The Shetland Islands

After our one and only episode of mal de mer, we were all aware of how quick we could go down if we took our mind off the subject so kept ourselves well medicated with Kwells and Scopolamine patches.

Day 9: Friday 14th June. Our sail to the Shetlands was uneventful. The winds and sea state were moderate, sky lightly clouded with a foggy morning. All were nothing new. Too get a 100 percent clear sunny day was rare. We left Inverness at 10:55 arriving into the Shetland capital, Lerwick on Day 10, Saturday 15th June 14:40. The weather slowly worsened so Philip and James decided to sit it out on Sunday and Monday, leaving Tuesday as early as possible.

County Building – Sheriff’s Court
Our pathway to showers and laundry
Town Hall
Old Fort
Walking back to French Kiss
Local beach

Carrie and I ventured around the streets and lovely little shops. We sunk ourselves into the Shetland Times Bookshop. Beautiful books and plenty of reading matter for the trip ahead. Coffee and scones never as good as my mum’s. This really surprised me as English tea, scones, jam and cream had always rung a testament of quality. English royalty, upper crust type of thing!!! Through all our travels the scones were dry and much fluid needed to wash them down! No wonder the English drink so much tea!!!

Day 12: Monday 17th June. We woke to a beautiful day! The elusive Puffin was high on the agenda. Philip and I had searched on our way passed Wales, in water ways and islands including Puffin Island without success. The skies had cleared so the four of us hired a taxi to drive us to see Puffins wherever they were. Our taxi driver was an encyclopedia of information. He stopped at sites and explained the history and culture of the Shetlands… and he took us straight to the puffins! What a gem!

Steep roofs of Shetland homes
Ruins from ancient times
Shetland wool
Shetland ponies
Shetland foal
Shetland pony
A puffin would have to be the cutest of birds!
A puffin: approx. 15cm tall. A group of puffins is called a ‘circus of puffins’
Nesting puffin

Puffins are very social little birds living on cliff edges, feeding on eels, herrings and other small fish. We were surprised when our paddling friend, Kerry Moore sent a text asking what is a group of puffins called. We didn’t know! ‘A circus of puffins’ she text back. How funny. They do look like little clowns!

A first time experience was stopping at traffic lights while a small air craft taxied along the run way in front of us. As soon as it was clear, the green lights gave us the go ahead and our taxi proceeded at right angles to across. We looked straight down the run way with a strange insecure feeling like we shouldn’t be doing this!

Main road crossing over the airport runway
Carrie and French Kiss – Lerwick Marina
Our favourite coffee shop. French Kiss tied up in front of blue Hilux
Local pub were we enjoyed a few beers, wine and dinner

Two qualified yacht masters on the same yacht can be quite a challenge. Philip and James decide James will do the weather and navigating and Philip will take overall responsibility for the safety of everyone on board and ultimately all decisions made.

Weather reports and synoptic charts are favourable for the next week. James was to fly home to Amber and the children from here but decided to head straight to Svalbard while the weather was good, winds were a low 10 knots.

Another joke from Shona

Saturday: We grew curious at the crowds gathering on the street above. Mingling and asking questions, we were told a Parade of Vikings was on its way. It’s an annual fund raising event. We had seen the pirates attack Conwy and felt privileged to witness the Vikings.

Anything goes when it comes to collecting money for charities

They passed in groups or maybe their clans showing off their ancestry costumes. It was wonderful!
Participants even traveled from Norway as the Shetlands were once belonged to them. Back in the 8th and 9th century, the expanding population of Scandinavian countries shifted the Vikings attention to invading their neighbours, the Shetlands included. During the 1400’s the King of Norway, Christian I, pledged the Shetland Islands as a security against a payment, the doury of his daughter, Margaret, betrothed to James III of Scotland. The king couldn’t afford the doury so the unpaid debt fell on the Shetlands which soon belonged to Scotland. Two hundred years later 1978, oil was discovered off the east and west coast. Fishing, crude oil and natural gas are their main revenue producers. We were told there is zero percent unemployment in the Shetlands. Their oil terminals are the largest in Europe as we soon saw for ourselves sailing between the platforms. The Norwegians mustn’t be too impressed with old King Christian now!

My encounter with a ‘real’ Viking
A Viking boat
An interesting monument on the marina. Molted aluminium cooling to a solid in equal portions at the right moment!

Like all of Europe and the UK, there is so much history here. We have had a great time. We need a good sleep tonight as tomorrow is an estimated 10 day sail, 24 hours a day on 3 hour shifts. We don’t want to leave Carrie on her own yet so her and I do our shifts together. The weather forecast looks good but who knows what we are in for heading into the North and Norwegian Seas.

Good night! Sleep tight! Don’t let the bed bugs bit!

Caledonian Canals

Day 6: Tuesday, 11th June 2019. We passed Loch Linnhe, Corran Point to Fort William and entered the Caledonian Canals which had lock keepers and all gates hydraulically operated. Unlike the Crinan, they were much less stressful than the manual gates. We had 39 locks and 10 turn bridges to get through. Before approaching a turn bridge the lock keeper would phone ahead so the bridge keeper could stop the traffic and turn the bridge saving time for us and the traffic. They were all extremely friendly and helpful. I would recommend a holiday to anyone, to hire a motor boat and cruise through the Scottish Highland canals . It’s simply gorgeous, green, lush and relaxing. Approx. cost GBP 200.

Homes along Neptune’s Staircase

Neptune’s Staircase near Fort Williams has a set of 8 locks, lifting vessels 20 metres within 400 metres of canal. It takes approx. an hour and a half to pass through the system of locks. The gates weigh 22 tons and require a team of at least 3 lock keepers to operate the staircase. They try to move vessels as efficiently as possible by allowing a dropping vessel to pass a rising vessel on the same emptying or filling cycle. James worked the helm, Carrie worked the lines on board and Philip and I worked and walked the lines as we moved through the locks.

Neptune’s Staircase
The Locks of Neptune’s Staircase
Waiting for the lock to fill
Wendy walking the stern line
Waiting for the lock to fill
Philip walking the bow line forward

An overnight stay in Loch Lochy gave way to larger vessels needing to pass in the opposite direction. Amazing the size of vessels and time saved coming through the Scottish Highlands instead of sailing around the northern coastline. Another 9am to 5pm day, working hours of the lock keepers. We tied up to Gairlochy Pontoon. Population of Gairlochy about 100.

Between the locks and canals were lochs or lakes as we would call them. Famous ones like Loch Ness, Loche Linnhe and The Firth of Lorne.

Day 7: Wednesday 12th June 2019. We motored through Fort Augustus, anchored at the entrance of Loch Ness to visit a museum dedicated to the Cameron Clan. Philip’s paternal grandmother was a Cameron. He remembered her on the occasions when she would visit the family in Johannesburg. He was about 10 years old and couldn’t refuse her offer of a kit kat to just walk down to the local bottle shop while his parents were at work, wait for an African to bribe as he was too young to purchase alcohol then bring the bottle of Old Buck Gin back for her to hide in the bedroom.

The Cameron Museum – Philip bought himself a kit kat chocolate
Kytra Lock
Homes on Loch Ness

Day 8. Thursday 13th June. We departed Kytra Lock and motored through Loch Ness. No Nessy! Temperature 9 degrees C.

Purple heather growing on the hill sides

We met interesting people along the way. Most were tourist who were fascinated at how the locks worked so crowds gathered to watch how the vessels moved through. Seeing the Australian flag flying off the stern drew people to us wanting to ask where we were from and to where we were going. Some were Australians and loved to just say hello to fellow Aussies. Some remembered us from days before and we recognised them. They were interested in how we were travelling as it had taken us three days to motor less than 140 kms. One gentleman came to tell us he was sitting at the coffee shop nearby telling his family his dream yacht is a Garcia then the next moment we came around the corner and tied up to a pontoon. He was thrilled and had to talk to us. Other Chinese tourists took photos of us then hands on the stanchion for a more up close and personal shot with French Kiss. She was quite a celebrity throughout the entire trip. As we motored out of the last lock, we received a huge sendoff, people wishing us well and waving us off. It was quite an unforgettable ‘warm and fuzzy’ experience.

Inverness, Scotland

That night we stayed at the Inverness Marina. We found a cosy restaurant and tried our first taste of haggis. Haggis spring rolls, burgers, chips and muscles!

Day 9: Friday, 14th June. We fuel up and depart under Kessock Bridge towards the Moray Firth into the North Sea to the Shetland Islands. The ocean has been calm since we left and now a light wave was whipping up just enough to make it uncomfortable. Within an hour or two James goes down with mal de mer, then Carrie rushes to the toilet. I hang on as long as I can then no! Soon my head is in a bucket. Three out of four down with Captain Philip left keeping it all together. We quickly pop Kwells under our tongue as we contemplate jumping ship. Each of us slowly recovered. One comment from a highly qualified crew member …. ‘F*** I hate sailing’ caused a burst of laughter meaning we were all feeling better! It’s a strange illness! When you are sick you will do anything to get off that boat but within seconds of feeling better or standing on land you are instantly fine with it. A real love, hate relationship. We all agree to at least get to the Shetlands. If the nausea didn’t abate, we would all be on an early flight home from Lerwick!

The Mull of Kintyre and Crinan Canal

Day 3: Saturday, June 8th. We left Ardglass at 06:00. The Irish Sea is relatively calm; the weather overcast and rainy. 12 hours later we sight the Mull of Kintyre. Land! It’s exciting! Carrie had Paul McCartney’s song Mull of Kintyre on her phone which we played and sang as we cruised passed. For some reason, it was emotional. The sound of bagpipes stirs your blood. If there is any such thing as ‘past lives’ then this is when the ancestral memory in our genes reconnects. We motor sailed up the east coast to take a shorter course through the Crinan Canals.

https://youtu.be/Ldaj2MtUFDg

The tranquil waterways of the small affluent community of Campbeltown are lined with beautiful homes, manicured gardens, hedges and undulating green hills along the shoreline. At 21:30 we tie up to a buoy in the bay. At 22:15 the sun has gone for the day. Population 4,800.

Campbeltown, Kintyre Peninsula
Garden of Remembrance to Linda McCartney

Day 4: Sunday 9th June. 11:00 we leave Campbeltown, the Isle of Arran and motor into a bay. I have never seen a lock; I don’t understand how they work so wondered why we would sail into a small bay or ‘dead end’ so to speak. ‘See that mountain’, James said, ‘we are going over it!’ Now that put things in perspective. Hidden behind a concrete wall was our first lock. It’s 17:30 and the Crinan Canal lock keepers have finished for the day. We motor in, tie up between two concrete walls and wait for the gates to open the next morning.

French Kiss waiting in the first of many locks
The Crinan Canal

The Crinan Canal locks are all manual. Philip and James walked along side the canal to open the lock gates while Carrie and I handled the yacht and ropes. Steel gates close in front and behind you which are water tight. Depending on the size, only 1 large – 4 small vessels can fit in a lock at one time. Water is pumped in to raise your level equal to the next level going uphill or pumping it out to bring the level down to equal the next level going downhill. Each fill or empty took only 10 minutes though time was taken tying and maneuvering boats in and out.

The back gate will be closed, water pumped in to bring the level up to equal that on the right. Once the levels were equal, Philip and James would sit on the white end of the lever and push with their feet to open the gates. I could then motor through the canal to the next lock.
Philip and James on the gate. Carrie managing the bow line.
Waiting for the lock to fill up to the level beyond the wall

Day 5: Monday, 10th June. The Crinan Canal opened at 0830 and had approx. 15 locks to manually open. A South African guy was our first keeper who was extremely helpful. I left a packet of biltong on his desk as a thank you! Motoring away from the concrete walls of the locks was difficult for myself to maneuver. French Kiss has a few gouges in the hull that can tell a story or two!!! It took us all day until midnight before anchoring at Corran Narrows. Tomorrow we would be sailing to the Caledonian Canals.

Carrie managing the bow line
School children waiting to cross the turn bridge
Motoring passed a turn bridge
Philip and James closing a lock
Stop over for the night at Ardishaig

Preparing for the Arctic

Preparing to sail to the Arctic started with Philip spending hundreds of hours researching the right yacht. The strongest, safest mono hull that could be managed by two of us. One that could handle ice, bad weather, shallow water to even beach when required, reinforced, well insulated for cold, comfortable and spacious. The Garcia Exploration 45 was perfect.

We are about to embark on our longest sail to the ice, 80 degrees North. All required charts are purchased for the UK, Shetlands, Svalbard and Norway.

May 2019 … I flew back to Australia for the month returning with our fourth crew member, Carrie De Britt. Philip’s friend, Norm Netterfield flew from Gladstone, Australia to Conwy for 10 days while I was away. While the cat is away, the mice play and play they did, admitting only to each other, on the 9th day, they were going to have to seriously stop drinking!

The Mulberry – Philip (L), Ale Trail friends, Norm (R)
Conwy Ale Trail – Midday to Midnight

Carrie and I flew out of Gladstone 28th May via Dubai and Manchester then train to Conwy.

Carrie on the train from Manchester to Conwy

We were given a few days to explore Llandudno, Conwy, the Castle, and exotic flowers and lawns of Bodant Garden with the Laburnum Arch in full bloom which only occurs 2-3 weeks a year.

Laburnum Arch
Carrie under the 55 metre arch created in 1880

The Pirates Festival in Conwy! What an thrilling event for the young and old. Young enthusiastic boys, dressed in 18th century British Military uniforms, stood by their cannons anxiously waiting, going through the routine of packing gun powder into the chamber with a wooden rammer then firing when commanded by the British Lieutenant. As the pirate ship rounded the dock by the castle, cannons fired from both sides including British gun fire from the castle towers. Thunder vibrating through the wooden dock, clouds of smoke and the smell of gunpowder made it all so real.

Local bikies were big supporters. Johnny Depp??? No!
Myself and Mike
James, Amber, Poppy and Julian

4th June. It was now time to buy provisions for at least the next two weeks to get us to the Shetland Islands and prepare the yacht for departure on Thursday 6th June.

Our provisions list to prove it wasn’t all chocolates!
Carrie and I shopping – Tesco, Llandudno Junction

Carrie packing fruit and vegetables in the technical locker
Supplies

James will not leave on a Friday, it’s bad luck, so Thursday it is. 16:15, 6th June, 2019. The brief is done; we hug and say goodbye to James’ parents, Georgina and Mike; engine on; bow and stern lines are slipped and we pull away bow to starboard through the marina, over the Conwy Quays sill wall; only turning back to wave at two small images waving from the Mulberry ….. our journey begins! Amber has secretly met with me in the morning. Poppy has said goodbye to Daddy but she is not even two yet and has no realisation of time. Julian is only four weeks old. ‘Look after my boy,’ says Amber. My heart felt sad but we would see her in a few weeks on our return through the Caledonian Canal when she joins us with the children.

James, Wendy, Philip and Carrie

Our first destination, Bull Bay on Anglesey Island just 3 hours away. This will give us a good night’s sleep and early 03:00 start. We eat a healthy breakfast of cereal, berries, super greens, honey, flaxseed meal mix and almond milk. Lunches are green salads, cucumber, avocado, salmon, tuna or ham, cheese, beetroot, sauer kraut, oils and vinegar. Dinners are Philip’s various stews of chicken, beef, lamb or mince. The biscuit container is filled, energy bars and fruit bowl placed in the cockpit for those times when the munchies hit. A black duffle bag is stored under the floor at easy reach with our snacks, chips, biltong, chocolates, biscuits, CC’s, lollies, caramels and M&M’s.

Day 2 we pass the Isle of Man and head to Ardglass, Northern Ireland. Approx. 100 kms south of Belfast! The mention of Northern Ireland concerns me. Our navigator is too young to remember. The first thing that comes to mind is Sinn Fein; the IRA; bombings and terror! But that was during the 1980’s and 90’s…. surely it’s OK now! I don’t show my feelings. The sail across is calm but overcast which is becoming the ‘norm’ now. To see a blue sky is a blessing! Uplifting! A joyous occasion!

Shona enjoyed making jokes of our voyage from Marina Traffic

14:15, 11 hours later, we tie up on Ardglass pontoon. The countryside is so green we had to investigate.

Ardglass Marina. Northern Ireland

Carrie and I ventured out for a walk around the small town. We met a lovely man walking his dog and heard plenty of stories. Walking back we saw The Old Commercial Bar & Lounge. Let’s have a Guiness we said and in we went! Two Aussie women in an Irish Pub made for lots of laughs and a free Guinness from the female publican, Debbie. Customer, Conor Kelly told us what a great guy Ned Kelly was. I guess the surname held closer to his heart than the man (Ned) himself. ‘He is nothing but a murdering low life,’ I said. I was promised a good life story about Ned ordered from Amazon to show what a good, hard done by man he was but it never arrived. We walked back to the yacht thinking what a fantastic place Ardglass was.

Philip and James had a totally different experience. Walking into the marina toilet looked like a murder scene. Ardglass should have been called Bloodbath! Apparently there was blood everywhere which reminded Philip of a time as a young boy walking into the school toilet and finding the same scene but with a body. In Ardglass, he panics, wondering where we two girls are.

Cheers with a Guinness
Owner – Debbie
Ardglass, Northern Ireland
Oldest Club in the World and best restaurant
Australian flag
Philip – Ardglass Golf Club
The sign!!!!!

Day 3: We are up at 5am and release the lines at 6am. We have a 16 1/2 hour sail to Campbelltown on the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland.

Betws-y-Coed and the Slate Mine

Betws-y-Coed is a gorgeous quaint little town foundered around a monastery in the 6th century. It means ‘Bead house’ or ‘Prayer house in the woods’ and is about half an hour’s drive into the country from the marina. In 1815 the famous Thomas Telford designed the bridge that linked Betws-y-coed and brought trade links to the village.

Philip and James

St Michael’s church was built in the 1300’s which is the origin of the name Betws meaning ‘prayer house’

14th century St Michael’s Church
Church of St Mary

The railway was built in 1868 which increased the population to around 500. Church of St Mary’s was built in 1873. The population has increased by one baby born every 2 years and one adult passing away every 10!

The reason for our visit here was to see the slate quarry. The slate quarry was opened in 1846 by successful quarry owner, John Whitehead Greaves. In 1836 Greaves proposed a railway line should link the quarries to the sea.

When the Ffestiniog Railway was opened in 1836 he traveled on it’s first historic train. In 1843 he became treasurer of the railway then Chairman in 1844. Just two years later he purchased the slate quarry. Smart move! By 1846 his son, now managing the quarry, built an incline for the slate to go directly from the quarry to the railway then has the slate transported to a fleet of sailing vessels waiting at the port for transport to their markets.

Today the slate quarry is a museum. Production had a dramatic decline with cheaper slate, of low quality making it’s way from China which seems to be the story everywhere. Population today 564.

The National Slate Museum
Water Wheel – modern power supply for this entire operation

Philip could explain this perfectly. It’s right up his alley …. but this is how a woman explains it.

Equipment had to be built to build the water wheel. That amazed me to start with. It’s one hundred years since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution so I guess all these machines are now available. The water wheel played a major part in modernising the manufacturing process. With a foundry, machining, timber cutting and blacksmith all under one roof, the slate mine increased it’s production from 7,000 tons to 23,000 tons of slate per year. Everything had to be made under one roof. I could draw similarities to our company AusProof Pty Ltd. All manufactured under one roof. Quality control and repairs being done immediately on site. You can’t just pop down to the local hardware store! It’s 1870 for goodness sake!

Modern European power of the 1800’s

Flowing water turned this massive 15.4 meter wheel. It’s 1.6 meter width turned on a 30cm axle. It’s the size of a five story building! With the speed the wheel was turning, the inside of the outer wheel looks flat but there are actually teeth machined precisely to fit the size of the smaller gear wheel.

One shaft attached to the smaller wheel run below the ceiling through the entire factory giving a turning mechanism for the workings of all machines. Gear wheels and belts drove all the lathes, saws and cutting machines throughout the factory.

Belt driven cutting machine for railway sleepers

This was all made to get the slate out of the mountains. Every building we have seen in Wales has a slate tiled roof. Cutting slate tiles was a 5 year apprenticeship only given to the sons of the aristocrats. In his first year he worked for zero wages and had to supply his own tools. You would want to be sure of your career path, wouldn’t you! A good tradesman should cut between 450 – 500 slate tiles a day.

Modern 1870’s Foundry
Dated on the foundry roof trusses ‘Oct 1890’ and ‘JP 1945’
Foundry molds still similar to today’s foundries
Pattern room
All cast in the foundry
Logs sliced for wooden planks
Steal nails made by the blacksmith
Cutting slate with chisel, hammer and crowbar. No high visual work clothes or steal capped boots provided here.
Hot water for tea in the dining hall
Belt driven saw
Machine oil

Now back to Betws-y-Coed for lunch. Good old British fish and chips with mushy peas! It doesn’t get better than that in the UK.

Panic attack! Went to pay but didn’t have my credit card or iPhone. Used Philip’s ‘Find a Friend’ on his iPhone which pin pointed my phone at the public toilets. Sprinting across the road I found the delightful caretaker who had put it aside. So grateful! Good lesson learnt, do not put your phone on the toilet roll holder!

Main town of Betws-y-Coed
‘The Ugly House’
Obviously, this builder\owner was not a stone mason!
Spar is a South African supermarket chain.
In Afrikaans it means ‘Save’
A drive through the countryside.
Over the millennia, glaciers and ice caused larger rocks to split forming this landscape of smaller rocks
Hiking and abseiling means the sun is shining in England!
It’s as if a plug has been taken off an ant nest. People everywhere!
Can you spot the climbers!
Green countryside. Rock walls fencing off properties… and there are plenty of rocks around.
You can never take the boy out of the man!

A walk down town

A little bit of history first but where do I start! Civilisation here goes back as far as Neanderthals some 230,000 years ago. But, let’s bring time forward to modern humans arriving around 9,000 BC and even later. The Romans began their conquest of Britain in 43AD. They departed in the 5th century opening the doors to invaders. Rulers of Britain extended their control over Welsh territories and into western England but they were unable to unite Wales for long. King Edward I conquered Wales and in 1282 seized control the church here and built his castle with walls surrounding their homes, markets and trading area. Inside the walls were now for the British and the Welsh were banished to the outside. Curfews at night would have kept the Welsh out only to enter during the day to trade. No wonder the Welsh have revolted against the British over the centuries. Despite heavy British rule the Welsh have always retained their language and culture.

800 years ago, having British heritage, Philip would have been welcomed within the castle gates. I am of Irish decent so who knows if I would have gotten in! Or smuggled in under a bail of hay in the back of a horse driven cart! I think I’ve seen too many Robin Hood movies!

The photos below show our walk to the main shopping town of Conwy. It’s quaint little shops, florists, bakeries, butcher and coffee shops leaves a nostalgic feeling of bygone years.

Cattle grid crossing, not sure why, for horses and carriages on the left, walkers through the centre gate and cars to the right
Walking path around the river towards town centre
Following the stone walled pathway towards the castle
End of the walkway
High Street ….. enter only if you’re British!
Oops..No! That was 800 years ago!
Dogs are allowed anywhere and I mean anywhere! This little pooch (not the ornament in the window) but the one sitting on the lounge in a coffee shop is very much the standard here.
Yesteryear Toy Shop, was owned by James’ parents, Mike and Wendy (Georgina). They now own the store next door with the same stripped awning, Conwy Collectibles.
Local butcher sells beautiful meats and ready made meals even South African boerewors!

The Florist
The local bakery where everything is baked on the premises.
The red building – The Smallest House in Britain
Occupied by a man over 6′ tall then by an elderly couple

We now wait for our main crew member to arrive from Australia, Carrie De Britt on 29th May. At the moment we are planning to sail on 7th June, northwards to Scotland, through the Caledonian Canal, Loch Ness to Inverness. Weather permitting, sail on wards to the Shetland Islands then Tromso in Norway.

Changes can happen at any time though. Watch this space….

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

No! It’s not a spelling mistake! It’s Welsh and the longest known word of any language.

It means: ‘The church of Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool and the church of Tysilio by the red cave’. Here is proof, there is a place with this name….

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch
Philip with a shop assistant in traditional Welsh dress

I didn’t attempt to learn how to say it but James was very fluent and the perfect guide for our Conwy tour. Established 600 years before Cook discovered Australia and 300 years before Bartholomew Dias discovered Cape Horn, South Africa, Conwy welcomes you with its 13th century medieval castle off the starboard bow.

Castle built by Edward 1 in 1287

Worship has flourished for nearly 850 years in St Mary’s and All Saints Church where foundations were laid in 1172. Unbelievable! The European ‘Dark Ages’ and it is still thriving. The Great Plague of 1347 estimated loss of 75-200 million people across Europe and Asia. Unbelievable! Such a fascinating place. Loving it!!!

A family of seven taken by the plague, inspired the poem by William Wordsworth ‘We Are Seven’

I am estimating the population at about 25-30,000. Edward 1 delighted in conquering this Welsh town, taking over the church then claiming his territory by building a castle in 1287 with walls keeping the English in and Welsh out of the main city.

Castle walls around Conwy
Tour guides James and father Mike with Philip
The Mulberry – Nice young Welsh lad at the local marina restaurant and pub
The smallest house in Great Britain
Old unused telephone booth
brought back to life to bring life back …. installed with a Defibrillator. What a brilliant idea!

Typical street, shops and homes on second and third levels
Hanging Salmon and Prawn Kebab – The Mulberry Restaurant Yum Yum!!!

Hi Robbie (Wilson)! Lovely talking to you yesterday. Looking forward to hearing from you on my blog.

Leaving France to Alderney and UK

Cherbourg, France to Alderney in the Chanel Islands

A break in the weather finally came. James arrived on the 25th March bringing sunshine and light breezes. A message to Doc Kitchen; it was impossible to get Philip’s eye injections here, so let’s get out and find another ‘you’ in the UK before we have to organise an emergency flight for him back to Rockhampton!

Morning of 26th we had a very pleasant farewell visit from Francois who gave Philip a bottle of Puech-Haut Saint-Drezery Rose wine for his birthday tomorrow and myself, a beautiful book on Cherbourg. Thank you Francois and for advising us to put a heater on French Kiss! Our heater is now known as ‘Francois’!

Planning to leave at 10:30am, Sophie arrived on the dot to wave us goodbye. Being the ‘Godparents’ of French Kiss, they have both been wonderful to us, an honour to be invited to their home for dinner; onto Francois’ yacht for dinner and drinks; meeting Sophie’s girls Maude and Mathilde and translating french when we needed it. We are extremely grateful.

10:20am we pulled off the dock and motored through the Petite Rade passed the Military Wall boundry into the Grande Rade. We have lived in France all together for 4 months. It was sad to leave.

Leaving the ‘Petite Rade’ (Small Harbour).
To the left is the French prohibited Military Zone
Outer entrance to the Grande Rade (Grand Harbour) started by Napoleon and completed by Hitler.
Outer walls of the Grande Rade where Napoleon had 93 of his war ships waiting for battle. 1804-1814.

With only 5 knot winds we set the mainsail and continued to motor all the way to Alderney in the Chanel Islands.

French coast line

As soon as we arrived we took our tender over to the Harbour Master where we had our passports stamped and yacht papers signed to state our vessel had left the EU. Europe is quite confusing with which countries are in the EU, the Schengen area and Common Areas of Passage.

James and Philip taking the rubbish to the bins.
Alderney Island – Chanel Island Group

27th March 2019. Happy Birthday Philip! What a birthday present …. crossing the English Chanel. The weather was certainly in our favour so we decided to sail\motor parallel with the Traffic Separation System through the night, then once that ended to sail towards Lands End, UK. All went well so we carried on into another night doing 3 hour shifts each from 9pm to 6am. Through the day we shared and took a nap when we could. Taking a short cut through the Menai Straits we stopped on the third night, tying onto a buoy at Port Dinorwic, untying at 3am to make The Swellies on the slack high tide. Making it through the worst part of the straits with James on the helm we anchored at Angelsey for the day to catch the high tide into Conwy. Our autopilot has been named ‘James’.

Menai Straits from west coast (Isle of Angelsey) through to Bangor
First steps on Welsh soil! Anglesey, NE point.
James’ exercise for the day! A row to the mainland for a walk.
Lighthouse at Angelsey. ‘No Passage Landward’
At low tide, rocks were revealed making an easy walk to the lighthouse
Lush green paddocks dotted with white sheep all over the countryside.
A little chilly in the northern hemisphere!!!
Taking a break from French Kiss

Llangbadrig Church -Isle of Angelsey If you see a walking sign (above right hand side) it means you can step over the farmers fence (see wooden plank steps) and walk through his property. It is a public walk way!


****************************************************A message from Francois I just had to copy and paste…. Like Philip always says: ‘Trees and mountains never meet but people always do!’

Fair winds my friends!
See you soon somewhere… up in Scotland, down in Africa, far away in Australia or just here in Cherbourg where our home is yours…
Enjoy and take care!
Friendly yours.
François

Time to cut the umbilical cord!

23rd March, 2019

Well, all we need now is fresh bread and veggies! French Kiss is prepped and ready. Born in Cherbourg, France, registered as an Australian, ‘FRENCH KISS, GLADSTONE’, she is ready to cut her umbilical cord and start her long journey home.

Our position: Latitude: N 49 degrees 38.840′ Longitude: W 1 degree 37.201′

I love that Longitude …. 1 degree W (west)

Greenwich is situated 5 miles south of London on the River Thames. Greenwich Meridian is 0 degrees known as GMT or now, UTC time. Coordinated Universal Time which is the standard that regulates world clocks and time. UTC starts at 0 measuring the Meridians of Longitude. Brisbane time is UTC 10+ meaning 10 hours ahead of Greenwich. Our Queensland coast sees the sun 10 hours before Greenwich\London.

15 degrees = 1 hour. 15 degrees x 24 hours = 360 degrees (circle) divided 180 east and 180 west of Greenwich meeting at the opposite side of the planet is the International Date Line. Gladstone’s Latitude is 23 degrees 50.35′ South and Longitude 151 degrees 16.6′ East. That’s 15 degrees x 10 hours from Greenwich and slightly inland = 151 degrees.

The Equator is 0 degrees and from here measures the Parallels of Latitude. The North Pole is 90 degrees N. The South Pole is 90 degrees S. Gladstone is 23 degrees south of the Equator and 67 degrees north of the South Pole so I am excited to be 1 degree west of Greenwich where it all starts.

Our first passage plan is to cross the Chanel to the UK and sail up the west coast to Conwy in Wales. 1st June we will attempt, through the Scottish Caledonian Canal, Inverness and Shetlands to reach Tromso in Norway then higher still to Svalbard, reaching the 80th parallel. This is approx. 600 nautical miles south of the North Pole.

I am unable to upload photos at the moment but will add when I can. The biggest sentence I have learnt in French: je voudrais un taxi a la marina s’il vour plait! I would like a taxi to the marina, please! Bonjour, merci beaucoup, and au revoir! Very few French speak English. It was a difficult country to get anything done or make appointments. Philip and I used our iPhone translator all the time.

All the French people we have met have been extremely friendly. We have lived here for nearly 4 months and thoroughly enjoyed the food, wine, cheese and experience. Cherbourg has heaps of history including the Titanic’s last visit. Napoleon’s statue stands in a park by the main road dividing the city and the marina. A monument to the French Resistance stands on opposite side of the street. With a forceful glare, Napoleon sits tall on his horse, his hand pointing seaward where is 93 war ships would have waited in the Grand Harbour originally started by himself….later finished by Hitler. Did you know, Napoleon always wore his hat sideways? Hats were worn with the corners pointing forward and back but he wanted to be instantly recognisable on the battlefield so wore his hat sideways. This is a fascinating place!