16th June to 5th July
Henrietta and I reached England a few days ago. We had a mostly gentle sail from the Azores, often too gentle. We wallowed quite a lot of the 1,300 mile way in a heaving ocean with too few breaths of wind. But the wind picked up later. And then it was very strong, much too strong, with heavy rain and on the nose. Horrible and uncomfortable, and I decided to heave-to for only the second time in six years. Perhaps the weather gods were telling me firmly not to come home.
Wind died and tide turned as I reached the Lizard, England’s most southerly point – high cliffs with rocks (and wrecks) strewn nearby. I started the engine. It faltered and died soon after, fuel intake pipe blocked with gunge, doubtless disturbed in rough Atlantic seas.
There followed an anxious hour as I sailed in fickle fluky whisps of wind, stemming the tide, to anchor in a tiny cove under the Lizard lighthouse. (Don’t try and do this if you’re of a nervous disposition.)
Fixed a temporary fuel supply and motored on to Falmouth in calm sunshine next day, to anchor in one of my favourite spots beneath the imposing sight of the National Trust’s Trelissick House. I’d been here just over five years ago. Next day my dear sister meets me for a car trip to Truro and lunch on the north Cornish coast. (In case you’re wondering about quarantine, I’d done 14 days isolation by that stage).
Somewhere along the way from Azores to England it got cold. I fished out long trousers, fleece and a pair of socks, a tog 13 duvet, even a woolly hat. A mug of hot soup was good at lunch time. The lavatory seat felt cold. Yes, you may say it’s the middle of summer, but my feet felt chilly.
Then I sailed east towards Plymouth and anchored off the charming little Cornish villages of Cawsand and Kingsand. It’s wet and windy now so Henrietta’s the only boat still at anchor, and I stay aboard and write this update. Yesterday was fine and I took these photos.
Even though I wasn’t born in England it is my home country. As far as I know there’s no hint of Scottish, Welsh or Irish in me (even though those countries seem to have more exciting and romantic associations than English – I’m not sure why).
So, as a more or less pure and steady Englishman, let me give a few first impressions of my homeland.
The air is cool and fresh, food is superb and cheap, people are for the most part friendly and helpful (even if they are reserved and don’t smile much), buildings are a rich mix of age and style, streets clean, public transport works well, shops are well-stocked and hugely varied, countryside and coastline are exquisite, BBC radio is the world’s best. Those are a few of the good things.
The less good? The country has always been obsessed with the weather (with good reason) but is now also obsessed with health in general and Covid in particular (with bad reason). Beer and wine, those staples of advanced civilisation, are absurdly taxed and hence ridiculously expensive. Rules, regulations and paperwork are out of control (and if you thought it came from Brussels, you may have been wrong. It mostly comes out of our very own Civil Service – and always has done).
For the very first time in my long life and having sailed in and out of the country on countless occasions, this is the first time ever that I’ve been told to complete paperwork. (You, and this includes several good friends, may believe that one day Britain will be a better place without its union with fellow European countries but, thus far and in my experience around the world, it has been profoundly bad and expensive news ever since that fateful day in June 2016. …Phew! got that off my chest. I can of course discuss this with you at great length – but not here.)
I feel something of a misfit in England. But then I always did. Perhaps everyone sometimes feels the same. It will be hard I suppose to reintegrate. Was I ever ‘integrated’? Do I even want to be? Things to think about in the weeks ahead.
It’s good to know though that the world, both in and a long way outside Britain, is packed with people who are overwhelmingly friendly, kind, generous, colourful, honest, interesting and long suffering. I feel I could live in many places (if younger and if they’d let me). But of course, outside your home country, you cannot be too critical of the things you don’t care for. That would be rude and ignorant, even dangerous. So for now and for a little while I’ll stay here in Britain – and be as critical as I want.
Perhaps I’ll write another post for this blog once I’ve looked at a few log books to find some facts and figures, and summarise a five-year sail. And I’d like to get back to my starting place, Lymington.
Henrietta needs a month out of the water. I’m on my way to Totnes for lift-out. It’s a little town in Devon, a few miles upriver from Dartmouth. After 18 months and over 17,000 miles sailing since she was last hauled out, there are lots of things to deal with.