Peter and Annie's Atlantic Adventure
Solo Sailing Pete! Did Pete ever mention to you that he wanted to sail solo across the Atlantic? Well, the time has come for his dream to be realised. He flies out to St. Martin, an island 100 odd miles north of Antigua, this week. After a few weeks boat maintenance with the help of Jess ( who thinks that she is having a week of sun and relaxation) Pete will raise his anchor for the very last time in the Caribbean, drink his very last Mount Gay Rum for at least 6 weeks, raise Tigger the tender up on to Tigress's deck, clip on his harness, set his personal epirb - just in case he goes overboard and we need to find him! - and sail into the great sea yonder. The first leg to the Azores skirting the shores of Bermuda is approx 2600 miles and with good winds and hopefully no doldrums should take him between 20 -26 days. The second leg from the Azores to Watchet is another 1200. and should take a further 10 days.
So, please think about him during the month of May - and send him positive vibes!!!!
Until he returns - good sailing!
Lets Play Catch-Up! Its seems such a long time since I last wrote a Tigress Blog. I cannot believe that it is 2 years since we set sail for the Caribbean from Turkey in 2008. It is April 2010 and another venture looms very imminently............
So, Jenny came to stay, now where was I? Oh yes, it rains in Antigua in April and May and there is little wind so we sailed circumnavigated Antigua with Jenny exploring quiet backwaters on the north coast and the torquiose shallows of Non Such Bay on the south east coast. One sunday we found ourselves anchored off the old capital town of ............and we walked through the ramshackle town listening to the wonderful singing exhuding from the numerous churches. There was also music coming from across the bay so loud that it rickacheyed off the builings. We jumped into Tigger and followed the music which appeared to be coming from the rusty hulks of once loved but now forgotten ships and boats. Wedging our boat into the reeds we were amazed to see a newly built open sided church packed with a congretion dressed in bright coloured dresses for the women and white suits for the men! The choral singing was hypnotic and spiritually moving. We were spotted and invited in by a proud participant - we declined, our shorts and t shirts being rather disrespectful!
After a week of exploration, sailing Tigger and playing cards, I left Jenny and Pete, saying my last farewells to the Caribbean before heading off to Vancouver to see Lucy. Jenny and Pete sailed over to the island of Statia and had fun sailing with Rudy as well as exploring the sad volcanic mess of Montsarrat. On returning to Antigua Tigress was once again hauled out and hurricane proofed with welded plates and tie downs in accordance with our insurance company's Hurricane Policy! Pete and Jenny flew home in June 2009!
The Year 2010
We still can't reason why, but nevertheless the following September we purchased a cafe/deli in Watchet with Jenny as manager and us as accountants and floating chefs and waiters! This enterprise curtailed our nomadic lifestyle few a few months but by January 2010 Pete felt happy about the business and flew back to our sand strewn and scorched Tigress in Antigua. With new roller reefing and overhaulded sails she was ready for new adventures. I flew out a few weeks later and we immediately set sail for our old diving haunts off the island of Statia. We had memorable musical soirees with our friends Celia and Anthony, caught up with island gossip then began a night sail of 100miles to the British Virgin Islands (BVI's).
A memorable sail of troublesome winds and wave movements, no sleep, rain, storms, and miserable sailors!! Finding Drake's Channel in the low lying islands was a difficult task and once inside the island protection we dropped anchor and slept............. Having explored the islands about 6 years ago on a charter boat we visited our favourite white sun-kissed beaches, drank beer with ........on Joss Van Dyke, dived off The Indians, and walked through the caves of The Baths on Virgin Gorda. All too soon it was time to leave these islands so we took a hop to the reef island of Anagada - pop. 100 -then sailed overnight to St Martin. Another horrendous night sail - after only 4miles the wind and the sea suddenly turned unforecasted onto the nose making a projected 17 hour sail turn into a 30 hour motor through the waves! A very disappointing end to my time in the Caribbean. Having eaten my favourite local grapefruits and mangoes, having swam in crystal clear seas and listened to wonderful reggae rhythms, having the warm sun touching my body and bronzing my skin, having the sea gently rock me to sleep......for the very last time, I sadly bade farewell for the very last time. The Caribbean islands, well the one's we explored, will always be in a special part of my heart.
A Load of Mangos! Mangoes, mangoes, mangoes - everyone is eating them and everyone appears to be selling them. It is mango season in the Caribbean - they are literally falling off the trees. Forget those you see in the Co-op ( sorry Tesco,Sainsburys,Waitrose lovers!) - ripe and ready to eat now. Here there are about 20varieties but there are 2500 in the whole world!. They don't put labels on them so we have yet to learn all of their types - hence we describe them by their varying size and colour. Along all the roads and tracks in Antigua mango trees flourish, their fruit hanging off long stalks like Christmas baubles tantalizingly easy pick. When passing through villages Antiguans can be seen sitting on chairs on the roadside with small yellow mangos in groups of maybe 5 neatly piled into a pyramid at their feet on the ground in front of them. They will sit all day hoping that the piles will slowly disappear! Mangos also become welcomed gifts -when driving through the rain forest our boat painter friend, Tyndall, stopped to pick up a young Rasta. He had been scrumping fruit for his family and gave us some of his quarry. He informed us that anyone can pick fruit on the island. Mangos are also given when correct change cannot be found from a bank note.
In the Boat Yard Setting sail from Mendelo, Cape Verdes, we had a clean barnacle free bottom, the faint brownish hint of tar acquired in the Gibraltar storm, and an off-white hull shining in the autumn sun. Two thousand miles later our bottom had gained a new batch of barnacles and algae growth, and a very worrying line of bubbling white paint on the water line. Pete easily removed the barnacles by donning his dive gear and scraping away with my wooden kitchen spatula but the white bubbles proved a mystery. Anyway, to cut a long story short we decided that the hull had to be repainted (awlgripped in sailing terms). Caribbean boatyards are notoriously competitive - Trinidad being the cheapest but possibly the most dangerous. However, as we were visiting Antigua Tyndall and his crew gave us a good quote.
We hauled out in Jolly Harbour on April 27th at 8am and by 9am Tyndall, Jason, Wayne and Permo were stripping off the paint - it was so bad, however, that they just peeled it off effortlessly. The predicted 2 to 3 weeks of work would surely be much shorter at this rate. Then it rained, and rained and rained. The number of worked man hours dropped to 2 a day. We lived on board covered in dust, grit and sand. We traipsed through the muddy puddles beneath the boat to reach the 'workers' toilets. Life was tedious. We attempted to strip and revarnish the exteriour wood, quite a task with all the heavy showers to contend with. To make the most of Pete's suggested holiday idea at Jolly Harbour we swam in the resorts pool at the end of the day, and I took tennis coaching from Eli - an ex Davis Cup coach. (Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned this, Wendy but you probably won't even notice!!) Tigress looked a reformed yacht just 2 weeks after we took her into the boat yard. A beautiful white clean hull, new sign writing and an added gold line between the green and white. Very smart. Over the 2 weeks we got to know the lives and thoughts of our Antiguan craftsmen, met a very interesting French/English couple whose boat had gone aground on the Barbudan reefs, and we had tried to get fit! The day after Tigress was launched back into the sea Jenny arrived!
Jenny has arrived -uh oh! more on the next blog!
Diving at last! Its been a long long time since our last update from Barbuda in March. No doubt you are all rather happy to have a break from our travels and musings. But your time is up and here we go again!
North of Barbuda stretch out a group of 'European' owned islands. The Renaissance Islands - St Barts, Sint Maarten, Anguilla; The Islands that Brush with the Clouds - Saba, Eustacius, St Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat. We took an overnight sail from Barbuda to St Barts - a french island we chose not to explore because it is the destination for the rich in their super yachts. We then proceeded to Sint Maarten - the Dutch side - but only spent a few days buying boat spares because this island was so americanized! It was here that we were boarded by 3 armed coast guards at 8 in the morning without even an invitation! Rather disturbing to say the least.
This just left two of the Islands in the Clouds which had potentially fine diving grounds for Pete, although one proved perilously difficult to embark. Saba, a mere 5 square miles, reaches a towering 3000ft. Tall cliffs of red and brown rise vertically from the sea. Houses sit perched in impossible positions on the cliff. Until the 1940's Saba was practically inaccessible - everything had to come and go via Ladder Bay be it a piano or a Bishop! 800 steps are cut into the rock. Boats could only land when the sea was calm. The first road was built in 1958 and recently a precarious air strip was constructed.
We arrived on the rocky lee shore of Ladder Bay late afternoon . We spotted 5 marine park moorings here but decided to proceed round to the windier harbour side. Grabbing afree mooring buoy we settled down with a welcomed cup of tea to assess the landing situation. It soon became obvious that the huge swell would make landing the dinghy and manhandling the outboard engine into the dinghy very tricky. We desperately wanted to go ashore and explore this unique Saban community but sensibly we knew our launch would be unsafe. This mooring was so uncomfortable in the huge rolling sea that we retreated back to the leeward side as dusk fell. A constant companion here beneath the boat was a 4foot great barracuda! This final mooring had its drawbacks too - we were dangerously close to a sheer rock face and when the wind changed direction by 180degrees in the night our stern was about 10feet from the rocks. In the morning we gave Saba one last chance - bound again to the 'harbour'side. We couldn't even grab a mooring the weather was so severe. For once an island had defeated us and the reputedly good diving went undisputed!
We hadn't intended to visit St Eustacious - the pilot describes it as a fuel depot, which it is but on a very small scale and most of it is hidden. The seas between Saba an Statia were rough and we had a head wind so we were only too please to find a marine park mooring buoy at night. Statia is a Dutch island - still proud of the gilder and not the euro. Walking up the Slave Road up the cliff into the only town of .........we were greeted by the well preserved historic buildings and brick paved lanes in the Dutch style. The few people living on Statia are extremely polite and friendly - I went for a strenuous hot run one evening : cars beeped and everyone I passed either waved or said goodnight! We warmed to this island, walked its volcano and ate edam and apfel strudel cake! But for Pete - Statia proved a remarkable dive site.
Notes from Pete's dive log :
The first dive was called The Aquarium - a large coral reef surrounded by white sand hiding large sting rays with just their eyes, gills and stingers showing. We were accompanied by the usual great barracuda staring at us as we investigated the coral outcrop. The second dive was on a much larger reef with abundant coral nd sponge, and deep grottos to swim through. This time we were interrogated by 3 black tip sharks who inched in their approach and in to test us out but thankfully were not interested and moved on. The third and most amazing dive was at night around an artificial wreck reef. Here again a 5foot barracuda was hovering close behind us showing his silvery sides as we pointed our torches at him. We saw more rays and very large turtles which were asleep amongst the wreck caverns. One large turtle was inside the bridge of a small tug boat completely uninterested in our probing lights. Just before leaving the wreck and making our way to the safety of the dive boat another Black Tipped shark approached out of the gloom and into my torch beam. This quickened my ascent!
In conclusion a one day stop on Statia became 5 days because of the interesting island history, the welcoming and friendly people, the spectacular dives and the wonderful volcano.
Understanding Barbuda -Try singing this to the tune of 'How do you solve a problem like Maria' from the Sound of Music and, no, we haven't had too many rum punches!
How d'you describe an island like Barbuda?
How d'you begin to understand its style?
How do the people earn an adequate living?
They fish, they dive, they export sand, they jive!
So how do you get to know the Barbudan people?
How do they always seem to have a smile?
Well, before we visited Barbuda we spent a few days reaquantencing ourselves with Antigua. We anchored in Falmouth Bay for a few nights. Here we had a great late afternoon barbecue with the family from 'Brimble' and another family, dutch, from the boat 'Tyche', and we sailed our dinghy Tigger with all of the children. I, Annie, took part in a charity sea swim. It was 1275m in rough seas with 60 islanders. Although I wasn't really racing I managed to come first in the over 50's class (male and female). We were raising money for the Antigua and Barbuda Search and Rescue (ABSAR) team so we felt it was a relevant charity to us!
Having had our fill of 'European' style living on Antigua with good coffee, wifi, supermarkets with even Cadbury's chocolate and brie cheese on sale, we sailed 6 hours north to an island called Barbuda. Although the size of Antigua it only has 1600 people living on it. The island is extremely flat, very sandy and is surrounded by coral reefs. Very few people sail here because the reefs have to be negotiated slowly and carefully and the bays are dotted with coral outcrops. In the 5 days that we were visiting Barbuda we only saw about 6 yachts. The island has one town, the capital, Codrington. Barbuda has very few cars as fuel is so expensive, and where would the locals drive to?!? The roads are still just gravel - very wide and dusty. There are coconut plantations and shrubland lining the roads. We dinghyed ashore to 'clock in' and were prepared to walk the 4 miles to the customs house. After half an hour a pick up truck stopped and offered us a lift into town. Apparently this is normal - anyone driving will give anyone a lift. There are more donkeys and horses roaming on the streets than cars. They are all 'owned' locally - they use them for pulling items, they have them as pets, the children can be seen riding them bare back, and the horse are raced on Sunday afternoons! Why should they need a car?
Our time on Barbuda passed peacefully - snorkeling, walking,eating at the local chicken fry up on a Saturday afternoon in the main street, watching sunsets, beach combing just part of the 11 mile long pure white sand with pink tinges, and spotting sting ray and turtles beneath the boat.
So, how did we describe the island of BARBUDA? Exclusive? Unspoiled? The islanders do not want change, Big Macs, real roads. The Barbudans know that they have something really special. I hope they are able to keep their island that way.
Meeting Old Friends From the strike torn island of Martinique we had another heavy cross wind sail to the most beautiful nature island of Dominica (not to be confused with the all-inclusive holiday island of The Dominican Republic). It has lush green peaks of 4000ft and the last surviving Carib population in the Caribbean. Dominica, along with St Vincent, have proven to be our favourite islands so far.
Pete and I were told before we left on our travels that we would keep meeting the same boats in different ports, leap frogging island to island. This phenomena has occured on numerous occasions, never more so than on Dominica. We arrived and anchored in Roseau, the capital, and sighted an American yacht, Tanaya. With Jim and Kate on board. We had first made friends with them during the Bequia Blues Festival. Having a love of hiking in common they joined us on a trek to The Boiling Lake.
Remember boat boys? Well, Pancho is your extremely friendly Rastafarian and is the only guide who enjoys walking for 8 hours! We met Pancho at 8am, jumped into Lloyd's very smart taxi and drove the pot holed roads to the village of Laudat. After a very long uphill climb through the verdant rainforest of trees and ferns we passed through the Valley of Desolation. This was a former rainforest which was destroyed by a volcanic explosion in 1880. Today it is a barren looking landscape of crusted lava with streams sulphar vents and hot springs. We scrambled up cliffs, over rock strewn sulphar rivers until Pancho stopped to put fresh eggs into the mud. Five minutes later we were biting into perfect hard boiled eggs - proof of the intense heat. A final few miles forging more stream brought us to the 60m wide boiling lake. This is now the only boiling lake in the world. It oked very eerie, encapsulated in clouds and mist, bubbling furiously. Apparently just after the recent Tsunami struck Asia, the lake stopped boiling for two weeks. An unusual occurrence. Pancho had prepared a dried salt fish lunch for us at the summit - quite an interesting meal. The climb down was taxing on the calves but a long soak in a warm waterfall eased our muscles. At the end of the walk we swam upstream through Titou Gorge - a long cave which opens out into a wonderfully powerful waterfall.
Pancho was a knowledgeable and friendly guide. He smoked weed continuously to our great amusement - without it he probably would not have been able to have reached the summit, he said!!!
A few days later we moved on to Portsmouth Bay. On entering the anchorage in strong winds the genoa's metal halyard broke leaving the sail dragging into the sea. We have now improvised by hauling the genoa up with a rope until we have some new rigging made for us in Antigua. In this bay we met up with Brimble - a 26foot Twister who we first met dockside in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in October and then again in Bequia. Brimble had sailed across the Atlantic with Selma and John and their two children, Jack (6) and Ella (9),arriving in Barbados just in time for Christmas. What an amazing experience for them all in such a small boat. Having renewed our friendship and exchanged sailing adventures we shared a river guide Albert of 26 years experience. He rowed us skillfully up the Indian River. The river quickly narrows and gets completely overhung by huge swamp bloodwood trees on both sides. Their massive roots spread out above the soil and down into the water, twisting and tangling. Overhead, the trees form a complete canopy, so it is dark and cathedral-like. We left at 7am so that we could have the river to ourselves and thus able to see the indigenous Jaco Parrot high above the trees. Albert was also able to find the prehistoric looking iguanas sunning themselves on branches at the top of the canopy. Many of the trees in this mangrove swamp have a variety of uses - in the production of Palmolive Soap, boat building and medicine. The river trip was extremely peaceful despite having Jack and Ella on board and we were all too soon back out into the open sea.
We have come across numerous boats from many different countries and we are all linked by an ocean crossing. Friendships have been forged and splendid evenings have been spent enjoying sunsets over rum punches. Some of our new friends we may never see again - some, like Brimble and Nella, we will certainly link up with back in the UK. Life at sea is like passing ships in the dark - you never know who will sail across your bow next!
World Recession! Despite the Caribbean beauty, its laid back charm and its colourful societies, it is not immune to the effects of the world recession.
After another great sail with waves coming into the cockpit and Tigress healing heavily we arrived at French Martinique. We anchored behind the 17th century fort giving Fort De France its name. It must be Carnival, we thought. There was a cocophony of sounds - horns blaring, drumming, chanting, music. We settled the boat at anchor and ventured ashore in our dinghy securing it at a dock slightly away from an area packed with families playing in the sun. Strange for an early weekday afternoon. We made our way to the Customs and Immigration Office set inside a chandlery passing closed shops and people just 'hanging out'.To enter the chandlery we pressed a buzzer and waited. Strange security here. Commenting on Martinique's carnival atmosphere we were duly informed that the island had been on a National Strike now for 4 days. Guadeloupe, a neighboring island, had been on strike for 3weeks! Both of the French islands were striking over the high cost of foodand fuel and the low rates of pay. Having experienced the militant farmers and fishermen at Calais we realised that this was serious business.
Selfishly our concerns were also basic. We rose early the following morning to forage for bread before it all sold out. We headed for the local fruit and vegetable market to queue for whatever we could find. No shops were apparently open yet we passed a building which appeared to be a garage. The side was open with two large men 'guarding' it. On closer inspection inside was a small grocery store - we squeezed inand managed to a few 'black market' goods. Later that day we watched thousands of teachers, nurses, shopkeepers march weaving through the town each union having its own chant, it's own lead singer and rhythms.
We would have made our way out of French waters immediately had the weather been more favorable. We progressed up the coast and stayed briefly at Anse Marin - a very tatty south of France-type resort totally geared to the European French. Eventually we anchored off St Pierre and found a calmer Martinique. Few tourists, some shops and bars open without fear of retaliation. St Pierre had been totally wiped out in 1902. The 30,000 population had died when the volcano Pere erupted. the ruined buildings have been left as a memorial to the event. In the evening we sat on seafront watching 20 young people practice their drumming. small children danced innocently to the beat and the elders sat beneath the trees chilling.
After one final 7am visit to the huge local market we lifted our anchor and let these French stormy shores. sadly we would not be visiting the other French islands of Guadeloupe and The Saints. We have heard since that violence is now prevalent in the streets. Cruise ships and yachts are no longer visiting the islands and their contribution to the local economies will be greatly missed.
Here now in Dominica - a totally different island and another story unfolds. ........more later.
February 8th 2009 - Poles Apart! We have certainly surprised ourselves by staying so long in one group of islands,The Grenadines. We have enjoyed their variety - physically and culturally.
The last two islands visited of Mustique and St Vincent are poles apart but only 15miles. Most people imagine the Caribbean romantically with sun kissed beaches, turquoise seas, and expensive glamorous shops. This image exists but it is not in dominance. We so enjoyed the Bequia Blues Festival that we followed the main artists to Mustique. We did this rather hesitantly because the island's up-market image does not really fit our usual cruising itinerary. Mustique, the Rolls Royce of the Grenadines, is 5miles by 2miles and has a population of 3000. It is privately owned and has approx 70 exclusive homes for the rich and famous including Mick Jagger, David Bowie, and Tommy Hilfiger. The island is managed by the mustique Company for everything from desalination, private clinics, school, roads, fitness rooms, airport etc. Walking around the island we were amazed by the manicured grass, the well cared for woods, the nature trails around the mangroves and salt lakes. It is like a large country park. There are very few cars - the residents and the local workers drive slowly along the concrete roads designed to look like paving slabs, in mules, small 4x4 golf buggies. All maintenance yards are hidden by shrubs and palm trees. The beaches are white and pristine, some are even swept of leaves daily. During the morning we came across servants laying out silver service lunch beneath palm trees and canopies for the house guests of their employers. Despite the exclusiveness of the island we were made welcome, swam in crystal clear water, snorkeled some great reefs and enjoyed the mandate The Mustique Company had to protect the environment and to retain the tranquility.
We sailed from Mustique directly to St Vincent in large seas and with strong force 6 winds. St Vincent was home to the fierce tribe of Caribs in Columbus's time. It is an island of towering mountains, craggy peaks, dense rain forests, a volcano, and 105,000 people. It is not a tourist destination with white beaches. Sadly a reputation of violence and thieving has been a hindrance. We, nonetheless, knew that the island was unspoilt by tourism and we wanted to give St Vincent. Fearful of night nuisances we anchored in a very boring charter boat car park bay called Blue Lagoon - it was safe to leave Tigress unattended. We stood at the road side and took the first rusty Toyota village 'bus' that hooted us. 'Deliverance', the drivers name, sped it's full bus up winding potholed road, screeching to a halt to pick up other locals, until we reached Mesopotania, or Mespo in local speak. This is known as the fruit basket of the island. Literally every fruit possible is grown in this lush, mountainous area - we saw limes, plantain, bananas, mango, soursop .golden apple, aubergines, breadfruit, pears, lemons, oranges, and damsils. We walked up the main street of this small town trying to avert our eyes from the tiny wooden shacks with corrugated hurricane proof roofs, the outdoor wash stands,the cookhouse sheds and the road side rum shops (smaller sheds still were strong rum is consumed!), for fear of appearing nosy. We should not have worried - the local school had closed for lunch and all the children had spilled out into the street and they greeted us with a polite 'good afternoon' without any sarcasm or cheekiness. We were hailed another 'good day' from a garage set 20 foot back from the road. We turned to view 3 ladies squatting on the ground dehusking nutmegs and we ventured in to talk to them. The husks are used to make perfume. The nutmegs are dried by storing them in the hot garage roof which is covered in netting. The ladies chatted to us - one lady's strong Vincentian accent had to be translated by another! We reluctantly left and quickly spotted by now a common site - small shed, cookhouse etc. One of the nutmeg ladies had collected her 5 year old daughter, immaculately dressed in the local smart school uniform. This tiny house was hers. Having walked barefooted across rough rubble she hoisted her daughter onto her back and crossed the fast flowing rock strewn river in front of her house. She took a long pole, sharpened the two knives attached to its end, and poked it into an orange tree. Within minutes she was wading across the river again and presented us with 10 oranges as a gift! We felt humbled at the generosity of this very cheerful Vincy lady who by our western standards was rather poor monetarily but not at all lacking in kindness. Throughout the rest of our visit to St Vincent we were shown similar friendliness and were given more oranges!
St Vincent won us over! It has hiking trails to explore and exotic fruits to enjoy. Because of the poverty that we saw it is not surprising that a small number of this island people take out their angst against tourists. The contrasts between the two islands were obvious. Given Mustique and St Vincent as a choice to visit....... well, you can make up your own mind.
our photo album 10 will help you with your choice!!!
If Music Be the Food of Life, Play On We can't believe now that we sailed the Atlantic only last month! For the last few weeks we have been exploring the Grenadine Islands - 100 miles west of Barbados, part of the Windwards and comprising about 30 islands. The passages between the islands were a doddle - only a mere 1-4 hours! We arrived first at Bequia - seven square miles of woodland hills its history steeped in age old traditions of boat building, fishing and whaling. We fell in love with the friendliness of the people and it's quaint colourful village. Dragging ourselves away we sailed to Mayreau, an island of 1.5sq miles, 250 people and one which had the feeling of going back in time. Electricity was only installed in 2004 so the Mayreaunians are a very resourceful people. A tricky sail through numerous coral reefs took us to the Tobago Cays - a marine park of shallow lagoons created behind Horseshoe reef with the water changing colour through a kaleidoscope of blues, greens, and shades of aquamarine. The Tobago Cays are the classic desert islands. Snorkeling with 4 turtles and a 3 foot sting ray just off the beach showed us just how well preserved are these waters. A final sail to Union Island brought us in touch with history, 1000ft peaks and remote anchorages.
There is, however, one unique strand that has pulled all these islands together for us - that of music. One sultry Sunday afternoon we decided to walk over the hills of Bequia to explore the other rugged ocean coast. Being a very religious island people we heard wonderful singing exuding from the numerous churches on the way. Local families on a sunday will meet under trees near the sea and safely gather wood for a bbqs. Reaching the sea we paddled along the surf under coconut trees and hearing music in the distance searched for the source. In a man made shelter of wood and canvas we came across a bizarre tableau - 5 Caucasian and one black local man in cowboy hats and boots playing country and western music with Caribbean accents! We unobtrusively sat down on a log and listened from the side lines enjoying watching the huge local crowd dancing and singing along with the music. After a short while a tall lad approached and with words of welcome encouraged us to help ourselves to as much food and drink as we liked. We had fallen upon a free jamming concert by the Country Relatives - a band made up families of Scottish descent arriving in Bequia from Barbados in the late 19th Century bringing with them a strong tradition of folk and string music. We tapped our feet, joined in choruses and were humbled by the friendliness and generosity of the local Bequians. In the Caribbean we were expecting the ubiquitous reggae music and here we were with country ballads!
One evening, whilst anchoring off the very small island of Mayreau, we ventured in to the only village - a very rugged collection of wooden buildings topped with corrugated roofs connected by rough earth tracks. The few shops here amazingly appeared to open just as you were walking by. So few people on the island it is not worth keeping them open all day! After a carib beer with the local rastafarian and storyteller Righteous de Youth, we heard the sound of singing from a roof top bar. We sat on the only perch available outside - the concrete sides of a deep drainage channel which take the frequent furious downpours. A few minutes later a rickety old table was positioned in the middle of the road and four young men slammed and crashed their dominoes furiously on it. A heavy shower took us searching for shelter so we ventured into the bar. Around the edge on plain wooden seats young men and women, dressed for a Saturday night out, were perusing the karaoke music book! Wow, what beautiful voices. No money was required. This was a weekly event and apparently the highlight of their social life. For us this was a local experience of great talent. We dragged ourselves away at 12.30am!
We search out remote picturesque bays and Chatham Bay on Union fitted the bill. A boat boy, these are vendors selling any thing from lobster to ice and bread who call on yachts in their brightly painted boats with such names as The Humble African, Kamakaze, Phat Shag,visited us asking whether or not we would like to eat on the beach that evening. We arrived around 7pm. There is no electricity here so the picnic tables were lit by hurricane lamps. In the shrubs two guys were stooping down over a large fire attending to our meal. We provided our own beer and waited patiently for our food smelling the delicious aromas. Eventually out of the dark came plates full of succulent barbecued chicken and huge tuna steaks, accompanied by different salads and rice. A feast! Shark Attack had done us proud providing a great bbq on the beach, Creole style. Pleasure, yes that was his name, sat on a rock and sang calypsos accompanying himself on a tatty old guitar with his chum quietly bongo-ing. A wonderful atmosphere which we like to believe was laid on just for us and some friends!! As the others eventually drifted back to their boats I started chatting to Pleasure and suggested a well know calypso song. He gave me his guitar and I played with his mellow harmonisations. Meet me in the morning down at my shack, he declared, we can make more music!! Sadly time was not on our side - I shall leave his invitation until another time.,
Finally we returned to Bequia for the annual Blues Festival. Extremely talented local artists played an eclectic mix of tastes and styles ranging from country, calypso, trad jazz, pan music,jazz and blues. The festival lasted for 4 nights and we were absolutely worn out with such good music.
We are now wondering whether we should take a detour to the Mustique music festival! oh we are spoilt for choice. Certainly the music of these islands is obviously very central to their culture and we just want to absorb as much as possible.
We Made it Safely Across On New Years Day 1st January 2009, after 16 days and 4 hours at sea and after 2017 miles,we safely anchored in the large white sandy Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown, Barbados.
We scanned the 15 or so yachts and saw some very familiar ones who had left the Cape Verde just ahead of us.. Later we were to hear their Atlantic crossing yarns but for the time being we were so pleased to be tucked up amongst friends. The odd knowing wave from the other yachties welcomed us - we then reflected on our voyage with a beer on a very stationary and motionless boat.
We had successfully fought our demons, our fears of loneliness, endured weeks of tinned food, overcome the eerie emptiness of the Atlantic, slept in our day clothes, hallucinated daily but briefly, and were now sublimely sitting on our boat trying to take in our achievement. We wanted to celebrate - have a truly Caribbean rum punch, party, listen to reggae music from a beach bar! Sadly new year is a public holiday, and unlike the UK, this is stoically and religiously adhered to and nothing was open except one very smart lobster restaurant. We made do with this quiet place which lacked atmosphere,music and gaiety, and congratulated each other on our time together across the ocean.
It has been called the Milk Run! The Atlantic crossing was to be the culmination of our Mediterranean training. Remember the storms we endured en route to Gibraltar? We honed our sailing skills and felt that we could cope in anything the Atlantic had to throw at us. Why the Milk Run? Well, after the effort most sailors make to get to the Cape Verde Islands people reckon that the crossing will be easier!
In retrospect the sailing itself was not too difficult, technically. We had reasonably constant NE winds of F4-6 all the way. We used only 3 of our 4 sails. We gybed, change course, maybe only three times and only once felt that the winds were too strong for the genoa. We reduced sail to the staysail and reefed the mizzen. In fact we felt that we had jumped on to the conveyor belt of the Trade Winds and jumped off it when we got close to Barbados. The Trades literally propelled us along non stop, day and night. The drawback of this is that winds in one direction for so long develop a very large swell up to 16 feet/4m on the stern. Looking at them is quite frightening but the boat seemed to rise over them with not too much fuss, thankfully.
In the light of day the most arduous part of the trip was the movement of the boat and the remoteness and safety of ourselves. As I mentioned in an earlier blog 2000 miles is a long way. Once we had left the safe harbour of Mindelo there was definitely no turning back especially into the huge 4-6metre waves. If something happened to us on our boat there are no rescue services mid ocean. Our VHF has a scanning area of about 15/20 miles and as there were no vessels in that region no one would hear our mayday signal. This in fact was our greatest concern - the vulnarabiltiy of our situation. There were many occasions when we were close to injuring ourselves : I slipped down 4 steps, the mizzen boom banged across into pete's forehead, a mahi mahi sunk its teeth into Pete's finger, I suppose this exact vulnerability was the reason we had actually decided to do the crossing on our own and not on the well known ARC rally. This remoteness was the adventure; we were testing ourselves and the boat; we wanted to see what it would feel like to be so far from anywhere and anyone. To be together without any other person to chat to was also an interesting but unique experience for us.
So with such an absorbing and exhilarating crossing will the remainder of our voyage be an anticlimax? Well, we can now start to explore the numerous and diverse islands and cultures of the Caribbean. Pete will be in his element diving the coral reefs and we will also be exploring deep into the rain forest areas of many of the larger islands. Hopefully my legs will get their strength back after so long at sea so that I can continue my challenge of running in as many countries along the way as possible!!
We will recharge our batteries here on Barbados, restock and possibly sail 140miles - a doddle 24hour sail - to Granada and Carriacou. Thanks for everybodies good wishes over the past few weeks - we really appreciated them all. A special thankyou to Stuart for his solid advice on weather and his position reports relayed to family.
A Day in the Life of us at Sea
A day of a long passage actually goes quite quickly once we have both settled down to a loose routine and once we have acclimatised to the state of the sea.
Let us start at 8am - well, 7.50am to be more precise. I don't need an alarm clock now and I literally roll out of bed, still fully clothed, and automatically put on my harness. At this time in the morning and having just woken I do not trust my stability on deck for at least an hour! I climb a few steps and poke my head through the hatch to see whether or not Pete is still there on watch- JOKING! At this point I will go below again forward and make us both a cup of tea, mine with a very nice slice of green lemon, to disguise the taste of the tank water. We will eat cereal together exchanging stories, experiences, ideas etc that we have had during the previous night watches. Both of us, having to snatch 2 to 3 hours sleep, often have hallucinating dreams such as driving the boat on cobbled streets or sucking mud from sodden foul weather gear...... Pete will then have a nap whilst I usually write up my diary and tidy up the galley. We take log readings every single hour noting our lat./long. position, wind speed and direction, course steered, distance sailed, barometric pressure, visibility, sea state, and any thing of interest such as dolphins sighted, yachts, birds etc. We also check the deck for any flying fish that have flown on to the boat during the night. One day we will cook one for breakfast. I make a loaf of bread every other day at sea which, depending on the rocking/rolling nature of Tigress, can be entertaining.
When Pete comes back into the cockpit we generally have the other half of our breakfast, and sometimes even a long-life croissant! I then sort and check the condition of the fruit and vegetables which are hanging in nets from the hand rails in the aft cabin. Any item that is on the turn is removed and used in the evening meal. I turn the eggs every third day so that the whole of the shell remains moist.. I might also do a little more housework freshening up the bathroom or doing a little hand washing, using sea water if we are running short of fresh. The rinse is done in fresh, however, as clothes with salt water do not dry properly. We both then read, do puzzles,discuss the philosophy of life and admire the amazing view of an empty sea.!!!! I will often begin the preparation for our evening meal early just in case the wind and sea state increases later on making chopping dangerous. I have three different week menus planned for the Atlantic Crossing ranging from chick pea and apple curry, fish couscous, steak stew with fresh carrots, beans and sausages if a force 7 is blowing, home made pizza and korma. We are celebrating Xmas at sea with either chicken or duck confit, with all the trimmings - hope the wind is kind to us on 25th. Portions are much smaller than we would usually eat at home as we aren't being extremely active at sea!
Later in the afternoon, after I have had a nap, Pete might put out the fishing rod -he has strict instructions not to catch any tuna too large as it can take me up to an hour to prepare it! Obviously we might have to alter and tune the sails at any time during the day. Sails also have to be checked for chaffing (where they rub on shrouds), the engine may have to be run for an hour to boost the batteries which have already been charged by solar panels and our wind machine. If the sunset looks promising we celebrate if with a non-alcoholic beer or a coke, then eat our supper presented in a dog bowl (with sides to prevent slopping) and spoon. It is now close to 8pm by now and I have already prepared a box of goodies for the night watch and a flask of tea/coffee. Pete and I have a snuggle together in the cockpit before he goes below for a 3 hour sleep. I start my first watch. I read,again, sometimes doze for a few minutes,but safely hanging on to the genoa sheet just in case I fall off the bench! I will do a few codewords and if the mind is in the mood, compose a few lines of reflections from the cockpit! My mind often wanders and time can drag a little. It is 11pm and Pete awakes - You have the watch,(our official handover) I say to him, and with a kiss, I am back to bunk and my dreams, I hope!!! This watch routine is repeated at 2am and 5am. A new day begins at 8am. What will the empty ocean reveal to us today?
December 10th 2008 - In the Cape Verde Islands.
Well, here we are - the real Atlantic. A six day, 714 mile passage to Sal in the Cape Verde Islands.What an adjustment we have had to make. On leaving El Hierro we immediately sailed into an huge rolling confused sea. The boat has not been flat once so no board games on this trip! The boat is constantly rocking from side to side and seems to wind up like a corkscrew, finally steeply leaning over before balancing to the middle again. In the galley this causes serious problems. We are sailing the whole way on a starboard tack - wind coming from the port (left side) and sails out on the starboard side (right). The cupboards in the galley are on the port side thus when I open one to find a tin I have to do so quickly before the contents of the cupboard topple out . If I am making sandwiches or pouring cereal I make sure that the plate is on non-stick plastic other wise they usually end up in the sink. Many other quite ordinary activities such as cleaning one's teeth become an epic adventure, propping one's back against the bathroom door and wedging oneself in! I am becoming a superb one-pot galley cook as well.
In six days we have seen 2 yachts cross our course, probably sailing directly to Barbados. One whale blow-holed extremely close to our beam whence Pete took immediate defensive action bearing away in case he decided to broach beneath us. The winds have been a constant force 5. Although a tiring trip the observation of land on day seven was a relief, especially for Mike.
Putting a firm foot on land having rowed ashore to the island of Sal we were greeted with a culture strongly Afro Caribbean. Sal is as barren as the day it was created - a lunar landscape with salt pans and the wind picking up the light sand. The fishing port verges on real poverty - water carried from the communal tap on women's heads, toilets in the square for those families without sanitation, men washing head to foot in the street, houses, when looked at closer house, the grocery store, no post boxes at all on any Cape Verdean island, children playing barefoot with 2 sticks rolling a tyre along the cobbled street, (who needs a Play Station?) mules hauling water,sticks and grain across mountain ranges. Despite this we practiced our Creole and used local allueger (village trucks) to transport us to the main town. Life is slow and simple for us and the villagers'.
We have now visited three other Cape Verdean Islands - Sao Nicolau, Vicente and Antao - all have a barren south side and a very verdant forested northern side. We have enjoyed the peaks and canyons where people live in deep valleys surrounded by colossal volcanic walls. We have been amazed to discover settlements high in the cliffsides clinging to ledges living from plantations of bananas, sugar cane and maize. We have been entertained by the brave fisherman scouring the jagged coastlines for tuna and dorado. And finally we have both marvelled at the abundance of live music that dominates the Cape Verdean culture. Sorrowful music called sodade dates back to the slave trade days and describes the longing of the emigrant looking across the sea to the motherland and the longing of the mothers for their exiled children. It is a mixture of jazz and reggae with ukeleles, clarinets, accordians and guitar. We have spent a few wonderful evenings in an old dark customs house tapping our feet........
Sadly we have said goodbye to Mike who couldn't quite kick his mal de mer! We shall greatly miss his company. A few more days of refuelling, skyping, drinking strong coffee, eating freshly caught fish and exotic fruits such as papaya and prickly pear and we shall then be off. A little nervous, anxious and slightly excited but we can't wait to get across!
See you later alligator, sings a local guy - the only English he can speak!
November 25th 2008 - one month 'till Christmas!! El Hierro
This really is the very last log before the Cape Verdes! I promise you! El Hierro - it could be a Scottish island (Ben., Judith, Anne and Bob would understand) - bleak, tall cliffs with huge white breaking waves, winding perceptions roads, few people. It is the smallest Canarian volcanic island - it's last earthquake was only 200 years ago. We were told in the pilot that this was a marina yet we are at present on a sea wall with a tidal range of 3/4 metres. We have about 6 lines ashore at varying angles, and we have to take a huge stride from bow to vertical metal ladder when the boat surges forward to exit the boat. All adds to the excitement. We are now the only yacht in the harbour - an English couple having sailed from Preston, set off this morning for Barbados, and another yacht set sail for Antigua. Having downloaded an odd weather forecast we have decided to postpone our departure until tomorrow. Although only a 6 day passage to these African islands we are welcoming this small Atlantic challenge.
Oh yes - Pete caught an enormous 20" tuna weighing 5kg. The special lure cost as much as the retail value of the tuna. We are now quids in and all future catches are free. It took me over an hour to gut, clean and cut into steaks and provided 3 meals and pate. A beautifully tasting fish. I can't cope with too many large tuna so we are limiting Pete's fishing unless he can catch dorado, a much smaller fish. Until the next time ....see you all later!
November 17th-21st 2008 - the last Canarian Islands
We are at last on our way with brother Mike aboard.! After nearly 3 weeks in Santa Cruz de Tenerife marina we set sail towards Los Christianos - a 40 mile hop to the south of the island. In retrospect we should have taken Mike for a few 2 hour sails up the coast - in reality we headed straight into an unexpected force 7 gale! The wind was from behind us so we shot along surfing the huge waves with just the small mizzen and stay sail - great fun and I mean it. Mike had no time to establish his sealegs and spent most of the day prostrate below deck. After a rocky night at anchor we made an early start for the 20 mile crossing to La Gomera, a lesser known island.It wasn't long before Mike disappeared again! We motored along quite happiliy until 4 miles before the port entrance we moved into an acceleration zone. This is an area where the height and distribution of the Canarian islands causes the wind to funnel between them, which in turn produces zones in which the wind strength can increase from 5 knots to 25knots in a distance of 200m. The wind pushed us at a 40 degree angle and waves swept over us! Foul weather gear, harnesses hurriedly attired and small sails hoisted to make the passage more comfortable. So close to land yet the weather is as violent as ever. Safely moored in San Sebastian we took a hire car to explore the country. It resembles half a sphere with deep bare ravines, fertile green valleys with steeply terraced slopes on which are grown avocados, bananas, dates, vines and prickly pear, and dense dark forests leading up to the central peak of 1500m. An amazing island of contrasts.
It's great having Mike with us - I especially enjoy not having to be Pete's man friday with a tool in each hand. Mike is there with Pete offering ideas,improvements,suggestions. Over the next few days we shall make a few shorter day sails to improve Mike's seaworthiness and with time and a variety of pharmaceutical products we hope to succeed.
October 21st - 29th 2008 Where have we been you may well ask yourselves! I won't tell you where I am at present as that would be giving the game away slightly - we have, however, arrived at long last in the Canaries. The real Atlantic! The big seas! The huge swell! The constant trade winds - well, maybe not quite yet as these still need a few more weeks to become established.
After the storms of Gibralter we experienced the calms after the storm. Two days of motoring out of the Gibralter Straits and along north coast of Africa through long oil slicks from the striken tanker as far out as 10 miles were not the conditions that we had in mind. The 5/6 day voyage to Lanzarote was not to be. Due to our heavy use of the engine and our precious diesel we took a slight diversion and crept into the busy fishing port of El Jahid 50 miles south of Casablanca in Morroco. The photos in album 4 tell the story better than words - east meets western culture. After Rhashid, a young morrocan who lived in the bows of the boat we moored alongside, had taken our fuel cannisters to some distant garage to refill, we gave him the necessary bachshishe, dropped our lines and sailed once again into the rolling Atlantic Ocean. Our 3 day sail to Lanzarote included the episode of Pete's first tuna catch which was gutted, steaks cut and cooked in butter, and on the plate within 30minutes. Delicious.
Eventually arriving in the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife a few days later we had one day to spruce up the boat in readiness for the arrival of Lucy and James from Canada. During their visit we danced flamenco, drove in to the clouds of the forests in the north east of the island and climbed to the summit of the volcano and highest point in Spain, Mount Teide. We sampled a variety of the numerous strange and wonderful looking fruit and vegetables grown on the island, lazed in the sun around sea water pools, and snorkelled off the black beaches.
We now await the arrival of Mike, Pete's brother, who is joining us on November 15th for the passage to Barbados. Varnishing, provisioning, and housekeeping are keeping us busy. Next stop La Gomera and El Hierro, very small Canarian islands with little tourism!
October 9th-11th cI could tell you about Gibralter - how it is more English than England with its telephone boxes that work, its red post boxes, its policemen that still patrol the town and talk to people, its M&S, BHS, Mothercare, Monsoon shops, - and the Gibraltereans that speak in one sentence a mixture of English and Spanish which is very confusing. I could tell you about our long walk up The Rock when Pete was scratched ferociously by an ape. I could tell you about the fantastic run I had up to the top of Gibralter Rock and back down again passing the Barbary Apes, World War 2 tunnels, Moorish Castles, 18th century battlements and having views of Africa, Spain and Portugal. But maybe I should just tell you why we are still here after 6 days - yes, another storm has hit us.
Yesterday and last night Gibralter had its fiercest storm in memory! Trees were blown over, metal fencing ripped from foundations, sea walls were breached and a tanker went aground off Europa Point (a steep cliff) with all of her crew of 31 having to be airlifted off. We were in a marina, nicely moored up to a concrete pontoon with about 100 other yachts. At about midnight the strong winds became much much stronger and at 2.30am both Pete and I were out on deck trying to stop the huge surge in the harbour from pushing our stern on to the concrete. We had to change berthing lines because they were wearing dangerously thin due to the strain, we put makeshift fenders on to the pontoon, we used the engine to drive us off the pontoon. Hour after hour the wind increased until eventually at 5am a force 11 - 70knots - of wind was reaking havoc in the marina. There were plaintive cries of help from other boat owners as one or two yachts were dragged underneath the pontoons. Three boats had their genoa sails ripped to pieces. Another yacht came away from its mooring lines and men were rowing around trying to hold her in place. Pete went to help an unmanned yacht on our pontoon whose ropes had parted and the concrete was gouging out its bow. The noise of the storm was horrendous - ropes creaking, sails flapping, metal on metal. Pete and I could hardly stand up when the strong gusts roared through - we crouched as low as possible. By 8am the worst of the storm had passed but the damage to other boats was drastic - whole stern ends ripped apart on numerous vessels. We, after so much care and vigilence, suffered amazingly no damage. With just 2 hours sleep we felt extremely groggy and today we have been washing the sand and debris from our boat.o
The sea will take a few days to calm down and when they do we shall be off on our longest passage to date - seven days to the Canaries. Hopefully calm seas and fair winds will be with us.ber
September 27th -29th Since I last updated this website the weather has continued to be unseasonably very wet and windy - but there was one consolation. A few days ago I collected all the fresh rainwater that had filled the bottom of the dinghy and was able to do a full load of washing saving our precious boat's tank water. How about that for conservation in this age of global warming!
We have eventually arrived at mainland Spain sailing from Formentera, an island south of Ibiza. The 60 mile overnight trip had its moments with torrential rain, heavy squalls, and errant merchant shipping not abiding to the Rules of the Road. Just as we were entering the harbour of Torrevieja a final violent squall came up from behind and we totally lost view of the entrance.Driving rain pounded the water so hard that it flattened the sea. We were really thankful for the final protection of the 2km long sea wall. Torrevieja is on the Costa Blanca just south of Alicante. Blanca here refers to the coastal rock which appears white in the bright sunshine and NOT mile upon mile of white tall concrete apartment and hotel blocks that adorn the seashore! Nothing much to say about Torrevieja - it is home to expats from the UK, Holland and Germany. Shops advertise goods in English, bakeries sell (good!) English wholemeal bread, and there are more estate agents on the high street here than in English towns. This was not a concrete jungle that we warmed to - it was just a storm shelter for us!
I had decided that the forced stop would give us a short rest period but Pete had other ideas. Pete was going to search for his dipstick!!
Pete's dipstick had broken over a year ago and he had filched one from a wrecked Peugeot 205 in a Greek boat yard. This he made do with until recently oil was slopping out of it. Dipstick firmly protected in rucksac we rowed ashore and began our long, painful search. First stop - autoshop up a dingy side street and the owner directed us to a scrap yard. Second stop - Peugeot Car Dealer with no English, also directing us to the scrapyard - but it was apparently miles away! We started a long hike along a wide 2-way fast road lined with furniture/spa shops all looking rather empty. Many shops were for sale - an outcome of the failing English in Spain market. Suddenly we noticed a garage advertising 'English Mechanics' behind an 'Iceland/British supermarket' sign. Talking to Jo and George led us once again in search of the scrap yard - they couldn't believe that we were walking the 3 miles to it, supposedly near the Carrefour supermarket! By the way it closes in an hour at 2pm. .......Passed Eroski, Dia, Lidl, Supermercado but no Carrefours. I was becoming less and less attracted to this idea - Pete was sure it was not far. Up a busy dual carriage way walking in the rubbish strewn muddy track along the side, passed a gravitti daubed housing estate. At the brow of another hill - that was it. No more for me! Pete took one more look over the hill on his own. No luck, so shod only in Tevas and developing a slight soreness underfoot we backtracked along this depressing highway and back to the boat.
You would think that this would have been the last effort -oh no! The following morning we were due to passage but there we were - up early, rowing ashore before the town had woken. Striding down the same highway, this time sighting the Carrefour sign. Another mile, then another. The trail had dried up - again. We spotted the sign 'International Motor Cars for Sale' and ventured in. Yes, there was a scrap yard - another 2 miles to go. But wait - lets go to the workshop. In a rusty, oil covered petrol barrel the Spanish mechanic yanked out a dip stick. Just one with a bright orange handle. Very attractive, I thought. Pete examined it with great glee. Mm, if I trim this off here, measure this there. I am sure this will do. With hand shakes all round, money to the mechanic for a drink, we were off. Pete was so happy to have found his dipstick. He had a bounce in his stride back along the highway - it didn't look so depressing now that the sun was shining and people's generosity and helpfulness had restored our faith in mankind. The smell of good coffee loomed......
Sailing to Gibralter in the next few days - with the hope of running up to the top of The Rock. I hope it is a clear day so that I can see Morroco.
September 18-23rd postscript BBQ Cover! You will never believe this but 5 days after losing the bbq cover in a bay off Volcano we returned in very calm weather and laid anchor on the exact transit - white ring lined up with corner of concrete block. So determined was Peter to recover it that he snorkelled the whole area searching for a metallic glint on the vocanic mud bottom. It was 7.30am and an unusual sight. After 20 mins Pete had located it but it was at a depth of 30 feet. After some very deep breathes and with painfull sinuses Pete miraculously surfaced truimphantly with the lid held aloft to the huge applause from an anchored Australian family boat who had been keenly watching the operation. Pete's motto 'Never give up until you've had a really good try!' was put to the task.
We are now a few hours from the low coastline of Menorca having motor sailed 190 miles from Sardinia, a passage of calms, lightning, heavy rain and our first sighting of a 40 foot fin whale. Quite a contrast to our 2 day Volcano to Sardinia trip. I am still reliving minute details of this our most challenging sail so far. A guffer wave flew over the cock pit and landed at our feet - a signal to don foul weather gear and shut the hatches, and prepare for some real weather. It was 6pm. For 12 hours we experienced force 7 and 8 winds, terrific lightning storm and 5 metre waves. The boat rolled steeply with water gushing in the gunnels. It is story to be retold in detail may be later when I can look at it more rationally!! We didn't eat or sleep that night whilst the storm raged - we just sat wedging ourselves in the open cockpit watching the wind speed machine and the miles ticking slowly away to a land fall. We slipped into a safe anchorage at 6am. and slept until 3pm. Tigress showed her great sea worthiness - the long heavy keel always seemed to keep her upright and her cockpit gave a great protection and security.
Trying to catch up on lost days so we shall just be making overnight stops in Ibiza and continue quickly down the Spanish coast to Gibralter. We have had some very enjoyable but brief visits to Sicily and Sardinia - well worth a much longer visit.
September 12th-16th 2008 - the case of the missing bbq lid!! ............After an energetic morning climbing Fossa di Volcano 400m and walking around the crest of the crater passing extremely hot fumaroles constantly venting smelly sulphuric acid gases we relaxed on board and waited for the evening entertainment. What a performance - someone had organised the most exciting lightning storm for us which took place 360 degrees around our anchorage. The sky was painted grey and pink and lightning flashes dagger shaped illuminated the volcanic backdrop. What a time to have a barbecue, we thought. Some windy hours later, feeling soporific from the wonderful food that I had produced, we sank into our bunks. Wake up, wake up, its raining! Flying out of bed we both shot outside and put on the white cockpit cover, zipping zips and popping poppers as quickly as we could. Oh sh.............!, Pete screamed above the howling gale that now had developed. 'The bbq lid has flown over the side, fetch the magnet, may be I can mark it before it sinks.......its gone.......get the depth plumb weight and a float!.' Attaching the weight to the plumb line we hoped that in the morning Pete could dive down and hopefully retrieve the lost lid.
The wind now having increased somewhat to a F5 we decided to keep anchor watch. It was 4.30am. 'Annie, quick. MERAC ( a huge metal Italian ketch also anchored in our bay) is going to hit us.' I shot out of bed again, this time donning foul weather gear, life jacket and safety harness, and gingerly made my way out of the cockpit onto a slippery deck being blasted by horizontal rain and F7 gusts of winds. I managed to attach the anchor winch cable and as quickly as possibe started to winch in the chain, looking with horror behind us as MERAC obliviously crept slower and slower towards our stern. Pete miraculously was bow thrusting and powering forward all the time trying to prevent as inevitable collision. Minutes later our dilemma passed but looking to our right we saw the English yacht Miyagi Moon also bringing up their anchor - MERAC had hit them broadside! The skipper of MERAC had about 100ft of chain out and did not realise that the wind had changed and he was swinging round and round - skipper never surfaced all night and missed his boats bad behavior!!
In the morning we looked around for the marker buoy for the bbq lid - with the strong winds it had wrapped itself round the transom off the stern of MERAC! Now we had a problem - if he started his engine the rope would wrap around and foul his propeller. In still unabating winds Pete rigged himself up in wetsuit, flippers and face mask, and snorkelled like a US SEAL over to MERAC and quietly untangled the marker buoy. He stealthily returned to our boat. Still no sight of the bbq lid.
We have now been in this anchorage 5 days, Force 8 winds have been raging on and off and gale warnings are still out on VHF channel 16. This morning, lying in bed, I get yet another shout. This time the skipper of Miyagi Moon has loud haled our boat to alert us to the fact that we are about to collide with ..........MERAC! No time to get clothes on -out I dashed in pj shorts and skimpy top, frantically trying to winch in the anchor again. The same scenario as a few nights before. This time we think that our anchor slipped from the muddy, grassy bed during a wind change.............
Never a dull moment at sea even when you are not sailing. Although I have only been for one run in the last week I feel that I am using up an incredible amount of nervous energy instead. We are really looking forward to leaving this anchorage and setting sail for Sardinia. We shall have to wait and see when this will be.......Never did retrieve the bbq lid!
September 7-10 2008 - during the last few days of farewell suppers, bbq's, last coffees, last greek meals, last 'kalispera's and yassusses' Pete is showing the obvious nervous reality of our adventure. The easy part is over - now dawns the actual passage. We awoke to a relatively cool morning, not for long as temperatures once again reached 30 degrees. We pottered around Lakka, searching out our last fruit and veg suplies and languidly drank our last frappes on greek soil. Rather poignantly we found ourselves listening to an Italian couple and realised that we would be hearing much of this beautiful language over the following few weeks. There would be wonderful Italian espressos to savour and delicious ice cream - I would soon forget GMT ( greek maybe time - curtesy of Kevan ). Hoisted Tigger ( the tender) , rigged Heidi ( the hydrovane), stowed washing and wind shute, upped anchor and motored out of lakka. No one followed us in the direction of sicily, course 246 degrees. We were on our very own .We soon lost sight of Paxi and Corfu. The eeriness of an empty ocean became a weird reality for me.
The predicted southerly afternoon wind to start us on our passage did not arrive. We passaged with motor for most of the day occasionally raising the genoa to help us along. During the evening Pete and I took equal 2 hour watches, the only traffic being the odd coastal vessel. I was awoken at 2.30am with a request to raise sails - the forecast southerly winds had arrived. The night passage took a new turn - strong force 6 winds in a pitch black sea whisked us along. The winds were on the beam which meant that Tigress rolled furiously from side to side with the sea lapping over the gunnels. The night proved a long one - neither of us slept and queasiness took its toll. By morning and first light we could see that there would be no let up in these breezes and we settled down to a routine of raising and lowering sails according to wind speed.
This was the way our passaging would be from now on - long days and nights with out putting feet on hard ground. We eventually sailed up the Messina Straight between Italy and Sicily and motored into a dark and unfriendly looking 'marina' at Reggio Calabria at 5 in the morning. Bed at last - but not for long. The sun was hot early and by 8.30am the heat brought us awake from our deep sleep............
Plan now is a short hop to Volcano island and then a longer 300 mile passage to Sardinia - weather permitting. ......just looked at internet and it looks as if a week long storm from here to Sardinia might stop our progress - oh, shucks!!!
August 24-27 2008 ........adventures start : on the hard, on stilts, and in a dusty boatyard with wild dogs, a new family of puppies, derelict cars, in Greece. We have spent the past three days preparing the boat for sea. Anti fouling, a slow dirty job painting the hull a deep red colour to prevent bad growth whilst she is in the water, was done as early in the day as possible before the 35 degree temperatures set in. Sails were rigged, the engine plate was put back into place with 50 bolts, and Tigress scrubbed of Saharan sand. We launched her on 27th very successfully we thought but sadly on closer inspection Pete found a pin prick hole in the engine exhaust and a slow jet of water spouted into the bilges! We were going nowhere! Pete managed to dismantle the exhaust and it is now with the brazier having some serious welding. A slight delay in our departure is expected. Such is sailing - never a dull moment and we get to meet real Greek people like Dimitrius the welder and Yanni the kind boat yard owner who has lent us his car for the day - no problem, no fee!
August 15 2008
We feel as if our holiday has now begun - and we are only at the US Embassy, London! But don't forget to leave your vehicle remote fob in the motor bike next time! We remembered to leave our blackberry ( I wish), laptop ( no way in London), mobile phones, suitcases (not on the motorbike), safely locked in the panniers because if we had taken them to the embassy we would have been refused entry. But the remote wasn't mentioned in the long list of do's and don'ts given to us from the Embassy. Once screened, logged and strip searched we sat in a huge control area with 450 other hopeful Non-Immigration Visa applicants with number 1220. This day reminds us that apart from the rigours of boisterous seas, our voyage will also entail numerous immigration interviews - the more islands we visit, the more time spent on enjoying passport and visa experiences. We will learn, in time, to take them in our stride. We sleep, eat and read with our ears cocked for our number to be called. Having moved smoothly through fingerprinting the next stage took another 4 hours! With Columbians and South Africans as our companions we safely passed our Visa interview. We await with trepidation for the passports to be returned in tact so that we can start our journey for real.