Mad Fish

Mad Fish
On delivery from Scotland

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.

Friday, 3 May 2013


Anguilla is the last of the Leeward Islands. It is also the last place that acepts the EC Dollar.

Many people do not visit as the entry fees and National Park fees to visit a number of the bays make it very costly. At under 20 tonnes it was free for us to visit the main port of Road Bay. We used up some remaining EC by spending USD $52 on a day pass to visit Little Bay and Prickley Pear Cay . Our friends on Rafiki came too. It is such a shame that it is expensive to visit these beautiful places and it seems a waste that they have invested money putting in mooring bouys that noone uses. You cannot stay overnight either.

There is not much to really say about Anguilla, there is really not much there. The kids enjoyed windsurfing and being dragged behind the dinghy on the inflatable. The bay is massive, so plenty of room.

The drinks were much more expensive and to buy food you needed to get a taxi.

Anguilla is British and fought very hard to stay British. The current Governor is looking to break free, although talking to the people this is not what they want at all. All in all a very strange place, but we enjoyed our stay.

Yes, when it rains, it rains hard. I had just hung out the washing!

The rocks were stunning and the view under the water was equally good.
Thousands of fish in a shoal.
Baby Squid.

Oli, James and Emily.

Can you spot the pelican?

A race back to the baot. Oli, Emily and Cameron v Ethan and James

Beautiful Beach at Prickely Pear Cay.

Sandy Island.