Terra not so firma


Champagne brunch on board

After our arrival in East Cowes, we all had the luxury of proper showers. Bliss. My first shower since Tuesday morning (phew!) and it was the best shower I ever had. Thank you, East Cowes Marina. Plenty of hot water at a strong pressure. I didn’t want to get out.

It is what I would call unseasonably cold in the UK – snow? really? – so the hot shower was even more welcome after expecting to feel warmer once ashore but still having feet like blocks of ice.

There was then a flurry of packing, cleaning (particularly the remains of curry sauce in the galley area and corn flakes everywhere else), and brunch on board (the boys had all assumed we would be getting in later so the pubs would be open. Wrong!)

I insisted it should be champagne brunch as I had a bottle of fizz from Lagos that I had been hoarding. But partway through my first glass (yum – fizz out of a plastic tumbler) I remembered the pet collection duties so had to desist on the basis that I might be driving later.

Before I forget, my cousin, who has been reading this blog and who is the sister of the cousin I mentioned who lives in Huntington – same town as Kevin’s sister, informs me that her brother, my cousin Tommy (as he was known when younger) is the mayor. Wow. (Update: Whew! What a relief. Apparently my cousin, whom I’ve always thought of – fondly, of course – as a bit of a jokester and smartass, is not a mayor. That was irony on the part of his little sister.)

She also informed me that she was a little confused by some of the terminology, both nautical and UK English. So, for anyone else who may be uncertain:

  • Chocolate teapot (or chocolate fireguard or chocolate watch): something particularly useless; imagine pouring hot water into a chocolate teapot or wearing a chocolate watch.
  • Bow thruster: basically (I think) it pushes a jet of water from the boat so you can manoeuvre the boat more easily when mooring in tricky situations.
  • Boys’ toys in this sense: gadgets, as opposed to women of dubious integrity. (She thought that boys’ toys and bow thrusters made my blog verge on needing censorship.)

Beaufort-Scale-2Where was I? Oh, yes, getting ready to leave. Paul filled out our log books for us; he was skipper for everything up to Muxia (where it always rains) and then Kevin was skipper for the non-stop run. So I am now the proud owner of a sailing log book that shows I did one trip of over 1,000 nautical miles (tidal) with maximum winds of Force 8. That’s a lot of wind. And, not that I want to drone on too much about it, there were several occasions on which the wind gusted to Force 9 and Force 10. Oh, wait, even Force 11 on at least one occasion.

(Oh, yes, that reminds me: snippets and memories. Tip for the sailing chef: cassoulet, or dishes where beans are the main ingredient, are not advised two nights in a row when on a non-stop sailing voyage. Just saying.)

Kevin’s mother and stepfather came to collect him; they live on the Isle of Wight so he was going to stay with them for a couple of days. He was sent off with a care package of some particularly gruesomely dirty kitchen towels, the perishables from the fridge, and the rest of the smoked ham. Damn, think I forgot to get a photo of that ham. Did I mention that the ham necessitated the addition of dental floss to the first aid kit locker?


On the chain ferry

Two more modes of transport
James, Paul and I had to head for the ferry; he to catch a bus and train, we to be collected by our very kind friends. (Turns out that we thought they would bring us back and spend the night but they drove to Southampton, collected us, drove us home and then went back home, so spending about 9 hours driving that day. Thank you both very much.) James checked the timetable and there was a ferry at 12 that got in around 1.

We headed off (it’s about a 10 minute walk from the marina) fairly burdened down, including Paul with the old radar bit (not sure of the technical term but it’s pretty big) and got to the ticket office at 11:40. The next ferry, we were informed, was at 1:30 because the 12:30 had been cancelled. “What about the 12 o’clock?” James enquired indignantly. Turns out he was looking at ferries in the other direction.

“Don’t worry,” the woman behind the counter told us cheerfully, “you can get the Red Cat at 12:15 from West Cowes; it’s about a 10-minute walk to you’ve got plenty of time.”


On the sea cat

Off we charged, still burdened down, to catch the chain ferry across to West Cowes and then walk to the Red Cat terminal. We got there about 12:06, so just in time. I wanted three single tickets (one way to my US readers) and it turned out it was cheaper to get day returns (“Just don’t tell me that you’re not coming back,” the woman behind the counter warned me). I did so, panicked when we were in line to board and discovered I had only two bits of paper, rushed back to the counter to be told pityingly that each bit of paper had three fares on it. Duh.

Off to the Red Cat, which left on time and got into Southampton earlier than the ferry would have done. Paul’s bus was there so a hasty goodbye and he rushed off. Our friends turned up and off we went.

Home at last

Back home, a quick tour of the outside of the house for our friends who hadn’t seen it since it was repainted on the outside, the building works (a battered conservatory being replaced), and the kitchen garden (a few droopy broad bean plants and some thirsty looking seedlings), and then they dashed off while we did the pet run. Off to the kennel to pick up the dog, then off to find the new cattery and collect the cat. An exciting moment when we realized the car was short of fuel and the station on the way was closed. (But we fuelled up once we’d left the new cattery.) Another exciting moment when we discovered that the dog (usually he’s only fed at lunchtime but had been given food later in the day) had barfed in the back of the car.

Back home once again, a crash course for the cat in climbing in and out of a window as her cat flap has been demolished with the rest of the collapsing conservatory, and then off to walk to the pub to meet our local friends who had been following our blog and were astounded to see us home so soon.

A couple of drinks and a nice juicy steak at our favourite Friday night steak place and we could barely keep our eyes open. They had come by car so kindly offered to drive us and the dog back home. Normally we prefer to walk back along the river as it’s a nice walk but we jumped at the chance to get home sooner.

We watched a bit of Ender’s Game on TV (looked pretty rubbish to me, and written by a Mormon homophobe apparently) but we couldn’t stay awake much beyond 9pm. We are slowly getting our land legs back, but it’s a weird sensation to get out of bed in the middle of the night and have to hold onto the wall because the room is rocking. (No, we didn’t drink that much.)

So this is the end of our Bay of Biscay adventure, but I’ll try and keep the blog going; after all, this is about Masquerade as much as anything else and I want to keep a record of how she does in the boatyard and beyond. I may also add the occasional snippet I forgot at the time and I’ll try to complete the photo galley.

There are also have the tips for the sailing wife to finish, not to mention more research into nautical terms in everyday use.

When we do next take her out, which probably won’t be for a couple of months, I’ll reinstate the link if anyone wants to play stalker and see where we’re going.


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