My top destinations

by Julian

It is the end of the year and since we started out in 2012 we have covered 3000 miles in Carina. I have already reviewed when things go wrong, so for balance I thought I would highlight some of the best places we have been to. I have chosen one destination in each country we have visited, though there are many other fabulous places in all five countries.

Tresco – Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, England

TrescoCollageWe moored on either side of Tresco. In New Grimsby Sound on passage to Ireland and in Old Grimsby Sound on the way back. I’ve heard people be a bit sniffy about Tresco because the south end of the island is so well tended. But in fact this is one of the most stunning things about it. It is an island of two extremely different halves. Of course the views everywhere are incredible. When the sun is out the beaches have the feel of a south pacific island. The moorings are a bit pricey but it is possible to anchor. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there. See the blog posts: Hungry sailors in Tresco and Falmouth to the Isles of Scilly.

Muros – Ria de Muros, Galicia, Spain

MurosCollageThe town is absolutely lovely with its old narrow streets overlooking a nice bay. The marina is pricey, but probably the best I have ever stayed in, with the office, lounge and laundry all set in an old converted cottage. It has a great family feel about it. If you love fish Muros is certainly a top destination too and we were there for the fabulous Virgin del Carmen fiesta with its waterborne parade. Despite the comments in the pilot guide about anchoring difficulties plenty of yachts anchored in the bay with no major issues. However, our best time was away from the town, when we anchored off a beach around the corner. I could walk into Muros and we could swim or row to the beach to play for the afternoon. We even collected delicious mussels at low water, whilst some locals were picking the razor clams. See the blog posts: Ria de Muros – a little bit of heaven, Fiesta de Virgin del Carmen and Beach Interlude.

Culatra – Algarve, Portugal

CultraCollagePeople just anchor here and stay for the whole summer and I can see why. What a fantastic place. Away from the traffic children can run around in relative safety, they cannot go far because it is a small island. Many people just seem to hang around barbequing fish that have been collected by the fleet of small, often single person boats. There is also the community of catamarans in the lagoon, some of which are permanent inhabitants. Ferries to Olhao and Faro mean that you can get everything you might need, but it is fun to just stay on the island and meet the people, including sailors from all over Europe. See the blog posts: Have you heard the one about the Inuit family, Old cats and Arviat on the Algarve.

L’Aber Wrac’h – Brittany, France

LaberwracCollageI just love the many faces of L’Aber Wrac’h. You can moor upriver at Paluden, away from the bustling marina of La Palue, or hang out and meet the many interesting sailors (and rowers), from all over the world, passing through on their adventures. There are beautiful walks in the woods, the hills and along the beaches, with their cockle picking opportunities. Nice towns you can walk to (or catch the bus), and of course the chance to sample the delicious food of Brittany. But probably the most spectacular thing is the entrance itself with impressive granite rocks and a giant imposing lighthouse in the backdrop (Possibly the tallest in the world). It is a great staging post for an adventure. See the blog post: Brittany.

Derrynane – County Kerry, Ireland

filename-derrynane-harbourDerrynane has a tight entrance, only to be attempted in good weather, but once in you are safe at anchor, in a beautiful cove. If the weather turns bad you’ll have to stay there and wait it out though. The sort of place where you can swim from the boat to the beach, explore all around the fantastic dunes and rocks, finding a variety of interesting places to play and chill out. It has a great pub too. What more do you want? See the blog post: Dolphins divers and Derrynane.

Conclusion

Well that’s it for now, except to say that I would feel bad without at least a mention of some other places which could have made this list.

Falmouth, Fowey, Penzance, The Yealm and Mevagissey – England.

Horseshoe Harbour – Sherkin Island, Glandore, Crookhaven and Lawrence Cove – Bere Island – Ireland.

Camaret sur Mer – France.

Porto – Portugal.

Ria de Viveiro, La Coruña, Rianxo, Bayona (all of Galicia really) – Spain.

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2012 Highlights

We’ve almost reached the end of another year, and some of us may already be regretting giving ourselves over to mince pies and mulled wine so early in the Christmas season. It’s a time of year to reflect on what’s past and to look forward to the future. I’ve picked out ten of my highlights of the year – in vague chronological order:

1. Lily’s Birthday, Dawlish

March 27th on the beach at Dawlish

March 27th on the beach at Dawlish

Lily’s third birthday was celebrated on the beach at Dawlish. I took the day off work, packed a picnic lunch and our swimwear, and we spent the day playing, building sandcastles, splashing in the waves, and generally having big big fun. What could be better than a day on the beach with my two favourite people?

Strolling in Lanzarote

Strolling in Lanzarote

2. Easter in Lanzarote

We spent Easter in Lanzarote with Julian’s mum and my mum. What a week. Sun, sea, swimming pools. Two grandmothers to spoil the girls, leaving Julian and I free to go SCUBA diving for the first time in almost five years. What bliss to be under water again.

Moving Day

Moving Day

3. Moving Day

On the 9th of May we said goodbye to dry land and moved aboard Carina. Land-lubbers no more. Only thirteen months since that fateful Good Friday in 2011 when we decided to give it a shot, and here we were living on our own boat. I was filled with excitement, pride and joy on what we had achieved and what we hoped to achieve.

In lieu of a Falmouth photo I give you twenty toes

In lieu of a Falmouth photo I give you twenty toes

4. Cosmopolitan Falmouth

For five days we berthed at Falmouth Yacht Haven. The place was a United Nations of bohemian self-sufficient live-aboards in fantastically equipped home-made or altered sailing boats. Each day we met interesting neighbours from Germany, Italy, Canada, Ireland, the US, newly sailed in from Ireland, Bermuda, the Mediterranean. Lone sea-farers, couples with young children, boat-loads of friends. What a treat.

View from the highest point of Tresco

View from the highest point of Tresco

5. Tresco – twice

We visited the Isles of Scilly twice this year, mooring either side of the delightful island of Tresco. Azure seas, golden sandy beaches and bizarre rock formations formed our backdrop and our playground. We swam, we explored, we played, we ate good food, we met Dick Strawbridge! I can’t sing the praises of the Isles of Scilly highly enough.

The Bull and the Heifer near the mouth of Bantry Bay

The Bull and the Heifer

6. The Cork and Kerry coastline

West Cork and South Kerry have been a part of me for as long as I remember. Holidays with family and friends bring back so many good memories. But I never saw them from this angle before. Wow. The cliffs and islands as one turns into Glandore/Union Hall, and again at Baltimore; majestic Mizen Head; delightful Crookhaven; The Cow and The Bull and The Heifer. This awesome coastline lifted my spirits and filled my heart with wonder.

bolt7. BOLT!!!!

On a warm summer’s evening in August, Julian and I went to the pub in Baltimore, leaving the girls aboard Carina with their granny. Shortly before 9.45pm, the revelers out on the street packed into the pub. About 200 people were squashed together, standing on tables and chairs, all eyes on the small television mounted on the wall near the bar. We screamed, we yelled, we clapped each other on the back. We hugged complete strangers. And for 9.63 seconds we all belonged to each other and a lanky cheeky Jamaican belonged to us all. I’m welling up just remembering it.

View of Sherkin Island from Lott's Wife

View of Sherkin Island from Lott’s Wife

8. Horseshoe Bay, Sherkin Island

On a warm September day, Julian rowed the girls and I from our anchorage in Horseshoe Bay to a small deserted stony beach. The only access to the beach was by boat and ours was the only boat in the bay. The girls played, I read a book, we collected rocks. In late afternoon, Julian re-joined us, and I left him with the girls while I rowed back to Carina, made dinner and transported it in pots and pans back to the beach. It was one of those perfect sunshiny days that stay with you forever.

Certainly no Royal Navy photos...anyone going shopping?

Certainly no Royal Navy photos…anyone going shopping?

9. Royal Navy

Let me first say I’m a pacifist, and no fan of the military. In early summer, as we were departing Plymouth, a Royal Navy frigate overtook us with all hands on deck standing to attention. It was a magnificent sight. But when they saw our little girls waving at them, the entire crew – I don’t know – 100 sailors – all waved back. I was touched. As we sailed back into Plymouth in late September, three Royal Navy high speed inflatables overtook us. All the sailors waved at us. But the crew of one inflatable diverted from their course, and sped in circles around Carina to the delight of both the girls and us. Simple, thoughtful gestures that made our children happy.

Lily and friend at Hallowe'en

Lily and friend at Hallowe’en

10. Hatton Country World

My final highlight of the year was a trip to Hatton Country World in Warwickshire with Lily, Katie and my father-in-law, Barry. What a great place. The very best soft play in the whole world – for adults and children; goats, sheep, pigs, guinea pigs, reindeer, a donkey all to feed and stroke, and more indoor and outdoor activities for children than your mind could comprehend. My only complaint – one day was not enough. We might have to go back again over Christmas.

Wishing you all a peaceful and merry Christmas, and best wishes for a 2013 filled with joy, love and – what else? – adventure xxx

Hungry Sailors in Tresco

My mother chastised me yesterday for leaving cliff hangers at the end of my blog posts, but then never getting back to them. It’s a time thing – or a lack of time thing. She was referring in particular to our brush with culinary celebrity in the Isles of Scilly, so it’s time I told that story.

View across Old Grimsby Sound

The weather was wonderful when we arrived back at the Isles of Scilly. We were less tired following this passage than we had been on the journey to Ireland. But because of the weather we decided to stay on the islands for a few days, to play on the beach and explore Tresco Island again.

Lily and Katie at King Charles Castle

There was a food festival on the Sunday, showcasing local beef, seafood, cheeses and drinks. There was a bread making workshop, wine tasting and cocktail making. We partook in very little of this, and what we did we looked on from the sidelines. But it was enjoyable, and there was a great sense of fun about the day, especially once the wine and cocktails got flowing.

When we climbed to King Charles Castle, Julian and I both oohed and ahhed over a very pretty wooden cutter moored in New Grimsby Sound. By the time we had walked back across the island, the cutter had moved to Old Grimsby Sound and was one of only two boats there – the other one being Carina.

At the cricket field, the Tresco and Bryher eleven took on the Truro doctors, from Cornwall. We went along to watch and quickly discovered we were in the midst of the filming of the ITV television programme, The Hungry Sailors. Not owning a television, we were unfamiliar with the programme, but very familiar with its charismatic and distinctive looking co-host, Dick Strawbridge, he of the walrus mustache, a former winner of Masterchef and host of various environmental and foodie programmes (we have yet to shed our 21st Century middle class obsession with extravagant one-up-manship cooking and celebrity chefs).

The man with the walrus mustache

Dick and his son, James, sail around the south coast of the UK in their wooden cutter, seeking out local foods and local food heroes, and then, of course, doing a little cooking themselves.

Wait! A wooden cutter? Could it possibly be the one moored next to us? Of course!

So, for this show that we accidentally walked in on, Dick and James made rival sandwiches for the cricket teams, and the teams then had to judge which sandwich was the tastiest. We got talking to Dick and the film crew about sailing and food and children, and Lily and Katie joined the cricketers in tucking into the sandwiches. Julian suggested a punchline for the end of the show, and I’m sure Dick wondered why Julian hasn’t yet quit sailing and take to the comedy circuit!

I’ll certainly be watching the programme when it’s aired next March, although I’m sure they’ll edit out Lily crying – partly because she wanted a sandwich but mostly because Katie bit her!! And I just have to see if Julian’s punchline was put to use.

Crossing to Ireland

We enjoyed a very pleasant couple of nights moored in New Grimsby Sound in the Isles of Scilly. The weather was as it should be, but unfortunately hasn’t been for most of this summer. So we made the most of warm sunshine to play on the glorious golden beach of Tresco Island and explore the two castle ruins at the north end of the island. We could have stayed there for a few more days – or forever – but decided the time had come to venture across the 130 nautical miles to Kinsale, our destination port on the south coast of Ireland. We had always intended to have another crew member on board for the trip to Ireland, but as the days and weeks went by and we grew more comfortable with handling Carina, we decided to go it alone. The 24th and 25th of July gave us a weather window – not great for sailing due to the lack of wind, but good for two novices who might have to forego sleep for 24 hours or more.

Julian and I woke early on the morning of Tuesday the 24th. It was foggy, but we got everything in order and at 6.30am we slipped silently out of New Grimsby Sound. After about half an hour the fog grew considerably worse and we wondered if we’d made a mistake. Luckily, the girls were still asleep, so Julian and I were able to give all our attention to navigating through pea soup. I helmed, while Julian regularly blew the fog horn, and we listened intently to the radio as we kept our eyes peeled for anything that might suddenly loom out of the fog. By 9am it had lifted, to reveal a clear blue-sky day, with a southerly puff of wind that wouldn’t knock a feather over. We motored along for most of the day, now and again cutting the motor to see if it was worth putting up the sails. If we had more crew, or were more experienced we might have been happy to chug along at 2 or 3 knots for 48 hours, but we made the decision to just go for it, and make as much speed as we could for as long as we could.

We spent a pleasant day at sea, getting on with life as usual – even the washing hanging out (see the photo below!). There were few signs of other humans – a fishing vessel mid morning and then a container ship far in the distance later in the day. For the first time we saw fulmers – lots of them. When the herring gulls ended the fulmers began, swooping low, masters of the open ocean. Gannets flew past too, often in flocks of twenty or more birds, but always going somewhere, never diving to fish.

Hardly ‘single-handed’ sailing!

I had a two hour nap mid-afternoon, and when I awoke I relieved Julian to do likewise, although he didn’t sleep for as long. Putting the girls to bed at bedtime proved somewhat difficult. They were aware that we were doing something different and wanted to be part of it. They both eventually nodded off, but half an hour later Lily reappeared, and finally fell asleep in the cockpit, wrapped in a sleeping bag, and we transferred her to bed.

It was around this time, after the sun had set, but there was still plenty of light in the sky, and Lily was drifting off, that we decided there finally was enough wind, and we got the sails out. Beautiful silence at last. Shortly after 11pm, Julian got kitted out in warmer overnight clothing and made himself a large coffee. I went down to the saloon to sleep for a few hours. At 1.30 Julian came bounding down the companionway yelling ‘Fog horn, fog horn’. I leaped out of bed, quickly found the fog horn and went up on deck. A thick fog had descended and the sound of a fog horn somewhere on our port side had Julian worried. But the fog horn was too consistent, too regular and a quick glance at the chart plotter revealed it to be marking the boundary of the Kinsale gas field.

Moments later we received a radio message from the gas field!! ‘Will the vessel one mile south of Kinsale B please alter course, you are entering a restricted zone’. Oops. We altered course to go around the restricted area, still in fog and not able to see a thing. Moments later the fog lifted, revealing two massive gas rigs lit up like Christmas trees, less than a mile from us. Hard to believe that two such massive brightly lit structures rising out the sea could be so obscured by fog. Thankfully that was the end of the fog and the rest of the night we had good visibility with occasional drizzle. Julian went to bed and I helmed for a couple of hours, watching the lights on Ireland’s south coast gradually come into view – lighthouses and other lights – and the coastline taking shape as dawn approached. We swapped places once again and when I was woken by Lily at 6.30 we were only a couple of hours from our destination.

We arrived in Kinsale on a cold drizzly morning, 26 hours after we’d left the Isles of Scilly. We were both exhausted, but delighted with our achievement and delighted to be in Ireland. After setting ourselves up on the pontoon at Castlepark Marina, we enjoyed a hearty fried breakfast. Julian slept while I took the girls to the beach, and in the afternoon Lily and I slept while Julian and Katie walked into Kinsale.

Yippee…we had arrived, and after a day of rest and recovery, we were ready to begin the Irish leg of our adventure!

Falmouth to the Isles of Scilly

We departed Falmouth on the morning of July 21st, sailing west. Our destination was Newlyn, but as we were unable to contact the harbour master, we sailed to Penzance instead. Early on we were joined by two dolphins, and then three, and for about an hour they played close to us, sometimes leaving us and then returning again. As we got closer to Penzance the majestic monastery on St. Micheal’s Mount came into view.

St. Micheal’s Mount.

The tiny harbour at Penzance is only accessible at high water, after which time the harbour gate closes. We rafted against a lovely large wooden boat, which in turn was rafted to a large working boat. It was an adventure getting the girls across the boats to shore, but well worth it for a walk along the promenade to watch lots of swimmers racing in the crystal clear waters. The next morning the water was flat calm and the scene was enchanting.

Penzance Harbour early morning

Early morning

Because of the restricted opening of the harbour gate, we left at 8am, but merely went around the corner and picked up a mooring buoy, sitting in the morning sun enjoying a cooked breakfast under the watchful eye of St. Micheal’s Mount.

Early morning St. Micheal’s Mount

Following a hearty breakfast we set sail for the Isles of Scilly. It was one of our best days sailing yet. Good winds and a hot sun shining down on us. The coastline along this final stretch of mainland UK is beautiful, with quaint villages such as Mousehole and golden sandy beaches dotted all along. Just past Lands End we passed a basking shark – yet another wonderful animal to add to the girl’s wildlife spotting book.

After a great sail the Isles of Scilly came into view.

The Isles of Scilly from the deck of Carina

We moored in New Grimsby, between the islands of Tresco and Bryher. There were a few other boats around, and we enjoyed dinner in the cockpit, watching the sun set and a new moon rise.

Lily at sunset

The next day was spent in glorious sunshine. First we went to the beach and swam and played. And then went exploring the beautiful island of Tresco.

New Grimsby Sound from Tresco

Moored yachts in New Grimsby Sound

We went exploring along the coastline, Katie in the back carrier, and Lily being a wonderful explorer, battling her way through ferns that were taller than she was!

Carina moored under Cromwell’s Castle

We walked from Cromwell’s Castle to King Charles Castle, the highest point on the island. The scene was awe inspiring and the castle was the perfect playground for the girls.

View from Cromwell’s Castle

We departed the Isles of Scilly early next morning – destination Ireland. But that’s a story for my next post!