flying out to the UK from Jacksonville at the end of February with just a quick stop at the
boatyard at Tiger Point to pick up some winter clothes and also to check
Samarang over and connect her up to mains power so that she'd be ready to leave
as soon as we got back. This involved transferring her from the storage
yard (field) to the working yard and we'd booked the date in with the yard
before we left over 6 months ago. But we learnt a long time ago that to
assume any boat yard has a diary system is a big mistake so we'd recently
exchanged emails to arrange for Samarang to be moved about a week before we
arrived. Then it would be easy in, easy out - not!
We knew as we
drove into the yard she wasn't there - ours is normally one of the tallest masts
and the mast steps are quite distinctive. So, taking a deep breath is was
off to begin discussions with Jackie the yard manager. It's worth
mentioning at this point that if you were selecting someone for a customer
facing role you'd only end up picking Jackie because every other applicant had
turned the job down and you were left with a choice between her and an escaped
sociopath who was re-arrested before you could offer him the job. We've
all met Jackies, nothing must be allowed to disturb the perfect equilibrium of the world
they've built around them and certainly not the convenience of the customers.
In fact I sometimes think that if there were two options and one of them was
both better for the customer and easier for Jackie, she'd opt for the other one
just to make sure the customers didn't start getting above themselves.
Well I could
go on for pages, but to cut the story short, they hadn't brought the boat over
on the day we'd agreed and had just set about moving her that morning -
unfortunately there had been several inches of rain the night before and the
boat, the cradle and the trailer unit were now stuck firmly in the mud.
The only option was to bring us a ladder so we could at least go aboard to get
our clothes. The story goes downhill from that point really. One of
the hatches had leaked quite badly soaking the mattress in our cabin. This
was significantly exacerbated because, for reasons we are to this day unable to
explain, the 1,000AH house batteries were completely flat and so the bilge pump
had been unable to operate and the bilges where thus full of water. None
of this was the yard's fault of course, but if they had moved the boat to the
working yard when they had agreed we would at least have been able to connect
the power, recharge the batteries and leave a dehumidifier running. As it
was we going to return to a 14 metre Petri dish! So after a discussion
with Bill and with his promise to move the boat just as soon as the field dried
- two or three days -we were back to the hotel to finish packing for the trip to
A trip to the
UK for us was normally an occasion for fevered shopping for all that stuff which
was unobtainable in whatever 3rd world country we happened to have left. But, this time we'd flown in from the USA, the land of shopping, and
there was virtually nothing we needed to buy. Certainly there was nothing
we wanted to buy at UK prices with 20% VAT. We most certainly didn't want
to buy any petrol (and that price is only for a litre???) but we didn't have a
whole lot of choice about that given that the car wouldn't run without it.
And on the subject of the rental car, I have a question: If the onboard
computer is going to tell me every time it wants me to change gear why didn't
Ford fit an automatic gear box, like in a proper car, and cut out the middle
real reason we were in the UK on this occasion was for Lindy's mum's 90th
birthday, which would coincide (more or less) with Mothers Day and Easter, a
triple conjunction that would trigger a grand gathering of the clan Kirk.
As a result, much of our initial time there was spent preparing for the events -
though more of that fell to Lindy. But finally we all gathered
in the local church hall for sausage rolls and a glass of something fizzy.
Audrey seemed to enjoy the whole thing and was even spotted dancing at one
point, but I often wonder as I get older myself, whether these events are more
for others than the celebrant themselves.
Interestingly, Audrey (Lindy's mum) often reminded us that she was born in the
same year as the Queen, but never ever mentioned, to my knowledge, that she was
also the same age as Fidel Castro.
all that excitement, a visit to Bristol for me to catch up with my son Kirk, a
visit to Cheshire to see Audrey's 91 year old sister,
visits to doctors, dentists, optometrists and pharmacists for both of us (these
things are substantially cheaper in the UK than in the US), it was time to pack
our bags again and head off back to Florida to begin sorting out the mess we'd
flight back to Florida due to Delta changing, for the third time, the details of
our connection in Detroit. They only did so after we had already left the
UK for Amsterdam, but I suppose changing the flight time doesn't count as a delay in their
stats, though I have to say, 5 hours stuck in Detroit airport at 1am feels just as bad
- whatever Delta choose to call it.
following morning, still dribbling with jetlag, we arrive at the yard to start
the daunting task of making Samarang ready to live aboard,
only.................... She's not there. Or that is to say she's
not in the working yard. She's still in the field where we left her.
Well not actually where we left her, in the 6 week period they have
actually moved her back to where she'd originally been before she got stuck in
the mud. Deep breath and trying very hard to stay cool, it's off to see
Jackie. "I told them to bring it over, if they haven't done it, it's not my
fault." I remind her that Bill promised to bring the boat over as soon as
the ground dried. "You'll have to talk to him about that and he's away."
teeth gritting diplomacy, it is agreed that the boat will be where it should be
by lunch time. We're not convinced, but head back to the hotel to reserve
a few more nights. When we return at 2pm Samarang is in the working yard
right outside Jackie's office. Not so bad. We've only lost a couple
of hours. Except................... we quickly discover there is no 220v
power on this side of the yard. Back to Jackie. "That's nothing to do
with me. You'll have to talk to xxx in the yard." We do, and after
much digging in the workshop have still not managed to come up with enough cable
to reach from a 220v supply across the road to a point which connects with our own
multiple very long extension cords. Xxx is off to see what else he can
rustle up when Jackie arrives to say they are going to move us to where we ought to
be, but that will require another boat to be moved first. It's 4.00pm
Florida time, about 10.00pm in our heads, and we're so tired we can hardly see,
so we decamp to the hotel for a bottle of wine and a microwave ready meal and to
remind ourselves that we do this for fun!
following day we are finally able to get aboard, connect to power and begin the
grind of getting the boat "ship shape". Miraculously the batteries will
prove to have survived their ordeal, but every surface is covered with mould,
everything stored in the bilges is wet and mouldy, the boat and all our clothes
smell of mould - the hotel laundry will be working overtime. Even after we
leave the hotel and move back aboard it will be weeks before the cupboards are
sufficiently dry and clean for us to unpack our bags. Our bed in
the master cabin has suffered the worst, the memory foam mattress is condemned
and a replacement + cover is ordered and will require significant surgery once it
though we are ready. We are, but the yard is not. The travel lift is
completely booked and they can't put us in the water for another week.
Plenty of time for us to start considering our options for next (now rapidly
approaching) hurricane season. We can't risk a repeat of this experience,
which means we need to be connected to power for the duration that we're away.
Now Tiger Point doesn't score any points for customer service and flexibility,
but it does have the best cradles and hurricane preparation that we've seen, so
off once again to negotiate a suitable space with Jackie. "I won't be able
to guarantee you a place with power when you arrive." Helpful as ever.
"What if I book the date and time of our lift out now?" I suggest.
"I still won't be able, etc, etc." "What if we just keep the slot we're in
and I pay you for it all the time we're away?" "I still won't......"
You know the rest. Cradles or not we're just going to have to find
At the end of
April, we do finally splash. It's too late now to go all the way out to
the Bahamas, particularly since we don't super like the place and we'll have to
pay the $300 dollar entry fee whether we're there for 6 months or 6 days.
So we decide we'll just do a bit of pootling about on the East coast USA.
And then, before we've even left Fernandina the number 1 fridge fails so that
even pootling becomes much reduced. There are two things to know about the
#1 fridge. Firstly - it cannot be repaired. Secondly - the chart
table was seriously modified in Portugal to accept this fridge. There is
absolutely no room for further modification. This fridge and only this
fridge will fit. And that's a bugger! There are all sorts of readily
available, non nautical fridges available off the shelf for less that $300
dollars, but they are all just a couple of insurmountable centimetres too big,
or there is our fridge (mercifully still in production) and available from West
Marine for $1000.
being limited to one, West Marine it is. When it arrives, we have to
pick it up from the store in Jacksonville. Having previously experienced 3
damaged cookers delivered from West Marine, and because the box is too big to
fit in the car, and because getting it back to the boat in the dinghy, hoisted
aboard and down the companionway is a pain in the arse, we have them unpack it
in the store and power it up to check it works. Just as well we did - it
does work, but as with our cookers it has been crunched in transit. After
a happy hour of checking everything can either be repaired or replaced with
parts from the existing fridge we negotiate a discount and the deal is done.
Just have to remove the door in the car park to get it into the car! It
takes a day to fit the fridge.
A few nights
later there's a loud crash and the tail section of our #1 wind generator has
landed on the deck and a few days after that our 100% reliable #1 Yamaha
outboard 100% fails to start. Not a good year for #1 equipment! Our
17 year old 2 stroke Johnson is pressed back into service and despite having
been completely neglected for several years starts on the second pull. Yes
the noise and the clouds of blue smoke do probably constitute an environmental
hazard, but it's running, just like it always does, which begs the question -
why did we shell out so much money replacing it? I quite like the smell of
2 stroke oil!
By the time
all these trials are behind us, it's well into May and we finally manage to make
the six mile passage to Cumberland Island, which is to be about the extent of
this year's cruising. Now Cumberland Island really is a nice place.
It's a national park with wild horses, peregrine falcons, alligators and deer,
with an interesting history and is well worth taking a week to visit. It's
just that we had expected to get a bit further than 6 miles in an entire
But by now
it's the beginning of June and time to lift the boat again for the summer.
We will not be returning to Tiger Point, but instead heading for St Mary's Boat
Yard. Eight miles from the same entrance as Tiger Point, up a sinuous,
shallow tributary of the St Mary's river that we can only attempt at high tide.
It is hard to get to, it doesn't have the hurricane cradles that Tiger Point
has, it's not even cheaper. What it does have is an unmistakeable feeling
that everyone there will do everything they can to make things work. They
even lift us a day early, on a Sunday morning, because there is a tropical storm
approaching, and then lend us a car so we can drive back to Fernandina to