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Wintery view over Donaghadee harbour

In the weird and wonderful world of cruising preparation we inevitably end up with lists, lots of them; jobs to do on the boat when we arrive back in Grenada, provisions needed to feed us in the few weeks until we reach Panama and another of the provisions needed for the four to six week crossing to the Marquesas, yet another of provisions we won’t be able to restock until we reach Australia in July or August and, most important for now, a list of items that are best sourced whilst we are still in the UK or tasks to be done before we leave.

This last list seems to be never ending and ever changing – it’s not lengthy but we keep thinking of things to add or remove. A wide variety of objects are now languishing in a sailing bag some already acquired in Singapore, others sought out here – a replacement rechargeable toothbrush as my elderly one had a dodgy switch and was not charging so well, paper charts of the Pacific for passage planning from Todds in Bangor (the island of Ireland’s only full chart agent and very helpful allowing us to browse and debate over the NP131 the Admiralty chart catalogue for an hour or so ), a couple of handy car-style inverters with 240 plug sockets (for recharging the hand held blender and the toothbrush with a spare based on previous experience!), a Changi SC burgee, bolster cushion covers to make sitting in bed more comfortable (we’ll stuff them with t-shirts or jumpers), new underwear for both of us and more. Reeds Astronavigation Almanac for 2016 is on the post – we intend to practise with the sextant and hopefully obtain our Yachtmaster Ocean tickets on our return to the UK. Other items are being crossed off as non-essential as we contemplate the growing pile versus our airline luggage allowance.

Scrabo Tower

Scrabo Tower, Newtownards

Meanwhile the pilot guides we’ve been dipping into for the past year are our constant companions and Mr Google is frequently put to good use as we try to answer from thousands of miles away questions like can we purchase antibiotics’, strong painkillers and anti-malarials for the medical chest over the counter in Panama or do we need to organise a doctor’s prescription here? Still no clear idea on that one unless someone reading this knows? Where are the San Blas Islands? How far is it from A to B islands? Do we need a US B1/2 visa for American Samoa? The answer to the latter is that as UK citizens we can simply rock up by yacht and be issued with a 30 day cruising permit.

The Moat, Donaghadee

The Moat (or Motte), Donaghadee

I have a shiny new passport with forty eight empty pages as after 5 years my old one was down to just one whole stamp free page and a couple of half pages; testament to the Emirate, Omani and Caribbean immigration officers’ enthusiasm for stamps and the Indonesian’s ability to stick a half page sized visa smack bang in the middle of an otherwise pristine page. Meanwhile our driving licences are being updated though that has been a tedious process; we sent them off on arrival, only for them to be returned with forms to be completed as we also have to switch from a DVLA to a NI driving licence. Simply filling in the change of address part and posting them to Coleraine did not suffice.

Still got a few tasks like ensuring a backup of all our photos and other important electronic stuff is left behind having heard a couple of tales of total loss recently. One couple we met having been rescued from their sinking yacht in the Indian Ocean were saddened to find later that the waterproof bag they brought with them containing their electronic gear did not hold up to the yacht to ship transfer meaning the loss of years’ of photos and other memories.

The main staircase, Belfast City Hall

The main staircase, Belfast City Hall

We need too to activate the Iridium SIM that was in the pile of post that awaited our arrival in Donaghadee. This is a last minute task to be done in the Caribbean as the clock starts ticking on the expensive year’s line rental as soon as we do so. A working satellite phone/PC setup is essential for us to receive weather forecasts during our long Pacific Ocean passage. It’s a sticky problem; without the activation we can’t find whether we can rely on the phone drivers working with Windows 10 to send the email requests for the GRIB file containing the latest forecast. Our alternative is to bite the bullet and purchase a Redbox which has to be done before we leave Ireland.

But its not all work and no play. We’ve found time to walk up the Moat  in Donaghadee with its Victorian fortification, and to the nearby Scrabo Tower as well as taking the train into Belfast from Bangor for a spot of Christmas shopping. The Christmas market outside the city hall had little of interest but inside the magnificent city hall we found a small but fascinating exhibition containing the original borough and city charters granted by James I and Victoria respectively, illustrations of the current building’s predecessors as well as the ornate trowel and hammer used in the foundation stone laying ceremony back in 1898. The current hall was completed eight years later. There is also a silver salver donated at the centenary of the building in 2006 by the contractor who built it and is still in business today!

And in case we don’t have enough to do there a few more transient lists like Christmas preparations, this week’s shopping list and a list of jobs to do around the house for my mother –in-law Rhona before we leave in early January. So far the brain is holding up well and only shopping lists have been committed to paper but I may have to resort to recording task lists too shortly!

 

Belfast charter

Belfast’s borough charter signed by James I on 27 April 1613

 

Christmas Tree, Belfast City Hall

Glamorous Christmas Tree, Belfast City Hall