There was no escape from Lockdown 2.
November 5th was not the time to stage a dash into the Atlantic like I did in the summer. Instead, I found myself anchored in Kirkwall Bay in the Orkneys, waiting for the weather so that I could jump to Peterhead which, being on the mainland, was a better place to send away the mainsail for repair.
Anyway, Scotland wasn’t in Lockdown. Scotland was in the tiered system – not that it made a great deal of difference: All the pubs were shut and the restaurants weren’t allowed to serve alcohol. Even the magical little Wireless Museum was closed for no better reason than it was simply too small to operate social distancing.
Peterhead was also in the Scottish tiered system – which was just as well because, as usual, the marina wi-fi didn’t stretch to the visitor’s pontoon. However, they did have it in the café at the Fishermen’s Mission and The Dolphin chipper down by the quay – and Peterhead, being a major fishing harbour, has very good fish and chips.
It was the next stage of Sailing Home for Christmas that was going to be the difficult bit: England was in full Lockdown once more and there are precious few all-weather anchorages on the north-east coast. It would have to be marinas – which were all closed.
I did consider sailing the 400 miles to Essex non-stop but what with the thermometer never getting above ten degrees and only eight hours of daylight, you’d have to be a bit of a masochist for that. Besides, the wind never stayed fair for more than 24 hours at a time.
The clincher was that I had been offered a second spinnaker pole in Blyth and I wasn’t going to turn that down. I rang the harbourmaster: Would he let me in?
Oh yes, the port was open. It was just the marina that was closed.
Well, did he have somewhere I could tie up – perhaps in the fishing dock…
His advice – by which I took to mean “official advice” – was to go into the marina anyway. After all, there wouldn’t be anyone there to tell me not to.
I did, arriving at four in the morning for good measure. The visitors’ pontoon was festooned with plastic tape designed, in the absence of a dockmaster, to signify “Go Away”. I tied up anyway, not realising that one of the consequences of the pontoon being closed was that nobody had hosed off the seagull droppings – something I discovered only later having trodden them all over the boat inside and out.
Also, of course, with nobody in the office to give me a code for the gate, I couldn’t get out of the place – not even for a takeaway at the chippy across the road.
I stayed for four days – not plugging into the electricity since I didn’t expect to be charged for being shut in.
The next stop involved a bit more subterfuge – which is why I had better not say where it was. Everybody I rang cautioned: “Don’t tell anyone you’ve spoken to me.”
This proved to be a bit awkward when, five minutes after making fast, a berth-holder checking on his boat (permitted under the regulations, apparently) asked straight out if I had permission.
“Oh yes,” I told him airily. “I know everyone. I’m quite a regular in the winter, you know. It’s all OK. I’m aware of the regulations. I’ll be very careful.”
On the strength of that, I got straight on the phone to a friend who had planned to drive over for coffee. He had presumed I wasn’t “anal” about regulations. I had to tell him that suddenly I had become precisely that.
Six days, I stayed there – until the Windy app promised a spinnaker run down to Walton Backwaters. I could slide in there without telling anyone at all. Indeed, nobody would even know I’d arrived.
Indeed, nobody did – until I was obliged to put into yet another marina because the “spinnaker run” turned out to be six hours of engine – something that never happens in the summer. It was such a surprise to the machinery that the relief valve on the calorifier took fright at the heat and pumped all the freshwater over the side.
Still, given what usually happens to me in “Lockdown Cruises”, I suppose I shouldn’t complain.