December in Northern Ireland was never going to be warm and and sunny – this is the wet season as Atlantic storm after Atlantic storm rolls in from the west and batters northern parts of the UK. Donaghadee though is one of those little coastal gems in the UK that faces east and so is relatively sheltered as can be seen from the yuccas that thrive in many gardens. There is more rain though than can be spent on the hills to the west and since we arrived dry spells can be counted on one hand. This morning is one of those respites. Chilly but breezy with the wind coming off the land and an incoming tide, Donaghadee Sound, the channel between the mainland and the Copelands, is flat calm.
We’ve quickly made ourselves known at the sailing club along the road where we met a recently returned cruising couple who had spent several winters in Marmaris Yat Marina, Turkey and hence know our friends Pat & Tony of Full Flight. The sailing world is very small! And with the intention of helping Rhona build a local social life she & I headed off to the library on Wednesday afternoon for an hour of knitting and chat over tea & biscuits. The Northern Irish are extremely friendly and welcoming and these ladies were no exception; we soon were chatting away sharing knitting and crochet tips. Rhona intends to re-learn crochet and rapidly was given instruction by one member of the group whilst I sat next to a lady who was knitting wool from her own alpacas! Once sheared the wool is sent away for spinning. The resulting undyed yarn is a lovely muted brown colour, soft and silky to touch. Unfortunately as yet she has not produced sufficient to consider selling any. Apparently her alpacas are something of a local attraction as they are usually in a field close to the road a few miles outside Donaghadee.
Having collected out boxes from where they were stored in Molesey Kevin and I enjoyed our road trip north to the Liverpool ferry last Tuesday week. Gosh it seems an age ago but in reality it is only just over a week since we were awoken at 05:45 by a voice in our cabin announcing that the ferry would dock in Belfast in an hour. We had made good time on the road so decided to see if we could change our ferry tickets to the earlier overnight ferry rather than the day crossing. Good job we did as Kevin, apparently like at least one passenger per day before him, had managed to book us and the van from Belfast to Liverpool rather than the other way round (Stena Ferries you might like to redesign your online booking forms!). The lady at the commercial desk happily amended our tickets and by swapping our outside cabin for an inside one and paying a little more we were able to save ourselves some of the cost of a night in a hotel. There was time for a chinese supper before the ferry left, our waitress was a little surprised when we demanded “proper”chilli as opposed to the sweet chilli sauce that was on the table; turned out she hails from Penang and understood perfectly what we wanted. The forecast was a grim NW F7 with a route straight into the wind but the big ferry took it in its stride and we slept extremely well for the first time in ages rocked by the familiar gentle motion of a boat underway, only rousing once or twice when the ship slammed into a big sea.
One thing I am loving about being in the Northern Hemisphere is being able to get a lengthy night’s sleep – even with the darkest of curtains I wake when it starts to become light well before sunrise which for the past year has meant waking about 06:30 and I have been averaging much less than the recommended eight hours each night. Here in the north I find I can sleep until 7:30 or even 8am and feel so much more rested. It helps too that there is much less light pollution – I don’t miss the giant neon Fraser Suites sign on the building at Valley Point across from our condo in Singapore! The beam of the Copeland lighthouse hardly reaches us, street lights are sparse and there are few cars on the road from Groomsport to Donaghadee during the night.
Rhona had prepared a small list of jobs for us which we or rather Kevin has been ticking off one by one; the picture light in the sitting room required a replacement which necessitated a trip into East Belfast, the area his grandparents used to live in. As with boats it is never simple – unable to buy one to match the defunct light, a pair had to be purchased and put up. He had more success with the security light by the garage which he was able to tie upright once more with wire once he had severely pruned the climbing rose to gain access! The pruning also means the light is no longer activated by the slightest breeze. Rhona’s laptop now boasts Windows 10 but Kevin has a few other IT related tasks to complete before we leave.