Mad Fish

Mad Fish
On delivery from Scotland

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Azores - to Padstow - Friday12pm 28th June 2013 to Sunday 3am 7th July 2013

The First Half - written Tuesday 2nd July 2013

We left Terceira in the Azores on Friday Lunch time. It is now Tuesday 5pm and we have just passed the halfway to go stage. We are 550 miles from the Scillies. If the weather is good we will stop and if not we will keep going a further 70 miles to Padstow. 46 20 n 19 07 w

We had a nice start with light winds pretty much on the nose. This was ok as we wanted to put in some North. This was a tactical move to pick up some decent wind as the Azores high was sitting in the way. We were able to sail for the first 24 hours and then the sun shone and the wind dropped and the sea became a glassy mirror. The engine therefore had to go on and we motored at our low rev speed of 5 knots. Again we were putting in North so the first 2 days saw only 225 miles off our target. At 4pm the wind started to shift round to the port beam and we got out the new kite. This was very exciting and it seemed to work well. It propelled us along at a good 7 knots in 7 knots of breeze. We took it down at 8pm for the night watch. It has stayed in the bag ever since.

The wind now filled in and we could happily white sail by the morning. We were now heading for target. There was no need to put a spinnaker up as we were slipping along nicely at 7 kts. The sun shone. We saw a whale close up. 
By the evening the wind had picked up and we had a steady 20 knots, with gusts up to 28. The first reef was in by 8pm and I was left on watch with full genoa. This did not last long and I started reefing every 15 minutes until there was not much left. We were rocketing along at 8 kts with touches of 9 and 10 as we surfed down what was developing into a rather large sea.
I thought a 2nd reef maybe in order as i went off watch but Russell was happy so I left him to it and sought out my nice warm bed. Sleep was difficult as the boat creaks and groans and bangs and crashes its way down the waves. I was rudely awakened by the alarm at 2am and that was my 3 hours up. We then put the 2nd reef in and the boat seemed to be a little more settled.

The ipod is very much my friend and I huddled in the hatchway listening to music and playing scrabble. I seem to beat the computer but the teacher function keeps telling me i could do better. This can get annoying, and also I have no idea that the words it suggests even exist. It appears there are quite a few Q words that don't need a U which is proving useful. Every 15 minutes i creep out from my hidy hole and look into the bleak sea and check there is nothing on the horizon. The plotter also gets a check and a surprise look if it has an AIS target on it.
This morning (Tuesday) at 4.30am 2 targets appeared and said they were engaged in fishing. We were heading directly for them and eta was 1 hour. Great, i needn't worry, Russ was up at 5am.

The thing with sleep deprivation is it makes you grumpy and both of us are now pretty tired and grumpy. No good morning or how are you? Just a comment of "we seem to be rolling alot"! yep, I agree with you there but blame the sea and not me. He fiddled with the sails and decided it was better. I was duly dismissed to bed. I kindly asked if he wanted to know about the fishing boats. He said he would keep an eye. An hour or so later, I could hear the AIS alarm bleating and assumed we were close to our target fishing boats. This goes off if anything comes within a mile. Russell had to amend this to half a mile as when he checked the plotter after i went off watch we had moved up the screen to reveal not 2 but 31 targets. This was a whole fishing fleet that seemed to have all decided to fish in exactly the same spot. Russell found himself in the midst of it all and through the grey and mist spotted a few of the targets. This sort of thing normally happens to me, so nice that it was someone else for a change.

The sea is still pretty roly and making life uncomfortable on board. The kids have found a friend in the DS and I am reading books, whilst Russell is trying to beat Ethans score on Subway surfers  game. The thermals are out and my hair is so windswept i think i may have to cut the knots out. We cheared ourself up with a Toblerone at 4pm tea and treat time. The Dairy Milk has been saved for another day.
We picked up a whole load of DVDs in the Azores that were reasonably priced so i do movie night with the kids at 6pm. Tonight we are showing the Lion King.

As we get closer to home waters our thoughts are very much looking forward to some familiar food and drinks. We haven't quite decided where we will first touch land, and it will likely be a last minute decision dependent on wind, fuel, daylight, tides and overall morale. We hope to achieve this on Saturday.

 The Second Half - written 7th July 2013

The seconds half has been very much calmer than the first. We have been enjoying a day of surfing down waves with the old spinnaker. We hit 11.2 knots and then with 20 knots of apparent wind when surfing we decided to take it down. We continued to sail at a steady 7 knots with just the main up. The waves were pretty big still and without the kite or jib out we did tend to roll a bit. As the winds eased so did the swell.

We have seen very little ships and no other yachts. The odd bird and a few dolphins have been all that we have seen.  On Thursday the wind died and we had a day of motoring. Yesterday (Fri 5th July) Russell was concerned that we would not have enough fuel to motor the 240 miles remaining to Padstow. I could not see how this was the case as we had the same amount of fuel as our Bermuda to Azores trip where we had calculated a conservative 450 miles of fuel. At 2.5 liters an hour this would give us easily 100 hours of motoring and we had done 50 hours so far. My maths said another 50 should get us there. 

We poured the 60 liters in cans into the tank as it was pretty calm now and Russell called the Scillys to enquiry about a fuel pitstop. I was not keen on this as to be that close to land and not stop was going to be torture. As it was on the way we didn't have to make a decision yet anyway.

The wind god then swung into action and gave us a lovely breeze where we could happily sail at 6 knots on a fetch. At 8pm we put the engine on we're motor sailing at reduced revs through 8 am the next morning. The fuel gauge marked at where it was before we emptied the cans would now serve as a good gauge of our motoring distance. We now only have 80 miles to Padstow.

As you may have gathered by now my 3 hour watches are 8 to 11 and 2 to 5. My night watch is seeing it get dark at 10 pm and light at 3am (utc). At 4am on Saturday 6th of July the sea was mirror calm. Not a breath of wind. Nothing on the horizon except a few vapor trails left by planes and a dim orange glow as the sun started to rise. It is moments like these that are magic and make all the really tough times worthwhile. The sunrise was spectacular and the pictures do not do it justice. I went to the bow away from the noise of the engine to enjoy the spectacle. The mirror calm sea reflected the great ball of fire and it looked like stepping stones had been cast on the water drawing you towards it. The lone bird that decided to land in front of the path of the only boat for miles played chicken before scampering away. He didn't even fly just almost walked on the water as if it was glass. Vapor trails from the planes could be seen dancing in the water as if a fish darting below. I wanted to try and capture the moment on film and leant over the bow to take a video of the bow piercing through the water and the beautiful sound it made. This was when I noticed my reflection and spent the next 30 minutes taking pictures. This one clearly shows that it is a reflection as the name appears as a mirror image. I had such fun. I was like a little kid, clicking away.

I kept a lookout for Russell coming on watch as I was conscious that he would walk into an empty cockpit and fear the worst. Despite trying to attract his attention as his head popped out to check how cold it was I failed. A quick bang on the hatch stopped him from starting a panic search for me. We enjoyed a cup of tea and I excitedly showed him my pictures. He was half asleep so his enthusiasm was not as abundant as mine but he was impressed. 

So here we are starting the day with visual reflections. And then we move onto the more personal reflections. The macho men will not bother to read this next bit and the women will be hopefully stick with me, especially my fellow female sailors. A blog would also not be complete without an end. The word blog is just a trendy name for a diary. One which, all of us during our journeys have felt a slave to but recognised the importance of perseverance, even in our darkest hours. With the exception of Gill on Fabiola, I think the blog has mainly been women's work. I am sorry if I have offended other males who do contribute.

To write a blog that friends and family can enjoy and feel a part of the adventure is not easy. To write it so that in years to come when we look back and reminisce we do not cringe at what we wrote is another. I hope that I have managed to achieve a fairly frank humorous and accurate account of our travels.
Eleven months after leaving Hamble we will be back in the UK having sailed 11,000 miles. This is the average mileage driven in a car.

Yesterday at tea and treat time we wrote down questions that we thought we would be asked by those that we come into contact with  back in the UK. This was mainly to get the children to reflect in the hope they would answer in a positive and enthusiastic way. I do not want to put words in their mouths, it is just they think what we have done is normal. They are like yeah, we swam with turtles, dolphins seen loads of them, can't even be bothered to get up and look at them anymore. They don't gush with enthusiasm and where normally you can't shut them up you struggle to get them to speak. This is perceived by parents as a real insult for all the hard work and effort put in to give them the experience. Those asking the questions give a quiet "oh",  as they struggle to comprehend why they are getting such a mediocre reaction.  I suspect the adults are also guilty of this, just better at sensing the needs of the listener.

When asked if we would do this again. After a discussion we got the answer and some narrative. In the future yes, but right now no. And Ethan wants to go to New York. I think I would agree. A year had been long enough. If someone gave me £25,000 and said have another year out. I wouldn't take it.
Last night we watched Shrek 4. Weighed down by the traps of 3 children and monotonous life in general, he trades one day of being carefree and single and feared for being an ogre, for a day in his past he can't remember.
It is only when he realises he has become tricked by Rumpelstiltskin, to give up the day he was born, he realises he will never exist and starts to appreciate the life he had before. It is odd that a Shrek movie should prove to sum up how I feel, as do the boys about going home. They don't talk endlessly about our adventures; they talk about food, friends, school, and family. All the things they have missed, not the things they have gained. I am positive that as they speak with friends they will share experiences. The barracuda will be bigger and waves higher. This will only increase as they age, and those they come into contact with may share a glimpse of what they have seen at such a young age.
I have prattled on too long. Let's just say I am looking forward to roast lamb, cider and a hug from my mum.


At around 3am on Sunday the 7th July, we entered Padstow harbour. We had completed an Atlantic Circuit. It took a while to moor up and get things sorted before we could embark on a celebratory superbok beer. I think by 8am we had had 5 and were getting some strange looks from tourists taking a leisurely stroll around the harbour. Breakfast would be from the local bakery along with some nice strong coffee. We rang customs but they were not interested in us. Just as we were off for a roast lunch and a pint of real ale and cider my Mum arrived. What a surprise! Later that day, Andy Murray would win wimbledon. A quiz question I hope I will never forget the answer too....

Padstow at dawn................

Azores - Terceira 2 Praia da Vitória - 22nd June to Friday 28th June 2013

Terceira 2

We arrived in Terceira 90 miles from Sao Miguel. We had a good sail, although everyone was disappointed that we could not try out the new spinnaker. We had left at 4am and arrived around 5pm. The marina is right next to a beach and quite tight. After a few attempts to moor on the waiting pontoon without luck we found a free berth. The pontoons were as short as the guide book warned, so I carefully leapt with the fear of being catapulted straight off. It all went well and we were soon plugged in and enjoying a beer. Our cheapest marina berth at €6 a night including electric. Unbelievable!

There are two beaches here. Neither if which we went to. The weather was rather grey for most of our stay. The boys have also declared they ate a bit beached out. The breaking waves on the beach were also declared not right for body boarding. In fact they were too small. At the beginning of this trip they would have been too big! Either they have grown or their confidence has. I suspect a bit of both.

Praia da Vitória is on the east side of Terceira. It is a lovely place with lots of shops including a big Continents and a Worten (where we bought more DVDs).
We spent our days doing school and maintenance jobs. The ice creams were more expensive here so our daily trip was no more.

We met a couple on Gwarr who had participated in ARC Europe last year. Dennis and Sarah were a lovely couple. We enjoyed sharing stories with them over a glass of wine. In their recommendation we went out for a meal on our last might at a restaurant called Restaurante O Pescador. The boys were allowed to have the steak on a hot rock. At €18 each more expensive than we would normally allow but they ate it all and it kept them entertained. The waiter was also very friendly and proud of his home. He even offered to take us to his house so we could meet his 6 year old son and swim in his pool the next day. The boys liked this idea but the weather window meant that we needed to move on.
The shower block had a bath in the ladies and gents so the boys enjoyed having a bath whilst Russell and I had a beer in the beach bar opposite. It was rather much colder than the other beach bars we had frequented, but the beer tasted just as good.

On Friday 28th of June we would set sail for the UK. 1109 miles to the Scilly isles. A further 70 to Padstow. The forecast looked good for favorable winds and we would ride the Azores high heading to the UK. At the time we did not know that we would be bringing the UK the hottest day of the year so far at 26 degrees. We were really bringing the good weather just as we had been asked.

We decided to start the trip when we were ready rather than start with an alarm and an early morning leave. What would an extra 3 hours on an 8 day trip make! Ethan and I went off to buy bread and also a cuddly bull. We have many teddies on the boat and it was decided that a bull from Terceira, the home of bull running in the Azores had to be done. We are now the owners of Bernie Bull. Those who know the real Bernie Bull of Marchwood yachtclub will likely find this name as funny as Ethan did.
So at midday we said goodbye to the Azores and hoisted the sails for our longest family trip.

Quite a steep walk to the top.

A ship leaving ... soon be our turn.


Azores - Ponta Delgarda Part 2 10th June to 22nd June 13

Sao Miguel

We are back in Sao Miguel. The spinnaker that was supposed to arrive the first time we were here is still nowhere to be seen. We start tracing it as it is now a week late according to the tracking info. It appears it got to Lisbon in 24 hours and then it has spent a few weeks on a ship. It seems to have cruised far and wide before ending up in Sao Miguel. Good job we didn’t continue to Lagos. The spares we had ordered from Sam for the steering a week ago actually arrived on the same day. This was good as we needed these packages before we could lift out to change anodes and anti foul.

Ethan inside the spinnaker box

We lifted out on Tuesday morning and went back in on Wednesday afternoon. The boys helped, no they really did! They helped clean the propeller and also anti foul. Ethan did a good impression of a smurf with his head protection of my shoe protectors from bowling. We had finished by mid afternoon and headed off to the hotel Lince for our night of luxury. I didn't fancy staying on the boat in the props which were strapped together using our ropes and a bit of wood found lying around the yard.
Our hotel was a short walk laden down with clothes and computers to make use of wifi. On check in we were asked for passports. I hadn't thought of this and the receptionist was not happy when we explained they were on a boat out of the water with no ladder to get aboard to retrieve them. We had borrowed Thomas the guy doing the steerings ladder and this was now locked as instructed, but we didn't have the key. She finally accepted me emailing the copies I had scanned before we left in case we ever lost them. Bizarrely Russell had to go back and get his trousers as I had forgotten to pack them. I noticed this early on so whilst we went for a swim he was finding a step ladder and clamoring aboard. I said not to get the passports now as it would only confuse matters.
We had paid £108 for a room inc dinner and breakfast. It was a 4star conference hotel and had a pool which was indoor and outdoor. This was factually accurate as it was the same pool which half was in and half out. They boys enjoyed the jacuzzi more than the pool as it was not the warmest in history.
We then headed up to the room for a bubble bath and a dose of tv. Unlike uk hotels there was hundreds of channels most English speaking. We found police academy and all sat on the bed staring at a black box. We ignored the sea view from our window!
Dinnerwas a buffet which was ok . The boys burger and chips off the kids menu was a relief. They didn't fancy parrot fish but it was actually very nice. Given we swam with these a lot it was odd eating them.
We enjoyed breakfast the next morning another swim and more Internet. Russ headed off to use up the last of the anti fouling and finish some other jobs.
It seemed our steering had been more trouble for Thomas than expected. The bearings in the wheel did not want to come out so he and his friend with a bigger machine had had to use more force. This broke the thread to screw it back to the wheel so they had to make a new one. This turned out to be a bit too long on fitting as they didn't have the boat to hand when making and then it had to be made the right size. This resulted the steering being fixed 5 mins before our lift in. Thomas charged us 120 euro for fixing the bit plus 50 euro for pressure washing. He thought we would be cross , but this seemed fine to us given the work involved and we were sort of stuck without it. Also it was the same cost as one tin of antifouling and we needed two.
We were back in the water and moored up by 5pm. The bill for lift out and ten days berthing was 300 euro. Not bad!

We spent the next few days catching up on school. We visited the nearby castle / fort and looked at the museum full of guns and some war vehicles. We spent a couple of afternoons at the mall buying anew DVD player as the second  one had now died too. We treated ourselves to sky fall at €20 for fathers day plus other DVDs which for the first time seemed to be reasonably priced, especially some Disney ones at buy one get one free.
We enjoyed daily trips to the ice cream stall. The boys went on the Segway and the gokarts. We went to the open air pool and oli and Ethan dived off the high diving board. Very impressed I was too scared to jump. Also the place was full of teenagers and we had to wonder as they jumped in their skinny bikinis at how they stayed on. I think I was the only one in a one piece. I didn't want to be the old bird standing at the top with everyone looking at me.
Now this next bit is not politically correct and I know you should not laugh but we couldn't help it. There was a man who was a dwarf. He jumped from the high board, and in Ethan's words it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. It looked like someone had dropped an overgrown baby. He seemed to be enjoying himself surrounded by young girls in bikinis. He only came up to their bottoms. It started me thinking how they cope with height restrictions? How do they cope with theme park rides.
We hired a car from Carlos ( that really was his name) for 30 euro a day and then got stung for 9 euro per day insurance which left us 900 excess should we damage it. This time we had a little Suzuki. Annoyingly the boys have turned their attention to which car we will have when we get back and now every car we see they ask if we are going to get one.
The island is volcanic and full of bubbling stuff.

Terra Nostra park, Furnas, Ponta Delgada
There is a fee of 5 euro to go into the Terra Nostra Garden Park, but it's worth it. You can rent a towel for 2 euro at the entrance.

I have never been to a garden where you can swim in hot pools. The water is a natural fed spring and the metals in the water trun you orange. Do not wear your best costume - you have been warned!

We then travelled a few miles and saw some rather smelly bubling pools.

We went to a Science

visitor centre and tried lemonade. The fizzy water came from a natural sprng.


People put food into these holes and cover with dust to cook food using the heat from the earth.

The net day we went for another day of sight seeing. They take religion very seriously here.

We visited a tea planation and learnt how tea was made.

We were a little surprised when this pool was freezing cold.

The boys enjoying some other modes of transport along the prom.

The military museum. Lots of guns....

It was time to leave for the second time. We filled up with fuel, every container, this included our spare water one as one of the fuel cans started to leak. The UV had obviously weakened the plastic. We had to act quickly and had to sacrifice our washing up bowl in the process. I guess better it did it on the concrete dock than our teak decks!