Friday evening.

Sam is terribly pleased to be a grandfather, more than 50 years after the first of his four sons was born.

Guy and Kai are a bit shell-shocked as Ivy wasn't due until January 5 – Kai was induced because there were concerns that the baby had stopped growing.

In other news, we have a gorgeous new kitchen which has had a gestation period almost as long as Ivy's. The electrician finished work at lunchtime on December 20, so we had a new kitchen and our first grandchild on the same day. We're a bit shell-shocked too!

The kitchen came from IKEA via the pretend store in Norwich, which is an "Order & Collection Point". The kitchen team there are lovely people but stupendously inefficient. It look from a first visit in May until November to finalise the order, and even then three of the units didn't actually fit. In addition the replacement units, due to be delivered to Hoxne, never turned up and Lawrence Osborne, who runs the lovely (and efficient) company which did the fitting, drove down to IKEA Lakeside overnight and charmed his way into the store before it even opened, in order to get our units and make sure we had a kitchen by Christmas.

So what about earlier in 2018? We saw the new year in at the family house in Pretzfeld, Germany, with Ben and Anne who flew out, and Guy and Kai and their dog Jenson who came with us on the ferry by car. The weather was wet and gloomy but we had a great short break and Jenson thought he was in heaven.

The 90th Birthday or Dinner for One, starring Freddie Frinton, shown throughout northern Europe on New Year's Eve and famous for its catchphrase "Same procedure as last year?"

In January we visited Ben in Nottingham to celebrate his 25th birthday and stayed in an apartment with the biggest bath I have ever been in. Sadly it was far too high for Sam to climb in, but fortunately there was an enormous walk-in shower in the same bathroom!

Camilla's view from the bath
In March we persuaded Camilla's mother, Patricia, to join us on a short cruise to northern Spain on P&O Britannia. We all visited Santiago de Compostela in the rain, and I think Sam and I were the only people on the entire ship - including the crew – who had ever been to Gijon before. As we went east towards Bilbao it got warmer and drier, and it was lovely to see the sun after the Beast from the East.

Sam and Patricia in Santiago
Sunshine in Gijon
In the spring we started contacting everyone who had ever sailed with us or shown any interest in doing so. But it was evident that it was going to be a summer of short sails and no trips to the Continent. In May I suddenly got very cross about not going to France (apart form a few hours in Cherbourg on the cruise) and booked a week in a gîte in Burgundy. The gîte was accessible and spacious and the trip was generally terrific. We do love France.

Sailing as expected was a number of weekend trips, which are hard work for me as I keep forgetting things, either at home or on the boat. But we managed to get to a few places we hadn't been for a long time, or never before. In June we sailed with Guy to Orford, where he worked the Saturday as ferryman (and our private water-taxi) and then sailed back with us. In July William, who spent a too-windy-to-sail week with us in Brest in 2017, joined us for a voyage to Heybridge Basin. We were very delighted to welcome Camilla's mother, who lived only five miles away from the basin – now she's 91 she's prone to say things like "Oh I probably can't manage that", but the lock keeper gave us a great alongside berth and she hopped on board with no problem at all.

We also sailed to Ramsholt with Bob & Elaine, to Walton Backwaters with Alex & David, and drank a lot of gin over a gusty weekend with Lucilla & Mark where we didn't go anywhere because the engine start battery died.

In between all of this Sam participated in the Step out for Stroke walk in Bury St Edmunds and walked about 150 metres, which is a very long way for him. Thanks to the generosity of our friends and family he raised almost £2500, including Gift Aid. If you meant to give at the time but never got around to it, you can still make a donation.

Of our many breaks and holidays in 2018 probably the best was a full two weeks in Pretzfeld with Patricia, Ben and Anne, again by car and ferry. The weather was perfect – cooler than the UK's summer heatwave and mostly in the mid-20s, although on the hottest day we all managed to go swimming at the stunningly-located local lido. I managed to relax completely and stop worrying about everything, walk up hills and cycle along valleys (Ben took his high-tech bike on the roof of the car and cycled up hills too), and enjoy the company of my mother who put the ghosts of the past behind her and relaxed too. (I hope).

In between all the other activities I have continued as the editor of Cruising magazine and the Cruising Association's newsletter, which now takes up almost half of my time. Many of the CA's members keep their boats in EU countries and/or enjoy extended cruises in Europe, so Brexit will have a big impact, and the last few months of the year have been filled by efforts to update our members on what we know.

On a personal level, Camilla and many of her family have applied for "Restoration" of German citizenship, which is open to any direct descendant of someone who had to give up their citizenship because of Nazi policies. This is now such a popular option that it will be at least another year before we hear whether we have qualified.

Meanwhile Ben is still working at making concrete pipes and living in Nottingham with Anne. In his spare time he is volunteering with the Army Reserve and has recently taken up playing the oboe.

Guy spent a second summer running the National Trust ferry over to Orfordness, and in between becoming a father is working over the winter for Harbour Marine at Southwold.

Gosh, I thought it had been a quiet year, but looking back it seems to have been rather busy. Here's hoping for equally good times in 2019 – we're planning a trip to Australia and NZ in March, so should have plenty to report back on, and we will also cunningly avoid Brexit Day, whatever the outcome proves to be.

Much love to you all

Camilla & Sam

Friday, June 29, 2018

A quiet summer...

Yesterday we had the pleasure of meeting Rob & Jo at the Geldeston Locks pub. Rob owns a Storm like ours and helped us work out how to go sailing with Sam way back in 2013. He has also been a reliable source of advice, information and even help with a spanner in the subsequent years.

Last time we met up was exactly two years ago in Piriac and we sailed in company with them for a while, down as far as the Île d'Yeu. Since then Sam & I have sailed about a bit in southern Brittany and got as far as Brest last summer, before giving up and getting someone else to bring the boat home. They sailed down to La Rochelle, decided Biscay was too hot, sailed home, and last year took the boat to the Baltic and got as far as Tallinn in Estonia before heading home. This year they are having a break from sailing, which is extremely understandable given the distance they covered last year. It was lovely to see them.

So I am reminded that our blog is very empty this year...mainly because we haven't done much sailing. I have added an update on maintenance and backdated it to the beginning of June, mainly as a record for me.

On May 18, only a couple of hours after Lindsay had serviced the engine, Guy came down to help us get the sails on... at which point we realised that they were already on. So instead we spent the time drifting gently out into the Orwell with me doing everything and Guy advising. This was practice, because on Saturday May 19, on a day of very gentle breezes, Sam and I set off on an epic voyage on our own. We sailed all the way to the Royal Harwich Yacht Club at Woolverstone, which is nearly three miles from SYH, just upriver. There we called ahead for help and around a dozen members of the Westerly Owners Association guided us into a berth alongside the jetty, and took our lines.

Westerlies at RHYC
We spent a pleasant evening with the WOA celebrating the 50th anniversary of the East Coast Group, and I discovered the showers, which I had never noticed on dozens of previous visits to RHYC by car for CA events. Then on the Sunday we sailed back to SYH, again on our own. Surprisingly there was no-one around on the pontoon, so I really did bring her in solo, fortunately with no problems at all. So, I know I can do it. Now I have to pluck up courage to go a bit further.

I felt a bit frustrated about not being in France or sailing abroad this year. So in early June we drove down to Burgundy and spent a few nights in a very pleasant adapted gîte. We didn't get away from boats entirely, though: we refreshed our memories of the delightful French canals and even looked at some rather nasty motor boats in St-Jean-de-Losne, but we didn't buy any.
Écluse spotted on the drive down. In 2008 we went past the end of this lock but we didn't go through it.

Lunch and a view of the Saône in St-Jean-de-Losne

This is what Burgundy is really about. A walk around the hill at Corton

The lovely Canal de Bourgogne, which we avoided in 2008 because it's silting up and has 189 locks (compared with only 114 on the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne)

Last weekend we finally had something like a proper sail. Guy is working again as ferry captain at Orfordness but up to this week has only been working Saturdays. We worked out that we could meet up at SYH on a Friday, sail to Orford, he could go to work on Saturday and sail home with us on the Sunday. There was only one weekend in the whole year when this would actually work out and the tides were at neaps (springs in the Ore can run at 5-6 knots). It meant missing a dinner with my dear old friends from Aviva, and missing the launch of the new Waveney Heritage Centre which I felt very bad about because I had promised my friend Tim that I would sing with him at the opening. But we did it, we went, the wind was on the nose on the way there, but with us most of the way back, and we had a really lovely outing with Guy operating our personal taxi service at Orford (although we didn't try to get Sam off the boat). Hooray!!

Orford seen from our mooring

The River Ore at dawn

A glorious day at Orford Castle

Friday, June 01, 2018

Maintenance update

I'm finally getting around to posting this in June – I need a record of winter activities because otherwise I forget what we had done!

Kalessin came out of the water in January and had a new set of standing rigging, supplied by Evolution Rigging which has taken over from the delightful but inefficient Big Nige. I'd been considering a new engine, but realised that the rigging was last replaced in 2005/6 and because the rigging is only insured for 10 years, it was time to prioritise new bits of wire.The foil on our dear old Rotastay genoa furler was cracked, and as Rotastay went out of business some years ago, it could not be replaced. So we now have a brand new Furlex. Evolution also replaced he VHF cable and aerial – the aerial was last replaced in Spain in 2006, but the cable may be much older. VHF reception is now noticeably better. The whole lot, along with replacing the gooseneck bracket and various other bits and pieces, came to just under £4,500.

Her Coppercoat, expensively applied by Suffolk Yacht Harbour in 2016, has proved less good than we hoped. After only two seasons, including one winter in fresh water in the Vilaine, it was coming off one side of the keel and the other side of the rudder. Why?

SYH agreed to make good the damage. Despite the supposed 10-year warranty, SYH only guarantees Coppercoat for three years, which is disappointing. Still, we were well inside that time. Josh (who runs the yard) bithered and dithered and didn't do much until I hassled, and finally finished the repairs just before the launch so I didn't see them.

Lindsay serviced the engine just before we went out for the first time. He phoned me to let me know that he is a bit worried about the age and reliability of the engine, especially if it's just Sam and me on board. I explained that I really wasn't sure if I wanted to spend £10k+ on a new engine and new prop - as the vast majority of new engines turn the other way, we'd have to replace our Darglow feathering prop. And we might end up spending more than the boat is now worth and only doing 50 hours on it. It would, however, be very nice to have slightly more than 18.5hp. He has promised to look out for a good reconditioned engine which we could fit next winter.

Still, at least we are back on our wide pontoon in our old location, which is lovely. We are next to an absolutely brand new lifting-keel Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349, which focuses the mind when coming into the berth. She's only actually a foot (30cm) longer than Kalessin, very slightly narrower beam (3.44m to our 3.5) yet somehow they squeeze in twin wheels compared with our nice old-fashioned tiller. Bizarrely the standard engine is not much more powerful than ours (21hp). I thought all new sailing boats had 50hp engines these days.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Lobster pots – sign the CA petition!

If you've ever had a near miss with a lobster pot or other fishing gear you should sign the CA's petition.

And if you're not sure if poorly marked fishing pots and floating line is really an issue, why not watch the CA video, with Tom Cunliffe, some very nice stills from Guy (the yellow string was around the prop of the Orfordness ferry) and indeed some from me? (Mostly taken in France, but you don't need to know that...)