We arrived back in Dartmouth, our home port, at 1600 UTC on August 25, 2013.
Dressed overall. From the bow are the flags of the countries we have visited.
Soon after we arrived Mags wrote as follows.
We are home safely after a surprisingly benign trip from the Azores where the main concern has been conserving fuel as we motored and motor-sailed a good deal of the way.
As we started to see land it was sunny and boats out enjoying a Sunday sail were dotted on the horizon. Closing the coast though grey clouds came over and there was a lowering broody look to the sky, so very English. We headed towards the Dart river entrance, up through the buoyed entrance channel with other boats returning at the end of the day. As the river opened ahead of us showing Dartmouth on the port side and Kingswear to starboard the sun came out. The small steam locomotive at Kingswear station gave a toot and started to chug off. A rowing race in old whalers was in full flow and we were hustled out of their path. The small Lower Ferry rang its bell and we put the brakes on to let it pass and boats of all sorts were buzzing by. A 1924 paddle steamer all agleam paddled upstream. Later, the band struck up in the town band-stand. And the sun shone.
We texted our oldest friends (Barry crawled on the mat with Roger when one year old and I have known Merril since I was 11) to say we were home, only to receive the unexpected reply that they were two miles away and arriving any minute. Would we please go back out and come in again as they had hoped to catch us entering! We didn’t of course. We tied up in a prime spot between two Harbour Authority buoys next to a nice solid old converted Scottish fishing boat. We called the boat taxi service who arrived within a minute and took us ashore, unwashed and unkempt, to spend a lovely first evening with our friends. Next day Barry’s daughter and family arrived and after lunch and a short walk around town we all sat in the cockpit of JJ Moon stringing our courtesy flags together ready to dress the boat overall.
Family going ashore.
Not only have we arrived but it is also Regatta Week here. Today, Tuesday, the Royal Dart Yacht Club, on the notification of another friend has invited us to bring the boat alongside their pontoon and join a small group for a glass to fête our return and achievement. There will be someone from the local rag, they say. Horror! Although we have been members for many years and actually left their pontoon for the Med. ten years ago, as we were winter visitors most of the time we really are not known by many members. Despite that we were warmly welcomed yesterday while visiting to find out how things were planned for this evening and now we do know one or two very nice people having spent a happy half hour watching the end of some dinghy racing in the lounge bar. We know of good friends in New Zealand who were uncorking a bottle of champagne on Sunday for our arrival and fellow yachties in the States were doing the same. We also received several lovely emails egging us on and congratulating us. I got quite emotional in the cockpit having read these emails and thinking about arriving home.
The only horror for me is this event tonight. The local reporter will have a camera and my hair, after a very thorough wash, is doing some strange things and spiking in all directions. (I had probably the worst cut I have ever had in my life in South Africa and it has not fully recovered). My best glasses have disappeared into that black hole that boats seem to have and I am feeling very shy and have stage fright. I shall peer over Barry’s shoulder and pretend not to be there! No, no, I shall love it I know. Mind you, our good friends will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next weekend and you have to admit that such a voyage merits more than a seven year world trip. No comparison. But we shall enjoy our small moment.
What a wonderful world and what wonderful friends.
In the event the reception went well after a difficult start. We were slightly apprehensive – we didn’t know what to expect. It felt a bit like watching a line squall approaching over the water. So Mags decided to paint her face (tastefully) and tidy her hair before leaving the mooring. Timing our move to coincide with slack water we arrived on the RDYC pontoon about an hour before we were due. The mate jumped down with a handful of warps and the heavens opened. For a short time it lashed down. We moved along to accommodate another arrival, coming to fill her water tanks and before we were secure hair was in rat-tails and mascara was running down cheeks. We looked a mess. An inauspicious start but fortunately we had sufficient time to sort ourselves out.
Royal Dart Yacht Club
The formal part was low key. Champagne and nibbles were passed round; the well-briefed Commodore, a lady, gave a summary of our voyage and offered a toast in recognition of our safe return. I replied with a few well-chosen words and that was it. But the evening altogether was a resounding success. We were both bowled over by the warmth of the welcome and the open, non-competitive friendliness of everyone. It is clear that our club has fallen into the hands of a group of able people who have all the right ideas about friendliness and inclusivity.
Sunflowers from Sunflower. A lovely gesture from very good sailing mates.
The Royal Dartmouth Regatta is a noisy, rather brash affair including rowing races each day, a fun fair, market, music ranging from the Royal Marine band to appalling pop, a Royal Navy minesweeper acting as guard-ship, a Navy air/sea rescue demonstration, aerobatic team, RAF Tornado thundering overhead, a vintage Vulcan bomber and, as a climax, the Red Arrows. When on holiday 35 years ago we were anchored in the middle of the river and I seem to remember the planes being so low that we were scared they would tear off our VHF antenna. Now they perform at greater altitude and well away from the fairway. The ill-disciplined public was warned that if another helium balloon were released the show would be cancelled. Seemingly a good time was had by all throughout the week and immediately the last of the coloured vapour-trails had faded away we called the Harbour Authority lads and asked for help in releasing our warps. By then the harbour was so full there were another two boats tied up outside us. We couldn’t stay long enough to see any of the serious yacht racing organised by the Yacht Club with as many as a hundred boats racing out in Start Bay.
1 Rescue demonstration by the Navy. 2 The Red Arrows signing off.
3. Provident – an old friend of the skipper’s
On Thursday our friend Ray from Geneva joined us for the last short leg to the Solent. Ray started following our progress while we were crossing the Atlantic. Latterly he has emailed a weather forecast each day and received a note of our position. He would have notified the authorities had we disappeared “off his radar”. At an early stage he began to refer to himself as our “virtual crew member” and we were delighted that he was able to join us as a “real” member of the crew for that last hop.
We sailed the 85 miles overnight in good weather and nudged into our berth at the Lymington Berthon Marina on Saturday morning, August 31. Very posh it is too – showers and loos to die for and the fastest wi-fi in the west. The immediate task is to clear, clean and polish JJ Moon ready for sale.
It has been a great adventure; a fulfilling retirement project. We have seen or experienced several outstanding things and a myriad interesting ones. But, as one would expect, it is the people we have met, locals and fellow cruisers, who will make the most lasting impressions. The world-girdling group behaves like a small moving village, members drop out or press on, some to reappear months or years later when friendships are re-established. There is a sense of community which is most attractive. Some of us have lived for months, even years, in a marina or anchorage sharing regular drinks in the cockpit after the day’s work is done, occasional meals on board or at a discovered local eatery and from time to time a shared few days away to see the sights.
In reality we were tourists like all the other visitors but were there on a rather different basis from those arriving by air or cruise ship. In each new country we have had to buy our own groceries, do the laundry, get our hair cut, and maybe visit the dentist or find a doctor. We have settled in and within a week or two found it terribly difficult to up-anchor and drag ourselves away.
On reflection, I think that anyone could do it, even starting out with little knowledge or experience. It certainly helps to have the right partner, a well chosen boat and sufficient funds to adequately finance the campaign. Without any one of those the voyage could end unhappily. Many set out to get away from it all and see the world, without making a priority of completing a circumnavigation but if that is the aim what is needed above all is “stickability” and a strong desire to see it through.
We have thoroughly enjoyed all of it but pressed for highlights we might include: the Panama canal, the giant tortoises and teeming life of the Galapagos, the islands and happy people of French Polynesia, friendly New Zealanders, the simple life-style of the people of Vanuatu, the orang-utans of southern Borneo, the communal life of Rebak Island marina, the big animals and the historic battle sites of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift in South Africa, St Helena, large whales.
Bad times? Very few. Some strong winds but we have never been frightened; at worst made apprehensive that some vital part would break and carry away.
But it was the people, the people. We shall remember them for the rest of our lives.