The Latest News

Lymington, Onora's Winter home for 2011.

The Ferry leaves Lymington for the trip across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.

Getting the ship in shape.

While Chicago bakes Jim bundles up.

Berthons got Onora ready to go.

The Foleys and other animals were fed by the Dashwoods.

Geoffrey Dashwood gives a lesson.

2012 Part 1: Lymington to La Rochelle (Jim)

June 18th Lymington, England

Boatyard Blues and an Enchanted Evening

We returned to Berthons Boatyard in England on June 9th to find Onora back in the water with her mast stepped and sails on. Half a dozen projects were unfinished and progress proceeded at the usual frustratingly slow pace. We had budgeted a week to get Onora ready and that passed as the refrigeration engineer is not available; ground faults are found with the new electronics; the hope to eliminate the dust cloud generated by the belt system on the battery charging alternator failed; and the windless control developed new mysterious problems.

The sailor who waits for his boat to be finished never goes to sea. I was able to fix the refrigeration after Skyping New Zealand based Richard O'Flannery, our refrigeration expert. The hull faults were run down. I gave up and decided that we can live with the old alternator belts.

Finally, all we needed was favorable weather to cross the Channel to Guernsey. The weather promised to be good on Sunday afternoon when the currents through the 'Needles' between the Isle of Wight and the mainland would be favorable. This gave us a free day on Saturday to explore the New Forest National Park, 200 square miles of King William the Conqueror's former hunting lands formed when he kicked off the crofters in 1100.

Our unexpected guide was Geoffrey Dashwood, a former New Forest ranger and now a successful bird artist. Jeannie had contacted him after seeing his work in Lymington's small museum. Geoffrey invited us to his home and studio on the far edge of the New Forest. As he drove his Land Rover through the forests, the twisting roads his hands and arms were in constant motion pointing out birds and trees of significance as if he were molding the forest. Keeping his car on the road was a minor distraction.

Val Dashwood met us at the house, a single story perched high on a bluff with a sweeping twenty mile view of the English countryside below. Half a dozen of Geoffrey's monumental size sculptures graced the green landscaped yard. His home and studio are filled with his life sized gannets, red throated divers, wrens, and dozens of other species. The back yard includes a 'half way' house for reintroducing falcons to the wild.

Over salad, quiche and red wine Geoffrey told his stories of the Queen acquiring her first (with a requested discount) and second (with Prince Philip's note) 'Dashwoods' and the stories behind selected pieces of his art collection which surrounded us.

I glanced through the floor to ceiling glass and commented on the red fox patently examining us about ten feet away. Val got up and briefly disappeared into the next room where her arm appeared through the window showering peanuts onto the walkway. A field mouse darted out to grab one. A pair of badgers miraculously appeared and went to work vacuuming up the bits in front of the door while the fox covered his territory in the rear.

The evening passed quickly and ended with Val returning us to Berthons where we showed her our quite different home.

June 26th Gurensey

Free Again

We left Berthons on Sunday and anchored out in Pool Bay on the English side of the Channel. It felt great to be out of the confinement of the boatyard and free again.

We were up at 5:00 in the Monday morning sunlight for our crossing. I figured the distance across the Channel at 80 miles or about 12 hours which meant a current change. The rise and fall of the tide twice each day causes massive amounts of water to run into and out of the North Sea. I factored this sweep into our sail plan which meant 'crabbing' our way against the current first to the East and then to the West to minimize our distance over ground. The most important part would be our approach to Guernsey where we wanted the three knot current to run in our favor to deliver us into the harbor on a rising tide. This would provide an insurance policy that would soon lift us off should we go aground in the shallow waters.

We had an easy sail and slipped through the opening in the huge walls that form a canyon around Guernsey's main harbor. The town of St Peter Port rises up the hills behind it. Three and four story stone dwellings are interlaced with very private banks and financial institutions that are here, like us, to take advantage of the special tax status of the Channel Islands.

By checking in we were able to avoid paying the 20% VAT tax to England for all of the work done at Berthons and simultaneously restart our 18 month duty free clock for our boat. Guernsey is part of the United Kingdom but not part of the European Union and is independently governed as granted by England for being an ally in ancient French wars.

Gone are the days when a sailor could just arrive at a port and head to the nearest pub. Life today is complicated by a maze of custom, immigration and health regulations that change with each new county. I find it impossible to know for certain what is required and interpretation and enforcement seems to vary by each country and agent.

We were sad to have only a day in Guernsey but, after so much rain and strong wind, the weather was due to be favorable the next day and I have learned the hard way that one should never waste a favorable wind.

- Click here for Part 2 -




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