Mad Fish

Mad Fish
On delivery from Scotland

Monday, 3 June 2013

Bermuda to Azores - 15th to 29th May 2013


We enjoyed our down time in Bermuda. We generally chilled out. We loved the knitted trees.

Day One

Ok so we are off on leg 2. This is the big one, 1800 miles. I know this is less than the 2700 we did to cross the Atlantic, but it has much less predictable weather. No trade winds to shove us across. I have obviously read all the doom and gloom articles. I am expecting to hit a whale, container and be knocked down by gales and freak waves. Russell has read the ones where there is no wind and we flog hopelessly in becalmed conditions having run out of diesel.

Well the start was quite exciting as we started in the harbour and then had to sail out through the cut. This is a narrow gap as the name suggests. Cruise ships just fit. We got a god start, pipped to the post for being first across the start line by Peter Von Danzig. The name of the boat rather than skipper. The crew are students from Kiel university in Germany. It was then a race to the cut, this would prove to be a bottleneck and use of spinnakers was banned for safety. It was quite scary. Easy Rider the catamaran was first through. This showed us that there was a wind shadow in the cut and they came to a standstill. Peter von Danzig and Beatoo other were both heading for the same spot. Amazingly Nyctea came steaming through between them under engine. We were next battling it out with Caimen. It was a nail biting 10 minutes as we slowly edged our way out. We thanked Kieran for the exciting start and hoped he had some good pictures. Once out into open water we were hard on the wind and enjoying 6 knots in the sunshine and reasonably calm seas. We managed to keep the wind all night but by 10 am the next morning the engine was on as the wind died to nothing and the sea turned glassy and like a mirror.

We had an uneventful start to day 2 as we motored along.
At 7pm the wind had shifted to behind and we were able to sneak the kite up. There is barely enough wind (5 knots apparent) to keep it filled, but we were making 5 knots and better to sail than use precious diesel. The main continues to flap and flog which is very annoying. If we could just have a few knots more wind life would be sweet.
We have been seeing lots of Portuguese man of war telly fish. They look very odd. They have a sort of sail that looks like a plastic bottle. We saw a big logger head turtle today and Russell and Sean (our Canadian Crew)  saw a whale.
The weather is definitely colder and the thermal layers are required for night watches. The Bimini is down as the sun offers welcome warmth and the opportunity to take off the jumpers. The boys are enjoying their duvets.
We have all made predictions of our finish time. They range from 12 to 14 days.
I have got the book out on the Azores to see what they are all about. We will cruise through some islands with the rally and then have time to explore them some more before we head back to the UK.

It is now 5 am and starting to just get light. It is amazing how the sun itself does not rise for sometime after the light. You assume it would come first. The same with the sunset which was  at 8pm. We are used to 6 pm. It was just dark at 9pm.


The cut - we have to sail through here.

Kieran taking Photo's

The cut - a tight squeeze.

Day Two

The wind picked up just after my watch finished. I could feel as I lay in my bunk the boat accelerate under the extra pressure a few more knots of wind brings. We were off. We finally took it down at 2 pm as the gentle seas had now been taken over by a powerful swell that saw our back end be picked up and surfed at a top speed of 10.9 knots. Ethan was loving this, but with 1500 miles still to go Russ and I felt the risk of wiping out and breaking something was too great and we took it down. Ethan stropped in his cabin and now hates us, again! We decided to learn from the arc and not pole the genoa for fear of backing it and ripping the track from the mast. We are still doing a respectable 6 plus knots with just the main. We must be getting old and have changed our moto from "sail it like you stole it" to " sail it like you own it"! Ethan is convinced everyone else will be going 10 knots and we will be way behind in tomorrow’s results. I don’t think so and expect that many boats will be just under genoa.
The sea is much more like I remember. A big swell but only 2 metres rather than the 4 or 5 that made me say Jesus Christ at regular intervals in November. It is not the most comfortable of seas as we rock from side to side. The forecast is for more of the same tomorrow.
We have chosen to head north on our route first. The forecast showed stronger winds to the north with no wind at all if you followed the direct route of the rhum line. This makes for more disappointment as our miles taken off the distance to go are reduced compared to the amount sailed. This is both disheartening and frustrating, as the gps suggests that if we continue on this heading it will be another 16 days. We expect to have a further 24 hours until we hit 38 degrees north which is the latitude for the Azores. We will then alter course to head east to the Azores themselves. This should then see a great improvement in our daily run reducing our distance to go. It is 9pm on the 17 th and we had 1509 to go.
We are currently being helped with our speed over the ground with .9 of a knot of current. By the end of tomorrow we should have done 1/4 of the journey. We may celebrate with a shower, but it will be cold so maybe not.
We will try fishing tomorrow, although Ethan now hates fish and would rather eat something out of a tin. Ethan has become a teenager overnight, I am hoping it is just his frustration of being cooped up on the boat and bored. I played battleships with him and he beat me without me hitting one of his ships. I am certainly able to spend more time with the kids and I am enjoying the 6 hours off watch which is definitely a luxury when it comes to sleep. I am sharing Oli’s cabin as it has a lee cloth fitted. We had a nice chat in bed this morning. I think Ethan is probably jealous but wouldn't like it if I slept in his cabin as I would roll on top of him.


Day Three

This is day 3 but night 4.
This is getting boring...,.
Highlights of today. Obviously my chocolate brownie, Heinz tomato soup with fresh bread rolls. So basically food.
Oh and at 8.30 am half an hour before my watch ended the wind shifted by 90 degrees going forward and putting us on a fetch. We could now feel smug for putting in so much north as we could bear off in the new wind rather than having to beat into it. Fleetingly Ethan loved his parents and we were tactical geniuses. We are now making 7 plus knots in the direct direction of the Azores so our distance to go was falling rapidly and the plotter was giving an eta of 7 days rather than ten. However as the wind freed a bit we headed up to keep our north trend. This put us above the rhum line again and our eta was less favourable. Ethan then hated us again. A common theme is developing. The position reports are showing us mid fleet, given we are the second slowest this is brilliant. Ethan however is unhappy that his pool partner on Easy Rider a 40 foot catamaran did 199.33 miles yesterday to our 127. I felt for Dave the owner who the night before we left was saying the illusive 200 mile day had still not come and alas it looked like it had been missed by a whisker yet again. Matt on La Capitana may be in trouble for his bet he would beat them on a jeaneau sun oddesy 43. I did say he should just buy the whiskey now. He is American and finds me highly amusing as I try and tell a tale and then forget what I am saying as I have to explain an English word. I am sure he is now doing it on purpose. He also got Ethan to call his girlfriend a tart during a Skype call. He thought it was funny, not sure she did and Ethan was oblivious.

We are still ahead of Johanem a Moody 47.
Today a big yacht passed behind us and so did a tanker. We get very excited if we get an ais target.

It is cold again tonight and the Dubarry wellies are out.
Oli complained I smelled today, I wonder if we could run the engine for an hour tomorrow to generate hot water for a shower? It will be sacrificing about 5 miles of motoring. It's a tough one!

We are now a quarter of the way there. There is a real physiological boost to hitting a mile stone. I have just used a calculator to work out 1/3rd of 1800 dohhh. I need to go back to work. Tomorrow we should have covered a third and maybe the day after the half way.
Sean (our crew) said today it is a long way. Yep! I can understand his dismay as there is a point to our trip but he is along for the ride and ocean experience before he takes his own family from Canada to the Caribbean. His longest trip will be 1500 miles. His longest trip before was just short of 400 mile in a race around lake Ontario. Wow that far round a lake just seems an amazing distance. He has told the boys about bears on parts of the lakes, makes the red squirrells on brown sea island seem rather tame in comparison.

I am becoming addicted to tetris. It passes the time. Not sure what it will be like sailing in the Solent again where you actually have to look where you are going. I never understood how single handed sailors could just sleep with no one on watch. I do now. There is nothing out here.

Day Four

This trip is feeling really long. I think it is because it is so cold. Today on off watches we took to wrapping up in duvets and watching DVDs or playing tetris. The boys and I enjoyed watching puss in boots (thanks to ruffian who allowed us to have a few of their DVDs) . So today's school was media studies where we discussed what a spinoff was and maths because tetris uses shapes that you fit together to build a wall. Oli and I did some reading of Huckleberry Finn and geography was talking about icebergs. Now I was not thinking we would be seeing any of those. It is cold granted, but icebergs! Apparently they can form as low as 40 degrees north and we are at 38.30 minutes. Each minute is a mile and there are 60 minutes to a degree, so maybe 90 miles north of us is some ice floating around. We are on the north latitude for the Azores so do not  need to head further north.
Kailani passed us today. This is the boat from Hawaii with the surfing dudes aboard. Carson had his 15 th birthday at the prize giving. I tipped off rally Lyall so he was suitably embarrassed when we all sang to him. His brother and friend are rather gorgeous in a model type way, so some European girls are going to be in for a treat this summer. They told us about the ice and confirmed it was proper freezing. I didn't expect nose numbing cold yet. I mean the Azores are in my mind warm. Intrepid Bear weather routing have warned of a low pressure to hit Bermuda on Tuesday ( I wonder if this is a weekly thing as it was Tuesday last week too) and we should feel effect Wednesday. We are expecting to  have 30 to 35 knots of wind and 5 m swells to look forward too. On the plus side it should be from behind so we will be surfing. This should suit the Kailani boys.
We are really tramping along. Still with a reef in the main we are seeing a steady 7.5 to 8 knots on a fetch. We did have the genoa reefed too earlier. The boat just loves it and the log read 184 miles in 24 hours with 164 off our distance to go. We should better this when we check at 9 am tomorrow. I checked as I came on watch at 3 am and it read 1141. We are a third of the way there and the next mile stone is 1000 to go. This will definitely be a morale boost.
I persuaded Russell to use half an hour of diesel on hot water for a shower but it was decided that as we are leaned over and it is hard to stand up it might be difficult to shower. It is hard enough to go for a wee. We will just smell instead. My hair might have to be cut to get the knots out, I have that windswept look.
Tonight's dinner of pasta with a chicken chowder soup was not a hit with the boys. It was a bit spicy. It was quite tasty though. Mental note to self, taste before entering tin to pasta so if no good I can just add cheese. Tried oli with tin of macaroni beef and he was not keen either. Ummm he might be eating Cheerios for the rest of the trip. I do have some chicken breast in the freezer as a surprise. We tried fishing but no luck.
I got out the sleeping bag liner but it smells horrible. I am using it now and even outside it smells yuck. It seems vacuum packing stuff doesn't always work.
The cold is not helping my bread to rise. I think I may have to resort to a hot water bottle to help it along.
Today we were treated to 50 dolphins all jumping as they swam across our bow. They didn't come close and play, but it was an amazing site. They were black in colour.
Having said two hours ago, “at least it's not raining”. You guessed it. Now it is. Only a brief little shower to coincide with me shaking a reef out on my own. A never before. The wind is now playing silly b*****s . There is another yacht below us (Kailani) and it's back drop is two rainbows. In front the sun is trying its best to rise and break through the clouds. Hopefully we will see more of it today and it will warm us up a bit.
Dolphins - wish I had a more powerful zoom.

One of the many pictures Kailani took of us
Day Five

The day of showers.

It doesn't matter how much of you is touching wood, if you say it could be worse, it could be raining then pretty soon it will be. Two hours after saying this at watch changeover I was in for a treat. I had shaken out the reef in the main as the wind had continued to lighten. I could hear Russell saying in my head shake the reef out so I did. I have never done it on my own and I struggled to get enough main halliard on so it looked a bit s**t, but we were going faster. Chuffed with myself I sat down for another game of tetris and life was good. The sun was rising and I could see Kailani below us with 2 beautiful rainbows. There had been a few spot of rain but I assumed it had passed behind. I hadn't spotted the squall in front. Huddled under the spray hood now encrusted with salt everything is pretty blurry. I was just about to go and gently wake Russell for his watch when the wind piped up to 18 knots. The boat accelerated and the wind started to howl. I grabbed the helm from Ben the auto pilot  (named by Russell as Ben Ainslie is a better driver than him and so is the auto pilot. Every one should have a name apparently! All I can think of now is other things men name...) . I bore off as the wind accelerated more. Handily Ethan popped up to check speed and I was able to tell him to wake Daddy. He did and apparently said I was going the wrong way. Russ checked his watch ever doubtful that he is being woken for his watch. He came too and I requested help sooner rather than later. With my new found unreefing skills I decided to test the reefing the genoa skills. Ben was entrusted with the helm whilst I winched on the furler like Ellen MacArthur. The wind and now torrential rain battering me. I proudly showed Russell that I was under some semblance of control now and apologised for my misshapen main. The wind continued to build so the reef went back in the main. I passed over and went in search of my warm dry bed. Oli opened his eyes and peered out of his duvet as I staggered in. I asked for a cuddle but on me touching his nose he told me to get lost. Charming! Oli and I both then slept until gone 9 am. All was well , the reefs were all back out and I was just getting ready for my watch when we started to accelerate and heel. Sean shouted for a reef and Russell put one in the main wearing his pants.
The rain started and I thought great, must be my watch. Due to the fickle wind and it being lunch time Russell decided to do the first hour of my watch so he got wet instead of me. As it was light and we were relatively upright it was decided to heat water and have a shower. We even put the heating on. Wow, I am amazed we were allowed to use that much diesel. Kailani must have wondered what we were doing as we bore off as the wind was back and we couldn't shower leaned over. Everyone felt so much better for being clean. I tried to persuade the kids to put clothes on but they decided that pyjamas are the offshore attire and went back to bed.
I then did the rest of mine and some of Russell's. We have changed the clocks by an hour now too.
Just as I was getting ready for my watch at 9pm I saw Sean huddled in the spray good and asked "is it raining" yep and then we had a squall. I have had 2 more in this watch and the reefed genoa can stay that way. I am not tempting fate again!
Whilst having dinner I could see great plumes of water shooting into the sky. I can only assume this was a whale clearing it's blowhole . A shame it was so far away, although whales can do a lot of damage so you don't want them too close.
Ethan was very pleased today to see we are lying 4th based on the distance to go reports. Wind walker in our class might be a problem on handicap. We are hoping that we will hold our own in the lighter winds forecast as we approach the Azores. We are 50 miles off breaking the 1000 miles to go barrier and tomorrow should reach half way. Let's hope that the low pressures behind us give us fair winds with which to allow a half way celebration meal.

Day Six

Rainbows, dolphins and champagne. That us how we celebrated half way!

The day had started with my watch at 6 am with the engine on. By 7am there was enough wind to sail at about 3 knots. Ethan helped me unfurl the genoa. It took a bit of concentration but we managed to coax 4 to 5 knots out of 7 knots of wind. Hoping that the bigger boats were still having to resort to engine we plodded on. By 8 am the wind had shifted aft and we needed the kite. We woke Russell an hour before his watch and got the kite up. Russell had to hand trim for the next 3 hours as we continued in the light wind to make 5 knots. Sean was taught to trim the kite and with careful course alterations the next 3 hours saw us hold the kite in winds none of us would normally bother to even think about sailing. Amazing how little wind we actually need to sail when you are forced to. As lunch approached the breeze had picked up just enough to lock off the sheet. During the afternoon the breeze continued to build and by 6 pm we were surfing along at a steady 7 knots, sun shining and life was sweet. We decided to celebrate at this point about 17 miles before the 900 miles being our official half way. We have sailed much more than that on the log as we have not sailed the rhum line. We had cake and California's famous champagne Andre. We laughed at the American health and safety warning not to fire the cork at your face. We then decided to fire the cork in any direction other than the spinnaker in case it shot through it, highly unlikely, but we didn't feel that a claim for a second spinnaker blown out by a champagne cork would be very believable.

The rainbow suggested it was going to rain, and it did. We left Russell to drink his fizzy in the rain and hid below. At 7 am my female face look of "I think we should get this kite down now" worked better than my words. We changed to white sails and I started 7 pm movie showing of Kung Fu Panda 2. I have no idea what happened in the middle as I fell asleep.

We were expecting a low pressure to hit at midnight with 30 knots of breeze. Now it was a case of waiting.....

Day Seven

When you are forecast bad weather then you are constantly waiting and looking for it. My watch was supposed to be the one when it would hit. I had squalls which came and went bringing 20 knots of wind so I would furl genoa and then it would die again. By the end of the watch the breeze was looking like it was more established and at watch change we put a reef in the main. It continued to build but not from the direction expected. We should have been surfing on 30 knots behind. We had 25 knots on the beam and were being pushed north du e to the large waves which we could not head up into without making life very uncomfortable. The day was pretty s****y. Cold grey windy and rough. This was what I expected the whole trip to be and I was glad it hadn't been.

Now at 5 am I am still waiting for that damn low pressure with 30 knots of wind from behind. The wind has eased and the two reefs seem a bit overkill in 16 knots of breeze. The waves have decreased so at least we can head up a bit and it is more comfortable. The dark clouds suggest that there is weather out there. We must be ahead if it. With less than 700 miles we are hopeful that we should get 2 more days of breeze before we hit the Azores high.

Day Eight

Ummm well it seems the low was a bit of a damp squib. Found myself shaking out reefs at first light. By 2 pm we had zero wind. The sea was like a mirror. We motored for an hour and a half before we got 9 knots of breeze enabling us to sail close hauled. There is so little wind and the sea is so flat we are not really healed and it is all very comfortable. I cooked roast chicken for dinner which went down well. Ethan made a cake which he iced and decorated with chocolate drops. We all managed to catch up on much needed sleep and enjoyed a shower, seemed a shame to waste the hot water. Seems we are still doing ok against everyone else. We thought the big boys down south would have really enjoyed the stronger winds yesterday and put in some impressive distances but not the case. Yesterday's wind pushed us north and today's breeze has switched to push us back south. All relieved by this. The forecast is for winds on the nose and we don't really want to beat so if we can get the angles right to sail it will be useful. Just dipped below 600 miles to go at 5 knots we are looking at 4 and a half days so Tuesday morning. Think this was my prediction to arrive.

Not so cold today as the sun shone and we had a couple of dolphin visits. Tried fishing but think we are going too slow.


Ethan standing straight. The boat is heeled at 45 degrees.

Days 9 to 14

It became more difficult to write my daily blog on night watch as the damp air hampered ipod use. Also there was not much to report. We caught 3 tuna and landed 2. We saw more dolphins. The wind was light and on the nose for 600 miles. We kept a close eye on VMG and only motored if it dropped below 2 knots, so we did very little. 26 hours in the whole trip. We arrived at 9am on Wednesday morning, having motored the last 12 miles as no wind. We were warmly welcomed by the other yachts. Glad to be on dry land.
A very Grey Horta in Failal.


Thursday, 30 May 2013

The BVI to Bermuda - 4th May to 10th May 2013

Nanny Cay – Provisioning and the Pool

From the 1st May to the 3rd of May

It is like being on Holiday as we have entered a marina for 3 Nights. We actually arrived on the 30th so extravagantly paid for a night ($1.40 per foot) , the other 3 being included in our ARC Europe entry fee.

The marina is really nice and we took full advantage of the pool. The washing machines were $2.50 a load so the night before we left I managed to clear the washing.

As part of the ARC programme of events we were able to watch a flare and liferaft demonstration.

ARC also arranged a shopping trip to provision at the big Riteway supermarket and cash and carry in Road Town. A taxi is $30 each way. So this is quite a good benefit. We managed to get what we needed and again the shopping bill was $650. Unfortunately when we were packing it later we found that the Weetabix and a 3 pack of cake mix were infested with weevils and other creepy crawlies. Ughhh! This was the first time we had suffered this on our trip and I am glad that I removed the cardboard and didn’t just put it in a cupboard under a bunk and forget about it. We also found that the lids were not very tight on the bottles of Sprite and Coke so we went through and tightened these before I put it away just to avoid any spillages as they got shook up.

They boys enjoyed whizzing along the marina boardwalk on scooters, chasing Kieran and Lyall (ARC reps) on their bikes. We were busy stowing stuff and thought Ethan was playing on his scooter, but hadn’t heard him for a while. Russell went to look for him and found him in the ARC office looking at the photo’s. He was chatting away as the staff were trying to do stuff. Kieran then asked Ethan if he would like to help him and then followed him around the pontoons like a little shadow. I was a little embarrassed that we had lost him and that Kieran had obviously taken pity on us and entertained him. I am threatening to tie a leash to him next time we are ashore as he does have a tendency to wander off.

We left Nanny Cay on the 4th of May at 12. We were first over the startline, and were making good speed in the light winds. Most boats showed willing and tried to sail across the start line before resorting to engines. We lasted 20 mins before we required engine assistance. One boat is reported to have motored across the startline with no sails up at all. They were drinking champagne and smoking cigars. The spirit of this event is much more relaxed, much more on the rally and getting there rather than racing. Ethan has not bought into this ethos. We are doing this to win a prize – he doesn’t care what prize it is but we need to win one. I am not sure there will be a prize for 1st kids boat which we narrowly missed out on in the ARC, given there is only one kids boat.

Day One 4th May

Well we started our trip to Bermuda as part of arc Europe. The wind was forecast to be light and the talk amongst the boats was for much use of the iron mainsail (engine). However, we were treated to enough wind to sail at the start. Mad Fish crew jumped back into racing mode and were first across the start line. We were caught fairly quickly by a 55 footer. 20 minutes later the wind had died and the engine was on. It lasted 10 mins before we could sail again. We later managed to hoist the kite and we were off, all be it at 5/6 knots so not very exhilarating. We need to average 5 knots to make it to Bermuda in 7 days. This is when the finish line closes and also the duty free arc discount fuel tanker fills us up for the next leg. Ironically we will have to burn diesel to make it on time to buy more!
We managed to carry the kite until 8pm . We ummed and arred about flying it over night as so light. Then oli spotted lightening and the wind went fluffy again. We decided to drop and motor again.
The lightening is amazing, if not a little scary. I put the sat phone, VHF radio and gps in the oven. It is supposed to act as a faraday cage in case of a lightning strike. So far the lightening has remained a way off. No rain or thunder heard. I thought the boys might be a bit scared but they enjoyed watching the spectacular flashes that lit the sky with colours of gold and white lights. The clouds have thinned and the sky is full of stars. In order to see the sails more easily we have taken down the Bimini , so it feels very strange , the roof over the cockpit has been up since we arrived in St Lucia 4 and a half months ago.
Unlike the start of the arc in the way out, we still have a number if the fleet still in sight. We were getting rather fed up with Working on a Dream a 47 footer getting in our way. We finally parted the “too close for comfort distance” when we ditched our kite for the night. It was the right call as the wind has now moved forward all 3 knots of it. It makes for an easy night watch and I have settled into the routine of iPod . This time the auto pilot is working the wheel rather than my arms. The sea is flat calm too, the Atlantic swell seems to be hiding, I think this what others experienced when they crossed and now understand why they said it was so easy.


Day 2

Very uneventful. No wind so motoring, all day. The sea is so flat it looks like glass . Still a few electrical storms around. Ethan and I started to make some pirate costumes for the party in Bermuda.


Day 3

I am not sure what time the day should start? I guess midday as that is when we started and the time we log our 24 miles travelled. We have only been putting in around 125 a day which is very disappointing.
After 56 hours of motoring we finally managed to catch enough wind to sail. The engine went on at 4 am. The kite went up at 8 am and we are officially sailing faster than we can motor. The seas are still calm and we are making good progress.
We are in radio contact with another boat called Peat Smoke a Rustler 44. Ethan is constantly checking their speed on the AIS to see if they are catching us. We keep telling him it is a rally not a race, but it was the same for the arc and there were prizes and he wants to win one!
Peat Smoke are an ssb net controller and will report our position on the daily net. Most boats on this rally have ssb, which we don't. It is reassuring to know that the boats ahead are experiencing good winds and that our motoring hours are in line with everyone else. A time penalty of between 1 and 2 is given for motoring dependant on conditions. There are quite a few boats behind us that must be trying to sail rather than motor and it will be interesting to see if sailing at 3 knots beats us motoring at 5. The gamble being if they are going to experience our wind increase further back. The forecast suggests not and now we should be making the difference. I know I said it is not a race, but there is nothing to see and little to do and these types of mental maths questions serve as good school.
Ethan is doing a great job of plotting everyone's positions on square paper so we can view the boats like on the fleet tracker. He has learnt lots about lat and long. As our lat is changing and long is constant it is easy to work out how far in front or behind other yachts are. Each minute change is a mile. There is 60 minutes to a degree. So if we are at lat 24 north 30 minutes and the boat behind us at 24 north, we are 30 miles ahead. When we get to Bermuda we will be at 32 degrees north 22 minutes. The tracker is not giving the distance to go for most boats so using the positions we can work it out manually. Bermuda is on the same latitude as Porto Santos near Madeira . When we leave Bermuda we head more east than north to the Azores so this calculation will be more tricky. Hopefully the tracker data will be fixed and it will be a lot easier.
Last night’s dinner was the last fresh prepared meal, so today's mission is to catch a fish. This was achieved just after lunch, whilst I was just nodding off on the beanbag and Russell was having a wee. I was shouting fish on and no one was running up on deck. I grabbed the line and tried to stop the line rushing out, a clear indication that the fish was big. Finally they all appeared and operation boat slow down and fish recovery was instigated. We had to dowse the kite and reduce speed by heading into the wind. It took a while to land the beautiful coloured dorado. This was our biggest fish and would feed us for the rest of the trip. It put up a fight as it did its trade mark jumps out if the water to try and break our line. We hung on letting it run a bit and then reel it in. I had to pass over to Russell as it was hard work and would be his fault if he lost it. Ethan's arms were in full excitement flapping mode. It was a nail biting few minutes as Russell tried to gaff the fish (big hook you put through the gills). It finally helped by knocking itself out on the steps as it tried to get away. The boys had to have a photo to show the prized catch. Ethan was none too keen on seeing the guts be torn out, and whilst we tried to land it a fish jumped out of its mouth. We wondered if it had been sick and given back it's last meal.
We had fish for dinner with tinned potatoes. Whilst I filleted it the boys tried it raw like sushi with some lime and soy sauce.


I tried to sleep again and this time it was the wind piping up and needing to get the kite down that broke my sleep. We pulled out the genoa and continued to romp along at 7 knots with touches of 8. The wind angle at 120 degrees making for an exhilarating beam reach in 20 knots of true wind. The seas started to build and we were soon pitching, rolling and surfing down the primarily beam sea. This was more like the Atlantic I remembered from our trip over. Life was becoming much less comfortable and I was quickly reminded that a tidier stow was needed for the next leg.
At midnight my watch ended and it was Russell's turn to sit in the dark, damp and surprisingly cold cockpit for 3 hours whilst I tried to sleep. That was when a huge wave decided to deposit itself into the cockpit and run straight in through Ethan's open porthole. Water goes a long way and it did a pretty good job of soaking everything, including Ethan who was woken wondering what the hell had happened. Oli feared slightly better as Russ can shut his escape hatch from the outside. But still he got a bit damp. I then spent half an hour sorting them out and am left wondering how I am going to dry, bunk cushions, pillows, sheets and duvet covers. I am sure it will be easier to fathom in daylight.
With the boat rocking side to side it is much harder to sleep. This is night 4, and anyone who is a parent, knows what it is like being woken every 3 hours. I am definitely feeling we made the right decision with an extra person for the next leg.
We hit half way at 5pm and our miles to go are rapidly reducing. It is encouraging to see the distance to go start with a 3. 500 miles was our previous longest trip as a family. All the days merge into one at sea and I have no idea which day of the week it is. The boys enjoy watching far too many DVDs as we catch up on sleep during the day. Both boys are getting happier with spending time on deck chatting. This does seem to escalate into verbal diahorea and thousands of questions, Sean better bring ear plugs!
Most seem to be about how big Boleros spinnaker is compared to Hobo's , 2 boats back at our club. Perhaps if the 2 owners are reading this they could post the reply on Facebook and we can settle an argument.
iPods are wonderful things and keep us all amused. I am working my way through angry birds and writing this blogg. Ethan loves listening to music. We may have got away from tv but not electrical gadgets altogether.


Not much different conditions to yesterday. We have improved our daily miles log to 166 which is a big improvement on our motoring days of 126.
Our daily email download is a highlight. We get the position report which is not as good as yellow brick one in the ARC. It seems to give positions at different times and also misses the miles to go. Ethan and I have set up a spreadsheet which we put everything into. This keeps him busy for a good hour and he spent another hour adding in the boat names and types. He loves the conditional formatting we put in so when he types the boat number it colours the cell automatically. We are orange. We hope it will look like the tracker page when we have finished. He wants the cells to look like a boat shape and join with a line, I am not sure I can pull this off!
Ethans DVD player does not seem to have survived it's sea water dousing from last nights wave. Luckily the bunk and other bedding has dried. Ethan's new love is the plotter which is winding Russell up as he fiddles and changes the screen constantly. He is teaching me new things though, some useful shortcuts. He also gives a running commentary of each mile achieved, as we do 7 in an hour it is becoming a bit painful.
Top trumps seem to be a good game to play as unlike other card games you don't have to fan them out and put them down.
Today we spent a good hour discussing the foods and drinks we would buy when we got back to the uk. A huge bar of chocolate. The jury is out on Cadbury v galaxy! Then there is the first meal being fish and chips out if the paper with lots of salt and vinegar, washed down with a J20 and a real ale. I am sure those in England will think us mad for longing to go into a pub where it is cold outside and warm inside. Beach bars are so last year and getting boring.
I didn't want to be the one paying the bill when we played I went to the chandlery and bought ..,, something beginning with a through to z.
One thing about offshore sailing is that it is really boring and as nothing stays still quite difficult to play board games.
I have just finished the book the Midwives Confession. I am not sure if it is a leftover from home or one obtained on route from one if the many book exchanges. For the remainder of the journey I am going to write the boat name date and where swapped so that others can see how far the book goes around the world. You can't do that with a kindle!
If you hadn't guessed it is my night watch as I sit and reflect. It is 2am and I am 2 thirds through my 12 to 3 am watch. I like this one. We alternate so tomorrow I get the double whammy of 9 to 12 pm and 3 am to 6am. This makes sleep more tricky as second stint is light and the kids are up. They are pretty good and don't mind if I catch in sleep by watching a DVD with them in the afternoon or early evening. On the plus side tomorrow night we will be getting close to Bermuda, on the down side Bermuda is a mass of reefs extending for miles. Not really where you want to end up going into in the dark. We have 199 miles to go as I write this so it is touch and go if we will make day break before arriving. Apparently though entering Bermuda is like being an airline pilot. They don't want you to hit the reef so they guide you from 50 miles out. We have to radio at 25 miles, not sure if our range will be that good. They say left a bit right a bit and guide you in. Bermuda is another destination that I would not think of going to for a holiday. It looks really strange place so not sure what to expect. We will be departing on Wednesday.
Tonight I can see a green light to my port side. Nothing on AIS, so I have no idea who they are or how far away. I am sure there is some way of looking at the height of the light and a formula to work it out, all well and good in a classroom but with both of us going up and down in a 2 metre swell, we can't see each other most if the time. I think they are going faster than us, as I now have to peak around the spray hood .
It is the first sight of another boat for over 24 hours. It is easy to mistake stars for boats and even aeroplanes as they just fall in the horizon.

Day 5

This is the last day and we should arrive Friday early morning. We will have sailed 850 miles just the four of us. We have had plenty of good spinnaker hoists and drops without drama so that has given renewed confidence. The boys are really helpful and are showing greater understanding as they question and make observations they feel important. Despite saying the stantion won't break with the spinnaker sheet resting on it over and over , Oli still felt it necessary to say he still thought it was bad. He then moved into the towed water generator dump resistors going to blow up because they are humming a lot. I guess most 11 year olds don't know what a dump resistor does not need to worry about it. The spinnaker snuffer got stuck on the drop so we had to just drop it. So a slightly damp (it went for a tiny dip in the water) spinnaker is now on our cabin floor.
We have to call Bermuda radio at 25 miles out. They will then give instruction of getting in. Not so tricky from the south by the look of the charts. The reefs are extensive and they don't want boats on them, so they take visitors very seriously. You even have to tell them you are coming in advance. Not sure what to expect when we get there.
It is definitely colder as I sit in thermal leggings jumper and a coat and wearing things called socks. I will definitely be piling out the hats gloves and heavy duty waterproofs for the next leg. The duvets will also be getting an airing. The space under our bed won't know what's hit it!
There is lightening again, but nothing close. Bizarrely from the position report this morning I would expect company from other boats as our courses converge but nothing seen yet. It is 4 am so still dark, sun rise is a little after 5 as I go off watch. We are running just under main at 6 knots in a bid to lose a little speed to arrive in daylight. Don't tell Ethan who is out to win and would have had us run the kite all night! As tempting as it was, we would definitely have arrived in the dark and the marital stress wouldn't have been worth it.
Ethan wants to be woken at ten miles to go. Oli now likes his bed and around 15 mins before we arrive will do him.
Despite being 27 miles away it feels like we are nearly there! I will try and remember this when I see sailing to Poole for the night too far.
This has been a really good refresher for the 1800 miles to the Azores.


Saturday, 11 May 2013

The British Virgin Islands - 12th April to 30th April

THE BVI’s otherwise known as the British Virgin Islands. 12th April to 30th April

Not sure why they are called the British Virgin Islands as there does not seem to be much British about them. Most of the people here seem to be Americans chartering big catamarans. The currency is the American Dollar.

The BVI’s are made up of lots of small islands and for some reason the back drop reminds me of Scotland. Our Scottish friends on Chewsey said the same. The weather is somewhat warmer.

We arrived in Spanish Town, on Virgin Gorda, at around 5pm on Friday 12th April, after an 80 mile sail from Anguilla, which was quite eventful. Whilst hoisting the kite something went wrong which resulted in the end of one of my fingers being cut quite badly. It really was like in the movies, blood spurting everywhere. Luckily it stopped bleeding with some tight bandaging. In all the mayhem the Kite ripped and was deemed a write off. My finger fared better and amazingly after 3 weeks it is nearly fully recovered.

We will have spent 3 weeks in the BVI and it has just flown by. We had not heard the most favourable things about here from others. The main critism being that it is busy, difficult to anchor (because of the $30 a night mooring buoys) and expensive. As with most negatives, if you are prepared to put in a little effort you can overcome them. We have not once picked up a mooring buoy and managed to anchor everywhere we have wanted to. Our provisioning in St Marttin paid off and therefore we only had to buy a few bits of fresh food, which were not too cost prohibitive. We didn’t need the Key Lime Pie at $30 at the Bitter End Yacht Club shop, so that was ok. If you drink at the Happy Hours then it is affordable to enjoy a sundowner ashore.

We have enjoyed 2 birthday parties. Mia who was 4 and her Mum Freddie, who I will not embarrass by saying her age. With us all heading back different ways it was a good excuse to have a lovely meal out at the Lobster Trap in Anegada. We enjoyed a lovely meal of Lobster and we were allowed to bring our own wine. The Lobster was USD$ 50, but you actually got one and a half, so pretty good value.
We hired a pickup truck with bench seats in the back and set off exploring. It cost USD$80 for the day and we shared this between 5 boats. It was eventful as we got lost and ended up on a very rough track. How you can get lost on such a small island I don’t know! It all added to the fun. We enjoyed the beach and snorkelling at Loblolly Bay and lunch at Cow Wreck Bay, so named because a ship carrying cow bones to be made into fertiliser was wrecked on the reef and the bones washed ashore. Anegada is very raw, it is home to very few people and you really do feel you are in the middle of nowhere. The beaches are stunning. It is definitely worth a visit.
Anegada Pictures

This is a road.

Larry the lama had one too many carib.

Ethan hanging on for dear life in the truck.

We spent our first week in Gorda Sound mainly anchored off the Fat Virgin in Biras Creek. We enjoyed sundowners at Saba Rock, where they served painkillers and rum punch for $3 during happy hour. Painkiller is the rum based cocktail apparently originating in the BVI. They also feed the fish at 5pm. The huge tarpon come and eat out of people’s hand. I think one may have tried to eat someone’s hand. I think they are like giant mullet, so would gum, rather than bite you to death. The boys were a bit shocked and not so keen to hand feed.

Ethan, Oli, Mia and Alisia (from Open Blue)

Russell and I were treated to a night out just the 2 of us at the Bitter end yacht Club. Not the cheapest place to have dinner, but the food was good. I enjoyed a bottle of Prosceco (I did share it with Russell) as it was the same price as a bottle of Chardonnay.

With my finger meaning I couldn’t swim, I was more than happy to look after Mia and her sister Alicia whilst Freddie and Tim tried to master kite surfing. I was really pleased when they came back after one session grinning as they had managed to get up. I wonder if they will keep it up in the cold UK.

We spent a very enjoyable day making a birthday cake for Freddie. Alicia wanted a rainbow cake so we made lots of different colour icing. It was really nice to have 2 attentive little girls for a change.

We went to Leverick Bay marina for a night. It is $1 per foot and includes 100 gallons of water and a bag of free ice. It does not include electric which is $20 per day. We therefore ran the generator. The main attraction is the Michael Bean pirate show that is at 5pm on Sunday to Thursday. It is well worth a visit and make sure you book a table. You don’t have to eat. Happy hour finishes at 5pm, so get there a little early. The show is free. The kids enjoyed the conch blowing and Russell won the men’s competition with 51 seconds. It is quite exposed and therefore our night was quite bumpy and we headed off the next day back to our hidey hole in Biras Creek.
Gorda Sound Photos
What's the first letter of the pirate alphabet AARRR

The beach at the Bitter End Yacht Club.

Boys chilling, Saba Rock in the back ground.

Not something you see every day - a sea plane tied to a mooring bouy.

One of the 3 toucans at Saba rock.

James, Ethan, Oli, Alisia, Emily and Mia

The best bit of cake making.


Other things we did…

We visited the famous Baths. Big rock boulders that create caves.


We celebrated Chewsys 30th Birthday in Savannah Bay with a BBQ. This was a really nice anchorage behind a reef. The reef was a little tricky to navigate through, but once inside we had the bay pretty much to ourselves. There are no mooring buoys so the charter boats don’t tend to visit.



We enjoyed a morning snorkelling on Great Dog. Get there early to pick up a red national park bouy. They were all taken by 9am. This was probably the best snorkelling that we did. We also snorkelled at the Caves on Norman island and also the Indians off Pelican Island.

We spent a night in white’s bay on Peter Island. This is where we got our conch shells. I struggled to get the conch out alive and had to resort to boiling first to successfully remove the meat. Unfortunately this made it tough to eat and my recipe then told me to boil for several hours. There is not much meat so not worth the effort. I therefore feel bad that I killed the conch and then did not eat it. We had to dispose of Colin the conch after a few days as he smelled so bad, but we have 3 other beautiful shells. The snorkelling here was also good. We saw turtles, a massive ray and the biggest barracuda I have ever seen. There are no mooring buoys, so again charter free night.

We stocked up with fuel, water (typically 15 cents a gallon) and some fresh supplies in Spanish town on Virgin Gorda. This is also the only place to get cash out on the island too.

We visited Road Town at Tortola to get my finger and the kite looked at. We anchored and it was quite bumpy. Not somewhere you really want to stay.

We enjoyed a visit to Jost Van Dyke and went to the bubbly pool. This was tricky to find as the directions given at the bar were not too clear. At the end of the beach you need to find the tree with an arrow painted on it. The coconut tree trail is a complete red herring which will have you trying to find a path that does not exist for half an hour. The pool creates bubbles by big crashing waves being forced through a small gap in the rocks. The water then foams, so looks like a bubble bath. We enjoyed a swim and making a picture out of stones. The bear was already there, and reminded us of our friends on Intrepid Bear. We added a couple of fishes.

When we first arrived it was not very bubbly.


So Russell thought he would go and sit in the gap that led to the ocean.
Then a wave came....

The bubbles are caused by foam from the waves breaking through the small rock entrance.
There were lots of stone pictures. Someone had made a stone bear. This reminded us of Intrepid Bear and we therefore added some fishes. ethan made the one on the left and Oli on the right.

Just lazing in the pool. A view from the top of the cliff.

It was now time to head to the luxury of Nanny Cay Marina to get ready for the start of ARC Europe and head home… slowly… it will be 4 months before we plan to be back in Marchwood.