Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Republic Day Parade

Republic Day Celebrations in Valletta

This past Sunday we got up early - well earlyish and set off to Valletta to the market. I thought I already knew where they held the market, so we got off the bus and went through the entrance gates to the city, heading for Republic Street which is where I 'knew' the market was. The first thing that became evident was the Pulizia presence. We hardly ever see police anywhere, but there were lots of police and then as we came up to St. George's Square there were crowds everywhere, a stage had been set up in the square and we asked what was about to happen. A parade. Great - we love pomp and circumstance, and the next couple of hours was filled with pomp. Having grown as a soldier's daughter I was well used to the parade that followed - and there is video attached. The Maltese Army, whose dress uniform is exactly the same as my father's, were out in force. They were lead by their marching band who were excellent, and then mounted soldiers on beautiful horses, followed by the foot soldiers, followed by a lovely old Rolls Royce Bentley carrying the President and his wife, who really looked the part wearing a lovely Ascot style hat. By the time we got to the Square it was pretty difficult to get a good look at the proceedings, but we could certainly hear the Company Sargeant Major directing his men to 'show off'their skills to the President and the people. The band played, the soldiers marched and the people, including us thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle. I must say that I wasn't at all prepared for the sound when they removed their bayonets and fired a round of blanks into the air. The report reverberated all around the square, bouncing off the buildings; it made me almost jump out of my skin. And then of course everyone laughs nervously, and then they did it again, just a deafening, but not quite so shocking as we knew it was coming. It doesn't come through the mike on the camera quite as loud as it was, but you get the idea. We never did get to the market, it wasn't where I 'knew' it was. We walked back to the marina and joined in with a dock party which was very nice. A picture is attached of the group of liveaboards. Unfortunately Tony had gone to get more beer during the photo take, so he's not in it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Church in Cospicua

Fireworks at the Cospicua Procession

Feast Day in Cospicua

Sunday 6th December we had a very long day. We started out in Valetta in the morning and then went over to Cospicua. We were expecting to meet up with cousin Annie and her family and then go over to Maria's house (my other cousin)to surprise her. I knew that their other siblings (my cousins) would all be there, but didn't realise that it would be the Feast day of Cospicua. This day celebrates the day that the Virgin Mary conceived Jesus Christ. It is one of the biggest festas in Malta - more so because Cospicua was 90% destroyed during WWII and their statue of the Virgin Mary, which you will see in the attached videa had to be removed from their parish church for its safe keeping. It was removed to a village called Birkirkara a few miles away which was not such a target for the bombing.(Cospicua was a major target because it was home to the naval dockyards.) The statue survived and the people really do love this statue. About 10 men carried the statue on their shoulders out of the church and down into the town square to be displayed to all of the parishoners. She stayed out in the square for a few hours amongst the hundreds of people while they feasted and sang and generally had a good time. She basically oversaw the proceedings. Tony and I watched as the statue was taken from the church and then we went to Maria's. Maria is the eldest daughter of 9 children. This family I knew very well while growing up. Whenever we were in Malta we spent time with them as we were all similar ages and enjoyed doing the same things - swimming, diving off rocks and having simple fun. We spent the evening with them all, reminiscing and finding out what we'd all been doing for the past 40 odd years, then we went back out into the crowds to enjoy the celebrations. It was alot like being at the most awesome rock concert or sporting event, and it was a religious event where the people have a really good time. The statue was carried back up the road from the town square - uphill to the church steps and then they carried her up the steps to the encouraging applause of the people. When they brought her into the church - which was packed - the applause was deafening. They brought her alongside her regular resting place, and then quite unbelievably lifted her up straight armed so that everyone could see her better. The crowd went crazy when they put this super human effort into lifting her after carrying her so far. When she was lifted into place it was the end of the proceedings and we returned to Maria's house, had a little more to eat and drink and then we all went to our respective homes. It was such a pleasure to meet them all and for Tony to see another part of my family.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Valletta Christmas lights

Manoel theater

A night with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra - and Phil and Wendy

Tony wants me to write something sophisticated, so here goes, we heard overtures from Rossini and Verdi, the overtures of Rossini are gems in their own right, bearing an economy of 'ideation' yet an extraordinary flair for melodic invention ------------ pleeeeeease ------------that sounds like such a bloody croc. Back to what I thought of our night at the theatre. It was a lovely evening, starting with being picked up in a car - not having to walk meant that we - no - I could wear decent clothes and sort of shoes, well I still have to climb over the pulpit at the front of the bowsprit and manoevre around to compensate for the 30kn winds which are moving Moondancer around considerably, so I can't actually wear a dress, but at least something other than hiking boots and jeans. So that's how it started, and then we got to the Theatre and met with our Danish and Dutch friends in the courtyard lobby - (just remember that this theatre dates back to 1732, which makes me feel a bit like an excitable American on holiday in London, but not wanting to appear gauch, we take all of this amazing stuff in stride. I think our friends were equally in awe of this beautiful theatre. From the car to the theatre we walked down Republic Street which has recently been lit for Christmas with hundreds of angels suspended from the buildings - Oh God, I'm starting to act like a bloody American again, taking pictures galore while everyone else is just being so cool. Then the theatre and the performance was everything we hoped it would be, it was a lovely evening. We were mostly respectful of our surroundings, obeyed the rules about not taking pictures during the performance though we really wanted to, and only took the piss a little bit every time the resident conductor, Michael Laus left his podium to wipe the sweat from his brow - we of course said that he was going off to take a tipple. And when the First Violinist/Leader, (a woman) and Michael were presented with bouquets at the end of the performance, we all said, Hey how come she gets a bouquet? and I said its because she's Michael's mistress and Tony said it was because she is a slut. So after we brought the whole thing down to our level we all left happily to eat at a lovely little restaurant close to the boat which was packed with Maltese all enjoying simple good food.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dead Fish Diver

Here's a job that most of us would dearly love to have, if we had ever heard of it. We have recently met a gentleman called Morgan, and ex-pat from Sweden. He's probably about 40 and came here 10 years ago.
His first job in Malta was as a diver. In many bays around Malta are Tuna storage containers. The Tuna fishermen bring their catch into these storage nets and they are collected and fed and left there to grow until they are big enough to ship off to Japan who seem to be the world's biggest buyers of very large Tuna. Up to 200 kilos, twice as big as Morgan. So sometimes the Tuna die and if left in these containers will contaminate the live fish, which means that somebody has to take out the dead fish.
That was Morgan's job. Unblievable, he would swim around in very close quarters packed in with hundreds of Tuna. Sometimes he would get cut by their sharp fins. That's not what he does now. He's become a shipwright and he and an Irishman called Ken seem to get some pretty big jobs here.

Time to start experiencing Malta

Now that we have moved into our new ‘home’, which incidentally is across the dock from George, the Royal Malta Yacht Club’s commodore who never knows who we are, we now have time to look around. The weather is much cooler now which is more conducive to doing just that. Malta is an extremely hot place in the summer months and its difficult to get motivated to do anything except lie down in the boat with a couple of fans blowing full force onto you, afraid to move because as soon as you do the sweat starts flowing.

We’ve been welcomed into a community of Europeans who have made Malta their homes in the winter, coming back to their spots in the marina and then take off traveling around the Med in the summer. They have lots to tell us about Greece, Turkey, Croatia and Italy. Sicily of course is only about 50 miles from here, so we look forward to taking some trips there during the winter months. Though the winds can get really nasty there is also mild weather and some people still cruise the med then. But they prefer to make Malta their home base, and I’m sure some of them plan to retire to the land one day, when they no longer want to live aboard. The British have been retiring to Malta for many years. When I am talking with these people about Malta I feel envious that they know Malta much better than I do. We will do our best to remedy that while here.

Tonight we are going to the Manoel Theatre to watch the Royal Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. This theatre dates back to the 1732, was built by Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena ‘for the honest recreation of the people’. It was restored in 1969 and is believed to be the second oldest theatre in use in Europe. We went on a short tour of the theatre when we first arrived here. It really is gorgeous, not very big, 3 tiers of boxes (we’ve booked a box for 4 people at 80 Euros). Every box has an original painting on the front wall of the box. The artist who was commissioned to paint these was from Italy, so every country scene that he has painted are places that he remembered in Italy. That strikes me a funny. I suppose he was homesick and it must have taken a few years to finish all of that work.

Two days ago we went to Marsaxlokk which is a really lovely fishing village. It houses hundreds of beautiful colourful fishing boats in the main harbour, and then just around the corner is the free port – maybe I should say the FREE PORT, because its huge. Now we know where all of those ships were going that we saw on the way here. There is actually a constant, never ending line of ships coming into this port. Around the port is a fuel storage installation. As I write this I realize that is why Malta was so protected by the British and so sort after by the Germans during WWII, it’s the refueling station halfway across the Med. So some of those ships are bringing fuel and some a re refueling. From my brother Peter’s villa in High Ridge which overlooks the southern part of Malta we could see an infinitessimal string of lights heading out to sea – these ships, and when we were flying back into Malta at night I could see this same string of lights from the plane. Marsaxlokk is famous for its Sunday fish market – which we haven’t been to yet, but will. They have a daily market also which is purely touristic stuff, much of it made in Taiwan or somewhere other than Malta. We did actually succumb to buying a tile with the famous good luck EYE painted on it. Most of the fishing boats have these eyes painted on either side of the bow. This makes perfect sense to me that the boats should be able to see where they are going. This eye now looks back at me from above the galley sink - got to have a nautical souvenir of Malta.
We also found a fabulous old fort which only opens to the public on Saturdays, wo we couldn't go inside and actually know nothing about it, except that is looks like it dates back to the Grand Masters, like Fort Manoel and was re-used during WWII, the new heavy gun slits replacing the ancient ones give that away.

Yesterday was a lovely ‘hot’ day with cloudless sky, the type of day to do a load of laundry and hang it up to dry. As we are at the end of our dock we have become part of the scenery that the harbour tour boats remark on as they go by. There are lots of them. So now the Canadian boat has been added to their patter – ‘As you will see from the Canadian flag on this boat, Msida Marina is international, attracting boats from all over the world, and here you will see one of those poor sailors hanging out their washing because they can’t afford to pay the launderette prices’. The last bit wasn’t true, but the first bit was.

Today it is pouring rain and will be for a couple of days. The weather reporting here is very accurate, when they say it will rain it rains a lot, and if they say it won’t rain it doesn’t. We like that – no weather surprises.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Yea! we have a spot on N dock

We were very lucky to catch the dock guy Chris in the morning on monday. We let him know that we are on the wall still looking for space. We mentioned that we had met a fellow who has just had his boat lifted out for four months. The guy's spot is on the very end of N dock. Chris said, sounds good , go ahead and take it. So we were very happy. The only problem was the wind has picked up and blowing us right on to the wall with not too much room for manuvering. We'll just wait till it dies down. Nancy wakes me up at 3am and say's "look it's so calm right now. Lets go" So we fired up and slid down to our new location. It's nice to have power and water again. The view is not to bad either.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

On the quay in Msida Marina - at last

We woke up early this morning, before the wind got up, took a couple of pictures of Moondancer in the water - 'yawn' and then made ready to leave Amazon's mooring and come around to Msida Marina. It looks good for space in here now for the next couple of months. We'll wait until Monday to check in officially, as we want to deal with the manager, not his staff.
Where we are on the quay is very ice, there are trees and flowers and birds singing and people walking by, stopping to admire our lovely home, and some stop to talk which Tony loves, and our new friends dropping by to welcome us. After a few months in the yard this is very welcome.
Tomorrow there will be a barbeque on the dock for all of the liveaboards in the marina who want to come. We look forward to getting to know our neighbours.
So, a couple more pictures of Moondancer and then - well whatever the next phase brings.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Engine problem solved!

This morning we woke up thinking things should be o.k. But alas, they were not.We tried to start the engine but it only ran for a short period. Yesterday we tried bypassing the racor filter and that seemed to work for a while.
So maybe it's time to check the forward tank to see if there is micro crap inside. We pumped out 25 gallons into our jerry cans and found some crap but not enough to warrent our problem. so after cleaning the tank and then pouring the fuel back into the tank via a baha filter which has 3 screens to filter out crap and then down to sludge and water, this must be the cure!
O.k. Nancy turn over the engine. Yea it's running. Then quit again! Is it time to call a mechanic. Nancy say's maybe we should bleed it some more. I say we've tried that.By this time we both are ready to call it quits. I say "i want to try one more thing" i disconnect the fuel lines from the forward tank and the aft tank which connect to a ball valve. We open it up and lo and behold it's full of crapola! Then we clean it out and wouldn't you know it everything is just peachy!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Click on the pictures

I've posted the pictures in a smaller format which takes less time to download. To view them larger just double click on the picture.

Cockpit Pictures

So you may be sick of these pictures by now, but we have put so much work into making Moondancer look good, that we have to show the evidence. Here are a couple of cockpit pictures.
We are more optimistic about the engine situation. It seems to be fuel that's the problem. We did an experiment yesterday and by-passed the raycor filter. By doing so the engine ran for a couple of hours at low revs. We did a bit of research on bio growth in the fuel and the fuel we emptied out of the raycor filters showed small sludgey particles which we think is bio growth. So we bought a product - a very expensive product which we put into the tanks which is supposed to kill the bio growth and absorb it. As suggested we gave the tanks a shock treatment - which means put it all in - and today we are going to try again.
We are hoping to go into the marina today - if there's room.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Going in the water

So those videos were then and this is now - Wednesday evening on the same day at 8.45We're in the water, we motored out of the sling out into the bay and got about 10 boat lengths before the engine died. One of those deaths that usually means fuel starvation caused by something simple.
We coasted up to a mooring, which incidentally happens to belong to a classic old converted steamship called Amazon who we met in Bermuda.
They aren't here but we are. Tony managed to steer her up to the mooring without the engine and we grabbed it and have been tied to it all day.
We've worked most of this day changing fuel filters, twice for the racor and one for the primary, pulled off fuel lines to check they are clear, which they are, and have not reached a conclusion. The engine sometimes runs for a short while gulping a bit of fuel and then stops. The bowl at the bottom of the racor filters have been full of muck, which sounds like we have a batch of dirty fuel. But we did a few miles after filling up in Gozo on our arrival here and there was no problem. It seems to have something to do with being immobile for almost 3 months.
We are dreading the possibility that the fuel pump has packed up.
So what's good about today is we're in the water, we're tied up to a very prestigious mooring very safely, we've cleaned most of the boat though she really needs a good hosing down and we have the name and phone number of a Maltese mechanic who comes highly recommended.
So we hope you like these videos. We have a few more but they take so long to download.

Another video of our launch

Malta launching day

Today's the day we go back in to water. Everything all prepared and ready to go. It feels like ages since we have been swaying about!

Monday, November 23, 2009

more pic's, almost ready to go back in the water

November 23rd, Where did the time go?????

Actually we know exactly where it went. We have worked and worked and worked on our home, MoonancerX and it sure has paid off. She looks gorgeous, better than she has ever looked since we've owned her, not to mention some of the underwater issues that we have found, and dealt with properly. She has 4 coats of paint on her hull, the cockpit is completely scraped, sanded and cetolled with the recommended 3 coats. Our living quarters right now look like hell and its hard to move around because so much of the 'stuff' that usually lives up on deck and in the cockpit is stored down below. Anyway here are some pictures of her from the outside, we'll post cockpit pictures later.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Royal Artillery Insignia

The wall on which this was carved was entirely strafed with bullet holes. The royal Artillery was my father's regiment. I wondered as I stood there if he had also stood in the same place as a young gunner.

Living on the hard in Malta

Living on the Hard in Malta

It has been brought to my attention that my blog entries have been tardy of late. Actually they’ve been non-existent. Could that be indicative of how interesting our new life in this boat yard is? Yes it could appear that way, but our in-communicability has been very frustrating, and we have been working very hard on MoondancerX.
When we got a good look at her on our return from Canada/England we thought she looked very sad and shabby, and the initial chore which in itself was major – scraping and re-finishing all of her woodwork, has now turned into a mammoth task. We are now re-painting her entire hull aswell. And when all that’s done before we return her to the water we’ll give her a couple of coats of bottom paint. Painting the hull has incurred lots of preparation work, and locating the paint a lot of leg work.
So during these days of hard physical labour, where are upper bodies are either being built up to gargantuum proportions OR just wrecked rotator cuffs, at the end of our days we have tried to find internet cafes which are open and somewhere that we will not get smoked out. I have also bought phone cards and got up really early in the morning to find phone booths which are compatible with my phone cards. No luck. Those days were disheartening, and I’ve discovered that I really need regular contact with my family and friends to be happy away from home.
So now we have the Dongle, which is a mobile internet stick which goes into a USB port and guarantees us internet whenever we switch it on, providing of course we are within the range of Vodafone Cellular Wireless Network. Being such a small country that covers almost everywhere, so we are very happy with this new situation and can phone whenever we like over skype.
We haven’t done much sight seeing since we’ve been here but we have done a little. We go to Valletta fairly regularly as we are pretty close. There is a ferry from closeby which runs every half hour – we prefer this to a bus of course because it’s a boat and we love to be on boats. We’ve seen a little of family and have met new family, such as my Cousin Annie’s son Neville who has been a great help to us.
Last weekend we went to an open weekend at the Fort at Manoel Island. Manoel Island has been mostly purchased by a large development corporation called Midi and part of their deal with the Government of Malta in order to get the land they want to develop was they had to renovate this gorgeous old fort. Part of the fort were army barracks during WWII which made it a target for german bombs and bullets. The evidence of bombing is horrendous and so is the bullet (strafing) damage on the walls of the bastions. Walking around the fort I saw a Royal Artillery insignia carved into a wall and a bullet hole through it, I wondered if my father had stood in the same place as I was during the war.

I don’t know much about the politics of Malta – in fact practically nothing, but I like what Midi is doing. Their plan is to create a very exclusive Marina Village incorporating Manoel Island Yacht Yard, which the existing employees are resistant to, but along with this development they will create more employment and instill new accountability into the workers and management. There is a very obvious level of lethargy among the workers at the yard who up until Midi takes over are indirectly government employees. And there are far too many chiefs. I have sat in one of the offices in the main building using their internet connection and listened to the money being wasted almost all day. When presented with our bill, which is very high its hard to join in with the fun atmosphere. The fun they have when they come to work each day is costing their customers an unfair amount.

On the other hand there are many small businesses working very hard to make a living. Neville took me yesterday to a computer sign maker to have our name plates re-made. They had a good workshop and produce good work for less than half of what the same work would cost in Canada. The same thing applies to the small shops we regularly visit, the Tool Box run by Charlie who bends over backwards to find whatever we need, and the small supermarkets. The minimum wage in this country is very low – about 3.50 Euros per hour, which is about $5.00. The security guards looking after the yard earn 3.50 Euros per hour. These jobs seem to be done by new immigrants, Eastern Europeans, Serbians and Croatians or less educated Maltese. Servers in restaurants are largely Eastern Europeans also. When I was a child living in Malta the only foreigners here were British. We see that some of the African refugees are working in real grunt jobs, such as cleaning/scraping the bottom of boats, heavy loading and unloading of trucks, street cleaning. Doing their time coming into a new country. I remember doing that when I first emigrated to Canada, working as a housekeeper until I got my status.

Along with the work we are doing to Moondancer X we have registered with Crewseekers to see if we can find paid work on the water. We’re trying to find work together as Skipper/Cook/Steward or as members of crews on larger boats. So far we have already had a few good leads, so we are optimistic we will find something soon. I have also met a person who’s looking for a seamstress to repair a whole suit of sails for his own 50’ sailboat aswell as canvas and upholstery work. He has a workshop area but wants to buy his own machines and pay by the hour; we’ll see what will come of that.

We joined the Royal Malta Yacht Club yesterday. They’re a very gracious Club with reasonable membership fees and good reciprocals with other Royal clubs. They used to be in one of the ancient buildings on Manoel Island but have recently purchased and renovated abuilding close to Msida Creek Marina. This will give us a nice place to go occasionally where we will be able to talk sailing and perhaps get on a race boat for the Fall racing season when we are here.

We have also made new friends, Wendy and Phil (Phil is an R.Y.A sailing instructor for a small Maltese Company) who were our neighbours here in the yard for the last few weeks. A very nice English couple from Harwich who have come to live in Malta.
We hope to spend more time with them in the future. We’ve trusted each other with our entire movie collections. Other people we have met in the yard are here for a short time while they are preparing their boats to be left for the winter. Then they return to their homes or travel to other parts of the world that they don’t want to take their boats to.

Fishing with Anne and Mick

Here's one video - I think

A couple of videos

Here are a couple of videos which we found recently after our return from Canada and England. A very unfortunate thing happened to most of the pictures we took. The C-drive on our computer filled to the point where it would take no more - and while transferring the entire My Pictures file over to D-drive I lost some. Fortunately the videos were still in the camera, I had not cleared them out. So here they are - Playing pool with Nadine and Lorne in Canada, and fishing with brother Mick and Ann in England. Sorry that I could not furnish more pictures, there are a few on webshots which I put there before losing the files.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Back in Malta - On the Hard

Sounds rude doesn’t it – well it is pretty rude, or maybe crude is a better word for this type of living. Having returned to Malta after living in our friends’ various beautiful homes this is definitely a rude awakening. Yes this is what its like to live on a boat some of the time. Time your toilet use because the walk to the toilet takes about 5 minutes over fairly rough terrain. Don’t wear any decent footwear that you don’t want to have destroyed by said rough terrain. There is garbage all around Moondancer chucked down on the ground by the last boat owners who occupied this space. That just about describes what its like on the hard in Manoel Island Yacht Yard. But its only 70 Euros per week and we really need to get a lot of work done to get Moondancer back to the lovely girl she was 13,000 miles ago.

What is interesting is that its not hot anymore. Within the space of 3 weeks which is how long we were away from here the temperature changed quite a bit. It seems so strange to me to be cold in Malta. Or even to be cold at all. We did experience being cold when back in Canada and England but that was the first time in a year of traveling in permanent Summer. But I have no past experience of Malta in any other season except blistering hot Summer. So this is quite interesting. And very welcome otherwise we would not be able to work on the boat.

So far we’ve pulled the propellor off, pulled the prop shaft out, having had to pull the coupling off the back of the reduction gear box, re-packed the stuffing box aka packing gland,(which we now have to re-do) fixed the bent port track which was pulled out of line while on the wall in Sliema. Today we scraped and sanded the trim on the starboard side and used linseed oil mixed with turps 50/50 as recommended by our New Zealand friend Kiwi, who we met in Pantelleria, as our new finish. Not shiny like Cetol or Varnish, but looks good and we hope will be easier to maintain as the last finish did only last one year. We also have the bottom paint to do and are debating whether to also paint the hull, which really hasn’t faired too well either.

It now looks likely that we will be getting a spot in Msida Marina which is what we had hoped for and then we can start looking for work. Not sure what that’s going to look like yet but we trust that something will come up.

Pics during visit with Ken and Chris

A few pictures here of Tony with narrow boat and Ken, Chris and I trying to decide what to order from an Indian restaurant menu. See web shots for more

6 days in Jolly Old - awesome place

After our 2 weeks flying visit to Canada, sleeping around and eating way too much, we flew to England, started out with my brothers in Dartford for a couple of days. Showed Tony the last home town I lived in before emigrating to Canada - where most of the rest of my family still live, went fishing with Michael and Anne, took loads of photos to post on this site, but promptly lost them all when transferring the entire My Pics file from C-drive to D-drive.

Fortunately however I did not lose the other photos which we took while visiting with Tony's relatives in Frimley and Portsmouth.

Tony's cousin Ken and his wife Chris very kindly took us in for a couple of days, picked us up in Dartford and not only showed us their own fabulous hospitality but also drove us around to do a bit of sight seeing and then drove us down to Portsmouth to meet with Tony's other cousin Jane and her brood - the Coppinis, who, wouldn't you know just happen to be Maltese derivatives. We found that out from Tony's parents the day before we left Canada.

Unfortunately for Chris her elderly mother passed away on the last day that we visiting, and we felt very sad for her. Its hard to lose our mothers, no matter how old they are.

We had a lovely day in Windsor, were totally blown away by the size of the castle,(the Queen was not in residence) - had a close up look at the narrow boats which are travelling around on the river systems in England at very reasonable moorage costs. 4 pounds per day to tie up in designated areas where water is available, or no charge at all if you just tie up to some trees.

We sat in a pub which dated back to the 1500's opposite the Castle entrance where we met a gentleman from Vancouver - actually he was originally from Nairobi but is now from Vancouver. Nice to meet our neighbours so far from home.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


We arrived in Vancouver on a bright sunshiney warm day and that's exactly how we left. We are very grateful to our good friends Lorne and Nadine who very kindly opened their home to us for our stay in the White Rock area. They hosted a gathering of our old friends which was loads of fun. Seeing friends who had been so much a part of our lives before moving to Vancouver Island 3 years ago was such a treat. Sometimes it seems to people who move away and then come back that things just don't change while they are away. That certainly has not been the case with our group of friends. Their lives have all moved along in such a positive manner, their relationships have blossomed, their homes are all lovely and their lives have grown so much over those few years. Unfortunately a couple of them have experienced ill health but have turned their experience into a positive thing. Any of you reading this know who you all are.

I'm not currently using our computer so I cannot download photographs but will do so later.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Winding up our visit home to Canada - October 6th 2009

My little alien friend Anne - looking lovely and getting better
Captain Pedro and Michel, wedding date - August 7th 2010

Tony, Tim and Ray on Lazy Bones

Peter and Wendy and Peter's Boat

Did all of those things really happen to us over the last 12 months. We've told and retold our stories so much in the past 10 days to our friends and families, and the more we were complemented on our bravery and adventurous spirit and all of the other complements it definitely seemed that we were talking about someone else's experience - to me. I think that's called something - 'the imposter syndrome'.

How could that have been me - its all gone by - water under the bridge and if it weren't for the thousand or so photographs we've taken and this interminable blog I keep writing I would probably have lost alot of those memories by now. Incredible how that happens.

But this entry is about being here and meeting up with our good friends and our children and more than once being taught about the kindness of people. And the indiosyncracies of people. That's what its all about isn't it - people.

While visiting Mary in Courtenay Johnny asked her if, now that she's settled in her new home, she would take Grey Cat, our family cat, now 18 years old. Grey Cat lived on Moondancer with us for 2 years, but we did not take him offshore with us and I am so grateful to my kids for seeing him in the same way that I did. Having looked lovingly and sometimes angrily at that furry little face for 18 years I have grown to respect his tenacity and wisdom, but mostly he is very much a part of our family. So the kids, Mary, Josie and Johnny have done their best to look after him, and he has travelled back and forth from Vancouver Island to Vancouver and now back again to the island where he will live with Mary and their new little kitten, Mole, until I return and can take him back again, or time will take him.

After Tony and I delivered Grey Cat we drove down to Victoria, where we stayed overnight with our friends Tim and Denise on their sailboat in Victoria Harbour. That's where we met them when we spent our first winter on Moondancer on the causeway in Victoria. We had a lovely dinner together on Lazy Bones, then our other neighbours Peter and Wendy and Ray came over. Peter is a gentleman in his late 70's who has almost completely rebuilt a 38' Union sloop right up to the teak decks. He is also a professional e-by buyer and finds things like $4000 water makers for $300. Of course we aren't envious at all. Peter and Wendy are planning to take their boat offshore. As will Ray, who is waiting for his wife to return after an extended trip to England where she is looking after a family member.

From there we moved along to Sidney where we met Captain Pedro and Michel at our yacht club, the Sidney, North Saanich Yacht Club. A few other friends who are also members joined us and we had a great impromptu dinner party.

Peter and Michel put us up for that night and sent us on our way after a very gourmet breakfast.
Got to go, just to reiterate 'ITS ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE'

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ferry across the strait to Courtenay

Sorry, no pictures, I'm on a public computer. How lovely to be in Courtenay, the drive up was gorgeous, a balmy Indian summer in British Columbia. Green, crisp, sunny and clean.
I picked up my son, Johnny at the new Richmond skytrian station - strategically place beside the River Rock gambling casino - do you think they helped pay for it, and we got on the 10.15am ferry to Nanaimo. The ferry ride over was such a treat. Even though it was blowing about 25-30 I couldn't care less - it wasn't my responsibility and the great big ferry didn't seem to mind a bit. Would have gone to Victoria to pick up youngest daughter Josie and brought her up to Courtenay but she had school commitments. We came to Courtenay to see my other daughter Mary, who has moved here with her partner, Elias. They've found themselves a restaurant music venue called Joe's Garage to help manage, Elias is a very good Chef and Mary works the front. Its actually a great place right down by the clearest river I've ever seen. There were actually people snorkelling in it yesterday and seals swimming underwater picking up the salmon which are currently running Courtenay reminds me of places like Nelson, Carmel and Friday Harbour, much more sophisticated than I expected. So Yesterday was a lovely day, spending lots of time with my son, having a gorgeous long drive which I haven't done for almost a year. 100kms is very fast compared to 5 knots. And meeting my daughter's partner for the first time. We can see why she loves him and are very happy for them both. Mary is pregnant for the first time, and is expecting a baby in the Spring.
I popped into Parksville to check on my house - it looked lovely, is obviously being well looked after by the tenants, with hanging baskets by the front door, and generally looking well kept. I felt a little bit envious actually, that they are enjoying the house I haven't even lived in yet - well maybe one day- who knows when.
When Johnny gets up we'll go and help Mary and Elias move into their new home, visit for a bit and then get back on the road.

We have spent a bit of time visiting with friends in White Rock. Its so good to see all of our friends again, and of course Tony's family. We've had various offers to go sailing next week, if the weather's good we may do that. Go for a sail in familiar waters with familiar people, and get some crab. We've missed our dungeness crab, which are pretty abundant in our local waters.

Being COLD is such a strange new experience. Yes I do remember it, but as I sit here writing this my hands are seizing up, my toes are frozen and I can't wait to get warm. Life is just a long string of dicotomies isn't it. I've been sweating for almost a year - never being able to dry out - particularly since Mexico, and actually ever since then, but mostly Malta. So I should just freeze up enough after another week here and a week in England to welcome the warmth in Malta. But they do have winter too - I wonder what its like.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Moondancer's on the hard and we are in Canada

Does this feel strange - or what?
The last month has definitely been a departure from the routine we have been living to for the last year. Once we had arrived in Malta our time there was split between putting a great deal of effort into finding moorage for the winter and seeing as much as possible of my brothers and wives.
The moorage situation was a bit of an eye-opener and something we hadn't really anticipated. We had heard from other yachties on the way that its difficult to find moorage and we should probably book into somewhere before arriving. Had we done that we would not have arrived in Malta at all as we would have been told the situation. We've learned that its usually best just to show up somewhere and they'll try to fit you in. But the main marina in Malta is government run, is in the throes of privatization, some of the employees are a bit ticked off with their lot, and it took more than merely asking for a splot to get one. We do think that our time on the wall at Sliema - which was bloody awful, and the time Moondancer is now spending on the hard is getting us the sympathy vote. We figure that when we get back in a few weeks,and then finish the work on the bottomsides of the boat in the next couple of weeks, we should be able to find room in Msida marina.
Anyone wondering why we don't just anchor somewhere, Malta is a bit different from some of the places we've been in that there are really no totally protected anchorages and the winds which can get pretty nasty change direction alot. The winters in Malta can be very bad, many Maltese take their boats out of the water for their protection which is a bit telling.
So that's why we're in Canada. We really wanted to see family and friends soon and now looks alot better than during the winter season.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So the family are almost all gone to their respective homes, Michael and Anne back to Dartford, Lucy and Ross back to Dartford, Ronnie and Sherida back to France, Peter and Sue will go back to Dartford on Monday. And today we left the wall. We'll haul the boat out tomorrow morning with a view to doing some regular maintainance and bottom paint.

We've had a lovely time with my brothers, sisters in law and neice and nephew.

Tony has been thoroughly welcomed into the fold and we really feel that the 13000 mile effort was worth it.
We haven't done much sight seeing yet, but we certainly do love Valletta and the fantastic churches. They are not only in Valletta, they are everywhere. This is a Catholic country and the people put a great deal of their money and their souls into their Churches. A non-Catholic could easily see this as unfair as the churches seem so wealthy and some of the people seem poor. But its not a tax, people give what they can, and its pretty obvious that many of them give alot. The churches are spectacular. Particularly the parish church in Balzan which is my family's village.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What comes next?????????????????????

Aunt Mary and Sisters in Law, Sue, Anne and Sherida
We've been in Malta almost 2 weeks now and we are still toughing it out 'on the wall' at Sliema. This is actually a mooring and we do have access to water and electricity but it is very exposed to north easterly winds, and as usual it is not the wind really that is the problem, but the seas created by the wind. The surge through the harbour entrance builds up big swells that hit the boat sideways on which is very uncomfortable when the winds are up to 15 - 20 knots, which we have had for a couple of days. The latest forecast for the next few days shows a change in wind direction and though its still a bit bumpy it is certainly tolerable. The night before last we actually left Moondancer tied up safely off the wall about half a boat length and slept on shore at my brother Peter's house. That night there was quite a storm, but we were completely oblivious to anything as it was the first night we enjoyed undisturbed sleep in quite awhile.

We have spent quite alot of time with family and as they are going to be here for another week or so, we will make them the focus of our time here. We have also met up with Carmen, an old friend from my childhood and tomorrow will meet up with Connie, another friend from my village, Balzan.
We have also been actively networking in and around Msida marina and Manoel island marina. We have met people who have given us names of other people who may be able to help with moorage situation. It is quite grim right now, and really quite unexpected.

To explain - There are 2 marinas in the Valletta area with moorage available at about $100 per night plus water and electricity and internet. We spent 2 nights there because we really needed to be in a marina for a rest, but we cannot afford to be there. There are 3 other marinas which are run by the Malta Maritime Authority and their rates are much more in keeping with our budget. They, however are being privatised at the end of the year (something to do with Malta's entry into the EU - they say) and cannot enter into any winter moorage agreements until then. The winter period runs from October to April and the moorage rates are considerably less if paid in advance. Alas even if all of these things were not happening there is still no room. There are too many boats wanting these spaces, and not enough marina spaces.
Why not anchor, because the seas and the weather here is very volatile, and one would have to keep moving from one side of the island to the other to be safe. And many of the anchorages are rock bottom, so if you had to move in a hurry, and the conditions do change in a hurry, you may have to leave your ground tackle behind.
So - what are we doing next??? A rough idea is that we will haul the boat out and put it on the hard at Manoel Island Boatyard, come home for a couple of weeks for a much needed visit with family and friends, then come back and do some work on the boat while out of the water. We can live on the boat while doing that, or we can beg a room from friends for the duration. Then when that is done it will take us into the winter period. Many Maltese take their boats out of the water for the winter and store them on the hard, which frees up berths in the marina. So then we may be able to get in. It is our hope that when we are settled we will be able to find some sort of work to do for the winter,and that will give us time to figure out which direction to go next Spring. Cruise the med OR go through the Suez Canal and explore a much more foreign part of the world.

Right now we like Malta - it has some feeling of home - and we need a well earned rest. So does Moondancer, she looks pretty rough and we want to make her pretty again.

A bit of information I want to pass on about insurance. We have been insured with BC Yacht Insurance for a couple of years now. Before we went offshore our premium was in keeping with the premium we had paid before with Beacon Underwriters. When we went offshore this premium tripled but we went for a total loss policy by increasing our deductible to $20,000, which basically means we would pay for most things ourselves except the complete loss of the boat. The policy came due for renewal at the end of August and when we asked for a quote for Mediterranean waters only we were given the same quote with the same deductible. I did not believe that should be as we were not crossing oceans. So I looked around for insurance. We found it with Pantaneus, we are covered for all of the Med, the Atlantic coast up as far as Norway including Gibraltar Straits and the English Channel and our premium is almost one third what we were quoted, our deductible is 750 euros and our third party liability is $4,5million. I write this because I feel it is important to pass this information on. Pantaneus are worldwide as are Lloyds and they have an excellent reputation for paying up on claims. I gave BC Yacht insurance plenty of opportunity to get a better quote, I don't believe they tried. Word of mouth works all ways.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

On the Wall - Sliema - Malta

Brother Peter's Boat - after meeting up in St. Pauls Bay

Well today is the first day that we fully realise why the marina manager did not suggest that we tie up to the wall. We've woken up to a north easterly which is blowing hard enough (not very hard) to bring in a swell that is really tossing us about on the wall. We do not yet have the equipment needed to decrease the force of the tug when we reach the end of docking line. So before we do much else today we'll have to do something to improve the situation.

Other than that we actually really like this spot.

Sliema is a pretty upbeat part of Valletta; technically it is not part of Valletta but it is pretty close. Unlike Valletta which is a very old city Sliema has hundreds of modern apartment buildings, shops such as Armani, Versace, Marks and Spencer etc. Its close to bus stops and we can get a ferry across Marsamxett harbour into Valletta at a cost of 85Euros, and sometimes we can get internet on the boat. So we quite like it here.

The moorage situation in Malta is quite grim, and the government run marinas like Msida, Tax Biex and Manoel Island are all to be privatised at the end of this year, so the great moorage rates - ie. one year at 1400Euros will be a thing of the past.

This past week we have visited with my family - my brother Peter and his wife Sue have a fabulous villa in the St. Andrews area where my other brothers, Ronnie and his wife Sherida and Michael and his wife Ann, plus Peter's two adult children are staying.

We also visited with my Uncle Sav and his wife Mary who still live in Balzan which is the village where my Grandmother used to live. Even though I was there briefly 5 years ago I had forgotten directions and Tony was wondering if my aging memory was completely failing me. But once I found my Grandmother's house I knew my way around.

When I last pulled into Valletta's harbour 5 years ago I passed 'Gun Post' which had become part of the tourist attractions to do with the Second World War, and was in fact one of the posts at which my father manned a heavy ackack (have no idea how to spell that) gun when he was posted here during the war.

This time around I was very disappointed that I could not see it, and it was not until Tony and I walked around the harbour that I found it, and it has been converted to a cafe/restaurant with an incredible view, its called the Spitfire restaurant now.

Apparently Malta's tourist board has decided to play down the War tourism card a little as they now want Italians and Germans to feel equally comfortable when they visit Malta. And we have noticed that quite alot of them are here and they seem quite happy to be so.

If we stay in Malta for any length of time we'll probably have to learn to take siestas like the locals do otherwise we are missing out on the evenings when everyone is out and about - its the only time that the sun is not boiling our brains. Its also when there seems to be fireworks almost every night during the summer. The Maltese love fireworks and they also love their Patron Saints. Every village or town has a Patron Saint and on the anniversary of that Saint (either their date of birth, death or when they were cannonised) the village celebrates with a feast day and fireworks. As Malta is about 30miles by 19 miles and is quite densely populated that means that there are fireworks almost every night somewhere, and they are never really that far away. Sometimes I wonder if the Maltese got desensitised to loud bangs during the Siege of Malta, which lasted 3 years and the island was bombed every day - sometimes several times per day. They seem to put alot of effort into making their fireworks bang/boom so loud that the vibration actually seems to shake one's actual skeleton. Its quite a rush really.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Valletta Malta

We are now tied up to a wall in Sliema which is close to downtown Valletta. We are trying to figure out this blog thing. For some reason it is not posting our new updates unless you click search blog. This is a test, so please stand by for further updates!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Arrived in Malta, August 31st

At last we have arrived in Malta, Gozo actually. We arrived here yesterday afternoon, tied up at the downtown fuel dock in Mgarr on Gozo, spent the evening in the local village where they were celebrating the life of the Virgin Mary in great style. The churches were all incredibly decorated as were the streets. We arrived in town to see marching bands who played really good music and left town to a spectacular fireworks show which lasted hours.
It was the perfect first day in Malta.
We have to leave the fuel dock now, at 06.30am before the business day starts and will head down the coast to meet up with my brother.
I still haven't figured out how to enter the saved text, but when we are settled in somewhere that is possible I'll do that and enter more pictures.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A sad day for me blogwise

Until today I have been writing my blogs in My Documents in between internet connections and then, when possible posting them when we have internet access. The way that I post them is by going into My Documents, highlighting all of the text and then copy and pasting into the posting template on the blogsite.

Unfortunately in between my last blog entry and now Tony unfortunately downloaded a windows upgrade and I can no longer copy and paste.

The reason I am posting this pathetic bit of news is that I have no way to post all of the stuff I have written between Lagos and now.

Already my frustration level has become very unpleasant and I think the best thing to do is give up and hope that someone who reads this entry will have some insight as to how I can get the text from My Documents onto the blogsite.

Remembering of course that I am only barely computer literate.

Anyway, we're in Spain on the fantastic Costa Brava in a place called Ifach. The marina we are in is nestled behind the most amazing rock, picture attached.

We intend to push off to Malta from here tomorrow morning.

It has been a very hard uphill slog from Gibraltar to here. For the last few days we have been anchoring wherever we can get out of the wind in the late afternoons and leaving our anchorages at about 3.00am so that we can put in some hours before we cannot take the beating anymore.

Its recommended that the further north one can get before heading east across the Med the better. Well we've had enough of trying to get north and we want to get to Malta by the end of August.

So we'll be out of touch until we clear in in Gozo, the first Maltese island we come to perhaps by the 24th August. So anyone who can help me with the blog entry cut/paste problem just e-mail and let me know please.

A sad day for me blogwise

A sad day for me blogwise

Thursday, August 6, 2009

From the other side of the 'pond'

So we are in Lagos, on the Algarve, Portugal. It seems almost unbelievable. We arrived 2 days ago, and are just beginning to feel less overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people. We have come into a marina which has really nice facilities and it feels good to be still. Most of the way from Horta to here was fairly rigorous sailing, particularly the last couple of days. Usually we sail quite conservatively when the wind pipes up in the 20 - 30 range, but we were very keen to get here and the last day we sailed at sustained speeds of around 7 knots, and though at the time it felt like we were hurtling along a little out of control we are very glad we did it.

We arrived early afternoon and couldn't believe our eyes as we encountered so much hustle and bustle; a typical holiday resort. We are no longer seeing ocean going boats, but coastal cruisers. Coming into the inlet which leads to the marina we were dodging all types of boats, very few of whom observed any type of 'rule of the road'. We kept laughing all the time as we just couldn't believe our eyes.

(I'll complete this post later, have to go and say goodbye to our French/Canadian friends on Exiles. They sailed from Bermuda approximately the same time as us and we maintined ham radio contact with them most of the way across the Atlantic. Exiles is a very stout 28' sailboat which goes alot faster than we do.)

From the other side of the 'pond'

Monday, July 20, 2009

Arriving in Horta, the Azores

Arrived in Horta - July 18th – 5.00pm

We had quite the reception when we got in as we were a couple of days later than everyone else, i.e. The Wind Cries, our Dutch friends, Guns and Roses – Barbarossa who took the northern track with much more westerly wind (they sail well downwind), Exiles the 2 ‘boys’ from Montreal who managed to get about 150 miles ahead of us and avoided the north easter wind which really set us back the last 3-4 days. Anyway, enough excuses we were just late, but that didn’t deter our enthusiasm to party when we got in, even if we had only a couple of hours sleep in the last 24. So, no sooner were we tied up than our boat filled up with our friends who all brought the necessary party ecoutrements. So yesterday was a bit of a write-off, though we did walk around town and have some idea where things are.

And what a place Horta is. It is such a gorgeous town, plus it doesn’t cost a fortune to be here. We have a slip in the marina, a very nice marina with good facilities and shelter from the outside wind and waves at about $20 per day. One of the things Horta is famous for is the artwork all around the marina. It is a tradition to find a spot in the concrete surrounding the slips and paint a picture which depicts your boat, or your boat name, or whatever you want to paint. During our walkabout yesterday we located a spot, but will have to wait until it is drier before painting. Last night it started to rain, and looks like it might keep this up for a bit longer.

So, what to say about the 1800 miles or so we just covered to get to this lovely place. Its amazing how quickly we put out of our minds that which we don’t want to remember. I liken that to childbirth – if women could not put the pain of that experience out of their memory they would only ever have 1 child and the human race would basically disappear, perhaps to be replaced by a species with the attention span of a goldfish.
We sure did read a lot of books, all of which were picked up at various book swaps along the way, some of which were total crap, but I read them anyway – even avidly getting into drivel which comes under the heading of ‘chick lit’ – books for women, just a couple of steps up from Harlequin novels. Actually if I had Harlequin novels I would have read those avidly too. Reading passes time, which there is a lot of and it takes your mind off and eyes away from what we don’t want to see.

I was a little surprised at how local the weather systems were, and as such don’t show up on weather faxes. We did get quite dependent on Herb, the weather router to guide us through these systems, and mostly that was a good thing, though the second gale we were in was totally unexpected. Our friends on Exile who used a different weather router were also caught by surprise.

We are very conservative sailors, totally aware of the strain on our equipment; i.e. the wear on our genoa caused by constant thwapping when attempting to run downwind without being able to pole the sail out to keep it still. Our reefing discussions are pretty standard. I ‘feel’ that the weather is piping up, or about to pipe up and suggest we reef the mainsail – which basically means that Tony goes up to the mast to make the necessary changes and I stay at the wheel and the main sheet. The earlier we reef the easier it is on Tony and the equipment. So, I say I think that its time to reef, Tony often disagrees and by the time he agrees the job has usually got a bit harder to do, and by that time we are often putting in 2 reefs, not 1. Then its probably a good thing we wait a bit. There are not many things we disagree on fortunately.

We are both tuned into Moondancer’s ability, and now that we have experienced worse conditions we feel even more confident in her ability to keep trundling along. She may not be very fast - though when we are abeam with all sails up she sails beautifully without any steering aids, just by herself, and with about 15kn of wind we can reach 6 – 7 knots, that’s fast enough for us. The further away from home we go, where there are a lot of Bill Garden designed boats, the more unusual Moondancer is. Its quite nice to be the only whimsical looking boat in a marina. We are seeing a lot of very nice steel and aluminum looking boats here in Horta. These seem to be quite common in Europe.

Its quite a thrill to be in this marina surrounded by hundreds of boats with mostly European flags, and everyone who is here has sailed thousands of miles to be here. We feel quite honoured to be part of this community of sailors, many of whom have been ocean sailing most of their lives and have a world of information to impart. The problem sometimes is that those cruisers also have all of the time in the world to impart the information. Time is something we have a short supply. As we have been held up by weather so often on this journey, we now only have about 5 weeks left to get to Malta by the beginning of September. And that is where we want to be to meet with my brothers.
So, though we loved Horta on sight, we hope that we will not have to spend more time here than a few days before moving on. Our next leg to the Mediterranean will likely be about 10 – 13 days, and then from Gibraltar to Malta another 2 weeks or so.
I’ll try to post again before we leave Horta

Atlantic Crossing - First Post July 20th

Atlantic Crossing Bermuda to Horta
Left 26th June 2009 – Posted July 20th

Its amazing to us that we left Bermuda so late in the season. Even more that many more boats were arriving in Bermuda from the Caribbean to complete their journeys home to the US east coast or to come across the Atlantic. Newbies like us are very concerned about being in the hurricane belt after the end of May as that’s when the likelihood of early hurricanes can happen. But according to some of the locals we met in Bermuda, hurricanes hardly ever happen this early. The ARC ‘race’, which is an organized Atlantic crossing from the Caribbean to Europe left May 8th, which is a helluvalot earlier than June 26th.

As said in earlier posts we were in Bermuda almost 2 weeks longer than intended due to weather, and when we left we knew that we had a window of a couple of days to get away from the bad weather which was hovering over Bermuda and into the ocean. We knew we would get ‘clobbered’, and we did. But we would still be there if we hadn’t left. We left on Friday, along with 3 other boats with whom we had agreed to maintain radio contact. Barbarossa - Rob and Sue from south east England, Exiles – Nick and Chevy from Montreal and EOS, Tony and his son from US/Ibiza. We lost EOS right away as he headed north whereas the rest of us headed east with a little bit of north. We carry enough fuel for 700 miles and have about 1800 miles to Horta, so we must sail as much as possible.

I’m writing this on Thursday 2nd July on a beautiful morning, 10 – 15 knots, all sails up close reached doing 5.5 knots, the sun is shining and we are feeling very good. We’ve both got into the sleep groove. What I mean by that is we are sleeping deeply now when we get our 3 hours off-watch, instead of fitfully because we are basically under siege from this magnificent ocean. Sunday and Monday we experienced sustained winds of 30 – 35 knots sailing on a broad reach with just our main, triple reefed (that’s our storm configuration), with gusts over 40 knots. Chevy on Exiles clocked 50 knots and I believe that was what we had when our whole rig was screaming. I really don’t like that noise. That day we had already had our first 135 mile day (unheard of for us under normal circumstances) but we were sometimes reading 8.5 knots speed on our GPS.

On Sunday evening we did get through to Herb, Herb is a weather router who works out of Ontario and has dedicated his life to helping sailors at sea to avoid bad weather. Herb told us to slow down, by slowing down the weather system would go over the top of us and we would get out of it sooner. How the hell were we going to do that???? We were already down to our smallest amount of sail – and still able to steer – so we put all of our spare lines overboard the stern and trailed them. This took us down to between 3.5 and 5.5 knots, sometimes less and we rode out the night. Monday morning we were in huge seas, 15 – 20 foot waves, breaking a little at the top, but by then we were resigned to this and getting used to it, and we knew it would end – soon. ** Oh, all of the women who seem to want to know if I can still cook when the weather is like that. No, we had corned beef or peanut butter sandwiches. But on Monday evening I roasted a chicken with potatoes around it, it was a 2 person job to extract the dish from the gimbled oven without getting dowsed with hot fat, but we got it out and ate with bloody great gusto.

**And it did, Tuesday our biggest problem was not enough wind to combat the remaining swells so lots of sail flogging, which we hate because it means damage eventually and we don’t have many extras. We also no longer have a whisker pole – we lost that in the last big winds we experienced somewhere around Dominican Republic. So we cannot pole out our headsail to keep it still, so thwap, thwap. We also have to compromise on our course as downwind isn’t our forte. Barbarossa is a good downwind sailboat, and they have offered us a windsurfer mast to use as a whisker pole. We haven’t decided to take them up on it yet, so far we’ve been managing. Yesterday we tried wing on wing with the main hauled out with a boom preventer and the headsail almost stayed full when sailing by the lee, we’ve got an idea on how to beef up one of our boat hooks so that we can try that without borrowing their ‘carbon fibre pole’, its probably worth a few bucks and we’d hate to damage it or lose it. (the whisker pole we made didn’t work – broke right away)

Last night was beautiful, after a lovely mostly sunny day, not much progress but enjoyable because we weren’t being beaten to death, and had caught up on sleep.
We were motoring all night as there was no wind at all, even a glassy surface on the water – there is always the swell, hey this is a big ocean.

Sorry, no storm pictures, its all we can do to hang on during those conditions, and so far not many things to take pictures of. Barbarossa coming alongside made a good subject.
Early this morning we were visited by a big pod of minky or maybe pilot whales. They all came fairly close to the boat to check us out, but they were quite shy, stayed a little while. We’ve had a couple of dolphin visits, but these dolphins haven’t played in our bow wave, just stand off to the side watching us.

There is a very interesting species of jelly fish which we see a lot of, and I will try to get a picture of one. They have a transparent sail on their backs, just a couple of inches high, looks like the fin of a sail fish. Isn’t that clever, not only do they not have to waggle their legs so much because they have sail power, they are also using solar power to keep warm. They are beautiful colors too, purple and pink, like something from Barbies world. (Now discovered that is a Portuguese Man-o-war)
A cute little bird too – these birds are about as big as a sandpiper and fly day and night. They are black and white and have a very erratic wing movement, a bit like a bat. The first time I saw them that’s what I thought – bats at sea?, hey why not, there’s fish out here that fly. So the reason this bird’s flight is so erratic is that it keeps swooping down onto the surface of the water to pick up something, don’t know what. It has a lovely white round belly, and looks like it bounces on its belly, picks something up, and then dips one wing into the water to help it lift back up off the surface. Haven’t got a name for it, so lets just call it the Bouncing Bird with the Big Round White Belly for short.

Happy Canada Day, yesterday. Barbarossa came alongside us and put up their Canadian Flag for our benefit. We wished Exiles happy Canada Day on the radio. Exiles is a 28’ sailboat on its first ocean voyage. 2 young eager men on board who found their first ocean squall ‘fun’. They are about 30 miles ahead of us, but a lot further south. They are listening to a weather router out of Montreal who has told them to aim straight for the Azores, so they seem to be ignoring the circle route, which is what we and Barbarossa are following. Mostly we are staying with the rum line. We have a no drinking alcohol policy when we are doing passages, but last night we celebrated Canada Day with a can of pineapple chunks with overproof white Jamaican rum poured over - very good. Then we ate some lovely dark chocolate. Yeah I know, simple pleasures.
Bye for now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Captives in Bermuda

Two days ago we moved Moondancer over to a safer anchorage having spent the first night of winds gusting to 40 knots blowing right down the middle of St. George's bay producing quite a fetch to go with the gusts. This is the 3rd day of that now, but the weather report has been downgraded from gale warnings to small craft warnings until Thursday afternoon. Pretty much all of the boats in the anchorage moved over. Its still very gusty but we are getting used to it and are looking forward to a good night's sleep.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

June 20th - Still in Bermuda

As I said before, sometimes its best to write this blog after the fact.
We are still in Bermuda. The weather is still not in our favour to leave, even though the winds are pretty much in the right direction there is just too much whipping the seas up to more than we want to start this trip on.
This situation reminds me of Coos Bay, where 7 boats were all gathering and sharing information until we basically pushed ourselves out of that marina - way too soon - and into very bad, big seas.
We don't want a repeat of that, so we'll wait a bit longer. This is a nice place and the anchorage is free. We just have to try not to eat up all of the provisions we bought for the trip.
The Bermuda Dinghy and Sports Club is quite empty now, as the Newport/Bermuda racers did leave yesterday, and maybe because they are heading back to Newport, will avoid the BIG system which is predicted to come through in the next couple of days. It was quite the race start, they had their start line right in the middle of the bay, and were quite a spectacle charging out of the Town Cut (channel) under full sail - all way too much sail actually - but I guess they had to look good. And they did. Sorry no pictures.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We're really leaving Bermuda today - 18th June

The trouble with writing this blog ahead of time is that what we say we'll do and what we actually do are not always the same.

I'm glad we hung around for a few more days. Instead of being out on the water on Monday during the 'Black Only' club's comet race and the start of the Tall Ship race back to Boston, we walked further around the point of land north of St. George's Bay and found a dairy farm, a couple more forts and some lovely lawns and beautiful little coves with really big parrot fish swimming about. Monday was a public holiday and thousands of people were out in lawn chairs and big picnic tables with umbrellas enjoying the day's events. The weather held until the end of the day when a really nasty squall came through the bay and made life very difficult for an incoming yacht to end tie up to the yacht club dock; he actually managed to hook onto the anchor rodes of the boats already tied up, and then after about 20 minutes of trying to get unhooked, with all of the other boat crews protecting their boats, he completely lost it and started gunning his engine in all directions only to successfully hook his prop around a mooring buoy a little further out. This buoy was marking a permanent anchor which was to be avoided at all cost. Poor guy, so glad it wasn't us. It took alot of people to help him out of this mess, and then he disappeared. Probably wished to God he was drowned after that public spectacle.

The day before - Sunday, we met Karen and Irvin. Karen is the cousin of an old friend of mine, Carol. Karen moved to Bermuda a year ago, when she decided she wanted change once her 2 sons were grown up. She lives in a lovely little house right on the water with sundecks and her own beach to swim in. Her friend Irvin is Bermudian and drives a 1981 Toyota Corolla in perfect condition. They very kindly took us into Hamilton to do our provision shopping for the next month. That's alot of shopping - $500 worth. It was nice to have them out to the boat afterwards. When we get to tell non boaters what we are doing and how we leave it reinforces us having made a good choice.

Monday evening we spent with Sue and Robbie from Barbarossa, our new friends from England who are on their way home. It looks like we'll leave together today and perhaps will travel at about the same speed to the Azores.

We have quite a bit in common with them, they are from Benfleet Essex and they know Dartford, Gravesend and a few other places I have lived in England well. Sue also has some Maltese blood on her grandfather's side. They have lived on the water for 35 years and Robbie has worked commercially on tugs and deliveries etc. As they have already travelled to many parts of the world we wish to go to it has been a real education getting to know them.

Yesterday we watched a tradition unfold in the town square. The town gossip getting dunked in the water. The town crier in his loud booming voice recruits a bunch of strong men from the audience, and then brings the 'accused' woman into the circle. They shout out their lines for the next 15 minutes or so and then the woman is found guilty of being a gossip, but worse than that, she nags her husband. She really was a mouthy little woman and much as I didn't like the glee with which all of the men watched her being doused, I kinda wishes she would shut up. If she were my wife I'd gag her and then dunk her.

So all we have to do today is buy fuel - $10 per gallon for deisel. Unbelievable - they changed the price yesterday as they know that most of the boats in the harbour are leaving today. Then we check out.

So, keep an eye on our Ship trak to know where we are and we'll get in touch when we reach the Azores.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Preparing to leave Bermuda

Preparing to leave Bermuda – 14th June

Its Sunday morning and we are preparing to leave Bermuda tomorrow for the next leg (long leg) of our journey. We’ll check in with our weather router today and ask his opinion, but our reading of the weather charts looks like we can probably head east for a couple of days while a low moves north east of us, then we can head more north east, in the general direction of the Azores.
Some of the other boats I have mentioned in earlier entries have already gone; Saudade left last Monday, Sheli left Thursday, a new English boat we met a couple of days ago, Wagtail, left yesterday. Our new friends Rob and Sue on Barbarossa are also leaving around the same time, though they don’t have SSB radio and nobody wants to be sailing too close to another boat it will be nice to know that someone else is out there – not too far away.
We’ve enjoyed St. George’s Bay very much, the anchorage has been really pleasant in general. The Dinghy and Sports Club facility close to us has been useful, and quite a source of entertainment. They hosted some of the tall ships which are still here in Hamilton and will leave tomorrow. Plus a race from Newport to Bermuda just finished at the club a couple of days ago, which has put quite a few more race boats at anchor around us.
Yesterday while we were walking around town we walked past a house which had a couple of pretty old mopeds outside – Mobylets, I think that’s the name. They had been put outside the garage which the owner was sweeping, and seemed to be on display for sale. The owner, whose name is Chris told us that these mopeds were used in the movie, The Deep. Anyone who knows Tony probably knows that this is one of his favourite movies. The story is based around scuba diving – treasure hunting and voodoo stuff and was filmed here in Bermuda in the 70’s. The stars were Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset. So Chris looks quite like an older version of Nick Nolte, and at the time of the movie he was a young lad making deliveries to the set for his father’s company.
The casting director thought he was Nick Nolte’s stand in stunt man, so that’s what he became. We actually watched the movie again last night and slowed down the scenes that Chris told us about – sure enough we recognized him and the mopeds.
Our water catcher has been working pretty well over the last couple of days, when we have had periods of torrential rain. It’s a big scoope shaped thing I made out of very good tarp material and it has a hose mounted in the bottom of the scoop which goes directly into one of our tank deck fittings. Because it doesn’t cover a huge area its not catching gallons but it is made to work if we are underway, providing the seas aren’t too high on the high side. We’ve not put water in the tanks since leaving Jamaica, so its been keeping up with our usage. As we’ll probably have some rain during our crossing its nice to know we can use this to augment our water supply. We also have a stock of extra drinking water in the bilge, plus 10 gallons in jerry cans on deck.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bermuda - what a lovely country

We've been in Bermuda 4 days and just love it. What a pleasant experience to be able to leave our dinghy tied up to the wall in downtown St. George's alongside many other dinghies, no guards necessary, and then just walk around town doing as we please, stopping whenever we like to take pictures of all of these beautiful buildings which have been standing here for about 300 years and are in perfect condition. No hassle, no beggars, no hawkers, no bad attitude, just alot of friendly people who love their country.
St. George's bay which is where we are anchored is a small town by Canadian standards, but a decent size town by Bermudan standards - which is only a 20 mile long atoll basically. We spent the day yesterday walking around the town looking at the ruins of a beautiful church, Fort St. Catherine which has been standing,and is kept up beautifully, since the 1700's. We walked into the alleyways which have wonderful simple English names like Spittle Alley and marvelled at how long these buildings have been standing. Being from England I have missed the age of things living in BC, and here on this tiny little island all of this history. 55 forts were built around Bermuda by the British to make sure they didn't lose it to anyone else, who wouldn't want to fight for this jewel.
Today we took a bus into Hamilton which is the capital city of Bermuda. This is a much bigger town, probably equal to maybe Langley, but with some pretty upscale international shops, big lothing designer names, lots of jewellery stores, hundreds of churches on the way. This was a lovely clean civilized bus. And nobody other than the people who paid the fare got on. The driver was a middle aged Bermudan woman who kept up a running commentary on where we were, and how bad all of the other drivers on the road were. She was alot of fun , and she didn't do anything to frighten her passengers.
We've met another boat here who is doing the Atlantic crossing at the same time as us and will probably go at a similar speed, so we are going to meet to compare notes and set up some kind of contact schedule during the passage.
Our friends on Sheli, a boat we met in Jamaica are also leaving about the same time but they are on an Ocaeanis 47, which is much faster than us, so we don't have much hope of keeping up.
There is also a boat in the harbour called Amazon which is owned by Maltese people who are going back to Malta, we have gone over to the boat hopefully to meet them, but nobody has been home so far. Its a beautiful boat built in the 30's I think, its combination sailboat - but no longer has sails and it has a huge chimney stack. Not sure if that is a functioning chimney.
We'll do a little maintenance work on Moondancer tomorrow and laundry etc, then we've got to find a grocery store with decent priced food to do some provisioning for the next few weeks.