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Day 1,571 - Mudeford, England (50° 43.2N 01° 44.5W)
18:56hrs - September 17th 2011
Where It All Began

There are no palm trees here, the sand is littered with toe-stubbing stones, and the water is often cold enough to make even the most seasoned member of the Polar Bear Club pause and think twice before going for a swim. In fact sometimes, OK, quite frequently actually, summer never actually seems
to arrive at this corner of the world (enter the lat' and long' above into
Google Earth to see exactly where we are). But it's here, in a place that
sounds more like a country farm than a unique beach community,
that our adventure together began.

Twenty years ago, it was here, in Mudeford, that Catherine and I lit our first beach fire together - cooking sausages over burning driftwood. It was here, during one of our first dates, where we took our first passage - in a ten foot
row boat across the harbour, and it was here where we fell in love, not only
with each other, but perhaps with a lifestyle that, two decades later, we are living together on Dream Time.

Mudeford, which is in England by-the-way, on the south coast near Bournemouth, is nothing more than a sandy spit, a thin stretch of land that extends east from Hengistbury Head, separating Christchurch Harbour from the open waters of Christchurch Bay and the English Channel just the other side of the Isle of Wight. But what makes Mudeford unique is that it is home,
a few months of the year at least, and weather providing of course, to a small and lucky community of hardy beach lovers. People who spend long weekends, holidays, or even all summer, living quite happily without many of life's conveniences, and who are willing to sleep in confined quarters, in this case huts no larger than a garden shed, enjoying the escape, much like cruisers, from the hustle and distractions of modern day living.

My Father bought our beach hut, number 161, forty-one years ago, coincidently in the same year I was born, during my very first summer, so you could say that I was destined to spend my life by the sea, and from that summer on, that's exactly what we did. Whenever it wasn't raining, and frequently even when it was, our family happily spent the holidays at Mudeford Spit, living on, in and around the sea. And a few years later, when I was old enough to swim, or at least float, my Father taught me how to sail - in a tiny wooden boat not much bigger than our inflatable dingy.

If you haven't already guessed, Catherine and I have taken a short trip over
to England to visit family (yes, we flew), and we've managed to steal away
a few days to visit what, even after exploring some of the more glamorous corners of the world, remains one of my favorite places. The weather has been unbelievable, warm enough in sunbath in fact, which is remarkable - an 'Indian Summer' according to our beach hut neighbor, who, again, like cruisers, seem to dedicate entirely too much time discussing the weather.

A lot has changed here since 1993 - when Catherine and I last slept in the hut; hissing gas lanterns have given way to high-tech LED lights powered by solar panels that also run, in the more modern huts, fridges, water pumps, hot water tanks, and even, to the shock of many of the original settlers, televisions.

Cracker Jack (our beach hut, aptly named by my Father, Jack) has recently been rebuilt, and is now tricked-out with a 100-watt solar panel and a fancy new 12-volt system similar to Dream Time's, and even, after forty years of enduring a Pardey-like 'bucket & chuck-it' philosophy, a tiny head. So with no mains water supply, a tiny galley, a folding dinner table, and an electrics breaker panel (purchased from a chandlery shop) displaying switches for the 'Main Cabin Light', 'Water Pressure', and 'Engine Room', it feels like we're on the boat, but without having to worry about the anchor dragging.

But with all the mod-cons, the occasional ringing of a nearby cell phone, or even the muffled drone of a distant TV set, the spirit of Mudeford is still very much the same, and the community of 365 huts, that lease tiny patches of
sand from the council, has managed to retain its unique and undeniable charm. And for those of you who like the idea of owning your very own beach hut, good luck trying to get one. No additional huts have been built for well over thirty years, and the average hut, which sold for around $4,000 when I was a lad, now sell, very quickly, for an astonishing $250,000. But as any Mudefordian will tell you, you can't put a price on paradise.

 
 



Hot Off The Press!
Click here to read our
article in the September
issue of Yachting Monthly magazine >


 






 



September 5th 2011
Quick Fix: 17° 35.24 S / 149° 38.68 W

Conditions:  Wind: 18/NE     Sky: Mostly clear
                    SPD: 6.5 Kts     HDG: 110°

20,000 nautical miles & counting!
We've just sailed our twentieth thousand nautical mile!
If we had sailed in a straighter line, we would have almost circumnavigated the world by now. But with so much to see, why rush? And at this rate, we may well reach a hundred thousand miles by the time we actually close the loop and pull back in to New York. But we're not in a hurry, so we'll just focus on one mile at a time. - NH


 


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Day 1,555 - Marina Taina, Tahiti (17° 34S 149° 37W)
19:54hrs - September 1st 2011
Lesson Learned

We've got some serious sea legs - and we haven't even left the lagoon!

The last four days, beginning with a gale that straightened our chain and stretched our snubbers (much to the delight of our nephew Alistair), and ended with 15 foot swell that, after colliding with the reef a few hundred feet away, brought torrents of water into the lagoon, turning our once serene and safe anchorage into chaos for three days with churning white water, colliding currents and contrary winds, which competed head on with the surge to see which would rule the anchorage.

Both won. Boats dragged their anchors, bumped, crashed and bounced off one another, swung wildly at moorings and, depending on the water depth, faced either waves or the wind, resulting in a hundred or so boats all looking as confused and dazed as their inhabitants.

Dream Time was anchored on the edge of the reef, thankfully away from most boats, over sand in just twelve feet of water, so we faced the sets of breakers that made it over the reef and pitched violently, our bow alternating - pointing to the sky one moment, then driving deep into crests the next sending water over the decks, and during one particularly large set, straight into an open hatch. Other boats weren't so lucky, and anchored in deeper water, found themselves facing the wind, beam to waves that threw their boats side to side, gunnel to gunnel. Masts across the lagoon swung in every direction adding to the sense of complete disarray.

For three days we endured swell large enough to cancel the Billabong surf competition at Teahupoo, and which we later found out, powerful enough to rip dozen of boards out of Marina Taina fixed dock - the upward force snapping planking in a final assault before ricocheting off concrete walls and back out into the lagoon to greet the next incoming assault.

We thought of moving, but our giant 60lb CQR anchor was buried deep, and the additional 60lbs of riding weight (six 10lb dive weights lashed together), which I had lowered down the chain, were enough to hold a vessel twice our size, and ultimately it felt more dangerous to relocate than to just ride it out. So for 72 hours that's what we did.

We watched in amazement as the ocean piled up over the reef in great plumes of spray, then braced ourselves as lines of white water rushed over the shallow reef into the lagoon. Our neighbors, two unoccupied boats - a catamaran and
a powerboat, spent much of the time dueling - nudging, banging and scraping one another - locked in battle, and when the seas finally settled, judging by the damage to the motorboat, the catamaran won.

It was a valuable lesson (yes, even after over four years of cruising, we're still learning). Anchored inside what seemed like a safe lagoon, I hadn't checked the weather forecast for almost a week, if I had, the GRIB files would have shown the low weather system to our south, along with the five meter swell that would follow. If we had known, and motored just two hours to the northeastern coastline, we would have been spared wet sheets, a soggy mattress and three days of vertigo - we won't be making that mistake again.