Why do we do it?
Why do we live on boats?
Particularly, why do some of us live on boats alone?
Don’t you get lonely? Don’t you get bored? What about when the weather’s bad? When stuff goes wrong…
Well, all of that goes to make up days like today. For today is a good day.
I should explain: Today is Sunday. I am anchored in Moelfre Bay on the east coast of Anglesey – nine days since leaving Les Sables d’Olonne after a week of rather unsuccessfully trying to promote the French translation of Old Man Sailing.
The reason for coming back is because on Wednesday, my son Theo graduates from Liverpool medical school and I can’t miss that – any more than I can miss Lottie’s graduation in Liberal Arts from Leeds eight days later.
Originally all this was going to happen while Samsara was in Island Harbour on the Isle of Wight having the new tank and watermaker fitted.
Except the tank isn’t ready (foul-up in the paperwork, apparently). Well, that was OK. I could leave her anchored in Falmouth and take the train.
Arriving in my spot off Trefusis Point in time for lunch on Wednesday – a respectable 21 hours out of L’Aber Wrac’h – I had a whole five days to book a cheap old person’s ticket for the North.
Not so. Apparently, it’s going to be a train strike day – and the prices! £227 return! And that’s with a Railcard…
I considered the bus. I took the bus from Falmouth once before – leaving Cornwall before 6.00a.m and not arriving at home in Suffolk until almost midnight – feeling as if I walked all the way.
This is where Tamsin and a bit of straight thinking comes in: “Why are you in Falmouth? I thought you’d be somewhere up north…”
Well yes, but that’s without taking the Irish Sea into account – and getting round the Lizard…
Nevertheless, four hours after arriving, I was leaving again – just as things were livening up in The Chain Locker. I had to get round The Lizard before Falmouth Coastguard’s promise of “South-westerly 5-7 occasionally Gale 8” shut the door.
That was the first gale. Over the next three days we had three of them. Minehead Coastguard, Dublin Coastguard, Holyhead Coastguard – they all had their own particular tone for announcing the unpleasantness: “Gale expected soon” as if it was some sort of desirable event like a village fete or “Gale now ceased” (thank heavens for that) followed in the same breath by “Southwesterly gale 8 expected soon”.
At least we were going in the right direction – and there is nothing a Rival likes better than a gale of wind behind her. But, on the other hand, this was the Irish Sea, so the deck was running with water pretty much the whole way and all that crawling around gybing and reefing meant that my knees were never completely dry – which plays havoc with the sleeping bag…
By the northeast corner of Anglesey, I’d had enough of it. There were still 45 miles to go to Liverpool and although I should arrive three hours after low water with the flood to take me up the Mersey, Liverpool Bar is not somewhere you want to be with 28kts blowing straight up the channel.
And that was when Moelfre came into view – or, more precisely, the ships taking shelter in its lee. There were sixteen of them. If someone with 50,000 tons under them can drop the hook for a bit of peace and quiet overnight, I’m sure I can.
In fact, with a 1.5m draft, I can get right into the bay – another favourite spot: this time just off the lifeboat slip.
Except I was still in eight metres when the engine overheat alarm started screaming.
This is the loudest alarm on the boat (and boats these days seem to have dozens of them). Sure enough, there was no water coming out of the exhaust – just a hollow cough like an asthmatic smoker.
I stopped the engine and let go the anchor – in that order.
Suddenly everything was calm and quiet. I made a cup of tea – and a peanut butter, honey and apple sandwich – and got out the rum bottle – and found Global Gold’s Overnights on the Bluetooth speaker, now we were back with a mobile signal…
Investigating the innards of the engine could wait for morning.
…and this is where it gets really good.
Not because a first look inside proved it wasn’t the impeller or a blocked intake. There was a torrent of raw water pouring out of the side of the block and straight into the bilge. The trouble was, there was no way of seeing exactly where it was coming from – not without removing the oil filter, which would just make matters worse.
I began to think of options: Could I get an engineer to come out to a desolate bay miles from the nearest harbour? If I managed to sail all the way up the Mersey, would anyone tow me into the Marina?
And it was Sunday.
But wait: Facebook is open on a Sunday. I filmed a hasty YouTube short. Sure enough, ten minutes later Hans-Christian Hartleb in Berlin came back with: “Water exhaust rusted through, my first guess. Would need to be changed. Welding most difficult. Good luck.”
If only I could see round the back of the filter…
But wait again: Paul Masters on Clytie once told me how he looked at the holes for his keel bolts with a thing called an Endoscope. It seemed such a good idea, having a camera that you could poke into small spaces that I bought one myself and it’s been sitting at the bottom of the bits locker ever since. Today it paid for itself.
The hose clip on the engine block inlet had given way. I could see it all on my phone screen as clearly as if I had crawled in there myself – the whole Irish Sea pouring in.
It took ten minutes to fix – honestly, no more. And no engineer coming out from Holyhead in a RIB at £80 an hour…
Then the sun came out.
In fact, this was one occasion to get out the posh beer glass. It is, after all, a very good day.