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


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

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!

Monday, 10 September 2018

Escorted by dolphins

Almost every day, a shout goes up from whoever is on the helm: "Dolphins!" and everyone else rushes on deck, "Where?"

This morning we were joined by 3 large bottlenosed dolphins for a while. It is magical and feels such a treat to be visited by them each time it happens. They seem to love swimming along by the bow, then after a while head off as if to get back to what they were doing before we came along.

James managed to catch them on camera for us.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Cruising the Rias

Exploring the Rias of  Arousa and Pontevedra over the last couple of days has been very gentle. Wind no more than 10 knots, beautiful beaches to anchor off,and peaceful nights with no dragging anchors. But today brought patches of very thick fog as we headed to Punta Cabicastro, clearing suddenly at times to reveal the rocky shore and islands. The radar helped with navigation.

James, Lizzie and Rob went diving  - and saw squid, starfish and an angry octopus.

We have come up to the top of the Ria de Pontevedra this evening, past plenty of  large"bateas" (floating platforms used for mussel farming, a major local industry), and have anchored tucked in by Tambo Island for the night. 

Friday, 7 September 2018


A couple of photos from our downwind sail around Cape Finisterre 2 days ago (for you, Mum!)
We have had a couple of lazy lovely days in Ria Muros, swimming and enjoying a bit less wind now we are east of the brisk northerlies. On to the next Ria south tomorrow (Arousa) in search of diving grounds.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Into the Rias

After Corme, we had 20NM run down the coast to Camarinas. Camarinas tries hard to be a lovely seaside town, but just doesn't quite make it. . The people are very nice and friendly, but the houses are just a bit run-down, or never completed in the first place. However, the thing that got to me is it seems to always be windy! It was windy when we were here last time, the pilot book comments on how its a windy place and it was windy last night. We went to the marina at the town to allow easy departure for Millie and Bee - it may have been quieter had we headed right up to the head of the bay under the trees. N'importe
Millie and Bee departed today. We were sorry to see them go - the boat is much quieter. Before she left, Millie completed her commission as resident artist to decorate the vane of the wind steering. The windvane now seems much too smart to expose to the wind and weather, but it will only while we are on passage. I know Milie was particularly keen for this picture to be put on the blog, so here it is:
 After the girls left, we came out of Camarinas and continued our run south - it was great sailing; goose-winged down the swell at up to 10knots. We had been planning to tuck in under Cape Finisterre but eventually decided to carry on and get into the rias so try to escape the wind, so we carried on SE. We're now in Ria de Muros - the most northerly of 'Ria Baixas' of Galicia. We found a calm anchorage in Ensanada de Estreio thanks to Tim Trafford's advice and are having a very leisurely morning making bread and doing odd jobs in the sun and out of most of the wind. We can see the clouds a few miles west scudding past a 30knots, while its less than 1/2 that here. I'm doing this blog to avoid having to service the heads, but it's time to don the marigolds....

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

We have found the wind

We had a speedy sail with wind reaching force 7 yesterday, downwind and past dramatic granite headlands. Top speed reached 12.6 knots surfing down a wave. Last night we found welcome shelter in the harbour of Corme, a fishing village on the stretch of coast known as the Costa da Morte. Bow Cottage apple crumbe to finish the day  - thank you Gurneys!

Saturday, 1 September 2018

450 miles under the keel

Tintin has arrived in La Coruna, at 4;30 am today. We were treated to
memorable encounters during the crossing of Biscay. We saw the sea
depth change change from 150m to over 4000m as we traversed the edge
of the continental shelf. The Atlantic swell, sizeable to start with,
gradually reduced over the passage and our horizon became flatter. As
well as the magical regular visits from dolphins, we saw whales 3
times - cruising along the surface, blowing a fountain of spray from
time to time. They seemed to ignore us completely as they serenely
continued on their way.

Yesterday we became aware that the engine seemed to be vibrating more
than it should. A video shot over the stern showed that we had rope
around the propeller. James was voted to have the opportunity to be
hero of the day by jumping in , diving down with a knife and freeing
the prop. The bike helmet was to protect his head form the hull - the
boat was slopping around in the swell a lot.He surfaced after the 5th
attempt victorious with an armful of rope and fishing net. The girls
jumped in too for a quick dip in the deep blue sea.

Later in the afternoon, the wind returned allowing us to sail on a
broad reach for the last 70 miles. The sky as we approached Spain was
so bright with stars, until a huge orange moon rose and lit our way as
we navigated into harbour, led again by dolphins at the bow (who woke
Rob, asleep up for'ard with their squeaking).

Now we are enjoying the luxuries Coruna can offer: hot showers, a calm
berth, and dinner ashore. Lizzie has arrived to join us so now we are