Despite the pandemic we were committed to slipping the lines and embark on our new life of fulltime cruising. We left Whitehaven on 12th August, known as the glorious 12th in the shooting world but this was sailing not shooting but all the same a glorious day.
With excitement and a wee bit of trepidation we left for Bangor in Northern Ireland, this was the start of something big, different, and bonkers. A life at sea, where we hoped to find and challenge our limits and push back at conventional life. Ireland was not the original plan but COVID-19 had put a spanner in the works, so warmer climate cruising is on hold, for now at least.
It was 4am as we left Whitehaven lock, flat calm and the long swell going under Sandpiper was as smooth as glass. I clipped on and went forward to bring in the fenders and stow the mooring lines. I found the safety lines clumsy but I knew as we went about our life at sea, I would become a dab hand at clipping on and off, as this technique is an essential safety routine, especially in the dark. I remember looking over to see a pale bloom on the horizon, St Bees Lighthouse, growing then fading then pausing and then it returned. Just then Gary gave me a squeeze and a warm kiss on the cheek, we both knew it was the beginning of a new chapter in our lives.
Dawn arrived and treated us to a lovely sunrise, which we were thankful for as we had been pot watching in dark morning mist for at least an hour before and that is tough on the eyes.
We woke on Thursday to sunshine, Bangor Marine is busy with racers, families and cruisers and everyone of them friendly and welcoming. Two things consistently stood out during our stay in Bangor, we noticed queues at every single ice cream shop, no matter what time of day and that almost everything else closed at 3.30pm even on a weekend. Hence our walk to the castle walled gardens was nearly a waste of time as they were closing just as we arrived. However, the nice man on the gate let us whizz round, so glad he did as they were stunning.
Plan C or is it D? Any way one of these plans was to sail down the east coast of Ireland and then to the south of England for winter but the ever-changing restrictions of COVID-19 said NO! Ireland would not let us in so we decided to see more of Northern Ireland and then meet friends in Scotland. Plans change, the adventure does not.
Whilst tramping up and down the pontoon in Bangor Marina to do our washing, provision and acquire new paper charts for Scotland I noticed a boat which was being sailed by Tim Long, a 15year old young man who was trying to be the youngest person ever to sail around Britain solo. As I passed the boat, I bid him fair winds and heaps of luck. I also wanted to do something to help him on his way, so invited him to join us for dinner. Spag Bog, the only thing I trust myself to cook and it is one of my absolute favourites.
A fabulous evening was had by all 3 of us and over the next few days we watched the local racing together, exchanged lots of information, climbed masts whilst spraying copious amounts of Mac lube and generally had a lot of fun. His mum and dad are amazing for supporting him to do this challenge, letting your young ones fly like this at such a tender age is tough. An outstanding and real testament to their belief in his ability. They must utterly understand greatness comes from stepping out of the comfort zone and nothing beats experience. They have a talented son who we are sure will go from strength to strength. A real achiever, the world needs more just like him. Humble yet driven. Go get it Tim Long, live your dream, the world is your oyster!
Today Tim holds the record for being the youngest to solo sail around Britain, tomorrow, well who knows what he may achieve but one thing is for sure I feel privileged to have cooked for him.
After 5 days in Bangor, we left for Carrickfergus, just 5nm away. Carrickfergus was our haven while storm Ellen passed. Pretty town and a very friendly marina. We also visited Belfast by train, a place packed with history. The bus tour of the area almost had me in tears. The troubles in Belfast were really evident and we were taken aback with the peace wall and the gates that still shut at 6pm every day. We visited the Titanic Museum, cathedrals, and drank silky smooth Guinness in the most famous pub in Belfast. The Crown Liquor Saloon is exceedingly kind on the eye, the tiled exterior and stained-glass windows draw you in. Inside is a visual delight with 10 private dining snugs, mosaic tiled floors and a masterpiece in bar architecture. Here are some photos to share the beauty of Belfast a day out that I would highly recommend.
Next time I will share our sailing adventures of Strangford Lough and beyond
Until next time stay safe and take time to enjoy the crisp winter air.
Tanya Moxon, a lady with a deep-seated fear of the sea but here she is pushing back on conventional life and enjoying a full-time life upon the open seas. Tanya is the founder of Fearless Feat Ltd, a leadership coaching company who supports others to perform at their best.