Back in British Waters

Baggy’s sailed her last long passage. A short hop of 1,270 miles from Horta, Faial Island, Azores to St.Mary’s, Scillies, UK.

Flying visit: Bye-bye Azores

After a rejuvenating nine day rest in the Azores, following our 37 day Atlantic passage, we found our sea legs pretty quickly.

Like Groundhog Day we slipped back into our watch system and boat duties like shore time had never happened.

But, this time something was different.

We noticed it brewing on the way to the Azores. Our usual enthusiasm for shore time wasn’t there. We were distracted and feeling contrary.

We were thinking about the people we were missing back home and wondering if they’d changed. Then reflecting on how much we’d changed.

We were discussing what we were going do when we got home and trying to predict the future.

Then we’d feel a mix of melancholy and bemusement that our mission was nearly over. How were we going to adjust to normal life, in a static house, on a street, plugged back into the matrix?

Four years at sea, living on a small old boat, suddenly felt like a long time. Materialistic hankerings for house plumbing, English pubs, stationary sofa’s, curry houses, a proper mattress and our own hot shower had crept into our psyches.

Then we’d feel sad knowing that we’d deeply miss the spaciousness of ocean wilderness. The close contact with nature, the challenge of the long passages, and the thrill of new landfalls.

Our conclusion was this.

With our circumnavigation mission in the Baggy Bag, our hearts had started hankering for home time. We also have a family wedding to attend at the end of August. It was perfect timing, giving us the impetus we needed to get a wiggle on.

As usual, we didn’t see another yacht the entire passage; though occasional cargo ships and tankers ghosted past on Transatlantic missions.

Tanker Talk

Eight days into the passage our bubble was burst by a call over the VHF radio ‘Bagheera, Bagheera, this is Emend III, Emend III

MSC Emend III was a heavily laden, 240 metre cargo ship, on passage to Mexico. Just three miles away, passing our port side, Mahesh from Mumbai, India, had called for a chat.

Clearly bemused to find a small sailing boat on such a vast ocean, he was full of curiosity and questions.

Where have you come from? Where are you going? Do you have enough food and water? How many on board? What do you do in rough weather?

We often wondered what these giant ships thought of our small rolling yacht, from the comfort of their high bridge. Now we know. Mahesh from Mumbai was amazed to hear we were a crew of two that had sailed around the world. Clearly we were the most intriguing sight for the crew of the ship that day, if not their entire passage.

Meet Stumpy: our little feathered pal who kept us company for over a week

A surprise highlight was the sealife.

Fulmars, petrels and gannets swooped and soared around us; pods of pilot whales cruised past and distant humpback whales spouted.

A super-pod of bottlenose dolphins visited us, several times. All sizes, the family pod of over fifty surrounded us, leaping out of the water, clearly delighted to have Baggy’s hull to play with.

However, the sea water caused us concern.

As usual we were dish washing and ‘showering’ in seawater, collected by bucket. But the sea was still full of these pesky Portuguese Man O War, with their poisonous tentacles reaching up to 20 metres in length.

Having survived sharks and crocs, around the world we didn’t want to fall at the last hurdle to a flouncy pink jellyfish !

Daily: bucket duty

Another disturbing aspect of the sea water was the amount of plastic microfibre we caught in the water filter. Without fail, every time we filtered a bucket of water, we collected microfibre in the mesh.

Daily: microfibre filtering

We noticed it more on this passage, but this wasn’t a North Atlantic phenomenon; we’d been filtering micro plastic from oceans around the world.

But, jellyfish and plastic aside, it was a cracking passage.

Apart from one long night of motoring and hand steering we sailed the entire passage, averaging a steady 4.5 knots. Baggy seemed to know she could take it easy now and had a gentle motion that made living comfortable.

Despite the longer evenings the temperature was dropping the further north we crept. Socks and fleeces were reluctantly shrugged on and a standard issue British gunmetal grey sky cloaked us for the last five days back into British waters.

With just 450 miles to go we passed through soggy fog. A tanker passed us three miles away and all we heard was it’s warning horn.

Then the smells started. I smelt sweet hay on the breeze, but it could have been my face cream. Then it was full-on seaweed.

Under 200 miles off shore it all started kicking off.

We were startled by the boom of aeroplanes and the sight of contrails; a rare sight over recent years. Tanker and cargo ship activity increased and then fishing boats appeared. The first two were Spanish, just 160 miles off of the Scillies.

Land ho! Saint Mary’s, Scillies

It’s debatable whether our final Land ho! counts. It was Bishop Rock lighthouse at 2100 on Monday 1 August; a faint flash of light in the distance.

We sailed towards the isles hazardous rocks in pitch black. The moon had set at 2230; and it was only a 13% waxing moon at that.

It was a tense arrival in a following breeze of south westerly 20 knots. Totally reliant on the chart plotter and lights on navigation marks we steered a laser focused course, unable to see the rocks surrounding us. But eventually we arrived into St Mary’s Harbour at 0300!

St. Mary’s Harbour: Baggy’s out there, somewhere

It was rammed with boats and yachts. One of us steered, the other swung a high powered flash light across the scene searching for a buoy to secure to.

By 0330 we had tied up. Wired. Sleep deprived. Stunned to be back in the UK and generally confused.

Mucky girl: Baggy looking sea-battered

But there was little test. Less than four hours of sleep later we were woken but a stiff rap on the hull. The Harbour Master was on his 8am rounds.

Colourful company: Our Scilly neighbours

It’s stunning here. Why did we bother sailing round the world when so much beauty is right on our doorstep?

We barely explored one island and have vowed to come back.

So, what now?

Homeward bound: Time to moor up

Sadly, after only three (ish) days and two nights of rest we’re slipping the Scillies. We plan to sail along the English Channel, with several weather dependent stops.

Then at 2pm, Saturday 13 August, we plan to catch high water into Portsmouth Harbour.

If you’re in the area look out for us. We’ll be flying 29 flags, split by twenty-one of the twenty-four counties we visited (three flags missing in action) and eight we missed due to Covid. And Baggy will be formerly dressed in her Bagheera dodgers, mounted on the guardrails.

We’ll be berthed in Gosport Marina, so come and say hello; we’ll have an open boat all afternoon!

But it’s a funny thing.

We can plan this stuff, write these words and picture it, but we can’t quite believe we’re actually sailing home.

For the very last time trusty old Yellow Brick will track our progress along the south coast.

We’re so, so nearly there now!!

We’re on our way: Looking forward to seeing you many of you soon!!

4 thoughts on “Back in British Waters

  1. It’s so exciting to know you are nearly home, but can well understand the maelstrom of mixed emotions. I will definitely be there on 13th to welcome you back, and so look forward to seeing you

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I will miss seeing your updates! So good to land back on Scilly – frequently visited and a lovely area. Have a good passage back along our wonderful coastline – and have a well deserved rest!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We have loved being part of your incredible journey, lived and breathed it with the wonderful blogs which ooze colour and passion for your new found animal friends and places. Thank you for taking us with you xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Paul,
    Welcome back ! You and your partner have achieved an incredible adventure. Your articles were really interesting/inspiring. I am super proud of my former boss :). I exchanged with Sadie the other day.
    I am really looking forward to seeing you again soon ! A bientôt, Laetitia

    Liked by 1 person

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