Time to switch to the second half

La coupée between Sark and Little Sark


Sunday 11 June, 2017

OK, so I’ve set up a second half blog. Nothing original about the new title. Merely a switch in the order so you can more easily identify the second half blog — dragonflies before dandelions. So the new address is https://dragonfliesanddandelionsblog.wordpress.com

Here’s hoping you can find your way there okay. If you have trouble, please email to let me know and I’ll send the link direct to you.

And now here’s some photos of Sark. Hopefully no repeats of what’s been up already. And no, in the photo at top of blog, I’m not clutching my head in horror. I was trying to get my hair sorted before L took the photo. Some of these other photos were meant to be posted with L’s last posting on this blog but I was having connection problems at the time.





Dandelions, dragonflies, and possibly a new blog


Just to let you know, I’ve almost used up all my photo allowance for this current blog so chances are I’ll be starting a new blog for the second half of the trip. My options are to remove some of the photos already on this blog, which I’ve done for some early entries without realising I was also removing them from the blog posts. So I’m not so keen on that option. Or I could pay an annual fee to get more photo storage,  which I’m not so keen on either for a blog that will finish in about a month. So if I start a new one, I’ll post the address on this Dandelions and Dragonflies blog.

Which reminds me, I’m not sure I ever explained the intent behind my dandelions and dragonflies title (apart from my liking for both of these). It was to cover the two parts of our original trip, which was canals first (dragonflies) and UK gardens second (dandelions — even though I know few UK public gardens would admit the latter). But it didn’t quite turn out like that. First, the canals were strong on dandelions but short on dragonflies. And second, we scrapped the England garden tour idea almost as soon as we set foot in the UK. (And just in case you are wondering why, if dragonflies represented Part 1 of the trip, I used dandelions first in the title, it’s purely a matter of euphony. Tripped off the tongue better that way round — try it.)

To finish, here’s a few photos from my flower series. As you can see, I’m somewhat obsessed with close-ups. Still a work in progress, but I’m having fun trying to get what I’ want. The flowers could be from anywhere but in fact they are all from Sark.









The man with no title: No. 3


Friday 9 June, 2017

And so, to France

Well today, for a change, it is back on the ferries. Condor again, with a fast ferry through to St Malo. But before I start on the usual obsessive boat details I need to write about yesterday. And without talking about the boats. They do warrant a paragraph or to but not at this time.

Sark completely captivated the two of us, through to pondering if we could live there for three-month period some time. Perhaps we could get a long-term rental and perhaps J could volunteer at the garden she found. I would simply write, or perhaps write simply, walk, sleep and, well nothing much else. The traffic on Sark is either tractors, bikes, or horses. The community has sensibly kept motor scooters and small motor bikes out (as well as cars, of course). They may tolerate mobility scooters; however, we did not see any operating although we saw one on the luggage tray of a tractor. I think the terrain and rumpity roads would put paid to mobility scooters in short order.

We arrived on the island about 11 in the morning and didn’t stop walking, apart from the gardens séjour, through until about 3.30 in the afternoon. Our first foray was from the harbour up to the village. At a junction early on, I blocked the view of the sign pointing to the village and watched while a group of continentals trudged past turning on to another track. They were all wearing serious hiking clothing and had Nordic walking poles. None of them spoke, all of them frowned, many of them leaned forward into the rise. They were a serious group doing serious walking. I meanwhile, whistled Dixie. We saw them again later in the day, same line up, same frowns, same serious intent. They did though, look a bit tuckered out. I guess route marching does that. Maybe they never found the village.

Sark is crisscrossed with narrow dirt roads and paths. Walking all over is the way to do it, though many come off the boats, climb on the tractor trailers to go up to the village, and then tour the island by horse and cart. We walked at much the same pace as the horse and carts. There are also sit-up-and-beg bikes for hire, but J ruled that out before I had a chance to raise the possibility. She did so on the grounds that a stationary bike at the gym was not the same as stone littered dirt tracks.

At the North end of Sark is Little Sark with its very narrow, very high path across a spine. The sea has cut into both sides and maybe in the years to come Little Sark will become an island by itself. Sark makes it living from tourists. In another week or two there will be many boats a day to the island and much of its tranquillity will dissolve into thin air. Our day in Sark was spent very much on our own with few encounters with other day visitors. It was interesting to watch the few locals we saw. Locals never looked at the day trippers, they ignored them. It was as though we were not there. I admired this.

A highlight of Sark was the sign outside a house saying its garden was open for viewing and everyone was welcome to wander through it. This was a different garden from the formal one we visited earlier in the day. There was no entry fee or donation box for this second garden of the day. The garden was charming and the chooks looked as though they had found paradise. I suppose some, at least, would end up in the pot.

It is now about 10 in the morning on Friday, the day after our Sark visit. We are sitting in a café. J is repeatedly saying bum while she is peering at her screen. I’ve learnt over the years to ignore this muttering at computers. If it’s not ‘bum’ it’s ‘This is so annoying’ or ‘I just don’t understand’. I am doing a happy squint and peck writing this. The St Malo ferry leaves at two this afternoon. Between now and then I will probably find an op shop and look for another DF.

The weather is good with no wind and I predict the ferry (with its four water jets) will hurtle us to France.




Sark: The perfect island



Thursday 8 June, 2017

We did a day trip to Sark today. And guess what? It has a garden, La Seigneurie. So what with the ferry trip over for him and a garden for me, it all adds up to the perfect destination. Of course there is more than the garden to Sark, and it needs more than a day to fully explore, at least on foot. There are bikes for hire and that would make it possible to cover a great deal more ground. We spent a full-on day walking the roads and tracks and now I’m too tired to write a blog. So I’ll leave a fuller commentary on Sark to some other time, or to the no-longer-captain to write about, and just say here that it is one of the best day trips we’ve done (and that covers all our trips). And that the garden of La Seigneurie is definitely worth a visit.It has all the elements of such big English-style gardens — a walled garden with axes and focal points and box hedges; roses, climbers, perennials, shrubs; an orchard,  a vegetable garden, and a maze; and an arbour for non-gardener types to sit and read.




The man with no title: No. 2


Wednesday 7 June, 2017

To Sark, on the morrow

We have reached Guernsey and as soon as we hopped off the ferry from Poole we popped into the Sark ferry office and booked tomorrow’s trip. This all comes hot on the heels of Tuesday’s ferry trip up Poole Harbour to Wareham and return. We are doing ferries thick and fast, just how I like it.

J says I need to put a warning that technical details are about to follow and if you feel some glazed eyes coming on, you need to skip the following paragraphs.

The photo above is a 26-foot Fairy Marine Atlanta. Uffa Fox designed these boats (in a variety of lengths). The original hulls were built as life boats to be carried under planes and dropped into the Channel for downed wartime pilots and aircrew. Fox developed the hot moulded technique where the hulls were planked with three layers of very thin mahogany and then oven baked to produce a strong, light structure that would stand up to being dropped from a plane. After the war, he developed the idea further and produced these yachts. The production method lent itself to mass production. The boats were light, strong, able to be trailered, seaworthy and popular. Fibreglass brought about their demise. It was fantastic to see one, still in good shape. Fox was a genius with his maritime designs. He was, from memory, an Olympic sailor. He also designed the Flying Fifteen, one of the most successful three-person racing boats ever. There is still a world championship for Flying Fifteens. There is a strong fleet of them in Wellington.

Today’s ferry to Guernsey was a trihedral hull fast ferry. This is the one we missed by a whisker on Monday. She is powered by four large diesels operating water jet propulsion squirters out the back. She probably pumps through forty Olympic-sized swimming pools of water every minute. I won’t carry on with these details as they are the same details that caused J to laugh uncontrollably back in 2012 at the Condor reception desk in St Malo.

If you recall, some years back a fast ferry came out to trade Cook Strait. It was rapidly nicknamed the Vomit Comet. Today’s ferry lived up to that name. J found the trip a little tiresome, though she managed to hold it together for the whole journey, so to speak. I enjoyed it. There were about 700 aboard and the company allocates seats. We were seated just outside the wash room door, away from fresh air and with only a limited view of the heaving sea. We shifted soon after the off and found two seats down the back, in a light airy area with easy access to the outdoors. J settled into her seat and read pretty much from the time the crew cast off through to when they tied up again. Meantime I walked for’ard and stood at the locked sliding door to the first-class lounge. When someone came out I slipped through and was able to spend some time looking out the front. I came back aft when the groans of the first-class passengers became prolonged and it occurred to them that sitting at the front in a seaway has a downside. I trundled back aft where the motion was considerably less. Here’s a tip; if the motion is awful, find a place near the stern and lie down. Pretend to sleep and imagine sitting under a tree. Sitting under a tree is the only sure-fire way to cure seasickness. Do not ever listen to blowhards who say they never get seasick. The truth is they haven’t been in a small enough boat in a big enough sea.

Now, enough of this. I loved the trip. The English Channel always throws up some surprises and today’s included military aircraft, a container ship that looked the same as the Aurora (from our Baltic Sea trip), the Alderney race (a tide rip), and a small ro-ro pretty much the same as the Kent (a ship I served on around the New Zealand coast).

Now to finish off, we enjoyed yesterday’s trip up the river to Wareham. We passed a lot of boats moored along the river with some even crowding the channel. There were a number of Hillyards. Hillyard designed boats about 70 years ago. They were pretty much always double-enders with centre cockpits and usually with ketch rigs. Hillyard boats are very distinctive; however, in my opinion, he drew them with too little sheer.

Postscript from J

Just thought I’d be lazy and piggyback on L’s entry rather than doing my own post. The ferry trip was something to be endured rather than enjoyed. I’ve experienced rougher sailings on the Cook Strait crossing but I’d still rate this one worse because the movement was a sort of twisty sideways churning that made me feel queasy rather than outright seasick (though not all passengers got away as lightly). Also it went on for longer — about two-and-a-half hours’ worth of unpleasant motion. The rough bit in Cook Strait usually only lasts about an hour (unless you get one of those rare but horrid go-on-forever trips). Anyway, I’m pleased the sailing went ahead and we’re here in Guernsey for at least two of our four planned nights.

And just to show you there’s more than boats to Guernsey, here’s a couple of small garden shots. One very small — hanging baskets, something they do very well here in Guernsey.



Be careful what you wish for



Tuesday 6 June, 2017

You will have gathered from the man-with-no-title’s blog that we are not in Guernsey as planned. We are stuck in Poole. By Wellington standards, the weather is not all that bad. A bit of rain last night and a stiff breeze today, and that’s about it. Except it isn’t. He who knows these things says that out in the approaches to the channel, it would have been gale force winds, not the sort of thing a fast ferry trimaran could cope with. So we were probably lucky to have missed the Monday ferry by a few minutes; it had left an hour earlier than scheduled, but we hadn’t got the message. Then, because of the unfavourable winds, today’s crossing was also cancelled.

As it happens, we’d been thinking Poole would be worth a bit more time than we’d allowed, so we haven’t minded the enforced stopover. It does mean, though, that at best, we’ll get only one full day in Guernsey. And I suspect the non-captain is planning on spending that on a ferry trip to Sark.

Speaking of ferries, we took a ferry trip today on the Purbeck of Poole, up the tidal reaches of the harbour and the River Frome to the town of Wareham, where we had an hour or so to wander around before the trip back — the timing scheduled to fit with the tides. It was a lovely trip. The wind was brisk, to say the least, especially going up river. It’s the first time either of us has seen so many yachts moored on a river. It made the navigable channel very narrow in places for the ferry. Lots of  birdlife as well, plus one seal bobbing its head up as we passed. The Saxon church was also amazing, especially the stained glass windows.

We’ve enjoyed Poole and wandering around the quay and along the streets of the old town. But we are also looking forward to even a short time in Guernsey and are crossing our fingers the ferry finally sails tomorrow. With us on it.

Saxon church at Wareham

The man with no title: No 1


Monday 5 June, 2017

The man with no title

It could be worse, I think the man in the iron underpants had it worse (he was in Black Adder). We are at the Poole library having not read the Condor Ferry text that the ferry had changed its departure time to 8 am. We arrived a few minutes after it left. The departure time was changed because of impending ferocious weather. All those who made it aboard will spend the first 30 minutes telling each other how lucky they were to make the sailing. The rest of the trip will be spent shouting ralph on to the great white flushable phone. I recall, one time (on a sailing ship), a partly eaten apple rolling back and forth in a washroom for three days while trainees lay about groaning and wanting to die. Wanting to die is the last stage of sea sickness. When I worked on the ferries, it was company policy for crew not to wear life jackets in the passenger areas during foul weather.

The reality, of course, is that, as a rule, ships will go further than people. In the main, the worst will be broken fixtures (perhaps no one secured the pokie machines), lost gear (the inflatable washed off the side), and diced carrots all over the shop. Usually ships founder because of human error, not because they are overwhelmed by weather. Also, ships seldom founder.

It is obvious that I am now the man with no title. J has said that I am the Chief Head Banger, mainly because the Swan Hotel in LB had the television hung off the wall in a very stupid place. It took me three goes to get it into my head that I needed to duck. I am not accepting the title of CHB and I think it is rude for that title to be suggested. Equally a bald head with sticking plaster on top is not the best look.

I had a bunch of stuff to write about today, I intended to write my way across to the Channel Islands. I think we will still get there, but not till Wednesday. This will leave Thursday for a day trip to Sark, then on to St Malo on Friday. In the meantime, we have some extra time to explore Poole.

Welcomed by a Wellington wind



Sunday 4 June, 2017

Sod’s law. No sooner have I posted my woolly hat back to Wellington than Wellington arrives here in the form of a typically cold and breezy northerly to welcome us as we stepped off the train at Poole. That said, on the plus side, my MacPac zip-up black cardigan, which I was only carrying because I hadn’t found a clothes recycling bin between Leighton Buzzard and Poole, came in useful and has now been spared the indignity of a binning.

We spent most of the day at train stations waiting for delayed trains. We had woken this morning to news of the London terror attack, which, like the earlier Manchester attack, has shocked and saddened us. I know there were stations closed in London and whether that had a knock-on effect or not, I’m not sure. Not that it matters, in the context of the lives lost and shattered by these tragedies.

Being us, we inadvertently took the long way round to get to our accommodation quayside in Poole. A lovely room, one of two in a small guest house. It is up a couple of flights of stairs, has a good vibe, restful decor, comfortable bed, and everything we need, including wifi. Budget accommodation at its best.

Poole is lovely. As always, it is nice to be close to the sea again (to sort of paraphrase JM), that sharpness in the air you don’t get on the canals. Because we arrived late-ish, we didn’t have much time to explore but after dinner at a super Italian restaurant (first wine of the trip, a rosé of course, in prep for France), we went for a walk along the quay. The captain, if I may still refer to him as such, was full of bits of information about the various boats. I was madly snapping photos, despite the failing light.

Ok, so I haven’t yet perfected the camera selfie technique
Improving, but maybe a bit less rock wall needed
Our room is the top left window



Tulip’s shower, for those who expressed an interest in seeing it.

Captain’s log: No. 14


3 June, 2017

Captain no more

Tragic really, but true. To sum up, we came ashore at nine this morning and within twenty minutes we were on our way, up the path, along the lane and to the laundry. I tried one last captain-like instruction. J looked at me, somewhat puzzled. Then she carried on walking, or rather in this case stayed still, while I continued the journey. When I looked back she was signalling me to come back. I went back and she said I was going the wrong way. The laundry, it turned out, was down a lane to the left. Chagrined, I realised that truly I was no longer the captain.

Alas and alack. If you were reading a paper copy you would see the tear stains.

To sum up simply; it is captain no more.



Saturday 3 June

Soulbury Locks to Leighton Buzzard

So here we are, in Leighton Buzzard, canal trip over and waiting for Part II of our holiday to begin. An interlude of sorts, in the luxury of a comfortable hotel room with a large bathroom. Large by recent standards, that is. I’ve loved our canal boat holiday but whatever way you look at it, the only word for the amenity spaces is cramped

Early start to the day yesterday (Friday). The dawn chorus woke me. By my standards it should be called the pre-dawn chorus because these birds were warming up at 3.45 am, way too early for dawn for me.

We topped up with water and planned our assault on the three Soulbury Locks. The map book makes these sound difficult. Apparently there can be problems when there are lots of boats because the pools between the locks are small. So you have to get the gates to the next lock open before the boat leaves the one it is in, giving a straight run through the three locks and minimizing the chance of boats running out of waiting room and banging into each other in the ponds. We were told it can get ugly if there’s a bit of a wind, no mooring bollards, and boats of up to 70 feet. However, we were first, and only, ones through at that time of the morning so no problems on that front. We did have one hitch, though, in that the last pond was empty. Just mud. Not good for boats that need to float. So we had to open all the paddles of the last lock, both gates, and wait till the pond had filled.

We stopped just above the Leighton Buzzard lock and walked the mile and a bit into the town, to get a bit of exercise. Then back for our customary siesta. Later in the evening, once the outpouring of Wyvern Boats starting their trips had dwindled, we went through our last lock and tied up for the last night at the Wyvern Boats marina.

And so, this morning at 9.00 am, Part I of our holiday came to an end as we handed back the keys to Tulip and trekked our way into Leighton Buzzard, found the launderette, had breakfast in a very nice café while the washing was washing, collected the washing and trudged on to the Swan Hotel.

With the hotel in sight, I must have momentarily lost concentration at the thought of all that comfort because one minute I was looking at the Swan Hotel sign and the nek I was looking at the pavement. I could blame the pack on the back – and it possibly didn’t help my balance once I stumbled – but really, I was doing my usual head in the clouds, not paying attention, and didn’t see the uneven paving. Luckily no harm done.

We’ve loved the month on the canal boat. It’s been a great holiday. The weather has been fantastic, the countryside and villages beautiful, and I’ve enjoyed the boatie bits too. I never imagined I would be able to take a boat through locks. And I can now manage opening and closing the locks with confidence.

Tomorrow we start Part II. I’m not sure if I’ve said in an earlier blog that our plans have changed. Originally we intended to car camp around the UK in a Postman Pat-sized van. Once we arrived and saw the traffic here, we changed our mind. That would have been one stress-charged holiday for us. Plus the reality check of realizing the back of the van would have been smaller than the size of the bedroom on the boat.

So change of plan, with the itinerary still being decided. Tomorrow we start the next stage of the journey with a train trip to Poole and on Monday we take a ferry to Guernsey where we’ll stay for the rest of the week.

Just finally, I’ll try and get a few interior shots of the boat up (this is particularly for L from D — or maybe that should be L from St L near D). They may be repeats, though. My photos are a muddle as I have to keep deleting from iPhotos to free up hard disk space on Little Mac. Plus it takes forever to load photos to the blog photo library and also hard to check what photos I’ve used from that library. I need to find a way I can scroll through all the postings in one go to see what photos have been used. Or how to transfer iPhotos to an external hard drive. Any ideas anyone?