Mad Fish

Mad Fish
On delivery from Scotland

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

ARC - 27th Nov to 14th Dec

The wind was blowing quite hard from behind and it was too much for a spinnaker which was a shame. We didn’t get a bad start with only a few boats ahead of us and good clean air. We trundled off at a steady 7 knots with main and genoa. By the time we had got to the Airport the wind was blowing 40 knots in the wind acceleration zone and we decided it was best to reef and furl in the Genoa. We hit 12.4 knots surfing down a wave and this was entering the breaking things zone. Most people went offshore to avoid the wind acceleration zone and the increased winds it brings but we felt happy with the conditions and it seemed to save us a lot of time as we were able to clear the bottom of Gran Canaria much quicker and start our heading for St Lucia.

It is a little depressing when the miles to go on the plotter read 2700…and you know you are up for 21 days at sea. You also never manage to go in a straight line so the miles sailed are always more. We were fairly fortunate and by taking the straight rhum line route, we sailed 2800 miles in total. The racing boat that got line honours was 40ft in length and sailed 3300 miles in a bid to sail over the top of the low. They averaged 11.4 knots and beat a boat twice their length. Had they sailed a straight line course they would have broken the record for the fastest ARC crossing in 27 years. We were pleased with our 6.7 knot average speed and arrival in 17 days and 10 hours.

The seas were large and confused and not very comfortable. We were hand steering, but spirits were high. There was no seasickness, so the tablets must have been doing there thing and everyone ate chicken casserole for dinner.

We started with a watch system of 3 on 6 off rotating through the 3 adults. We tried the auto pilot which seemed to be coping with the conditions and settled in for our first night at sea. We clocked 177 miles off the distance to go.

The next day we had sunshine and good breeze and all was well until I was woken by a big crash and the sound of many ball bearings clattering on the deck. The spinnaker pole being used to pole of the genoa had decided to come off the bottom of the track. This bent the track and meant we had lost a number of the ball bearings needed for the car that pulls the pole up and down the mast. This was not good news. Then an hour later the bolts on the autopilot attaching it to the rudder stock sheared and left us with no autopilot. We made the decision to keep going and hand steer rather than taking a detour to the Cape Verdes which were a week away. The seas and the wind strength meant returning to the Canary Islands was not an option. The mood was now rather sombre which was a shame as it was Ethan’s 9th Birthday. He declared it a pretty rubbish one as no one was on top form and we had not settled into life at sea. We did manage a birthday cake with sparklers and he had presents, but not quite what he had in mind.

After day 1 things were pretty much the same. A bit like in groundhog day. Our watches were now 2 on and 4 off as 2 hours is the maximum your arms can take steering. The wind continued and we chose the shortest route rather than venturing south in search of the trades. The forecast that we had picked up before we left gave good winds north for the next week. Following the rhum line would take us steadily south and save us precious miles from diving south. This turned out to be a smart move and those who ventured south suffered a 24 hour lull. We avoided this , probably more by luck than judgement but it did mean 24 hours of being hard on the wind, but at least we had some and kept moving all be it in a very bashy and crashy way. This was not what we had signed up for. It should be down wind all the way.

As we ventured further south the flying fish started to appear. They look a little like birds as they hover just above the surface. Russell was attacked by 2 on night watches as they flew into the cockpit and then flapped around waiting to be rescued. No easy feat when you are hand steering.

We heard reports of people seeing whales but none came to see us. We did have a big pod of dolphins come and play which always lifts people spirits.

We tried fishing and within half an hour had caught a dorado. Unfortunately we were unable to land it and the line broke and off it swam complete with our new €12 lure. We had one lure left and we tried again in the afternoon. This was the same time that Russell decided to take the bolts out of the engine lifting crane and see if they would fit in the autopilot. This meant we were not paying attention and did not notice that the rod was lying flat and all the real had gone. As we tried to slow the boat down the line appeared to come undone and again we lost all the line and the lure. Perhaps it is not meant to be. Intrepid bear apparently caught a tuna and another fish too. At least we know there are fish out there and which lures to buy more off. It remains to be seen whether fishing will be economical if we lose lures at €12 constantly. We have spoken to others since arriving and it seems even though we had taken our sails down to land the fish the fact we were doing 4 knots under bare poles meant we were still going too fast to land a big fish.

We celebrated Gary’s Birthday on Monday the 3rd with a glass of Fizzy. It was a double celebration as we had covered 1000 miles by 7pm that night. So 6 and a half days. If  we could continue at this speed then we would get in quicker than our predicted 21 days. We hoped that by Oli’s birthday in 6 days time we would be celebrating another 1000 miles done. We managed it! And at 8pm on Sunday 9th December we had covered 2000 miles and spirits were high. The party on the 15th – 20 days after the original start date looked to be achievable even with the actual start being 2 days later.

The wind kept blowing and the miles kept on tumbling at a steady 160 miles a day. It looked like we were on for an 18 day crossing and would arrive on Friday.

We managed to fix the spinnaker pole and pole out the genoa again giving us good speed. Unfortunately after a couple of days of success I was caught by a wave and a gust which spun me up and backed the genoa. The pressure on the pole fitting was too great and it parted company ripping a bit more track off the mast. This resulted in a couple of days running at less than max sail area, however the wind was sufficient that we motored on regardless. It didn’t seem to dent our daily miles too much but it felt slower none the less.

The weather for the last 36 hours was forecast o go lighter. 12 to 19 knots rather than the 20 to 25 we had been used to. The lighter winds enabled us to set a spinnaker. This part of the track was not broken but the fixing holding it to the mast now had the addition of artist paint brushes rammed in to hold it in place. We just hoped it would hold. It did and we hoisted the kite at 6am on Friday morning and took it down at 5.30am just as we rounded pidgeon island, and the sun set. The finish line was in sight and we knew a warm welcome and a cold rum punch was waiting for us in the marina. We had done it.

Gran Canaria Week 2

We continued to prepare buying more and more provisions and tweaking the boat adding bubble wrap as protection on the shrouds and spreaders to reduce chafe on the main sail. Russ became increasingly concerned about the boat being able to move at all when the time came. The water for 3 weeks for 5 people at 2 litres a day was 210 litres alone. This was stacked by the table and in the bottom of Oliver’s cabin. We added a lee cloth to Oli’s cabin so that it could be divided and half be used as stores of cake and bread mixes. Under the bunks we fitted 21 days of tins and 2 big netting bags were filled with crisps. We took a small amount of fruit which we tried hanging in netting, but found they swung and bashed on the bulkhead regardless. The rock hard pears were reduced to mush in no time at all. Some apples also fell by the way side but we were relatively successful with granny smith apples, bananas and oranges.

As Sunday the 25th drew nearer the weather reports suggested that it would be a beat at the start. So much for the trade winds from behind. Not only would it be a beat but also the swell was due to climb to 5 metres and this would be a punishing start. It was decided that the racing fleet would start as planned and any cruising boat that wanted to could also start, but  a second start would take place on Tuesday the 27th November. All except 6 cruising boats took the option. On Sunday morning as we ate brunch a brass band came down the pontoon playing all manner of songs. It really was a carnival atmosphere and they did this on all the pontoons. They must have been exhausted. We waved off friends in the racing division and out neighbours in the cruising division. We then walked to the start line which was a longer than expected and we just got there in time. The strong winds were getting caught behind the shelter of the island and it was a rather undramatic start as we sat in the hot sunshine all wondering if we should have gone. Some boats even flew kites off the start, so much for a heavy beat.

A few hours later 9 racing boats out of the 30 that started had returned to the marina deciding it was not for them. The conditions were said to be horrible. They were not allowed to leave the boat except for using the facilities ashore ie toilets. Most boats left 24 hours later when the worst of the wind had passed through.

We continued to find jobs to do and I continued to try and shake off a rather nasty cold. I was pretty glad we hadn’t started as I really did not feel on form at all.

Finally Tuesday 27th came and it was time to leave. We didn’t have the band of Sunday or the crowds of people but the hive of activity of boats saying goodbye and wishing everyone luck gave a buzz none the less.

Leaving was made difficult by 200 boats all trying to get through a small marina entrance between 10am 10.45am in order to make the 11am start. This was quite a squeeze and not helped by all of us being heavily laden and not as quick to manoeuvre or respond.

The remaining ARC staff stood on the marina wall and checked us out and waved us off. It was quite emotional.

The wind was blowing quite hard from behind and it was too much for a spinnaker which was a shame. We didn’t get a bad start with only a few boats ahead of us and good clean air. We trundled off at a steady 7 knots with main and genoa. Our 2680 mile journey had just stared….

Gran Canaria Week One

Gran Canaria – Week 1 – 11th Nov to 18th November
Wow what a first week…
Firstly we did not receive a warm welcome and had to endure a very rude marina attendant supposedly helping us to more stern too with no finger pontoon. It was like the parting of the waves to squeeze us in between the 2 boats and then we had the added complication of a pile directly behind us. The meant that we couldn’t physically get off the boat which was rather inconvenient. We were also concerned that we might damage equipment on the stern ie the solar panel and wind generator. The ARC office were unable to help our dispute and fortunately a friend on Salsa came to the rescue by lending us a plank to get ashore. I was not overly happy with the berth but it is on the kids pontoon so the boys overruled me and we have stayed put.
Day one was check in at the ARC office where we were overleoaded with information and booked seminars and times for safety inspection. We were fortunate to pass this the next day first time, so all my reading the rules paid off. We also went to our first sundowners happy hour where a free drink can be enjoyed with a chat with others from 6.30pm to 8pm. We all headed back to Mad Fish afterwards for some crusty bread, cold meats, prawns. This was another enjoyable evening with the bears. Ethan and Harry fell asleep watching a dvd so everyone stayed up later than intended.
Day 2 saw the first ARC party. These start between 8 and 8.30pm. We decided to skip sundowners and enjoy a chilli on Intrepid Bear who were mored next to the party. We wandered up and enjoyed free wine and live music. We then ended back on Intrepid for a nightcap and then stumbled back to Mad Fish at 1am. This obviously resulted in a massive hangover the next day.
Day 3 – Can’t really remember anything important happening, but we did decide to not attend any drinks parties…
Day 4 – went to a seminar on weather routing by Chris Tibbs and told all the different things we could expect. The squalls, tropical storms, hurricans etc… everything to put your mind at ease! Sometimes I am a firm believer that ignorance is bliss. Then I went to the provisioning seminar for more tips and doom and gloom about just how much food we should take and how we should remove labels from tins, wash fruit and double bag pasta for fear of creepy crawlies invading. This is guaranteed to make provisioning an even more painful experience than it already is. We are also convinced that as we haven’t been doing any of this so far that we probably have the creepy crawlies anyway. Apparently cockroaches like cardboard so we wonder if toilet rolls and kitchen rolls are ok or if we have to remove them. Apparently we should also have food that doesn’t need cooking in case we have a gas problem, not sure how tasty M&S tinned chicken curry will be cold and hope I never have to find out. I guess it is good to think about these things, but equally it can scare you to death. Unfortunately in our haste to meet a deadline I fell off the plank and this caused the most massive bruise ever. I still have a massive dent in my leg a month later!
Day 5 was Friday - We went to plant a tree as a volunteer on the ARC forest project. This is a not for profit making organisation that is trying to restore a lot of lost forests. We enjoyed a bus tour up into the mountains and then a very steep 20 minute walk followed by a lot of hard digging. It was definitely a workout. The kids and adults thoroughly enjoyed it and the view was spectacular, we could even see Tidie in Tenerife. Sara and I decided to go and check out Carrefour in the afternoon and I bought all the flour for bread, cakes and biscuits. We enjoyed a well earned beer.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

ARC photos



Tenerife photos

TENERIFE – 1st Nov to 11th Nov

TENERIFE – 1st Nov to 11th Nov

What a contrast to the other 2 islands. Our first impressions not so welcoming. We had hoped to get a one night stay in Porto Colon close to Los Christianos so we can visit our neighbour. We were told no room and with no anchoring and an unfavourable swell we had to go to San Miguel. The Marina was large and past of a golf resort which turned out to be huge. We decided to eat in Los Christianos so we could show the boys what it was like for others on a commercial holiday. This was a mistake as the food was cheap and awful and we were constantly annoyed by street sellers. The boys thought the coloured umbrella that you wore like a hat on your head were just stupid. As it had started to drizzle the sales of these had improved and many women were now looking rather stupid. Ethan made us all laugh when he saw a girl with a big coloured umbrella and remarked “wow they come in a bigger size and on a stick too!”

We had agreed to meet Tamla outside her hotel at 8pm and set off for a walk up the hill. We were constantly badgered by restaurants and bars to eat.

Tamla’s hotel was away from the crowds but once inside the music was very loud and it was difficult to talk. The boys were not keen on the kids entertainment being done by a man in a sailors outfit and resorted to playing games on our ipods. This annoyed Isabella (our neighbours 5 year old) who wanted to play with the boys like she had at home. We went up to another bar and sat outside so the kids could play in the park. The highlight of the night for them was the lady shouting at them from the balcony because she was locked out and needed  hotel staff to rescue them.

Tamla plied us with free drinks from their all inclusive wrist bands and we left around 10pm for the taxi back. It is about 10 miles away and cost €25 each way, so not so cheap a taxi as we had been used to. We had picked up some spare anodes though and more importantly Tea that Tamla had kindly brought out. The boys have decided that the boat is a much better holiday than a hotel.

The next day we walked to a small shop and the boys were very excited to see Robinsons squash and other British items not seen for many months. We got back to the boat just before the heavens opened!

The marina staffs were very helpful in completing the forms for permission to anchor. It seemed however that this had not actually been granted. However we were told all was good so we went up the coast a few miles and enjoyed a couple of free nights at anchor. There was a nice golden sand beach and the boys enjoyed jumping off the boat and snorkelling. We seemed to be woken at 4am with a really uncomfortable swell on both mornings and sought refuge at the capital Santa Cruz.

On the way we were called by Tenerife traffic to tell us we did not have permission to anchor and not to anchor without it. We caught up with our friends on Chewsy (Steve and Chris) who had spent 7 nights in the anchorage we had just left enduring the 45 knot winds we had had in Gomera. The official rib had said they could stay so they thought getting permission in Santa Cruz to anchor further north would be a mere formality. This was not the case and after going to port control and completing the forms they were told we never give permission to anchor.

This is also a commercial port home to ferries and cruise ships. We did some shopping and I bought some more Pandora beads as they were offering 30% discount. We had Macdonalds 2 days in a row as our friends on Intrepid Bear offered to take the boys to a museum for the afternoon and they were going their first. Russ and I did a bit of shopping and then went back to prepare roast lamb for the bears. We had a very enjoyable evening and proved you can cook a roast dinner for 9 on our boat.

The next day the boys played Pokemon on the DS all morning which gave us the opportunity to bag up our atlantic dinners and check the stores. I was very pleased to find I had more M&S tins than I remembered buying and we could create 21 dinners from the food we already had onboard. We did also find that Santa Cruz had a small M&S food and added a few more tins and some Mango Chutney to our stores.

The yacht called Leopard was also in our Marina dominating the skyline with her massive carbon mast. We had seen they had a skeleton crew and said we would get the boys aboard for a look around. Charlie (the crew) was more than happy to break the boredom and show us around. The boys were amazed that it had a carbon fibre toilet. They also did not understand why they had covered the carbon fibre doors with a wood laminate to make it look good. Surely nothing looks cooler than carbon. School for the boys was to write up about their visit to Leopard and Oli has written an excellent piece which I will post separately.

Now bored with a big city and killing a few days before Gran Canaria we decided to try stealth anchoring. We left Santa Cruz with our AIS switched off and headed 7 miles north. We dropped anchor amongst some spectacular cliffs and jumped in the sea for a swim. Again the anchorage seemed to become rolly at 4am but during the day it was very pleasant. Our friends the bears and Rafiki (now known as the monkeys – as Rafiki is the wise monkey from Lion King) joined us the next day. Rob nearly blew our cover by saying he would meet us in the anchorage but Sara was quick to say no they were going to the other marina. The kids all went swimming and we enjoyed some Rum cocktails on the Bear. Mad fish left with 7 bottles of Rum as people very kindly gave them as leaving presents and we won a few bottles in MYC (Marchwood Yacht Club) raffles. Taking rum to the Caribbean seems stupid so we have been trying to consume to make space for things we cannot get there. We have 2 bottles left – the sailor jerrys is strictly for bananas on the bbq or hot chocolate as it is spiced so not so good in cocktails, so it has earned its place on boards.

We had a fantastic sail to Gran Canaria with a good 20 to 25 knots of breeze on the beam. We covered the 43 miles in a little over 5 hours which is pretty good going. We left 30 to 45 mins before Rafiki (47ft) and Intrepid Bear (43 ft catamaran) and they didn’t manage to catch us which surprised us. This was the end of a 3 month journey to the start destination of the ARC. We have 2 weeks to prepare, be scrutinised and party hard.






Sunday, 18 November 2012

La Gomera - 24th Oct to 1st November

San Sebastian – La Gomera


We spent 8 nights in La Gomera. The marina was conveniently located close to the town and next to the black sand beach. After the full on car hiring adventures of La Palma we decided to take things much easier and reverted to mornings of school and afternoons at the beach. This means that there are few photos or new adventures to share with you.

The sun shone for the first few days and we enjoyed the beach. The waves were not crashing up the beach so we had fun on the canoe and the kids especially enjoyed trying to fit all 4 of us on, which resulted in falling in quite a lot. The rock breakwater was home to a number of scurrying crabs which made a hasty retreat as you approached. The marina itself was home to many fish which we found were very much like pets that liked being fed. It then became a game seeing what food we could get the fish to eat, like goats they ate everything – even cucumber! The picture below was taken sat on the back of the boat the camera is not below the water. Russell said he saw a massive ray, which marina staff say lived there but we never saw it again.

Intrepid bear arrived on Monday (I think!) , much to the boys delight. We invited them for a drink and just as the evening was packing up Rafiki arrived. Another ARC boat with 2 kids on board. They had sailed directly from Porto Santo (3 to 4 days away). Other islands were closer but the newly created ARC kids email group had told them we were here and they were keen to find children. Emily (age 9) was invited aboard and introduced to the 5 below. This left Rob (her Dad) very relieved as she had said “if we get to La Gomera and there are no kids I am going to kill you!” Having got to know Emily quite well now, he had every right to be scared. The 11pm bedtime turned into 2am as we exchanged stories and experiences over a few too many beers and glasses of wine.

The weather stayed fine for the next day, but we knew strong winds were coming and we would be staying put. We planned to weather the storm in the nearby yachtclub playing games in the afternoon. The wind did what windfinder said it would and just as we were leaving a 45 knot gust ripped through the marina causing a flurry of activity as everyone adjusted and added more ropes and fenders. The pontoons resembled a wiggly snake and swung quite violently. The marina was not piled but held on anchors. The wind was still unseasonably blowing from the South so it felt like you were being blasted with a hair dryer.

With Halloween a day away it was decided that the kids should have a party. The weather had cancelled the event in the town.

Russell bravely took the 7 kids to the beach whilst the remaining adults decorated boats and made food for a Halloween party. The kids enjoyed playing football in the rain with their old friends from Intrepid Bear (Milly, Thea and Harry) and new friends from Rafiki (Emily and James). Sara (Intrepid Bear) and I braved the torrential rain which flooded the streets to buy costumes, games, food drink and prizes. Sara did a brilliant job decorating the Bear.

We found a Chinese takeaway which delivered some lovely food and saved a lot of work in the galley. It obviously took the men a long time to order the said food and we were a little surprised when an hour later they returned without the food and asked if it had been delivered yet. They had had one drink (apparently!) but James (Sara’s husband) looked a bit wobbly and I suspect got a few strange looks as he had gone out complete with a painted face. Us girls had spent not quite such a pleasant hour trying to keep 7 children happy playing games. I think the kids were relieved when we finally gave in and relented to them watching The Witches on DVD. I think they all enjoyed it but Sara and I feel the effort we put in was far greater than the thanks we got.

In an effort to deplete Mad Fish rum stocks, and to satisfy James’ love of making cocktails we started with Rum punch. James then decided that we should have a more Halloween themed cocktail called a Zombie. This still contained rum and I think some Cointreau and other things…. James’ favourite saying is fast becoming “what that needs is some vodka!” The large quantities of fruit juice that accompanied the rum seemed to hydrate us sufficiently that we seemed to awake the next day hangover free.


We said goodbye the next day as we wanted to meet up with our next door neighbour (Tamla) who was holidaying in Los Christianos Tenerife with her Mum and Daughter. We were unable to secure a berth there and had to stay at Marina San Miguel on the South East coast. We enjoyed a pleasant motor (we had a brief sail as we were fooled by the wind into hoisting sails only for it to die again) the 25 miles. It was pretty uneventful and we tried out fishing using our new lure which is a sparkly pink squid. It was going to drive the fish wild and catch us some tea. The only thing we caught was a seagull that flew into the line. Luckily it had not eaten the €12 lure on its first outing, but we were equally not going to cut the line, so we hauled it in and managed to untangle its wing. It flew off seemingly unhurt but missing a few feathers. We have since wondered if we catch one in the Atlantic whether we would try eating it, especially if we had been away several days and failed to have fresh meat for a while. Would it taste of chicken? I have since been told that another boat has caught many seagulls and filleted them and frozen them for the atlantic trip, so if we catch a seagull we will try eating it.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

La Palma - Swimming Pool

These pictures are taken in the swimming pools built into the rocks and cliffs at the north east tip of the island. It was not a windy day but the swell was awesome. We went here after our long walk and had not taken our swim things, it was so warm and quiet theat we made do with what clothes we had. Oliver has begged me not to put him wearing his pants, but it is all part of the experience., i was wearing mine too. It serves him right too, as we told him to take pair of shorts to change into after the walk and he ignored us. Ethan is wearing his shorts. Russell felt his pants were unsuitable and wore his quick drying shorts. He got out so he could dry off and put on his T shirt to go for a walk around the pool. He came back sopping wet as a wave had hit the rocks and promptly dumped itself on him.

The boys liked standing at the edge of the pool looking out to sea. They would wait for the next big wave and decide to get covered by it or run away. Some of these pictures are amazing, and i couldn;t choose which ones to post, so apologies there are a few more than normal on the same subject.

The boys did have their mask and snorkels in the car and enjoyed looking at the fish they were swimming with. I tried to take some pictures of the fish but they do not really do it justice.








La Palma - Photos

Ethans newspaper. Todays school.

That will be a big ferry just arrived then.

Boys in a lava field on way to a beach for lunch.
Bananas grow everywhere.

The roads twist up the hills.
So Strong! or could it be that the air trapped in lava rocks makes them rather light...

Black sand beach.
Can you spot the lizard above? - the one below is easier.

 View at the top of our walk. Took 1.5 hours to walk up 1.8km. The same to get down the steep way down. Our legs and bums really knew about it the next day.

Mount Teidi on Teneriffe looks like it is floating on the clouds.
We know what your doing.

Steep slope back down.

Pretty flowers grow on the rocks.

La Palma by Ethan


We have been in a volcano crater, it was very scary because one side of you there was a 2486 ft drop or a huge  500 ft  drop into a crater.
We have collected pieces of lava.

The first volcano we looked at was one that erupted  in 1677.
There was a small pathway with two sudden drops .It  was very scary. At first i didn’t want to go up there , but then I got brave and held daddy’s hand . we pretended to push daddy in the crater but mummy didn’t think it was very funny! 

There were now trees growing at the bottom of the crater.

The second one we went to had the youngest rock I had ever touched. The volcano last erupted in 1971.  You would think lava would just come out the crater but there are two small craters  in the side. These volcanos are in  la palma.

 That is where we are now. There are a few pictures of us inside one of the 1971 craters. We picked up and held a rock. It was not as heavy as it looked, because air gets trapped in it when it gets burst out as lava and when it cools it becomes a rock.   One of the volcanos on la palma has the  widest crater or caldera in the world . We have not been to that one  yet but I think we are going to go to it. We have only been to 3 volcanic islands so far, that is madeira 250 miles away. That is where we were last and porto santo 280 miles away.  That is where we were before we went to madeira. The place before porto santo was  oerios  it was 507 miles away from porto santo. We have met some other english friends they are in furtuventura   they are doing the arc aswell.
   We went to some swimming pools. These were outdoor pools. There were realy big waves . There are some pictures of us there. 
This is a picture of us when there is a big wave coming. I am trying to punch it and Oli is scared and saying theres a big wave.