The boat arrives back in Northern Ireland at the end of May 2022 and she is up for sale. I had placed her on several Facebook websites and contacted the broker when in the Azores but the broker suggested waiting until she was home.
Time to empty her of all our personal debris and memories. This was a horrendous physical effort, never mind the emotional effect. I come across things I had forgotten were on board, old friends, my angle grinder, jigsaw, a couple of electric drills, a hot airgun, several soldering irons, spanners, spare spanners, mole wrenches (vice grips in American-speak - The Mole company in Birmingham (uk - not the American one) patented "Mole grips" in 1950) a cubic foot of stainless screws, bolts, nuts & washers, widgets and threaded rods, a small chain winch (a hand operated crane that can lift a ton). Crowbars and a sledgehammer. wow.
Of course there were rocks and shells taken from beaches (oops) as well as hats and t-shirts, woolly gloves, scarfs and balaclavas. My Tropical trousers and shirts (God bless Rohan and Craghoppers), I used to hand wash these and watch them dry in two hours under a tropical sun. Two years of my life were in the boat, and a dozen years before that. Every item has a history, a long history in fact.
The memories are not just mine of course. The years in the Baltic with Shirley, the family holidays,and the other crews who had been on board all carry many memories, happy, serene as well as exciting in both good and bad ways but memorable nonetheless. Shadowmere had touched over twenty people in a significant way over her time with us.
It took a week to empty her, the boat rose in the water when she became an empty shell. We did leave essential gear on board but managed to empty nearly all of her lockers, some of which I had not been in for years. There are a lot of lockers, and often the floor of a locker would lift up revealing more storage space. I just did a mental count and came up with 48 storage spaces.
The boat was in the small marina at Ardglass, a mere 6 miles from the house and my increasingly crowded garage - as I piled up bags and boxes on its floor and then piled up bags and boxes on top of those bags and boxes.
I would pack things up on the boat and Shirley would bring the car and trailer to the marina at the end of the day, invariably the tide was out and I had to push overladen wheelbarrows up the rather steep ramp, time and time again. Shirley cleaned and cleaned, scrubbed and polished every cupboard and surface until the 45 year boat could have passed for a much newer boat. She did look well (both Shirley and Shadowmere). Shirley also gave her a lick of varnish.
We had a number of visitors to the boat, some had the dream but maybe were not quite ready for a world going cruiser, some just wanted a look, to kick the tires and admire the old lady. Each boat visit and tour was stressful for us; you show off your best and wonder what others think.
I had a visit from a Belgian family, one guy had sent his mother, father and wife as he was stuck in work. A serious enquiry, an HR41 was exactly what he wanted, he knew there were only 105 in the world ever built - we were hull number 85. I think he was most keen to buy her but it is always hard to judge the state of the teak decks from afar. The VAT rules after Brexit also caused some concern.
The VAT situation was particularly unusual because the issue was not just Britain versus Europe. The UK is comprised of GB and Northern Ireland. GB being England, Scotland and Wales. But Northern Ireland was sort of halfway between GB and Europe. It was in the customs union but not (fully) in the EU. I had taken advice from the legal experts consulting for the Cruising Association. In some ways the position was easier for an EU citizen to purchase the boat. There are two relevant points.
The boat was in the EU (the Azores - Portuguese) on December 30th, 2021, the date Brexit "happened" and hence it was "deemed to be EU VAT Paid".
The boat was in the UK prior to leaving the UK (weird English but that is what you get) and when it returned it was eligible for returned goods relief (RGR) provided it was still owned by the original owner and was the same boat! (i.e had had no substantive works carried out when abroad). It was then "deemed to be UK VAT paid".
All this was despite my having the 1979 VAT invoice which proves VAT was paid when the boat was bought. And in any case UK VAT officials didn't used to worry about boats older than 1992.
The Northern Ireland situation did muddy the waters a bit as regards RGR so originally I had thought I would have to call into Falmouth (i.e GB) on the way home and claim RGR but regulations changed and RGR was implied if you could prove the boats whereabouts at the key dates. I had also talked to a couple of long term UK yachties living in the Azores and they had written to HMRC and got letters saying they were all right, I had the name and address of the poor soul in HMRC and an example letter she had written so selling to a UK, or maybe a GB? person would be ok. In the end I did not call into GB and went straight from the Azores to Ireland.
I know of two friends who had come a cropper with Brexit and boats, they both bought boats in Sweden. One before Brexit and one after. Neither could bring their boat home into the UK without incurring a VAT penalty of 20% of the perceived value of the boat. They are doomed to wander the oceans of the world, never sailing home...Or register the boat as European and owned by a company - there are always loopholes, ask the rich people...
So the boat was snug in Ardglass and we lived nearby, what could go wrong? Well it turns out Arglass marina are happy to have big boats visit but not stay. I had enquired if I could stay a month as I expected to sell the boat and they had been most helpful, but after 6 weeks they were keen for me to move on. A nuisance.
Above is Ardglass Marina, below is Belfast (the marina is bottom left)
Every month you keep a boat, it costs money and the less money the better. The big marinas in Belfast Lough are fairly expensive but the tiny marina right in Belfast's city centre was cheaper. Shadowmere had spent all of 2016 and half of 2017 there before departing for the North Atlantic adventure, we had left in May 2017 and got lifted out for a month in Carrickfergus before final departure. So in many ways the journey was complete by returning there.
So we sailed from Ardglass to Belfast, we stopped overnight in Donaghadee for old times sake and I had a pint in Pier 36 with Ken Walsh, an old crewmember, I had also telephoned Nick but he had hurt his back gardening and was heading for the bath and bed, dangerous things gardens, I'd rather be away from land in a boat.
The next day we had a delightful family day anchored in the Copeland islands, paddle-boarding and playing, eating and watching the myriad of seals and birds that lived nearby. We had spent many days there when we lived in Donaghadee for 25 years. Ironic that moving from Donaghadee 15 years ago had allowed us to buy the big boat that made comfortable ocean sailing possible. We were now back on what we thought would be Shadowmere's last (to us) voyage.
And then to Belfast, Shadowmere's home. Joe and Sasha, the marina staff made us feel most welcome and there were several liveaboards for company, Hilary and her Dutch barge was a friend of Shirleys and Alan and his ketch were kindred spirits - he had also travelled the North Atlantic to Nova Scotia, a lot singlehanded too. He was planning to head for the frozen North next.
Selling Shadowmere took twists and turns, an early contender was referred to us by the broker, a Frenchman - we thought - turns out he was Belgian, had lived in Italy for 9 years and was now working in Paris. He is a European then, I suppose, just like we used to be before the English Brexit. At least we have Irish (and UK) passports...
He came to view the boat and Matt and I took him for a trial sail "out the Lough", a one hour motor and a one hour sail and then a one hour motor back. He was interested but said he was also going to visit a HR41 in Greece in August first. At least he had seen the boat, the teaks decks keep getting described as being in "poor condition" just as they had been described in 2006 when we bought the boat You had to see them to realise they were perfectly serviceable and in 5 years time you will still be running up and down the decks in bare feet in the tropics without worry. You could lift the teak, make good the underlying fibreglass and apply non-slip paint, but personally I would rather keep the teak.
Anyway whilst he was away I got another couple of phone calls, one through the broker and one through a facebook/website viewing. I took a phone call from a guy who worked on oil rigs for 12 weeks at a time and then stayed "home" for a few weeks. He said his divorce had just come through and he was completing the sale of his house next Monday and could put the money for Shadowmere in my bank account on Tuesday.
"Wow", I said, "congratulations on the divorce, did he want to see the boat or arrange a survey"
"no, no, I trusted your description of things, I just want the boat".
"Great", I said, "call the broker and make the arrangements"
I was somewhat mystified by all this, but, perhaps, what is meant to be, is meant to be. I was a little sceptical and awaited confirmation from the broker. Finally on the Tuesday night I texted the client back and got a brief reply "I am not going ahead with the sale" and thought that was that. But talking to the broker the next day he said that the client still wanted the boat but had been unable to get a residential mooring in Falmouth. He had even talked to both Belfast marina and the nearby Bangor (NI) marina to get prices and availability of residential marinas, I suppose if you spend your working life on oil rigs you can live anywhere. The broker also said there is another guy trying to sell his flat in exactly the same position, if he sold the flat he would buy the boat. Wow, again I thought.
In the meantime the original Belgian (the one who had sent his family instead of himself to view the boat) emailed me to say he had bought the HR41 in Greece and was sorry, if I ever visited Belgium I should contact him and he would take me sailing.
And then the Frenchman came back ( the second Belgian) with a firm offer which I accepted. Shadowmere was sold.
Well, technically, sold subject to survey. He and I moved the boat to Carrickfergus to get lifted out for survey. I was liable to fix any defects that affected sea-worthiness and operational integrity (whatever that is), or at least defects that were unknown or not listed in the inventory.
Carrickfergus boat yard is to the right of the marina below, to the left of the harbour mouth.
Microsoft product screen shot(s) reprinted
with permission from Microsoft Corporation.
I waited with bated breath whilst the surveyor poked and prodded Shadowmere. I showed him the boat and then got offside, I paced up and down like an expectant father for most of the day. He was most thorough, hitting every square foot of the hull with his hammer, he scraped paint off every seacock and hit the seacocks and judged whether it rang like a bell or sounded like a dull thud. Ding or Dong
He gave a verbal report at the end of the day and we drew up a snaglist of what needed fixed, I had to fix some navigation lights and replace a shackle on the second anchor along with a few minor things. The boat needed re-rigging, which we knew, so the client looked after that.
The seacocks were an issue. I had them checked in the Azores and the company there had replaced three, that left eleven others which I had replaced in 2006. The correct seacocks had been fitted then, de-zincification resistant (DZR) brass as per the standard at that time. The EU had decided since then to amend the regulations to say that from now on, only phosphor bronze seacocks should be used and the surveyor said, that whilst the sound emanating from them was a nice ding and they were ok, they should be replaced to meet the new standard.
Who should pay for this was probably a moot point, but in the interests of a quick sale I agreed I should drop the price by half the estimated cost of replacing the seacocks. The deal was done.
I agreed to work my way down the snaglist the following Monday/Tuesday and then the broker could arrange bills of sale and other paperwork. I had also agreed to help sail the boat to her new destination in France but I was only available from the 10th September as Shirley and I with 6 others were heading to Alicante and Valencia for Eileen and Reg's 40th Wedding anniversary celebration.
And so it was we set off at 5am on Saturday 10th September to motor South, little wind, and of course what wind there was came from the wrong direction. We arrived in Howth at low water and checking the up to date charts on my phone - using a Navionics app and chart that had cost me £49, I discovered the water was very thin at low tide and we could not get in to fuel up (and wait for tide heading south - my usual ploy). We blattered on into a foul tide at 4 knots and headed towards Dunleary (Dún Laoghaire). By the time we got there the fuel dock was shut and, again, we headed on, speed dropped to 3.6 knots in Dalkey Sound but we arrived in Wicklow harbour at midnight. The next day was a rest day, in rain and driving South winds, but we got a good pint of Guinness in Wicklow sailing club.
A mid morning departure had us flying down the coast with the tide and arriving at the corner of Ireland, Carnsore point an hour after slack, the tide was then against us heading the 9 miles to Kilmore quay. The last mile is through a red and green buoy on St Patrick's land bridge which is shallow (15 feet deep) and hence rough, before turning sharp right at a safe-water buoy anf following two transit lights to get up the narrow channel to the harbour, we arrived after midnight, again.
It had been a long time since I had been here and the harbour had had some work done. The pontoons seemed full and were narrow to get into so a hammer head was sensible. there were two boats already rafted up there (and a lifeboat on the other hammer head). We came alongside the two and a very friendly guy called Dougie helped us tie up, when the owners of the inner boat popped up.
and said "no, no, we are all tied up to just two cleats, it won't do"
Frankly, with no gales forecast it would have been fine,
"we are leaving at 7am for Madeira" they said,
"so will we", we said, (leave at 7, not head to Madeira)
"but but two cleats are not enough" they said again.
Dougie then quietly remarked, "you can go on the fuel pontoon, I will walk around and take your warps."
This we did, an easy berth, big rubber fenders along the berth.
We offered Dougie a beer but he said he was getting up at 6 the next morning to head North.
"make sure you rev your engine well before leaving", I suggested, and we laughed
There are two types of yachties, you can describe them with various adjectives, helpful and not helpful, perhaps? My overwhelming wish is to think about the kindness of strangers, an (almost) universal truth. Thank you Dougie.
I lied about leaving at 7, it was best to leave later in the day and avoid the last of the strong winds. This we did after a rather good fish and chips, served with mushy peas. The Frenchman asked what mushy peas were and I said like petit pois, only different. They were delicious, adulterated with garlic I think, the frenchman enjoyed them.
The sail south was a delight, beam, broad or fine reach in a good sailing wind we managed 7 knots plus for most of it. As there were only two of us, we used two hours on and two hours off for the next 50 hours. Originally I though we might visit the Isles of Scilly, one of my favourite places but we decided to avoid them as inspection by HMRC might prove problematical, we had bills of sale but no (new) ownership registration papers.
The French coast appeared as we could see lots of racing boats, at one stage 4 came up on the AIS as about to collide with me, they were going up wind at 9 or 10 knots and hence restricted a bit in their manoeuvrability I was doing 4 knots against tide and I turned ninety degrees and wondered if I was fast enough to miss the oncoming traffic. I was, by about 50 yards. The next excitement was about 10 miles from St Malo we discovered a massive windfarm under construction, we got radioed and told to head East for a couple of miles to avoid them. It was going to be another night time entrance. We headed East and then South to approach the 30 or 40 navigation marks that show the way in to the harbour. Tricky.
I navigated and found a more isolated mark to head for, easier to identify and once there we could buoy hop. We didn't identify the mark until we nearly hit it but from there I found another buoy to head for, after that we picked up lit transits and passed the next set of buoys easily enough, it always looks worse than it is. The chartplotter allowed me to work out compass courses between buoys and I double checked using the Navionics App with it's more uptodate charts in case buoys had been moved. The third part of the navigation was to look up and use our eyes!
Onto a buoy in the harbour to await a lock gate and bridge opening in the morning, we were to go into the inner harbour were there was a berth waiting. My journeying in Shadowmere was approaching its end.
A nice walk up the old town, treated to coffee, lunch and an evening meal, (gallettes and risotto) finished the day and had me on a ferry home, via Portsmouth and a day spent with Alan and Gwen before flying to Belfast. Ferries, trains, cars, planes and more cars. I was home, Shadowmere wasn't
She is to be renamed Colibri - the French name for a hummingbird. A year in St Malo, then taken to Greece for a year before going around the world for 5 or 6 years. Deus Volente. (DV)