Life in the harbour – meeting new people, accepting help and paying it forward

Most years as an adult, I have lived in at least three-storey apartment buildings. While they usually provide affordable housing close to the city centre, it is one of the more anonymous ways of living. On several occasions, it has taken me several years before I actually met and said hi to the people living on the same floor (maybe it is a Swedish thing, or maybe it’s the architecture?). It would be very uncommon to get invited over to your neighbor and end up as close friends.

This is not the case in Belfast Harbour Marina.

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Ever since we arrived we have been welcomed by the community of boat owners here at the harbour. One of the great things with having a boat is that there is a sense of “pay-it-forward” philosophy in helping each other out. Everyone who owns a boat, sailing boats maybe in particular, knows that sooner or later something will happen where you will need help. It can be when approaching the jetty in a new harbour, if you have an accident at sea, when something broke and you need to find spare parts in a foreign place… the list is long. This sense of awareness that we will all need a helping hand at some point makes the boating community a friendly space. After these two months in Belfast I think we are both great believers in paying it forward.

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Our friends at the harbour have helped us by driving us around Belfast and beyond to get building material, groceries and going to the ship chandlery. We have lent tools, got the perfect screws or drills when ours broke, or a just an extra helping hand. They have helped us order things online, lent a bike for shopping or a bed at their boat when we did paint jobs with toxic paint. We have got some nice carpets to cover the cool walls beside the bunks and material that decrease the risk of getting humidity under the mattress. And then all the small things that makes all the difference in the comfort of living, such as borrowing a de-humidifier or an extra spotlight that makes it easier to take advantage of the long evenings.

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You can find all types of people in a harbour, and probably a greater variety than in the usual circle of friends. In this harbour you can meet an entrepreneur, a retired professor, a firefighter, a tv-producer, people who own a chocolate factory, working with reparations on an oil rig or writing on their first play. Some spend a lot of their free-time on their boat – doing repairs and projects or just to get away and relax. Some people we haven’t seen since we got invited to the Christmas dinner that took place just a week after we arrived. One thing is for sure, people here sure knows how to party and have a good time!

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We will most definitely miss having this community around us when we move on and head south. It is a nice feeling walking down the jetty and greeting everyone you meet by name, getting invited over for some lunch or a night cap once in a while and forget about the renovation mess on the boat. They have made sure to show us the Ulster hospitality both in the harbour and taking us out to the countryside. Jens has even adopted some of the dialect/expressions from here, “just having a wee walk before tea time”… 😉

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So before we leave we would just like to say a big THANK YOU to all the friendly people in Belfast Harbour Marina. The best place to get stuck! 🙂

Now we will show Jens parents around town during the weekend, then keep the fingers crossed we will find a suitable window of preferable winds to head south again.

– Petra

The Holiday season in the land of Game of Thrones

So the holiday season has passed once more. Still a little lazy and more tired than usual, but we are looking forward to what lies ahead. The Christmas was spent at Mouni with a Swedish buffet containing meatballs, ham, salmon, red cabbage and apple salad and crisp bread. We took the day off and just relaxed, but continued with our projects again on Christmas day and as the storm passed over the UK Jens managed to complete the work on the companionway doors.

On Boxing day, we were invited to Ian’s family for their traditional Boxing day picnic and hike. We spent the day enjoying an Ulster fry and some hiking in the Mournes, it was a beautiful sunny day!

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The harbour has been filled with people during the holidays, so we have not been alone. While Jens was working on improving my berth and raising it in case we will move the batteries up there, Shadowmere became our hotel in the nights. This meant that it was far easier to get the work done and we didn´t have to sleep in the fumes of the nasty 2-component paint. To thank our friends for this, we decided to invite them for New year’s dinner. And so the year ended with good food and lots of laughter among friends.

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Just before New year’s, we spent one day enjoying this year´s Christmas present: a bus tour up the coast with a specific theme – Game of Thrones. Much of the series has been recorded here and we thought it might be a fun twist that would enable us to see more of Northern Ireland in an entertaining way. The journey started with a stop at Carrickfergus Roman castle and then continued up along the coast, on Northern Irelands version of Highway One.

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We stopped at the Cushendun caves, where the guide (who works as an extra in Game of Thrones) led us into the caves by the sea where the shadow assassin was born.

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Besides recognising it from the TV-series, it was a magnificent place in terms in the geological features. There were several caves inside, and on the other side was an entry to a house that was built on the walls of stone, apparently out for sale now…

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The journey continued up along the east coast, which took us through the beautiful landscape in Glens of Antrim and its small towns. We passed by many castles on the way, several used in the series such as the Castle black and the wall. The guide claimed that one of the reasons the director loved using Northern Ireland and Belfast as a base is because only an hour from the city there is a vast countryside with no houses for miles where they could record different types of scenes.

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The next stop was probably our favourite. Carrick-A-Rede is most famous for its rope bridge, which really wasn´t anything spectacular. But the view!

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All along the coast you can see the light limestone, both in the dramatic landscape and in constructions such as the pier in Glenarm. Closeby the disused limestone quarry in Larrybane (just beside Carrick-A-Rede) there where several scenes filmed during several seasons, e.g. Renly´s war camp in the Stormlands where Brienne of Tarth fought Ser Loras of the Flowers. The Sheep island with its flat surface is a nice backdrop.

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One of the most famous tourist destinations in Northern Ireland is the Giant´s Causeway. Set by the stormy northern coast and consisting of more than impressive 40,000 columns with a flat pentagon or hexagon surface, it was named after the tale about how it was created. The myth is that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn built the causeway across the North Channel so that they could meet. Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he and his wife disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at the Scottish isle of Staffa.

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After the stop at the Giants causeway, the sun was setting but we got one more stop on the way – the Dark Hedges. Also part of one of the episodes in Game of Thrones, but impressive in its own right with the unusual intertwined beech trees that was planted in the 18th century and cut to frame the entrance to a mansion in Ballymoney. Some of the trees have fallen in the storms the last few years, which were then used to make beautiful carved wooden doors and placed in different bars and hotels close to the places where Game of Thrones was set.

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After a long day on the road, we were quite happy to take a nap on the way back to our home harbour in Titanic Belfast. Just next door is”Titanic Studios” an enormous building which now contains one of the worlds largest “stage sets” now used in the creation of Game of Thrones. And, we do have our own extra from Game of Thrones here in the harbour, a perfect end of the evening is to stop by Elliot for a night cap 😉 (a shot from the first episode and our neighbour to the right below).

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So, if you haven´t seen Game of Thrones yet, we really recommend the series (although we have only seen the two first seasons yet) and wether you like the series or not, Northern Ireland is a beautiful place to be.

– Petra

Bits and pieces of 2016

Approaching the new year, it is time to reflect and see if we are heading in the right direction. This year has probably been one of the more exhausting one’s in our lives, but in the same time so rich in experiences. So what really happened this year? We will give a summary of the different steps on our journey, and in the end you can find a map that shows our track across the oceans so far.

 

In the first half of this year, it was all about preparations. We moved two times, spend hundreds of hours going through all of our stuff and thinking about the life on the boat and what we would need. I was working to fund our adventure and Jens worked hard on renovating the boat and managed to do a skiing expedition he dreamed about for years. There were several big jobs that he managed to do during the winter and spring – changing from diesel engine to electric propulsion, designing and building a bowsprit and moving the toilet to the forepeak to mention a few. In the spring we also discussed with our workplaces if it would be possible to get a leave from work and discussed a lot with friends and family about what it was we wanted to do and how we could make the dream come true.

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Renovating Mouni on land, in the water and on the inside with the help of friends. The new and shiny engine room got a lot more spacious with the electric motor.

In the early summer we moved aboard Mouni, while also increasing the pace of the renovation. June, July and almost the whole August past before we felt about ready to throw off the bowlines. During this summer, while we had high ambitions on what to be able to complete with the renovation, we also promised ourselves that we would never say no to someone who wanted to come visit us. So in the middle of the big renovation mess, we did meet a lot of our friends and family and had a wonderful goodbye party that will stay as a precious memory for us. It is hard to say goodbye, but nice to know it´s rather “see you later”. Even if we left a couple weeks later than we had planned for, the summer was rather hectic and we were quite drained of energy when we left.

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Farewell party with friends and family before leaving our home port

 

The first phase going around Sweden was also spent visiting a lot of friends and family along the way. Sweden is such a beautiful place to sail and we really enjoyed exploring the coastline from the sea. It soon became clear that even this first phase was a big test on our vision about “sailing for harmony”. Leaving the stressful life behind, we still brought it along in our minds and had trouble deciding what was most important – progress in distance, fixing the boat or enjoying life. We still haven´t learned how to always sail in harmony, but we do know not to measure progress in miles. Because this is not what this journey is for.

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Sailing the Swedish archipelago visiting friends and family along the way

Nevertheless, it was a milestone to sail to our first foreign land – Denmark. The reason for this detour was specific, we wanted to meet the supplier of our electric motor to do some tests and discuss the future. Besides helping us to trim the motor, we also got a sailing lessons and had some wonderful days in Copenhagen with our friends. We were really impressed with the ambitious sailors in Denmark who sailed all the way in and out of the harbours

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30 degrees and engine testing in Copenhagen, Denmark

By the time we got to Norway, we could really feel that we were on our way. This was also where we had our first experiences of hard weather. While we did sail in harder weather than we ever did before and really could put Mouni to the test, we also got land-bound several times. From that point the gale warnings would constantly follow us for the rest of the year. In Norway we also had our first crew aboard – a lovely couple of weeks with Jens mom that took us across the North Sea.

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New crew and big heights in Norway

 

The sailing through the UK – Shetland, Fair Isle, Scotland and Northern Ireland has really shown us what a great hospitality there is here and that it is actually not so hard to make friends (at least if you get stuck :-)) We have sailed in cold and rainy weather week after week, learning how to deal with the tides (we´re not quite there yet) and learned the hard way how easily things break. The last month we have settled in Belfast and spending most of the time making Mouni safe and pretty.

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Sailing from Shetland to Northern Ireland before settling at Belfast Harbour Marina for renovation work and enjoying the company of neighbours

One of the wisdoms from our guest book onboard says – “It’s not about the miles, it’s about the smiles”. So what did we really think about 2016?

What was the best with 2016?

Petra: Finding a new pace in life, getting to know lots of new places and friendly people. I have really enjoyed getting to know the sea and having that nature experience every day. I didn’t expect to feel safe on Mouni in the wide range of weather we have sailed in, but she handles the waves well.

Jens: 2016 was the year when we got to taste the first bites of the sweet fruit after spending so much time figuring out how to change the direction in life. It has taken several years to get here and as always when starting to learn something new it takes a lot of time. I can still remember all the thousands of different boats researched before before deciding on this one. All the reading required to learn about plastic work, rigging repairs, bow sprit designs, engine propulsion, marine wiring, thru hull fittings and so on. All the sleepless mornings figuring out how to do all the required changes and all the late evenings trying to finish one more piece of the puzzle before going home. This was the year when it all paid off and the feeling to finally set sail was definitely something special.

What was the hardest during 2016?

Petra: All the decisions. Where should we sail? How? What is more important – getting ahead, renovating for comfort and safety or having fun? Just having each other makes it really important to get along and agree. I´ve never been really ill during these months but have spent a lot of time with some type of physical problem that have drained a lot of my energy.

Jens: Long distance cruising can be done in so many different ways. Not too long ago cruisers still circumnavigated our globe without any engine or electrical gadgets at all. Some still do even today. But the development, especially on the technical side, has been tremendous last few decades so as a fellow cruiser put it – Today you can have your yacht automatically sailing around the world without even leaving your kitchen table. The hardest thing was definitely defining where on this scale to position us and Mouni. So far the philosophy has been to start off simple and let our own experience guide us in what kind of equipment to acquire. Hopefully this will end in a boat much more fit for our purpose and financial strength than listening to skilled sales agents.

What do you look forward to in 2017?

Petra: Sailing in warm weather and always being able to jump in for a swim! Anchoring in a bay with my love and enjoying some Mediterranean food. I am also looking forward to taking off from here and enjoying all the improvements we have done on Mouni. Hope I will improve my sailing skills even more!

Jens: We have discovered that sailing can be both exhausting and relaxing. The weather of course plays a big role in how the sailing is perceived but I also think that with the right knowledge, experience and mental attitude you can find most circumstances relaxing. In 2017 I am looking forward to increase my comfort zone and taking the first trembling steps to master the ever changing seas. Sometime in the future I hope that even fast moving tides, swirls, moving sand banks and technical malfunction still can be comfortable handled in sharp but yet relaxed manner.

Finally, here´s the map of the track we have made so far, we will update it as we go along!

We wish you a really happy new year, cruising through life in harmony!

– Petra & Jens

Hiking up the Mourne mountains

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One of the best thing with hanging out with the locals is that you get really good suggestions on what to see in a new place and how to get there. This time we got lucky, because our neighbour Stephen offered to give us a ride to the Tollymore Forest park so we could take a hike up the Mourne mountains. But first, we stopped in Hillsborough to try out the traditional Irish breakfast – Ulster Fry. It consists of eggs, pancake, soda bread, potato bread, sausages, bacon and beans. It´s great!

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The journey continued south, and Stephen let us off at the Tollymore Forest Park. It has a long history which can be seen in the 18th century bridges and buildings in the lower parts of the park. We decided to take the track along the Shimna river and then try to get up the mountain.

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Growing up by the forest, it might be the thing we miss the most living on a boat (besides family and friends :-)) The forest in Tollymore reminded us of home but it also had a little bit exotic feel as there were many plants you would´t see at home. The Rhododendron that covered the shore were huge, there were many beautiful spots along the river to enjoy.

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Shimna river has several bridges which makes it possible to pass over the strong stream. And of course, as I brought my Tarzan along there was some tree-climbing over the river during the hike 😉

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We took a little side track up the mountain before heading back. Passing through high redwoods and oak trees, a varying landscape that we had almost to ourselves. Apparently oak wood from Tollymore was the preferred material for the interiors of the White Star liners including the ‘Titanic’ which was built in Belfast. We got to see a little bit of the top and the wonderful views before we needed to get back down to our ride. The weather cleared on our way down the mountains and we enjoyed the sun!

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Before heading back we stopped for a snack by a nice little waterfall where I managed to get some shots of “Näcken” which can´t be pictured here. In Scandinavia Näcken is a male water spirit who plays enchanted songs on the violin, luring women and children to drown in lakes or streams. Fortunately there were no playing involved here so I could continue the hike in safety.

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Stephen picked us up outside the park and gave us a tour of the Newcastle, a pretty little town with the Mournes as a dramatic backdrop. We will probably pass here on our way south.

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This day gave us some well needed exercise and a lot of energy from the nice surroundings and fresh air, big thanks to Stephen for showing us around!

The renovation work continues on Mouni, and Jens has soon completed our new doors! Other than that, we are enjoying the company of our neighbours and getting ready for some Christmas celebrations. Unfortunately, the shipping of the batteries has got delayed once more since they are apparently considered dangerous goods, so we will have to wait until after New Years’ before they arrive. We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Wishing you all a nice and relaxing holiday season!

– Petra

 

A guide to Belfast city

Belfast is the new record. We have already spent four weeks here and it will be a couple more before we get going again. Walking about the city on our own and together with newfound friends we now feel ready to share our impression of the city with you.

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View of the city center from the other side of River Lagan

Belfast has much to offer in terms of its friendly easy going people, the lively bar scene, museums, proximity to the sea and a rich history. Compared to its troubled past, there is no reason not to feel safe here any longer. Let´s get going!

The first thing that struck me was how old buildings and bridges are side to side with the new. The charming architecture from the 18th century is mixed with skyscrapers, neon lights and street art. The street art covers the otherwise boring concrete walls of buildings, making it a colourful city with room for many types of expressions. Not seldom, the paintings illustrate popular aspects of life here – pub, grub and famous people from culture or politics. On the outskirts of the town, The Troubles are still evident by the existence of “peace walls”, often decorated with paintings.

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Street art in Belfast city centre

The second thing to notice about Belfast, is that it´s a convenient size – you can walk anywhere. Go shopping among the global brands in Victoria Square shopping centre and continue along the pedestrian shopping streets towards the other side of town, passing by the street market by the beautiful city hall (or take a detour to the St Georges market in the weekend). Stop by the oldest pub in town “The Crown” with its elaborated interior of wood carvings and exterior of tiles, situated opposite the Grand Opera house. Continue the tour through the smaller streets with quirky vintage shops next to the larger shopping chains where you can buy all things cheap. Finish the tour in the cathedral quarter around St Anne’s Cathedral, where you can find many alternatives for something to eat and drink.

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Victoria Square shopping mall and the City Hall with street market
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The Crown bar on  Great Victoria street

Belfast is in many ways similar Dublin in the sense that the most popular attraction for locals and tourists alike is the vibrant pub life. There are so many options to choose from, that one can get quite overwhelmed. But that´s no point, just go for a round and try them out! Try the old traditional bars like the Morning Star or the Crown, listen to live music at the John Hewitt bar or the Onion, or have a cocktail at Muriels. The cathedral quarter is the most popular spot and offers everything from the more traditional pubs to clubs, more alternative bars and even bars that are partly outdoor (like The Onion). Many pubs have live music from Thursday to Sunday. Here it´s common to go out also in the middle of the week and quite early in the evening so there is no risk of feeling lonely. Popular “grubs” in the pubs are fish and chips, hamburgers and stews. But there is a large variety of restaurants if you prefer something more special.

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The Cathedral Quarter is full of pubs and entertainment

Cure your hangover with the traditional Ulster Fry – a full breakfast including pancakes, soda bread and potato bread. Or, relax at the spa at the Merchants hotel. The most famous hotel in Belfast is the Europa hotel, which used to be the most bombed hotel in Europe. Now it is renovated and welcoming place hosting several bars and restaurants.

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The traditional Ulster Fry
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The Europa Hotel next to the Grand Opera House

The rich history of Belfast is most profound in the Titanic quarter, on the opposite side of River Lagan from the city centre. Belfast hosted some of the best ship builders in the world. To name it after the most famous ship makes sense in a way, but it doesn’t really give justice to all the ships that actually sailed the world for a long time. Here you can walk along the Titanic dock and pump house, visit Titanics little sister SS Nomadic (which was built at the same time) or learn all about Titanic in the architectural centrepiece: the Titanic museum. It is situated by the water next to the Belfast Harbour Marina.

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Belfast Harbour Marina with Titanic Belfast in the background

If the old shipbuilder history doesn’t rock your boat you can head over to the Odyssey arena and W5 on the other side of the marina. W5 is a science museum with fun stuff for the whole family, and the Odyssey also includes cinema, bowling and arena for concerts as well as ice hockey. Another museum to recommend would be the Ulster museum, where you can come face to face with dinosaurs, meet an Egyptian Mummy and see modern masterpieces.

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But there are of course more to explore! Rent a Belfast city bike for a couple of pounds (they are found all over town) and bike the Comber greenway to the northern part of Belfast and the neighbouring towns. Or take a tour out to the sea. If you don´t like to bike, there are many bus tours going around town as well as up north to the Antrim coast and Giants causeway. Recently they also started to give tours to show the places were Game of Thrones were shot.

If you have been here before, or live here, please share your favourite spots!
And if you have not, we hope you put Belfast on your list of possible destinations when you need a break.

Have a great weekend everybody!

– Petra

Christmas spirit in Belfast – the Swedish way

Hello everybody!

We are continuing our renovation projects here in Belfast, and since the batteries will be shipped from Sweden in the end of next week, we will stay here for Christmas and then continue. While waiting for the batteries the days are filled with renovation work and we have got to know our neighbours a bit more sharing dinner or a drink. As Christmas is approaching, we are both enjoying the traditions here (Jens loves the Mince pies) and finding small ways to incorporate our favourite parts of Swedish Christmas. We have got a lot of questions on how Christmas is celebrated in Sweden, and where the traditions come from. Sometimes we don´t even know the details ourselves, but we have done some research 🙂 Here´s a short video explaining our viking heritage which still influence our traditions.

There is one other celebration coming up, that might seem peculiar to other countries – involving an Italian saint and the darkest day of the year – “Sankta Lucia”. It is celebrated early morning the 13th of December every year in Sweden, as a procession of women in white gowns sing traditional songs and light up the dark with their candles. Before the 13th, it´s a tradition in Sweden to make a specific type of saffron buns, that are enjoyed around lucia and Christmas time together with some mulled wine.

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Sankta Lucia, the saint of light celebrated with traditional songs (photo credit: jonnajinton.se)

In the last post, I hinted that I was looking for an oven to bake some Swedish christmas treats. We were invited to our neighbour boat Shadowmere to use their oven so that I could bake some saffron buns (recipe here), but also something even more important – gingerbread cookies!

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Preparing the gingerbreads for the oven onboard Shardowmere

Fortunately, I had brought some of the ingredients from home because everything is not so easy to find here. The cookie dough was made with the same recipe as always, inherited from my grandma Maj. It has a little bit more mild and buttery flavour than many other Swedish gingerbreads, and it will always stay my favourite! As Ian and Shirley was kind to let us use their oven for many hours to make both of these treats, we made sure to give them the true Lucia experience – Saffron buns, gingerbread cookies and mulled wine. Jens played the “Sankta Lucia” song on the recorder and I sang along. The funny thing was that they actually had heard the song before, it is apparently played in the movie “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”. The baking and “fika” took all night as we shared stories, experiences and discussed the changes happening around the world. Thanks a lot for a wonderful night!

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Since then we have shared some gingerbread cookies with our neighbours here, and since the Christmas spirit is all about the joy of giving I wanted to share this family recipe with you. So here it comes, possibly the worlds best gingerbread recipe! 😉

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Grandma Maj´s Gingerbread

250 g butter
200 g sugar
1 table spoon dark syrup
1 egg
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground dried cloves
1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda
500 g flour

Stir the butter and sugar in a bowl until mixed. Add syrup, spices and egg to the mixture. Dissolve the bicarbonate in a tablespoon of water and pour into to the bowl. Stir everything together. Add flour until you get a “porridge” texture, then pour it out on a table with flour and knead in the rest of the flour. Make a roll of the dough and let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (the dough can be stored in the fridge at least a week).

When the dough have rested, take about half the dough roll it out until it is a couple of mm thick and cut out the figures you want. Heat the oven until about 220 C (gas mark 5) and bake the cookies 8-10 minutes on greased baking sheets. Enjoy!

Hope you all have a wonderful day!

– Petra

Life continues at Belfast harbour

Hi everybody! If you haven´t found us at Facebook yet, you might not know how we are getting on so we thought it was about time for an update! We are still hanging out at Belfast harbour, waiting for the delivery of the new batteries that we have ordered and that the insurance company will help us with. They are getting shipped from Holland to Sweden first, where our supplier will add some cables and other supplies we need and then send them here in one big package. So, probably another week until they will get here and then there is some work to get them mounted in place and installed in a proper way. The short version is that we have focused on reparation, renovation and getting to know our neighbours!

Learning from this experience we of course started to think about what we can do to make sure the sea water stays outside the boat in the future? Here are some of our ideas:

  1. Making sure that each chain holding down the bowsprit can take at least as much load as the forestay.
  2. Changing the permanent design of the bowsprit and replace the current board with a stainless steel netting so that there will be less force when the bow crash down into the water. Or, another possibility is the make our own mesh using dynema rope (similar to what many catamarans have in the front between their hulls).
  3. Putting a new buckle on the anchor chain locker, so it won´t break open again despite big waves.
  4. Installing a sea cock and through hull fitting where the air ventilation goes into the anchor chain locker, so that we can close it while under way – making the anchor chain locker completely sealed from the rest of the boat
  5. Installing a floater in the bilge where the batteries were mounted, so that we get an alarm if there for any reason gets water down there again.
  6. Possibly move the batteries and make a new mount higher up and thus more protected from any water entering again.
  7. Get stainless steel covers for all windows making sure breaking waves will not crush them.
  8. Another weak spot is the companion way entry which could definitely use some reinforcement or possible a complete new design. The current doors cannot take the massive force of a breaking wave so the question is how to find a suitable solution. It must be easy, even with big bulky clothes in big seas, to get in and out. Opening and closing must be possible to do quickly, preferably with one hand only. If a big wave forces you to let go no parts should be lost (a common sail yacht solution is to have two or more sheets that you slide into place but if you drop one of those sheets wind and waves can easy wash them over board making it hard to seal off the living compartment). And, of course not too pricey, ugly or complicated to make 🙂 This part still requires some pondering.

Belfast is a rather large city, so we have spent some time walking out to the industrial districts to buy new 10 mm chain and some stronger shackles to connect it to the bowsprit. We also rented bikes for a couple of days to be able to go to a ship chandlery between Belfast and Bangor.

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Biking to Down Marine, and fitting the new 10 mm chains to the bowsprit

Except installing the new chains, the through hull fitting and new hatch we are also taking on some more renovation projects onboard. The communication station is complete and Jens is almost done with installing the AIS, so everyone can see where we are (and we can see them). We are still hunting for a coaxial cable to be able to connect it to the GPS antenna, we´ll let you know how it works after that ;-). We also started to think about how to make a new door to the boat, and maybe changing the bunks so that we could keep the batteries a little bit higher up in the boat. Installing all the appliances connected to the VHF and AIS is harder than you might think!

While Jens have been busy with the more technical aspects of renovation, I have made sure to get some holiday spirit into the boat with a little Christmas tree, picking some ivy and making an Advent candle holder (of the piece that was left after adapting one of our cuttingboards to fit over the sink). Now I just need to figure out how to be able to bake some gingerbread cookies and saffron buns without an oven aboard?? Maybe I can find help with that here in the harbour? 😉

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Watching the Swedish Advent calendar show online together with some christmas porridge

Let me tell you, the people in Northern Ireland are a friendly bunch! Here in Belfast we already made friends with a bunch of people. There are some that live on their boats some of the time and quite many spend at least one day a week on their boat. Early on we got to know Elliott, the poet, who spend a lot of time on his boat together with his cub writing a play. He helped us move the boat over to the sunny side of the harbour together with Ian. Ian is also dreaming of the blue water cruising lifestyle and will head off south in the spring. Besides the fact that it´s nice to have some people to chat with as we are stuck here fixing the boat in some weeks, we have also got a lot of help and ideas from the gentlemen in the harbour.

sunnyside
Elliott and Ian helping us to pull Mouni over to the sunny side of the harbour

After our closest neighbour Ians boat, lies Sylvana with Simon and Paula onboard. They invited us over the other week to discuss different options for routes down to France, since they have sailed over there several times. They are also planning to go cruising next spring. It is great to listen to the experience from the people who have local knowledge on the routes we are planning to take south.

One day earlier this week, we heard about a Christmas dinner being organized by Simon to gather all the people who have boats in the marina. We asked if we could join and that was fine! We walked into town together with Elliott and met up with all the others at a bar to take a drink before we headed to the restaurant. The crew from most of the boats had joined and there were about 35 people on three tables in the restaurant celebrating the holiday season approaching. When Elliott thanked Simon with a speech he also mentioned the Swedish guests, and we felt we should introduce ourselves and thank them for letting us join. Of course, we couldn´t help but sharing a piece of Swedish tradition, and told the story about the French monk that in the 1600´s wrote down the lyrics to a song he heard the Swedes sing so engaged, that he knew it must be the national anthem. Years later it was revealed that it actually was a drinking song called “Helan går”. So, now at least part of Belfast know the most common Swedish drinking song, and that cheers in Swedish is pronounced “Skål”! The evening ended with some rum and tea onboard Ian´s boat, which is nicely decorated for Christmas.

christmas-party
Christmas dinner together with all the nice folks from Belfast Harbour Marina

Since that evening, it feels like we know everyone in the harbour and it´s great to have a nice community surrounding us. Most of the people here expect us to stay over Christmas, only time will tell 😉

– Petra