Friday, 26 December 2014

…...well, at least we're moving...

and so it became both the mantra and epitaph of this trip and this life. But first the trip.
Toots in her sea-berth logging up 66,000 miles

We left Rosario on Sunday 23rd Nov with a favourable forecast. For the first week or so we made good progress south and then edged toward the SW as we worked away from the Canaries toward the Verdes and the hoped for steady Trades. I'd been looking at Passage Weather since we'd been on the Guadiana and the winds seemed consistent; perhaps not 20knots but steady enough for us to log 110 -120 mile days. 

Good enough to knock us along at 5k+ & get power

By the first week of Dec those daily runs began to drop by 20 miles or more. Boats from the ARC had passed us and we garnered weather info from them. Nothing exciting and we carried on. By the 3rd week we appeared to have entered an area of high pressure and daily runs dropped to 40-60 miles. Drifting at night obviously helped keep the figure low and we tried motoring during the day but found the heat build up in the saloon unacceptable. 
A great anchorage - unfortunately this is mid-Atlantic

A difficult time. We had kept up a south of destination course but obviously we weren't far enough south as we were still N of 17. At times the weather became very humid and 30 knot squalls would savage us for several minutes before disappearing leaving us wallowing in a slop with 5 knots of wind for company. In the first week when winds were at their strongest we had pulled the cringle out of a headsail than our friend Tony had given us; and the repairs we'd made to the genny had been similarly trashed. We repaired both but were now loath to leave anything up that couldn't deal happily with 30k gusts. Some of the downpours during those squalls were something else – monsoon like but just a tad cold to stand out there and shower. Not so now me thinks as we're south of 16 and it is hot. The latest info we got from a ship this morning suggests we should get E10 to E18 over the next 5 days. We'll see.

As with all things eventually we made the trip across. We had planned to go to Antigua to meet up with my sisters, one of whom was flying home on the 28th and the other sailing south the same day. When days slipped by our destination was changed to Martinique, as the arrival procedure has been greatly simplified. Once in phone contact again we sent out texts warning them of our non arrival. With sunset around 6pm we opted to anchor off St Anne for the night after 32 days at sea. Later that evening we got a text saying the sailing sister wasn't in fact leaving until the new year and why didn't we come up anyway....... The following day we left for the 173 mile trip to English Hbr but temperamental winds and very slow progress had us finally abandoning and motoring the 8 miles back to St Pierre on the north of Martinique where we finally booked in today. Walk into the Tourist Office, sit in front of a terminal and enter in your details, print out the result, hand the form over for stamping. Sign it yourself and leave.....bliss.

When the winds were good we were joined by several whales and watched as they swam around us, under us seemingly for several days. The highlight was watching them surf inside the 3 metre swells that were following us.

St Pierre

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Labrador video

Russ and Alison from Andante sent us this vid from a 2011 cruise to Labrador.

Labrador 2011

Feb 19 2016
March 2016. Apparently the rights were not cleared.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Rolling in the deep....

Sunset, Puerta de Rosario

Very little movement from us as we opt to remain at Puerta de Rosario as the anchorage affords,for the most part, decent shelter with good sand holding, We had a gentle sail down from Lanzarote and arrived to find a few boats at anchor. Thankfully one left as we arrived as the sheltered space is a tad limited but we anchored and settled down for the night, moving closer in the following morning. Since our last visit a decade and more ago the port has changed and added a large wharf for the cruise ships to dock. Back then we simply anchored in the port but not any more although the local people remain as friendly as ever. 

Overlooks the anchorage

With good stocking up facilities, easy 'net access and no rolling at anchor with the prevailing winds we decided we'd probably leave from here for the crossing. A forecast of an unwanted stiff SW had me wandering along to the port police to ask about taking shelter in the harbour – there is a small marina that the occasional yacht ties up to. They knew of the forthcoming blow and we were allowed to move in for 2 nights only for the total of 6.69inc water and power....... In the event the wind seemed to be more southerly than SW and we glad we moved in even though the Med. style mooring causes several problems. 

Here's a couple of pics of life in the fast lane!
The anchorage...

THe harbour - there's a pontoon in there somewhere....

We hope to leave here on Sunday and head for Martinique


Puerta de Rosario

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


We settled into our wait on the Guadiana with as much grace as we could muster, using the time to visit friends further up river and a visit to Mertola. Difficult to get to by boat as the river is shallow and rock-strewn, it makes an interesting visit by car. 

 A strong Moorish history and still with a Islamic cultural centre the town clings to the side of a steep ravine overlooking the river. The views are pretty neat as we wandered around (at midday....only the English it seems retain that idiocy to be out in the sun...) Narrow streets, interesting homes and small bars.

The river meanders inland from the coast bordering Spain and Portugal. Totally different languages and time zones crossed by a bridge, foot ferry and zip wire; a few small farms can be seen either side but mostly it appears to be North Europeans who have bought up and restored homes and, as with immigrants everywhere, they tend to favour their own kind resulting in distinct Dutch, German or Brit enclaves.

Rather than sit in one place we opted to sail/motor up and down the river. Some of this was in the belief that the winds were about to shift and we wanted to be at the entrance to take advantage. The changes never came of course so we'd sail partly back up river anchoring where we could get out of the stream. Our favourite place was a little north of Larenjerais as it was quiet with good shelter and an easy hop back up to Ayomonte and San Lucar. 

Over the time we had been there the number of boats had slowly reduced as some continued onto the Med; others went back toward Faro and their winter berths. There were three Wylo's already on the river and we heard that several more were on their way. And so it was-two came in together in a heavy rainfall followed by Nick Skeates the following day. A brief period of visiting followed but as we were sure the latest forecast would hold we soon moved on down river to get ready to leave. Anchored off Ayomonte Marina we dingied in to collect supplies, share a beer with Olly a single-hander we had met and check the forecast. Although we initially decided to wait a day the morning dawned with a fine breeze which seemed a shame to waste and both boats rapidly readied themselves and left on the last of the ebb.

 A slow day followed as the breeze proved fitful and 6pm that evening we were still only 19 miles from the entrance. As happened 11 years ago when we left we were plagued with flies and it took several days before they all disappeared. We were having trouble getting the self-steerer to work properly and drifted in very light winds through the first night. The next day as wind and seas were non-existent Bee went over the side and replaced a part that had wasted away. We also sorted out a bracket that wasn't seating correctly and suddenly we felt we might be in business. But not to be and we struggled on for another day in light winds before it dawned on me that I needed to reduce sail to achieve better balance. So it was and we were away. We had one good day/night as the winds picked up and we romped on with a following sea but that was the only day over 100 miles. No worries the weather was good we weren't in that much of a hurry and Toots having heard the sound of a flying fish landing on deck, racing up the steps devouring the thing was hoping for a second shot. 

In fact the one single bone of contention was the constant stream of chatter/music or general idiocy that came out of the VHF on 16. Although 80-100 miles off the Moroccan coast the propagation for the time we were out there meant the radio could pick up signals from a long way off. We had a conversation with another yacht that was almost 50 miles away whereas ordinarily we might expect 15 mile range. But all through the night Moroccans indulge their childish whims on 16 with never a thought or care about its concept leaving us, at least, fuming.

About a week after we left we closed the coast of Lanzarote to be passed by a catamaran doing 12.8knots in 9knots of wind..... it didn't seem real. We plugged on, debating whether to carry on and enter Marmolas in the dark or heave to and await the morning. In the end we hove to as everything has changed since our last visit - our normal anchorage had been turned into a plush marina and we'd heard that the police were throwing people out of Marmoles. We sailed on down at first light and came into Arrecife where Olly was waiting in the water to dive down with a line and secure us to concrete block.

We've been here close on a week now. The marina is well established and, at the moment, doesn't seem too expensive (under 18 euros for us). It is not possible to anchor off the marina as there simply doesn't seem to be either the room or the water and the police do not want boats anchored in Marmolas. Arrecife still has blocks laid down to which boats are able to connect their own lines although some of the eye-bolts are on their last legs. Luckily ours was in good condition and we were able to get at least two seperate lines around before the wind blew hard from the NE. We moved into the marina (on a very quiet day) to catch up with a friend from our triathlon days, gets Toots up to date with her jabs and make our load up before heading west.

By chance we happened to be in town when a triathlon was being staged and spent most of the day watching the race, cheering folks on and reliving our past... As ever the super fit are very quick but the bulk of the athletes who make up the pack we found, by the end, painful to watch. Partly cos we, or rather I, had been there, and well remember the pain of trying to get through the run after a long swim and bike. All this was 20 plus years ago – Bee was super-fit and we'd met through triathlon. Very competitive she had cajoled me into entering the second Lanzarote Ironman and we duly got through the day. Of course she beat me, easily, but we had a good time and she went onto do several more whereas I retired. We looked in vain to see if we recognised anyone but many of them would have been in kindergarten when we “competed” A good day anyway. 


Friday, 10 October 2014

The 15th year begins

We left Fig Da Foz hoping one day we might get back – great veg market not far from the marina and an interesting town too. We set off also hoping to get to Cascais but frustrating winds or lack of, saw us beating slowly one way then another as we tried to make it south. At one point we thought of anchoring off Berenga Island but one look at those already anchored and the rolling they were suffering put us off that and we motored into Peniche for the night. The harbour was smaller in memory than it actually is but, like before, crowded enough to require boats to raft up. Luckily the big steel one we rafted to was unoccupied. In truth it isn't much of a harbour as the wash from passing boats causes too much movement but it was only for one night and then onto Cascais.

The winds were stronger although still from ahead as we beat south. The radio was alive with chatter as boats sought to find better conditions from friends. Those closer in seemed to be getting a smoother ride but the only option for us was to keep beating, using the engine to improve the angle on the outward leg. With some 15 miles to go the wind died and we motored against a fading day toward the anchorage, arriving in the dark and dropped anchor happily amongst 10 or so other boats.

 We stayed at anchor for several days with little wind but a persistent swell which sometimes eased but still made sleep restless. For us it was bad enough but a square rigger that came in had a hard time of it. In truth it is not a great anchorage but we remained. 

The evenings entertainment being a light show from a nearby beach.

No idea how this was done...

 With the prospect of a stiff 25 knots from the south forecast we upped anchor and headed for Seixal, about 17 miles up river. Interesting to sail past Lisbon and onto the narrow channels that took us to our destination, jostling for space with innumerable ferries and high speed cats that ply the waters – shades of New York only sunnier.

We arrived a dusk following a very pristine wooden ketch and were advised that the holding was poor and a buoy should be picked up. This we duly did but a small German boat was at anchor and I rowed over to ask him about depths etc. As this was his sixth visit over many years we preferred his take on the anchorage – good holding, very safe – and moved off the buoy at first light. When the southerly came through it reached 30 knots and we were more than happy to be at anchor and away from Cascais.

This is an interesting area - a small river off the main Lisbon artery with a couple of boatyards with a lot of boats already hauled for the winter. The two adjacent towns have prominent Portuguese Communist Party buildings/presence/flags, are slightly run down but have a charm for all that. 

The area where we were anchored had several buildings which, we were assured, dated back several hundred years and were being left to rot or being surreptitiously used by the homeless and dispossessed of the area. A flock of pink flamingoes wandered the shallows at low water busily feeding and looking photogenic.

With the wind promising to switch to a more favourable angle we headed back to Cascais for the night, leaving the following morning for either Sines or Cape St Vincent. In the event the winds were neither favourable or particularly strong and we opted to keep going through the night by drifting rather than anchor in Sines. In fact we drifted a second night as gradually worked our way down to the Cape. This particular leg seemed to throw up a number of issues and made us realise: a. I'd become a tad complacent; b. A lot of our gear is in need of replacing.. Complacency: We were below when we heard a loud bang on the foredeck and rushed up to find the bottlescrew on the outer forestay had unscrewed itself. As this sits on the end of the bowsprit almost 3 metres off the bow it presented a bit of a problem. Luckily the wind was light enough to enable us to drop the genny without any real issues. Or so we thought... Anyway we sorted out the bottlescrew using the jib halyard attached to the traveller to support the bowsprit whilst I slid along it and secured a line to the forestay whilst Bee cranked it close enough to be able to re-screw the whole lot together. I think that's when we found the genny had torn though old age and until we repair is unusable. Bit of a bummer but it did have us experimenting with the drifting sail we had made...
 We rounded Cape St Vincent accompanied by a heavy rain squall that had us closeted in oilies (something else that needs replacing) and then passed on leaving no wind. We motored onto Portimao arriving a little after sunset and anchored, glad to have finally made it round the corner....we seem to have been beating since the Orkneys.

Couple of other issues have raised themselves. The downhaul we use to tighten the luff of then heads'l has a habit, when a heads'l is being changed, of swinging wildly about the mast. At its least serous it wraps itself around shrouds or baggywrinkle and is a pain to unravel. For more serious is when it delivers a glancing blow to Bee's head as she changes or lowers the sail. For years we have resisted the logical step of reducing its length as this also reduces the amount of tension you can exert but enough is enough. The leg to Cape St V had her being battered on 3 separate occasions. And that wasn't then end of her releasing the mainsheet arrangement it momentarily jammed and she made to free it. At the same instant it freed itself and slid across the horse catching the end of her finger between the shackle and an immoveable object...... I have never seen her so stunned or, worse still frightened, as the pain hit her. For her part she had visions of the end of her finger being torn off as happened to a friend of ours. Well it wasn't torn off but was badly split – blood everywhere - and we rapidly doused it liberally in hydrogen peroxide and then covered it. Ideally we could have coated it in super glue to aid the healing but for some reason didn't think of it until much later. Whilst it is now healing it remains slightly flattened and bruised. We're replacing these shackles with grommets which will be far kinder to all concerned.

The journey from Portimao gave us the best sail for many a month, possibly the whole year. The wind was favourable and with everything from topsail to mizzen uo we romped through the water. Most boats we saw on this passage now appear to be heading back to northern Europe and will face a slog back up the coast as the winds are now switching back to the NW... Our wind didn't last and I wondered whether we could just duck into Faro and anchor for the night...the coast past Faro has miles of fish farms and the prospect of getting caught up with them or drifting 'til the morning lost out to an anchorage. I knew we were late and as we approached our speed slowed from 5.2k to 3.8k. OK so far but the strongest ebb lay ahead of us. Across the entrance a wall of water pulsated and we gradually got into it and we fought our way into the channel getting knocked about in the process and made it to an oh so quiet spot where we dropped for the night. In the distance dozens of yachts could be seen at anchor between Culatra and Oleheo but we were far enough in for a quiet time. The journey out was a lot quicker although still lumpy but no wind for much of the day. With yet another tide gate to reach we opted to motor, sailing only when we were able to maintain a reasonable speed, got to the entrance and into the river. We'd intended anchoring off Ayomonte, the big Spanish town but with a favourable current running we opted to go up river as far as we could. In the event it was all the way to Alcoutim/San Luca and in an odd coincidence anchored 11 years to the day that we were last here. So many boats are now on the river; not simply at this end but as we came up. Where we anchored alone around the bend a little north from here has a dozen boats, some on moorings. Few abandoned finca's (small Spanish houses) as most have been bought, rebuilt and inhabited. In terms of the local economy the influx of yotties must have had a huge impact...Alcoutim now has free public showers. The downside is twenty miles from the coast it is significantly hotter and summer temps can reach around 45C-50C/113F-122F which for us is a real nono.

Later we'll head further up river to see friends who live some of the time here, some of the time at sea before we make a decision on what we do next.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A game of two minds......

Several months and 2000 + miles since I last updated so will cover the trip as quickly as possible.

After we left Little Killary we worked our way up to Clare Island before heading north to the Hebrides. More crowded than even last year including one anchorage that we shared with a 42.5 metre “super yacht”. Winds were fickle but we arrived finally at Stornoway, much changed, and were greeted by Eve and Andrea pootling around the harbour in the dinghy. The town now boasts a brand new marina and consequently far more visiting cruisers bringing some money into the place perhaps. We moved on after a couple of days, heading for the mainland and north to Orkney. We anchored round the corner from Cape Wrath in a small cove overlooked by a couple of hidden houses – lovely spot.

Across to Orkney trying to make sense of the tides...the winds were light and we needed to motor some of the time. The intention had been to enter Scapa Flow at Kirkwall but I “worked” out the tide would be against us so had to enter the Pentland Firth; making sure we hugged the Orkney coast to avoid being swept through. Moving through the water at 8 or 9 knots at 30 or 40 degrees to your heading is an alarming feeling made worse by the knowledge that the bit we were in was only just the beginning of the damn thing. We made it to the southern entrance of Scapa and I realised that Scapa Flow ebbs and floods via both entrances not in one and out the other. Luckily inside the entrance the flow is less strong and we made progress to our chosen anchorage. The next week was spent wandering peacefully around Scapa Flow, watching the world go by whilst all the time my mind was mulling the prospect “how do I get us out of here”? We lacked proper tide tables/tidal streams and I'd already proven I had got the entrance very wrong so as the days went by I found the task ahead becoming more and more of a weight. 
The celebrated Italian POW built chapel

Anchored off Kirkwall, I tried to make sense of the tide with little success and when the weather forecast indicated that we would experience northerly winds for the next week I opted for an easier option than beating into strong tidal streams and suggested we turn south and revise our plans. In the end we ran through the narrows with no fuss, Bee pointing out that we have successfully negotiated the minefields that litter the Passamaquady; Hurst Narrows and many others so she was unsure why I felt to nervous about the tides around this area.....

So south we went, exploring the mountainous western coast of Scotland and eventually back onto the Irish coast. In the little town of Arklow we tied up in the fishing harbour helped by a very friendly local. He came rushing along the dock, asked our draft and warned us to go slow as the harbour had silted up...we crept in with 30 cms under the keel and tied up to the boat he skippered. Getting out proved interesting as the only deep water was where we were and turning the boat around involved a bit of “ploughing” but south we continued. We were heading for Rosslare but the wind meant a day long beat and in an effort to make inroads into the distance we used the engine to keep a decent angle. Sadly we had left Arklow with a Dutch single-hander who was sailing a modern, light bermudian rigged boat and we watched as he easily pointed higher than us even though we were motoring..... He was heading for Wales whilst we carried on tacking through narrow channels to Rosslare. A good anchorage for the night despite the radio message that a local fishing boat had sunk in 10 metres of water a few miles from the harbour and we watched as local fishing boats combed the spot where it had sunk.

We needed to catch the tide to round the SE point of Ireland and I looked it up and realised that if left early next morning we'd have it with us for much of the journey. Or we would have done if I hadn't looked up the LW times instead of the HW times and condemned us to hours of bucking the tide. Onto to see Phil and Mary, cruisers we met when we were first setting out years ago, spent a pleasant few days catching up and watching the activity in the harbour.

For reasons I now can't remember we opted to head back to England rather than onto France – I think we were ambivalent (still) about whether we intended to continue or probably we wanted to seriously consider hauling the boat and sorting the hull paint. Luckily the yards we considered could only haul us at big springs and in the waiting period we changed our minds. 
River Tamar

But in between we'd sailed up the Tamar, met up with friends we hadn't yet met and some we had, then decided to head south to sunnier climes and cheap wine.

The journey across the Biscay took too long with light winds, tides that swept us far too close to Ushant for comfort but eventually saw us sailing into Muros in Northern Spain. Now, like Stornoway, boasting a new marina but still with the option of anchoring as many boats do. A day or so after we'd arrived we were amazed to see another gaffer sailing in. And I do mean sailing in as it turned out to be Thierry, a Wylo owner we'd last seen in Lunenburg where he and his family live. With no engine at all he chooses his anchorages carefully....

Muros remains one of our favourite Spanish haunts, it has tourism but doesn't seem to be the main reason for existing and all the better for it. Narrow street giving plenty of shade and an interesting waterfront plus a working harbour all add up positively.

But from Muros the trip south has not been easy. The “normal” NW trades have given way to winds from the south resulting in heavy fuel bills for most boats. Some, mostly the larger, motor direct to their destination whilst some motor tack or simply try and sail but a frustrating time for all. Unlike previous trips down this coast we can afford, from time to time, to tie up in a marina breaking the journey as anchorages are often not within a days sail from each other. To date we have used two but only one new one. Figuera Da Foz we went into under “duress” as we had it in mind it would be very expensive and unwelcoming. It was neither and the guy on duty recognising our lack of manoeuvrability assigned us to an easy berth, coincidentally away from any boats that may get in our way. Ah the luxury of the first shower for a month........

Figueara Da Foz
Sept 5.

I'll post pics when I can

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Heading North....

We left Southampton for a trial run – to see how we felt about things – and just kept going... well we stopped in Saltash to catch up with Tony and Jen before they, too, headed off to southern Portugal via the Biscay. 

Walking up from the river, the scene that greets us...
   A short hop and into the Helford to catch up with Nige and Jude, who live off the Helford and provide a wonderful sanctuary from the rigours of sea life. The Febuary storms had taken a toll and we helped shift some wood from a storm toppled tree, test their new shower, swap war stories and then on.

But not before we were greeted one morning by a bowsprit sliding very close to our stern as Luke Powell manoeuvred Agnes past us.... “Isn't that Richard somebodies old boat”? he asked, “No but it used to belong, 14 years ago, to Martin and Roma” I replied. His face lit up “That's right, built up the river from here and a fine job they made too”

We anchored off Penzance for a night before entering the harbour earlyish the following morning. We'd never been into here before and really liked the place. A working harbour that tolerates yachts as long as they're prepared to raft up and charges reasonable rates. 

The shower is good and whilst entry to the harbour is restricted to -2HW to +1HW (the harbour has a lock gate) it was a peaceful night we stayed. Oddly enough we were tied up astern of a Wylo that turned out to be owned by the ex-wife of the guy who built our hull.

We set off for Baltimore, Ireland but the wood shifting had taken a toll on my back and even Bee had felt the effort for a day or so after. Not fancying an over-nighter or two I made a fateful decision to stop over in the Scillies and sail up from there. True it made it a slightly shorter crossing but we do not share other folks opinions that these islands are wonderful for several reasons. The anchorages are, for the most part, average and coming under the Duchy of Cornwall they levy fairly steep charges for this indifference. Still we knew all this and still opted to stop so can't really complain. After a couple of days we headed off with two options; move to another anchorage or carry on, depending on conditions. We chose the latter though with a forecast of N5 or 6 we must have been doolally. Still we kept on, slowly making our way west and north. Drama presented itself in the form of a shackle distorting under load and shedding its clevis pin and later on, the sister block on the same running back coming somewhat apart. Both were relatively easy to sort out and, eventually, repair. In time we made Baltimore, chosen as it is an easy 24H entry admired the colourful waterfront and slept. With a SE forecast we moved on the following day to Schull (Skull), then onto Glengariff and then to what became our favourite anchorage for a while: Dunboy Bay. 

There seems to be more water than charted and whilst the best spot was already taken by a Vertue out of Falmouth they left after a few hours leaving us free to move in closer and have a wonderful, quiet evening. Bit of a mechanical the following morning when we left which needed us to re-anchor and sort before a long day of much motoring to get to Valentia. Valentia Harbour offers a choice of anchorages, all of which we explored before settling on our first choice although every other boat opted for the marina . Our choice was better and great shelter. Big hills and lots of trees. The following day gave us a wind shift to the NW and we moved onto our second anchorage. The scenery had been getting better the further north we got, and we were looking forward to the sail through the Blasket Islands and the dramatic mountains beyond. In the event we needed the engine to deal with the NW slop left over in the sound as we were thrown about a bit. 

Smerwick is a large bay with a number of communities around its edge and we liked the place. The fishing boat we chatted to was very friendly and helpful and though we rolled a little we left the following morning full of positive feelings for the place. But onwards as we were getting to the area we really wanted to see – Connemara. It was a longish day with reasonable winds although we needed engine help to be sure we arrived before dark. Our destination before the stiff NW's came in was to be Inishmore...... with 6 miles to go Bee read that NW winds throw an uncomfortable swell into the harbour and we switched destinations to Cashla Bay arriving about 10pm. A big, easy buoyed entry with good anchoring. A new marina exists and the harbour caters for fishing boats and the numerous ferries that run between there and various Aran Islands. The following day a local told us that the new pier in the harbour at Inishmore made it very secure and no roll entered. Well we'll just have to visit another time...

Picking up Passage Weather it looked as though we were due a long period of stiff easterlies and so it proved. The sailing was great, the scenery stunning. The sun shone and Ireland was at its best. We could see shades of Labrador and Newfoundland everywhere we looked. Small communities (although a lot more than either of those two places) huddle on the coast. Folks go about their business, unfazed by this brightly coloured boat that wanders amongst them. And it is on our doorstep!

Gull Rock
 We have used the easterlies to get a bit further north, one day romping along under double-reefed mizzen and a couple of headsails at 6knots, another day beating our way slowly to the point where we now are. Possibly our favourite for a very long time. We arrived yesterday afternoon in a tremendous downpour with lightening above the hills and mountains that surround Killary. We had had a wonderful, exhilarating sail up the coast, dodging rocks and enjoying the bright sunshine. The entrance into Little Killary is narrow with rocks and we motored in. 

The gusts come down the mountain, hit 34knots and the engine never faltered as we slowly made our way in. Despite the rain and wind we were both looking to see if we could spot the cottage that might form the “Dribble Farm” the, as yet, mythical place where Robin, Jac, me and Bee hope, one day to find and create. A land base where old cruisers can retire to.... Well this could be it. Great harbour and big hills and mountains abound. Trees too! We love it here.

Dribble Farm material....?

Much has happened on this trip, yesterday for instance the shackle that holds the flying jib to the traveller unwound itself with the consequence of the #2 jib suddenly being free to flog. Luckily yesterdays winds were lighter than those previously and we were quickly able to get it under control and a new shackle substituted. On an earlier jaunt when the winds were kicking up and Bee was changing the jib to a smaller one she made a simple mistake resulting in the jib block half way up the shrouds and wrapped around itself and any other line it came into contact with. To make it worse the baggywrinke has a tendency to “grip” a line that comes into contact with it making retrieval difficult. Well we needed that block as we were under-powered without a headsail and despite the heaving deck, lumpy seas and general unpleasantness we had to get it back. The one piece of luck we had was although it was out of reach from the deck with a boat hook it wasn't so far up as to be out of reach if someone could climb up the mast using the mast-rings (they connect the sail to the mast and are leather covered steel) In situations like this Bee always volunteers on the grounds that if she fell in she had more chance of being recovered than if I fell in although, as I vividly remember, the score is 1-0 in her favour on that front. Anyway we devised a plan - “OK you do it” and she began the climb. I guess she needed to climb 3 hoops ( so about 3 metres off the deck) before she was in a position where clinging on with one arm she used the ally boat hook to snag the block and slowly managed to get it to where she could grab it. From there it became more difficult as the line needed feeding around the shroud which required her to lean out from the centre-line toward the edge of the boat, all the time hanging on at full stretch. But it was done, the block recovered, a new sail set and we carried on.

Sadly one thing we haven't been able to recover is our log. Installed by Martin and Roma when Hannah was built it appears to have died. In the past this was usually a lump of weed that stopped it revolving and was easily cleared but all attempts have been unsuccessful and the conclusion is that the small paddle wheel has dropped off. 

And lastly: Fladen suits. We bought some over the winter after we'd seen them in the Fisherman's Coop in Stornoway last year. Just the thing for cool/cold climate sailing and how I wish we had had them on the last Greenland swannee.

Little Killary
50 36.7N
09 51.09W

Friday, 25 April 2014

Spring clean

With April rapidly pushing on and warm weather arriving we got on with painting the rigging. We use a combination of Stockholm Tar, Linseed or Danish Oil, Japan Driers and a drop of Black Varnish or Bitumen paint, so essentially anything we have to hand really. It is a back-breaking job as you sit for several hours in the bosun's chair with a snatch block connecting you to the fore stay rather than have to hang on with one hand whilst clutching a pot and brush with the other. 
Bee, at the hounds.
Bee went aloft this time and stay's, shrouds and running backs were duly coated. We have to choose windless days as the stuff can go everywhere and gleaming white yachts get the Jackson Pollack treatment if we're not very careful. The mizzen shrouds were done the following day and the complaints from visitors are still going on as they unsuspectingly grasp the nice shiny rigging to help them onto the boat... Perhaps I needed a little more driers.

The saddle, mast rings and traveller had numerous coats of Neats Foot Oil to help bring the leather back to life, finishing off with a liberal coating of deer tallow courtesy of Howard, Belfast Maine. 

  The engine sea trials have come and gone leaving us free to depart when a favourable wind comes along. Less noise and vibration coupled to a better turn of speed have left us happy with the choice. Toots, for the most part, seems unconcerned with the new noises whereas simply activating the key and the alarm on the old one was enough to have here up the steps, along the deck and under the dinghy.

With a few days of favourable winds we hope to leave and head back down toward Cornwall.

Que Sera



Thursday, 3 April 2014

Haul out blues or worse...

Another haul out comes and goes and Hannah splashes with new colours, generally tarted up and made ready for the next bit. But where will it be?

16x14 prop but will it work?
 Part of the reason for coming out was to fit a new shaft and prop. This was not without its problems, none major but given our fragile state of mind every hiccup felt like a mountain to climb. Things became so bad that one day we actually, albeit briefly, discussed selling up and doing something else! Well living in a canal boat since you ask and several hours were spent looking at various boats and imagining a life where weather forecasts were there to check on the amount of sunshine we might expect rather than a way of life. I think it all fell apart when we were visited by Tony, a fellow gaffer owner, who warned us that his good friend lived on a canal boat and the life was rather social. Bee, as those who have met her can testify, doesn't do social. Or probably those who haven't met her I should say... But it is interesting, at least to us, that we may be considering that another life might be calling us even if we really have no idea what that might be. Not living on Hannah is something we find hard to imagine but I have noticed my physical and mental changes over the last year and whilst Bee seems to have the ability to keep going, Toots has suffered more of  late too. We'll see.

Things were getting behind a little and I went to see the yard to see if we might have longer than the 3 weeks we'd asked for. They countered by asking if we couldn't be ready a day earlier. Nowt like a tightening deadline to spur us on. All the prep had been done and once the primer was applied everything, as it does, came together quickly.

Because the topsides had suffered we'd decided to freshen it up but gone for single pack rather than the usual 2 pack. Easier to apply, touch up is simpler too. So we set to whilst Paul supplied the raw shaft, John turned it and we settled on a Poole company to supply the prop. Several companies we contacted regarding a prop have still to respond which seems an odd way to run a business... The prop arrived with John and the shaft, we slid everything into place and tightened it all down. Props are one of life's complications. No matter that they have been around for several hundred years, that computer's now produce them; it still seems to be a bit of a guessing game. The owner supplies the asked for info but can only expect a "best guess" with the proviso that if it doesn't work changes can be made (at your own expense).....

 Last minute jobs were completed and then we found our splash was put back as a commercial job took precedent. Tuesday came and Hannah slipped into the slings and back into the water, escorted from the hoist by the same tug that brought her in. John collected us from the fuel dock and away we went back up the river to the Marina for another couple of weeks. Since then the majority of the engine work has been completed - just a couple of hoses to connect and we'll be in business.

The commercial job we were "bumped" for was a cat that was heading up to Shetland for a fishing business. We chatted to one of the folks concerned as he beguiled Bee with tales of Shetland and the joys we might find there....could be a contender?


Thursday, 20 March 2014

We've moved....but not far

A hectic time since we last updated when we had storm after storm battering the UK coast and in particularly, it seems, the south coast. One night in particular had us a tad edgy and concerned as the pressure change caused higher tides than predicted and with 2 hours to go we had already reached the HW limit of 4.4 metres. The water crept higher moving inexorably up the pilings that hold the jetties in place. 
 By the time the tide had peaked we were 1.2 metres over predictions and the jetty had risen to within 30cm of floating off. Hannah had additional lines strung from bow and stern in the, probably vain, hope that we would stay put should the worst happen. One jetty was a hand width from floating off..... Not a happy time. No engine, no sails, no anchor bent on and the widespread flooding caused all manner of creatures to make an appearance....

It drops through with a centimetre or so to spare..
 The engine duly arrived and was trundled down the jetty, dropped down through the skylight and took up residency on the saloon floor whilst we tried to sort out the other relevant bits. New engine beds was the starting point and it was after taking 3 days to work out the measurements that I decided that getting Paul to add a bit of professional help. What a difference! He organised my thinking, got me motivated and we moved forward. With a prop shaft now too short to reach the gearbox flange he came up with a delrin spacer to allow us to make a rough alignment. 

No more bad backs or twanging hernias
  Fed up with trying to raise the engine I got him to make a bracket that bolts across the beams directly above the engine so, with the aid of a chain hoist, we can now easily elevate the weight to change mounts etc. A small thing but it makes life so much easier and we can simply remove it until the next time we need it. When you consider the life of a boat versus the life of an engine I have to wonder why designers don't have something built in that allows this type of action.

Since October we had been in regular, monthly contact, with Itchen Marine, a yard we had used before to work on Hannah. Various delays occurred and it wasn't until late February that we were told they might be able to lift us in the next few weeks. With no engine we would need time to organise a tow and asked for a weeks notice. In the event we got less than a day, managed to persuade John to dust off his keys and drag us down river. As he rarely moves his boat these days the props were heavily fouled so steering and movement were laboured. He dropped us on the fuel dock and I wandered off to let the yard know. A launch was on its way back from the Hamble (the next river down) to move us into the hoist so we carried on un-shipping the bowsprit and then found a tug alongside us, large warps passed over and we were off. The launch arrived as we cast off but the tug skipper took us through the narrowest of gaps delicately manoeuvring the two vessels into position between other tied up boats and delivered us to the hoist. Had I been steering Hannah in under her own power I'd have been chuffed with how it all went but his skill was a joy to watch.

The "metronome" seconds after she'd hacksawed it off
So out of the water for the umpteenth time, hull doesn't look too bad and a week on we have got the prep work almost completed. Perhaps one last pass with the grinder. The weather has been great, warm sunny days so much has been completed. The shaft and prop are off  (thanks to Bee tenacity with a hacksaw; a blunt one at that which still cut through the 1.25" stainless shaft) and we're trying to pin down a suitable prop to match the engine... We alternate days between working on the engine or attending to the hull. Bee sanded/burnt off the old stain on the capping rails and we've managed to get two coats on before rain stopped play. We hunted around online for some additional tins but found to our horror that production seems to have ceased on it
Emerging from a session with engine beds..

A month or so ago I was told of another ferro boat in this yard and wandered down to have a look. Wild Knight is a huge boat and is up for sale as the owners health dictates a change of plan. Although over 22 metres or so in length Phil and Rose comfortably manage her by themselves and she would surely make a very comfortable world cruiser. I had a look around last night as Phil showed me over the systems, machinery and installations that he had put in. Very different from Hannah of course but not every one wants to wander the oceans in the way we do. You can see pics/details here and if you're taken - make an offer, the worst they might do is say No!

And finally. When the sails arrived back from the sail makers we wanted to look at two in particular; the mizzen and the “new” ghoster or whatever these things are called. The ghoster is a cracker - just what we want to help move us along in those gentle breezes that otherwise have us drifting. The mizzen had had a second reef put in and, as an experiment, a balancing reef but the latter wasn't successful. However once we I'd finished messing we went to tie up the mizzen but could not find the sail ties anywhere. We emptied all the sails out of the locker, checked in the stern locker, the deck box and then up to the container to root through everything we have stored up there. No where to be found and the conclusion was that the strong winds had taken them overboard from wherever I had left them. The search took place over several days but we had to finally accept they were gone.......and then Bee emerging from the engine hole via the cockpit happened to look at the small bag we keep tied around the mizzen where we stow the sail ties when the sails are up.......... I think it's time we went back to sea!

R. Itchen

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The new and the old

The old engine has gone to a new home in the north of England, the bits that were left have mostly been sold on and all that remains is the arrival of the Yanmar. Sometime this week we believe. Probably arriving the same time as this next gale/storm hits the UK...we may leave dragging it down the jetty until we get a dry day!

Some years ago we were given a gift by a good friend. Phil had a reputation for practical jokes and an avid interest in guns... I suspected the worst but was instructed NOT to open it until we were offshore. 

It was very heavy but I still remained convinced it was going to be a Glock or some such thing and we would have no option but to dump it in deep water before we made the next landfall. Well we opened it and it wasn't a handgun of course, but something from a famous (to sailors) Englishman from Birmingham. Phil had given us a Thomas Walker Harpoon Depth Sounder. 

The box looks tatty now as we kept it to hand in a cockpit locker which tended to be damp but the sounder functions as well as the day it was made. I think the design dates from 1850 or something although this one is probably much later than that. It works by setting the dial to zero and then allowing it to run freely over the side. Obviously it has a long line attached to the brass eye. The propeller spins,turning the dial until the lead hits the sea-bed whereupon the gate prevents any further movement. You haul it up to the surface and read off the depth from the scale. Naturally it shows the depth in fathoms rather than feet or metres. A fathom is 6 feet or 1.83 metres and the scale reads down to 30 fathoms. 
Thom Walker Harpoon Depth Sounder...not many left!
Unlike a normal lead and line where the skill lies in throwing the lead far enough ahead of the moving boat so that it touches the bottom as you pass vertically over the top, the Harpoon type seems to need you to be stationary before using. Defeats the object a little but we have used it a couple of times in Labrador when our electric sounder kept getting confused signals from the transducer and showed nonsense on the screen. Mr Walker's finest indicated we were in just under 17 fathoms of water. The weight of the lead makes it a fairly arduous task hauling it back up to the surface and whilst it doesn't have a hollow on the base of the lead for tallow (to gather a sample of the bed) we can achieve the same result by using plasticine.  

The hole on the left takes the line, the gate is the "hooked" piece. The lead can be seen at the top left.
 As I write the next batch of weather is arriving with 40 knot gusts being recorded down river from here although the worst is not due until tomorrow. More during the week and yet again at the weekend so it'll be a tad uncomfortable no doubt.

A few nights ago we were awoken by the arrival of Toots on the bed sometime between 3 and 4 in the morning. Nothing unusual in that of course as she'll go where she thinks the warmth will be. But this time she seemed a little agitated and I switched the light on to check and found her soaking wet from the neck to tail tip. Water entry number 14 had occurred, thankfully at low water as the double HW we get here causes the ebb to roar out. It has taken us a week or more to work out how she extricated herself - using a fender we had borrowed from a neighbour that has a "sock" around it to scrabble to safety. 

and lastly...we've just listened to the Shipping Forecast and for the first time ever we heard this description of sea state:

  1. Plymouth

    Gale Warning: Gale warning issued 4 February 15:46 UTC (Open)

    Storm force 10 veering southwesterly soon
    Go to top of page
    • Wind

      South veering southwest, gale 8 to storm 10.
    • Sea State

      High or very high, becoming phenomenal for a time.
    • Weather

      Rain or squally showers.
    • Visibility

      Moderate or poor.
 Lordy lord....

Itchen River