Reading time: 42 minutes
Firstly, we’re sorry. It’s been a LONG time with no blog.
If you go back to our week 14 blog, things were hectic. Work had been really busy, and we were dealing with a lot of moving, hauling out and boat issues.
That blog was around a week before Ailsa went back to the UK, and she foolishly thought she’d get a little downtime. She even expected to take up a few hours of work to counteract taking unpaid leave.
In the end, the trip home was just as hectic, if not more. Colin’s start to our time apart was no different. So we thought we’d share a little comparison about our time on other sides of the Atlantic.
The weeks between
There are only two weeks between the last snapshot ending and this one beginning, but everything flipped.
We ended up back out of the water at Clarke’s Court Bay for one night. Then, with two working engines at last and Ailsa Covid tested for her flight home, we moved around to Prickly Bay. We got anchored nice and snug near to Prickly Bay Marina, and enjoyed an evening of dinner and live music there. The next day we made it to West Indies Brewing Company for a brewery tour and some excellent beers. We discovered that we had turtles swimming near Mirounga and that shops/buses were easily accessible. We concluded that we much preferred where we were to the cruisers haven at Hog Island.
On Friday 6 August, we said goodbye and Ailsa flew home. Her brother collected her at Heathrow the next morning, and she had a night with him before heading up to Scotland. After a night at her dad David’s, she moved up to Edinburgh to stay with Colin’s brother and his wife. She had a great few days catching up with them and many friends, and spending time in our beloved home city. Then she picked up our friend Milena and drove up to the Cairngorms for a weekend, which is where you’ll find Ailsa at the start of this snapshot.
Colin remained anchored in Prickly Bay and voraciously set to work on installing our watermaker. His mornings were spent working his day job. His afternoons crawling into tight spaces and going back and forth to Budget Marine to get the installation done.
Let’s see how our days compare…
Sunday 15 August
Grenada is currently in a “feeder band” for Tropical Depression Grace. This means there was a strange westerly 20kt wind overnight, causing the anchor alarm to go off at 1 am.
Everything was fine, Mirounga was just in an unexpected place. Thankfully the motor cat that’s been on a mooring ball to the east of us has left, as we ended up on top of that ball! Colliding at 1 am would not have been fun. It’s always tricky when some boats are anchored and some are on mooring balls, as you move very differently.
The anchor held fine, and I don’t think it even needed to re-set, as we had enough chain out that we only swung around until we were approximately over the anchor. I contemplated throwing a line on the mooring ball as we were so close to it anyway, but ended up deciding to trust the anchor (and stay dry). Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep very well for the remainder of the night.
More weird weather
The weather is forecast to “stay weird” until the evening, so I decide to stay on board. I already missed my chance to go to town and get some supplies on Saturday – I didn’t want to leave the boat then either – and the shops are all closed on Sunday.
I’ve been so busy with improvements that I’ve let things get a bit “messy”; so today I do some tidying up… I’m not sure anyone would believe it right now, but honestly, it’s progress. I also make a batch of pizza dough which should see me through the next few days!
While I do that I make water (why does that sound like peeing? I ran the water maker) for half an hour – this should result in around 6.5 gallons. It’s nearly filled the starboard tank, which was empty at first. In that time I’ve used maybe a third of the port tank so it’s keeping up – yay!
In the afternoon, the wind picks up again, this time from the south. This means being blown towards a close shore, and even closer shallows. Again, the anchor holds just fine so all is well.
I thought I’d run the engines for a dual purpose. One, I think I’m due a hot shower, and two, to make sure they’re working. If the anchor decided to stop being so reliable I’d need them. The starboard one starts fine (this is the one that we had to haul out for the saildrive repair). The port engine mysteriously doesn’t.
The instrument panel turns on, but when I press the start button, it just loses power. A quick google suggests it could be loose battery connections, so I check that and all seems fine. The voltage on both batteries seems ok too (I’m not actually sure which one is which – I should establish that). I thought there may still be a problem there. I’m sure I have jumper cables somewhere but I’ve no idea where. I have a short piece of thick cable that I can bolt between the two positive battery terminals (negative is already shared). Et voila! – the engine starts.
I left the engine running for about an hour to give the battery a good charge. An extra charge for the house batteries is welcome too, as the water maker is quite power-hungry. I decide to give each engine a bit of exercise a couple of times a week when out of use. I think the engine batteries also charge from the solar/wind but am not entirely sure – this experience suggests not.
I wake up in a Glamping pod in the Cairngorms, which I’m sharing with my friend Milena. I’m quite relieved when I can actually stand up. We walked around 30km yesterday and my hip was NOT happy by the end of it. Thankfully spending the evening in the hot tub beside our pod seems to have helped.
We eat oatcakes for breakfast and pack. Our two nights here has felt far too short. Before we leave we head across the campsite to say hi to the resident goats. We also chat to the overenthusiastic husky in our neighbouring pod. It’s a beautiful day, sunny and without any chill in the breeze.
We set off for the coast just before 11. We decide to take a route which takes us through Ballater, mostly so we can see the town in passing. As we drive through Banchory, we see the amazing Falls of Feuch to our side. I make a snap decision to pull in and take a look. It’s a small but impressive sight. Since we know we need to find lunch somewhere, we step into the Falls of Feuch Tearoom. We take a table on the terrace and enjoy mushroom soup and egg sandwiches. We may have over-ordered, and the traybake we chose to share ends up wrapped in tissue in my bag.
We drive on to the coast and to our destination, Dunottar Castle. This is my third visit, but Milena’s first. Dunottar sits high on a promontory in the North Sea. From some angles, it looks almost disconnected from the land entirely. With the car park full, we park on the roadside. Then we navigate the steps down to almost sea level, then back up to the castle. The castle feels a bit busy at first, with lots of overenthusiastic children. Once we’re clear of the entrance things feel calmer, though we do nearly get pushed off some steps by a Tazmanian Devil of a 10-year-old.
We enjoy exploring the spaces and working out how things might have looked. I’m only slightly annoyed by the foreign students climbing and sitting on walls that should be left well alone. We finish the visit with a walk along to a viewpoint, where we can look back at what remains of the castle in all its glory.
Back to the Borders
The drive to my dad’s house is over two hours, so we set off by 4pm with just a fuel stop in Dundee. The light is beautiful as we drive through the Borders, so I pull in for a quick stop at Hundy Mundy to show Milena the beautiful spot where my mum is buried. There’s a chill in the air, so we don’t linger.
We make it to Kelso around half 7, and walk out with dad to get a takeaway curry. While we wait for food, we take a walk up the Cobby riverside walk as the sun sets. Back home, we eat and talk late into the evening.
Monday 16 August
As usual for a Monday, I work in the morning.
I’ve been trying to work out what our main power drains are.
I check the power usage of the galley fridge. It’s using 3.5 amps when the compressor’s on. Since we had the compressor fan replaced with a whiny loud one, it’s easy to tell that it’s running a lot of the time. That means in 24 hours that fridge alone is probably using around 1/7 of the available battery capacity (when full, which they’re rarely getting to at the moment). I’m hoping a mission this afternoon to find computer fans I can use to add extra cooling pays off.
I try the port engine again – same issue. It may be that the alternator’s not charging on that side… I leave the batteries connected and run both engines for a while, which should hopefully get them full. I’ve left them connected. This way I can tell that if they both end up low, then there’s a power drain somewhere. In a pinch, I can use the house batteries to jump the engines if that happens.
On a mission
I take the bus to St George’s, the capital. We’d been a little concerned about relying on busses for important errands, such as Covid tests, but so far I’ve found them very reliable. You don’t have to wait (or walk) long before you hear the horn from behind you announcing their presence.
My first stop is Hankey’s computer store. I thought I was out of luck, but then there were three differently sized CPU fans with heat sinks on a table of bits. I don’t need the heat sinks but they are detachable. I’m told they’d been around for so long I can have them for 5EC each – that’s about £1.35. Bargain – I take all three.
I wander around St George’s, stopping in to a few stores for a browse. I’m going to go to Island Water World, so I save my grocery shopping for the Foodland nearby. I amble through Sendall Tunnel to the Carenage, and find a food truck selling burgers and fish sandwiches – I order the latter. Then it’s on to the Lagoon, and Island Water World. I find a hydrometer (syringe type thing for measuring the charge on the batteries chemically) and the other port wind scoop we’d wanted.
Then it’s a quick trip to Foodland followed by another bus home, via Budget Marine, where I get the vent to go with the fan, and some screws.
Back to the boat and it’s time to fit the vent/fan. I’ve managed to find a hole-saw set so I can cut the hole required… I should probably have more than a cloth mask when cutting fibreglass – oh well. Fan and vent are fitted, and wired in. I don’t want to run the watermaker again today, and the fan will only start when the pump does, so I’ll test it tomorrow.
Finally, I sit down for a bit to watch the non-sunset. I also enjoy some classic sailing entertainment; other people anchoring. As it gets dark, I rig up some extra cockpit lights using a new waterproof 12v socket I installed last week.
I get another hot shower (thanks for making me mess with you engines). Dinner is pizza on the Magma gas barbecue. I’ve almost perfected this, but I’m finding the bottom can get a bit too charred. We’re ordering an accessory that should improve this, though a pizza stone that fitted well would be great.
I head off to bed for an early night… No, wait – I need to write this diary. Off to bed for a normally timed night.
Despite being back in my childhood bedroom, albeit in a new bed and redecorated before our move, I didn’t sleep well. Perhaps now that I’m in a familiar place my mind is too busy.
A Castle that was
It took Milena and me a while to get ready in the morning, we were just feeling leisurely. We take a ~2-mile walk to Roxburgh Castle and explore the ruins. Roxburgh Castle, built in the early 12th century, was once a significant seat of power. It was passed back and forth between Scottish and English hands repeatedly. It was demolished in 1551, and all that remains is an impressive outlook and the odd wall. It’s never been fully excavated, and its layout remains a bit of a mystery. I have fond childhood memories of rolling eater eggs down its slopes and fishing for minnows in the River Teviot.
Unfortunately, August is a terrible time to visit. We got badly caught out by nettles, and could barely explore. Ironically, I remember similar experiences from childhood but haven’t learned my lesson. When we finally fight our way down from the slopes, we find ourselves racing back so we can have lunch before an afternoon booking at Floors Castle.
We eat at the Mayfield Garden Centre, making it just in time as they’re closing early. As always, it’s excellent, including Milena’s formidable pavlova. After a quick trip into town to Superdrug we go home to change.
A Castle that is, but isn’t
I decide to drive us to Floors Castle, just outside of Kelso. Frustratingly I miss that we can use the grand gates in town and head out to the ‘garden’ gates miles around the walls, then have to turn back. We’re a few minutes late for our 15:30 booking. Floors is not really a castle, it’s a stately home. Originally designed by William Adam in the early 1700s, it was remodelled by William Playfair into its current gothic elegance in the early-mid 19th century.
We walk through the beautifully decorated grand rooms talking to the docents but run out of time to look round properly. We also have no time to walk the grounds, but it turns out I can upgrade our tickets to an annual pass for £5 and come back.
As we’re pulling out of the grounds, I ask Milena if she wants to see something else cool. She’s never been to the area before and knows little about its history. I drive us to Smailholm Tower a few miles away, an old peel tower from the days of the Border Reivers. I try to explain what I can remember of the history of these feuding, plundering Border families to Milena.
The view that means I’m home
Next, we drive on to Scott’s View. This is a magnificent view of the Eildon Hills, so named as a spot where Sir Walter Scott looked out towards the scene of his classic tale, Thomas the Rhymer. These hills, this view, means so much to me. Seen from far around, they represent home to me. And it’s this particular view that I took a photograph of, aged around 9, which Dad went on to hang in his darkroom and use on an album cover. This same view, that I drew a profile of and had tattoed around my wrist after my mum’s death. After the fairy queen returned to the earth…
We sit and watch the view, talking and enjoying the calm (only occasionally interrupted by the music from the cars of boy, and girl, racers). Then we drive home, where Dad cooks up a bizarre but delicious meal of giant courgette, minced meat and leftover curry.
Tuesday 17 August
As I work in the morning (this is becoming a habit), I run the water maker. The cooling fan works – yay! I try switching the valve to fill the port tank instead of starboard. I can see that the water’s making it across, which is great. Unfortunately in addition to the hose feeding into the tank, it has an open outlet that empties onto the top of the tank. Why I cannot imagine, but I’ll have to fix that before I can start filling that tank.
The wind’s picked up today (but in a predictable direction) which is good – hopefully that’ll help give the batteries a healthy charge.
Errands, and treats
For lunch, I get a burger at Queen’s Grill, which is one of a few small restaurants just off the Maurice Bishop Highway. It’s run by a young couple, and their three-year-old is ever-present to welcome you with a hello. She loves to play with keys. Her parents do their best to dissuade her, though I make it clear I don’t mind at all.
My next stop is Ace Hardware, where I pick up a 12v air compressor so we can fill the inflatables we got recently. I also get some more hose and bits to fix the port tank water maker inlet.
On my way back, I pick up a Lemongrass ice cream (so unusual I had to) from an stall near Queen’s. It was delicious.
Once back, I remove the fridge from the fridge hole and try to drill a hole in the back of that. This would go through to a recess that also runs behind the oven above the fridge. The hole-saw I got the other day hasn’t stood up well to cutting through fibreglass. I don’t get very far. Instead, I drill 4 smaller holes around the circle I want to cut, and use the jigsaw to cut out the hole.
With that done I fit another of the computer fans on the hole, to draw the hot air up from behind the fridge. There are vents in the space the oven is in, so hopefully that’ll be sufficient. The fan runs at about 0.17 amps continuously. If that means the compressor (3.5 amps) only needs to run for 20 mins per hour instead of 40 (guessing there), then that saves 25 amp-hours in a day.
That. Was. Exhausting. The only thing for it is to inflate a floating chair, tether it to the boat, and sit in it with my bum in the water having a drink.
After the big lunch, I don’t need dinner. It starts to rain a little, so I head for an early night, write my diary, and watch some TV.
One of the reasons Milena came back to Kelso with me was because we had a plan to see a mutual friend on Tuesday. When we found that our cat Schrödinger needed a new home, it was Milena’s friends Keith and Katie that stepped up. We had planned to visit them together, so she could catch up with her friends, and I could meet them and see my furbeast.
In the end, we have to pivot on those plans. Keith (who is a drummer in a metal band, Dog Tired) and Katie have just got back from 5 days at the Bloodstock festival, and Katie feels rough. It may just be 5 days of screaming and Strongbow, but they want to take a few Covid tests just in case before I see them. We reschedule tentatively for later in the week.
A woodland scramble
Milena and I stick to our morning plans and drive out to a nearby walk. We amble and slosh through muddy woodland paths to a beautiful waterfall, where we paddle and relax. I’m not publishing the name or location for good reason. The waterfall is on a private estate, and whilst (being Scotland) public access is available to this natural beauty spot, it’s something of a local secret. Kelsonians have an unwritten rule not to share directions and details with tourists or publish them online. Of course, it has been ‘found out’, but I’m not going to break the rule. Accordingly, neither Milena nor I use our walk tracking apps to record and share the route.
I came here as a teen and only came back earlier this year with Dad (who had never been). Thankfully the terrifying and dangerous mill buildings have been made more secure in the 23 or so years since then.
We climb a near-vertical bank and continue to walk around the paths nearby. We know we’re in the estate proper, but it looks like there’s a woodland walk we can stick to. When we get lost, a terribly posh woman around my age, in a Volvo SUV and clad in Riess and pearls, pulls up. Far from asking us to go back the way we came, she’s full of smiles and directs us along the main estate roads to a circular route we can take back to the car. We walk back admiring the estate cottages and chatting to friendly horses.
Relaxing in Kelso
We drive home and change out of our muddy clothes, then go back to the garden centre for a look at the shop. Milena picks out an Aloe Vera plant, and I buy a toy for Schrödinger. We wander into the Square, a few minutes from home, to find lunch. Very few places in Kelso have outdoor seating, despite the large Georgian market square. It’s sadly largely given over to parking. After finding we’re too late for The Cross Keys, we settle outside the Cream Chimneys for brie and chutney paninis. The owner’s gigantic dog makes a beeline for Milena and slumbers at her feet throughout. We have to explain to passers-by that he’s not ours!
The sun is still shining, and we want something sweet. Being a Tuesday, my favourite option, Becatelli Gelato is closed, so we go to the Dessert Diva. I get a biscoff milkshake, and Milena gets lemon meringue pie cheesecake. We sit in the square to eat, reflecting on our little mini-break. We’ve decided we need to do more walking holidays together, we have a compatible love of adventurous hiking and conveniently eat the same foods!
I drive Milena home, and then, purely because I’ve been enjoying the country roads, I decide to take a route back over the Lammermuir hills. It’s mostly single-track roads, across high moorland covered in blooming heather. It’s beautiful and cathartic. At least, until, I hit a hidden pothole at speed. The car seems fine, so I zig-zag my way back through small Berwickshire villages back to Kelso.
Dad makes fish and chips for dinner, and then I enjoy a much-needed bath and an episode of Below Deck in bed before an early night.
Wednesday 18 August
After work, I actually have to think of what to do with my afternoon. Aside from the battery “issue”, I think I’ve done all the pressing things on my list! I spend some time tidying and fill a large bin bag to drop off at Prickly Bay Marina (cost $5EC/£1.35). I’m running out of underwear but instead of washing my undies in a bucket, I treat myself. I take a load of laundry for a proper wash (again, at Prickly Bay Marina).
Next stop is the West Indies Beer Company. I’ve got an empty growler that needs filling, and I might as well stop for a beer and pizza, which I don’t finish so get boxed to go.
On my return, I stop at La Boucherie, the butcher at Prickly Bay Marina. I get some sausages and some gruyere I’m told: “only french cheese” – not a problem. On leaving I realise I just spent $80EC (£22) on 6 sausages and an (admittedly large) block of cheese. Oops. I spent $130EC at the other French (Canadian) butcher, Meat and Meet Market a couple of weeks ago, but feel I got a lot more for my money then.
When I get back to Mirounga, the wind has swung around to the south again. I’m not worried about the cliff as the anchor has proved itself, but the motor cat’s back on the ball so in the unlikely event we swing further it would be a problem.
I glance around at the sea to see the full shell of the turtle that’s surfacing. We’ve seen them a lot here, just not from below the surface.
It’s a rolly evening. I eat the remainder of the pizza, along with a beer. Mirounga is now so close to the motor cat that it would be awkward to go and sit on the nets – I’d feel like I was in their living room. Instead, I head to the cabin to lie down and ignore the rolling.
I turn the port engine on and put a little reverse on, to attempt to bring us back into position… it does a little but not much. It’s almost like the motor cat is the one that’s shifted position, but that can’t be right as they’re on a ball (where they would just turn on the spot) – if their mooring snapped they’d be doing more than coming close to us.
I head to bed, hoping that we don’t get any weird wind overnight – hopefully it picks back up and remains an easterly which would put us all back in a sensible place.
I have a busy but exciting day ahead, but thankfully I can start with a lie-in. Late-morning, I have an appointment with the optician to be fitted with contact lenses. I used to wear them years ago, before laser surgery. Now I’m back to needing glasses, I’d like to have the option to not wear them sometimes.
After my appointment, Dad had been going to drop me at Tweedbank Station so I could take the train to Edinburgh. Instead, he decides to drive me in, and we stop for a nice outdoor lunch at Soutra on the way. It’s another glorious day. In the city, he drops me off on London Road, and since I have an afternoon to kill alone I walk up to Calton Hill. It’s lovely to just stand and take in my city. This was where I came the day before we left Edinburgh in November, and I missed it.
I wander down the hill and to the new St James Quarter shopping mall. Had we still lived in Edinburgh, this would be a 5-minute walk from our flat on London Street. I’d popped in briefly last week, but it wasn’t for long enough to enjoy this chic new shopping centre. I love shopping alone, but I’ve become discerning. The only shops I visit are where I’m likely to buy something (the Lego Store is the exception today). I buy some non-prescription RayBan sunglasses to wear with my contacts in Sunglasses Hut. Then, trying to undo the effects of sun and sweat, I buy skincare from Khiels and Aesop. I get some smalls from Victoria’s Secret, and clothes (mostly shorts) for both Colin and me in H&M. Much to Colin’s delight, that includes a big pile of new boxers!
An evening like the before times
My shopping needs satiated, I walk across North Bridge, picking up a coffee from Pret on the way. Being back in the land of decent decaf flat whites has been a bonus of this trip. At the House of Gods on the Cowgate, I’m slightly early for a meeting, but my friends Heather and Kelly soon arrive. We saw each other last week as part of a larger group of Parliament friends (mostly our old ‘clerkeoke’ stalwarts), but wanted a proper catch-up. Pre-Covid, the three of us usually met for cocktails every few months and we’ve missed it.
After saying goodbye to Heather and Kelly, I meet another old friend from work, Mark, and we walk the 50 yards up Blair Street to the Monkey Barrel comedy club. For the first time in 18 months, we can sit inside, with a beer, and watch live comedy. What’s even better, is that it’s Nish Kumar, a favourite comedian of mine. If I ignore the civilised socially distanced seats and having to order beer on an app (wait, I PREFER those things), it’s almost like being back at the Edinburgh Fringe.
We wander back to the Cowgate to BrewDog for the rest of the evening, where I get a cheese board for dinner. Again, it’s great to be back in a pub I once called my local, but it’s over too soon.
Edinburgh by moonlight
I manage to misread the train times. After Mark says goodbye at Waverley Station I find I have 40 minutes to kill. Not wanting to sit alone on a platform, I walk up the near-deserted Royal Mile to the Castle Esplanade. Any other year, the streets would be filled with tourists even at 23:30. The esplanade would be fully occupied by the bleachers for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Instead, it’s just me and a slightly drunk metalhead trying to chat me up despite his friends’ instance he leaves me alone. I take photos of my city in the moonlight. Then I walk down Cockburn Street and cross back over Waverly Bridge and down into the station again. Dad kindly (yet dutifully) collects me from Tweedbank at 1 am without a single grumble.
Thursday 19 August
As always, I work in the morning (sigh).
We’re still a bit close to the motor cat, but don’t seem at risk of colliding. The wind’s mostly gone, but there seems to be enough to hold us in a reasonablish place.
I make some water – the port tank is beginning to look a healthy level. It’s much narrower at the bottom (as it’s in the keel) so it looks like it’s filling much more quickly at first.
The motor cat leaves! I can relax now – hopefully nothing comes to take its place.
I head ashore to collect the laundry. It costs $35EC which is quite a lot. It’s supposed to be $3/lb and I weighed it at 9lbs. I feel a bit ripped off. It is, however, nicely folded, and now I have clean underwear. I’ll take the win.
I’m not optimistic but I ask about the customs office at the marina. Unfortunately, it’s been closed since Covid. Our cruising permit expires on Monday, so I’ll have to head into St George’s tomorrow to go to the main customs office and renew it.
Always some DIY
My DIY for the day is to repair the hinge on the dressing table, that I broke by leaning on it whilst wedging myself into the water maker’s recess. The screws had pulled out of the mount, so I just glue the whole thing back on.
With nothing else to do, I go for a swim. I keep meaning to bring a scourer in with me so I can give the propellors a clean – next time. I head close to the shore – there’s some fish around but nothing spectacular. On the way back I meet a guy spearfishing for conch – I’m not sure quite how that works as they’re in shells – he explains but I don’t fully understand. In any case, he has a good haul of shell-less conch on his line.
As I have a big block of gruyere, I decide to have mac & cheese for dinner. I make a ridiculous quantity. I think I’ll have lunch and dinner for tomorrow too.
My first day since getting back to the UK where I have nothing planned until the evening! Accordingly, I lie in bed and catch up with Drag Race in the morning. Dad’s littlest cat, Kasha, decides to crawl into the covers and purr at me as I watch. She and her sister Willow have been lovely and friendly, curling up with me at every opportunity.
Because I’ve been coming and going, my room is in complete chaos. I can’t make head nor tail of what is coming back to the Caribbean with me, and what is staying. There are clothes EVERYWHERE. After a walk around the river with a cup of tea, I spend much of the afternoon listening to the new Billie Eilish and Lorde albums and tidying and sorting it all out.
Come early evening, I’m due to head up to Penicuik to visit Keith and Katie (mercifully certified Covid-free) and Schrödinger at last. As I pull out of the yard in ‘my’ car (Dad’s old Citroen C3 Picasso), I realise the front driver’s side tire is completely flat. I must have caused a slow leak with that pothole on Tuesday. With no time to spare, I grab the keys to Dad’s leased Audi A3 hybrid and set off, leaving him examining the poor Citroen.
Keith and Katie greet me warmly and welcome me into their home. I find Schrödinger curled up on her favourite green blanket in their bedroom windowsill. I had half expected her to be wary of me and hide in case I was going to take her in a car. She hates cars. Instead, she sniffs at me and is soon allowing head dunts. I take things slowly with her and come back to her through the evening. Meanwhile, I get to know her foster parents over a really tasty Quorn satay that Katie has cooked.
I get to feed Schrödinger her daily tuna meal, and after an hour in the house, she is purring and letting me kiss her. She’s also clearly pissed off at me, but she has every right. I recognise her angry love from coming home from holidays. I’m sending Colin photos and videos so he gets real-time updates. We play a little, with Schrödinger batting my necklace, and I can see she’s very happy and loved.
I drive home content and happy with the decision we’ve made for our baby.
Friday 20 August
Work in the morning. Again. I kid, but I enjoy my job, and really appreciate that I’ve been able to continue doing it for this long while we’ve been out here. My contract ends at the end of September. While I’m looking forward to taking some time to actually sail, I’ll miss the job itself. I won’t miss the 5am starts…
A trip to town
After work, I head straight out at 12 to try to renew the cruising permit. It’s a bit confusing as to which customs office is actually open in these Covid times. Thankfully I’m right and the Port Louis Marina office is open, and it’s straightforward to renew. When we first arrived we were given a one month permit, and I thought you just had to renew every month. I was surprised to be asked how long I wanted to renew it for. On the spot, and not knowing how long it’d be before we wanted to go back to SVG, I stuck to a month – it’s not a huge chore to go in that often.
As I’m here anyway, I go for a browse at Island Water World. I come out with a navigation light for the dinghy, and a mount for it. This turns out not to be compatible, and not required anyway. Thankfully it’s returnable. I also buy a hose to connect the magma barbecue to a regular gas cylinder, that can be refilled. I don’t like that the little gas canisters are disposable. I’d much rather use a little 5lb cylinder that can be stowed near to the grill.
I pop into Foodland and get some supplies – dinner for tonight, and some extras.
There shall be light!
When I get back, I realise I’ve got the wrong batteries for the nav light – it’s AAA and I bought AA, so I head to Budget for the right ones. I figure out that the best place to mount the light is the top of the outboard, and then spot that the old outboard already had a mount for this type of light – I just didn’t realise what it was.
Mounting the light requires drilling a hole in the top case of the motor, and bolting the mount on… once again to Budget for an appropriate bolt. I measure twice, drill once, and the mount is in place. Now we will be seen in the dark!
I have a video call with my brother and sister-in-law (with whom Ailsa recently stayed). I talk to them about when and where they’re going to come to join us. It’ll be mid-late November, and somewhere between St Lucia and Guadeloupe.
Dinner is pork kebabs and some bread I bought earlier. In a break from my normal habits, I open a bottle of red wine instead of having a beer.
It remains very calm, but with the mooring ball still empty it’s not really a worry; it’s just uncomfortable – a breeze is really appreciated in this heat!
A fully free day, and lovely weather. I decide to walk up to Floors Castle (now I know I can use the town gate). I want to get a proper look this time. At the gate, I convert my two-day tickets to annual passes, one for me and one for my dad.
I love walking slowly through the grounds, and when I arrive I buy a coffee and scone in the cafe to sit and eat outside, enjoying the view. Then I go back in for a lingering look inside the castle. I’m fascinated by the fact that the young Duke of Roxburgh is roughly my age. Of course, we never would have met as teens. He would have been at boarding school while I was at Kelso High. He seems to be quite different from his father, the former duke, who threw Time Team off a dig on their land after they made a significant discovery. Apparently horse trials were more important to him than finding the main street of one of Scotland’s most important medieval towns (Roxburgh).
I enjoy really having time to read everything. It takes me at least half an hour to read some historical letters and find out how a past duke was connected to the Act of Union as a member of the old Scottish Parliament. After taking it all in, I wander across the grounds to the walled gardens. When I was a kid, there was a garden centre here and an exciting adventure playground. The garden centre is long gone, without a trace, but the zip slide is still there (I resist). I pass through the old glasshouses, looking at the muscat grapes, apricots and oranges which have no business growing in Scotland. And I visit a new shop, which is a farm and gift shop. I buy a frozen lamb tagine cooked in the castle kitchens for Dad and me to share next week.
I still find I don’t have time to fully walk the grounds. One day…
Songs in the Square
After pasta for dinner, Dad and I head to the Square in the early evening. Some of his friends from Kelso Folk Club, which usually meets in The Cobbles, are out playing music at Rutherfords Micropub. Thanks to Covid, The Cobbles hasn’t been allowed indoor music for 18 months. It’s great to hear people play again. It’s raining, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying a couple of hours of catching up and singing.
When we get home I wind down by watching Pose in bed with a cosy kitten for company.
Saturday 21 August
No work! It’s Saturday at last!
I’d chatted yesterday with someone selling a high gain wifi antenna. I get the message in the morning that he’s on the way to Budget so I head over to meet him, and pay the $100US he’s asking for. Hopefully, this will give us much more reliable, cheap, internet, once I can set it up. Installing properly will mean going up the mast and routing some cable through – no idea how to do this. It also doesn’t appear to work with our Netgear Nighthawk router, as I can’t set a static IP on it – boo. I can probably get it running with the Raspberry Pi but will need a regular router to set it up properly.
I’ve planned to get the Meet&Meat free bus to go get some supplies, and maybe use the pool at La Phare Bleu. It should leave from Budget at 10:20. At 10:50 I guess it’s a no show and head back to the boat. A little later I get a message to say that my booking had been missed.
Back to the boat and I waste the rest of the day trying to set up the Wi-fi antenna. It seems to be working, I just can’t connect to it to configure it – it’s very frustrating. I email the manufacturer for some advice – I really hope I can make it work!
I cook up all the sausages I bought the other day along with some mashed sweet potato for dinner (I save half the sausages for later, I’m not that greedy).
The weather has finally broken, and it rains all day. I don’t mind, because I’m cleaning all day!
Dad is running the flat we renovated last winter, which is part of his house, as an Airbnb. Because he’s very busy with magazine deadlines, I’ve offered to handle the cleaning for this changeover. It gives me chance to take care of some maintenance on the property, like changing the filter on the fridge and oiling the woodwork.
It’s strange being back in the house that was home for 5 months, surrounded by my own furniture. Changing the bed, in particular, is hard – usually, Schrödinger would ‘help’ me. It’s the bed our little family of three shared for 16 years. At least I’m reunited with my Nespresso, albeit briefly. I’m a little shocked at some of the wear and tear on the flat. I can’t understand how people staying in it for 2-3 nights, or a week, could do so much damage. It’s hard to reconcile as the guests are all lovely – the last one pops by to say hello and get a forgotten pancake mix as I clean.
We had planned to head to my friend Gemma’s farm in the late afternoon for a BBQ, music and camping. In the end, we end up not making it until early evening and given the weather we’ve decided not to camp. It’s a lovely evening though.
BBQ in the barn
Gemma has been a dear friend since we met at college in our late-teens, and took on adventures like sailing the Nile in Egypt. She’s now married to James and they have three children under 5, with the eldest, George, being my Godson. They run a seasonal wild camping site on the farm, and Gemma has recently started running the Reiver’s View food van on the Scotland/England border at Carter Bar.
Around 15 years ago, Gemma’s parents used to throw summer BBQs which would end up a dreamy bohemian haze of strummed chords and meaningful conversations under the stars. Gemma really wanted to recapture those days. Sadly, the weather has put paid to any dreams of starlight, and a few people have cried off. Still, Gemma has turned a barn into a lovely space and James has done some excellent grilling by the time we arrive. Gemma’s mum and dad, who used to have Colin and me round on Christmas Eve are there and happy, but I’m sad not to see more of ‘the old crowd’.
I chat to James’ parents, Andrew and Jane, who own Papa’s Bar in Bequia, about our little island paradise. Dad, his friend Natalie, and her brother play music, with Gemma accompanying on the clarinet. A few others are coaxed into a tune. Children run everywhere, and we all enjoy seeing four-year-old George get some much-needed time with older children. He spends hours on the trampoline…
I choose not to drink, and after a chilled out chat with Gems over sleepy children, I drive Dad back to Kelso in the light drizzle.
Here and there
And that’s it. Two very different weeks, in two very different places.
After that week, Colin gradually ran out of boat things to do. Or should we say, boat things he wanted to do? He ended up volunteering at the Grenada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. His job was to walk dogs, but he had time to make friends with a lovely kitten named Maggie. He chose to keep the boat at Prickly Bay. Sadly, Grenada’s Covid cases began to rise, non-essential businesses were closed, and strict overnight curfews began. He wasn’t able to go back to the shelter but hopes to get an update on Maggie who was poorly when he left. His happiest achievement was working out a comfy way to rig up the hammock in the cockpit.
Ailsa had another week in Kelso, with lots of walking and hiking, alone and with company. She and David finally walked the Eildon Hills with Colin’s Brother and Sister-in-Law. And then, via her brother in Lincolnshire and friends in Cambridge, and another weekend glamping, she made her way back to a locked-down Grenada.
More on that in another blog or two…