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Atlantic Crossing

February 6, 2017

Where do you begin to tell the story of a transatlantic crossing? It is hard to know where to start but so many friends have asked for a blog post that I shall attempt to highlight the things that stand out in my memory.

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Beautiful early morning skies

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Duncan and I flew out to Tenerife on 4th January, six days before the scheduled departure date of the Cornell Caribbean Odyssey. Steve and Linda gave us a super welcome and the next few days were a flurry of preparations. For Linda and I these mainly revolved around provisioning. One afternoon we spent about 4 hours in Carrefour supermarket with a trolley each, trying to shop for four people for an indeterminate number of days. We also had to consider eventualities such as the freezer breaking down or problems with the cooker. This led to the purchase, amid much else, of a huge, catering-sized tin of tuna and a daunting quantity of baked beans! We also bought a whole Serrano ham, complete with stand for carving which quickly become known as Del Boy (Trotter). More of Del Boy later…

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There were various events organised by Cornell for those taking part in the Odyssey, including a pot luck supper the night we arrived and a full day of seminars on the Saturday, (thought I’d avoided those for a while by ducking out of uni for a few¬†weeks! ūüėČ) The seminars covered topics such as downwind sailing, receiving weather reports and provisioning. This last was a bit late to be honest, just two days before departure, as most of us had already done the majority of our provisioning. They strongly recommended that we should buy our fresh fruit and veg from the Sunday market.

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One of the beautiful-looking fruit and veg stalls at the market.

As a result, the four of us stumped off to the market where the women got frazzled and the guys were very bored but had to be there to help carry it all. In the event we found that stuff really didn’t keep very well and most of what we bought had either been eaten or thrown out by halfway into the trip. Having since chatted to several other boat crews, they all seem to have found the same. Duncan suspects it was week-old stock, as much of the preceding week had been public holidays relating to the Three Kings festival.

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Fruit and veg laid out in an effort to preserve it.

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Provisions for the trip.

One afternoon, I dragged Linda, metaphorically kicking and screaming, along to a ‘Ladies’ meeting. It turned out to be every bit as dire as it sounds so Lindy left halfway through, complaining of a headache. This was perfectly genuine as one woman had brought her two pre-school sons with her and then shut them the other side of a glass door where they screamed to be let in. The room was stuffy and frankly it was all a bit fraught.

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On the morning of 10th, Jimmy Cornell came round taking photos of us in our Cornell Odyssey t-shirts and we set off at 0950 LT, Rod Stewart’s ‘Sailing’ blaring out from the speakers, courtesy of my lovely friend Mags who gave me the cd as a Christmas/Good Luck gift a couple of weeks earlier.

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Leaving Santa Cruz, Tenerife

I shall not attempt to describe the sailing in detail as Duncan plans to write another, more technical and sailing orientated post. Suffice to say, we hit 15+ knots that first day which made Steve a very happy skipper. Those of you who followed our progress online may know that we passed several of the others that first morning as we headed south down the coast of Tenerife. We actually didn’t manage similar speeds again until the last couple of days when the winds finally picked up and we were surfing down the waves in a final gallop to the finish line. Much of the trip we were only doing between five and seven knots. We sailed more conservatively than some of the other participants, reefing at night and replacing the code zero or cruising chute, (both large, relatively lightweight sails designed for light winds,) with the sturdier genoa. There were two principle reasons for this, both around safety: we had single person watches during the night and we were concerned that a sudden squall might catch us unawares and damage the sails before we had time to summon help and reef. This was even more important later in the trip when there was no moon and lots of cloud cover so it was nearly impossible to see an approaching squall. One night we even resorted to putting the radar on as a precaution. This all meant that we perhaps didn’t go quite as fast as some others but we suffered no damage to any of the sails and had no dramas.

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Steve at the helm, using his special inversion proof umbrella for shade.

We soon settled into a pattern. Almost immediately we decided not to worry about allocated watches during the day as most of us were up and about so there was always someone to keep a lookout. Bearing in mind that we only saw a tiny handful of other boats during the entire trip, this worked well. Steve took the 8pm to midnight watch as he was semi-on-duty throughout the day, apart the occasional hour’s sleep. Duncan had the graveyard watch from midnight to 4am and I took over for the remainder of the night. I got off very lightly with this arrangement as my sleep pattern wasn’t much disturbed – I merely went to bed early and got up early. In theory I was on watch until 8am but without fail Steve was up by 7 or 7:30 am and sometimes earlier. We stuck to the same 4 hour watches throughout because it is easier for your body to adjust but Duncan and I both had strict instructions to wake Steve if we needed to reef or gybe or had any concerns.

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Linda taking a daytime watch while the rest of us caught up on some sleep.

Most days all of us had an hour or so’s sleep during the day. Initially Linda was wearing a sea sickness patch behind her ear which made her super-sleepy. She was sleeping about 16 or 17 hours a day for the first week, getting up to prepare a meal, eat and collapse back into her cabin. After three days she abandoned the patches; if she felt at all dodgy she would retreat to her room again but she wasn’t sick at all which was great!

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Freshly baked cookies!

Linda was an outstandingly fantastic chef on the trip. I was amazed when we were provisioning before departure, to discover that she had laid all sorts of dessert and baking ingredients, thinking they were rather unnecessary. In fact they were fantastic. One of the chief problems on a crossing such as this is, in fact, boredom. Our evening meal became the highlight of the day, wondering what confection she was going to rustle up each night. Linda would spend hours pouring over cook books and thinking what ingredients she had on board. Quite often she would announce we were going to have such and such only to change her mind several times before the meal actually appeared. Poor Duncan started to go into a decline when we were told three nights on the run that we were to have steak, only for Linda to change her mind again before she started cooking! When the steak did appear however, it was well worth the wait!

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Supper aboard Tantrum

Among other delicacies that Lindy produced were Thai curry, dauphinois potatoes, and a magnificent quiche (aka cheese and egg pie because, according to Duncan ‘real men don’t eat quiche!?!’). We had crumbles and Eton mess, banoffee pie desserts and freshly baked cookies. All of it was a huge morale boost. Most mornings the men insisted on clogging their arteries with bacon butties using part baked bread, (okay, okay, I weakened more than once myself,) and several times Linda produced pancakes and maple syrup! This is a huge achievement as we went further south and it became hotter and hotter doing anything in the galley. Having the oven on, in particular, made it almost unbearable but Linda would very rarely accept any help. If we were lucky we were able to persuade her to let us do the washing up while she had a well earned rest and a ciggie!

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Steve and Duncan adjusting the goose neck with improvised washers made from scraps of leather and pieces of plastic packaging.

We were very fortunate because we had very few technical hitches, for which much credit goes to Steve and all the careful preparations and planning he did. He and Duncan also resolved quite a few problems on the trip from Levkas to Gibraltar, which turned out to be much the most challenging leg of the journey from Greece to the Caribbean. (See Duncan’s previous posts). On our very first night however, I woke at about 2am because D had gybed and it is incredibly noisy below if anything is done with the sails and winches. I went up to see if he needed a hand and demand to know why he hadn’t summoned help and was told that the gybe had gone okay but he was about to summon Steve because in the process the goose neck which joins the boom to the mast had come adrift. Again, I’m sure D will explain this in detail but suffice to say here that a nut had come off so that the bolt had then worked itself out, getting slightly distorted in the process. Having found a replacement nut, they were able to put it all back together, hoisting the boom up and supporting it with a halyard while they drove the bolt home by whacking it with a winch handle! Next morning Steve had a happy time cleaning all the oily hand prints away that we had left round the boat, working with head torches in the dark.

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D working in the chain locker, (note the umbrella to provide some improvised shade.)

A day or two later, Steve decided that he needed to be hoisted up the mast. He had been trying out various fore sails in order to try and get the best speeds possible and found that the big, lightweight sails were inclined to chafe against the end of the spreaders. Chafing of sails and ropes is one of the main problems on a long passage. Before we left Tenerife Steve had tried wrapping tape around then but this wasn’t really sufficient so up he went. Having been a mere spectator, I can assure you that stitching a leather cuff around a spreader using sail thread and a sailors palm is no mean feat as we sailed. Just trying to stay in the right position and brace oneself without the use of hands required great perseverance. It took Steve about an hour to do the two on the starboard (right) side by which time he’d had enough! However it was the starboard ones that were causing the trouble and he’d really resolved the problem. He half thought about doing the port spreaders another day but came to the conclusion it wasn’t necessary.

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Steve putting leather cuffs on the spreaders.

So apart from from the occasional other vessel, what did we see? It was curious but I didn’t really feel overawed by the vastness of the Atlantic. The distance to the horizon is fairly small, just a few miles in any direction so in some ways it felt like being in a big, circular pond!

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Passing ship on the horizon.

Occasionally we saw two or three sea birds – types of gull? They weren’t terribly interested in us and made no attempt to land on Tantrum. The same cannot be said of the flying fish. We saw lots of flying fish, sometimes individuals leaping from the water and flying up to 50 metres, a metre or so above the surface. Sometimes a large number would erupt from the water simultaneously, presumably to avoid a predator. Are these fish part of a shoal while they are in the air or while they are in flight, should the collective noun be a flock? At any rate, by day they left us alone but at night they either developed navigational or visual difficulties or possibly kamikaze tendencies. At any rate, any number wound up aboard. Occasionally one would land in the cockpit with a great fluttering and banging. The first time this happened I was scared half to death until I realised what was causing the commotion. I didn’t much care to pick it up with my bare hands but with the aid of some tongs I was able to rescue it and return it to its natural environment. One particularly brave or foolish fish attempted to attack Steve as he sat at the helm one night but most were littered round the deck and trampoline and remained undiscovered until morning by which time rigor mortis had set in.

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Duncan and (no longer flying) fish!

My apologies to any vegetarian/vegan friends who may find what follows next distressing: Steve had acquired various items of fishing equipment for the trip and was keen to try it all out. None of us had ever been terribly successful at catching fish before but the very first day we let out a line we hooked a pretty big mahi mahi. There was huge excitement as Steve reeled it in and Duncan prepared to land it. Linda rushed for the camera, and to my surprise I was sent for the gin bottle. I could only imagine they were planning to bash the poor creature over the head with this to finish it off but it struck me as a curious form of weapon. Surely a winch handle would be more effective and more practical? I was soon disabused and ridiculed for my ignorance as the gin was solemnly poured into the fish which had the same result but far more quickly, and hopefully, more humanely.

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The men with their mahi mahi.

Duncan gutted, filleted and grilled half the fish that same evening and we froze the rest. Three of us thought it was absolutely delicious; Steve really prefers the excitement of catching a fish to the reality of eating it! Having caught this first one so quickly and easily, we blithely assumed we would catch one whenever we felt like it. This was not the case. Some days there was no interest in our lures at all. Two further mahi mahis managed to escape as Steve was reeling them in and one day something managed to bite right through the line and make off with the swivel, hook and lure, much to Steve’s disgust. We were beginning to give up hope of landing another, when finally, not long before we reached Barbados we caught a tuna. Once again, Duncan dealt with it and this time managed to contain the mess rather better so Tantrum didn’t wind up looking as though there had been some fearful, crazed axe murderer aboard.

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Barbecuing the mahi mahi.

We didn’t try to catch all the sea life we saw, you may be relieved to hear. One evening as we sat up on the bow watching the sun go down and quaffing alcohol-free beers, I suddenly spotted a dolphin. The others had seen a few earlier in the day while I had been sleeping, much to my chagrin. However this time we were joined by a pod of maybe 25 or 30 who danced and played in the bow waves for perhaps half an hour, giving us a fabulous aquatic show. It was completely magical and a perfect end to that day. Sadly we didn’t see any others on the trip and neither did we see any whales, though we did look out for them.

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Sun-downers on the foredeck.

Days were mostly spent reading or just chatting when we weren’t adjusting the sails, sleeping or eating, but interestingly none of us really got bored. On night watches, I divided my time between checking for other vessels and possible approaching squalls, keeping an eye on wind speeds but also taking time to admire the stars, unspoilt by any light pollution. It was also a good time to catch up with my reading for uni.

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The chart plotter screen showing our course.

One night, I spotted another yacht on the chart plotter only about 12 miles away and was incredibly excited when it was identified on AIS as Explora, whose crew we had met and become friendly with in Tenerife before departure. I watched her gradually gain definition as we got closer, developing from a vague light on the horizon, to clear definition as daylight increased. I tried repeatedly to call them on the radio but got no response. I couldn’t work it out because by now they must have been able to see us as clearly as I could see them. Once when I was below, trying to figure out how to switch on the main radio, I thought I heard something on the handheld up at the helm but when I dashed up to respond, there was no reply. Frustrated and beginning to think I was doing something wrong, I eventually woke Steve. I knew he wouldn’t want to have passed so close to Explora and not made contact and sure enough, as soon as he heard the news, he was out of bed. Finally we made radio contact and although the transmission was a bit broken up, we managed to exchange news. By now everyone on board both boats was wide awake and up on deck. It was quite extraordinary to have passed so close to each other when Explora had set off 24 hours before us, (she was not part of the Odyssey,) and in all the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. We were very giddy and rather sorry to watch her fade into the distance as we pulled away.

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Explora and crew as they left Santa Cruz on 9th January: no picture of our mid Atlantic meeting as the light wasn’t good enough to make the auto focus work on the camera!

Another, less enjoyable drama concerned Del Boy. We had been slicing away morsels as tasty snacks between meals and as an alternative to the treats box of mini mars bars, lion bars etc. One afternoon, Steve suddenly spotted that Del Boy had visitors and without further ado he and his stand went to a watery grave. There was then a flurry of activity as we cleaned and disinfected the whole of that part of the galley where he had been living. We don’t know whether these unwanted stowaways came aboard as eggs with Del Boy, or joined him in Tenerife in the day or two after he was bought and before we set sail. One thing was certain: there were no insects out at sea so they had been with us for the duration of the trip. We were all revolted by the idea, some of us more traumatised than others. Nevertheless, none of us was ill and we’ve all lived to tell the tale. It was almost (but not quite,) enough to make me consider becoming vegetarian!

Later on the trip we spotted some tiny black flying insects aboard. Suspicious that they had hatched from eggs under the paper labels of the emergency bottled water supplies, Steve hauled all 80 litres out of the bilge. He then cleaned it all out while Duncan and Linda solemnly removed all the labels which we dumped overboard as biodegradable waste. This seemed to resolve the problem.

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Removing all the bottle labels.

Although we were a dry ship for most of the trip, Steve did relax this rule briefly when we reached what we reckoned was the halfway point when we opened a bottle of bubbly and had a little celebration! Apart from this however, the main indulgence was food. It was quickly realised that Duncan has a great weakness for sweet food and so treats from the goody box, intended to cheer those on night watch, had to be strictly rationed, as did the wonderful homemade cookies produced by Linda!

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Celebrating at the halfway point!

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Probably the most remarkable experience of the entire trip, as far as I’m concerned came towards the end of the crossing. Steve has a projector on board and had discovered on his watch the previous evening, that he could project a film up onto the mainsail, using his Bluetooth headset so as not to disturb the rest of us who were sleeping. He persuaded us to try watching Bourne Ultimatum, deck chairs set up on the stern and the volume booming out across the water to enable Duncan to hear it over the sound of the wash – well we weren’t going to disturb the neighbours were we? It was a truly surreal and rather magical experience to be skimming across the waves, the stars gleaming above in the blackened sky as Jason Bourne struggled to outwit his enemies. It is certainly a memory I will treasure for a long time but sadly none of the photos we took really came out.

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Waiting to be processed through immigration control in Bridgetown, Barbados.

After days of fairly sedate, downwind sailing, the winds picked up for the final stage of the trip and we found ourselves surfing down the four metre waves, rushing towards our final destination. Having decided that we probably wouldn’t make it to Barbados before 30th, it began to look as though we might come in a day earlier. In the end we crossed the finish line 5th out of 16 participants, at 6:30am on 29th. We then had to kick our heels until 8am when we were allowed to enter and tie up in the shallow draft harbour to be processed by immigration. Pascal and Pascale from the Cornell organisation were there to greet us, take photos and hand over a goody bag containing the mandatory bottle of Barbados rum.

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Another catamaran on the rally coming through the lifting bridge.

We then had to move round to the ‘marina’ which involved negotiating a fairly narrow entrance under a lifting bridge. The arrival was something of an anti-climax; Steve was unhappy with the berth, feeling we were too close to the quay and very dubious about the reliability of the buoys to which our bow mooring lines were secured. In addition we were all ridiculously tired so after a brief sojourn in a bar to send emails and make a few FaceTime calls, we all retired to bed apart from Linda, and slept until about 10pm by which time we were desperate for something to eat. Bridgetown on a late Sunday evening is uninspiring. In fact, to be honest it is fairly underwhelming most of the time. After tramping round the local area searching in vain for somewhere – anywhere to have something to eat, we gave up and retired back on board where Linda, bless her, donned her pinny once again and made hamburgers. We then all collapsed into bed again.

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Beach party for participants of the Cornell Transatlantic Odyssey.

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Linda and I posing at the beach party with Siona, daughter of the skipper of Bright Eyes!

Since then, we have found that most of the decent restaurants are not in Bridgetown itself, but on the outskirts and down the coast in St Lawrence Gap. We have met up with other participants of the Odyssey, been to a beach party organised by Cornell and spent time on the beach, swimming and relaxing, before retiring to beach bars for one or two pina coladas or rum and cokes! Duncan and I also had a fabulous morning scuba diving on a reef just offshore which was a delight. Overall, however, the little we saw of Bridgetown was something of a disappointment: dirty, impoverished and full of beggars and drunks yet everything is ludicrously expensive so it would seem that a few fat cats are making lots of money but not ploughing much back into the local economy.

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An extortionately expensive fruit and veg stall in Bridgetown where we paid £20+ for some apples, bananas and a couple of pineapples!

Duncan and I flew back to the UK on 3rd of Feb so that I can resume my university course. We left Linda and Steve planning to visit a bit more of the island, party with friends and consider their itinerary for the rest of their time in the Caribbean. We both enormously appreciate having had this opportunity to share their transatlantic crossing and we are deeply grateful for their kindness, generosity, tolerance and friendship. We wish them fair winds and safe travels for their on-going adventures.

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Steve and Linda partying in Barbados.

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And we’re off…

January 10, 2017

Finally, we’re off!
Right. In order to ensure that I don’t incur the further wrath of Mrs Jeckells (senior) because I haven’t written a blog recently and therefore she has no idea what here son is up to, this is to let you all know what we’ve been up to over the past few days.
Tantrum is currently in Marina Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Steve and Linda moved her there a couple of days after I left them. They then flew home to Christmas with their family before returning here for New Year. Julia and I them here on 4 January, flying out from Gatwick on easyJet. As has become our habit, we stayed in a Premier Inn at the airport before we flew out. We had spent Christmas at our niece Anna’s house with just about all the extended family and New Year with Naomi, leaving our car there.
Since we arrived on board, there’s been a succession of jobs to be finished before we sail as well as a plethora of briefings, seminars and social events to attend.
First off, perhaps it’d be a good idea to explain the Cornell Caribbean Odyssey. The event is organised by Cornell Sailing, a set up run by Jerry Cornell who seems to have spent most of his life sailing. The basic idea is that a group of boats, all of whom want to cross the Atlantic assemble in Tenerife where they are given guidance on ocean sailing, route planning, weather forecasts and the like. Cornell sailing also arrange marina berths both in Tenerife and in Barbados, along with help with the arrival formalities there. They also monitor yacht positions during the event and will assist with advice and sending aid if required in an emergency. There is a web page tracking the progress of boats, which will go live when we depart: http://cornellsailing.com/sail-the-odyssey/atlantic-odyssey/cbo-2017/track-boats/ 
 So, we depart on 10 January which is now less than 36 hours away. We’ve been doing work on Tantrum, including fitting a wireless remote control to the anchor winch, wiring the output from the AIS transceiver to the chartplotter so we can see others boats on the plotter rather than having to go below and look at the small display on the AIS itself. The end caps on the spreaders have been taped to minimise chafe and we’ve cleaned the boat above and below the waterline.
Victualling is nearly complete, with a freezer full of ready cooked meals as well as a considerable stock of fresh fruit and veg. We reckon on taking about three weeks to make the crossing and will eat fresh food for the first week or so and then move on to the frozen stuff. There’s a stock of canned food on board as well, should the freezer die on us and ruin the food. Whichever way you look at it, we won’t starve unless we take about two months to make the trip, which ain’t going to happen. 
In addition to all this, we’ve been to a seminar on long distance sailing. This was interesting as it gave us all the opportunity to think about how we will approach the crossing, given that it will be a good deal longer than any trip I’ve made up to now. Cornell Sailing will be sending us weather forecasts on a daily basis via satellite email and we learned how to access further information if we wanted it. Downwind sails were discussed in some detail as we expect to be downwind sailing most, if not all, the way across.  
Steve, Julia and I will be splitting the watches whilst Linda is running the galley. After listening to several different ways of approaching the business of keeping watch whilst getting enough rest, we have decided to start by mounting watches only overnight: during the day we will have an ad hoc watch keeper. Given that there are three watchkeepers, we have decided to do four hours on and eight off: in other words, one long watch a night. We will see how it goes.
Socially, we had a riotous night with the crew of a neighbouring yacht which started with a few drinks and ended post midnight after Linda served a wonderful meal scrounged up from stuff in the fridge. I think we drank just about all that wine and beer we had aboard…
Tomorrow will be busy, with final shopping to be done (including buying a reserve of bottled water), testing the satellite phone, fitting a new anode to the starboard saildrive leg and sundry other last minute tasks. We are expected to cross the start line as a fleet (there are 15 boats taking part) and the start is set for 10 am (at present, as there is a bit of a murmur going round the shift it a bit later…).
Once we are clear of land, all communications run via satellite: either the Delorme Intouch (text messages, free, preferred option) or via the Iridium GO phone (short emails, expensive), so this is probably the last post before we depart. I’m going to delay actual publication until late on 9 January so I can add an update just before we go.
That’s enough from me for now. The final update follows.
Final update. We left at 0950, made sail in the harbour and hoisted the code 0. Five minutes later we dropped it as the wind built. We are now heading south down the coast of Tenerife before heading south and west toward the Azores, to get into the trade winds. All looking good so far…

No pictures, not enough data bandwidth.

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Winter sun, at last!

December 12, 2016

Blog 10 Dec 16
Arriving in Gibraltar was, as they say, an emotional experience. Not only did we make it under sail but it marked our exit from the Med. At least, it would do so once we managed to leave the place…
There was a lot to do to Tantrum before we could sail as well as welcoming Linda on board. She had a flight booked to arrive on the Monday after we arrived, so we had a chance to catch up on sleep and clean the boat after what had turned out to be a very wet passage.  
Gibraltar is a curious place. You know that you’re not in UK: the style of buildings and the fact that they’re really set up for warm weather sets it apart but there’s a large Morrisons store, the currency is Sterling and the policemen wear pointy hats. So supper that night was typical pub stuff and lots of it! We then slept for the best part of twelve hours before blitzing the boat, doing several loads of washing and a significant Morrisons shop (cider, oh blessed cider by the trolley load).
Linda arrived the following morning as did the rain. In the meantime we’d arranged with a contractor to come and clean out the tank. I cleaned the separators again and fitted new filters, leaving them empty until we had new, clean fuel.  

In amongst the big boats. My only photo of Gibraltar. Did I mention it was raining whilst we were there?


The works list was mainly small niggles that we’d come across during the trip. I spent a good deal of time with my head buried in the electrical cabinet redoing some wiring as well as fitting a replacement inverter that Linda brought out. Meanwhile, Steve has been working away replacing bits of rigging that had chafed and similar jobs.
By Tuesday evening it had become clear that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate with an early departure. The winds were high and westerly/southwesterly with accompanying swell and they were sitting there for about a week. So I packed my bags and went home from Thursday to Sunday.
Returning on Sunday, the weather defeated the plane’s attempts to land at Gibraltar so I got to see the coast of Spain from Malaga to Gibraltar by coach. In the rain. After a good nights sleep and a full English breakfast we set sail for Tenerife. Into the rain. And the wind. And the swell.
Poor Linda, even though she was well dosed with Stugeron, suffered from seasickness for the first couple of days. Getting away from the straits and into less current made for a smother sea and with the wind generally behind us we made reasonable time down the coast of Morocco.
On a long passage like this, things do begin to get a bit samey. The watch rotations dictate the day with Steve and I doing three hours on and three hours off. We tend to eat a brunch at middle day and have our main meal in the early evening. At other times, we grab a snack as the mood takes us. Whatever we’re doing, it seems to be working for both of us as we’re loosing weight as we go: I’ve lost about 10lbs so far.

Sunrise over the Moroccan coast. No more rain!


With things becoming a bit routine, anything out of the ordinary tends to take on a significance beyond that normally expected. Small squeaks in the boat become enormous noises and have to be tracked down and cured. Now, as most of you will know, I’m just a little hard of hearing. So to join in this sport, I wear my hearing aids (suddenly becoming aware of all sorts of noises previously unheard) and Steve and I hunt down the squeak. Once located, we then discuss how to cure it. This can take some time, as all options are covered. In the end, the usual cure is applied and the squeak is pronounced fixed. The usual cure? A dose of bike chain lube. Why the discussion? Because there’s not much else to do…
Then there are the oddities. The unusual happenings. The flying fish arriving on the trampoline (chucked back by Steve before he though of fresh protein). The dolphins or porpoises coming to visit, sometime just one or two, sometimes more than can be counted. Some stay for a few moments, just checking us out, others will play round the boat for tens of minutes before disappearing as suddenly as they arrived.
The small birds that arrives, absolutely in the middle of the sea, on the route to nowhere. They’ll fly round the boat, land on for a few minutes and take off again to continue their trip. Once or twice, we’ve had them stay longer, with one of them taking up residence in the saloon for a short time. But we’ve not yet had a repeat performance of the one who arrived when we were en route to Sardinia on Rampage who spent the night roosting in the saloon before leaving after breakfast the following morning.
Those of you following us on the tracker website will have noticed how we’ve not been following a direct course to Tenerife. That’s for two reasons. Firstly, we decided a couple of days out that Lanzarote offered a nicer marina for Linda and Steve to stay at for a short time before leaving the boat in Tenerife. Secondly, we’ve been playing tactics with the wind.
Like all sailing boats, Tantrum sails best with the wind at right angles to the side. Called a beam or broad reach, this is the most efficient point of sail where we gain most speed from the wind. So, having studied the weather forecasts and watching the updates we get via satellite we shaped our course to take advantage of the forecast winds.
This meant we hugged the coast of Morocco, mainly keeping the wind on our port side going from astern. Not the best point of sail but quiet and reasonable sailing. For the most part we made about 7.5 – 8 knots through the water but found there was a one knot current running against us for much of the time. For the last day or so of the trip, the wind was forecast to swing round from the north east to the south, so our tactic of staying inshore gave us a broad reach across the last day’s sailing as we turned west towards the south of Lanzarote.
It’s amazing the people you meet as you travel under sail. On Thursday evening we picked up an AIS signal (in fact it was an alarm, warning us of a collision danger). We were totally perplexed, as there was nothing, absolutely nothing, to be seen on the bearing of the signal. Looking at the data from the AIS, it showed the craft sending to was 2 metres wide and 5 metres long: weird or what? And this is about 30-40 miles offshore. Then, as the light faded, we spotted a navigation light, so there was clearly something there.

A true madman in the best sense of the word. He is aiming to cross the Atlantic in this craft!


We were reluctant to close too quickly with the light, as this part of the world does see some people smuggling. So we called the craft on the radio. It turns out that it was a stand up paddleboard called Impifish and it was heading for the Canaries and then on across the Atlanti.  The one person on board is Chris Bertish who actually has better communications than we have as he politely refused our offer to make contact with anyone ashore. Steve asked him why he was doing it and the reply is a classic of its type: “No one’s done it before….”. We left him quietly paddling his way across 2000+ miles of ocean. It really does make our own venture seem positively sane in comparison.  You can find out more about the project here http://www.thesupcrossing.com/live/ .
The wind on this final bit of the sail refused to cooperate fully with us. Instead of the southerly/south easterly we had been promised by the forecasters we actually wound up with a easterly. This meant that we couldn’t maintain our course easily as the wind was putting us more or less dead downwind: Tantrum really, really doesn’t sail well like this. We tried a variety of things to keep moving at a reasonable speed. We tried the Code 0 but it wasn’t happy and kept collapsing. The we had a go with the cruising chute but that was equally moody. Then, in a moment of inspiration (or was it desperation?) we dropped the main and just used the chute, set well off to the port bow. That worked. We kept up a steady 6 – 7 knots under the single sail until the wind started to build and the light started to go.
The cruising chute has a wind speed limit of about 12 knots apparent wind and neither Steve nor I am very happy about flying it at night, as it’s a bit of a drama queen to recover it. So as dusk fell, we brought it into the boat and hosted both main and genoa and adjusted course to cope with the wind.
It was now clear that, in accordance with Sods Law, we would be arriving at Marina Rubicon, Lanzarote at about 5 or 6 in the morning. In other words, pitch black as the moon would have set by this time. And we haven’t got detail electronic charts of the area, just paper ones and the cruising guide. So, it would be a back to basic navigational approach into somewhere neither of us had visited before. And Linda was getting a little angsty about it, as Steve and I discussed the approach.

Tantrum’s route from Gibraltar to Lanzarote.


In the event, it was almost a none event as the lights on the quay appeared as marked on the chart, there was enough light from the town to show us the entrance and the on duty marinero directed us onto the easy berth of the waiting pontoon.
And that was that. It took us just over four and a half days to make the trip, we covered about 730 miles and arrived into a warm, dry place. A really nice change after Gibraltar.  
We had a few drinks on arrival and a good sleep before being asked to move onto an interior berth by the marina staff: their usual Saturday race was taking place and the pontoon was required by race boats.  
I’m writing the last part of this as I fly back to Exeter, having been lucky to get one of the last seats on the flight. With luck I’ll be in Falmouth by early evening. Steve And Linda will move Tantrum to Tenerife sometime later this week: I left him removing the starboard holding tank so he could access the skin fitting that we think is the culprit for the persistent minor leak into that hull.
Julia and I will rejoin Tantrum for the Transatlantic leg which will leave Tenerife on 10 January 2017. You can watch our progress, as before, via the Delorme website. I’m now looking forward to a rest from watch standing: I hope my sleep pattern returns to normal quickly and you won’t find me wandering the house at night, searching for the energy bar box and drinking innumerable cups of coffee. 

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Engines, sails and Gibraltar

November 27, 2016

Those of you who are on Facebook will know that Tantrum arrived in Gibraltar yesterday afternoon (26 November) after a two and a half day passage from Calpe. We’ve now travelled 1408 nautical miles (that’s 1619 statue miles) from Lefkas, taking almost exactly three weeks to make the trip. According to our deLorme inReach beacon, our maximum speed was in excess of 20 knots but no one aboard actually noticed that happening: we reckon that our maximum speed was actually somewhere round 16.5 knots as we slid down the face of a wave.
OK we’ve made it this far, so perhaps a bit of filling in on the details of how it was actually done would be appropriate.
The last blog ended with us sitting in Milazzo on the north coast of Sicily eating the fuel tank ‘cleaned’ after the dead engine saga. Having waited for the winds to sort themselves out in Milazzo once the tank hard been sorted was difficult. All on board just wanted to get moving again as we hadn’t made that much progress and we were all feeling a bit of time pressure.

Milazzo approaches. Looks better leaving than arriving.


Watching weather forecasts can become obsessional. No really obsessional. Like waiting with baited breath as the next one is due to be published so you can see if there’s been any changes since the last one. Coupled with the fact that there really isn’t much to do in Milazzo was giving us all a severe case of cabin fever.
So on 11 November the forecasts looked half way to reasonable, with the westerly winds decreasing and going round to the south, we reckoned that we could escape and head west. We left at about midday and as we cleared the harbour breakwater we could see from the the broken horizon that the swell from the wind hadn’t yet abated. And as we cleared the headland north of Milazzo we ran into the wind that was still driving the swell. With two – three metre waves and a force six wind, it was impossible to make any sensible headway. However, returning to Milazzo wasn’t on the option list. After a short discussion it’s decided to head 14 miles north to Vulcano where we could use the eastern anchorage to sit out the remainder of the wind. It took three hours or so to get there but the anchorage was quiet and empty.
The forecast was for the wind to die away by about 0300 on 12 November, so that’s when Tantrum weighed anchor and departed. Exactly as forecast, the wind had disappeared and the swell had moderated to a reasonable level, so we made good progress under motor towards Sardinia.  

Sunrise over Vulcano and mainland Italy.


Our passage plan was to head for Carloforte, a small island off the south west tip of Sardinia. If the weather was good, we would refuel there and continue on to Mallorca. If not, we would pause there until the weather improved. In the event, the weather remained as forecast with the winds building from the south. This meant we entered Carloforte on 15 November at about 1300 to refuel. The fuel berth is not in the main harbour but in the small boat marina just to the north. Now, Tantrum only draws 1.3 metres of water (compared to the nearly 2 metres Rampage draws); even so according to the depth sounder we had no water under the keel as we came into the berth. To compound this entertainment, the fuel station was shut so refuelling had to be carried out by filling jerrycans via the cash operated pumps and then syphoning the diesel into the main tank. Meanwhile, Bob walked along to the local shops and restocked with fresh food. An hour and a half later, we departed, heading for Mallorca.

The wonders of modern technology. Screen shot from Julia’s iPad of the Marine Traffic website showing Tantrum’s position of Carloforte after we had refuelled.


The winds built nicely from the north east and Tantrum showed a fair turn of speed on a reach. The log shows that overnight we maintained an average speed of 8 knots but the course we could maintain was tending a bit more northerly than was ideal. By the evening of 16 November we were getting close to the Balearics and had to decide where we would make landfall. Ideally, we would have liked to head to Ibiza but the winds had been such that our course was taking us to Mallorca.

In the end, we decided to anchor off San Jordi, a small town on the south eastern corner of Mallorca. We got there at about 0100 on 17 November and spent a quiet night there before setting off for Palma the following morning. The forecast had led us to think we’d be motoring but we picked up a nice northerly wind and sailed all the way round.

Linear squall between Sardinia and Mallorca. It got quite wet and windy once it was over us.


It had become apparent over the last few days that things weren’t going well with Bob. He had problems at home and wasn’t fitting in with Steve and I, so it was agreed that he would head home from Palma, leaving Steve and I to continue alone.
The time in Palma was spent doing a series of jobs that had come to light during the trip. I fitted additional primary fuel filters to the engines, along with priming bulbs to make life easier in the event of further fuel problems: a wise precaution in view of what was to follow. Once the job list was finished, we then played the same waiting game as before with the weather.
Eventually, we thought we could squeeze out of Palma against a mainly southerly wind towards Ibiza before picking up better weather towards the mainland. So on 20 November we left to carry through our cunning plan: Ibiza, on to Denia and thence to Gib.
The plan survived for about three hours before it became apparent that the wind wasn’t going to cooperate. There was far too much south and not enough east. We couldn’t make anywhere near enough ground to the south so settled on heading mainly west with the intention of anchoring in Portinax, a small (really small) anchorage on the north coast of Ibiza. Arriving there at 2300, the entry was made using radar to guide us into the cove before anchoring for the night. The wind was blowing a gale so we kept an anchor watch through the night before spending the rest of the day watching it rain. We didn’t bother trying to go ashore as the little town looked shut.

The rock at Calpe, our landfall on the Spanish mainland.


Like Vulcano, the wind was forecast to die away by the early morning, so we weighed anchor at 0300 on 22 November headed not for Denia as originally planed but for Calpe which was a little further south and west than Denia. A short hop for this trip, it was only just over 70 miles, we entered the harbour at about 1600 after motoring the whole way. After refuelling, Tantrum was berthed on the end of a pontoon in the marina. The local fishing fleet then returned to port en masse just as we finished: it was lucky that we arrived when we did as they blocked access to the fuel berth!
Calpe resembles Gibraltar and Monemvasia in as much as there is a large lump of rock joined to the shore by an isthmus. This is somehow appropriate as our next port of call would be Gibraltar. The passage plan showed 320 miles which should take us 36 hours or so to complete. Originally the intention had been to depart on 23 November but the weather was so foul (heavy, unrelenting rain and westerly wind) that we stayed put.
Once again putting our faith in modern meteorology we decided to set off at 0300 on 24 November. It turned out that the forecast was right so we ended up motoring for a large part of the trip, apart from the odd few hours when the winds obliged by getting up enough strength to make it worthwhile putting the sails up. However, by late Friday (25 Nov) the wind had settled into a sort of westerly which we could use as we headed mainly south at that stage. It was just as well that the wind had got up by this stage as we were nearing the bottom quarter of the fuel tank.
We were considering motoring into Gibraltar when we had about 30 miles or so to go. We were motorsailing at that point when with no ceremony or warning first the port engine quit and then the starboard one. Clearing the fuel lines is a drill I’ve got used to by now but it didn’t resolve much as both engines quit again within 30 minutes of me getting them going again.  
So we tacked into the wind, slowly gaining ground on Europa Point being held back by the wind and, a new thing for us, the TIDE! Eventually, we rounded the point in by mid afternoon. Now, one thing you need to be aware of in this entertainment is the sheer volume of marine traffic in the vicinity of Gibraltar. There are ships parked at anchor everywhere. Like dozens of them. It’s difficult to separate the icons on AIS display. Some of them are moving, others look as if they are but aren’t and mixed into all of this are the fast ferries from Spain to Morocco. And we were navigating through all of this under sail.  
OK, so power gives way to sail and all that but the practicality of these things is that 43 feet of catamaran is significantly easier to manoeuvre than 20,000 tonnes of bulk carrier. And frankly us being hit by a big ship is terminal for us but the big ship wouldn’t even notice us as we hit… That being so, we threaded our way through the Gibraltar bay anchorage and down into the marina, albeit that it is a bit like driving down the high street with no brakes.

A rain soaked view of Gibraltar. If you want a better set of pictures go to the tourist office website!


The entrance is a long channel, about 100 metres south of the airport runway. Easy enough as it was straight downwind and, thankfully, the wind had died somewhat he this point. Cue much dashing about by me, setting up fenders and mooring lines, whilst Steve helped and tried to raise the marina on VHF. We were actually inside the marina when they finally responded, telling us that our berth was in fact on the other side of the place. With fingers very firmly crossed, we started both engines and made our way to the berth though the pouring rain. I don’t mention that? It had been raining heavily for hours at this point and happily continued to do so for hours after we arrived.
Once moored, we discovered that much of the reason behind the silence from the marina was their lack of electrical power in the offices. The rain was the first they’d had for months and had flooded their sub station. The circuits for the pontoon power points were protected but the office wasn’t, so the berthing master was reliant on a handheld VHF which was on its last legs.

Our route to date. See text for more information about this tracking website.


Anyhow, after supper ashore of gargantuan proportions we turned in early. I didn’t really return to full consciousness until about 0930 the next morning, beaten by minutes by Steve. We had another enormous meal (full English breakfast) before doing not a lot as the rain persisted down. Late afternoon saw us deciding to brave the rain to visit Morrisons superstore: a somewhat surreal experience to find a complete British supermarket this far south, full of folks from Spain doing their shopping.
So, replete with sausage and chips with HP Sauce and a can of Magners to hand that’s the story of how we got to Gibraltar. Linda, Steve’s wife arrive tomorrow, so we look forward to some good cooking for a change whilst we seek out someone to clean the crap out of the fuel tank and Steve and I tackle a longish list of jobs before we are in shape for the next leg of the trip to Tenerife.
The weather forecast for the next week in our bit of the Atlantic is, frankly, pants so we are too upset about any delays likely to be caused by getting the jobs finished. It looks as if it might be possible to leave in about 8 or 9 days time but we will have to wait and see how things develop in the Atlantic. It’s about 6 days or so down to Tenerife and we have to do the trip under sail as we don’t carry enough fuel to do it on the moto, so we have to wait for the winds. Good exercise in patience. I will update once we are ready to depart.

A final note.  If you use this link  https://share.delorme.com/TantrumCruising it will take you to the Delorme page associated with our beacon.  When we are moving, the beacon sends a position message every 4 hours so you can follow our progress.  Enjoy.

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Mal de mare and engines.

November 11, 2016

Blog 9 Nov 16
As readers of this blog will know, winds is what dictates where you go and when you go in a sailing boat. Also, how fast you go and how pleasant the voyage is. So you will, appreciate the fact that this is a tail of the winds and the seas and just how not nice things can be.
I flew out of Newquay on Friday 4 November to Gatwick, spent a not unpleasant night in one of the Premier Inns there before catching the 0630 flight to Corfu on 5 November. I met the third member of our crew, Bob Bickerdike, in the check in queue, although we were not seated together. We were both expecting to spend a few days in Lefkas before setting off as the weather forecast was not looking good, with high winds from not really the right direction.

Waiting for the winds of change…


However, we emerged from baggage reclaim to be greeted by Steve and the news that he intended to set off that evening. Looking at the forecasts, it seemed likely that we could head to Messina and beyond on a single long tack from Lefkas. This would at least get us moving and put a few hundred miles on the clock before the weather truly clagged in.
So, after a trip by ferry and car (via Rampage to collect stuff) we were ready to depart by about 5pm, setting off south about between Lefkada Island and Meganisi. There was no wind (as expected) and we headed south, past the northern end of Kefalonia, where we picked up some wind. Holding as a course as far south as possible, we soon had two reefs in the main and genoa, heading somewhat further north than ideal but making anything up to 8.5 knots. The waves continued to build, as is to be expected. Moving on to two hours on watch and four hours off, we continued through the night.  
With the boat moving as much as it was, I would, normally have taken some sea sickness pills. However, I’d neglected to pick any up from Rampage and it turned out that there were none aboard Tantrum. So, as dawn broke, I was feeling rougher and rougher until finally I succumbed and started being sick. That continued for the next day or so… I spent my time lying on my bunk waiting to die, the falling asleep, waking up, being sick and repeat… Not much use to anyone 

Ferries and petrochemical works: the less picturesque side of Milazzo.


By about midnight on Sunday, the wind had started to ease, the motion of the sea had abated and I was about to rejoin the living. With the wind disappearing, we continued under motors. Then the port motor died. And restarted. And died. None of this was apparent to me in my befuddled state but things were made clear when Steve appeared in my cabin, summoning me to sort the engine out.
The sight glass on the fuel line was mucky but didn’t seem to be the dreaded bug (which tends to produce a sticky black grunge rather than the suspended crap in the sight glass). So, full of hope of a simple solution, I removed the fuel filter from the engine. I was slightly puzzled to hear a hissing noise for a few seconds but thought little of it. Then I found that the filter was empty. I fitted a fresh filter and tried to prime it with the lift pump, to no avail. At this point, my stomach was declaring revolt and I gave up for the night, reckoning that it was probably the lift pump that was the problem.
After a brief visit to the bucket, I retired to bed whilst we made slow progress under sail and motor towards Messina. The sea was calming down nicely and by mid morning I was approaching something like normal. I even managed to keep a Mars bar down. Result.
I was then pointed at the engine again. Thinking it through, the hissing noise from the night before showed a vacuum between the engine and the fuel tank. That could only be down to one thing: a blocked fuel pipe. So, after checking the pipe run and making sure we had some spare rubber fuel pipe aboard, I cut through the rubber pipe linking the tank to the copper pipe and used the scuba regulator as a source of high pressure air to blow through the pipework, both back into the tank and along through to the engine. This worked just fine, albeit that Steve was in the engine bay and got a bit of diesel spray. Once connected up again it took a few minutes work to prime the system with the lift pump and we had two engines again.
After a quick discussion, we agreed that if the port engine behaved itself, we’d carry on beyond Messina to Milazzo on the north coast of Sicily. If it didn’t, we’d go into Messina to get help in repairing it. 
In the event, the engine behaved itself and we passed through the dogem car ring that is the Messina Straits between Regio de Calabria and Messina. I think we must have timed our arrival to coincide with the departure time for a whole bunch of ferries because it was really quite exciting.
The winds round the northern end of the straits were, as they often are, confused and strong. We’d been carrying the mainsail up but had to drop it in a hurry at this point. The intention had been to sail but the waves left over from the previous days winds made being too far offshore uncomfortable, so we gave up on sailing and motored, arriving into Malazzo about midnight.
The CA Captains Mate app gave us some information on Malazzo. It advised us to try for a berth on the inside of the pontoons so as to avoid the wash from the ferries which use the port. No chance of that! We found a spot on the outside of the pontoons, moored up and had a bite to eat before getting some sleep.

The nicer side of the place! Town hall and Coast Guard station.


The following day (Tuesday) was spent going over the boat and sorting out anything that’d failed to work as expected or had got broken or worn during the trip. The sailbag had got a rip, which Steve repaired. The furling line for the genoa had broken, so it was replaced with a new one (its now a dyneema one, as that was the only 8mm rope to be had in Milazzo) and we sorted out some chafes on the reefing lines.
So that’s us up to date. We’re looking closely at the weather forecasts, trying out various passage plans. In an ideal world, the best plan would be to sail from here to Sardinia and then on to the Balearics and Spain. However, we may yet have to settle for a quick dash to Palermo on the western end of Sicily, wait there for a few days and then head either direct to Mallorca or to Sardinia. Whatever we wind up doing, we are stuck here for the next few days: Friday is the earliest we might be able to move.
Well. I thought that was to date but things never go smoothly do they? Having checked the filters for crud, we found them still contaminated. Clearly too much crud not to do something about it, so on Thursday a gang of Italians came and pumped out the tank, cleaned the fuel and put it back into the tank. Sorted. We thought. Then the starboard engine quit on us under test. Tried the remedy as before. Failed. Gave up in disgust at about seven pm. Luigi and his gang summoned for this morning.
We will escape tomorrow. On to Palermo then probably Mallorca if the weather holds.

Oh, and sea sick pills?  Found a tub of them in the bottom of the bag I picked up from Rampage!

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Puttng aboat to bed, then Gibraltar and Beyond

November 3, 2016

This blog is being written to let you all know just what will be going on over the next few months as well as letting you into the secretive world of the Byrnes in Cornwall. Not a vast quantity of boaty stuff but enough to keep you interested and not stray too far from the ethos of the blog (ie to be boaty).

So, first off the Byrnes in Cornwall. We are back in Pendra Loweth, the holiday development we have stayed on for the past two winters. We’ve moved house but not estate: now in number 91 as opposed to number 112. Its fairly weird, as its not the same house but it is identical to the last one and you keep getting these deja vu type moments.

Julia is fully back into student mode and is indulging in minor panics about getting work done on time. However, it’s nothing like as bad as the first year; she does seem to have realised that she can actually do the work in the time allowed. She has also become involved with the Mature Students Society (an oxymoron if ever I saw one) and has been arranging things like quiz nights.

I’ve been doing some work down at the gig club, as per last year and the supervets crew has started rowing together again. I also cox a renamed group out on a Thursday morning: no longer improvers, just a social row! If the weather keeps nice we intend to check out the local shoreside cafes for coffee and cakes.

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Lady J on her winter berth.

Lady J (my Hurley 18 project boat) didn’t suffer too much from neglect through the summer months and we’ve managed to escape on her for a couple of sails. Mainly fairly light winds, so no challenging sailing, just nice pottering about the Fal. I’ve now moved her on to a half tide berth (that’s a berth which only has enough depth of water to float her for half the time or less) near Devoran. The berth is such that a very high spring tide is required to get her on to it and last Wednesday was the last opportunity before my next adventure. She needs to be tucked up safe from the winter storms before that starts as I won’t be here to move her into a marina berth if a big storm threatens.

Which neatly leads me on to the my next big adventure. Regular readers will remember Steve and Linda off the catamaran Tantrum. Steve has decided, given that he is likely to be based in the Caribbean over the next few years, that it would make sense to have Tantrum there rather than Greece. He appealed for crew to make the trip and so I’ve agreed to help him sail the boat to Barbados.

I meet him and Tantrum in Corfu on 5 November along with a third crew member. Then, presuming the weather is OK, we will set off for Gibraltar and then Tenerife. Steve and Linda intend spending Christmas and New Year in Tenerife whilst I come back to UK. Early in January I will rejoin the boat and, all being well, we will depart for Barbados on 10 January as part of the Odyssey Rally. Julia will be joining us for this leg because, as she puts it, its a very big tick off her bucket list! She clearly had some well spent factime with the head of the English department over the weekend, as she has got leave of absence from her course.

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Tantrum in Lefkas. ¬†Note the logo on the bow: light winds sails also carry the logo but like 10 metres high….

During the trip, I will post blogs when we have access to the internet and time to write. I may resort to something a little more diary like as I suspect that I may not have much time to deliver the polished pieces of deathless prose that regular readers have come to expect. Indeed, if our experiences of making long passages is anything to go by, when we’re not at sea, I’ll be trying to catch up on lost sleep.

That said, Tantrum carries a deLorme intouch satellite communicator. This cunning little device transmits our position regularly and plots our course on a website. I will post the link to the site shortly on facebook so you can follow our day to day progress along with pithy comments (the gadget has a texting capability so as can send short messages).

So, now you know why I needed to find Lady J a safe winter home: it’s because I won’t be here to look after her during the winter months. The trip up to Devoran went well albeit at an hour I’ve tried to believe was fictional since retiring. Julia dropped me at the sailing club with the beaching legs at 0630. I rowed out to Lady J in the dinghy, loaded the legs on board and set off into the growing light.

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Under sail early October.  Glorious day on a crowded Fal estuary.

I had no trouble finding Restronguet Creek which was nicely full of water. High tide at the entrance to the creek was due at 0812, so I was aiming to be at the berth by about 0750 or so. I’d laid out mooring lines the day before and Julia was bringing the car round to meet me and take lines from me. I actually arrived on time but J was running a few minutes late: no worries, the lines I’d laid the day before worked perfectly and there was just enough depth of water to get Lady J into the berth. It then too us about 40 minutes to fit the berthing legs and adjust the mooring lines, by which time the boat was firmly aground in her safe berth.

Well, that’s it. The next entry on this blog will be from either Corfu (if the weather’s pant and we have to wait for it to clear) or the Aeolian Islands (if the weather’s good and we make good time).

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The weather and farewell.

September 2, 2016

This will be our last blog from Greece this year (unless something really dramatic happens between now and when we lift out next Friday). Our last blog was about doing a bit of work (nasty four letter word, which I abhor) and meeting friends. As I published it, we were setting off for Kastos for a final visit of the season. The blog is focused on the weather. You’ll see why.

Jellyfish in Vliho Bay -‘its about the size of a carving dish! Yet another reason not to swim here.

 

We prefer to anchor free, swinging round the anchor as the winds change. Many reasons for this: it’s much easier to do than putting lines ashore, the wind always blows through the boat, there’s no danger of RATS and you get a nicer class of people anchoring. The downside is that it takes more space and you need to be aware of where the wind is coming from now and where it’s likely to come from later.
Kastos, one of our favourite places is a good anchorage but exposed to the south and east. So you can’t stay there if the wind is going to come from the wrong directions. We were there when we awoke to some iffy cloud formations and a worrying forecast. So we bugged out to Vliho, where the anchorage is huge and the holding is cement like. The trip there was entertaining: most of it under reduced sail at abut 6.5 knots, the last 3 miles on the engine directly into what had become a force 8 wind (that’s a gale for the non boaty types).

Boat fire in Nidri: a mobo caught fire (rouge bbq apparantly) and the fire rapidly spread to a neighbouring. sailing boat. Both total losses, burnt to the waterline.

Weirdly, the wind completely disappeared as we passed Nidri on our way into the bay and didn’t really get up again too much for the rest of the night, although there were rumbles of thunder and lightening all round the hills surrounding the bay.

The next day was much the same, although we heard from friends a few miles away that they’d been (and still were) sitting out 40mph+ winds for much of the day. Again, as dark fell we could see clouds lurking all round with the occasional flash of lightening. But hey ho, we were happy with our anchor and were on the point of thinking of going to bed when the threatened wind arrived with a bang. From flat calm to 35 mph+ in the space of about 30 seconds. Cue meerkat impressions from the companionway, followed by a rush to don waterproofs, start the engine, turn on the anchor winch and generally battens things down.

Main(ish) street on Gaios.


I’d gone below to do stuff when I heard J talking. Now, she often talks to herself so I wasn’t too perturbed. Then I realised that she was actually talking to someone else! In fact two someone’s: John and Gilly off Riverdancer. They’d been out for supper and their outboard had failed on the way home as the wind hit. They were both soaked, so we got them on board and waited out the wind.  

One of the features of Gaios is the surprising large population of well fed and totally relaxed cats, as well as a coupke of geese who regard the main square as theirs. No, don’t argue, it’s theirs. OK?


Given that their motor was a bit dodgy, I decided to escort them back to their boat once the wind had gone down. No problems with the engine but their boat had dragged its anchor some distance downwind. The whole thing was over in about two hours but it took us another couple of hours to unwind before we could sleep.  

Two Rock Bay. There were another four boats here but easy to ignore them!


The winds continued to be gusty and unpredictable for the next few days, so we stayed put, before we headed north to Gaios via Preveza. Gaios is a lovely little port and we had hoped it would have quietened down a bit as it was getting towards the end of August. No such luck: still very busy and competing to hold the next round of the world anchor knitting championships. And boy, is it expensive in comparison to further south,so after a few days we headed for sanity and Vonitsa. We went by way of an idyllic little anchorage called Two Rock Bay, which we haven’t visited since we did our sailing course in 2008.  

Another picture of Two Rock Bay, looking west towards Paxos.


We planned to stay a few nights but, guess what, the weather forecast was iffy again. It’s a tiny place and has a narrow entrance so not somewhere to wake up in the middle of the night to find that the wind has gone round and built up.  So that’s why we’re now at anchor back in Goat Bay off Vonitsa. The threatened and forecast weather hasn’t really materialised but it still looks dark and nasty over the hills.

It’s our 38th wedding anniversary today. A steak dinner is planned in celebration, although we aim to have dinner in Pano’s next week after we lift out as well.  

Julia suddenly got taken all arty and made this weird scuplture from pegs….

And that’s it from Rampage this summer. We will post again if there’s enough boaty stuff to make it worthwhile over the winter but, for the moment fair winds and safe home.