Braveheart; You cannot take my freedom.

Looking forward on Ruffian.

3rdth April 2020

Malpas, Falmouth, UK 50 14.00 N 5 01.11 W

One of the great benefits of the cruising lifestyle is freedom. You have the freedom to go where you like and when you like; you can stay or you can go; you can change your destination on a whim; you are the master of your own destiny and there are very few people who can tell you what to do. It is this freedom that we have revelled in and taken joy from. That freedom has been taken away and never has our world felt so small.

Although our freedom to move had been taken away we still had to run the boat and provisions had to be sought. When living in a house the primary consideration on when to go shopping is based around your schedule. On a boat its based around high water. It’s only at high water we can dinghy all the way into Truro and we have a small window to then get out again.

With high water approaching we dinghied in, avoiding the shallows and congratulating ourselves on our organisational skills. This victory however was short lived as we got to the supermarket and the planning hadn’t taken into account to new considerations of special shopping times for pensioners and the vulnerable.  Because we were not over 70 we had to delay shopping until after 10, and then wait our turn and queue 2 meters from any other individual.

And so we experienced social distancing shopping. The supermarket was devoid of chatter, all that could be heard were ‘thank yous’ and ‘sorrys’, everyone had clearly had a big dose of courtesy and every shelf was full to bursting. This is how shopping should be. With time no longer on our side, Brock now full of food, but the creek almost devoid of water, we had a heart stopping ride back to Ruffian. We watched as the mud flats were exposed, ducks flitted on dry land within meters of us and uncharted mud humps provided impromptu chicanes. Our world was once again small as we waved goodbye to town and settled into Ruffian all alone on the river Fal.

Our loneliness was short lived on Ruffian as although we are not allowed to sail, the RAF are still allowed to fly. In what sounded like the opening scene from ‘Apocalypse Now’, helicopters swooped down the valley, time and time again, skimming the mast of Ruffian and blasting wind in all directions. Ruffian beat to the rhythm of their blades and each time they got lower and lower until we could nearly the whites of the pilot’s eyes. As we waved up at them we could definitely see their friendly waves from inside their warm cockpits.

If the pilots were warm inside their cosy cockpits we were far from warm on Ruffian. In a house, if you’re cold, you just put on a jumper and turn up the heating dial. Life on a boat is not as simple. We’d already donned all our jumpers (and Fiona was even wearing woolly hats inside) and so the heating was constantly deployed. The cold northerly wind has been cutting through the boat and although life was happy and safe, warm it was not. Soon we hoped the wind would swing to the south and life on board would be happy, safe and warm.

In this new world of self-isolation, Ruffian really is a self-contained oasis, but to maintain this self-containment we need ‘kit’ and all the ‘kit’ has been deployed. The watermaker has been run to make fresh water, the generator has been sparked up to top up the batteries (as the heating was on), and to make sure she was stuck to the ground we have deployed a piece of ‘kit’ that neither of us have ever used before ‘ The Anchor Chum’.

An ‘Anchor Chum’ is basically a big lump of lead that you run down the anchor chain by a few meters and this increases the cantilever effect the chain has. Deploying this reduces the amount we move about and really ensures that whatever happens to the weather we’ll stay stuck where we are. There is however an emotional component to the anchor chum. It means that we’re resigned to having our freedom removed for longer than we hoped.

Although we are pretty self-contained Ruffian still needs petrol, diesel and propane to run and worryingly our propane ran out in the middle of preparing eggs for breakfast. This is where the reality of cruising life very much departs from the brochure. The brochure always has you in secluded, idyllic anchorages enjoying sundowners; the reality is you spend hours walking through industrial parks carrying heavy loads. The heavy load this time was the empty (but still heavy) propane bottle and this was exchanged for an even bigger and consequently heavier full bottle. To add to this joy, we’re in Cornwall where nothing is flat and everywhere is either at the top or bottom of a big hill.

One of the small freedoms that is still available to us is being able to take daily exercise if the form of a run or a hike. With no tourists (or locals) around, the trails are empty and we’ve had uninterrupted vistas to ourselves. To make vista’s even more special it’s always a good idea to open up a snack. Being all manly, time after time, Iain has ensured that the snacks consist of either apples or grapefruit, these snacks means he has to opportunity to manly use his new super sharp Gerber.

With the Gerber deployed the apples stand no chance and he’s sliced though many this week. Every time he’s managed to slice through the apple and then into either a thumb, finger or hand. This great expertise is not just reserved for apples, as the grapefruit was peeled, he was pleased that it was already blood red as his thumb took a beating and you couldn’t work out what was fruit juice or Iain’s ‘red juice’. The manly look is not improved with hands covered in plasters.

With Ruffian not able to go where she likes when she likes, and where we are rooted to the spot, we’re pleased with the decision we made to come to Malpas where we are at least safe and secure. Only time will tell when our freedoms to once again roam will be granted, but in the meantime our adventure continues.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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