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View from the guest cabin on Rampage…

September 11, 2017

This blog has been written by a recent guest on board, Julia Webb-Harvey (thankfully, better known as Jules….).

Duncan and Julia made the generous offer of a week on Rampage at the Flushing & Mylor Gig Club auction of promises… To cut a long story short, Sarah won the bid, and I got to travel with her, as her partner had his fill of small cabins in the Royal Navy. His loss; my gain. The thing that unites the four of us is gig rowing, so it was a leap of faith for all of us to swap oars for sails, and see if we could rub along for a week (the average rowing session is about 90 minutes).

Rampage dressed overall in Argostoli.


 Rampage was positioned in Argostoli to tie in with our flight arrival. There was no evidence of the horrors of her passage south when we first set eyes on Rampage, she was resplendent dressed overall. It made for a perfect start to the week, with the evening lost to pouring over charts, and pouring out of wine.. as well as provisioning and a boat briefing by the skipper. Yours truly is no stranger to sailing, but shipmate Sarah had lessons in marine toilets and the importance of water conservation (we were later awarded TOP guest points on the latter, which delighted us both, and yes, we did shower!). Sarah had ideas of learning to sail, but gave that up in the face of her other objective, to work down through the SPF factors and tan herself on the foredeck. I wanted to be as useful as I could be, knowing that folks who sail oft and long together develop a slick operation, where words are few. Duncan and Julia make no exception to this, and I was a handy pair of hands when asked.

Like any sailing I’ve ever done, there are aspirations and there are realities. I had sailed in the Ionian before (in 2004, when Greece hosted the Olympics), but couldn’t quite remember where I’d been (and I forgot to check my journal before we set off). Argostoli is a functional place, and after we’d seen ‘the’ turtle, we’d just about exhausted the highlights. Duncan and Julia were keen to take us to Kastos, one of their favourite places for cruising.

 In the week that we were there, the wind didn’t blow that much. Obviously it had exerted itself on the days before our arrival. The winds did their August thing, with afternoon sea-breezes, unless weather was lurking. It didn’t really suit the other ambitions for the week – swimming in the sea. That was my request, as a novice swimmer (only having learnt in 2002, I lack confidence in the sea). This demand on the schedule asked for lunch-time anchorages, or nights at anchor so that we could max out on water-time. This didn’t accord with the optimum time for actual sailing. In the week, we probably sailed, with the big white flappy things, for five/six hours. Good job Rampage has a decent engine!

Rampage on the quay in Poros, Kefalonia

Anyway, we spent a night in Poros, on the eastern flank of Kephalonia, a charming little port. The wind was forecast to give us a nice beam reach as we came around the southern end of Kepahalonia, but it failed to make the appointment. In fact, whilst having a ‘we have arrived’ drink in the Taverna, we watched the wind line advance across the sea, with a running swell that would have made the anchorage outside the harbour wall a little lumpy. Duncan cooked on the COBB (does the job) for supper, and we enjoyed pork slouvaki and salad in the cockpit of Rampage.

Sunrise on Kastos.


We motored to Kastos, with no interest from the wind. The sea was glassy, and a haze draped the islands and the mainland. Too darn hot. All of us flopped in the sea when we arrived and had safely anchored. The first time the anchor dragged on the weedy bottom, but the second bite, well, we weren’t going anywhere. Kastos was a reminder for me of one of the best things about sailing. It tucks you into places that you wouldn’t get to easily otherwise. Kastos isn’t on a big ferry route, as there really isn’t much there… in a very good way. It is unspoilt, and unfussy.

Sarah and I fell in love with Kastos, and we voted to have two nights there. The wind, of course, arrived on the second day, but we had other things to do. Sarah had baking to do, and Julia, Sarah and I mounted a snorkelling expedition along the coastline. On the first morning, we rose with the sun and the three girls walked around a path on the northern perimeter of the island, seeing no one until we headed back into Kastos town. Duncan came to meet us, and we had the most delicious frappe as reward for our efforts.

 From Kastos it was another motor to Aberlike (Meganisi), a stunning anchorage in a kind of inlet, with the land either side thick with shrubs. Not magnificent snorkelling, and even swimming had its risks as trip boats, jetskis and rental boats bombed up and down. Fortunately they all disappeared with the ebb of the day, and we were left to a perfectly still night. We walked across the headland to provision in the little town, and avail a little cafe of its wifi. It was there I was reminded that the wind is the real determinant of routes. We had made plans over breakfast to head for Kioni, Ithaca. A place that I remembered, and adored, from sailing in 2004. Mid-way through his strawberry milkshake, Duncan announced that the wind was interfering with our plans. Not really for the day, but for the remaining days of the trip. We needed to be tucked up somewhere safe from the weather that was fast approaching. When do we need to leave, I asked. “Four hours ago,” came the response. No time for lolling about, and no wonder there were clouds in the sky. There was weather coming.

 It wasn’t Ithaca we headed to, but Sami, back on Kephalonia. It meant a long day at sea (well, six hours), but we all respected the Skipper’s decision. The channel between Ithaca and Kephalonia was as I remembered – we always found wind (although I seem to remember that it was mostly beating into it). This wind was chasing the sea, making for a lively broad reach down the channel. It never ceases to amaze me that a boat takes on personality when at sail. Whinchat (our Rustler 42) is slow to accelerate in light winds, and then nestles into a running sea as the wind and waves build. Rampage, being lighter, has a livelier response, like a dog that’s been told its going for a walk, but you can sense the delight in being able to do what its supposed to. Ride, roam and be free. It was the highlight of the sailing part of the week, although not necessarily the highlight of the week,

 We made Sami a couple of hours after ideal berthing time, all of us slightly anxious that there would be no room. There’s always room, and the dream-team of Duncan and Julia nestled Rampage into a gap along the town quay. It felt incredibly busy after the remote anchorages, but we were all slightly de-mob happy that we were where we needed to be. Of course that meant a celebratory beer… and plans for the remaining day or so.

Dragouraki cave: the chair gives you some idea of scale!


 The last day wasn’t what any of us would have predicted, but it was a fitting end. That weather? Well it arrived bang on schedule, with the mother of all rainstorms and squally winds. Rampage was usurped by an underpowered Seat, which took us to places inland. The astonishing Drogarati caves (just outside of Sami), a superb lunch somewhere in the heartlands of Kephalonia, and then the idyllic Asos, where the girls had the last swim of the trip.

Assos, a lovely place for a swim.

 As to those highlights? Well, one of them is the effect that a week on Rampage can have on a girl… It comes highly recommended. Seriously, most of the items recorded here are highlights, but the best is the feeling that we have made new friends, and that those friendships will continue and grow over the winter months ahead when we’re all back in Cornwall.

 Thank you Duncan, Julia and Rampage.

 Before and after…

Sarah and Julia: before and after being Rampaged….

Julia Webb-Harvey

Www.whinchatter.com

(For anyone wanting to read about sailing a Rustler42)

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Excitements at Sea

September 4, 2017

We were expecting guests aboard for the last week of August and had decided to sail to Argostoli on Kefalonia to meet them. The journey to Argostoli from Corfu took several days but all went well – initially. From Gouvia marina we went to Petriti on the southern end of Corfu island, and then on to Preveza. Next day we headed down through the Levkas canal, (now marked with posh buoys all the way down the channel,) and on to Abelike where we felt we could afford to spend a couple of nights. Whilst there we were delighted to meet up with our lovely friends Marilyn and Otto and joined them for a meal at Minas restaurant, before heading on to Poros.  

Note the smart new navigation buoys on the approach to Lefkas canal.

On 22nd August we set off on the final leg of our journey, round the southern coast of Kefalonia. We were quite relaxed as we set off, expecting a five to six hour trip. As soon as we rounded the bottom of the island we started to encounter significant swell and we could see wind approaching. We should have turned round as soon as we realised that the wind was almost straight on the nose but we decided to see how much progress we could make on a tack. We were somewhat surprised to find we were making reasonable ground so we pressed on. Gradually the wind built and we needed to reduce sail and it was at this point that things began to go wrong. The sail would not reef properly and we then realised that a bowline on the first reefing line had come undone and the line had disappeared inside the boom. Great! This was going to be a fun job to sort out at a later date. In the meantime we put in the second reef. Before long we were sailing with three reefs in the main and a pocket handkerchief of foresail.  

We were towing the dinghy which is never good in such circumstances but when we attempted to heave to, in order to haul her onboard, it was simply blowing too hard and we gave up – foolishly, as it subsequently turned out. Despite the weather, by 5pm we could see the airport near Argostoli. However getting to the town involved making our way up a channel down which the wind was now funnelling with ever-increasing ferocity. We came to the conclusion we weren’t going to make it – or at least not in daylight. We took the depressing decision that, despite by this time having been sailing for seven hours and being virtually within sight of our destination, that we had no alternative but to turn and run before the wind – all the way back to Poros, ☹️.

It was at this point that things completely deteriorated. I was at the helm and succeeded in making an unintentional gybe – a risk when sailing downwind and never good. The boom went crashing across to the opposite side of the boat and the windward sheet of the foresail caught round a cleat making the sail impossible to bring under control. Thankfully Duncan managed to sort that but by now the two foresail sheets were thoroughly twisted round each other and more to the point, steering was becoming quite a struggle, so we made the decision to drop the sails and motor. However, in order to drop the main, we were forced to turn up into the wind and doing so caused the dinghy to flip. It was at this point that the dinghy painter finally gave up the unequal struggle.

Thankfully we spotted that the tender had gone AWOL almost immediately and Duncan had the presence of mind to press the man-overboard button on the chart plotter. In order to attempt to retrieve the dinghy we first had to furl the foresail, albeit leaving the twisted sheets to be sorted later. Then, with the help of the chartplotter, we managed to spot the upside down dinghy amid the fairly considerable waves. After several attempts and the loss of one boathook, the handle of which came off in his hand, Duncan managed to snag the bridle and with some considerable effort, to raise the dinghy out of the water on a pulley system we have on the stern. Much relieved we then turned back towards Poros and I went forward to sort out the tangle of foresail sheets.  

We were looking at probably another three to four hours in fairly rough seas and we were both pretty weary by this stage so when we saw various boats at anchor near Pessades we decided to check it out. To our relief, in five metres of water over a splendid sandy seabed, (good holding for the anchor) we finally managed to stop, have something to eat and collapse into bed.

Entering Argostoli harbour on 23rd August


Next morning the sea had merely a gentle swell which vanished to flat calm as we came into Argostoli. After some breakfast D was able, with the aid of a broom handle and a fishing hook, to retrieve the reefing line from inside the boom. However, we resolved that our guests would to return to the airport by road at the end of their visit.  

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Following in Lawrence Durrell’s Footsteps

September 4, 2017

The bust of Durrell in a small park in Corfu town


We returned to Greece on 31st July and spent the next few days relaxing and regrouping in the anchorage at Vonitsa, before making the decision to head up to Corfu. We’ve been there many times before but I very much wanted to revisit various places and take notes and photos as groundwork for a university assignment which will be based on Lawrence Durrell’s book about Corfu, Prospero’s Cell. However, our first attempt to head north had to be abandoned after five hours due to engine problems. We decided to return to Preveza where we were certain to be able to get assistance if needed. Just as we made the decision to turn round the wind picked up, as it generally does here in the afternoon, so we were somewhat consoled for the abortive trip because we had a really splendid sail all the way back into the anchorage.
Thankfully Duncan was able to get a new alternator regulator in Preveza the next day. Having fitted the replacement he then wanted to make a short trip, just to confirm that all was well and the engine was running properly. Thus back we went yet again to Vonitsa which is only about an hour and a half from Preveza as opposed to five or six to Gaios.

The colonnade in Corfu town which Durrell knew well and spent much time


Eventually we made it up to Corfu and spent a couple of nights anchored off the citadel so we could potter round Corfu town. We then heard via Facebook that other friends were at anchor off Gouvia marina. Since we planned to go into the marina for a couple of days anyway while we rented a car, we set off to find them. We had thought we would go straight into the marina and then contact them and arrange to meet up. Once again, however, fate had other plans. Unbelievably there was no room in the enormous marina so we decided to drop the hook in the anchorage while we regrouped and decided what to do next. We were not willing to leaving Rampage at anchor while we swanned off round the island by car so it began to look as if we would have to abandon the whole idea. We did think perhaps we might be able to go and anchor off Kalami, (one of my planned destinations,) but in the meantime we got together for a delightful reunion with Lynne and Jan Zielinski which was great compensation! 

Duncan then had the idea to book into the marina online and sure enough, a couple of days later we were safely installed just in front of the office, our accumulated washing dropped off at the laundry and a car booked for the next couple of days. Success!   


The next day just happened to be a public holiday (15th August,) so when we arrived in Kassiopi I didn’t recognise the place. In contrast to our previous visits made during the winter we spent on Corfu, the place was wall-to-wall holidaymakers and, quite frankly, fairly ghastly! I could not reconcile this noisy, hectic bustle with its innumerable tavernas and shops of dayglo-coloured tourist paraphernalia with Lawrence Durrell’s descriptions of diving to investigate an ancient well in the crystal waters of an idyllic little harbour. Much has changed on Corfu since the 1930s although this is not particularly evident from the photo below of the harbour.

Duncan, who doesn’t do crowds and was only there on my account was becoming increasingly morose, and when the church let out its exuberant congregation at midday, the noise factor increased as if someone had turned up the volume control. I persuaded him we should stop for a bit of lunch before heading back to Kalami where Durrell had his house. Lunch, luckily, turned out to be excellent and was further enlivened by the arrival of half a dozen priests in festive mood sporting a variety of beards and stomachs from the sparsely disappointing to the truly magnificent. At one point, apparently spontaneously, they all burst into song at which point all conversations paused momentarily while the other diners grinned at each other before resuming their chatter. We both felt more cheerful as we headed back to the car and Kalami.

Kassiopi harbour


We have anchored in Kalami bay more than once and have always thought it was beautiful. This time however, I felt disappointed somehow. Again, maybe I wanted to see it through Durrell’s eyes and the ugly hotel on the hillside and hundreds of umbrellas that carpet the beach really jarred. I did watch a young man drive off the rocks just below Durrell’s house and it occurred to me that he was very similar to photos I’ve seen of Durrell as a young man. His re-enactment of something Durrell himself must have done hundreds of times was a bit eyrie.  Now, as I write this post, I realise that I didn’t take any photos of Kalami, although I did take a few notes.  We didn’t stay long.

The rare sight of a near-empty beach at Paleokastritsa


We resolved that in order to avoid the worst of the crowds in Paleokastritsa, we would go there first thing.  This time we were more successful and arrived before the first of the coaches, while the little beach in the bay was nearly empty of people. We spent a couple of hours wandering round and taking photos and notes until the cars started to clog the single road and irritated drivers began to sound their horns. Time to leave. Next day we headed back south, to make our way, by degrees to Argostoli.  

I’m grateful to Duncan for allowing me to make the trip up to Corfu and whilst I was disenchanted by the unrelenting commercialism and the crowds everywhere we went, I recognise that parts of the island, (especially inland) are still lovely and the Greeks have every right to make as much money as possible during the very short tourist season. I’m just selfishly grateful that I have been privileged enough to be able to enjoy it during low season.   

Western coast of Corfu, just south of Paleokastritsa

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An update

August 23, 2017

Blog to 31/07/17
We left you nearly two months ago, just after relaunch in late June. After a night in the anchorage off Preveza we headed south, planning to go down the Levkas canal. However we mis-timed things, so we were going to have a longish wait for the bridge opening at the northern end. There was a good north-westerly so we had a quick conference and decided to sail round the west coast of Levkada island. We had a great sail, getting into Sivota on the southern end at 7:30 that evening.
We discovered the next day that we had a problem with the throttle control but thankfully Duncan was able to sort it out since Simon, the local engineer in Sivota, wasn’t going to be able to help for several days.
For the next couple of weeks we revisited several of our favourite haunts: Abelike, Kastos and Vonitsa, managing to meet up with several sets of friends, including Clive and Ruth aboard Mr Whiskers and (briefly) Mike and Sandy aboard Eos. Incidentally, while we were still in the yard, we manage to meet up with our old friend, David Cosgrave who sailed with us for about two months when we first left the UK in 2009. He was on his way with a friend to Crete aboard his own yacht and we managed to meet up for a drink. Getting together with different friends, sometimes after several years, is what makes cruising such a fantastic way of life.
We decided not to head off round the Peleponese this summer because we knew Duncan’s mother probably did not have very long to live and we wanted to be near an airport. Sure enough, barely two weeks after relaunch, we had a message from his sister advising us to return home. We booked tickets on the next available flight out of Preveza the same evening, originally thinking we would return to Ionion yard and have Rampage lifted out of the water whilst we were away. However when we made our way back to Preveza we were swiftly disabused of that idea – the travel lift was completely booked up for the next several days. Not a problem, we thought and wandered round to Cleopatra marina instead – full. This was a blow but we immediately phoned Preveza marina instead, only to be told that they too were full but perhaps if we rang again tomorrow….? We were due to fly the next day so by now we were starting to worry. We phoned Levkas marina only to be told very firmly that bookings were not accepted over the phone and we must use their online booking system so we hastily got online and fired off a request before going to anchor off Preveza feeling distinctly anxious. We were not sure how long we might be in the UK and Duncan was not content to leave Rampage on a quayside for several weeks. We resolved to go into Preveza marina in person, first thing in the morning, explain our predicament and hope for the best.
Accordingly, the next morning saw us heading for the marina in our dinghy. Initially we were told by the woman in the office, much to our dismay, that she didn’t know if they had a space and would we please return in two hours? By now we were starting to feel desperate but thankfully at that moment one of the marineros walked into the office and as soon as he understood that we ourselves would not be aboard, he said they could find room for us – huge relief! Once safely installed in the marina, the rest of the day was spent packing and putting Rampage “to bed”. 
We were three and a half weeks in UK. This is not the place to describe our time there in detail but thankfully we were home in time to say goodbye to my remarkable mother-in-law of nearly 40 years.

Sorry, no pictures this time, not really got any.

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Here we are again

June 20, 2017

So, we thought we’d got it all planed out. Leave the car with a friend in Cambourne, hire car to Gatwick (via a couple of nights at Naomi’s) and a ghastly early morning flight from Gatwick. A week to sort out all the winter’s worth of jobs on Rampage and back into the water a week later. Sorted.

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No barnacles here then….

Only its never like that is it?
Learning from past experience, we did try starting the engine before we were due to be relaunched. Just as well we did, as it refused to start. So The Mechanic was summoned: he appeared later that day (Monday before launch day Wednesday) and did his usual poking and prodding; he emerged with the exhaust elbow in his hand. This is the bit that mixes the cooling water with the exhaust gas, keeping the exhaust cool so it doesn’t melt the rubber exhaust pipe. It’s meant to have a hole in it about two inches across. Naah, accumulated crud from 6 years work (last time I looked at it was back then) had reduced it down to about the diameter of my thumb. The Mechanic took it off to try and clean it but he and I both knew it was the end of the line for this one: they’re made of cast metal and eventually will wear too thin to be cleaned up again.

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Rampage out of her element just about ready to relaunch.

The Mechanic reappeared half an hour later, looking doleful. Knackered elbow, new one required. They have them in stock in Athens. Usually takes two days to get here. Hmmmm, not looking good for a Wednesday relaunch then. Followed The Mechanic down to the office, where I cancelled our launch slot.
The following day (Tuesday) we were due to hand the hire car back at midday, so we aimed to do some last minute shopping, lay in food for a couple of days and get our new cruising permit sorted from the Port Police. So, bright and early I visited the PP office to start the process whilst J went off in search of buttons or something.

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The view from one of the geocaches we found on Lefkas, looking down toward Meganisi.

Clearly, 9 am is the time to do business with the PP, as the office was empty and I was swiftly told what I had to do and where I had to go to do it. Fill in forms, get photocopies of various documents, visit the Town Hall to get a tax payment chitty (no Greek tax number and online account,so this is a special arrangement for furriners). Then take the chitty to a bank and pay 50 Euro, then back to the PP.
That little lot took me about an hour. So back to the PP office, to find it full of folks all trying to do the same thing as me. Because the boat and buses from the Aktio yards had all dropped off folks who had by now arrived at the office, needing to get finished by midday so that they could get back to catch their buses/boots back to Aktio.

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After our second visit here (first was two years ago) we finally found the cache! Looking back towards Parga.

Ho hum. Eventually, our turn came. Because we were good people and had done everything we were meant to do and (importantly), in the right order it took only a few minutes before we left the office clutching our new permit with dire warnings hanging over our heads about making sure it was stamped again BEFORE one year had gone by.
Then a rush back to the yard to drop J off at the boat before handing the car back in at the airport. Note no shopping. How sad. We ate at Panos again that night.
The waiting game then began. No sign of the elbow on Wednesday (just as well we cancelled the launch), nor on Thursday. It appeared on Friday and No barnacles here then….. The Mechanic fitted it in minutes few. Julia visited the office and took the first launch slot still available: the yard is busy just now as quite a few folks are lifting out before they return north to avoid the heat and crowds of July and August. Our slot was 3 pm Monday, so we had weekend to kill and not much, if anything left to do on the boat. So what to do?
In the end we hired a car again and spent a couple of days doing some geocaching; drove miles, found a few caches and ate lots of ice cream and generally escaped from the dust pit that is Ionion Boat Yard.
Launch time came round early: we were expecting the crew at 3 pm, they arrived at 2.30 to find us still doing, well not a lot. So the business of removing power cables and hoses and so forth delayed things until 3 pm, when we watched Rampage make her at through the yard and into the sea. It is always a little nerve wracking watching your boat being moved on land and always a relief when she is finally back in the water.

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Sunset over the Preveza anchorage after we finally launched!

This time there was the added complication of some work we’d had done over the winter. Rampage, in common with many modern boats, doesn’t have a traditional propeller shaft, she has a saildrive. This is an arrangement which has a structure somewhat like an outboard motor leg sticking out through the bottom of the hull. It is sealed by a diaphragm which has to be replaced every now and then. Rampage’s was done by The Mechanic, so we needed to check all was OK before we left the launch dock. All was OK,as was the new elbow.
Oh, the chart plotters then decided to throw their bit into the mix be refusing to find a GPS signal. Ho hum, navigate by eye and depth finder over to the anchorage off Preveza to join up with all the others doing as we were: fitting sails, fixing bits and pieces before setting off for other places.
We got up early this morning and fitted the mainsail, discovering a small tear in the foot that we repaired before carrying on with the job. It went well: in other words only one reefing line was incorrectly routed requiring it to be redone.
Tomorrow we head south to wherever. Watch out for updates as we go.

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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! 😉) 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.