Wednesday 26 December 2018




Christmas

We are enjoying a relaxed time exploring St Lucia and Martinique, with Lizzie, James and Bridget who are with us for a few weeks before we set off on the next leg of our journey with the World Arc. We will be in the company of about 35 other yachts when we set sail in mid January bound for Columbia, then Panama. On board we will be joined by Nicki Murray and Richard Shaw.

Meanwhile, there's plenty of time for fun!
Swimming, snorkelling, messing about in the water, exploring ashore, hiking. It feels strange to be in the warm sun at Christmas 🎄 but we are coping!

Friday 14 December 2018

Sleep and Tidy-up Time

Yes, that sleep last night was so good!

Today we have been washing off seasalt, sail mending, finding a man to
fix the fridge, meeting Mr Sparkle, and doing St Lucia arrival
admin.

Jimmy has jumped ship, having found a crew berth on a boat heading
north - he is heading to the Virgin Islands to meet family.

We have also been welcoming other boats in and reliving the moment from
our arrival yesterday.

We won't be blogging daily for a little while whilst we stay put in
Rodney Bay. More news anon...

Welcome to St Lucia

And on to the final challenge: docking in Rodney Bay Marina.
Despite fishing line round our propeller and swirling winds, Rob
managed to reverse Tintin into our berth, with brilliant help from the
shorebased ARC team. Fenders, mooring lines - all done: then we stepped
ashore - we had finished. Elation and relief, both in equal measure.
Clapping and cheering from the welcoming party of ARC team, 
other sailors, and the marina staff who were there to hand
us all a glass of ice cold rum punch and a basket of fruit. We could
hear snatches of kettledrums carried on the wind. We had arrived.

I had enormous sense of thankfulness that we had managed this trip
safely, and that the crew had worked so well together.
Despite being such a long way from shore I had a sense that we were
never alone. The emails we received from many of you helped with
this so much. Thank you.

Crossing Completed

I will try to share what it felt like when we arrived at Rodney Bay
yesterday.

Approaching St Lucia in the morning, the island grew steadily larger and
brighter before us. It was a beautiful, sparkly day to make
landfall. Having seen no other ARC yachts for a few days, four others
appeared over the horizon, to port and starboard, all converging
together on the northern end of the island. The game was afoot!
Latent competitive streaks emerged in the crew as tactics were
discussed - take the corner wide or close? When, and exactly how, to
change from the downwind sting ray sail to the mainsail and genoa (as
the final stretch to reach Rodney Bay would be with the wind from our
side and then pretty much on the nose)? 

The sense of anticipation at landfall grew steadily, the reaslisation
dawning that we really really have sailed across the Atlantic ocean. But
with it I also felt a slight wistfulness for the finishing of this
incredible time.

After 3 weeks as a crew perfecting our sail change routine, it all went
like clockwork. Pigeon Island to port, we were in flat water
(what a welcome feeling!) The wind dropped alway to a whisper in the
lee of the bluff: and then we picked up the perfect breeze to carry us
over the finish line ahead of the competition. High fives and
enormous grins all round.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Slow Day

We're bobbing around 150Nm short of St Lucia. The wind is about 10kn
-just enough to keep us moving albeit not very fast. Air temperature
32.5 deg C; Water 25 deg C. We're all feeling hot! I can feel your
sympathy from here.

We're all looking forward to dry land tomorrow; although it will be
slightly odd moving out of our own little world into life with more
than 4 others around!

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Things we are looking forward to on arrival

Apart from the famed rum punch of St Lucia hospitality

Rob: an unbroken night's sleep

Jimmy: meeting Mr Sparkle (who does laundry at Rodney Bay Marina, our
destination in St Lucia). Not wetting his bed. Error, I mean not having
a wet bed (James sleeps right next to the watermaker which apparently
sometimes leaks a little when the end product is being tested)

Ben: A bed without a food locker under it, so your bed doesn't need to
be dismantled when foraging for supplies. Rum Mojitos. A cricket match,
and a hair cut

Fred: sleeping in a bed that doesn't try to roll you out of it at
random intervals. A kitchen that doesn't move, with cupboards you can
open and find exactly what you are looking for right at the front. Rum
Mojitos, and a hair cut too , apparently

Jo: A big green salad. A flushing loo. A long and still sleep.
Things staying exactly where you out them, just for a bit. The
colour green to look at (the seascape is very blue and grey, beautiful,
but a change would be pleasant!). Seeing the family when they arrive.

Injury to Wendy

You might think that we are a crew of 5, but actually we are 6. The
hardest-working member of the crew is Wendy, our Windpilot
self-steering mechanism. She needed a bit of training to start with,
but from about day 2 onwards she steered the boat for at least 80% of
the time, coping with big seas and strong winds with barely a
complaint in 2500Nm. Yesterday, however, she suffered an injury that
has put her off-duty until St Lucia.

For a few days nows, we've been passing lumps of seaweed. Yesterday,
the lumps became more and more common until we were regularly
ploughing through fields of the stuff. Poor Wendy, innocently waving
her rudder around at anything upto 10-11 knots must have hit one (or
more) of these clumps. A sacrificial shear pin broke as designed
saving major damage, but a push-rod has become bent requiring some
minor land-based surgery. So, it's hand-steering and autopilot for
the last couple of days of the trip.

An apology

While we are at sea we can post blog entries by email via our sat
phone, but we are unable to view the blog and see any comments or
questions that have been posted. So if you do post a comment, could
you also email it to tintin@redholme.com?

This has just been brought to our attention, thanks Alice.

The answer to the porridge club question is 1:3 (2 of water and one of
milk) and a 5 minute simmer for the best ever result.

When we arrive in St Lucia we hope we will get connected and will
be able to respond to any questions.

302 miles to go...

Monday 10 December 2018

Our luxury items

We were thinking about life on Tintin, and discussing the luxuries that
we have that we really appreciate. We're more easy-going that 'Desert
Islands Discs, so allowed ourselves 3 each

Jimmy (travelling light - so only one item):
I couldn't survive without my spiky ball. The rest of the crew don't
really know what its for, but the relief it gives me as I roll it
around my bottom is immense. Like all good things on the boat it
serves multiple uses and I enjoy cuddling up with it at night and using
it as a stress ball after those rigging changes which didn't go quite
as smoothly as they might.

Rob: My 3 luxury items are:
Jo's noise-canceling headphones. Lying in my bunk I constantly hear
the noises of the boat; the creak of the halyard, the whine of the
water pump, the low hum of the fridge -all above the whoosh of the
waves. Occasionally it's really nice to turn all that noise off.

Chocolate - some people may know I like chocolate.

Enough fresh water to shower every day. It's good that when your wife
tells you that you smell, you can do something about it.

Jo:
My noise cancelling headphones, when Rob isn't using them. I can be
transported to a serene and peaceful place by Clair de Lune, welcome
respite at times when it is all getting a bit noisy.

Lizzie's guitar. Even though I haven't managed to practice every day, I
enjoy the romantic notion that I might, and I could, and I can...

Ferry Hill Marmalade. Thank you Mum.

Ben:Soreen Sticky bread
Shantaram (a really good book)

Fred: Coffee
Audiobooks
The hook for catching big fish (known as the 'granny-snatcher' in
homage to my mother)

Sunday 9 December 2018

Sunday - 2nd Sunday of Advent

we've been at sea 2 weeks now, December is well underway. We've a
little set of Christmas lights and a tiny Christmas tree, but otherwise
it feels most un-Christmasy here. Clear blue skies, 30deg C, gentle
easterly - no drizzle, brexit votes or Christmas shopping.

With 1000Nm to go, the crew started to think that we were almost across
and thoughts moved to Rum Punches and watching West indies play
cricket. Now with 600Nm to go, the reality has dawned on us that it's
still a long way to go - albeit much less than before. However, we're
making serene progress and morale remains very high.

We're flying the double code-0 sail - now dubbed the stingray because
of its shape. We've found that by only using 1 pole, it sets much
better and provides better boat speed in moderate winds. Overnight
some boats reported frustrating progress in light winds, but the big
area of the stingray kept us moving nicely.

The Angling Society reconvened this morning after hiatus of 3 main
meals and 2 starters from the Wahoo. So far, no luck today. To be
honest that's fine with me (Rob) as too many consecutive meals of fish
would tax my diplomacy.

Saturday 8 December 2018

700 to go

It is beginning to feel a bit more tropical as we continue west towards
St Lucia. The last few days have brought squally clouds with drenching
rain in the darkness of the night, and today we have less wind and
temperatures in the low 30s. As tempting as the cobalt blue waters are
that surround us, a swim right now wouldn't be clever: it would be very
difficult to stop the boat and the ocean swell would make climbing on
board a tricky challenge (and I will admit that in my head there is
always the thought of what might be lurking in the thousands of metres
below us...)

We have been visited by a group of 3 white longtailed tropic birds.
Imagine a dove with a sleeker shape and one long feather in the
middle of the fan of tailfeathers and you will get the picture. They circled us a few times, giving the impression they might land on
the top of the mast but then thought the better of it. After some very
elegant coordinated flying they squawked and continued on their way,
wherever that might be.

We have not had any whale sightings yet, but on the radio net
today from another yacht reported that they were followed by a whale
15 m from their boat for over one hour yesterday.

Our "new normal" is to be out on the ocean with no land or boats in
sight, our days paced by the rhythm of daylight and darkness, watch
patterns, meals and looking after the boat and each other. All will
change again when we reach land sometime in the next several days, wind
permitting. We are eager to arrive but equally not wishing this
incredible time away.

All is well.

Friday 7 December 2018

Tintin - A Prospectus

Tintin is an "outstanding" yacht. Its core curriculum, to get to St
Lucia, is first rate and loved ones can have a high degree of
confidence that this will be achieved. Compared with the rest of the
fleet, Tintin has excellent facilities, first rate officers and a
strong sense of teamwork; some other boats have been deemed
"unsatisfactory" or "requires improvement" (at safety inspection) and a
few have retired due to equipment failure.

But what sets Tintin apart is our fine array of extra curricula
activities. Tintin offers many clubs and societies which crew members
can join. Crew members are encouraged to participate in as many as
possible in order to fulfill their potential (and to maximise their
chances of progressing their sailing careers at the highest level after
their arrival at St Lucia).

Bums & Tums
Get those abs working to some banging tunes - the best way to start
the day. We recommend harnesses are worn at all times as the gym floor
can be tippy at times.

Porridge Club
After much R&D, the Porridge Club prides itself on the perfect ratio of
oats, water, milk and salt. A good complement to Bums & Tums,
though most members prefer to restrict their efforts to just the one
club.

Angling Society
The society is enjoying much success currently and is the envy of the
fleet. New crew members will benefit from the rapidly growing
experience of the society. Recent prizes include Mahi Mahi and Wahoo
Tuna. Due to its rich vein of wins, demand for joining "the dream team"
is high and new crew members may be disappointed.

Domestic Sciences
A good option for the less academically gifted, Tintin's officers
instruct crew members on cooking, sewing and scrubbing.

Radio Club (aka Pedants' Paradise)
If your thing is repeating long position coordinates over and over
again into a crackly line, then you'll find fellow travelers on the
spectrum. Tintin's operators have been awarding chocolate prizes for
broadcasting perversions of other boats' (admittedly rather silly)
names eg Rum Truffle -> Bum Shuffle, Chubby Bunny -> Runny Tummy etc.
We do not condone this form of passive aggressive bullying and are
reviewing the future viability of the club.

Celestial Navigation Society
The society is seeking new members as participation is sparse. The
skipper is keen to share his extensive knowledge of and enthusiasm for
the subject.

Gardening Club
Keen Tintin gardeners have had a few false starts due to flooding,
landslides and saline pollution, but we are currently showing some
green shoots of recovery and are optimistic of prize crops of basil and
coriander. Sadly members disembarking at St Lucia are unlikely to
benefit. Headed by our most charming first mate, she says this club is
"well good".

Mountaineering Club
As you probably know, there aren't many mountains in the Atlantic, but
Tintin has its very own climbing wall as well as the skipper's notorious
Bosun's Chair (see earlier blog entry. If you want thrills, this is
the club for you.

Astronomy Club
One of our more popular clubs, we provide nightly "watches" under the
stars. Crystal clear skies can be enjoyed from the luxury of the
cockpit with a fine arary of cushions provided for support. The entire
winter sky is lit up for crew members to enjoy every evening.

With apologies to Wycombe Abbey, Marlborough, Uppingham, St Edwards etc
etc

Jimmy

Thursday 6 December 2018

Squalls

The last 24 hours have been reasonably eventful I think it's fair to
say with a milestone being passed and a new record for our books too.

The story starts at 0600 TTT (Tintin Time) when I rose from my cabin to
take over from Mr Captain Doug and commence my watch. When we handed
over the general message was: everything is going fine, the wind is
blowing us in the right direction, and as always just follow the arrow.
Given we were over halfway and I had done enough night watches the know
what's what I thought I had another dreamy, star gazing two hours ahead
of me. Oh how wrong I was.

The first half an hour went by without cause for anyone's eyebrows to be
raised. After a while I started to get bored of just looking at the
same constellations over and over again so I started to let my eyes
wander further afield. Nothing to worry about on the port side, or the
starboard side for that matter. So I cast my eyes behind me beyond the
stern to see a wall of black clouds looming over the boat. My immediate
reaction to seeing this was to try and get out of the way of the
clouds. After a few moments of thinking how to shift the course of the
boat it dawned on me that there was no option but to tough it out. As
the children's book goes "We can't go around it. We can't go under it.
We can't go over it. So we'll have to go through it."

As I looked more intently I saw that the wall was slightly more broken
up than I had first thought. And the clouds were falling into three
chunks of black scariness. As the first wave hit, I was expecting
strong winds and lots of rain. But the cloud passed without a drop of
rain or the wind reaching more than 18 knots. "How pleasant." I thought
to myself. I was sure the next cloud had to be hiding an infamous
squall that I'd heard all about. But just like the first cloud, the
second passed overhead with me waiting for nothing.

At this point I had the voice of Chris Tibbs, an ARC official, going
round in my head saying "A squall will always hit when the youngest,
most inexperienced member of the crew is on watch." At the helm when the
first raindrops hit the deck, I left Wendy to steer the boat and went
down below to wake Rob up. With an extra pair of hands on deck we
managed reef the sail and slow the boat down to bring a little bit more
control back to the wheel. Luckily we just managed to reduce the sail
area before the wind picked up. As Rob went downstairs the heavens
really opened and the wind picked up. After five minutes of tennis ball
size rain droplets and winds gusting up to 28 knots, the squall passed
just as suddenly as it had begun and I could tick off another sailing
milestone.

***Later that day***

As we were sitting down for lunch, enjoying the freshly baked bread and
newly cut ham, we heard a cry of "FISH!" from the deck and after
donning our lifejackets and tethers we rushed to see what we had
caught. As I picked up the rod from the holder, I immediately felt a
huge tug from the other end of the line. It was a big fish.

After a twenty minute battle between the joint efforts of Jimmy Heath
and myself, and the monster at the other end of the line, we had heaved
the fish into striking distance from the gaffer and, after dazing the
fish with a blow the the head, Dad managed to gaff the fish and flip the
fish onto the deck. After a significant amount of rum had been poured
down its gills the fish stopped twitching, and we could set back and
actually marvel at our work. The Angling Society had hauled in a 25kg 5
foot Wahoo fish (some cross between a barracuda and a tuna). After
filleting it and putting it in the fridge we found ourselves all really
quite tired. But my was it worth it.

Now its time for dinner and to enjoy our catch of the day.
This is Ben signing off.

Wednesday 5 December 2018

1/2 way

We've now past 1/2 way having about 1260nm to St Lucia and logged about
1590 nm since Gran Canaria. Last night we celebrated with a bottle of
English Champagne (if that isn't an oxymoron) courtesy of Katherine
Gurney. She had suggested that we drink it on our departure from
Lisbon - which seems an ago now - but we were rather preoccupied with
the sea and wind at the time, so it was appreciated much more last
night.

We opened a box of assorted goodies from Ferry Hill this morning. A
fantastic assortment of treats. Fred was particularly keen on the
anti-shine skin cream, and the individual portion of demerara sugar
will surely be useful.

Last night we took down the big double-headed sail - now christened
'stingray' because of its shape - and just used a pole-out genoa. We
went a fair bit slower but it was a more gentle ride in the bows.
Putting up the stingray this morning was not a slick operation with so
many lines to get in the right place. It's there now, with only 1 line
going the wrong way, and we're moving well towards St Lucia.

As we were changing sails, Fred noticed a white rope streaming from the
rudder. The operation was halted while we investigated. As ever,
James was our danagerman and he strapped himself on and stuck his
head in the water over the stern. Jo pointed out that this could make
his lifejacket inflate about 1/2sec before his lifejacket did
actually inflate. He came up quickly and reported that the 'line' was,
in fact a small vortex of water coming off the rudder but could he have
some assistance to get back up because the inflated lifejacket impaired
mobility.

The mood of the Angling Soc has abated a bit. No fish yesterday and
none today so far, they're starting to question equipment, speed of
boat, time of day - anything to explain their lack of further success.

Tuesday 4 December 2018

The Daily Routine

We're now entering the 9th day at sea and have settled into a steady
rhythm. We decided in Las Palmas to have a fixed watch pattern, so
that we don't need to change waking and sleeping times each day. We've
also decided to stick with UTC as we cross westwards, meaning that each
day sunrise and sunset move about 10 minutes later. The day's shape is
determined by the sun and sea and our changing position across the
ocean.

My day starts at 3:50 when I drag myself out of bed for the 4:00 to
6:00am watch. For the first few days, this watch was lit by a
bright moon - now however the moon is thin and doesn't get up until
nearly the end of my watch. In another couple of days it'll be black
all night. We try to set the sails so that there's little or no
active sail management required at night - and thus far this watch has
been event-free, which is just how I like it. By this time of night,
the great bear is visible to the north, pointing the way to Polaris -
much lower in the sky than when viewed from the UK. Last night the moon
rose at about 5:15am closely followed by Venus and then the sun a
couple of hours later. With regular checks on boat speed, direction,
wind and other traffic I content myself listening to audiobooks - and
writing blog entries such as this.

Ben is normally early for his watch at 6:00am. A better person than I
might use the early start to get ahead of the day; but I go straight
back to bed hoping for another few hours of sleep. Whether this is
succesful depends on the weather, sea state and the speed of the
boat. Jo and I sleep in the double cabin towards the front of the boat,
and so get the full sound and movement of the boat.2 nights ago we
were careering along at 8-9kn in up to 30kn of wind. Very exciting but
very hard to sleep being tossed around with the roaring of the waves
streaming off the bows. Last night with winds barely 15knots, Tintin
glided (glid?) gently on - the motion ws a gentle rocking and the noise
a mild whoosh every few seconds. Much more conducive to sleep.

Jo slips from the cabin for the 8:00am watch to get the sunrise but I
just turn over until 9ish. Jimmy is normally up before then sometimes
doing his bums and tums exercises above me on the foredeck. Fred is
next up and if I'm very lucky I get tea in bed (not a skipper's
perogative - he's just very kind). The next couple of hours various
chores get done. The engine is run to charge the batteries, the
watermaker fills the tanks, bread baked, the blog uploaded and weather
downloaded. In the midst of this, the Porridge club turns out another
bucket of the stuff.

Fred takes over at 11:00 and it's time for coffee and Angling Society.
They're making good progress. After the one that got away, yesterday
produced a fine dorado (or Mahe Mahe). Jimmy hauled it in like a
later-day Hemingway before Fred gaffed it onboard. The fantastic
green/yellow sheen faded within minutes of being dispatched in an
alcoholic stupor courtesy of a squirt of 'fish-killing rum' in the
gills.

The radio net is on air at midday. About 10-15 boats share our
positions over the SSB and check on the fleet's wellbeing. It's fun to
get to know the various voices from 'Rum Truffle', 'Chubby Bunny' et al
Conversation can be a bit stilted as boats with better reception relay
information to those further away of with poorer reception.

At 2:00pm Jimmy takes over for the afternoon shift. Lunch has tended
to drift later with the longitude changes, but generally about 3:00.
In Las Palmas we bought a fine Serrano ham (know as Babe II).
Sandwiches of fresh bread with slices of Babe is our stable - although
Ben has been experimenting with lasagne sandwich and other culinary
delights.

Ben is on at 5:00pm. The afternoon is a time for private study -
in whatever way seems best. For me, this often takes the form of quiet
meditation on my bed. I shower and get myself clean just before my
watch starts at 7:00pm.

At the start, 7:00pm was pitch black. Now I get 40 minutes before
sunset, which is a fantastic time for a beer on deck watching the
colours change ahead of us. This is also a time for looking at the
weather and the sails and the course to try to set a sailplan that
would need little maintenance during the night hours.

Dinner - always a fantastic spread - is about 8:00pm. This is a big
subject to be covered in later post.

I finish at 10:00pm to handover to Jo till midnight, Fred until
2:00am and James until I'm back on at 4:00am. Hopefully all these
watches are quiet and event-free.

And then another days starts when I drag myself out of bed for the 4:00
to 6:00am watch.

Monday 3 December 2018

Status update - Angling Society

After our initial kit check and foray into the boats tackle box (there
are lots of nasty looking hooks and lures), we convened the first
meeting of the angling society today to prepare our assault on the
mid-Atlantic fishing stocks. Having lost one lure the previous night, we
replaced the line on one reel and selected 2 of the ugliest lure and
hook combos, and deployed the lines - one on a rod, one on a hand reel.

With expectations high, we sat back, watched and waited, with visions
of endless battles with a fish - a test of cunning and nerve, skill and
technique, etc....

What actually happened depends on how you like to digest your news. In
this post-modern world, we have the new concept of alternative facts to
help us to make sense of the confusion around us, and so, here is my
take on what happened next.

To say that we were not successful, is a gross over-simplification of
the reality. We never stated explicitly that we wanted to land a fish
on the boat....instead, we had a very successful day testing our lines
(both lines survived the tests 100%), and refining our strategy. We
also went to great lengths to preserve our relationship with Neptune,
in offering back to him the biggest of our catches, to recognise the
very important role that he plays in providing safe passage for us.

The alternative narrative is that we catch one fish (a big dorado -
honestly it was huge) that jumped off the line as we hauled it in, and
a ball of rope!

But my friends, our is a long game, and we are back for another day,
and I have a better feeling about our prospects today.

Fred (aka David, aka Gurns).

Here's a picture of a happy crew post morning exercises and
pre-breakfast

Sunday 2 December 2018

Advent

Dear reader, I am happy to tell you that Tintin is now looking suitably
seasonal. 2 advent gifts were produced yesterday by Fred - from
Kathryn, thank you! We now have a mini Christmas tree which is in pride
of place on the saloon table and a garland of LED Christmas lights
hanging up above, which lend the boat a festive ambience. Together with
Ben's Xmas songs playlist the spirit of Christmas on board Tintin is
growing.

Yesterday was a day when we solved quite a few problems - all very
satisfying - and we then had quite a bouncy night with winds gusting 30
knots for a while. We agreed that it would be Ok to have a more
relaxing Sunday and so far we are.

We are making wonderful progress with a very steady 18-20 knots of ENE
behind us and the blue water runner hoisted and poled out both sides in
the bow. The sun is shining, and the sky is blue with a few fluffy
cumulus scattered about. An hour ago we had a visit from our first pod
of dolphins for days and they were so welcome. Their arrival was
heralded by flying fish skimming across the water in front of them - I
guess to avoid being eaten up.

The angling society formally convened today with Fred, Ben and
Jimmy preparing their lines and now we have 2 out hoping for a catch.

I am absolutely loving this experience so far. It is amazing how far
away we look on a chart but it doesn't feel strange. Even though we
can't see any boats around, we are in touch daily at noon with others
on the SSB radio net and we feel far less alone.

Saturday 1 December 2018

Climbing the Mast Head

From Jimmy....

Yesterday evening a spinnaker halyard broke, which I'll let those more
qualified than me explain elsewhere, except to say that it felt as if
the potential consequences were going to make reaching St Lucia a whole
lot more challenging. Until then I'd been wholly confident of a more
or less incident free cruise across the Atlantic in the capable hands of
Rob and Jo. But equipment failure like this really brings it home how
far from land we are and how vulnerable we could be.

We had some good advice at one of the excellent seminars laid on
pre-start that when something goes wrong, it's probably not as bad as
it seems - have a cup of tea, discuss the problem and come up with a
plan to sort it out.

Our plan required climbing the mast to feed a new halyard through a
block fixed at the very top. Last time I climbed Tintin's mast was a
year ago on a windless day in the safe surroundings of the Bag at
Salcombe. That was in Rob's "bosun's chair" which frankly feels very
like and as old as the garden swing we let our children play on some 25
years ago. Terrifying. And I'm sorry to report that it's still on
board. There was no way I was going to volunteer this time while
under sail in the middle of the Atlantic. No-one else put their hand
up either, so the skipper said he'd climb in the morning.

Overnight I read the chapter in Moby Dick on climbing the mast head.
He describes being:

...lulled into such opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious
reverie ... blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he
loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible
image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and
nature; and every strange, half-seen gliding, beautiful thing that
eludes him ...

This sounded like just the job for me. Surely fate brought me to this
very chapter at this very moment. And more, Rob also has on board a
very smart new climbing harness. So at breakfast I found myself
volunteering and kitted up with full length shirt and trousers, bike
helmet, sunnies and said harness.

And what an adrenalin rush it was. About a third of the way up as the
boat rocked from side to side I swung around the mast and realised that
this was no trivial matter. From then on I felt like a panda bear
clinging to an ever diminishing and very inadequate bamboo shoot for
support. By the second set of cross trees my legs were shaking with
fear. I told myself to MTFU and get to the top. Once there, job done,
I took not one moment to get my opium rush, and climbed down as fast as
I could.

There, welcomed back by the crew, Jo kindly observed that being
the first day of Advent, how nice it was to have a fairy at the top of
Tintin's Christmas tree.

Now from Rob (minus the literary opium-rush)....

In other news:

Those with sailing knowledge (especially Alistair Gurney) will realise
what difficult and terrifying it is to climb to the top of the mast
while under sail in big swell. I would like to think that I needed a
lot of persuading to let Jimmy take on the task...but I didn't.

The spinnaker halyard breaking with a huge sail up while going at
8-9knots could have been REALLY bad. If the sail had dropped in the
water and gone under the boat it would probably be 50:50 if we could
save the sail. Fortunately we had spotted the potential for disaster
and hoisted it on 2 halyards thereby allowing a quiet cup of tea
before deciding on a course of action and sorting it all out.

The second thing to go wrong was a stripped impeller, meaning a
sweaty 1/2 hour before breakfast changing it.

The 3rd thing to go wrong was the plunger on the cafetiere came
apart. Some of the crew wanted to divert to the Cape Verdes for a
replacement but the tea-drinking skipper made the hard decision to
press on under stovetop coffee only.

The angling society had its first meeting this evening. All fish safe
and well.

The sun is starting to go down now as we glide west under the
newly-secured double-poled-out blue water runner. Wind about 18knots
from behind and all good.

Friday 30 November 2018

770 miles in

And a few more than 2000 miles to go. Already I'm thinking that this
voyage will seem to fly by.

Yesterday we reached the first waypoint on our simple passage plan (the
second one is St Lucia). The idea of heading in a more southerly
direction initially is to pick up the favourable west going
current (thanks for the help tracking it, Steve) and the ENE
tradewinds. So we duly altered course by 15 degrees, changing from a
run to a very broad reach. The wind is keeping up at 20-28 knots so we
are making steady progress, despite the large swell with a slightly
confused sea which is making the boat corkscrew around a fair bit at the
moment. Tricky when pouring tea!

It is now a rarity to see another boat on the horizon, although last
night we passed within a mile of a Norwegian yacht and had a
brief chat with them on the VHF radio.

A highlight of yesterday was the freshly baked loaf of saucepan
bread made by Ben. Perfect!

Wildlife update: last night we had our first flying fish landing in the
cockpit, and we can see more of them skimming along over the waves this
morning. They are about 6 inches long and fly in
small groups for a few metres before appearing to crash back into a
wave.

Thank you to all who have been in touch. I think we have better weather
here in the tropics. Sending you all some sunshine

Thursday 29 November 2018

Below Decks

It's 0230 and half an hour into my two hour watch. There's 4/8 cloud
cover so the constellations aren't as easy to spot as they have been
over the last few nights. We work on a 24 cycle of two watches each,
always at the same times apparently to avoid jet lag, which wasn't
something I was expecting to get on a 21 day sea crossing. But it means
the sky looks very familiar every night and we're getting to know what
is above our heads. The boat is on a steady course, there's just
one other boat, a red dot on the horizon, and I'm pretty confident I can
write uninterrupted for a while.

We're a happy crew below decks. The three of us share a scrubbing
rota (we excuse the skipper and his mate from swabbing out the heads).
But the mate joins us for cooking duties and every fourth day we cook an
evening meal - last night Jo gave us "dirty rice", a Withers staple
which tastes a lot better than it sounds. Our rations are plenty, and
so far only the odd piece of fruit and veg has been thrown overboard
due to the mange. To compensate we are growing fresh basil and
coriander in the doghouse. We're confident we'll not go hungry before
landfall in Saint Lucia.

More surprising in this endless desert of seawater is that we
have a good supply of freshwater, courtesy of our water-maker. So
daily showers are the norm and even Fred has been busy washing
out his grundies.

The skipper is no Captain Ahab, and looks after his crew well. He seems
pretty relaxed about life. He broods a little over our course but we
have a simple strategy to keep south where we think winds and currents
will give us an advantage. Other boats have begun to turn right but we
are holding our nerve.

No sign of any whales, nor much in the way of wildlife of any sort
other than a couple of unidentified birds. That may change next
week when fresh meat runs out and fishing activities begin.

Now 0300 and the boat continues to surge through the water roughly on
course. I'm looking forward to some kip before Bums and Tums at 0800
then Porridge Club at 0900.

Life is good

Jimmy

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Day 4 - Finding our rhythm

As we pass over the Tropic of Cancer and begin to bear down on the trade
winds we are all starting to settle into the rhythm of our daily life
on Tintin. Dictated by our regular watch pattern we have found
ourselves slinking off to the foredeck or our cabins for a post lunch
siesta. This is a completely new way of life for me, as this passage
is easily the longest spent at sea, and I am loving it.

It seems as though the repetitive swell of the sea and the continuous
groan of the spinnaker halyard is almost infectious, causing us to
follow similar patterns.

So far all watches have been a treat with Wendy the windpilot taking
almost all of the work off our hands leaving me to either marvel at the
sunset in my afternoon watch, or study the stars, planets and
constellations (and how on earth the jumble of stars depict the image
they are named for.)

Being on a boat captained by Mr Rob Withers, food is a very important
thing and am delighted to report that after 3 meals, each one has left
us and most importantly the skipper feeling very fulfilled. What was
really the icing on the cake (if you pardon the pun) was the package we
were each given, and opened shortly after the starting canon, from
Catherine Ravenscroft of a bundle of chocolate bars each. If you're
reading this, thank you!!!

With it nearing my afternoon watch it's time for me to sign off. So as
to mimic the radio chatter : "This is Ben signing out."

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Day 3 : Creaming along

We can't quite believe the steady NE breeze of 12-20 knots that is
gently pushing us on our way. Last night our wind pilot (Wendy) did
almost all the helming for us, allowing the person on watch to indulge
in a bit of stargazing until the big moon rose and lit up the night.
Today dawned bright and clear, and now there are fluffy cumulus clouds
dotted around. We can see about 4 boats on the horizon around us now,
as the fleet fans out.

I've just come off watch, having done 8-11am. It's a perfect watch to
do, starting just after sunrise, and it feels as though it is just
me and the big wide ocean. As the rest of the crew gradually emerge
from their bunks I am offered tea, then porridge, then coffee - and
all I am doing is steering with an occasional tweak to the sail. Hand
steering in these conditions is a complete joy, as the boat is well
trimmed and the sea state is pretty smooth. It's allowing us to make
about 7 knots.

It's admin "hour" now: the engine is on for a while to generate power
via the alternator and fresh water by driving our miraculous water
maker, churning out water with less then 400 ppm of salt - less than
the tap water we had filled our tanks with in Las Palmas. We have 2
water tanks each with a capacity of 330 l. We plan to keep one full tank
untouched and use water only from the other, so that if the water maker
does not work for any reason we will still have 330l of water to use
for the rest of the trip. A water budget of 3.5l per person per day
is the suggested minimum.

Next up is to connect with the satellite link to send and receive any
email. You can send us a message at tintin@redholme.com : please do!
We receive as daily text weather forecast form the ARC rally contol,
which is sent to the whole fleet ands out of necessity covers a very
large area. To help us they have divided the Atlantic in to a grid and
give us a forecast for each block, so we can get a better idea of what
to expect where we are.

In half an hour it is time for the SSB radio net. We will be connecting
with about 20 other boats in the fleet who have SSB radio sets on
board, for a position and weather update then an informal chat. We are
the net controller for today, on a rolling rota with 5 other boats.
It's the first time I have done anything like this and I need to get my
radio language right. No "over and out"!

No Fish

Monday 26 November 2018

Day 2: Settling in

we're now about 100nm or so south-west of Gran Canaria blowing gently
downwind. I hope that we got a blog entry sent after the start
yesterday giving a flavour of the colour and excitement of 200 boats
starting a transatlantic trip together. We can't actually check the
blog from here - it's more "fire and forget", so please tell us if the
latest blog entry didn't make it online.

Soon after the start we took down the main and genoa and deployed our
secret weapon - the 'bluewater ruuner'. This is 2 generously-cut
genoas joined together down the luff on a roller-furling unit which
pole-out on both sides. It gives a big, stable slab of sail to take
downwind. We made progress through the fleet during the evening
although this stalled in the early hours as wind subsided for a couple
of hours.

During the night the fleet spread out so that we can now see only 2
yachts clearly out the original 200. Where have they all gone? It's now
mid-morning coffee and breakfast and we're getting into the rhythm of a
slow morning after night watches.

No Fish.

Sunday 25 November 2018

We're off!

The Spanish naval ship fired our starting gun at 1pm.
Perfect downwind sailing weather has turned up for us today and we are sailing south around Gran Canaria. It's a beautiful start to the trip.

Saturday 24 November 2018

Food

Today we went shopping. The set up in Las Palmas is well honed for sailors: at the check out we ask for our stores to be delivered to Tintin on pontoon G, berth 32, and an hour or so later they are delivered by very cheerful delivery men. Within a couple of hours today we received our butchers delivery - including a leg of dry cured "jamon", the fruit and veg that we had chosen earlier this morning at Hyper Dino, and dry stores from our trip to El Corte Ingles.

                                    




By the time Rob and Jimmy Heath had returned from the skippers briefing, the fruit and veg were washed (to remove any stowaway bugs) dried, and stowed, the fridge had been filled, and dry stores were all packed away in lockers. 



A calm and sunny day has made our last preparations much easier. We've rehearsed our downwind sailing rig - including rigging the spinnaker poles on the mast at the foredeck. Fred and Jimmy  have checked out the fishing gear - taking advice form Kurt and Neil on SuperTaff next door -  and have found little lacking thanks to Richard Shaw's helpful preparations earlier this year.


The atmosphere on the pontoon this evening is one of calm anticipation mixed with excitement.





Friday 23 November 2018

Tour of Tintin

We've had requests for more details about Tintin and what the boat is like, so we've had fun this morning producing this video:

A higher resolution version of this can been seen here

Director; Jimmy Heath
Starring: Jo Withers
With David Gurney
and Ben Gurney
Editor: Rob Withers

Thursday 22 November 2018

Visitors from Carlisle

It was lovely to have a visit today from Rob's niece Laura, husband Rob and daughter Grace, who made it across Gran Canaria despite the teeming rain to visit us on Tintin. Grace charmed us all.  

To do list

I was warned to learn to love lists as we run up to departure, and certainly there have been many.
Here is this week's main to do list.
I think we are winning!

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Shopping and packing...

There are still 3 more days to prepare for the crossing, but we are much closer to being ready than we were.  Yesterday felt as tough all the lists - and there are several - got longer rather than shorter.  Today was better and I think all the crew think we're pretty close to being ready.  

A manifold valve had broken in the watermaker, so we've rigged up a work-around and tested it.  It produces sweet-tasting water even from the unpromising raw material of Las Palmas marina.  We completed servicing the engine.  It was slightly disappointing to find that the fuel filters that I had bought in bulk were just the wrong size, but we've found one of the correct size - so the engine is in tip-top shape.

Most importantly, however, is that the bulk of the provisioning has been done.  A drinks delivery in the morning and a huge grocery shop in the afternoon by Jo, James and Ben means that the bulk of the food is now onboard - crammed into any available hole.  Meat will arrive on Sat morning and fruit and veg shopping on Friday.

I'm pleased to report that the mammoth waved that struck the north coast of Tenerife have almost completely passed us by.  The beach outside our restaurant a couple of nights ago was pretty lively - but we're on the other side of the island and sheltered by 2 sea walls, so had felt hardly a ripple.

Monday 19 November 2018

Preparing Tintin for the Atlantic


We have a week to prepare Tintin for the Atlantic crossing, and at times it feels as though we are creating lists faster than crossing things off them! But we welcomed Fred (aka David, my brother) and Ben back on board yesterday so now we have many hands on deck.

We have inspected our rig at deck level and up the mast - looking to make sure that any things that should be able to move, can do so, and checking that things that shouldn't move, don't. We feel the shrouds (the guy lines that hold up the mast) to find if any wires have snapped (all good so far) and we check that no cracks can be seen on the mast or boom. We check that shackles are done up tightly and that ropes are not showing signs of chafe. This is something we will need to check for on a daily basis when we sail, trying to make sure that ropes don't constantly rub on things that will make them wear out.

At the top of the mast it was quite windy but at least the boat wasn't moving much. It is s different story entirely at sea, and we hope to avoid the need to climb the mast then. 


Today's tasks were to scrub the bottom of the boat and to service the engine. Both achieved - scuba divers Rob and James did a great job getting rid of the build up of slimey green stuff on the antifouling on the underwater part of the hull.  We've also had a visit from Bob the SSB expert, (single side band radio) to check our set, which we will be using to keep in touch with other boats over a "radio net" during the crossing. 

We continue to meet other crews from all over, and we're enjoying getting to know some of them. On our pontoon we have Irish Kurt and English Neil on one side (greetings to Stevie in Salcombe form Neil!), Germans on the other, then Jens and his family from Norway, then a Finnish women's crew. At yesterday's opening ceremony we volunteered to carry the European Union flag and hope it might not be the last chance to do so.

Tomorrow, 3 days of optional seminars start - with subjects ranging from the Atlantic Night Sky to Provisioning, First Aid at Sea to Emergency Navigation. We will start to plan our stores (how much pasta for a crew of 5 for 21 days at sea and then emergency reserves? how much loo roll? and importantly, how much beer?) 

We have brought with us a wonderful array of treats given to us before we left home and they have been hidden away, to be brought out when required. Thank you all!

Sunday 18 November 2018

Las Palmas

On Thursday evening we had a great meal at a Tapas bar in Santa Cruz.  Run by a couple of old(ish) men, it was as Spanish in atmosphere as could be.  It specialised in ham with several dozen legs of Bellota Iberico ham hanging behind the bar - we had several delicious dishes and too much red wine before staggering back to the boat.  

We had decided to leave a day early as the winds looked slightly more favourable to sail on Friday rather than Saturday, so we'll have to leave our exploration on the interior of Tenerife and cycling up the volcano for another time.  The wind started off well, and we had several hours going downwind towards Gran Canaria.  It then died a little and whilst we could sail, we wouldn' t have reached Las Palmas before dark - so we put the engine on.  James and I (Rob) both felt slightly queasy in the rolling sea - could be just 1st day at sea, too much red win or the effects of a jab the day before.
Hauling up the mainsail - James v concerned

Downwind to Gran Canaria
 We rounded the north end of Gran Canaria and then motored past miles of docks and big ships.  I think West Africa is growing as an area for oil exploration and the Canaries are a stable base from which to operate - certainly there is masses of very expensive drilling and production infrastructure here

Checking in at the marina took a while - they do like their bureaucracy here - but we managed to complete formalities and moor up in time for the 1st ARC party.  Very good food and wine until the band started.  To our curmudgeonly ears they were much too loud and out of tune (humbug!) so we retired to our bunks

Yesterday, we settled in and dealt with our safety inspection.  A couple of minor points but generally all good.  We're gradually meeting more of the neighbouring crews and boats - there is such a wide variety of boats taking part from a 34ft hallberg Rassy to an 80ft (51ton!) Oyster.


Today is the "opening ceremony" - trooping round the marina grouped into countries behind a band.  Think the Olympic Opening Ceremony but 1/1000 of the scale.

When we did the ARC last time, we had a Serrano ham ( called "Babe") that fed us most of the way across.  It was greatly loved & appreciated.  After our evening in Santa Cruz, we've educated ourselves to understand that Babe was just the "entry-level" ham, and there are many grades of slightly nicer and much more expensive hams that we could get. Which sort of ham to choose?  Advice gratefully received. 


Thursday 15 November 2018

Back onboard

We're now back onboard in Tenerife, having had a tremendous send-off. Everybody seemed very happy to see us finally set off for the longest stretch of our trip. It was slightly strange leaving the house at 4:00am yesterday- dark, deserted and shut-up. Our plan is not to be back until July although there will be people coming and going and looking after the place fairly frequently.

We (Rob, Jo & James) will have a couple of days here in Tenerife before heading across to Gran Canaria where David and Ben will be joining us on Sunday. The ARC people have started sending our emails every evening telling us of all the events we're missing out on by no being in Las Palmas already - which mostly seems to be drinks parties. Apparently, "almost everybody" had arrived by yesterday. We'll just be fashionably late.

Our routine has started already - James is currently leading the "Bums and Tums" session at the end of the pontoon for everybody who is keen (which is Jo). They're doing deep squats at the moment, facing out to sea - which means they can't see the quizzical looks from people walking along the pontoon.

Friday 9 November 2018

Reminder of Last Year's Trip

We're currently getting ready to return to Tintin next week, prior to setting off across the Atlantic.

As a reminder of last year's trip to Norway via Scotland, and also to try my skills at video-editing and vlogging, here's a brief compilation of drone footage from 2017:

Viewers should be aware that the weather was not always like this!

Monday 22 October 2018

End of Stage 2..

We arrived in Marina Santa Cruz at about 5:00am this morning, having motored almost all of the previous day.  In all, the trip from Madeira was a pleasant contrast from the passage from Cascais.  The sun shone, the waves were gentle and we could relax on board.  Whilst it's really important to know that the boat, equipment and people can cope in a blow, it's really nice not to have to do it very often!

So, it's a slow day today - doing washing and domestic chores to get the boat ready for leaving for 3 weeks.  We're returning to the UK - returning in mid-November.
Washing day in marina Santa Cruz

Sunday 21 October 2018

Towards Tenerife

Having said goodbye to David and Ben in Madeira, we set off from Quinta
Do Lorde yesterday morning for the 260Nm south to Tenerife. The
position of the marina - at the base of a 100m vertical cliff at the
very narrow eastern end of the island - means that alarming katabatic
winds form in the marina as the wind climbs over the ridge before
plunging vertically downwards. Although not violent, the noise of
these gust running through the rigging was enough to give the skipper a
fretful night wondering how to extricate ourselves from our berth
safely. When the moment came, RYA training worked and it absolutely
fine and we motored out to a flat sea and lovely northerly wind.

Yesterday, we bowled along either goose-winged our broad reaching
making good time in great conditions. The wind died in the evening and
the engine went on at 10pm. We're still puttering along now with
barely a breath of wind - hope to be in Tenerife tonight - probably 4am
or similar again1

Friday 19 October 2018

Madeira

We arrived in Madeira at at about 4:00am yesterday morning.  David is claiming  victory in the arrival time sweepstake because his guess was almost spot on.  However, James is also claiming victory because we didn't actually arrive in Funchal, we stopped just up the coast at Quinta do Lorde.  Having said the latest time, he reasoned, he was therefore closest.  We stopped at Quinta Do Lorde because, as we picked up phone signal nearing the islands, an email arrived saying that Funchal marina had, as of that day, stopped taking non-local boats.  Really not helpful to get that at midnight after a 500Nm sail.  Anyway, it was fortunate that we could go to Quinta Do Lorde easily - it was nearer and has plenty of room.
Safely arrived

The last few hours of the passage we pretty memorable. As night started to fall, the wind picked from Force 4/5 to Force 7 gusting 8. We went from full sail to 2nd reef main and no genoa in 15mins and started a moonlit sleigh-ride past the island of Porto Santo and towards Madeira. David, Ben and James added the accompaniment of Pink Floyd to complete the surreal picture.  As we approached Madeira, the seas were rising and about 3Nm off the eastern end of the islands we met some particularly gnarly waves.  I (Rob) was on the helm and could hear a roar behind before a wave rolled the boat to an alarming angle and then landing on the stern.  It filled the cockpit (and my boots) with water.  It was bad enough that Jo swore.   A few more minutes like this and another rolling drenching before the seas started to flatten nearer the point.  On subsequent closer inspection of the chart, it turns out that if you have a gale forcing the sea over a seabed that rises from 4km depth to less than 80 m in 1/2 Nm or so, then you get some big seas!
pre sleigh-ride

Behind the island, the sea flattened and we motored the last few miles into the marina.  Dark and quiet, we bumbled around trying to find a spot before drifting gently sideways into a large empty berth.  ......And breathe.......

We were a bit sluggish yesterday morning, but by the afternoon we had perked up to explore the island - which is more spectacular than I could have imagined.  The geology of the place is stunning, and luckily we had James the geologist to explain it all to us. We walked out to the eastern tip and looked out over the patch of sea that got me so wet.


It was rough out there!

David and Ben have just left to fly home and we have another day here before continuing south to Tenerife.


and here are a few action photos

Bums and tums class


Wednesday 17 October 2018

Day 4: Going very nicely

After the trying first couple of days, the weather has settled down and
is atoning for its histrionics last week. We've had a good 24 hour run
on a nice broad reach making between 6-8knots. It's overcast and the
under the occasional shower the wind gets up a bit. We think that
we're also getting some assistance from the Canaries current, which
flows south down the coast of Africa.

At supper last night, the sweepstake on arrival times varied between
midnight and 5:00am tommorrow morning. With 125Nm to run, I still
fancy my entry of 3:06am

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Dawn, day 3

Well, if the past week has told us anything, it is that weather
forecasts are not necessarily accurate!

After the days of plotting and predicting the track of ex-hurricane
Leslie the various grib models still couldn't quite agree where (s)he
would make landfall - and they were all wrong anyway! Landfall was
earlier than most models predicted and a bit further north - saving
us from the worst of it. It was fun watching 'Life of Brian' while
also keeping any eye of the weather. The wind (inside the marina)
peaked at F9 then abruptly dropped to about 15kn before going back
up to gale force from the other direction. The pressure,
meanwhile, dropped to 1004 then rose back up to 1008 during the
film!

Since our departure the forecasts haven't been great either. As we
left there was the predictable swell but whereas the forecast had the
wind moving to the west F5 - What we got was steady F7 gusting 9 with
us trying to get as close to the wind was we could. We have a really
great crew and Tintin coped faultlessly, but we were all somewhat jaded
by last night.

Happily, the wind has moderated and backed and we're even getting the
occasional glimpse of sunshine so morale is on the way up again and
sea-sickness is less - but it's still oilies, lifejackets and clicked on
it the cockpit.

Currently 287Nm from Funchal. Eta Thursday early.

Sunday 14 October 2018

We love Cascais harbour wall

Last night was a bit blowy, as the remains of Hurricane Leslie whistled by. The epicentre was, luckily for us, a little further north. Yesterday afternoon was calm and sunny, and here in Cascais marina you could see people methodically preparing their moored boats for a big blow. Checking and doubling up mooring lines, lashing furled sails, and tidying up anything that might fly away. 
We witnessed the weather changing in textbook style. As the afternoon progressed, it became hazy and cloudy but still warm. The wind gradually rose in strength as the barometer dropped.

A walk along the shore road demonstrated to us what a great job the marina sea wall does. Waves were crashing against it and being forced to do a 180 turn. in the photos, Tintin is the third boat along the pontoon from the sea wall end, but by evening we were getting regular showers from the spume of the waves.

Down below deck we were very warm and dry, enjoying a film night while gale force winds blew.

This morning it is bright and clear and the wind has moderated. We plan to set off for Madeira later today.

Friday 12 October 2018


Playing the waiting game

It's lovely to be back on board Tintin for this second leg of the trip: Lisbon to the Canaries, about 750 miles.
We have our Atlantic crew assembled. Joining us are James Heath, Jo's brother David Gurney and his son Ben.
We plan to sail to Madeira and then on to Tenerife.

The weather forecast has been changing daily, and the cut off low pressure system that we have been tracking is still causing us to pause. We are following 4 different forecasts and between them they seem sure that this low pressure will move steadily east or north east, but their predictions for its track vary significantly. One has it passing through Cascais Marina (that's where we are now) tomorrow night with peak wind speeds of around 60 knots (75mph) at midnight. Another forecast reckons it will be 700 miles further south.

We intend to wait and see, with mooring lines nice and tight.

So we have been treated to a few days here in Cascais. Time to explore Lisbon and surrounds and develop a taste for custard tarts.

Sunday 7 October 2018

Looking forward to returning to Lisbon

We're starting to think about our return to Portugal on Wednesday, and the sail down to the Canaries.  For the last 2-3 months there has been a consistent F3-5 NNE down the Portuguese and African coast that would have provided great sailing.  Now, however, autumn has arrived and the weather pattern is more disrupted.  The grib file for next week shows a nasty looking low pressure area splitting away from Hurricane Leslie and making its way across the Atlantic beneath the rather squashed Azores high.  The screenshot below shows the current prediction for next weekend - when we would be approaching Madiera.  Winds of 60kn plus - probably with waves from different directions as the low passes. We really do not want to be in the way of that storm - I'm sure the boat and crew would be fine, but it would be no fun at all.


The grib prediction has changed a lot since yesterday - so it's almost certain that the path and speed of the low will not be as currently predicted.  we'll just need to keep a close on its progress and make sure we stay well away from it.

Cascais is a nice place to spend a few days anyway!

Saturday 15 September 2018

Tintin is in Lisbon

Peniche and Cascais share the fact that they are both citadel towns -
with medieval castles protecting the town.  They are also both on the
coast (obviously).  However, other than that, they could hardly be more
different.  Last night we were lit up by the lights of the factories,
with a loud hooter echoing across the bay every hour or so.  Every so
often we were rocked by the wake of a passing fishing boat.  The air was
cold and light was grey - and it is apparently generally 10 degrees
colder than inland.  After 40 miles of motoring and 5 miles of really
nice sailing (why couldn't the win have arrived earlier), we have
arrived in Cascais, just outside Lisbon.  The air is clear and warm. 
The marina is full of well-maintained, smart boats.  On the way to the
showers James and I passed a Ferrari and a Rollls-Royce Corniche -
perhaps guest of the wedding whose jazz band we can hear wafting over
the harbour wall.  It's a much smarter place!

Which is nice, because this is the end of Stage 1 of our trip and Tintin
will be staying here for 3 weeks.  We have 2 days of surfing & culture &
boat maintenance, depending on which generation you're from, before we
return to the UK on Tuesday

Cliffs of Cabo Carvoeiro

South to Portugal

We had gentle northerly breezes for the first 12 hours of our leg from
Baiona to Peniche, but then the engine was needed as the wind died away
in the evening. With just a thin new crescent moon, the stars were
brilliant during our night watches. We passed a few fishing boats but
there was little other traffic. As it grew light, the day became grey,
and visibility reduced with it.

The Portuguese coast along this stretch has a limited number of safe
havens for boats. Much of it is low lying, and is subject to swell from
the Atlantic - most of the harbours have man-made walls to provide some
shelter. As we neared Peniche the cliffs of Cabo Carvoeiro loomed into
view, and we decided against anchoring at Isla Berlenga, a nature
reserve a few miles off the cape, due to the poor visibility. We hoisted
the Portuguese courtesy flag before we entered harbour, to oil the
wheels of the inevitable bureaucracy that is so much part of visiting an
overseas port.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Messing about in boats

Having filled in all the forms needed by the authorities, we obtained permission to navigate to and anchor at the Islas de Cies: stunning islands that guard the entrance of the Ria de Vigo, and which form part of the Atlantic Islands National Park. This is where Francis Drake launched his attack on Baiona hundreds of years ago.

The water there is stunningly clear and blue, and the beaches white with shells. Pine studded rugged hills behind framed the bay on the Isla del Sur where we were anchored. It felt like paradise.
We swam and messed around in boats.

Tonight we are sheltered by the castle in Baiona; tomorrow we start our voyage south to Portugal with a 170 mile leg to Perniche. The crew will be standing watches once more - now with Ali Philips joining us

The Old Man and the Sea

 
The fishing boats in Galicia come in all shapes and sizes. By far the most charming are the wooden boats with a single sail and just a pair of oars for power. Yesterday an old man sailed into the bay where we were anchored, rowing when his sail fell empty of the slight breeze. He spent an hour or two fishing, gave us a wave, and then slipped away as quietly as he came. I don't know if he had any success fishing, but he seemed cheerful.

We also had an encounter with Tim, who rowed over in his little rubber dinghy for a chat. Tim has sailed solo across the Atlantic several times in China Blue, his junk-rigged 21 foot Jester (built in 1954). This boat was originally owned by Blondie Haslar, the man known to have invented wind powered self steering - which allows a boat to be sailed and steered mechanically, allowing a solo sailor to rest. Compared to Tintin, the Jester looks so small  - but it has travelled many thousands of miles across oceans in its life. It was very inspiring to hear about. Tim gave us a book about sailing around the world - many thanks!