The banner at the top of the website is what the boat looked like when we returned to Ireland last week. It looked a lot worse underneath - there was nine months worth of boatyard and parking lot dust (black, sooty stuff) all over the decks, and I'd forgotten how we had taken everything apart inside to leave it air out. It was two days until Mia and my dad had it cleaned up enough to feel liveable.
Meanwhile, I was off in Wales, driving around the countryside to pick up the outboard motor I had bought from a guy on preloved.co.uk, a British Craigslist of sorts. The diesel had a problem last year, so I thought it a good idea to try and build a custom bracket that would mount on the stern quarter - like Yves Gelinas did on his Jean du Sud after returning from his round the world voyage (during which he had no motor at all...it was supposed to be nonstop after all).
The Welsh countryside.
I built the bracket at Rodney Carroll's shop in Baltimore, the sculptor friend of our who helped with the centerboard redesign project. I drew up the design, based on Yves, and modified slightly to make it a bit simpler (and transportable - we had to check this big steel thing in our luggage on the airplane ride to Ireland). Anyway, to make a very long story a bit shorter, I spent two days and two nights driving around England and Wales to get this motor, hefted it back on the ferry to Dublin and stowed it under the bus that brought me back to Bangor, in Northern Ireland. It weighed about 85 pounds, and the right side of my thigh was bruised by the time I got back because it kept banging into my leg when I carried it. I had the empty fuel tank in my other hand, and my small backpack on my back. I think I spent something like 18 hours in the car.
Dad and the motor bracket.
When we did get the bracket mounted, it ended up being too big. So I tried staying it with dyneema in such a way as to make it work. I finally found a solution, and dad and I, on a calm afternoon, left the dock under outboard power and made a small but disastrous circle in the little harbor near the haulout slip, the motor producing enough thrust to bend the bracket it was stayed to, and just about leaping out of the water and flipping upside down. We limped back to the dock where a nervous Mia was waiting to catch our docklines. And that was the end of the outboard idea. I relented and called a diesel mechanic and in two days and about $100 later, he had us under way again (though it's still not permanently fixed. As it turns out, the problem WAS in the governor mechanism, which I had suspected all along, and to get at it, the engine has to come out of the boat. That was my fear, and the reason I bought the outboard in the first place. So once we get to Sweden, out it comes, and into Mia's dad's barn, where I'll try and find someone who knows what they are doing and can teach me a bit about diesels). And that's the end of that story.
And so began the final voyage of our journey to Sweden, which started almost a year ago exactly, when we left Annapolis on July 4 and crossed the Atlantic to Ireland. I'm writing from Port Ellen, our first stop in Scotland. We arrived yesterday around noon, after departing Bangor at 2:30 in the morning so that we'd carry a fair tide past the Mull of Kintyre, the narrowest part of the Irish Sea, where it drains into the Atlantic to the northwest. We made the 60 miles in just under ten hours, at times making 8.5-9 knots over the ground with the fair current, and ironically motoring the whole way as it was just about flat calm, the only wind right on the nose at about 5 knots. In the harbor (we rowed in from the anchorage in the dinghy), we met a very friendly seal, whom I heard someone say might be named Sam, who was getting fed by the local fishermen. He'd practically stand on his back flippers in the water begging for the fish that the guy was dangling in the air for him.
It would have worked...but it would have been a real pain.
It feels different here, feels like we're finally on the way. And it feels very good to be back cruising again, planning our route, navigating the tidal gates and enjoying life on the boat. My dad is along for another week, before he flies home from Edinburgh, and we hope to do as much as we can with him in that time. I felt bad being stuck in Bangor for a week, but in hindsight he was a big help getting the boat ready (and keeping Mia sane with my crazy ideas). So we're off to the Lagavulin whisky distillery this afternoon (apparently you can take the boat right up to it, and they have two visitor moorings and a dinghy pier, so we'll try that), then it's through the Sound of Islay and on towards Colonsay. I think we've decided to go for the Caledonian Canal and take the more direct route to Sweden, so we can make it with some time (and some summer) to spare.
The local paper's mocking golfer Graham McDowell's duck-hook in the British Open.
I'll try to update this space as much as we can, but it's a bit tempting to leave the interwebs for a while and enjoy the simple life on the boat. Mia's got some great photos to share, and we have along a new camera to test out - with video! - so hopefully we'll have some cool stuff on here as we continue along. Thanks for reading!