Sunday, January 15, 2023

The British Isles Part 1

Jess Davies crewed for me from Bali to Sorong Indonesia. Great lady!

Like the escapees from Dunkirk decades before, we fled France, crossed the channel and headed for Ramsgate. We had a friendly soft-landing waiting for us. I was eager to speak English with the originators. It had been a while. Our first impressions were the atrocious roads and the friendliness of the people. These folks are Argentinian cordial, but the roads are Albanian bad. I still love it here.

Fiona and Andy cooked and put us up for the night. Great friends from long ago

 If you have a budget and a limited calendar - You can skip Bath. Bit of a letdown. Great marketing job with very little payoff. At least it was expensive and the roads were dangerous.


Scott and Babs are dear friends from my sailing days in Indo. 

They met us at the intersection of “small town meets smaller village” and escorted us to their home turf in Mowgan Porth. We stayed for nights of revelry and days of rekindled friendship. It’s great to be able to connect my past sailing friends with my wonderful Cocoa Bear and these new chapters.
West Coast Paradise

The roads are so skinny and Encore is so large that I slapped a strangers mirror off his vehicle. Turns out my friend Scott knew him. I bought the disgruntled bloke a drink a few nights later and 20 minutes after that he returned the favor. Pub culture dictates that we are now fast friends. Look out - I now terrorize the roads of Cornwall with impunity.
Aleja rocks the talent show!

The gorgeous forest walks of Cornwall

Suzi Roberts became Suzi Parsons. If you’ve been reading this blog since 2007 then you know her well. She’s one half of the galley slaves that propelled Barraveigh halfway around the world. My best stories were generated in 2007 & 2008 as we fought The Big Salty across the South Pacific from island cluster to atoll string into Melanesia, over Papua New Guinea and finally to Indonesia.  

O - the nautical miles and experiences we shared. When people ask me to name my biggest accomplishment it's very easy: “Not being pushed overboard by Suzi Roberts”. She could have gotten away with it by saying she came up for her watch and I was gone. And I definitely earned my own murder numerous times but she found a way not to kill me. I claim it as my biggest accomplishment but it’s really a testament to what a good person she is. 

She’s married to a great guy and they’ve produced a beautiful girl. It was wonderful to hang out with her and her family and relive all those sailor stories from 2 decades past. We did big things and we leaned on each other when the ocean did her worst. I’m honored to still be in her orbit of friends. She’s a detective on the police force and has just been promoted to homicide. She’s a rock and can succeed at anything. 

Croydon / London
We met up with Jess and Veronica again at their flat in Croydon. They hooked us up with a safe place to park while we took the train into London for a day of gawking. 

That’s 3 groups of crew from my sailing days. You’d think I only went to sea with Brits. I should be so lucky. 

The queen died and they changed out their Prime Minister within days of our arrival but you can’t blame us. We just happened to be here at an historical time.

For the first month we got really lucky with the weather. That would change after we drove north and I would start complaining like the spoiled child I’ve become.

This city is fantastically photogenic and I’ll never do it proper justice. But please enjoy what I could capture in stills.

I have a bit of history here. In 1991 Jimmy Robinson and I were back packers and when we ran out of money, we got jobs in Edinburgh for the summer. We lived at 5 Thirlestane Road next to the Warrender baths in the neighborhood of Marchmont. I worked at a fish and chip shop and my boss was an Italian immigrant named Salvatore Grieco. He was the greatest guy who would bet on anything from riddles to pushups. I had to restrain myself from smiling every time he spoke due to that Italian accent swimming beneath the surface of a Scottish brogue. 

One time he sent me to the basement to get more potatoes. I didn’t even know there was a basement. I descended the stairwell to find a swarthy man under a single hanging naked lightbulb standing in water up to mid-calf surrounded by floating potatoes. On the left they were peeled and on the right they were whole. He had a peeler in his hand and was sweating. Our eyes locked on one another. We never exchanged a word. He nodded to the left and I scooped up a bushel of floating peeled potatoes. I worked my shift wondering if any of that was real. I finally said to Sal, “There’s a man down there.” Sal didn’t hesitate a blink and responded only with “That’s Jaco, the Spaniard.” Over the 30+ years that passed I began to doubt that any of that really happened. It was so surreal. After all these years I was able to ask him during our happy reunion if he remembered Jaco, “Yes, he’s real, he was always bad at clearing the drain.” Wonderful memory confirmed. 

Irn Bru Is Made From Girders
Ask any Scot to say, "I murdered a girder after the film" and you'll break a rib laughing. Every third woman over here looks like she could be a relative on my mom’s side. We stayed at a motorhome camp on the outskirts of town and took the double decker bus in each day. 
Pro tip # 278: Always go to
 the top front window for the best views

We walked all over and never missed an opportunity to duck into a “close” and investigate the almost secret alleyways. Edinburgh has history galore and it’s easy to overhear the tour guides lecturing around the corner. We ate and drank and played tourists for a week and topped it off with a lucky rendezvous with our fellow overlanders Linda and Steven and their friends Bill and Kelly. Linda was my super power when it came to launching this trip a year ago. She mentored me on all the European questions I had and perfected her karma with all the selfless help she heaped on me. I’m a big fan and I hope she reads this.
Linda in the middle

In 2003 my mom went to Scotland a month before me and hid the following photo in the pub above. Can you guess why she chose it and the clues she left for me to find it?

My mom brought this photo to Edinburgh and I brought it home. Fun treasure hunt

The Highlands
The NC500 is a coastal route in northern Scotland, that - as the name implies, runs 500 miles in a loop from Inverness to Inverness. We drove most of it. Meh… It was good but over hyped. I give it a solid B.
This was a really great camp site. You can see Encore in the foreground of that building

Aleja even did some metal detecting and we found a small slag piece from long ago smelting

Lots of dead castles

And dead manor houses

The top of Scotland

Cool cave system from long ago when it was inhabited

Random grocery store. They really do have their own language

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness. Really fascinating and picturesque

This video above was the best of the whole 500 miles hands down

The Isle of Skye
If you have Scottish blood and wanna buy my drinks I’ll tell lie after lie about all the wonderful things we did there. The truth is: the weather was utterly appalling and the roads were almost the equal. We saw little and did little.


Loch Ness drains to the sea on a river called Ness through the city of Inverness (That should be easy to remember even if you failed geography). We really enjoyed Inverness. It’s just the right size and marries “regal” with “dive bar” at just the right volume. I’d go back. 

I even had the added bonus of meeting new family. My mom’s cousin Rodney Orr posted on Facebook that he and his son were in Scotland and my mom alerted us both. We’d never met and to do so on the old sod where we had roots was really a treat. My mom is an Orr on her dad’s side and a Patterson/Gordon on her mom’s side. You’re going to be drowning in the family lineage when I get to the Irish portion of this dispatch.

That’s An OOT. (One Of Those) 
He's talking, and I'm nodding, but no communication is taking place. It’s just an exercise in patience and politeness: How do I get out of this without exposing my zero-comprehension rate? Awkward smiles until finally a shrug on my behalf excuses us and I slink away. Wow – that was English? Everyone seems nice enough but for all I know they could be cursing me to my face and I smiled right through it. 

In 1990 Jimmy Robinson and I met a couple of Scottish girls on the ferry to France. We met again by sheer luck on a train platform in the south of France sometime later. They made the mistake of offering us hospitality should we ever find ourselves in the wee town of Cleland. When we made it to their village months later Dawn’s parents forbid her from inviting us to stay in the house. Even camping out in the backyard was deemed a poor idea. We were foisted off onto the kind neighbors: The Maxwells. And thus, our whole trip was transformed for the better. Steve was our age and quickly began a third drinking buddy and his sister Lisa was giving up her flat in Edinburgh for the summer where she was a student (That’s the flat in Marchmont Jimmy and I moved into). We stayed a few nights crowded into the Maxwell’s and enjoyed their wonderful home. 
The world famous "Poodle Head Jimmy" and I in Cleland Scotland 1990

Cleland 2022
32 years later I had very little to go on in order to track them down. I had lost all contact and only remembered the name of the town and the bar that was very near: The Dalrymple. Aleja is a very patient good sport and humored me by waiting in the camper while I went walking the small town to try and see if I could find our gracious hosts. An older gentleman was finishing his smoke standing outside the news agent and I told him my story and asked if he knew where the Dalrymple was. “Ay, well…where it used to be. It’s houses now, but I can take you there”. It was just down the hill. I looked around, walked a little further and it all came flooding back to me. 

I walked right up to the Maxwell’s home and knocked. May answered the door and I recognized her immediately. “Do you remember about 30 years ago 2 Yanks stayed here?” A big smile came over her face and she said, “Are you Jimmy or the other one?” Everybody loves Jimmy.

Your man on point,

Captain Bobby

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ay, tis a fine tale! J Marie

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