15th June 2020
Newlyn, UK – Hales, Milford Haven, Wales, UK via Hale, Burton Ferry & West Angle Bay, Milford Haven, Wales, UK
One of the most critical components on a boat to ensure that it heads in the right direction, steers around rocky waters and navigates its way through difficult passages is the magnetic compass. On Ruffian not only are we guided by our magnetic compass we are also guided by our moral compass. It was our moral compass that made us heed the lockdown and sit tight, it was our moral compass that had made us bide our time and pause heading north and it is this moral compass that will ensure we can travel with our heads held high.
At last we think our moral compass is in alignment with our magnetic compass enabling us to point Ruffians bow north, go to the previously unattainable waters in Wales and then onto the fabled Scottish Isles. We just hope that they remain aligned as we meet populations that have had a much harsher ‘lockdown’ than us and where the rules are grey at best and totally misunderstood at worst.
Sailing from Newlyn to Wales was only remarkable in its un-remarkableness. There was no weather no drama and no views. Lands End was shrouded in mist and the fishing fleet that usually pillages the waters of the Irish sea was notable by its absence. This was the sort of low stress passage making that cruisers thrive on.
The industry in Milford Haven was making its presence felt even before we could see the green welsh countryside. High above the hills the lights of the chimney stacks shimmered red and gas flares gave an ominous glow to the surrounding infrastructure. Onboard Ruffian eyes became scratchy and red, and noses ran, clearly our bodies had become used to the clean Atlantic air which washes over the west country. This had had been replaced by something quite different.
As we motored up into Milford Haven just how much infrastructure the oil and gas industry has built became apparent. Docks which went on forever were crammed with tankers expunging their cargo’s and green hills, which were once the prevail of sheep and farmers, had been covered in silo’s that hold the oil and gas which enables our first world economy to operate.
Sleep was not the only thing we were hoping to catch up on in Milford Haven. Altor of Down had pushed north while we’d been giving our engine some TLC and there they were, happily bobbing on a buoy in flat and tranquil waters, under the gaze of the yacht club and houses which lined the banks. We hatched a plan to catch up, while socially distancing and being respectful of those in this new land. In the usual Ruffian style this involved a hike.
Stepping ashore we chewed the fat with Altor and took in new sights and sounds. Rounding the point above the bridge the river instantly changed from full industry to full country. Banks were lined with trees; fields were full of sheep and the only thing that disturbed the piece were cows gentry mooing while chewing the cud. All was at peace.
As we continued on our walk however, we found that not all welsh cows are peaceful called Daisy and gently moo. We’d found some rarely trodden footpaths and the cow’s in the fields that they passed through were not of the Daisy disposition. These were more of the raging stampeding angry horny variety who clearly had integration issues. Once we were in the middle of the field, far from safety, they spotted their chance and showed ‘interest’ in us. Chasing us away these cow’s might have given Fiona the final push to complete her c-2-5k! (editor’s note: they were not cows!)
The cows were not the only things that were stirring at our presence, unknown to us we’d caused quite a commotion in the local village. As we finished our hike, a car pulled over and a plucky local lad asked ‘Are you from those boats?’ His powers of deduction were quite remarkable as we were only walking with sailing jackets (emblazoned with Musto), Ocean Racing tops (emblazed with OceanRacing) and Asha was wearing boots (that are only ever seen at sea). He then followed this up with “The rossers are looking for you?”. Our hearts dropped, our pulses raised, our trepidation increased. We’d done nothing wrong, we’d followed the law, we’d read the guidance; but had we listened carefully enough to our moral compass?
Rounding the final bend, there was a police car on the foreshore, a policeman on the beach, locals milling around and all eyes were on us. The blanket of suspicion had been draped over us merely by our presence. Someone had reported suspicious behaviour, and that behaviour was apparently being exhibited by us.
After explaining our situation, the policeman was happy, the locals we met on the beach were happy and the veil of suspicion was lifted. It transpired that the locals were happy, not only because the police had left, but because, just as they’d been called, there was an impromptu underground drinking part going on in the local pub getting rid of all the out of date beer. Still someone wasn’t happy, someone was watching us and someone felt the need to alert the authorities.
Feeling like our moral compass was wavering we hopped online and there we were. Front page news on the local papers social media page. ‘Boats spotted in bay.’ The inference was that we’d done wrong and reading the comments didn’t help. Some people sided with us but some took vitriol at our presence. What was the right thing to do? Our moral compass was now turning in circles, and if it is wavering here what will it do in Scotland?
Wanting to get out of the spotlight of social media and away from people who were examining our every move we executed our usual modus operandi. We sought out a deserted picture-perfect bay where the only sign of man were the footpaths that criss-cross the countryside and where we are only disturbed by the passing of shipping and fishermen hauling their pots.
There were also the boat jobs and Iain again took to the deck wash pump. After lots of grunting and sweating and a liberal use of lubricant (for the pump!), it was in bits, but this time more bits. As the final circuit board was uncovered and the insides of the motor shown the light of day, Iain worked his magic and as quickly as it was apart it was back together an purring like a pussycat.*
Even with our usual MI in place as we sat marvelling at the view and content with the knowledge that more things were working, the Ruffians were not in a happy place. We felt we weren’t welcome, we felt we had to form a plan, we felt like we were stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Our moral compass tells us that we’re unwelcome in Wales, there is worry about our presence in Scotland, Ireland is very much out of bounds and retracing our steps to Cornwall is not in our nature. To make this life a happy one, we need to make sure that our moral compass is aligned with our magnetic compass and our actions are part of a bigger plan.
What to do? What to do? What to do?
* The underlying issue with the pump lay in the housing for the brush assembly. This had become warped stopping the brushes from making full contact with the commutator.
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