Saturday, 29 December 2012

Christmas in Grenada

‘Line!’ a loud shout from the back of the bar and a delighted figure bounds up to the stage. It is Bingo night at the Tiki Bar in Prickly Bay and about four hundred locals and a smattering of cruisers sit at trestle tables around an open air bar in a mood of noisy, happy laughter. A modern stage gleams incongruously under a chain of white Christmas lights where Coogi, a large Grenadian who happily announces that he is also the local mortician, holds court, calling out numbers in a deep lilting bass that is further amplified by the sound system.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Bequia and Tobago Cays


We leave the distinctive shape of the Pitons behind us as we head south on our way to Grenada for Christmas. It is a glorious day and the easterly wind carries us on a beam reach down the west coast of St Vincent with its coating of lush green rain forest and down to the island of Bequia where we drop anchor in Admiralty Bay, a deeply indented large natural harbour on the sheltered western coast which provides good protection from the northern swell.  

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

St Lucia


The finish of the ARC in St Lucia was the most amazing experience. As we rounded Pigeon Island a small boat headed out towards us and to our delight we realised that the girls had come out to meet us in. After two weeks at sea it was a great sight to see Fatty, Consuelo, Jeanette and Saz beaming up at us, cheering and waving. We blasted across the line to the sound of a loud fog horn and the ARC photographer darting under our bows in a rib recording our arrival. The picture on everyone’s face shows the elation that we all felt.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

ARC Finish

We finished! At around 3pm local time on Tuesday we rounded Pigeon Point and crossed the finish line in Rodney Bay after a very fast crossing in 14 days. A very emotional and happy end to an unforgettable experience. Thank you to everyone for all your comments and emails which we are now catching up with. 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

ARC Day Thirteen

It is 3am and our last night at sea. We are about one hundred miles from St Lucia, having sailed two thousand seven hundred miles since we left Las Palmas almost exactly two weeks ago. If someone had said that we would cross in fourteen days I would never have believed them as that involves making 200 miles per day, averaging over eight knots every hour, every day for the whole trip. And yet that is what we have done. Even now in the pitch black under heavily reefed sails we are doing over eight knots, with more in the gusts. During the day we let out more sail and drive faster but at night, and this night in particular, we are sailing conservatively, trying to ensure that nothing breaks on the final run in to the finish.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

ARC Day Eleven

Over the winter, in preparation for this trip, I had considered upgrading my fishing equipment for something more robust, but then in a moment of austerity I decided to make use of the same rod and reel that I had bought for my last ARC in 2005.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

ARC Day Ten guest written by Steven Rose


Dear Avid Reader. A circa 19 day potter across the Atlantic broken by decent meals, much gin and tonic and the odd watch – as shown by these daily blogs.

Your intrepid reporter has delved, at some personal risk, to expose the ARCS’s darker side (with due reverence to Rudyard Kipling), this is no ambling cruise down the great grey green greasy Limpopo river all set about with fever trees.

Friday, 7 December 2012

ARC Day Nine

The half-moon lies contentedly on its back, arms crossed, a gentle smile spread across its face. Stars gather around it in perfect formation, each one placed delicately by the illustrator’s brush. Shooting stars, hurled by a slingshot deep in space, soar briefly across the sky, then dwindle and fade as they burn up in the thick night air. White wispy clouds, illuminated by the stars, hang on the horizon in comical shapes which slowly distort and reform into mythical creatures silhouetted against the night sky. The sea is liquid glass, pulsing gently as the swell rolls quietly by. A boat glides over the sea, her sails gleaming in the moonlight, leaving a trail of glowing white phosphorescence in her wake.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

ARC Day Eight

Oilskins are hanging out to dry in the cockpit and we have had the most delicious breakfast after a morning of excitement. Last night started calmly as we sailed close-hauled with jib and full mainsail, making 8 – 9 knots of boat speed despite the wind easing and veering further to the south.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

ARC Day Seven guest written by Andrew Taylor

There is suspicion that some of us are gaining weight not losing with all the food we have aboard.  Every few hours there is a snack being offered of some sort and not many refuse except of course for moi!  Our meals are compressed into the 12 hours of daylight – breakfast is 0800, lunch 1230, and dinner at 1800. This leaves a 14 hour gap between dinner and breakfast; but don’t worry dear reader I can report that sneaky snacks appear at night including bowls of cereal being scoffed – so we are happy!

ARC Day Six

After six days of fast but boisterous sailing we have covered over 1200 miles, averaging almost 200 miles per day. This evening the sea has calmed, the wind has dropped a little and we are reaching at around 8 knots through the starry night in relative comfort. Occasionally a gust hits us and we heel as we take the punch, then surge forwards before settling back into our long legged stride.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

ARC Day Five guest written by Paul Windsor

Five days in and we hit the 1,000 mile mark, a minor milestone and well ahead of our best expectations. The wind has been delivering 25 knots, often more, since we left Las Palmas and we have been converting this into average speeds over 8 knots, morning, noon and night. 

ARC Day Four

It is dawn on Sunday morning and we have had a great night’s sleep. We have been on a broad reach all night, charging along at between 9 and 11 knots in 25 knots of wind, with 30 knots in the gusts and the motion of the boat has been much more comfortable.

Friday, 30 November 2012

ARC Day Three

It is 7.30 pm and I am sitting at the cockpit table in the dark wearing my head torch and writing on my laptop.  The wind has dropped to 20 knots, the sea is calmer and Juno’s motion is rhythmic and soporific as we roll through the darkness at a gentle 8 knots. Pools of bright white phosphorescence glow in our wake and then fade as they are consumed by the dark water. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

ARC Day Two

It doesn’t get better than this. Standing at the helm I can feel Juno alive under the wheel as she surfs along at 9 knots in 20 knots of wind.  From horizon to horizon there is nothing but sea, sparkling white crests tumbling over inky blue. The sea conditions are easier today as the dominant north easterly wind lines up the waves in formation and they parade under us on their journey west, pushing our stern off course and requiring a gentle touch on the helm to correct our turn and send Juno surfing down the back of the wave, her bow nosing forward, eager to respond to the demands of the rudder. I flex my fingers to keep my touch light on the wheel, feeling the wind on the back of my neck. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

ARC Day One

This is our first full day at sea since the start of the ARC and in the last 24 hours we have covered exactly 198 miles. A 200 mile day is considered a very good pace for a yacht so we are really pleased with our progress. Andrew is helming and he has a great feel for the boat, I wonder if it is because he has soft hands developed from riding horses. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

ARC night before the start

At last we are leaving, tomorrow morning at 11am. We have had a relaxing couple of days and everyone seems rested and well prepared for the start. We had drinks on board Fabiola this evening with Gill and Lisa and their family and then went for an early dinner. In the middle of supper the heavens opened and we had a torrential downpour as the cold front passed over and now it is blowing from the northeast, perfect for tomorrow.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

ARC Pre-start

For only the second time in the history of the ARC the start has been delayed due to bad weather. We are now leaving on Tuesday 27th November. Nothing too alarming, but the weather forecast today is for 20 knots from the South gusting up to 30 knots with heavy rain as the cold front comes through at dusk this evening. As the ARC is primarily a rally for cruisers and family boats the start has been postponed to Tuesday when we are forecasting 20 knots from the North East, perfect conditions for a downwind start. The Racing division will be starting this morning and anyone else who wants to start today is allowed to go, but we have decided to stay until Tuesday, along with most of the fleet.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Las Palmas

We are in Muelle Deportivo, the large marina in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, where the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers starts on November 25th at midday and ends around 17 days later in Rodney Bay on the island of St Lucia in the Caribbean. There are 150 ARC boats already in the marina with another 100 or so still to come and there is a buzz in the air. The pontoons are covered with assorted paraphernalia in varying stages of assembly ranging from outboard motors and engines parts to bicycles, push chairs and life rafts.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Fuerteventura

The sun is setting over the western horizon and the lighthouse on the rocks sternly points its finger of light which intensifies as the minutes pass and the darkness gathers. Fatty is in the galley and I am sitting in the warm glow of the saloon lights, San Miguel in one hand, keyboard in the other. The Canary Islands are a barren group of volcanic rocks, dropped into the deep Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. The Canary islanders by contrast are delightful and friendly almost as if to make amends for the aggressive geography that they inhabit.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Lanzarote

It is 9.30 pm and I am sitting alone on watch in the cockpit. Everyone else is asleep or reading in their bunks down below. We are 50 miles off the Coast of Morocco, well into the Atlantic, and I can feel the long Atlantic swell lift us gently and then lower us back into the inky sea. We are motor sailing again because the wind has died down and we are making good progress with a little assistance from the current which is setting to the West.   When I switch off my head torch to do a 360 degree scan of the horizon, I can make out a faint red glow over the African coast but above me the sky is black and alive with stars.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Gibraltar


We continue our cruise down the Costa del Sol in flat water stopping first at Almerimar then Marina del Este and Puerto Banus on our way. Puerto Banus has a reputation as the glitzy harbour on the ‘Costa del Crime’ where wealthy rou├ęs who have escaped from northern Europe come to display their new found wealth. It lives up to its billing. We find the port looking slightly tired, but crowded with expectant visitors who gaze longingly into empty expensive boutiques which would be more at home on the Boulevard St Honore than in this Spanish amusement park.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Cartagena

October 7th and we are motor sailing in warm sunshine along the Costa Blanca. It is around 27 degrees and a gentle wind is blowing on our bow. The sea temperature is down to 25 degrees now and the sea breeze feels cool on the skin after the scorching temperatures of the summer. There is a definite feel of autumn in the air, although the days are still hot and the nights are mild, summer is over and boats are making their preparations for the winter. The port of Cartagena, a favourite winter destination for cruisers, is busy with boats checking in for the winter. We feel smug because as the weather cools from the North we are heading South, following the sun towards the equator.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

ARC Preparations

Since Caroline (nee Fatty), Jamie and Sophie left Palma I have been working through all the big items on the List that I want to attend to in Palma before we leave for the Canaries and it's been a very busy two weeks. This blog is about all the technical matters that I have been immersed in and therefore you may find me wallowing self-indulgently in subjects such as forestay tension, life rafts and oil pressure senders, without apology or brevity.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Formentera

We have returned to Espalmador, the island we first visited almost exactly a year ago on our passage from Ipswich. It is still as we remember: a low spit of sand running north to south, turning west around the bay, almost meeting the reef and creating the perfect protected anchorage with just a narrow gap that allows us in, with only a meter under the keel. Once inside the bay, the water deepens and turns aquamarine as it washes over the white sand and rolls onto the beach and beyond, the dunes covered with pampas grass sway in the warm air.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Palma at 39 degrees


Palma is hot and busy. The shopkeepers and bar owners who were so friendly and attentive over the winter are losing their cool. It has been over 30 degrees now for the past few months and the Mallorcans are calling it the hottest summer for over ten years. My taxi driver taking me to the airport fans herself and points to the temperature gauge on her dashboard which reads 39 degrees. I remind her that in February I woke up to find snow on my decks and she laughs and tells me that it was also the hardest winter in 50 years.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Alghero

The harbour lies low on the horizon behind a huge stone breakwater to protect it from the Mistral which blows directly into the Golfo del Corallo. However, today the wind is still, the water is calm and we have called ahead and made a reservation with Frederico, the owner of the marina who is on the quay to catch our lines. Fatty is becoming yet more dextrous with our warps and this time she casts the line like a lasoo and a coil of rope drops neatly over Fredericos head and hangs from his neck, causing him and fatty to both roar with laughter. We have arrived in Alghero.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Reflections

As we work our way back west towards Mallorca we stop off at a beautiful anchorage in one of the Magdalena Islands in the Costa Smerelda. There must be 100 boats in the anchorage when we drop anchor but as the afternoon wears on, most of the power boats and ribs run for home leaving a handful of yachts to enjoy the sunset. The water is so clear that even in the moonlight we can see the ocean floor beneath us.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Elba to Corsica

As we approach the point, ripples on the water race towards us like a shoal of fish as the wind is deflected around the headland and whips up the sea. Once clear of the protection of the cliffs, Juno heels in the gusts that blow off the hills and white capped waves smack against the hull throwing a fine spray over the bows. We are entering the Golfo di Campo, a large bay on the south side of Elba where we plan to anchor, sheltered from the northerlies. There is a large natural harbour on the western side of the bay and yachts are anchored all around, while on the shoreline is a wide beach with a swimming area cordoned off by a string of red buoys.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Tuscan Islands


The sun is still bright and hot although it is seven o'clock in the evening. We are with Sarah and Steven Rose in the cockpit and Juno is docked in the harbour in Portoferraio on the island of Elba. An hour ago the inner harbour was empty; the town quay had a smattering of boats gently straining against their mooring lines as the wash from the ferries rolled in. All around this horseshoe shaped natural harbour high buildings in shades of pastel create an elegant amphitheatre where the action is about to begin.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Rome

The taxi journey from the marina into Rome is not propitious. The young driver is a troubled soul who seems unsuitable for a life on the Italian roads and he gesticulates and groans at every indiscretion by other drivers and then slumps in his seat, seemingly finding it all too much to bear. Eventually we arrive in the centre of Rome at Via Condotti and we are greeted by Francesco, the duty manager of this stylish 5 bedroom hotel and he produces a map of Rome and scrawls all over it highlighting the famous landmarks that we have to pack into our short stay.

The Amalfi Coast


After the isolation of Stromboli, Amalfi is a riot of colour and noise. The entire coast is set against a backdrop of mountains with sheer drops to the sea below and the occasional smudge of terracotta where villages have grown up around natural harbours on this uncompromising coastline. Amalfi is busy: we call ahead on the VHF and a deeply bronzed man in a white vest with a mop of bleached blonde hair and a flashing smile greets us in a red rib and directs us into the port.



Monday, 9 July 2012

Stromboli

We slip away quietly from our anchorage in Panarea at eight in the morning before the rest of the bay awakes. Panarea lies on an underwater platform and unlike the bottomless bays of Vulcano and Lipari it is surrounded by shallow water and numerous reefs, where small day boats anchor and sleep away the hot hours of the day. The most dramatic of the surrounding islets is Basiluzzo which rears out of the sea, with dramatic rock faces of vertical grooved strata like giant organ pipes hanging over the dark caves below where the swell gurgles as it washes in and out. Gulls cry as they circle the cliffs high above us and we glide over the aqua marine blue sea with huge boulders on the sea bed passing under our hull. 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Panarea


The most southerly of the Aeolian Islands is called Vulcano, and it lives up to its name. Approaching the island we see smoke drifting from the top of the crater as we round the top of the island and into the bay where we drop anchor. Kerry and I go ashore in the rib looking for fresh bread and we walk along a beach of black sand which looks like mud but behaves like sand. People lie on the black sand on their towels and deckchairs but the sea looks inky black even though it is clean and clear - all very odd. We ask the way to the supermarket and we are directed down a small lane where a powerful whiff of sulphur greets us.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Strait of Messina

The market in Ortigia is a riot of colour and smells. There are stalls piled high with fruit and vegetables and fish counters awash with fish of every possible variety. Shoppers mill around the busy stalls where grizzled merchants hold court, bellowing across the street to advertise their wares. A fishmonger uses a large hatchet to chop three blood red slices off a huge slab of Tuna, his cigarette never leaving his mouth, then throws in another slice for free with a grin and a roar. We buy three varieties of tomato, small round peaches, a bunch of fresh basil and big globs of mozzarella; 'half buffalo, half cow' we are told by a very charming and persuasive woman who convinces Fatty to buy armfuls of cheese, olives and even home-made beer which we lug back to the boat in the searing midday sun.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Syracuse


As we near the port of Syracuse we see the faint outline of Mount Etna in the morning haze with a plume of white smoke hanging over the summit. The natural harbour of Syracuse opens up before us with the old fortified town of Ortiga on the water's edge and a promenade of leafy green trees beneath the huge stone walls of the city. We find our spot in the marina and busy ourselves with the process of settling into a new port; mooring lines to the dock, lazy lines from the sea bed, pasarel erected and suspended by a topping lift from the top of the mast and stabilised by brace lines to the deck. Fatty and Tina go off to the marina office with the boats papers and our passports while Kim and I connect up the shore power and water supply.

Monday, 18 June 2012

La Ragusa

From San Leone we now have 100 miles to travel down the coast to Syracuse, where we will leave Juno to return to the UK. We leave the marina early and spend most of the day motoring as the wind has died away and there is barely a ripple on the glassy surface of the sea. However it makes for a relaxing day as the engine hums away quietly, pushing Juno along at seven knots and by four in the afternoon we have covered over 50 miles and we dock at the brand new marina of La Ragusa with modern facilities, English speaking staff but not many boats. We wonder if this is a sign of the economic conditions or maybe it is still just early in the season.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Agrigento

This morning I am writing sitting in the shade of the bimini as we motor across a calm sea with scarcely a breath of wind. Caroline and Tina are sitting on the foredeck and Kim and I are on watch, an arduous process which involves an occasional glance at the chart plotter and maybe a corrective nudge at the autopilot to counter the gentle current carrying us south.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Sicily

We wake early on Saturday in Cagliari. The wind has moved to the west as forecasted and it's time to head for Sicily. Not having had time to say goodbye to Patrizio, an Italian teacher who we met in Cagliari, we exchange contact numbers over VHF before we are out of range and the Sardinian coastline disappears into the murky haze.





Friday, 8 June 2012

Cagliari

We arrive in Cagliari and at first it seems like just another big commercial port, but as we round the breakwater the old town appears high up on a hillside overlooking the harbour, with its cathedral dome atop elegant facades in terracotta and pale pink. Huge clouds of smoke are billowing from the ferry terminal, but no-one seems unduly concerned, after all it is two in the afternoon and its lunchtime in Sardinia.




Thursday, 7 June 2012

Santa Maria Navarese

Gusts of up to 25 knots are racing across the bay from the sandy beach where we are anchored on the south western most tip of Sardinia. It is six thirty in the evening and the sun it still hot and the wind is still blowing. When we left Santa Maria Navarese early this morning the water was flat calm and for the first four hours we motored south in the hottest sun we have yet encountered this season.

Monday, 4 June 2012

La Caletta

Another mistral has started to build in the Golfe de Lion and we slip our lines in the early morning and quietly ghost out of La Caletta to get south before the wind arrives. Outside the breakwater, the sea hasn't yet forgotten yesterday's storm and although the water is a glassy calm, waves like pure pulses of energy roll under the surface and lift our bow as we motor South in the still morning air.


Saturday, 2 June 2012

Porto Rotondo

We arrive back in Portisco on the Costa Smerelda to find Juno still battened down for the gale force winds that were howling around the coast when we left ten days ago. But now the air is still, with not a ripple on the water and the marina is noticeably busier than when we left. Excited German families, pale from the long northern European winter, race around the supermarket, shouting encouragement to each other as they pile their trollies with huge quantities of beer, salami and loo rolls, all paid for with their vast accumulation of Deutsche Euros.

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Plan for Summer 2012

Some of you have asked me what our plans are for the summer, so on the the very hot 5.45 from Waterloo to Haslemere i did this.



Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Porto Cervo

The Costa Smerelda is our first landfall in Italy and lives up to its reputation of being expensive (an overnight berth in the marina in high season is 700 Euros!), stylish and like a scene from a Hollywood film set. We celebrate our arrival with a bottle of champagne then go in search of dinner. Steps from the marina lead up to a deck with large cushions draped over low level seating under canopies made of sail cloth. Buddha bar music is playing and under-floor lights complete the chic setting. We are greeted by an Italian girl who speaks no English, can't mix cocktails and isn't sure where we should sit or eat; but she compensates for all this with charm and beauty and we order Mohitos which have to be concocted by her more functional but rather less attractive colleague who hovers in the wings. We are treated by Paul and Consuelo to a rather liquid dinner in these glamorous surroundings and retire to the boat in a noisy and happy mood.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Bonifacio

Our intrepid friends, Paul and Consuelo Windsor, joined us three days ago in Mahon for the 240 mile trip to Corsica and we set off in calm flat waters under a blue sky at 7am having stocked up on fresh bread and croissants. Unfortunately there is no wind and we motor for most of the day and enjoy the glorious weather. However our forecast tells us that a Mistral will blow out of the Golfe De Lion later today and we have prepared Juno for heavy weather which we are expecting later this evening.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The season starts

We arrive in Mallorca and there is a very different feel in the air. The airport is busier, the queues are longer and everyone seems in a hurry as they push their trolleys laden with golf clubs, bicycles and suitcases towards the exit and the sunshine.  The weather has also changed and a hot midday sun has replaced the cooler days of the winter, bringing with it tourists of all nationality. Down at the port the marinas are now a hive of activity as yacht crews prepare for the arrival of demanding owners who are also infected by the excitement of the first sail of the season. We are making final preparations to leave Palma for our summer cruise towards Corsica and Sardina and i am once more processing lists. We are delighted to have my mother with us for a few days and while i do the chores, she and Caroline visit the cathedral and take the train through the mountains to Soller on the northwest coast. Finally the jobs are done, the tanks are full, the weather forecast is good, and its time to cast off our lines.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Crisp Lists

My last blog entry seems long ago when talk was of Christmas presents and the size of turkeys. Now spring is in the air and in Mallorca there isn’t a cloud in the sky. A warm breeze blows across the bay and sets the flags fluttering on the forest of masts that jostle in the port. The city of Palma is awakening from its winter hibernation and Mallorcans are emerging from shuttered apartments into the spring sunshine. The cycle path that runs the length of the bay of Palma has become a high speed race track, with German cyclists in fluorescent lycra stretched taught across beer bellies, peddling their high tech machines at great speed and overtaking the locals who favour a more gentle form of exercise, jogging or roller blading while talking into their mobile phones.