A lot of water has flowed under the hull (almost 2.000 nautical miles) since we started living on our boat in July 2020.
We have managed to sail up to Norway and down the coast of the Netherlands to France and the UK, avoiding the traffic, ferries, container ships, dredgers and anchor areas full of stacked ships. We visited our home port of Cowes on the Isle of Wight - just in time for my mum's 89th birthday, discovered the massive tides and complex currents around the Brittany and Normandy coasts.
Comfort has been generally of a good level, though there have been more storms than expected in our journey out of north west Europe on our search for the sun.
Being stuck in Brest was also unexpected, though it was not an issue as we had no firm plans. It was an opportunity to finalise other projects and to get to know our boat better.
The major project plans included:
Practice of manoeuvring in the marina for Ingrid (no additional scratches to the boat)
Installation of a solar panel – in process
Installation of an electrical in-mast furling, Selden's SMF system – ongoing
Purchase of an inflatable dinghy – hyperlon type from Highfield, currently in one of our guest cabins staying dry !
Purchase of an E-propulsion electric outboard engine for the dinghy – done
Purchase of an Ultrasonic Antifouling system – waiting on delivery
Purchase of a water maker (salt to fresh water) – pending, but soon
Purchase of a windvane autopilot system – pending, but soon
Enhancement of our 4G and Wifi connectivity through a booster – installed and Wifi Working, just waiting on a SIM card for the 4G
There is quite a lot there, but these are the main requirements to become safe and self-sufficient for our travels. Everything should be installed before the summer time as we are already well under way with these plans.
Once our current purchases are installed (solar panel and in-mast motorised furling) then we are ready to start sailing again. Our hope was to head direct for Portugal at the beginning of April, but due to Covid, the Portuguese marinas are not open to recreational boaters at this point in time. We are therefore either considering remaining in France for a little longer to continue with our projects (water maker and windvane) or to head for Gibraltar in one step to avoid Spain and Portugal altogether. Assuming also that Brexit does not put an additional spanner in the works. I have informed the French Customs of our plans, so I hope there will be no issues as they have not come back to me with any comments, but you never know what may happen after my initial 90 days in France are passed.
We learn so much each day by working alongside the local professionals and I am quite pleased that I did not try some projects without their help. €70/hr is a good incentive to do it yourself, but some things you just need to leave to the professionals to make sure a good job is done. In many cases it is a question of having the right tools and buying them is often more expensive than the job itself.
Ingrid has also been learning how to adapt her sowing skills into practical projects like making bags for cushions as the first steps to making a bigger bag for our inflatable dinghy. Part of our “new toolkit” include a hot knife to cut and seal cloth, so it does not fray over time. I have enjoyed playing with this to cut the cloth, cut rope and seal rope ends in a more professional way than using a normal sharp knife and a gas lighter.
Part of our “problems” with the mainsail has been to furl it in and out without it getting jammed in the process. It has taken us a while to understand how the straightness of the mast, the positioning of the boom and the tightness of the backstays has such an effect on this process.
The mainsail itself may or may not be a problem as it looks slightly stretched. Discussing with the original sailmaker (Lundh) I was a little disappointed as they would not work with a local loft to help checkout our sail and wanted us to send it back to Sweden for 3-4 weeks. I see how important it is with a circumnavigation in mind to have a sailmaker to assist wherever in the world I am and not to have to send a sail back to Sweden.