The final bit

Rick, Helen, Sue, John
Thu 30 Jun 2011 13:21
Hello from 50:27.4N 4:12.4 W
Those who can ‘plot’ this position will see there we are now back at dear old Weir Quay and DDL is on a temporary mooring on the Tamar, snugged down between Devon (right bank) and Cornwall (left bank). The last few days of our voyage continued to produce one or two surprises (I’m not saying this is a bad thing. You try writing a blog of a voyage when everything goes well and according to plan, nothing breaks or falls off and nothing out of the ordinary happens. It would be something like this:
‘We are departing from port A. All well on board.
We are voyaging towards Port B. All very well on board, nothing to report.
We arrived port B. All still very well on board.’
You see, it would lack, what we writers refer to as, zip.
24th June
If you recall, where we left you was in a SSW 7, crossing the continental shelf. That ‘half gale’ took a day to blow through. A very, very, grey, rolly day in which we three forsook the cockpit for the Pilot House and played Wizard (a version of whist with extra cards and nastiness). Our table was a pillow wedged on the floor as, with the boat ‘in full motion’, anything else would have taken off. During the night an injury occurred. We had an ‘all hands on deck’ task to carry out when one of the crew crash-gybed the boat thus jamming the skippers head twixt main sheet block and main sheet track. Quite Very painful but with a disappointing amount of blood and only medium wounding. Anyway didn’t mention it to the guilty party. Well, hardly mentioned it. OK, well perhaps touched on it a little. For an hour at most, certainly no longer.
25th June
Overnight the weather pulled itself together and although there was quite a bit of ‘left-over’ sea running it was a lovely morning. There was some odd looking, wispy low cloud over to the north which prevented us from picking up our first sight of land. There was a damn great tanker over to port – our first ship for some days. This was a juicy opportunity to test the Radar. So. Switch on. Check the screen. Yes there’s a green trace going round and round. What about the target? Nothing. Not a flicker And this despite the fact that this tanker was about the size of Suffolk and was plainly visible to the naked eye. I maybe jumping to conclusions here but, you know, I’m wondering if the radar is really any good.
26th June.
Last night we had to dodge around the ITZ (Inshore Traffic Zone) off the Scillies and as we cleared its eastern end the Weather Gods took their final pot-shot and sent us a chilly ESE’ly F4 which was basically right in our chops. So we got The Shrek turning and headed straight into it, weaving now and then to avoid east-going shipping. Of course, the wispy odd-looking cloud then metamorphosed into a sullen, damp fog bank. But in the end that burnt off and, wind direction notwithstanding, we had a nice day out a sea. Then, at 1900 ship’s time, bloody George (the auto-pilot) started playing up and after a hour of fooling around, topping up hydraulic fluid, we were stuck with hand-steering over night. Bad but not that bad as this will be our last night. Then S came up from the Pilot House. ‘There’s a rotten egg smell’ she said. To a certain extent, R and I, poo-pooed the R.E.S. putting in the ‘yes, well, we’ll look into that later,’ category. S came back. ‘We really DO have a problem with our electrics! One of the batteries is practically smoking!’ Three of us try to get through the Pilot House hatch at the same moment.  The outboard battery was as hot as hell, emitting a hydrogen sulphide stench and hissing. In the end we took the terminals off the wayward battery, thus isolating it. As the bank is wired in series, everything still works fine. (Or at least as fine as it did before our China syndrome incident. Even next day the battery was still warm to the touch.)
27th June.
Gradually we closed the land. (Actually it was during my ‘watch below’ but as land was evident when I got up it was clear we must have closed it in the meantime.)
Its dawn and half a dozen dolphins come to guide us across the last few hundred yards of open sea before we pass by the western end of the Plymouth breakwater. We putter up our oh so familiar river and at 0600 pick up the visitor’s buoy at Weir Quay. Next to the non-working engine instruments there’s black button which you press to stop the Shrek. I press it. The Shrek ignores it and carries on making the usual infernal racket. I press again, harder. No response. So its one last visit down to the Black Lagoon (there’s a secret lever). Success. Silence. A profound wonderful stillness. We can hear the plop of fish jumping. There are cries from early morning wading birds on the exposed mud banks and the far-off rattle from the little local train as it crosses the bridge over the Tavy. It all seems a long, long way from Curacao. ‘Lets have a whisky’, says R and we mark the moment by sitting quietly in the cockpit with a very decent malt he brought with him. And that’s it, really. We’re done.