First Post of 2024 – 28 March 2024

It has been a while since I wrote about our life and it’s journey, so I thought it was time to post a few things here, and bring the blog up to date. I posted some of these photos and text on Facebook, but then I realized that not all of my family and friends actually use Facebook.

First off, back during the Christmas, New Years period, we traveled to Rotterdam and Brussels to visit with family and friends. In Rotterdam, the Netherlands, we visited with son Raoul (who traveled from Vienna Austria with his wife Amelia and son Thorsten), daughter Joana (with boyfriend Arend and stepson Pike), stepdaughter Julia (and husband Timo, and sons Floris and Hidde). There were lots of dinners, walks and events going on, and I could summarize with just these two photos.

We rented bicycles for the stay in Rotterdam, and here is Jonathan posing with his.

Then, we took a quick train ride to Brussels to visit with our friends Rob and Teresa Clark. In Brussels, we relived our experience downtown at the Grand Place, bought some chocolate and enjoyed the hospitality of Rob and Teresa. The city has obviously changed a lot.

On return to Monastir Tunisia, we had a few small jobs to catch up on. We contracted for a new wheel cover, so when dockside – we removed the wheel and store it on deck, covered.

Also, it’s worthwhile to mention just how close the adjacent boats are here. During the winter period, the marina fills up to 125% capacity. The boats are really jammed in tight, and there is often a problem with the water and electrical connections. This boat was launched from the fishing port nearby, and berthed right next to us. There is nobody on-board, but there is a carpenter working on it FULL-TIME, from 0700 to 1900 everyday. After two days of listening to all this racket, I complained and they moved the boat, and resultant dust and noise, 4 spaces over. We can still hear it, but at least we can talk in the cockpit. Doing maintenance at the dock is one thing, but this is a major renovation that will take a year or more – and they should have left that boat in the yard. They swapped his boat over with another one, that is jammed in just as tight – but there is nobody on board.

I should also mention the “abandoned boats”. As we move around the world, we have seen abandoned boats in every marina, yard and even many anchorages. People park their boat, go home, and for one reason or another – don’t return. This leaves the marina in a tight spot, sometimes the boat is sitting there for 10 years! Nobody pays the rent, and it can present a hazard to other vessels nearby. This boat, with the shredded sail, is just one example. Since we have been here, we have seen two sails come loose (two different boats), and whip around in the wind for months – until they are absolutely destroyed. The marina staff will assist boats that have paid their rent, but abandoned boats present another challenge, and the staff are often unable (due to legal issues) to do anything.

In mid-March, we took a one week trip to Bristol England to visit with our friends Martin and Jane Robertson. It was somewhat wet and cool, certainly cooler than we have become accustomed to – but it was an absolute treat to be in a country where people spoke English as a first language. Having said that, it was sometimes difficult to actually understand their accents. This photo is in front of the cathedral at Wells England.

We had a very nice dinner in an Italian restaurant with Jane and Martin’s son Luke, together with his girlfriend Maisie and friend Jordon. Lots of different accents!

I took this photo when we were driving through the Cheddar Gorge.

Now for the shocker…..We have often thought of sailing to Bristol, even staying for a few months. However, one look at this marina in Watchet, during low tide (drying) convinced me that this is a bad idea. Really, you couldn’t pay me to bring our boat here.

Can you imagine JOANA in this berth? Not me.

12 Watchet Marina

No visit to England would be complete without a picture of a castle. This one is from Minehead.

Anyone who was watching the news in 2022 should recall that Queen Elizabeth passed away in 2022. Her royal mark (on mailboxes etc) has been very familiar through my life as ER. What do the royal initials actually mean? The ER stands for Elizabeth Regina. The ER, or EIIR, initials were the Royal Cypher of Queen Elizabeth II. Elizabeth, of course, was her first name – and Regina simply means ‘Queen’ in Latin. Now, fast forward to 2024, and we are watching for the currency to change and other signs that King Charles is now the head of the British monarchy. Keeping that in mind, I found it quite surprising to find not one, but two post boxes clearly marked with the sign of GR, King George VI – Queen Elizabeth’s predecessor.

Of course, no visit to England would be complete without an authentic fish and chips dinner. Martin and Jane took us to one of their favourite restaurants, where we all had an excellent traditional meal.

Finally, as we were leaving Bristol and flying out of the airport, I thought I would make two final notes. First off, Martin drove us to the airport and dropped us at the curb. There was no parking involved. However, the airport charges people 6 pounds (almost $10 CDN) to drop someone off. INCREDIBLE. Inside the airport, there are no places to plug in and recharge your devices (not that we actually needed this), but there are several of these convenient and expensive recharging vending machines. Using this vending machine, you can rent a power bank for 3 pounds (approximately $5 CDN) per hour. This is the first time I have seen this.

We are back now in Monastir Tunisia, and expecting to leave by mid-May 2024 to continue our voyage West. In late April, we will be taking a very short administrative trip back to Canada.