Thursday, December 20, 2012

Almost Christmas 2012

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As you can see our little Value Village tree is back out of the closet and hanging in place after a 2 year break.  It still looks good, does the job.  Last year we were crossing the Atlantic, and even though I did cook a Christmas dinner which we ate out of deep tupperware containers, the gimballing of the tree might have been a bit much.   We'll not be aboard Moondancer this Christmas - not sure which Barefoot boat we will be aboard, but that's where we'll be.  Originally were both booked on separate boats with 2 different groups of people who didn't want to spend Christmas at home, but preferred to spend it learning to sail in the Windward Islands.
So now by the grace of Liat, our monopolizing uncaring for its customers airline one of those groups' flights were cancelled resulting in the cancellation of their Christmas plans.  So that either meant that one of us would stay home alone over Christmas - or we both go on the same boat.  That's my vote and that's what we're doing.
Tony is out this week and I have done little other than put up said tree and spend alot of time making a power point collection of photos as a kinda Christmas Card.  It took ages to make and then proved to be a great disappointment in the sending department, the file being too big to attach to an e-mail.  I did find the 'large file send application', but it took so long that anyone I sent it to would definitely give up on trying to open it.  So that took 1 day - and then the next day I put together a photo album which is posted on facebook. 
Here's the link.
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151563403524018.586755.652394017&type=1&l=bcc47da465
A year in the life of Nancy and Tony 2011 - 2012

I've also talked to my children to wish them a Happy Christmas, Mary and her family in Saskachewan, Johnny in Ucluelet and Josie in China.  My call to Josie this morning was lovely.  She was actually teaching her grade 11 class and when I got through to her she turned around her computer camera and her whole class sang We wish you a Merry Christmas to me.  Even though they are all Chinese I recognised all of the words.    Still have 1 call to make to daughter Georgia in San Fran.

So there is alot of talk here about the Christmas winds. These are the trade winds which brought us to the Caribbean last year.   When I was out last week my group and I experienced these festive winds.   Most of the time about 20kts with much more in the gusts and  more north than east. The easterly trade winds mean that we can sail on a beam reach down and then back up the windward chain.  When it goes more north the going down the chain is good on a fairly rolly broad reach, but the coming back is a beat and alot of tacking.  So the students certainly know how to tack by the end of the week.  And the value of a sheltered anchorage.  By May we will have spent a year here in the Grenadines and will have seen the full weather spectrum  which definitely changes according to season, even through its pretty much always hot.

We are very busy, either one of us is out every week or both of us at the same time.  It will be this way for the next couple of months and Barefoot has got a couple of other instructors coming to help us out.  Its very good for us to have this much 'work' - its what we came here for.  Note the way I write 'work' - it is our work, but it often doesn't feel like it.  Each week we are sailing with a new group of people who are pretty much always great and up and  very happy with everything we teach them and show them.  We teach them as much as we can about sailing - we take them snorkelling in spectacular locations that we love, short hikes on uninhabited islands, introduce them to this lifestyle, tell them our stories and have fun with them.  We walk around 'town' with our ducklings all in a row, knowing that they are seeing all this for the first time.  Its a very cool 'job'.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Four months later - how time flies?

Alot of water has flowed under the bridge since the last post - or it would have if there was a bridge.
We've been with Barefoot since May of this year and have gone through their 'slow' season which really was quite busy - we've been home to Canada for 6 weeks, seeing our families and friends.
I was lucky enough to have my arrival at my daughter Mary's home coincide with the birth of Isaan,
her second child and my third grandchild.  During that visit I had some quality time with Mary's first-born, Mission, a lovely little boy who is almost 3.  Now I understand what happens in a Grandmother's
heart - it tops many of the other things I have going on in my life.
Tony and I are both working alot now - I got my cross-certification to the American Sailing Assoc. as an instructor teaching levels Basic up to Bareboat Skipper and Catamaran Skipper. Tony is also teaching a more advanced course - level 106.
This is good work, we are both sailing on several different boats and meeting many people - mostly from US, Canada and a few have come from Europe.  The locations we sail to in the Grenadines are quite stupendous; when I stop being the instructor for a few minutes and look around me I really can appreciate what it is that so many people come here for.  We have almost constant wind - sometimes quite strong winds - our students are often exposed to winds in the 20 - 30 knot range and if nothing else they learn to reef early.
We have also made new friends some of whom have been here for many years, and some are the people we meet on our courses.  The courses are 1 week long, live aboard, where we are in very close quarters with each other - and in some cases the bond is instant and mutual. 
There have been a few occasions when Tony and I are both booked out at the same time on different boats - I really like that because we can 'race' from one location to the other and we can join our groups together for some mealtimes.  The students like it because its kinda cool that their respective instructors are husband and wife and it expands the group dynamics.
My brother Michael and his wife Ann are visiting here from England - this is their last day before flying back.  They have been staying at Bequia and I think are enjoying themselves.  I took a week off and was able to spend some time with them over there - we sailed Moondancer over together.  Unfortunately Moondancer's starter motor failed quite dramatically last Wednesday when we were about to head out fishing; Mick's passion - so instead of fishing Mick spent most of the day working on my engine.  The next day we sailed her back to Barefoot in St. Vincent - not a pleasant sail by any means - so I hope all of the other days of their holiday have made up for the 2 that sucked.

                                  Pic.Mick and Ann in the back of a 'taxi' on a tour of Bequia 
We spent a few hours one day touring Bequia - most of our time on Bequia has been working so it was a real treat for me to see the other side - Friendship Bay looks beautiful, like a small coastal village in Cornwall.
                   Looking down onto Amiralty Bay - Moondancer's in the middle of the anchorage
                                                                     Friendship Bay It doesn't look too easy to sail into though maybe a good anchorage in a strong northerly, depends if the swell wraps around the east side of the island.
Now that its early December we are looking ahead to Christmas - it seems so bizarre to hear Christmas music playing in public places when we seem so removed from anything remotely Christmassy.  Tony and I are both booked out over Christmas on different boats but are definitely planning to move around in tandem and will join forces on Christmas Day wherever we are.
We're also booked out separately over the week of New Years and Tony's birthday on January 1st - again we will try to be in the right place to make that celebration special for our students - and ourselves.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bequia

Please note that I've gone back to WEBSHOTS as a way of showing the majority of our photographs. It still takes too long to upload them to the site and any suggestions as to a better site would be greatfully received. In the meantime I've posted the most recent pictures on Webshots, click on the link at the side.
We're back in Bequia, on board Moondancer - we've provisioned for the week, cleaned half of her bottom (we'll do the rest today), the St. Vincent coffee is brewing (its very good coffee) and I can sit around our cabin half dressed as the only person who'll see me is my husband - and he doesn't mind. We really like Bequia - to be more accurate I should say that we really like Admiralty Bay in Bequia, because quite honestly we've seen little else. We have what we need here - a quiet anchorage which is mostly very comfortable - NOT rolly as it has been for the past couple of days. The water is usually very clear and the snorkelling and diving are excellent. The little town has a few good supermarkets and there's alot of fresh produce to be had. Who could ask for anything more? It only takes an hour and a half to get here from St. Vincent, so when we are not working for Barefoot we bring Moondancer across. When we finish cleaning the bottom of the boat we are going on a tour of Bequia, there is a particular place that we always see when sailing past it out on the western peninsula called Moon Hole. Its seems to be a mostly abandoned development which was built in the 60's. (see webshots for pics) The story we've heard is that a wealthy American wanted to build his own little city, so using the local stone and cement made with the local sand he built this little community, some of which is in a cave with a hole in the top. The moon (when there is one) shines through that hole onto the little town centre. From the water it looks alot like a primitive village in a Star Wars film set.  Apparently after a few years the buildings started to crumble, but some of the 'resort' is open and rooms can be rented. So even though it looks completely abandoned we've heard that some people still live there. We sailed past it at night about a week ago and there were no lights - or moon that night on that night.   see www.moonholecompany.com

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Having just looked at this site for the first time in months I realise how time has flown by since the last entry. We've been very busy since we left Antigua. We spent a bit of time in Sint Maarten where we tried out for a week with Tradewinds, a charter club where we would be operating their catamarans as Captain and Chef - I thought I could be that Chef person until I actually saw the job in action. Though we liked the company I knew that I would not be happy in that job. In early May we heard of a charter company/sailing school further south in St. Vincent who needed instructors. Looking back on my records I found that we had applied to them when we first arrived in the Caribbean with no response, but the school director of that time was leaving and our timing now was right on. They asked us to come down to them as soon as possible, we did and we've been working regularly since we arrived. To be more accurate I should say that Tony has been working since we arrived, and I have been going along as a 'clingon'. Tony's RYA/MCA qualifications were cross/certified to the ASA - American Sailing Association while we were up in Antigua. I've been observing the course and learning my route while waiting for my cross certification to come through which should happen quite soon now. The courses we teach are 1 week long, liveaboard courses at the end of which some students will have certification to charter a sailboat as the skipper. Depends on how much sailing experience they have already accumulated or will before they attempt to charter. And this part of the Caribben is very different to the Leeward Islands up north - I would say this is definitely a frontier, or the frontier of the Caribbean - a few miles further down in Grenada where it is supposedly 'hurricane free' is the holding area for the Caribbean liveaboard cruisers who will all be sailing back up when the hurricane season is over. The 'route' we have to work in is pretty much anywhere in St. Vincent and the Grenadines which are under the St. Vincent flag. i.e. Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, and Union which includes Tobago Cays which are justifiably famous. In Tobago Cays we can swim with turtles who are free to go wherever they wish, and we are anchored behind a reef which is between the anchorage and the wild blue yonder - the Atlantic Ocean. And from the anchorage we can see Jack Sparrow Island on World's End Reef.
Most of the students who come to learn to sail also want to have a Caribbean holiday living on a boat on the water which makes our job alot of fun, as that's what we are basically all about - living and having fun on the water - not to mention being appreciated for the knowledge we have accumulated over the past 40 odd thousand miles. I've been in a bit of a quandry as to how to keep up this blogsite when most of what we are doing these days doesn't have much to do with MoondancerX. Plus, I want to write a blog for the Barefoot blogsite and keep the Barefoot facebook page up to date. So I'm blending them together. I'll post the MoondancerX blog with our current news and give the post to James, our boss at Barefoot and he can choose to include it on the Barefoot blog. Back dating a bit now - our sail down to the Grenadines from Antigua was gruelling - and very slow, not due to lack of wind - of which there was tons, but due to a current running against us at about 2 - 3 knots. Being new to the area all we had for information were charts which show very strong currents coming through the channels between islands, but its local knowledge which tells us what those currents do once through the gaps. Also the effect that the moon's cycle has on that current. As sailors of course we know that the moon effects tides, and as the tides are minimal in the Caribbean sea we did not expect that effect to be so great. Anyway, as a result of the slow progress we made we did stop in a couple of times on Guadeloupe and Martinique which were very comforting shelter from the sometimes 40 knots of wind battering us along the coast. Once here we were piloted over the reef into the Blue Lagoon which is home to Barefoot and a couple of other charter companies. Its a bit of a rolly anchorage as the wind and seas just over the reef are very 'active'. There's certainly no shortage of wind in this part of the world, as many of our students discover in short order. Whether they know it at the time of booking their course or realise it pretty much on their first day out on a Barefoot yacht, they've come to the right place to learn to sail with lots of wind. Those students who have already taken a couple of courses on lakes at home are really put to the test, and thanks to modern sea sickness technology; i.e. the patch, we have not had to deal with the dreaded mal de mare too often. The first couple we taught came from Louisiana to do an Advanced course, Janna and Linus. They keep their own traditional sailboat on an almost inland lake in Louisiana, where they may find sailing very tame from now on. From them we learned of a TV show about people who make a living killing aligators in a swamp. Yuk!
The next group were newlyweds, Emily and Charlie from Texas aswell as Bill from New York. Bill had already done some sailing at home, and left with the 'hook' deeply embedded; talking of owning his own boat and keeping it in a charter fleet.
The Kansas group; Rick and Kay and their friends Jim and Sally brought us news of another sport that I have absolutely no desire to try, but respect anyone who're still pushing themselves hard in their 60's. Rick and Jim are both cavers and Jim still plays hockey.
Then Caroline and Nathan from New York and Dave from Ottawa. Dave, who we called our 'winchman' because he is obviously very strong found sleeping in his bunk too clostrophobic so he decided to sleep outside in the cockpit. He became the butt of our jokes because nothing seemed to wake him up except of course the nightly rain. He'd get up, bring all of his bedding below and wait 5 minutes, then go back and set it all up again. But anything else going on around him didn't seem to disturb him at all.
Last week we met the family Quadrelli. From Switzerland via Brazil and Italy. Marco and Carmen and their 2 sons, Lorenzo and Matteo. They booked this holiday a year ago and started studying. The idea was that they would all learn to sail in the first week and then charter a boat and go sailing for another week on their own. That's where they are now - sailing on their own. Carmen copied the text books and pasted them all over their kitchen cupboards for a whole year, so they had all been living and breathing this sailing holiday - which definitely paid off. Marco passed with flying colors. Lorenzo will make an excellent first mate to Marco, and Carmen and Matteo are both very enthusiastic to help them. Marco's days as a champion windsurfer and pilot certainly helped alot.
Living together with these groups of people from such varied walks of life and different parts of the world adds alot to our sailing experience, and I am often amazed by how much they learn in a short time, plus the exchange of stories certainly adds alot of colour to our lives and in some cases we bond with these people. 24 hours a day living in about 300 sq ft, sharing our food, our shower (which is the boat's transom), our dinghy and our stories - we get to know each other pretty quickly. As I write we are at anchor in Bequia with a healthy northeast wind lifting the water to a sideways swell (yuk) and bringing over squall after squall - enough rain yesterday to actually have a real shower - didn't even have to use any sea water. There are still many cruisers and charter guests around us. Its strange because it feels a bit like winter with the grey skies and voluminous clouds, but its still very warm and humid. Another country's weather system to learn.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In the mood for the blog

"A bear, no matter how hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise", unfortunately that's the only line I can remember of that particular A.A. Milne poem, but the gentleman in this picture knows the whole thing. Actually when we first met at an apre Middle Sea Raceparty in Malta he joined a small group of us, myself, a woman called Sarah whose married to John Ross; Malta's leading Yacht Surveyor, two men who had just completed the middle sea race; a stock broker and a banker and we all stood around reciting children's poetry. Clive Carrington Woods, an ex British Naval Captain, now Captain of a beautiful 'superyacht'.
We met again in Sint Maarten a couple of weeks ago, went out to dinner and had a really fun evening, and just to prove that he could I suppose, he got up in the morning and went out and bought this steed that he's riding. I suppose it takes some physical ability to stay on one of those things, so I suppose he's taking a leaf out of Pooh Bear's book and keeping up his exercise regime. We've actually seen Clive a couple of times since - once when we were on our way back to Antigua from Sint Maarten, he was passing us at a very sedate speed for his yacht and we had a chat on the radio. He told me off for not making him famous yet on my blog - so here you are Clive - in all of your fittest glory. Actually Tony was also at anchor close to you a couple of days ago at St. Kitts or maybe Nevis (we always call these islands Bevis and Butt Head - why? because we have infantile humour.) He has his hands full at the moment on a Sunsail charter so didn't make contact.
Which brings me to the fact that I am now at anchor back in English Harbour in a small part of the anchorage which we have claimed for ourselves - nobody else seems to want it anyway. We are anchored fore and aft so that the stern and thus the cockpit facing back to see over the top of the reef. So I'm sitting between a rock (rocks) and a hard place (a wrecked lifeboat). But knowing what a good job Tony did of making us secure before he left I'm very happy here. I really do not relish the prospect of having to pull both of these up and moving somewhere else with a gale blowing, but if I had to I suppose I'd figure it out. And it is actually blowing quite hard right now. Well I should say gusting. This morning started with heavy squally black clouds moving in which I'm happy to say brings rain, but am unhappy to say also bring very strong gusts which keep blowing me closer and closer to 'hard place', the sunken life boat. As there is quite alot of chain out fore and aft I can get blown sideways quite a bit and am sometimes about a boat length away from the lifeboat.
The water situation is not bad - we take jerry cans to the fuel dock and pay 10 EC's for 10 gallons and after it goes through our filters we drink it. It tastes alright when its freezing cold, but like mud when its not. But doesn't seem to make us sick. But I'm very proud of my water catcher which is spread out on the bow with a hose connected running straight into the starboard water tank after going through the top of a toilet plunger 'bulb' which closes off the filler opening to make sure nothing else gets in. So when we get alot of rain (and we've had deluges so far today) I'll have to lug less water in jerry cans.
Last week we delivered a Sunsail boat from Sint Maarten to Antigua along with many other skippers bringing charter boats from all of the charter companies that had them available. English Harbour was invaded by the Russians. An entrepreneurial Russian sailor started bringing friends over a few years ago to take part in a 'regatta' which started and finished in Antigua. They chartered about 40 boats in all, and had a helluva party at the end of it all. They basically took over most of English Harbour's common lawn area outside the famous Dockyard Hotel, put up a couple hundred tables, hired a band and wouldn't let anyone else in. We didn't know that they wouldn't let anyone else in, so being the sociable people we are, Tony and I and our new friends Dicky and Den went to the bar, ordered our drinks and just as we were about to pay for them we quite politely removed. Too bad about these Russians not wanting to mix with the outsiders. They could learn so much more about the rest of the world so much faster if open to us.
So we took ourselves off to a very cool little bar/cafe where the music was great, vid included - the gentleman on clarinet has been on my blog before - he's retired from the London Philharmonic Orchestra
videoThere's alot of good music in English Harbour. I suppose people always crave culture no matter where they are, so they find it or create it somehow.
Speaking of music, last night I had the great pleasure of listening to and watching my son Johnny play and sing 3 songs which he has learned since he's moved over to Ucluelet. Johnny has been a saxaphone player all through high school, which he says made it quite easy for him to teach himself guitar. I didn't even know my son had such a beautiful voice. If I can get him to record a video I'll put it on the blog to broaden my brag. Don't you just love skype. What a difference it has made to travellers. Without this contact with my kids I couldn't do it.
So it looks like we've added another Charter Company to our 'stable'. This company is very particular about how they operate their yachts so Tony and I will undergo a training charter starting in a couple of weeks. If it goes well and they approve us it looks like we will have secured work for the off season here and hopefully on a long term basis. A great relief to us as we definitely need to recoup funds - plus I gotta say that just bumming around on boats is getting a bit boring, with our budget anyway. Though Tony has had work I've not had enough outside of our boat and I'm a worker - it's a great motive for getting up each day.
Speaking of getting up each day - its amazing how early I always get up when Tony is not here - I suppose being in bed on ones own is just that - and if you've enough sleep not much point in being there. I'm not talking about sex, more like sharing a cozy nest - its a nest made for 2 not 1. So I've been up since about 5.45 and I've been answering e-mails, researching 'stuff' online, taking pictures to add to this blog - keeping the rain out, eating porridge, looking at what my kids are up to on facebook - they're all too busy to put anything on lately.
So - now I think I'll go and play with the fishes. I take my knife with me and snorkel around the wreck loosening off small oysters. The little fish follow me, or actually they follow my hands and viciously rip apart whatever I cut away. I don't cut away coral, just a few little oysters - lest you think I'm single handedly destroying this new eco system beside me.\
OK - enough.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The flavour of Antigua

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Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club


Well represented in English Harbour, Antigua. Jonas and Heather Marshall on their
38' Ocean going Bavaria helped me celebrate my birthday. Their Club burgee put ours to shame - got to get new one. We've worn out about 3 now.
Antigua – 2 weeks later – we’re almost natives
Antigua is beautiful, and we haven’t seen very much of it yet – our anchor is dug in very well which is important as the ‘williwaws’ in this part of the bay are interesting to say the least. Many times when we look out into the anchorage its possible to see wind gusts on the water in different places and the boats anchored will all be facing in different directions according to which ‘williwaw’ they happen to be in. Its actually been pretty windy and gusty for the past few days. Also some rainfall – we leave
the water catcher up all of the time now, plumbed directly into the water tank. We still have to collect water in our jerry cans from the gas station, but its supplementing it, and it certainly changed our attitude towards rain. Now when it rains we don’t complain – Oh no not again; now we’re happy, the bigger the deluge, the more we like it.
Wish I had taken my camera with me a couple of days ago when new friends Dana and Joe took us to the market in St. Johns in the back of their truck – not the back seat, but the box at the back. Never done that before, it was alright once I got used to the feeling of not being quite as dignified as I usually like to perceive myself. We also went into the countryside on some pretty rough roads as Dana wanted to pick lemon grass which grows wild in the remote area we found – also guavas, which we picked and ate right off the tree.
We’ve been on another hike from English Harbour to Falmouth Harbour which goes over a couple of pretty big hills and the ‘path’, a word I use loosely is sometimes a difficult climb up over rocks where one is actually looking for hand and toe holds. Its worth it when you get to the top – there are remains of a couple of forts – sorry I can’t remember the names and am too lazy to look them up. Anyway when standing on the now quite overgrown gun implacements the view is spectacular. A couple of pictures are herein and I’ll put a few on facebook.
Speaking of pictures – each time we dive now I find the environment around me so incredibly awesome that it takes my breath away – almost makes me cry, and each time I wish I had a camera so that I could share those images that I see. That will be the next addition to our cruising equipment.
Yesterday was my 61st birthday. Unbelievable, but true. I know all of the old people say it and so will I – how did that happen? But then I look at those years and all that I have accomplished in that time - the wonderful family that I have and the fact that I am still game to cram as much more in to it as I can and I’m grateful. I know that I can be intolerant and grumpy and a bit of a loner, but I thank God for my life. And I thank all of the people in my life for tolerating and loving me.
Yesterday, not long after we got up and were in the cockpit about to have our second cup of coffee, along came a dinghy bearing a couple who were saying ‘yes that’s Moondancer’. And then the woman who I did not recognise at all said ‘Hello Nancy’. I usually remember the people I meet even briefly, but people we meet in the winter in Canada, completely covered up with clothes and hats are quite different from the ones we meet in the Caribbean, wearing brief bikinis, sunglasses and no hats. The couple are Jonas and Heather Marshall on Sea Otter. We met them when they joined the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club. It was a meet and greet day where existing members welcome new members into the club. Heather had been following the blog at various times over the past couple of years, and so remembered me.
We drank pina colada sundowners on their boat and then continued our information sharing over drinks for a couple of hours. Most of the flags in this harbour are Canadian, but almost all of them are from Toronto, Montreal and the East Coast. So far the opportunity to meet with them has not arisen. This is not like Mexico when people dinghy around to other boats just to introduce themselves and say welcome. It feels like it may be an intrusion on privacy here.
That’s it for now – I’m going to make dinner. We plan to sail around the island in the next few days – see what all the fuss is about – especially Barbuda.
Just tried to upload pics and videos. Internet connection too slow. I'll put an album on facebook - its quicker.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Freeman's Bay - English Harbour - Antigua


Unbelievably we've been here 6 days already. And what have we done? A helluvalot of snorkelling. We are anchored behind a reef which has so many different species of fish to look at - we've already learned where most of the different species like to hang out. There is a wrecked both mostly submerged on white sand and a huge ancient anchor which is almost rock now. The reef is made up of natural boulders which have falled from cliffs in the area and been moved around by fierce hurricanes which come by from time to time. Its also home to many beautiful, colorful sponges and coral. We've snorkelled around the outside of the reef aswell and this is truly spectacular - we plan to dive there quite soon - we haven't located a air tank filling place yet. Yesterday we went to 'town' on a bus. The bus drive going in was very nice - a careful driver considerate of his passengers which felt like an economy sight seeing tour. 'Town' is St. John's harbour - a bit rough, actually we were quite glad to get back to English Harbour. There were a couple of cruise ships in, so being white pretty much brands one as cruise ship fodder. And a half pint of beer costs U$5. There was an impressive market near the bus station which will be worth the 45 minute bus ride for when we need to stock up on fresh produce.
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We will have to learn to do without some of the food products we are used to eating which are imported and have high import duties added. Cheese for instance - but I've noticed lots of goats running around - in fact a herd of goats stopped our bus yesterday to cross the road - all by themselves. We like goat cheese, so hopefully someone here is producing that. I'm glad I make good bread - as the bread here is very basic, doughy stuff.
So a diet of salad, veggies, a little bit of meat, swimming every day, we should be quite sveldt pretty soon.
More pictures on facebook - upload much quicker

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A few pics and videos taken on our Atlantic Crossing

Arrived in Antigua - Anchored in beautiful Freemans Bay

The following post is a daily I was keeping for the latter part of the Atlantic crossing. For the first week or so all I could really do was hold on - it was a rough ride - but then I got used to it enough to be able to sit and type a little on my night watches. Actually I started to look forward to doing it on the watch. 3 hours alone in the dark with nothing except the stars and the constant heaving of the ocean and the breaking waves that certainly keep the adrenalin flowing were a good reason to go below and turn on the computer.
Anyway its not much - but here goes. Pics and Vids to follow:

December 18th
One week away from Gran Canaria, and an unbelievable 3000 miles away from Malta. Since leaving Las Palmas on December 10th we’ve logged an unprecedented 980 miles – talk about a sleigh ride. Sleigh ride of course conjures up a pleasurable fun ride – not so with this sleigh ride, but can’t complain about the speed.
At time of writing its 10.47 UTC and we are rolling along with the same double reef main that we’ve been sailing with for almost the whole week keeping ahead of some pretty awesome waves. Actually today was the first day that we could see a change in the waves. For the past few days they have all been charging at us and overtaking us after dumping their frothy load tipping us over sideways at alarming 45 degree angles and sometimes unloading right on top of us, and water hitting us with that pressure behind it comes in, even through hatches that are very tightly secured. That really sucks.
I remember a few years ago attending a talk given by a seasoned cruiser at one of our Bluewater meetings. The first thing he strongly advised is to make sure you have a dry boat. Yeah right! In our dreams.
So in this week we have encountered only 2 ships, 2 pods of dolphins, and a couple of flyng fish.
We are almost at the 20th parallel which is where we want to stay for our crossing give or take a few degrees and once we are running roughly along this line we can make a choice to sail at a better angle on the wind which should reduce this bloody awful rolling.
Its amazing what we can get used to.
We have not been successful so far with SSB communication which is a bit disappointing and also means that we have been unable to post our position on ship trak. This worries us because we know our families will be looking for that info.
Well, back up top for my watch. What I’m looking at is pretty much waves and lots of bio luminesence – nice stars tonight too. Moon is not up yet.

December 19th

Had a few successes today. |Its great that we can actually DO things on board other than just hang on and sleep because we’re exhausted from just hanging on. Today we changed the propane tank – doesn’t sound like such a big deal unless you know where the full one is – bolted to the cabin top UNDER our deflated dinghy which is lashed securely to prevent It from being washed away in heavy weather. So now I don’t have to worry about the propane running out when I’m cooking our Christmas turkey. Speaking of which – I explained earlier that we bought a whole though small turkey in Las Palmas which would not fit into our freezer but will fit into a cold section pressed up against the outside of the freezer and packed in ice. Turkey checking has become a part of my daily routine. Its still always frozen on the side pressed up against the freezer and almost thawed on the other side – SO I turn it around each day. I really want to have the turkey on Christmas Day, not sooner because it thawed.

Now the turkey story leads to another accomplishment today – we lashed our honda generator up on top of our deck where we can see it, run it and not get poisoned by its exhaust. Which means that we were able to charge our batteries for 8 hours today – the first really full charge they have had since we bought them in Gibraltar.

The fully charged batteries now lead to another success. Our SSB radio which so far has not been much good to us since we left Las Palmas 1100 miles ago is now responding well to the fully charged batteries. We are now able to faintly hear the Maritime Mobile Nets we need to contact to get our position report onto Shiptrak on this blog.

This tiny floating island of ours is a very self contained system which though our sails will carry us along very efficiently to the other side of this vast ocean – the power we can generate on board is very important to our comfort and survival.

December 20th 0330 – 1634 miles to go

Five days until Christmas – Turkey still frozen, looking good. A couple of firsts today – we tried fishing, which also translates into – we threw away a perfectly good lure and leader in our first attempt. We use tackle which will probably catch us something around 3 – 5lbs, if its any bigger we can’t cope with it. So we lost our nice new lure – bright pink and fluorescent green wobbly squid thing. So we put an old one on and ran the line back out – no takers today.
Second first, I made my first loaf of bread on this trip. Now that its getting warm inside the cabin and still too rough to have portholes open I don’t really want to use the oven (except of course to roast the turkey). So I asked Tony ‘ do you prefer the bread made in the oven or the frying pan?’ (another method of cooking it which usually works well for me) - ‘either way is good with me as long as its not doughy’. So I made the bread, rose it to double its size, put it in the pan and covered it with the lid, which is glass. Checked it about 20 minutes later and was delighted to see that it was rising again to fill up the whole pan and come above the lip, and just as I was congratulating myself on another job well done the boat pitched, the lid slid off just as a gust of cool air hit the loaf. It fell in and never recovered – yep, doughy. Oh well it will be good for the stuffing. Actually I kinda like it.

When we left we had a full moon, now we have a thin sliver left – a couple more nights and there will be no moon. Its very dark out here without a moon and though that allows the stars to take centre stage the light they give off doesn’t compare to that of the moon.

We had a little rain today – just enough to wash the salt off the windows. The rain arrived with a beautiful vivid rainbow (another of the great wonders of nature).

Getting closer to the US we are able to hear quite clearly their Maritime Mobile Net – but they can’t hear us yet. It shouldn’t take much longer before we can log our position on shiptrak.

As I write Tony snores away – while at sea we sleep on the low side settee in our main cabin with lee cloths to hold us in. It doesn’t really work to sleep on our sides with the constant sideways roll of the boat and when Tony sleeps on his back he snores. Its just aswell I’m usually outside in the cockpit while he sleeps or I’d have to keep smacking him awake.

Sleeeeeep – only another hour and a quarter and I get my turn. Ciao!

December 21st – 0530 – 1538 miles to go

We’re motoring for the first time in 11 days. The wind decreased considerably today. We set up our spinnaker and flew that for about 8 hours which was really
Gratifying. We’ve had a problem flying our spinnaker as a cruising chute because we didn’t have the right ‘tackle’ at the bow and were making do with something that was not good for our roller furling genoa stay. I made a ‘stiff’ penant which brings the tack of the spinnaker way above the furler now which worked really well. Setting that up took quite a while and unfortunately caused us to miss the mid-day SSB contact we have been trying to reach since we left.
We’ll keep trying.
Started a seed/bean sprouting terrerium today – see how that goes, maybe we’ll get our greens that way.
Was just saying today that we had not seen dolphins for quite awhile and tonight on my first watch we had a pod swimming with us for about half an hour. Though I could not see them very clearly I could hear them taking their breath and see the swath of bio luminescence they make as they dart through the water. When they make their sudden turns under water it causes a flash of light just as if a flashlight is suddenly turned on and off. The wonders of nature!
Turkey still ok. Only 4 days until Christmas – I hope Santa can find us.

December 22nd – 0350 – 1458 miles to go

We’re going along much slower now. We flew the spinnaker almost all day today on its own. Its doing a good job of converting about 10 knots of wind to about 4knots. Its very pleasant. It also feels really good to be able to move around on the boat without hanging on.
We had a disappointment today though when we realized that our batteries are not charging up when the engine is running. Tony used his volt meter to check the alternator output which is good. So today when he gets up he has more investigating to do.
On top of that disappointment our wonderful Honda generator had trouble starting. Tony virtually took the whole thing apart and found that the actually switch mechanism has something wrong with it, but its in a closed unit which he hasn’t found a way into yet. He did get it going though and was able to run it most of the day to charge our batteries. This power issue is a bit deal.
As the wind has been quite benign for the past couple of days we decided to leave the spinnaker up tonight. At about 2300 hrs we were hit by a gust of wind which knocked us sideways and had us flying along really fast – too fast for our comfort level with a spinnaker up. So we took it down, the wind died and we are now motoring – and unfortunately wasting the engine power as the batteries are not charging.
Hoping for a better day today.

December 23rd – 0600 - 1359 miles to go

Haven’t sorted out the batteries not charging when the engine’s running yet and its hanging over us like a pall – we do have the generator thank God.
Made a loaf of very heavy bread today and my germinator ‘garden’ looks like some of the mung beans have popped open soon to turn into bean sprouts which we will eat. If that works I’ll try to turn our muesli into plants.
Didn’t watch Christmas movie today but we did listen to a Christmas CD which Josie made for me a few years ago. It made me sad. In fact the closer to Christmas we get the sadder I feel about not being with my family and worse still not even being able to talk to them which I always have from wherever we were in the past. Still no Maritime Mobile Net communication so we cannot even let everyone know that we are alright . Another pall. We encountered a ship a few hours ago – a Russian freighter. Tony called them and asked if they have the ability to send e-mail – yes they did but it was not possible to send an e-mail for us because it was only for business use. Tony thanked them and wished them Merry Christmas anyway.
This is my second watch which started at about 0500 – I woke hearing Tony calling my name just as the boat pitched over at an alarming angle and as climbed over the lee cloth was thrown across the cabin. I dressed fast as Tony let go of the spinnaker sheet, letting it fly and taking the power out of it. We were hit by a squall which caused the knock down. We put on our gear and went out to get the spinnaker down, ropes all in and prepare to sail with our genoa, all this took place in blinding rain, which in other circumstances I would have been delighted to meet with soap and shampoo. The wind had done a complete switch from NE to SE, so nowwe are motoring. We’ll deal with it when Tony’s had his sleep.
Turkey’s still OK.

December 24th – 0300 – 1298 miles to go
Th highlight of today was definitely our visitor – Minky. A lone minky whale swam with us for several hours today. He/she continually circled around our boat, sometimes swimming underneath rolling right over onto his back showing all white, sometimes going up to the bow of the boat and ‘waiting’ for us as if he was leading the way and we should follow. |It was such a wonderful experience. We thought he was a lonely whale and our company was better than nothing.

Unfortunately the wonderful experience came to an end when our skipper toilet got blocked and for the next couple of hours Tony was working at chiselling out of the bronze pipes years of salt/shit deposit as hard as concrete. This certainly changed the atmosphere on our boat and perhaps Minky didn’t like to be around us anymore – or maybe he wasn’t getting enough attention. So he left.

Still haven’t sorted out the battery charging problem – and to add to the problem our generator is not starting. This appears to be due to the switch. This Honda generator has been fantastic for us and has never failed – but it was not designed specifically for a marine environment and the switch is probably corroded. We’ll take it apart today and see what we can do. One way or another we have to fix it or we have no method of charging our batteries other than solar and that will only do for the fridge.

We need a better day today – Christmas Eve.

December 25th – 0515 – 1200 miles to go

Ho Ho Ho – Merry Christmas.
This day started out pretty bad in the morale department. Tony took the generator apart but after thorough investigation decided that it was beyond him to fix it. Then because we did not have enough power in our batteries the fridge would not stay on – so we were faced with the prospect of no fridge for the next 12 days or so – that would mean canned food which we do not really have enough of. I was trying to think of ways to preserve the meat we have in our freezer.
Thank God it did not come to that – the next thing we did was to change our alternators – we carry a spare. This we did, but when we started the engine it was only producing 12 volts, not the 14 approx. we need to charge our batteries. So take it back out and put the original back in. One of the connectors at the back did not fit well – kinda loose, so Tony put on a new connector and Voila – we have charging. As I said before – thank God.
So we ended our day on a much happier note – as it was Christmas Eve we allowed ourselves a cocktail which we do not usually do while on passages.
On my first watch of the night from 2300 – 0200 we were hit by a thunder storm, lightning all around us – big seas, we’re pitching and rolling and I’m hoping it will die down in a few hours so that we can enjoy Christmas day with a dinner of roast turkey. Not eating out of our tupperware containers in the cockpit, but off plates at our dining table. I guess we’ll see.
So now while Tony is asleep I’m going to rummage around to find our stockings – I hope and fill them up with fruit and nuts. No presents I’m afraid – but hey how many people get to go to the Caribbean for Christmas.

December 25th – 2120 – 1160 miles to go

Well we had our Christmas day on the ocean. I’d much rather have Christmas day at home with family, but this is where we are and it worked ok.
We spent the first part of the day running away from a huge and nasty storm cell which we did actually avoid. During that time when the sky was a menacing dark grey we were visited by a big pod of dolphins who seemed to be having a really good time. I think Dolphins like storms – this is the second time on our travels we have encountered this.
We put the turkey in the oven at noon and ate it at abut 5.00. It was a remarkably lean bird but very tasty and tender. We’ve lots more for the next few days.
As I write this I see that another electrical storm is brewing outside though in general the sky is pretty clear. I hope for a peaceful night – I really need a good sleep.
Each day we listen to the US Maritime Mobile Net, which is getting much clearer as we get closer. So far, however they have not heard our transmissions. We both feel badly that family at home have not been able to follow our progress on Shiptrak as we told them they would be able to.

December 27 – 0700 – 1015 miles to go
Boxing Day was a much better day weather wise, sunny, good breeze in the right direction and we flew the spinnaker aswell as reefed main for quite awhile which gave us much better speed than we’ve had for the past few days. For the first night we have kept the spinnaker up all night and even though we’ve had a few squall clouds which pushed us over quite suddenly in general its been a comfortable night with good speeds. We’re excited to pass the 1000 miles to go mark, the countdown after that seems so much less.
As I’m typing Tony is sleeping and we’re trucking along between 6 – 7 knots, yeah!
We had another whale visitor – unfortunately I was off watch and sleeping at the time. Tony said he was similar to the last one and did not stay long.
We are still unsuccessful at being heard by Maritime Mobile, but we can hear them very well so it should only be a matter of time before someone hears us and we can report our position.

December 27 – 2200 – 938 miles to go

Second night under spinnaker – now that we have worked out the bugs in flying and mostly the take-down of our spinnaker we really like to fly it. Its by far the least complicated and most efficient of our downwind sails. We’ve had a gorgeous day of perfect trade wind conditions. This night is going quite well also. We’re pretty much on course sailing between 5 and 6 knots. Today we broke the 1000 miles to go barrier which feels really good. Looking at 3 digits rather than 4 is very encouraging.
Our alternator is now working properly to charge our batteries which is also a really good feeling. A great stress reducer.
Today we almost caught a mahi mahi, about a 5 pounder. We had it right to the boat and just as we were going to gaff it – it got away. We were doing about 6 knots when we hooked it. So I guess those are the condiitons in which we are likely to do it again. So maybe tomorrow we’ll be eating sashimi.
Still no luck with SSB communication. We are beginning to think that our radio is the problem again. Its frustrating that we cannot let people at home know where we are and that we’re ok.

December 28th – 2345 – 819 miles to go

Today was a red letter day – we broke the communication – or lack of it – barrier. As usual it came in a connected stream of events. We decided about 1700 it was time to take the spinnaker down. The wind had picked up to way over 15 knots and the sail was really looking very stretched out. Also we were heading too far south so a jibe was in order. We took down the spinnaker, jibed and put up the genoa, a bit slower and very much more rolly. We’d been on the port tack for a very long time and after we jibed some things went wrong with electrics and we lost our nav station gps. So Tony had to go into the back of the nav station where all of the ‘crappy, shitty’ wiring and fuses are – and he discovered a loose fuse which must have dislodged during the jibe. So he put it back in place along with all of the other fuses on that panel.
Most of the time when Tony is working on things I like to help him, thus familiarising myself with the boat’s systems – but when he gets angry and starts calling our boat and most of the systems on boat ‘a piece of crap’ or words to that effect, I usually go away and leave him to it. So I went up into the cockpit and there was a freighter a couple of miles away crossing our bow.
Freighter means possible communication with the outside world. So Tony hurriedly reconnected the nav station and vhf radio and called them. We asked if they would be able to send an e-mail for us to family as we had been at sea for 17 days without the use of our SSB radio. The 2nd mate, Nicholas asked his Captain who agreed. They also enquired after our health and safety and asked if we needed anything else. How nice of them and what a difference from the last ship we asked to do the same thing on Christmas eve. We also asked them if they had SSB and could be do a radio check with them. Yes again, and this time the radio check was good.
Then at 1900 hours we tried Maritime Mobile again in the US and Hooray – we got through, posted our position and all is right with the world. Perhaps the problem all along was a loose fuse.
We will try to contact Nicholas on the freighter again tomorrow at noon – and then perhaps we’ll be able to contact the other fellow sailors we had arranged SSB schedules with before leaving Gran Canaria.

December 29th – 0345 – 660 miles to go

Well we may have been wooed into thinking that the trade winds were a lovely gentle 10 – 15 knots and we would be able to sail along under spinnaker sunbathing on deck and taking naps whenever we felt like it – NOT. Thank God we took the spinnaker down when we did. This day started out with big swells and nasty choppy waves on top with the wind blowing about 20 knots and increasing. Perfect weather to catch a fish – which we did; our first of this crossing, a Mahi Mahi, about 3 – 4 lbs. Catching it was the easy bit, cleaning it on our aft deck with the boat pitching and rolling was very difficult, but Tony did it. Its all gone now. We have sashimi for lunch and then I cooked the rest for dinner. A pefect size fish for us. Maybe we’ll get another one before this trip ends.
So back to the weather – the speeds we are achieving are fantastic, but its very uncomfortable and sleeping with this much movement is only possible when extremely exhausted.
When I came on watch and sat down to enjoy my hot marmite, I took the perfunctory look around and about 2 miles on our portside was a ship pretty much on a collision course with us. Amazing how often that happens, being out in the middle of nowhere and there is another vessel in your path. We woke them up and they altered course, so no problem.
Looking forward to a smoother sail tomorrow.

December 31st – 0700 – 508 miles to go

I’m a bit late with my diary entry – usually do them during night watch. The sun has just come up behind another bloody cloud bank and as usual the wind has picked up to even more than the 20 – 25 knots we’ve been crashing through all night. Now we can see the heart stopping waves that seem to be chasing us and trying with all their might to catch us and dump a ton on water on top of us. And then just when I jump off my seat and crouch for cover another wave sideswipes us with a flick that seems to say – ‘you’re not worth the full deal, take that’. Hmm! Waves in first person? Well, other than Tony and the occasional flying fish or one that we are just about to kill those waves are the next animate object.
So there has not been much to say about the last day – a day of hanging on. We just have out our genoa, running broad reach to downwind. We are on course, going very fast most of the time. We’ve clocked 12.5 surfing down the waves. Shouldn’t complain because it means this will all be over much quicker.
Even though we are sleeping because we are both exhausted the sleep is not really regenerative which means we are just always tired.
Its New Years Eve of 2012 and the eve of Tony’s birthday. I hope it calms down a bit so that we can have a ‘jolly’ celebration.
If not – we’ll certainly make up for it when we reach Antigua.
We have had regular communication with Maritime Mobile net for the past few nights which has been a great comfort to us. We feel less alone.

January 1st 2012 – 0330am – 398 miles to go

Tony’s b irthday today. Unfortunately the conditions outside are not letting up at all. Knowing that we only have 3 – 4 days to go is making it possible to endure this. We are receiving weather faxes now and can see that there is a huge low covering most of the western north Atlantic region reaching down as far as the Caribbean. This may have something to do with what we are in here.
I am extremely tired and cannot wait for Tony to wake up at 0500 so that I can get back to sleep.

January 2nd 2012 – 0615 – 248 miles to go

So Christmas, New Year’s and Tony’s birthday are all behind us now. Poor Tony didn’t have much of a celebration for his birthday. I had planned to bake him a chocolate cake, but quite honestly couldn’t stand to be in the galley any longer than essential. Everything that we do down below in the boat is very difficult as the boat pitches and rolls so much in these seas. I suppose this is what the trade winds are like at 16 – 17 degrees at this time of year. Its been pretty much the same thing every day.
Not much happened in this last 24 hours except that we ate, slept, talked to each other a bit, looked at weather faxes as they came through.
Its been great getting onto the Maritime Mobile net every evening.
Hard to believe that we have covered 4,823 miles since we left Malta late October, and we weren’t even on the move all of the time. Stopped in Menorca for about 6 days, Gibraltar about 10 and Las Palmas 11. So out of 9 weeks we were not sailing for 3 weeks. No wonder we’re knackered.

January 3rd – 0437 - 126 miles to go

I wonder if we’ll be able to stand up when we get onto land without falling over. We are both really looking forward to pulling into an anchorage, dropping the anchor and not having to hang on to stand up. And I really look forward to putting our cabin back together and sleeping in our own bed, together.

This day has been fraught with problems – starting with Tony waking up to change the fuel filter right away because without the engine running the fridge was not working and we would lose all of our frozen goods in the freezer – all this before coffee. Then straight into dealing with a blockage in the pipe leading out of the water tank – no water coming out of tap, and then the bilge – that’s another story, won’t bother to add that one.
This list of early morning wake up problems was exacerbated by the fact that I had a pretty good size Mahi Mahi on the fishing line. Sort of unintentionally. So my morning started with the excitement of catching this fish as soon as I dropped the line into the water. I hadn’t even let half of the line out yet. As I was letting the line off the back of the boat I got it tangled around the lower part of Mr. Chubbs, and as I was trying to pull it off it became very heavy.
It was time to wake Tony up anyway so I called to him to come and see what I had. And that’s when the day went bad. Tony was already in ‘piece of crap mode’.
I left the poor Mahi Mahi on the hook dragging it through the water for about an hour, or so it seemed while I came in to help Tony. The fish, amazingly was still alive when I pulled it out and landed it in the fish killing bath, and then Tony did the filleting etc. and the fish is in the freezer, which thankfully is working now because Tony changed the fuel filter on the engine.
Its 0500 and I’m off watch now – handing over to Tony. One more day and one more night and then we’ll be in Antigua. Its been a long journey.

January 4th – 0535 – 16 miles to go

Whew! The island’s lights are visible and we are very much looking forward to making landfall. Next post will be in real time.