Merry Christmas

Thu 23 Dec 2021 06:49

Two Invisible Divides

Hello Dear Readers,

I realize it has been a long time since my last blog, so it is high time I brought you up to date with a review of our past twelve months.

Both the Equator and the first sixth months of the year clearly divide our passage up the vast Atlantic and the final stage of our circumnavigation from the second half of the year. The last six months have been a complete and often surprising contrast in so many ways.

Let’s start at the beginning.

By January 5th Rob and I were pretty sure we had contracted the global lurgy and with rusty throats we sailed out of Richards Bay on the east coast of South Africa and proceeded to Durban, where the marina and staff were so unpleasant we moved swiftly on to East London and spent 19 days quarantined and slowly recovering with the unforgettable help of the yacht club commodore, Conrad and a visiting family, and surrounded by birdlife that held my interest daily while Rob fought the disease by literally melting at high temperature into the towels on his bed.

Zoonie’s passage around the southern coast of the African continent from the Indian to the Atlantic Ocean was as benign as the sail around the south of Tasmania with Ken and Bron had been the year before.

Fear not these southern routes; at the right time of year and in agreeable weather windows, they can be delightful.

Cape Town, with all its tragic troubles, was a great place for us. We spent time with friends, explored the wine area, became locals at one of the homely pubs on the Watefront, and watched with abandoned interest the local fauna, the roaring seals, a grooming mother otter, numerous cormorants and even a sun fish, all in our vicinity and overlooked by the permanent residents in the neighbouring aquarium, including jackass penguins and a solitary oyster catcher.

We both looked forward to being back in the Atlantic. How can a vast ocean feel homely you may ask? Well, it can after the Indian Ocean, and it treated us kindly.

Timings for Zoonie’s on going journeying worked well for us right from when we arrived in Western Australia in March 2020 to when we got home 15 months later, and St Helena was no exception. Three days after arriving in St Helena we were allowed ashore to explore and were even given our first jab there.

Sailing northwards to the Azores meant we crossed the equator and that familiar tropical warmth returned for a few delicious weeks.

As you can imagine, with our long circumnavigation approaching its end many thoughts went through my mind. No more mysterious seamounts and abyssal plains, sheer-sided deep valleys and sunken volcanoes, thousands of wet metres beneath us, no more wonderful seabirds, soaring albatross and darting shearwater. We would be leaving the vicinity of the fabulous mammals of the deep sharing with us our personal all-round horizon world. I appreciated that our project was near its end and that held its own satisfaction but we would both miss our solitary sailing world aboard our beloved Zoonie. But how fortunate were we to do the trip.

On 2 May we crossed our outward track not far west of the Cape Verdes, our Oceanic circle complete. Not only were we moving north but so was the sun, at a slower rate than us, so we crossed its latitude with the comforting notion it was bringing summer to Europe and the UK.

After a few relaxing days in the lovely Azores, a group of isolated islands we had visited numerous times before, the final leg lay ahead of us and contained no unpleasant surprises. I read in my notes a few minutes ago that I feared something bad might happen so near home, as it has to many other mariners, but Zoonie continued to keep us safe through light airs and five days of fog which only cleared on our last morning to reveal the faint outline of the Lizard.

We cleared in easily by telephone and found ourselves amidst the peaceful protesting groups, tourists and visitors at the G7 summit meeting, and had a drone flying over us in the marina, hovering beneath a clear blue sky.

A short motor up the Penryn River two days later and Zoonie squeezed into a berth at her new home, Freeman’s Wharf Boatyard, where she still rests, half the day afloat and half sitting on top of 14 feet of mud. That was in June, half a year ago and it will be another four months before we sail in Zoonie again. We plan to sail clockwise around the UK and yesterday spent time with our friends Jane and John and their game little spaniel Pip who have nearly circumnavigated the UK on foot. We were keen for tips from them and indeed they came across many marinas and harbours where they felt we would be happy to take Zoonie.

They just have Wales to do as it was closed because of Covid before. They shared our emotions and love of the ‘off the beaten track’ life in isolated places, for us the deep ocean and for them the glorious coastline of the UK. They also feel the same loss of the peace and self-reliance that way of life brings, spending long periods just the two together and meeting lovely folk of like minds. So, like us they look forward to setting off again.

Since our return we have been happily occupied reuniting with our family and friends and building a home structure once again. We felt the need to have a base so we sold both our houses to our tenants and bought the first and only house we looked at because it was perfect. With the help of three strong male family members, we completed the move ourselves and crawled around on aching limbs for a couple of days afterwards, but it is well worthwhile because now we have somewhere for family and friends to come and stay.

I was sitting in my daughter’s kitchen with her one day when I said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could scroll through the cars for sale on my phone, see one I like, pay over the phone and have it delivered to our door!”

“You can Mum.” So that is what we did and how useful has it been hauling loads from the boat and from Oakham to our new home. We are aware of the need to reduce our carbon footprint on land as well as on Zoonie, with her solar, wind and water power sources up and working. So we now live in an area where we can walk to all the nice places in Wimborne, ride our bikes to Emily’s home avoiding almost all roads and using plantation tracks and the Castleman Trailway, and catch trains from nearby Poole to our Oakham family and to my brother Robin near Okehampton in Devon now the line from Exeter to Okehampton has been reopened by popular demand.

Much though we miss our old wandering life it is truly wonderful to be a regular part of our family again, with our own place to live in, geographically in between them all, and the satisfaction of our mega project safely completed making room for the next one to be planned and shaped. Work on my book about our voyage to New Zealand compared to the voyage of the Teddy with Julie and Erling Tambs from 1928 to 1930 is almost finished. My editor, Rachel has just gone through it with a fine toothcomb and it should be published in Feb/March time. So I must start work on the second book which will bring our story home.

Well that’s about it for now, we hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and that next year might be a little kinder than 2021.

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