Scillies Vineyard

The island of St Martin’s in the Scillies used to specialise in the growing of spring bulbs and flowers. As the old business has shrunk, a new use has been found for some of the tiny fields with tall hedges that protected the plants from Atlantic storms: England’s remotest vineyard and winery.

The winery

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Tresco story chiselled in stone

New Grimsby Harbour from Cromwell’s Castle, Tresco to the left, Bryher to the right

On an overgrown, narrow footpath through the bracken near Cromwell’s Castle on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly we came across a modest, well-kept memorial to an extraordinary wartime rescue, invisible through the undergrowth until within a few feet. The inscription tells the story: Continue reading “Tresco story chiselled in stone”

Transadriatica 2019

One of the best sails I’ve had in the Mediterranean or Adriatic: nice breeze that kept the boat flat out much of the way, apart from a couple of hours after the start of the return leg. Only once or twice were we hard pressed, and what’s more the wind magically veered and backed almost on demand, just as we needed it, especially near the course turning point in the Gulf of Trieste. Even as the wind dropped approaching Venice, it was enough to keep us moving at 5 knots.

Spiuma, seen from another competitor as we neared the finish at the entrance to the Venice lagoon

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Hard Brexit and boat VAT – Treasury response

The Treasury has finally decided that if a yacht is in the European Union on Brexit day, it will not be liable for VAT if it is brought back to the UK later.

As reported before, the Commission said recently that British yachts would lose their EU VAT-paid status unless they were in the EU on the day of a hard Brexit.

If they were in the UK they would no longer have the status of union goods and would be liable for VAT on visiting the EU, so the best they could do would be to apply for temporary importation for up to 18 months. Continue reading “Hard Brexit and boat VAT – Treasury response”

Brexit petition.

Yacht owners are a tiny and unimportant issue in the big Brexit scheme of things and I certainly did not sign the petition to Parliament – link below – because of irritations over the treatment of boats and sailors.

Signatures were over a million last time I looked, and still rising so rapidly that the website kept stalling. Persevere! [6 million was the final tally].

Boat in a window

Thanks to Martin Walker for these pictures of the very last example of a large Lake Geneva trading barge, which must surely be much the same type as the one in the stained glass window in London (see this recent post). They have very similar hull shape, the two masts are both well forward, and they both carry lug sails. The one shown on the window at 2 Temple Place does not seem to have a bowsprit, but that’s a detail that can be easily modified.

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PS – sting in the Brexit tail

Both the Royal Yachting Association and the Cruising Association now think that there is a real risk that a British boat will lose UK VAT-paid status if it is in the European Union on Brexit day, and so VAT would be payable on return to the UK.

If that happens, rushing over to France by 29 March (or whenever Brexit happens if there is a delay) to keep EU VAT-paid status is not necessarily such a good idea, unless you want to stay there permanently. Better to stay here and just apply for temporary importation whenever you visit the continent or Ireland in future. Continue reading “PS – sting in the Brexit tail”

Bang goes our EU status

It has now been confirmed that we will lose our boat’s VAT-paid status in Europe on Brexit day, leaving us with only the possibility of a temporary importation licence for up to 18 months.

Only British boats actually kept in the EU on that day will be treated as if the VAT paid on them in the UK is still European VAT. If they are in the UK on Brexit day, then they lose that ‘union goods’ status and can only apply for temporary importation.

Spring Fever in Cowes, awaiting a new engine

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Channel migrants

An anxious thought after watching the news yesterday: what do we do if we come across a dinghy full of distressed migrants in mid-channel? Do we follow our instincts and get them on board, put the heater on, wrap them in warm sleeping bags and offer sympathy? Or must we stand off, watch, and wait for help?

I am sure the very firm advice from the authorities will be to call the Coastguard on VHF/DSC, and stand by till the Border Force vessel (there is only one near Dover at the moment), a lifeboat or some other help arrives. But if the dinghy were swamped and people were in the water, nobody, surely, would hesitate before trying to get them on board: in the Dover Straits it would take only a moment to tell the Coastguard what we are up to and where, and professional help would come soon after.

Border Force patrol boat in Cowes, seen from Spring Fever

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Brexit and our boat

We’ve been looking into the impact of Brexit on our sailing, on the assumption that at some point we will be treated as a third country, just like US and Canadian sailors who cross the Atlantic to visit the EU. If there is a hard Brexit at the end of March, this could all be upon us next season. The result is likely to be a long term increase in paperwork and bureaucracy and a permanent annoyance for British yacht owners.

Even as EU members we have not been bureaucracy free. Because the UK is outside the Schengen zone, we have been obliged in theory to show our passports on arrival, though some Schengen countries such as France often do not bother to enforce passport checks on yachts. (That might be changing, because in July, for the first time in many years, we were boarded on a mooring by French customs officers in a RIB, whose only interest was in our passports).

View from our mooring at Îles Chausey, where we were boarded by French customs.

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…a 2018 Adriatic success

Here’s the certificate for third in class in the 2018 Transadriatica race – the second time in the race for me – from Venice to Novigrad and back, overnight each way in Martin Walker’s Spiuma. The certificate was presented to Martin recently, though the race was the weekend at the end of May and beginning of June.

This time we were third in both directions. Continue reading “…a 2018 Adriatic success”

Big tides in Brittany

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been pottering around the Channel Islands and the nearby French coast, reminding ourselves what really big tides are like. It’s our very own Bay of Fundy, the place in Canada with the world’s biggest tidal range.

The marina pontoons in St Malo climb the huge posts (below), and the tide outside can still go a few metres lower because the water inside is held back by a sill.

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Venice to Novigrad and back – 2017 Transadriatica race

Delighted to be sent this picture of the cup for third in class in the 2017 Transadriatica race, especially since we were the smallest boat and the oldest crew.

Martin Walker received the cup for the race, which was actually last June, at the annual dinner last month of his club, Diporto Velico Veneziano. Continue reading “Venice to Novigrad and back – 2017 Transadriatica race”

Biscay cruise

This year, after a few days fitting out in Vannes, we had a brief local cruise and then left the boat in the inland city of Redon for 5 weeks, a very economical but pleasant place where we were charged only a couple of hundred euros.

Redon is 25 miles up the freshwater Vilaine, so after our return from home there was a pleasant dawdle back to the sea, with an overnight stop at a lonely pontoon out in the fields with no-one else in sight.

A peaceful evening on the Vilaine

After passing through the lock into tidal waters, we headed round to Le Pouliguen, near La Baule, where we anchored for a rather disturbed night, because a swell got up in the early hours. Next morning early we set off for Sables d’Olonne in the Vendéé.

As we were passing the island of Noirmoutier, the battery alarm went off because the new alternator, which we had just installed ourselves at Redon, had blown. Thankfully there was an excellent engineer near the marina who worked out why two had blown in quick succession, put it right and fitted a new one.

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