Homeward Bound

Sunday 2nd May 2019

There’s one certainty when you’re ocean sailing and that is you can guarantee that whatever conditions you have now, they will be different very soon. Currently we are sailing at about 7.5 kts, as high into a F4 wind as we can, trying to make our track to the Azores in persistently easting winds. The boat is well heeled over which means we are living on a slope, it is hard work!

Beating into calm blue seas, 500nm north of the BVI

Just a few days ago on the other hand, we were wishing for more wind, with so far to go we were reluctant to use too much of our fuel and so we were sailing as much as we could, often barely reaching 5 kts.

Last Sunday, however, the conditions in the mighty Atlantic were still just a forecast. With only a day to prepare for our departure, it was an exhausting day, especially in the humid heat of Road Town. We were extremely pleased to have the extra pair of hands belonging to our friend Tony, who has joined us for this crossing.

We walked to the customs office determined to keep our cool whatever procedures or rudeness were thrown at us. Thankfully the terrible experience we had had during check in wasn’t repeated and with our clearance papers ready, the fridge and fuel tanks full, we set off Monday morning just in time to miss the mass of dark clouds  descending on Tortola.

Leaving the islands calmed the sea and cleared the sky but didn’t produce any wind, we tried our best to relax and enjoy the comfortable conditions, making ourselves stop obsessively watching the speed dial, we had no deadlines to meet after all.

The sun was shining, the sea a deep royal blue and we had plenty of entertainment from a flock of shearwaters that seem to be following us, gliding in and landing right next to the side of the boat, we assume they must be snapping up tiny fish that are being stirred up in our wake.

Manx shearwater feeding right next to the boat

At night we have had the odd squall bringing erratic winds and torrential downpours but for the most part the nights have been tranquil too. With just a slither of moon the stars are incredible, one magical night-watch at around midnight, I sat with the warm breeze brushing my face, watching a display of a thousand sparkles not just above but in the water too, we were passing through a patch of dense phosphorescing algae.

The early calm conditions meant our warnings to Tony of what to expect and the difficulties he may have to endure appeared exaggerated but now when just getting from ones side of the salon to the other is a challenge and everything from preparing a meal to cleaning your teeth has its problems, our words are beginning to ring true.

A bit tricky washing up on a slope

Luckily the sea state is still reasonably clement so although heeled over we, at least, aren’t slamming too badly into the approaching waves and everybody is getting some sleep.

For a bit of a break this morning we furled the Genoa and put on the engine to flatten Raya out so we could more easily, shower, make tea, do a few jobs…., it was a relief to be able to walk around the boat without having to cling on to every hand rail.

We also took the opportunity to tackle a couple of issues, the AIS was accidentally turned off with the nav lights yesterday and when turned back on didn’t seem to be connecting back up to the chart plotter. We used the time on the engine to reset all the systems, unfortunately in the absence of anything close to us in this huge ocean for the receiver to pick up, it is difficult to ascertain if it’s working or not.

At the other end of the technical scale, our 25 degree angle is causing problems with our sinks and toilets, as water finds the lowest corners, a lot is flowing to the other side of the bowls from the drains and so can never really be emptied and in the warm conditions are quickly becoming unpleasant, the level boat gave us a chance to give everything a good clean.

Now with sails back up, we are again clinging onto our seats, moving around downstairs as little as possible and trying to see when the next change might take place.

Can’t really complain, just routine problems, such is the life of ocean sailors.

Fish and Officialdom

Monday 20th May 2019

The sea around the BVI has become rather rolly and we are finding it hard to find a spot to escape. Swell is a very difficult thing to predict when sailing around islands, it has the tendency to creep around headlands, bend through passes and enter bays that look on the chart like they should be protected. We are currently on a mooring off the Cooper Island Resort and during the night a swell that in the ocean is from the E/NE, bizarrely began entering the bay from the SW.

It might be rolly but the views pretty good

It’s been quite an up and down week in other respects too. Last Monday we went back into Village Cay Marina, we needed to top up provisions, get the laundry done and extend our visas. We had mentally prepared ourselves, determined to smile through the unhelpful attitude of the immigration officials and to relax through the normal inefficiency, what we weren’t prepared for was the 2 3/4 hrs we would have to wait for a simple stamp on our passports. The office was crammed full of anxious people trying to get resident or work permits. We were all told there would be about a 20 min wait, so nobody dare leave feeling sure they would be called any minute, frustration levels were high. Finally we were seen but only given an extension to the end of the month, desperate to just get out of there, we didn’t argue but with our friend Tony not arriving until late on the 24th that doesn’t leave us a very wide window for departure.

To make things even more irritating, despite only being allowed 15 days extra on our visas we have had to pay the full $200 to import Raya for the whole year. Although we knew all this in advance it doesn’t make it feel any fairer and that evening we felt exhausted. It is amazing how tiring, just sitting or standing, feeling cross, while gradually dehydrating in a very hot room, can be.

As soon as our town tasks were completed, we left the marina and got back out to the islands, where jobs could be interspersed with cooling swims.

The pain of our visit to immigration was quickly erased by a particularly good late afternoon snorkel. Back in our favourite spot anchored in Privateer Bay we took off to visit the caves with the sun, now lower in the sky, shining straight on the cliffs, highlighting the caves interiors. Immediately we spotted a baby pelican, unfortunately our arrival frightened him and with his flying skills not yet up to parr, we watched as rather comically he struggled to get airborne.

A slightly clumsy take off but he made it.

As I entered the first cave his sibling was hiding inside and his exit took him only inches from my head, while below me a 5ft long tarpon emerged through a veil of a million tiny fish escaping the cave just below my feet. The light inside was glorious however and the shoal of inch long fish glinted in the sunshine like a curtain of slithered glass..

The cave was full of thousands of fish, tiny and huge (see bottom right corner)

Outside the cave it was crowded too, a large shoal of bar jacks followed me as I swam. If I swam right, they all turned right, if I went to explore a cave, in they came with me, if I slowed they all bunched up so as not to get ahead of me, I felt a bit like the Pied Piper.

From the blue depths, three large tarpons, their ugly mouths showing off their sharp teeth, cruised in, more shoaling fry filled the water, along with of course the ever present blue tang and sergeant major fish. With a good scattering of plankton in the water and gulls above us, it felt like whole food chain was ready to start supper.

Tarpons carolling their supper

Most of the rest of the week has been spent on preparations for the journey ahead. While I cook for the freezer, sort out the admin and start the passage plan, Rick has been carrying out some routine maintenance. In the marina I winched him up the mast so he could check the rigging and instruments. He has repacked the lazerette, our big storage compartment at the back of the boat, so the fenders can be put away for the passage. Batteries for torches and radios have been charged, the generator serviced, a broken fan replaced and lockers cleaned and sorted.

Touching wood as I write, which is not so easy while I cling onto my cup of tea which is threatening to be thrown off the table as we roll, everything has been in good condition, so far we’ve found only a few minor issues.

The plan today was to dive under the boat to clean a rather furry prop and slow cook a beef stew, but in this swell perhaps we’ll just abandon trying to work and head out for a snorkel instead.

Island Hopping to Antigua

Sunday 31st March 2019

It was with relief that we entered, past the Pillars of Hercules, from the choppy beam sea off the south coast of Antigua, into the still waters of English harbour. Unfortunately anchoring is tight here and we were forced back out and around the corner to the larger but thankfully equally protected Falmouth Harbour. Over the last few days we have been making our way north, day sailing the 200nm from St Lucia.

The journey passes three large islands, Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe and again involves some interesting sailing. Luckily the trades had veered slightly to the SE keeping the winds mostly behind the beam. Still, the 40nm passage between St Lucia and our first stop Grand Anse was quite lively, throwing our poor guests in at the deep end. Luckily we had taken the precaution of dosing up on seasick pills and had pre-made lunch, everyone survived unscathed..

Grand Anse turned out to be a bit disappointing and feeling rather tied we were not pleased to discover that the customs check-in was no longer in this bay and required a walk over the hill. We fled back to the boat deciding to check in the next day in St Pierre our next stop in the north of Martinique.

The French ports, rather conveniently, have computers placed in restaurants and small shops to allow easy check in. L’Alsace Kay served us cold beer and wine while we filled out the required forms and then lunch in their first floor restaurant overlooking the bay. The menu was in French, the boys took the easy route and ordered the dish of the day, chicken curry but Julia I opted to tackle the translation. I ordered ham with potato salad and Julia an onion tart from the vegetarian selection, or so we thought. What arrived was a little different, Julia was presented with a giant chicken vol-a-vent and I, a whole knuckle of ham. Luckily Julia does eat meat and decided it was too difficult to complain, the leftovers from my plate fed all four of us that evening!

We made an early start the next day and with a little less wind we had a fantastic sail across to Dominica, once in the lea of the island the wind dropped completely and we had a smooth motor up to Portsmouth near the top of the island. The boat boys, who in their small motor boats, scream out to meet you as soon as you appear around the headland were thankfully very organised. Anthony found us a mooring, took Rick to customs, relieved us of our rubbish and the next morning led us on a tour up the Indian river.

Beautiful Indian River

Named after the few final native Indians that took refuge here as the British and French battled over the island in the 17 century, the Indian river tour takes you a mile into the forest. Motors aren’t allowed so the tranquillity of the still green water, lined by large mangrove trees, with amazing gnarly buttress roots, is undisturbed.

Amazing roots of the Mangrove trees

The rainforest river scene from the Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed here, but Calypso’s, hut has been mostly destroyed, along with, unfortunately, many of the large trees. Hurricane Maria devastated the island 18months ago and the people, some of whom lost everything, have only just got back on their feet.

Faster to recover has been the river and it’s surrounding rain forest and they are home to, amongst other things, 20 varieties of crab, large shoals of mullet, juvenile barracuda, blue herons, snakes, humming birds and Iguana’s.

Iguana sunning himself in the early morning warmth.

We saw a good selection of these occupants as we glided serenely through the water, before taking a stroll amongst a plantation of fruit trees, the visit ended at a fruit and rum bar for refreshments. An enjoyable few hours that is well recommended.

Keen to get to Antigua before the wind returned to the North East, with the resultant rougher passage, we forewent the Saints Islands and took off for Deshaies, in the north of Guadeloupe.

We arrived mid afternoon to a very choppy anchorage and, despite the pretty town ashore, decided to stay onboard avoiding having to check in and a soaking from what was going to be a very wet dingy ride. Instead, as we had every evening in these west coast bays, we enjoyed a lovely sunset from the cockpit, watched 4ft long tarpons glinting in the light off the stern and prepared for an early start the next morning and the 40nm to Antigua.

Pretty Town of Desharies

The English and neighbouring harbour Falmouth are the Superyacht centres of the Caribbean, we are looking forward to a bit of nautical voyeurism.

Deferred Departure

Monday 1st May 2017

Weather, weather, weather, my brain has gone to mush staring endlessly at wind forecasts, pressure charts and swell projections. Each model appears to tell a different tale and each picture changes hourly. Add in our preference to arrive in daylight and not at the weekend when customs will charge exorbitant overtime fees, finding the right time to leave, for the sail up to Fiji, is not an easy task. 

Saturday we decided against leaving today, firstly we have three lots of orders in at the local chandeliers and engineering workshops that didn’t arrive Friday. Secondly, the winds are due to turn northerly a day early, so waiting for the spares and leaving late in the afternoon might have meant not clearing the northerly flow and having to bash into the wind for 24hrs. Finally, the weather for our arrival in Fiji looks very lively, the South Pacific Convergence Zone has moved south, with 25kt winds, 3-4m seas and a developing tropical storm just east of Vanuatu. Once the decision was made we both relaxed, another window is looking to open up at the end of the week and to be honest we have been so busy of late that a few days wait will probably do us good. 

So after finishing our jobs today, laundry and downloading cruising guides for me, inspecting the quadrant and tightening the steering cables for Rick, he is treating himself to an afternoon movie while I am sitting writing this on the forward deck, in watery autumnal sunshine, seeking protection from the chilly southey wind that is blowing directly into the cockpit. The marina is in the throws of major reconstruction and today they are hammering, very loudly, piles into what will be the new wharf. At least the dredger that was in constant use amongst the berths when we were here a month ago has been forced, by the number of boats now moored up, to take a break and sits abandoned at the end of the pontoon.

Working on the new section at the marina

Boats of all shapes and sizes have congregated waiting for the sail north, along with the numerous independent yachts such as ourselves there are now thirty five boats, that are joining the Pacific Circuit Rally, gathering around us. This ‘Rally World’ is reminiscent of our ARC experience a year and a half ago, crews busy working on their boats, nervously comparing notes on what still needs to be done and running around from one information session to the next social event, we feel slightly like intruders. 

They are due to leave on Saturday so the downside of our delay is that it will mean checking out at customs, paying up at the marina office and getting fuel with a huge crowd. On top of that temperatures are expected to drop over the next couple of nights to around 8C, the winter woolies are back out and the call of the tropical sunshine is becoming louder. Fingers crossed, well rested and well prepared, the weather will allow us to escape before the crowds and get away on Friday.

Our yellow brick tracker is still running, so if you are interested, you can watch our progress at http://my.yb.tl/sailrayatracking/

The track of our cruising in New Zealand.

Otago and Southland

Friday 17th February 2017

We continue our zigzag across the South Island leaving the high Mackenzie country to head back to sea level at Dunedin and then return to the Southern Alps further south at Te Anua. As always there is plenty of interest and variety to keep us entertained as each day we pass another three or four hours in the car.

The hydro electric power developments of the upper Waitaki River provide a significant amount of New Zealand’s power. As we descended from the mountains towards the coast the dammed lakes run parallel to the road. Theses dams run out from the large lakes at the foot of Mount Cook where we were yesterday up in the mountains, the stored power is awesome and evident as the water thunders from one dam to the next.

Hydroelectric dam near Otetamata

After nearly a week inland the smell of the sea hits us strongly, we gravitated to the water front of Oamaru to stretch our legs and find an interesting stop for lunch. Oamaru is a pleasant seaside town with more than it’s fair share of the stone buildings that are so rare in New Zealand. Mostly built towards the end of the nineteenth century from the pale, local sandstone, they give the town a more familiar look to our European eyes and a sense of permanence that many of the other towns we have been through don’t seem to have. 

Unique cafe for a spot of lunch on the beach at Oamaru

When researching accommodation for each nights stay, it was usually a compromise between convenience, price and availability but in Dunedin I spotted the place I should pick immediately – Roslyn Apartments, sitting in the hill suburb of Roslyn Village looking down on Dunedin. They weren’t our most luxurious stop but did the job, unfortunately the owners weren’t impressed enough with the coincidence to give us a discount. A discount we could do with, news from the boatyard is good in that they aren’t finding any unexpected problems but, as is always the way with boats, the costs are turning out to be way above what we expected. Rick sits studying the jobs list looking for savings, what can wait, what could we do ourselves?

Our main reason for coming to Dunedin was to see the Albatross colony, the only mainland colony in the world. Ever since we glimpsed them soaring above us as we sailed towards New Zealand last October, I’ve been keen to see them a little more closely. You can see the nests and watch them from land but we were advised you get a better experience from the sea, so we bit the bullet and took a tour, an hour long boat trip around the end of the Otago peninsula where the birds nest. It didn’t disappoint we were surrounded by half a dozen different types of Albatross including the large Southern Royal Albotros with its 3m wing span.

Southern Royal Albatross

On the peninsula, a haven for coastal wildlife, we also spotted fur seals and plenty of other birds including the aptly named Royal spoonbill, spotted cormorants and white faced heron. 

Loving the sea birds as always.

Today we left Dunedin to head fo Te Anua, we had a choice of roads, the main state highway or the scenic route. Rick has a cold and is feeling a bit under the weather so we decided on the easier and faster option. This took us across a large stretch of farmland. Amongst the odd field of crops were fields of sheep, cows and more sheep. We spotted fields of horses, even fields of deer and one field of geese and of course more and more fields of sheep. We passed signs advertising shearing equipment for rent, merino wool clothing straight from the farm, livestock veterinary services and the rather brutally named Southkill Abattoir 

Gradually the hills steepened and we caught glances of snow capped mountains. Another day, another stunning lake.

Lake Te Anua

Back Onboard

Monday 22nd January 

This is my third attempt to write this blog, I have, yet again, been completely poleaxed with jet lag, my writing skills, such as they are, seem to have been wiped out along with my concentration and all my energy. 

Our final week in the UK passed by in a blur of last minute organisation, shopping and goodbyes. We drove through everything from dank drizzle and crisp frosts to blinding blizzards. We ate at yet more lovely restaurants, met up with lots more friends and managed to squeeze in an extra get together with the kids.

But eventually it was time to leave and Wednesday afternoon we headed for Heathrow. We had a long journey ahead of us and could have done without what proved to be a rather stressful check-in. As always with this strange life we lead we didn’t tick the normal boxes, we had no return ticket, the airline couldn’t let us fly without a valid visa. We had been warned by customs when we first checked into New Zealand, at the dock in Opua, that we may have this issue when we tried to re-enter the country, so had come armed with our ‘temporary import of vessel’ form to prove we would be departing by boat. By the confused expressions this was obviously not something the Cathay Pacific staff had come across before but they were very efficient and after discussions with the check-in manager, a telephone conversation with NZ Customs officials and much tapping on the keyboard, the computer finally gave us the all clear. We tried not to look at the long queue of tutting travellers forming behind us, praying that our tightly packed luggage wouldn’t be overweight and hold everybody up even further, thankfully they were just a smidgen under our allowance and finally we received our boarding passes

The flight comprised of two 12hr legs, with a three hour stop over in Hong Kong and was surprisingly easy, despite having to battle through scrambled eggs and sunshine when our bodies thought it was the middle of the night, twice and being presented with champagne and a three course supper when our stomachs were expecting breakfast.

We arrived two days after we had started to a warm sunny Auckland and it was with relief we climbed back onboard Raya to find everything OK. The next morning with winter wollies rejected we drove into town to buy food and Sims for our phones. However our eagerness to return to our summer wardrobe was somewhat premature. Gulf Harbour was as windswept as ever and by Saturday evening the whole of New Zealand was being bashed by a low pressure system coming in from the Tasman Sea. Soon we had torrential rain and gale force winds. We lay in bed trying hard to persuade our body clocks it was time to sleep while outside the rain pounded on the hatches and the wind rocked Raya from side to side, whistled through the rigging, rattled the bimini and blew a slightly lose passerelle halyard continuously onto the back stay, resulting in a hollow metallic resonance to run loudly through the hull. 

The wind continues to blow and the jetlag continues to plague us, we have given up fighting it and have indulged in an afternoon of books and movies. Summer is forecast to return tomorrow lets hope the fog in my head lifts with it.

Atlantic Crossing in pictures


Team Raya preparing to leave Las Palmas


An upside to the Atlantic squalls

5000 miles sailing Raya, 1784 miles to St Lucia

Boys enjoying the moment


Sailing with our blue cruising chute


Sailng west

Erics second Dorado


Captain “just call me Ben” Smith grabbing some sleep


First sight of land for fifteen days


Rum punch welcome to St Lucia


The blog that got away

Below is a blog that seems to have got lost in the ether of Atlantic satellite comms. 

Halfway there

Monday 30th November

The suntan lotion is back out, the crew are in T-shirts and shorts and have smiles on their faces. The sea temperatures is up to 25C, the air is 28C in the shade. Our lat/long is 22N/35W and the flying fish have started to land on our decks, we have reached the tropics. 

Today with much excitement we successfully flew our big coloured cruising chute. Ricks relief was obvious as it launched without a hitch and sped us along in the now light winds, justifying all that effort to drag it out with us to Las Palmas. Unbelievably we are still leading our class and the cruising chute will help keep us competitive, we need all the help we can get Raya doesn’t really perform well in light winds.

We get a position update at midday each day from ARC Control, so we know more or less where everybody else is but we haven’t actually seen any other ARC boats for a couple of days now, there have been a few targets on the AIS but we haven’t even glimpsed their lights at night, the radio is silent.

We have been sailing for a week now but I still struggle to grasp the enormity of the body of water around us. There have been plenty of times in the last six months when we have been out of sight of land and there is nothing now to show there is not an island, or continent for that matter, just over the horizon here too. I try to visualise us as that tiny speck on the ocean you see way below on a flight to NewYork but in reality our world is the twenty or so miles to the horizon all around us. We have plenty of sea below us too, as we committed a broken plate to the depths, Eric reflected on what it would past on its 2 mile trip to the seabed.

We have had moments of wonder, such as the stars last night. With no light pollution the sky was full to bursting and the cloud of the milky way was as clear as day. To add to the scene there was phosphorescence twinkling in our wake – stars above and below us. Within an hour the moon had risen and the stars faded as the moonlight shone so bright you could almost read by it. There have been lots of magnificent rainbows, their colours bright against the dark grey of the squall clouds, one particularly impressive one was a complete half circle that ended seemingly metres from our feet. On their watch the boys even saw a rainbow created by the moonlight, a very obvious bow of dull colours, I didn’t even know such a thing existed. And yesterday we were joined by our first pod of Atlantic dolphins.

There have been moments of calm when we can relax and enjoy being in this unique spot. Times of high activity as we change sails or battle the swell to prepare lunch and moments of suspense as we check out the latest position update or await a bite on the fishing line we are trailing.

However there is one thing you can be certain of when sailing and that is that no particular moment or situation lasts long. One minute the boat is sailing along nicely and then a slight wind shift will mean we can no longer point to where we want to go and everything is different. 

It is five in the morning my watch doesn’t start until six but the roll of the boat is making it impossible to sleep, the wind has shifted and not wanting to change our downwind twin sail rig in the dark we have had to turn slightly north bringing the swell onto the side of the boat. There is not much wind and the sails flog noisily, our speed has dropped and St Lucia feels a long way away. At least I am warm and dry, a few nights ago on my 3-6am watch, I had the rolling, the flogging and rain! 

We crawl slowly towards the half way mark that with the high winds seemed we would reach yesterday but at this speed we won’t make it for another eight hours. Sunrise will lift our spirits, the forecast is for the light winds to continue, so it’s all hands on deck to raise the cruising chute back up and try and to push on as fast as possible.

Atlantic Time

Fri 4th

Time, normally it’s quite a straight forward thing, but here on Raya, six hundred miles from St Lucia, we are grappling with Atlantic time, which has four different times at once.

Firstly there is boat time, currently GMT -2 .This is the time we use for the the day to day running of the boat, particularly the time we use for the watch system. As we travel west we have to add an hour about every four days to keep sunset and sunrise in sync with life onboard.

Then there is ARC control time which is set at GMT, this is the time all their updates relate to and is essential as we work out weather forecasts and the position of other boats.

Next is St Lucia time, GMT -4 which as we draw closer becomes more important as we try to calculate our arrival time.

Finally there is the random times all our electronics are keeping, my iPad for instance can’t find what time it is mid Atlantic and I can’t find a city that is GMT -2 to set it to, so it is stuck on GMT -1. When I wake bleary eyed and confused for my watch grappling with what the actual time is, can be a bit of a challenge.

To add to the confusion not one of us knows what day of the week it is and if it hadn’t been for Matts birthday on the 2nd, giving us some point of reference, the date would be a mystery too. Talk of Christmas from back home seems incomprehensible, as does the fact that in a few days we will be in the Caribbean without going anywhere near Gatwick. We are all however very clear about how many days we have left at sea, at our current
pace that will be  3-4 days depending on our old friend the wind.

We are sailing fast, dead downwind, flat out with our twizzler rig (two genoas one set either side of the boat)  but its touch and go if it is fast enough, the opposition is closing in. We can’t actually go any faster so we are just trying to enjoy the ride which includes 12kt surfs down 12ft high Atlantic rollers.

Each day is different, the sea is rougher or calmer the sky cloudy or clear, we spot a way off tanker or the dolphins come to play but they are tending to meld into one. Tuesday however stands out amongst the crowd. it started badly with us ripping the cruising chute. We had flown it carefully all night with winds rarely going above 12kts, as the sun rose Hartmut and I were on watch when suddenly a gust of 50 kts appeared from seemingly nowhere shredding our beautiful blue sail. This sail is not essential but Rick was beginning to really enjoy mastering it and we may miss it in the light winds we expect to encounter as we approach St Lucia.

That afternoon our mood was lifted, Eric caught a fish, a magnificent three foot dorado, that he filleted and cooked for supper, delicious and probably the freshest fish we have ever eaten. As he also is in charge of bread making he is rapidly gaining a certain status however his attempts at walking on water still need some refinement.

Today is much like any other we trim the sails trying to squeeze every last bit of speed from Raya, we cook, eat, sleep, read and clean, we stare out into the never ending blue, fill in the log book and increasingly pour over the position reports.

We are now all ready to get there and setting all our clocks and especially our body-clocks back to just one time, Caribbean time.

OMG! We are off across the Atlantic 

I am sitting here luxuriating in the stillness, we leave tomorrow and for the next two to three weeks my life will be lived on a moving platform. We are eager to get going, we have been sitting n the marina for long enough, the Caribbean beckons.
ARC World continues to defy description. We have made dozens of new friends, partied every night and fretted over everything from which route to take to when or whether to change the bed sheets. Getting anywhere takes ages as you continually bump into people all on a similar mission. The pontoon is full to bursting with people rushing here or there, boxes of groceries, delivery boys, and pieces of boats. It is crazy just how much activity is still going on on the boats. We have a guy from Oyster dangling 23m up our mast, opposite they are attaching a spinnaker pole and next door but one awaits a new boom!

  S pontoon 

The team from Oyster do a brilliant job pre ARC, they come to each boat and spend three or four hours checking through everything with a fine toothcomb and when they find a problem they help fix it. Raya thankfully and after all the money spent on the refit, expectedly, is still in good condition. They did however find a small problem at the top of the mast, a fitting had been left with a rough edge and this over the six months we have been at sea has chafed our spinnaker halyard (halyards are the ropes that pull sails up). As we are about to fly our coloured sail this could have proved problematic and Oyster have kindly been sorting it out for us.

 Further peace of mind came in the form of Andy from Stella Maris (our refit team) who stayed on board and helped us with the pre-trip checks as well. We really can’t be leaving feeling any safer than we are.

  Andy at the top of the mast. 

Our crew, Eric and Hartmut, have arrived so team Raya is now complete. Eric is a long time friend and Harmut an old work colleague, they have been signed up for almost a year and are both excited and working hard. All the fruit and veg arrived this afternoon and had to be washed to remove the chance of cockroach eggs being carried onboard. Rick and I returned from the skippers briefing to find the crew knee deep in apples and potatoes and Raya resembling a grocery store.

  Just part of the fruit and veg order 

Stowing all the food has been a challenge and I’m still not sure whether we have far too much or not enough. Both Eric and Hartmut appear to be big eaters so I rushed out and did another last minute shop. I have pre cooked half a dozen meals for the days when we don’t feel like cooking and have ingredients to knock up something exotic if we fancy it, we have tons of fruit, emergency tins and bags full of chocolate. It is possible our supplies won’t just get us to St Lucia but will get us right the way through Christmas too!

The forecast looks good as there is a stable high pressure over the Azores which has caused the trade winds to set in. The forecast is for NE winds F4-5, if that’s how the conditions are it will be perfect for us, our already heavy bulk, now full with food, fuel and water will need plenty of wind to get going.

Whilst at sea I will try to post a few blogs but as we will be sending via our satellite phone I won’t be able to send photos. If there is anything other than blue sea and more blue sea I’ll post the pictures when I reach St Lucia. Fingers crossed for a whale sighting.

ARC World

Saturday 7th November 

The tension at the far end of our pontoon is palpable. The ARC + which crosses the Atlantic via the Cape Verdi Islands, leaves tomorrow. It is not just the bustle of supermarket deliveries of last minute provisions or the practicing of man overboard routines or even the raising and lowering of a multitude of shapes and sizes of sails as they are checked and double checked. It’s something more subtle, the tone of a voice, the determined stride up the pontoon, the concentrated expressions. For them suddenly the time has come to get serious, the partying is finished.

For the rest of us on the traditional ARC, sailing straight from Las Palmas to St Lucia, things are just beginning. We watch on, trying to pick up tips for our departure on the 22nd November.

It is difficult to quite explain our pre-rally world here, a mass of people living cheek by jowl, the boats are crammed in, moored just a fender (8ins) apart. All busying ourselves with making sure we get can our boats and crew through the 2-3 week journey ahead, safely, well fed and as efficiently as possible. We are all making friends fast, everyone chatting to everyone else, mostly complete strangers, but with this huge event in common.

Our flight finally left Heathrow three hours late and we arrived back at the marina at 4am on Tuesday morning. Thankfully Rene, a local guy who offers a long list of services to the influx of ARC boats, was there to pick us up, our luggage arrived including our sail and Raya was exactly as we had left her. After a few hours sleep we woke to blue skies and a social whirl, any hope of having a break from the relentless eating and drinking of our three weeks break at home we soon realised was in vain. We have reunited with people we had met en route during the summer, met people we had only previously chatted to through our blogs or on Facebook and made new friends of all the people moored near us. Each night we end up on one boat or another having a glass of wine, swapping tales of our trips down and discussing worries and solutions regarding the preparations ahead.

Provisioning is a common topic of conversation, what and how much we think we need, where best to buy it, who delivers most promptly, where to put it all once it arrives?


Provisioning trip no 1

You need friends around, everybody helping each other out. Apparently our dingy had to be rescued a couple of times while we were away as there has been some very heavy downpours. We left it tucked under the bow of the boat to allow access to the stern by the engine guys that needed to get on and off the boat carry equipment. We discovered however that it wasn’t just above water that it had had problems, the bottom was completely encrusted with barnacles, so Thursday we drove it around to the local beach and spent a hard couple of hours getting it clean again.

As you walk down the pontoon you notice crews sitting sheepishly on deck sourounded by life jackets, first aid kits and boxes of flares. The World Cruising Club who organise the ARC has very strict safety standards and before you can leave on any of their rallies, you have to pass a safety equipment test. We had ours yesterday, it feels a bit like an exam as the safety officer quizzes you and inspects your boat. Raya of course having crossed the Atlantic and circumnavigated the globe with the WCC before has already been through all this and we inherited a lot of the required equipment when we bought her, the remainder we sorted out before we left Southampton. We were relieved to pass with flying colours, everything in place except for a bit of missing reflective tape.

We ticked off a couple of other things that have been hanging over us for a while. We have been unable,  in Spain, to fill our Propane gas bottles that we use for cooking and we have been eking out the little gas we had for months now. So we were very happy when Rene again came up trumps, returning both full yesterday. If we weren’t trying so hard to return our waistlines to some vestige of their former selves I would celebrate by baking a cake.

The engine whisperer informs us the engine is now in tiptop condition, we plan to take Raya out for a test run on Monday and fingers crossed the coolant problem will have been finally eliminated.

And yes, drum roll please, the freezer appears to be fixed! All we need now is to find time between the full itinerary of seminars and social events to fill it back up.

ARC Itinerary week 1

Family, friends and lots of food.

We are so lucky to have such wonderful family and friends, from the loan of a car, to the use of a hall as a sail loft, to the provision of copious amounts of English biscuits, our welcome back has been generous and effusive. It is possible that we may explode from the quantities of food and drink we have consumed but the company has been fantastic and we still have a week to enjoy. 

Checking the cruising chute in ‘the other’ Rick and Roz’s long hallway.

The weather has been very English with a mix of bright sunny days and cool, drizzly ones. In the two or so weeks we have been here the landscape has morphed from the greeness we arrived to, to the beautiful oranges and reds of Autumn.

It has also been raining in Las Palmas we understand and the dingy has had to be emptied, thank you Gavin ( K1W1-Beans). And there has been reports of rats climbing warps to get onto boats! Having lived in the countryside for many years we have had our fair share of invading rodent life, but sharing our journey across the Atlantic with a rat doesn’t bear thinking about. A thorough search of the boat is called for I think.

Generally however we are feeling much better about leaving Raya now more ARC boats have arrived, including some of our yachting friends who have also been checking up on her for us. 

In addition we have had Yanmar Engineers on board. Ever since we bought the boat we have had a problem with a blowback from the engine coolant if we really push the engine, many people have tried to find the problem without success. In Las Palmas, fingers crossed, we seem to have found a horse whisperer for engines. Rick was pleased to discover a Yanmar service workshop on the dock in Las Palmas, initially things looked unpromising as their English was limited and our Spanish even worse. The engineer didn’t need words however, he just listened and felt the engine quietly for half an hour, eventually identifying a tiny stream of bubbles rising through the coolant and a minuscule hole in the gasket. They came on board last week to replace it, so hopefully that is one more problem ticked off.

We are beginning to think that our return baggage could be getting out the control. We have the two bags of clothes we bought with us, add in the large amount of shopping we have managed to buy in the last couple of weeks, ten large paper charts of the Pacific, fancy dress costumes for the ARC ‘eighties movies’ fancy dress party, Christamas lights for our family Carribean Christmas and a huge sail bag.

On the sail down from Gibraltar, with the boat struggling in the light winds directly behinds us, we made the decision to collect the cruising chute. When we bought Raya there was one onboard, but we decided it would be too difficult for the two of us to manage and would take up too much of our precious space, so we left it in the storage unit in Southampton. With our growing confidence sailing the boat, realising how little space we can actually squeeze our new life into and the fact that we have friends on board for the next few months of mainly downwind sailing, we have decided to take it back to Las Palmas with us. An extremely frustrating four hours on the phone later and I think BA/Iberia have agreed we can fly with it.

In the few free moments we have had, we have been busily thinking about the best way to feed four people three meals a day for the Atlantic crossing. We expect the crossing to take about eighteen days so that’s quite a bit of food and it’s not just the what to eat, we also have to factor in the when to eat what. It’s no good planning to have chicken salad on day sixteen when all the lettuce, tomatoes etc will have gone off or pasta for day four when it turns out to be very rough and boiling big pans of water is not a great idea. When you mix in the fact that we are shopping in a foreign country and the will or won’t the freezer work all the way, provisioning is going to be quite a challenge.

Picking up the Pacific charts and flags, reminds us that before we head back to Las Palmas, we also have lots of even further forward planning to do. When we are not indulging in our friends hospitality and we can drag our brains away from Atlantic preparations, we have to start thinking about permits and agents for the Panama Canal and Galapogas. Then there is a need for rough timings so the friends that are joining us can plan their flights, crew letters to leave here so they can get through customs, the much more complicated logistics of no longer being in Europe including family emergency communication etc, etc, etc………..

Sailing? It really is the easy bit!

Jungle of rigging

I am having breakfast sitting on the bows watching the world go by, it is still comfortably cool, the morning is overcast. Everywhere I look there are hundreds of yachts, unlike all the marinas we have visited before, here, there are surprisingly few motor boats. Directly to the right of us we have a hand built fifty foot yacht, built by a couple who come to Las Palmas each winter to escape the snow and dark of the Swedish winter. On the other side we have almost the opposite, a Jeanneau 54 DS a shiny new production boat who’s owners have yet to appear. In further contrast to our stern there is a tiny, ramshackle, unloved boat that looks like it may not last the winter, it is doubtful as to whether it even has an owner. Beyond that are more and varied yachts, which means more and varied rigging, in fact it is as if I am sitting in a small clearing in a jungle of rigging.


At first that appears to be all I can see but as I peer through the forest of masts it becomes apparent that there is so much more going on. Encircling the marina is a wall protecting us from the Atlantic weather, it runs around almost 360 degrees with just a narrow entrance, today the swell outside must be coming from just the right angle as we are all rocking and the pontoons are undulating in time with the surge. 

On two sides the wall is topped by a walk way, full with early joggers, dog walkers and fisherman. To the west, on the town side, the marina edge is populated with everything a sailor could need, a very comprehensive chandlers, a sail loft and a mixture of engineering companies. There are restaurants and a Club Maritimo, which offers a temporary membership to visiting yachtsmen and provides me with a place to swim. However nothing much opens here until nine and so all is quiet on that front. Finally to the right is the welcome pontoon and marina office. This morning there is a yacht that arrived during the night, flying their ARC flag, tied up alongside. Each day more ARC boats arrive much to the consternation of the local boats, many of whom are gradually being moved to an anchorage just outside the marina to make room.

Just beyond the wall I can see the bobbing sails of a flotilla of sailing dinghies making the most of the brisk breeze. They race against a back drop of the commercial docks which are surprisingly large for such a small island. I can count a dozen cranes and at the moment there are two huge tankers being loaded with containers stacked seven stories high.

Behind me is the city, a busy dual carriageway runs along the front and even at this early hour the ambulances from the multi-storey hospital that towers above the marina have their blue lights flashing and their sirens wailing to past through the traffic. This part of town is a jumble of high rise blocks and looking from here there is little sign of style or planning.

And finally to my left is the cruise ship dock. In town today is our old friend the “giraffe cruise liner”. It was often moored up in Southampton while we were there last winter and the purpose of a rather incongruous, large plastic giraffe on the top deck was the subject of much discussion. He is obviously very good, never the less, at whatever it is he does because he is still standing proud, overlooking with me this busy slice of the world.

European leg completed

We have arrived in Las Palmas, Grand Canaria, which means the European leg of our trip is now complete. The summer has past so quickly and it is difficult to comprehend that our next passage will be across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.


We left Lanzarote on Sunday night, we were only half convinced that it was the right decision, Rick had come down with my tummy bug a couple of days before and was only just on the mend. However the weather looked perfect and it did mean we would be sailing under the red moon. 

It was just under 100nm so we opted for an early start to maximise sailing in daylight and got up at 2am. We slipped the lines as quietly as we could and tip toed out of the marina. We have never left in the dark before and were surprised how long it took for our eyes to adjust to the dark. But we made it out to sea without incident, grateful again for our chart plotter and AIS system. 

The moon was almost completely eclipsed as we left and by the time we had stowed the fenders and lines, set the sails and were settled enough to look for it again, we couldn’t see it. For a moment we thought we had got it wrong thinking it would be red and that actually it would just go dark, but then we found it hidden behind the main sail. It was a perfectly clear night and it did look beautiful glowing a dark orange with just a hint of light peeping out of the base. It was easy to see why such a strange unexplained sight, century’s ago, could be imagined as a forewarning of doom, it did look very unnatural. Gradually as the night wore on we witnessed the shadow slowly withdraw until there it was back, a full moon. We do feel lucky to witness these things from such a unique and uncluttered perspective.

The next morning we had a tiny visitor, a chiffchaff type bird with a pretty pale yellow chest, which flew erratically around the boat for a few minutes, until exhausted it landed on our deck. Unfortunately we were also on the foredeck in the middle of rigging the pole for the Genoa and so wherever the poor bird tried to rest we, or a line, seemed to be there to disturb him. He stayed around for twenty minutes or so coming very close to us at times and eating a few crumbs we put out for him. I hope we were taking him in the right direction.

Poor Rick felt unwell for most of the journey, unless he was really needed I let him sleep, so we arrived fifteen hours later, Rick sick and me feeling really rather tired. It crossed my mind that we were a bit like our earlier visitor all of us working hard to get south for winter. Tradition insists of course that despite not being on top form a “got here beer” must be consumed and with surprisingly little effort we managed a can between us while waiting for the marina officials to get through the queue in front of us. Luckily the process wasn’t too arduous and we were soon tied up at the dock. No more sailing for us for a while.

Las Palmas is our departure point to head off across the Atlantic in November. We are crossing as part of a rally – the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers or the ARC. It is probably the most well known of all sailing rallies and over 250 boats will be joining this year for its 30th anniversary. We felt for our first ocean crossing that it would be a good idea to have some support and a chance to learn from the experts. We know quite a few people who have done it in previous years and it sounds like it’s going to be really good fun. The organisation so far has been exemplary, even down to the information pack for early arrivals that was handed to us on our arrival yesterday containing maps, ways to enjoy Grand Canaria, fliers from local businesses etc. 

Las Palmmas Marina is huge and rather full I can’t imagine where they are going to find room enough to accommodate the hundreds of boats that will descend in the next few weeks. A very different place than the last few marinas we have been in, our pontoon is full to bursting with sailing boats of all shapes and sizes. Many of them homes to live aboards,  many making their own preparations for an Atlantic crossing, others that seem like they haven’t moved for years. There definitely won’t be a problem hanging out the laundry here.

We have just over a week before we fly back to the UK for three weeks, when we return we expect to find many more rally boats have arrived and within a couple of days the ARC office will open and it will be full steam ahead for preparations and parties. Our task for the next week therefore, is to try and get as much done as we can before the crowds arrive. 

What’s the chance of finally finding someone who can work out the problem with our temperamental freezer, can we pick up everything we need from the chandler here and exactly how many cold drinks will four people drink over a three week period??

Languishing in Lanzarote

Lanzarote? We can’t quite make it out, it seems to be lacking in something but we just can’t put our finger on what that something is. We have had mostly very grey, hot and humid days, which have made us and many around us rather lackadaisical, I have picked up a tummy bug and living on a boat is not the best place to have one of those, perhaps these things are all colouring our feelings. 

We have spent most of the week mooching about the marina. Marina life is rather odd, Raya is moored directly below the walkway by the restaurants, so we are permenanently on show and frequently the background of people’s photographs. We in turn watch back, as people seemingly from another world enjoy their holidays. We feel out of place trudging through the tourists, dressed to promenade or dine, loaded down with laundry or shopping or walking to the showers towel around your neck and hair dripping. But Marina Rubicon is better than most, we can swim, eat and shop all within the complex and on Saturdays and Wednsedays there is a lively handicraft market. Not too bad a place to be stuck feeling a bit below par.

After our arrival Friday, Ricks first job was to check out the hull for any damage caused by the mystery collision on the passage over here. He donned his scuba kit and braved the rather murky water. Thankfully the only thing he found was a insignificant mark on the keel.


On Tuesday we hired a car for a day to explore the island and visit some of its tourist spots. Being a volcanic island that had its last eruption less than two hundred years ago, a lot of the interior would not look out of place among the pictures sent back from the Mars Rover Mission. It is incredible, barren and harsh and not a sign of life for mile after mile. Unfortunately the only way to tour the interior of the Timanfaya National Park is by coach with its accompanying bad audio guide in Spanish, English and German. Coach tours are one of my husbands pet hates, his stony expression inside the bus was almost as severe as the landscape outside.

View over looking Timanfaya National Park.

We stayed with the volcanic theme but with a brighter note, visiting a couple of sights where large air pockets created in the lava from eruptions 3000 yrs ago have been converted by the sculptor, architect and island hero Cesar Manrique, into useable spaces. At the Jameos del Agua an open tunnel through the lava has been converted into a garden/restaurant/concert hall. Inside the tunnel is a dark shallow pool containing a unique species of blind albino crabs and in the Jameos, a crater formed by the collapse of the tunnel roof, the garden was full to bursting with palms, cacti and succulents all surrounding a crystal clear blue pool.

Jameos del Agua

Our next visit was to his home where he had imaginatively created rooms and incredible outside spaces in the bubbles that had formed in the lava. It has been preserved as an attraction and holds a collection of his work and pieces of other artists including Miro and Picasso that he had gathered during his life time.

The red bubble at the Cesar Manrique Foundation

We have ourselves been dabbling in the art scene this week, finally buying a picture for the salon wall. As yachts aren’t really good places for fine art we decided we would use it as a place for a rolling display of the pictures, fabrics etc we pick up along the way. Well that was all good in theory but hard to fulfill in practice, a blank space has been staring at us since Raya became our home in March. Then a couple of days ago the oil below caught our eye in a local gallery, it fits the bill exactly.

Rick practicing his stony face

We did plan to sail onto Las Palmas tonight but I’m still feeling a little fragile, so we have our feet up and our books out. We shall sail tomorrow.

Eventful departure

Tuesday 15 September

Our current position is 34 degrees 40 minutes N, 7 degrees 21 minutes W, 40 miles off the Moroccan coast. The log reads – Tuesday 15th, 2pm, sea calm with 1m Atlantic swell, wind F1-2 from NW, engine plus sails, no other boats within 10 miles. We are relaxed, but despite the African sun we have socks on, it was a cool night and we are only slowly stripping off as the day gradually warms up. Rick is reading while I write, we both keep watch of this deserted piece of ocean for any boats not appearing on our AIS. There is nothing, just us at the centre of a wide open disc of undulating blue. 

We pulled away from our berth at one yesterday afternoon and headed for the fuel dock. We had enjoyed our time in Gibraltar, Queens Quay Marina turned out to be a very sociable place and it was nice to leave with many wishes for a good trip. Our plan was to leave Gibraltar Bay at about four, an hour before high tide, to give us a bit of assistance against the current running into the Med.

When we were in Gib in June the fuel dock was a nightmare with at least a two hour queue of boats milling about, too much hassle, we sailed on. This time around we were keen to wait it out, to ensure, with our record lately, that we had enough fuel to get us to the Canaries if necessary and to take advantage of the ridiculously low prices. So it shook up our plan slightly when we arrived to find all three docks empty, a polite and efficient attendant to take our lines and a super quick service. By two pm we were heading out to sea, dingy safely on the davits, emergency Magnums purchased and in the freezer and both our tanks topped up with 36p/l diesel. We were to have an eventful first twelve hours. 

We emerged from the behind the fuel wharf straight into the path of the huge cruise ship Aurora, who had also just slipped her lines. We took a quick right turn only to be confronted by two 600 ft tankers, Gibraltar Bay was very busy. Cargo ships on the move and at anchor, tug boats plying back and forth, motor boats and sailing boats all milling around the same small bit of sea. To complete the picture, the Rock dominating, stood high above us on one side, the mountains of the African coast loomed on the other and a pod of lively dolphins leapt between it all.

We, of course, paid for our efficient departure with at least 2kts of current against us all the way out of the straights. At its worst we were battling against 4kts racing around Tarifa point. We emerged only to be met by an area of overfalls – a phenomenon created when wind, current and tide combine to produce, sometimes, very rough water. Luckily today they were reasonably benign and it was more entertaining than anything else, a bit like sailing through a boiling cauldron. 


However, we were on our way and we did manage to cross the busy traffic separation zones while it was still light. TSZ’s are enforced in narrow or busy parts of the ocean to create motorways for large ships. They run in places like the English Channel, around prominent headlands such as Finestere and here in the narrow Straights of Gibraltar. Marine rule states that you should cross at right angles so everyone is clear what you are doing. Raya suddenly feels very small and a bit like the squirrels that dodged between our car on the roads in Biddenden. Rick’s brow is furrowed in concentration, calculating when to press forward and when to turn around the stern of the oncoming tankers.

Just as we got across and were breathing a sigh of relief our chart plotter suddenly started to scream at us – vessel position lost! We reset the system and all was well for a few minutes before it failed again, this happened repeatedly for about half an hour. There was no obvious reason, we were passing a Morrocan Navy vessel who was sat monitoring the Straights, possibly he was emitting something that was interfering with our GPS signal. Whatever it was, our back up systems all seemed thankfully to be working OK. It did, however, highlight our dependence on our electronic systems and made us think how we would cope without them, it even stimulated me to break out my Astro Navigation book – not holding our breath on that one.

The next challenge was rounding the northeastern corner of Morocco and its infamous fishing fleet. They drag long nets, hundreds of meters in length between two trawlers, scooping up everything in their path, including unwary yachtsmen. It was nightfall by the time we saw our first couple, they were better lit than we had expected and the fishermen had powerful torches to warn you off if you came too close but still the lights were difficult to fathom as you approached in the dark, we needed to keep focussed. During his watch Rick spent the whole three hours battling with them and was relieved to see the sun rise.

Things have calmed down now and we have survived, one day down, three to go.

Sorry to put in another sunset photo but Tuesday night’s was truly spectacular, the whole 360degrees of sky were lit up. Far from the sun the clouds were a soft baby pink gradually turning to this incredible flaming scene where the sun had just set. 



Parties and Preparations.

We arrived in Gibralta a couple of days before National Day. A day to celebrate the referendum held on 10th September 1967 when there was a resounding vote to reject joining Spain and keep Gibralta British. So it was with more than a little embarrassment that we chose this week to mess up on flag etiquette. We sailed into Gibraltan waters and right into the marina still flying our Spanish courtesy flag. When in foreign waters you must fly your country’s ensign off the stern and on the starboard spreader a small courtesy flag of the country you are visiting. We have been in Spain for so long we had completely forgotten it was there!

We have had a very pleasant week here. National Day was on Thursday and it was one big party with absolutely everyone dressed in the national colors of red and white. Having made such a faux par earlier in the week we searched the boat for red and white outfits and joined in the fun.

Many of the boats around us were dressed in full national regalia and all the marina restaurants held special events and we were entertained by live bands all afternoon.


To end the day there was a Grand fireworks display. It was set off from just outside our marina entrance so we had a perfect view. The fireworks were great but the most striking part was the echo of cracks and bangs booming off the Rock, the whole bay seemed to be shuddering.


As we near the Canaries and the beginning of the ARC we are meeting more and more boats that will be crossing with us and this week have enjoyed comparing notes and sharing a glass of wine or two with the crew of Euphaxia a Discovery 55, a very similar boat to ours. We have met some great people on this trip and it is going to make for a very good time when we all reconvene in Las Palmas.

With the ARC in mind Morrisons has hosted us for two visits as we restock the cupboards with British goodies and start to provision for the three weeks crossing of the Atlantic. We still think the freezer is not quite right but as it has been behaving recently we have risked putting some stuff in there. However, we need to ensure that we have enough protein to sustain us if the freezer fails and we have to eat all its contents in the first week. As neither of us or our crew have ever fished before there is a possibility that fresh tuna might not make it on to the menu and so it was we found ourselves at the canned meat section of the supermarket buying such blasts from the past as Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney puddings.

There is a huge list of preparations and information required by the World Cruising Club that run the ARC and we are slowly plowing through them. Rick has been working out the size of our sails, neither of which are standard and which we have no information about, but the WCC requires their size to work out our handicap for the race that is not a race, so the tape measure is out and calculations have been taking place. I joined together 40 flags, the whole set of international flag codes, ready to dress the boat before the start as stipulated, hopefully in the right order and correct orientation. And we have double checked we comply with the long list of safety requirements.

We have also been preparing for our more immediate journey, the passage to Lanzerote in the Canary Islands. It is about 650nm which should take us 4-5 days and will be the longest we have sailed in one hop and more than twice the time we have sailed just the two of us. It should be mostly down wind, Rick has been making sure everything is ready to set the sails easily, fingers crossed it will be a pleasant sail. I have plotted our route, not difficult – out of the Straits, turn left down the west coast of Morroco, until you bump into Lanzerote. The trickiest bit will be leaving Gibraltar, trying to minimise the amount of current and wind against us in the Straits then successfully negotiating the busy shipping lanes on our turn South.

We had planned to leave on the afternoon tide on Sunday but the wind looks much better for a Monday departure so that’s what we are going with. Today has turned into a free day and very relaxing it is to.


Sunday 6th Sept 2015

We left Almerimar yesterday lunchtime to get ahead of the high winds forecast to funnel down from the east towards the Straits of Gibraltar, but find ourselves this morning, as for the whole trip, sitting in very light winds from the northwest! The sea is very calm, the air heavy and it is spookily quiet. There are no other boats in sight and just a few cargo boats showing up on the AIS, it is just us, the sea and the dolphins. Of which there are plenty, one pod has just joined us to swim in our bow waves. They were so close we could almost touch them, they stayed with us for about half an hour and finally we got some good photos.  

Dolphins , with Ricks reflection captured by the calm waters.

As our time in the Mediterranean draws to an end we have been reflecting on the great time we have had over the last couple of months and gathering our thoughts.

Unfortunately, the first thing that comes to mind as we sit motor sailing yet again, is that in this part of the Med at least, you would do better to have a motor boat, for the majority of our time here we have not had enough wind to sail in. When we have had some, there has either been too much or it has been directly behind or in front of us. Since turning the corner at the southern end of Portugal at the beginning of June we have logged over 2000nm, clocked up 300 hrs of engine time but only had decent sails on about eleven days!

Next, we can report that the super rich are alive and kicking. The amount of money sitting in marinas and in the anchorages around Ibiza, Forementera and Mallorca is staggering. We have seen stunning sleek 200ft sailing yachts, huge 450ft motor yachts, sexy Riva launches and ugly stealth motor boats. What we have been surprised about is that they all cling together in the same places, surely having wealth is about exclusivity. The only conclusion is that being seen bathed in your wealth is more important.

There has been a distinct lack of fish around the coast as I mentioned in my last blog but deeper waters must still have plenty as we ate great fresh fish in almost every restaurant we went to and the abundance of dolphins would suggest that too. We have drank more wine, mojitos and large gin and tonics than is probably wise and consumed platefuls of Serrano ham and Spanish cheese. Are clothes fit a little more snugly than when we arrived.

On a less positive note we have been very disappointed by the fruit and veg. Passing now back down the coast of Spain and remembering how we sailed, a couple of months ago, past the acres of plastic coverings with fascination, we look at them now with regret. There has been little of that great Mediterranean sweetness and intense flavor we were looking forward to, especially in the soft fruit and tomatoes, all we can think is that they are being grown too quickly in the false environment of the polytunnels producing the wishy washy flavours we get at home.

The sea has been fantastic, despite the abundance of floating rubbish. Crystal clear, every color of blue and turquoise and warm, beautifully warm. There were evenings when the wind had dropped and the sea was perfectly calm, when we swam it felt like we were gliding through silk.

Silky smooth waters.

Northern Mallorca was a revelation from the sea and from onshore, we loved it. We really got to grips with anchoring and had many fabulous nights in its stunning Calas. Our substantial anchor and meters of chain allowing us to anchor deeper than the crowds.

We have learnt about living on board and being at sea for days at a time, how to get quality sleep, provision efficiently and manage our water supplies. We have mastered and love our chart plotter and auto pilot. Rick is at one with his yacht and I can now run around with fenders, throw lines, tie knots and stand night watches. We are beginning to feel prepared for the bigger challenges to come.
Finally, we have learnt that you can’t trust the weather forecasts in this region, the forecasts have definitely been more wrong than right. Let’s hope their accuracy improves as we head out into the Atlantic. Next stop the Cannary Islands.

Taking the rough with the smooth

Well there is never a dull moment onboard Raya, our new life just keeps tumbling out oposing experiences some good, some not so good. One day we are fighting through a large swell and 50kt gusts, the next we are sitting listening to a mellow guitarist serenading our restaurant with the sun setting spectacularly in the back ground. One night we are woken in our anchorage by a swell so violent we have to jump from our beds to stop everything falling from the work surfaces, while tonight we are tied to the dock watching the world go by.

We left Sant Carles on Sunday afternoon for the twenty hour sail back to Mallorca, where Jonathan, Sheridan, Charlie and Daisy are joining us for a few days. All the forecasts promised us SW winds F4-5, easing to F3 as the night wore on, sea state slight to moderate. 

For the first two hours we found ourselves motor sailing, yet again, we had light winds not from the SW but from the SE – right on our nose, where was our wind we complained. Gradually the wind veered and grew, all was well, except for an increasing swell on our beam making the ride a little uncomfortable. We had become complacent with the easy sailing we have had for the past month or so. The contents of the galley lockers began to rattle, unstowed objects fell from shelves and both of us, not having taken seasick pills and having spent a week and a half land bound, began to feel queasy. 

Within an hour we were in rough seas, the wind was blowing a steady 30-40kts, that’s F7-8, with a couple of 50knt gusts thrown in for good measure. We had both the Genoa and Main sails deeply reefed as we sped along at around eight knots. A mayday rang out over the radio, two men overboard near Barcelona, we were glad of our centre cockpit and strong tethers. Raya as always just powered on through as if it was all in a day’s work. I on the other hand, of course, quickly became sick, the pills I took were too late to save me. But with only two of us onboard I was denied the luxury of crawling away to my bed and I stood my watches, holding on to the promise of decreasing winds later through the night. Well that turned out to be wrong too, the winds hardly dropped below 30kts all the way to Soller our landfall on Mallorca. Under calmer circumstances it would have been a nice passage, we had frequent visits from dolphins both in the evening and early morning, on one occasion a feeding pod, a couple of hundred meters away, were leaping high above the breaking waves in seeming delight. The moon shone bright until it set at two thirty and then the stars filled the sky, however, we were just pleased to see the sunrise and the sight of land on the horizon.

We anchored in our normal spot just clear of the main anchorage area in the Port of Soller and collapsed into our beds. With all the weather outside of the bay we were rolling a little, however it seemed calm after our previous few hours but somehow it didn’t help clear my queasiness. So we took the dingy into town for supper and to be on land for a while. Despite not feeling particularly hungry we managed a salad and some vital carbohydrate in the form of a plate of chips and we sat in the pleasant surroundings listening to a busker singing the familiar tones of old Eagles hits. We like Soller, it’s a pretty seaside town, with its hundreds of little boats and back drop of steep mountains, this was our third visit and we’ve enjoyed it more each time. 

We had tucked the boat as far under the cliffs as we dared to escape the swell, but as the night wore on it built and its direction changed, at five in the morning I was woken as my water bottle next to my bed fell on my head, last nights dishes rattled in the drainer and objects crashed about on the table. Time to move on and by six thirty we were back out in a choppy sea heading to our rendezvous with the Mckays.

Finally, we are still. We are tied up in Club Velo Marina in Puerto Adratx, the boat has been washed of the corrosive salt from its stormy night, my stomach is almost back to normal and we have had some well earned rest. Lessons have been learnt, but our faith in the weather forecasts has yet again been severely dented.

Escape to Barcelona

Sitting in Sant Carles last weekend it felt decidely like we were entering a new phase of our journey as we planned the details of our itinerary for the next few months, started to prepare for the ARC in November and to think about things we will need in the Pacific next year. The last six weeks have been great, a bit like, dare I say it (Penny and Stephen), an extended holiday, cruising with our friends around the Baleric islands. But in the next six weeks we have some serious organising and sailing to get through.

After a couple of days cleaning and sorting, Raya was taken out of the water on Monday. We are having the hull painted, three coats of anti-foul which we hope will get us through until we reach New Zealand in about a years time.

 We can live on board while she is out of the water but we have no drainage and little privacy as the guys from the boatyard work around us, so just to extend that holiday feeling a bit longer we have been in Barcelona for a couple of days. It became apparent soon after starting to write this blog that I would need to increase my stock of adjectives and this post as I attempt to describe Gaudi’s incredible buildings has brought on an adjective crisis.

The jewel in the crown is the Sagrada Familia, his magnificent cathedral. The outside is a chaotic tussle of religious symbolism and Art Deco style images from nature, with a sprinkling of fruit basket. It is one of those things in life that truely needs to be seen to be believed, photos really don’t do it justice. Started in 1883 by Gaudi it is still unfinished, so to add to the eclectic mix of the view, there are two cranes towering above it as they continue construction to Gaudi’s design.


We entered, expecting similar eccentricity on the interior. We walked through the huge doors carved with an intricate ivy pattern which was interspersed with insects crawling out from beneath the leaves, into the amazing interior. But inside it looks not eccentric but futuristic despite being designed over a hundred years ago. We stared in awe at the sleek columns, almost alien in style and scale, that fly up to the stunning ceiling. The sun glowed through the stain glass windows, no bible scenes here, the windows are filled with geometric pieces of multicolored glass, starting one side with reds and yellows gradually running to greens and blue. In fact to me it didn’t have the feel of a religious space, even with its beautiful alter and cathedral like proportions, it felt more like We were standing in a glorious work of art. 


That evening we had a very different but equally enjoyable moment when exploring around the Gothic Quarter, just minutes from our hotel. We walked into a small courtyard on the edge of Barcelona’s other, more traditional, Cathedral, to find a busker playing hauntingly on his Spanish guitar. The high walls that completely surrounded us seemed to enhance the acoustics and we sat on a wall seat captivated by the magical sound and the atmosphere it created.

We are now on the train back to Marina Sant Carles, with tired feet but culturally topped up, hoping that the work on the hull has gone well in our absence and we can put Raya back into the water tomorrow.

Never quite done

Our week in Palma has whizzed by and we have achieved most of what we wanted to do. I am discovering that on a boat not only does the jobs list never get shorter but there is rarely a clean tick in the completed column.

For example, we did a lot of cleaning, including both bathrooms which were scrubbed top to bottom, chemicals were flushed generously through all the systems but alas we still have, occasionally, a rather unpleasant odor lingering from somewhere.

Rick mended 2 of the 3 wobbly stantions, the screws to which are, like much of the things on a yacht, around a corner, under a panel, at the back of a cupboard and require a contortionist to reach them. The third one proved just too difficult and has been left for another time.

He also cleaned and blew through all the air conditioning units and now they are working, most of the time, sort of, when they want to. Also to keep us cool we have for the first time put up our large canvass awning, created with the idea of anchorages in the South Pacific in our heads but equally good in Palma. It has been great keeping the whole cockpit and a lot of below shaded and funnels the breeze through where it is needed. We haven’t quite got it as tensioned as it could be but it is 95% done.

We have had the freezer people here all week, the freezer being as temperamental as always working one minute, failing the next. They have run nitrogen through all of the pipes to remove air bubbles and moisture from the system and recharged it with gas. Looks good at the moment, could this be one completely completed tick, maybe, but I’m not convinced enough to refill it quite yet.

Also, rather annoyingly for such an upmarket Marina, the wifi they provide is so weak as to be unusable. I was banking on this week to catch up on some admin especially on the rental house in Southampton. So I have given in and bought a Spanish 4G sim for my IPad, however I am eating into my data limit rather quickly so must ration myself. It has been surprising, firstly how difficult getting good wifi has been and secondly how much I miss it. Not just for the essentials of email, weather forecasting and admin, I miss keeping up with my friends on Facebook, reading the BBC News website, looking up information about things and places we come across on our journey and of course publishing this blog.

The deck lockers, which were on my list to sort out, still remain in a jumble, only two thirds of the shopping list was acquired at the Chandlers and I have yet to do the big stock up at the supermarket, but hey, we did get the laundry done.

Oasis at Es Guix

It is always very pleasant when you find somewhere extra special by accident and today we did just that. 

We left early this morning to explore on land the mountainous landscape we had admired so much from the sea. The mountain roads  were as exciting as expected, with tight bends, precarious drops and magnificent views. Each turn brought a gasp as it revealed another huge mountain or deep valley. 


The road surface was really smooth and Rick was enjoying the drive despite being in a hired Korean hatchback, you could see him imagining the trip in one of his beloved Ferrari’s . We drove through olive groves, pine forests and picture perfect villages. The old houses, churches and monasteries were the color of the surrounding rock , a pale terracotta. I loved looking down on the roofs as we climbed above the villages a jumble of competing rectangles of different heights, angles and layers. 

Roof tops in Foredulx

This is perfect hiking and mountain bike territory and despite temperatures in the thirties, yet again today, we saw plenty of cyclists and walkers. We wondered at their stamina, just walking a few hundred yards on the steep slopes to take some photos, with the sun beating down, sent us pathetically scurrying back to our air conditioned car.

Around one we decided the trip deserved lunch with a view, although as we rejected one touristy place after another, our priorities changed to just lunch with a loo. As we were about to give up and except the Coca Cola advert bestrooned establishments we were passing, I spotted a sign pointing down a ravine, “Es Guix Restaurant, 600m”. The scruffy track downward looked unpromising but something about the sign had caught my eye. At the bottom we found a little piece of The Garden of Eden hidden in the dry rocky surroundings. A traditional terraced villa built on the steep slope of the cliff, covered in trees, shrubs and flowers with a natural spring-fed pool, no less, at its bottom. It was all rather surreal, we sat eating a delicious lunch wondering how on earth we had ever managed to stumble across such a magical place.


Not the Best View

Some days the view from the cockpit is less picturesque than others.


We are in Marina Port De Mallorca in Palma, moored right by the road entrance to the marina, the view might not be great but we are entertained by all the comings and goings. One of the first things I spotted was the frequent visits of little vans emblazoned with “British Laundry, we collect and return to your boat”. So the laundry has gone off to be sorted by somebody else, what decadence!

After Penny and Stephen left last Tuesday we went further north. Again enjoying the fantastic scenery but this time with the sails up, yes finally we had some wind. It was a great day, capped off by a night in Cala Gossalba. A gorgeous cove in the very northwest corner of Mallorca, it was surrounded by cliffs, had a small pebbly beach and could only be reached by sea, it was blissfully quiet.  

Evening light Cala Gossalba

The next day we sailed further around the coast to a large open bay with turquoise sea, Cala De Aguila. When we arrived the bay was relatively empty and the sandy beach long enough to absorb the crowds. However within a few hours the motor boats started to arrive. We sat in wonder as one guy put out a minimum of anchor chain, with music blaring his cargo of giggling girls swam and splashed, while he nonchalantly drifted, dragging his unsecured anchor amongst the crowd of boats, miraculously he didn’t hit anything. Ricks feelings about the place were not improved by the beach cafe ashore, it served decent food but accompanied it with loud disco music. That night the swell got up and we had a hot and uncomfortable night. 

We returned to Soller hoping to find calmer waters. Anchoring in our normal spot, in theory we should have been sheltered from the forecasted southwesterly swell but somehow it crept into our corner and we tossed around like a cork all night. The bay was full with boats avoiding the weather but even the Superyachts that had anchored around us looked uncomfortable. To top it all I had a bit of a cold (thanks Penny). Time to find a marina.

We spent Friday and Saturday at Club Velo Marina in Andratx. It was very relaxing and we enjoyed being still for a couple of days. We slept a lot, I think after three weeks, with only one night not at anchor, we needed the rest. As I have said before we love the freedom and relative privacy of being at anchor but you can never really switch off, always with one eye or ear to what is happening with the boat. Club Velo has a pool, a restaurant and a shop selling the Times, all very civilized. We swam, went into Puerto Andratx town browsing the shops and art galleries and in the evening cooked a Thai curry for Chris and Sarah who had just sailed in on their Oyster 56.

Sunday we sailed to Palma where we will be for a week. We are here to catch up on some boat maintenance, Rick has a long list of jobs to do and we hope its third time lucky at getting the freezer sorted. We have a few things to pick up from the Palma Oyster Office who have organized our berth at a good rate and sorted the freezer people to come, certainly living up to their reputation of good service. Hopefully there will be a good chandler and a large supermarket so we can restock. I, as always, have admin to do and we plan to hire a car and have a day exploring inland. Andy from the Stella Maris team is here and we hope to meet up with him and some more Oyster friends. A busy week to come, there will be hardly a moment to appreciate the view.

Soaring cliffs

Friday 17th July
The scenery along the northern coast of Mallorca is incredible, cliffs soar straight out of the water 300m into the air. The rock is a jumble of tilted layers, pocked cliff faces, huge dislodged slabs, holes and caves. They demonstrate every aspect of corrosion and would make a fabulous living geography lesson. The sea is crystal clear and an inky royal blue, pine trees line the deep valleys and grow on every possible ledge. We sail mouths open, completely agog at such splendor, cameras clicking.

We left Soller via the fuel dock. Penny and Stephen went into town for fresh bread and fruit, Rick and I slipped the lines at our berth and tied up for fuel. There was just a light breeze and no current but still, we congratulated ourselves on our slick docking. With so little wind over the last month, Raya has basically become a motor boat, we are using our fuel quickly but life especially at anchor is a bit cheaper than expected and we still seem to be on budget.

We were told the Cala De la Calobra, a few miles up the coast was not to be missed, so having topped up with fuel we motored north west. The bay was narrow, it’s sides towering cliffs, we searched for words to describe it, savagely beautiful, awe inspiring, dominating……… 

As we crept further in we were pleased to see that only three yachts were anchored but as we got closer we saw the beach was absolutely heaving with people.

Dramatic cliffs and crowded beach at Calobra

At the back of the cove there is a dramatic valley where a river winds its way down to the sea, there are caves to explore and a tunnel system that runs straight through the huge cliffs. It has become one of Mallorca’s must see tourist spots.

Please excuse my rant, but knowing the pebbly beach and its shallow area of shore is so small, the tour guides that bring the hordes by bus and pleasure boat are just taking advantage of them. We swam ashore there wasn’t an inch to move, the beach and swimming area were full of rubbish, it was not a pleasant place to be. Everyone was complaining, they obviously all felt well and truly exploited, the grandeur of the location just couldn’t be appreciated. Surely the tour operators should be limited on how many trips come each day and then be made to clear up the mess that is left behind!  

We moved on quickly and motored to Cala Foradada, an anchorage with no beach, no roads, no restaurant we anchored behind a jagged L-shaped cliff with a massive hole in its face, finally we had found a quiet spot. As the boats around us left in the normal evening exodus, for a moment we had the bay to ourselves. Unfortunately two other yachts arrived, but with just three boats around we had a peaceful night. 


Cala Foradada

Saturday morning we headed southwest towards Palma. As we rounding the top corner of Mallorca, slipping between the mainland and Isla Dragonera things began to get busier, we spent a night in Cala Llamp and called into Andraitx for supplies. As Penny and Stephen leave tomorrow we gave them the option of carrying on towards Palma or returning to the peace of the north. They voted to turn back so we are now re-anchored in Cala Foradada. 

We tried to do a bit of actual sailing yesterday, Penny and Stephen will be joining us for the Panama to Galapagos leg next year and they wanted to get some confidence with the sails, lines and furling systems on Raya, hopefully there won’t be much call for their new anchoring and motoring skills on our 900 nm passage. For a while the wind toyed with us at around 10kts. Being in no rush we let the wind dictate our journey. They did manage a bit of time each at the helm and a few tacks but the presence of the breeze was brief and soon we were wallowing with sails flapping and we were back motor sailing.  

It is Monday morning, all is quiet except for the bleating of a family of goats in the hills above us – they obviously haven’t read the early morning peacefulness guide. We had a steamy night and this morning the wind gauge actually reads zero, still it does mean we don’t need to find sheltered anchorages, life is hot but relaxed. 

Night sail to Soller

Thursday 16th July 
We had a lovely night sail to Mallorca Tuesday night. We had left Cala Salona for the other side of Formentera where reportedly there was a supermarket close to the anchorage at Cala Pujols. We entered another beautiful bay with again turquoise sea and dramatic cliffs, these full of caves and nooks and crannies. 

We headed for shore to get some lunch and stock up the cupboards, we spotted a rough stone jetty to the west of the main beach, keen not to have to park the dingy on the beach we diverted and tied up. Above, was what looked at first sight to be just another beach cafe but turned out to be a delightful, if a trifle expensive restaurant – Chez Gerdi. The meal started with a complimentary glass of Cava and a small portion of gazpacho, as we perused the menu the discussion turned to putting off our night sail and enjoying a long boozy lunch and an afternoon snooze. It is such a privilege to have such freedom – “it’s nice here let’s stay”. As it turned out we had a long but unboozy lunch, got to the supermarket, Penny satisfied her shopping itch in the local boutiques and with the anchorage again filling with yachts we decided to set sail, leaving just an hour later than planned.
It was Stephens first night sail and the first for many years for Penny, they couldn’t have asked for a more enchanting night. An hour after leaving we were treated to a magnificent sunset, the sky was full of wispy clouds that reflected amazing colors long after the sun had disappeared. 

Sun setting behind Ibiza

And, we were actually sailing for the first time in days, squeezing 5-6kts out of the 11kts of wind. 

As darkness fell, being a moonless night, the stars were spectacular. We managed to sail for nearly six hours but gradually the wind died and we were forced to turn the motor on again. The wind was on the beam and the sea calm, so we had little heal and the ride was smooth. During our watches there was enough traffic to keep us interested and awake and the boys on watch at 6am were treated to the sun rising above the cliffs of Mallorca. Penny and I had dolphins swimming at our bow, one turned his head and looked us straight in the eye, we both agreed he’d come to say hello.

We are now in Puerto Soller on the north coast of Mallorca, when we arrived yesterday we were keen to get tied up to a dock for the night, to fill with water, dump rubbish, get some wifi etc. etc. and we needed to top up with fuel. The marina was full but we managed to reserve a berth for the next night. The area outside the marina was crowded so we tucked ourselves under the cliffs in a protected corner and anchored in 20m just out of the bay, where we had space to ourselves. It is all very pretty and as Penny commented “not a bad place to queue for petrol”.

While we ate supper we were joined by another Oyster, who promptly turned on all his deck and spreader lights. We decided to join the party and switched on ours, as it turned out it was entirely appropriate. Our guide book tells us that the 15th July is the day for the local festival of the Virgin de Carmen. The Bay was surrounded by torch lights, fireworks were lit and a small water borne procession carrying the Madonna a blaze with light, bizarrely they past us just a few feet from our stern, our brightly lit mast greeting them.

Puerto Soller is a nice little town with all the facilities we need, so once stern to on our berth we set about our tasks for the day. It is so hot and so much more humid here that even the smallest effort makes us drip with sweat, so we work slowly. We miss being at anchor and being able to cool off in the sea but it is much easier to lug the shopping and laundry on and off the boat while tied up.

In the evening we took the tram five miles inland to the old village of Soller to explore and find supper. The area was once a wealthy and thriving orange and lemon exporting port and we travel up the valley passing obviously once grand villas and acres of citrus groves. The village itself had a gentle feel to it, the normal narrow streets and a typical overly large church, all built of mellow colored stone. We ate in a charming courtyard garden behind a small hotel, and decided this was a good introduction to Mallorca.

The tram to Soller Village

First Circumnavigation 

The past week has been spent circumnavigating Ibiza, sailing from one cala (cove) to another. They really are beautiful it’s just a shame that at the head of each one the beach areas are so built up. Sitting in our cockpit if you look one way there is just blue sea, dramatic cliffs and tree covered hills.

In the other direction are hotels, some high rise others more tasteful, beach bars, restaurants and people, so many people. Every inch of beach is covered in sun beds and sunshades, the buoyed off swimming area is full of swimmers and the restaurants are buzzing. Around us speed boats whiz by pulling kids on floating toys or water skiers, leisure boats come in and out ferrying people on glass bottom boat trips, trips to the next bay, trips out to the islands and then, there are the pedal boats. In what circumstances did someone sit down and actually think – I know what the world needs, a pedal boat shaped like a car with a slide on top?

We could really do with going into the marina for a day or two but the prices here are bonkers. The lowest quote for a night we have had is €300 plus water and electricity, three hundred Euros to tie up to a floating piece of wood and use their loos, I think there is a bit of a mismatch in supply and demand. To put that in context I think the very highest fees in the UK are about £70 a day and the main Marina in Palma has just quoted us €120.

So we are at anchor. It’s amazing, day to day, how little we notice the essentials we rely on. That is until you don’t have them, long term anchoring does bring with it a few practical problems.

Water, we can make our own fresh water from sea water to drink, shower, wash up, clean the decks, do the laundry etc etc., and with just two of us onboard we seem to have plenty.

Food, we are using the dingy to go ashore for essentials at the small resort supermarkets, using our stored supplies and are justifying eating out more often than planned, by the fact that anchoring is free.

Rubbish, which builds up surprisingly quickly, despite it being just the two of us, we are taking ashore and using the local bins. This is something we need to think about for the Atlantic crossing, food waste and glass can go into the sea but plastic and similar waste will have to be stored somewhere.

Toilets, we try and use the toilets ashore when possible, we have holding tanks so we can use the toilets onboard until they are full when we either have to sail offshore far enough to empty them or call into a marina to have them pumped out.

Internet, we have a satellite connection, but it is slow and expensive, we use it to download emails to the boat address and grib files ( a type of weather report ), but for anything else we have to take our tech ashore and find a bar that has wifi that we can use. Not so brilliant for blog writing!

Crew changes, Matt and Robyn we put ashore at one of the east coast resorts,  dropping them and their bags at a rickety few sticks on the rocks that we managed to tie the dingy too. Yesterday we had to pull the dingy up on to the beach, obviously not far enough, while ashore the sea got rougher and when we returned it was full of water. Penny and Stephen arrive tomorrow so we are sailing to San Antonio today to try and find a better solution to get them and their bags onboard.

Routine maintenance, there is always something not working on a boat, people joke that cruising is boat maintenance in exotic places.

Yesterday Rick spent a few hours trying to get to the bottom of the problem of our unreliable air conditioning. This would have been much easier had the boat not been rocking and rolling every time a another boat came past, although being at anchor did mean he could dive under the boat to clean the water intakes.

In the anchorage around us there are boats of every shape and size. Some are small yachts, and actually not so small yachts, that I’m sure would love to have watermakers and salitalite coms and others are huge super yachts that have a full staff and no doubt all the amenities of a large hotel. Raya is designed for long term cruising, there is nothing we are desperate for, we are living very comfortably and we love the relaxed nature of being at anchor, I suspect however we will be looking forward to a few nights tied to a pontoon by the time we reach Mallorca.

Finally Arrived in Ibiza

Sunday 5th July
We have finally arrived in the Ibiza.


The spectacular coast of NW Ibiza

And immeadatly we feel that this is much more like it, much more the Mediterranean we had imagined. Although, I have to admit to writing this at near midnight sitting on deck on anchor watch. We are anchored in an idyllic small cove surrounded by steep rocky cliffs, however, this evening, from nowhere a strong wind has got up. Luckily we are here alone as not many boats have enough anchor chain to anchor in the 25m of depth we have at this spot. So at least it is only our anchor and the cliffs I need worry about. So far things seem to be holding fast.

I am constantly surprised by how changeable the weather conditions are and how badly the weather forecasts predict things. We left Saturday morning having waved Rachael off on the Alicante Airport shuttle bus from Torrovieja the night before. The conditions and forecast was for F4 winds with a 1m swell the wind direction was not great but it was time to get away from the mainland and we prepared ourselves mentally for a slow slog. Within a couple of hours the wind was up to 30kts with a large swell breaking over the bows. We were managing to sail quite fast with reefed main, the staysail and a bit of engine to keep us as high to the wind as possible but were sailing more North than was ideal. By late afternoon we were all feeling quite tired and I was stealing myself to go below and heat through the Rissoto I had prepared for supper. We are still taking seasickness pills for long or rough passages but I think we have pretty much found our sea legs. A huge relief for me having been sea sick all my life  and with my less than auspicious start across Biscay. So it wasn’t the problem of queasiness bothering me as much as managing to move about below and keep hot pans safe.

One benifit of our northerly direction was that we had pretty much followed the coastline and looking at the chart we saw that we could dive behind Punta de la Escaleta that would hopefully give us a bit of protection from the wind and swell and drop the anchor. This would give us time to rest and allow us to eat without deviating from our course too far. The long beach here is Playa de Benidorm and as we came in closer it revealed itself, through the haze, in all its “splendor”. Dozen upon dozen of tall sky scrapers built amongst the rocky headlands with the high hills behind, it looked rather like a set of a Scifi movie.


The less spetacular coat of Benidorm

The stop was a good move, an hour or so later the four of us felt revived and ready for the rough night ahead. As we motored around the headland Rick noticed that the white horses out to sea looked a lot less and sure enough the wind had reduced, by the time I finished my watch at midnight we were motor sailing in a gentle breeze in almost flat seas. With only the odd tanker to contend with, as we passed through the outfall of the traffic separation system off Cabo de Nao, I enjoyed my watch. Although it did take a few minutes of worry to work out that the light to starboard was not a giant tanker but in fact the moon rising. 

With Matt to help with watches, the night passed quickly and we all got some sleep, when I came on deck to relieve him at 6am the lights and islands of Ibiza were clearly visible.

We took a look at the marina at San Antonio but decided that we could do without another day surrounded by boats and apartment blocks and went just a few miles up the island to Cala Salada, where I sit now. 

We have spent the day swimming and resting, watching the goings on of the other boats including the super yacht anchored next to us. Our nephew Jason who is holidaying in one of the resorts nearby came with a couple of friends to the bay and Matt picked them up in our dingy for a look around Raya. For supper we went back into the bay to eat at the small restaurant.

At one point the afternoon swimming came to an abrupt halt, when Matt took this selfie. My son is mad, we have just identified it as a mature Pelagia Noctiluca, a glow in the dark jelly fish that can give a very painful sting which leaves a mark on the skin. Luckily this one seems to have been asleep!


Sailing Where the Wind Takes Us

Matt arrived in Almerimar with a tummy bug, looking rather grey and weak from his journey, then not to be out done Rachael woke the next morning feeling just as bad. So with Robyn only having been on the boat once before and my two sick, it was just as well we had planned a “settling in sail” for their first day. We headed to an anchorage just 30 nm away, tucked inside Cabo de Gata. Rachael spent the first hour or so below decks and when she came up to the cockpit and saw the view, the blueness of the sea and the sky, her smile was a picture and I sighed in relief, both were on the mend. 

It was an extremely hot afternoon, with little wind and we all relished the cooling water, the sea temperature has risen six degrees since we left Gibralta now reading 25 but still raising a yelp as we dive off the boat. Rach, Matt and I swam over to the cliffs and snorkeled around the rocky shore, I was pleased to see that there were a surprisingly large number of fish, last time I was in the Med there hardly seemed to be a fish in sight. I love swimming off the boat, Rachael had asked me earlier in the day what was the best and worse things about our new life and diving into clear blue seas has got to be one of my favorite best things, however as I searched for another snorkel, I realized that one of the things I hate is the cupboards, lockers etc having to be so full and well packed, every time you want anything you have to empty them first!

The day ended with us being treated to a magnificent sunset.


Monday morning, everyone was feeling much better and up for the day and a half crossing to Ibiza, the wind was strong enough at 12 knots to sail but was right on the nose, so back on came the motor. It was a nice day however with the breeze tempering the heat of the sun and dolphins around to keep us entertained, we motored on for four hours but the going was very slow. 


Team Raya went into conference, no flights were booked yet, the Costa Brava Pilot (sailing guide book) indicated that there were some nice anchorages to the northwest of us, the Port of Cartagena with its vast history lay further north and there was an easy flight for Rach from Alicante on Friday night. We turned west and went where the wind was blowing us and finally got the sails full. We had a fantastic two hour sail and anchored for the night at Cala Bardina, a pretty bay well protected from the NE winds by the 244m high headland of Mt Cope.

The next day again with the wind blowing directly at us we motor sailed for five hours to reach Cartagena. We had one anxious moment as we fell foul of an extremely aggressive fishing trawler. Having taken a wide turn to keep clear of him, we thought we were well past any trouble, but I guess his fish finder indicated a new shoal right where we were, as he suddenly started coming up behind us at about fifteen knots. Even on full throttle we can’t do much more than eight knots we tried to turn away but he came very, very close indeed. 

Half an hour later we entered the bay outside Cartagena, we were surrounded by steep barren hills, a huge refinery, anchored tankers and sparcely spaced industry. Our chart plotter indicated that we were heading for the entrance of Peuto de Cartagena, but not until the last minute did the entrance reveal itself. The town has proved to be much the same, real gems of antiquity and great modern architecture, sitting hidden amongst ugly buildings and derelict areas. There is hardly any other tourist around, unfortunate for the city I guess but a refreshing change for us after the past weeks sailing up the crowded Costa del Sol.

The Roman theatre was the highlight, it had been rediscovered when a slum section of the city was being demolished in the 1960’s. The Ministry of Culture has done a great job of reconstructing some areas using pieces of the original material intermingled with new sections, to create an idea of what some areas of it would have looked like, but cleverly showing where the old ends and the new begins. Not an easy job, as in about the 13th century many of the marble blocks and columns were broken up and turned on their side to create the foundations of new building works.


Hot and tired we were drawn to the dark cool interior of a nearby bar, the kids recognized the name – La Catedral from their research, as one of the best restaurants in town and so it proved, we stayed for a fantastic lunch.

NOTE TO SELF – if you want to continue to fit into your clothes, you can’t eat and drink like you are on holiday for the whole of the next few years!

All or Nothing

We have spent the past few days sailing up the coast of the Costa del Sol. The few hundred metre strip that lies between the sea and the steep craggy hills inland, is shockingly built up. Apartment block, after apartment block after apartment block, interspersed with huge holiday home complexes and stark fronted hotels follow the coastline for miles and miles. Rick and I sit wondering where all the people come from to fill such an abundance of accommodation. There did look to be an incredible coast road to bring all the crowds, we have glimpsed it frequently for almost the whole of the three days sailing, winding its way through the hills and across the valleys on a string of high bridges.

Huge bridges spanned the valleys all the way up the coast, such as here just west of Herradura.

The back drop may have been unchanging but the weather and sailing conditions have not, as everybody has told us the wind here appears to be all or nothing. 

We left Duquesa on Tuesday having said goodbye to Phil and Julia and thanked Kieth and Dianne for a fantastic evening in there beautiful villa, grateful that we seemed to have a bit of wind at last. As soon as we left the marina we realized that we had in fact more than just a bit of wind, it was almost directly behind us, so we flew just the Genoa and the boat sailed along happily at about seven knots. The swell was however right on the beam (side of the boat) so we were  rocking and rolling quite vigorously from side to side, preparation of lunch was a bit harder than normal, luckily Diane had given us the left overs from the BBQ the night before and so I could just pop a sausage in a roll with some HP sauce, job done.

As the afternoon progressed the winds built until we were well reefed in F6-7 we spotted one gust of 60kts, the swell increased as well with one wave actually crashing over the rear quarter into the cockpit. Needless to say we were happy to arrive and tie up at Puerto Feungirola.The wind continued to howl through the night and the forecast for the next day was for much of the same so we holed up and spent the day catching up on the myriad jobs that have built up over the last couple of weeks including giving the dingy some much needed love and attention.

What a difference a day makes, we left early on Wednesday morning heading to an anchorage in the bay at Herradura. There was absolutely no wind and a thick mist came down, hanging heavily in the air, it was quite surreal motoring through a completely still and silent sea, surrounded by nothingness. We were both struggling to keep watch, our eyes straining to find something in the whiteness, grateful again for the AIS system and with our main sail up, not in the hope of it driving us forward, but to make us more visible. We were compensated by the arrival of a huge pod of dolphins, our path took us right through the middle of them, there were dolphins everywhere. 


Dolphin swimming beside the boat.

As we arrived at Herradura the mist cleared and we dropped our anchor at the quiet end of the bay about 300m off the beach. Unfortunately in the time it took for me to swim into the beach and back, we seemed to have put a sign up saying “anchor here”, two boats full of noisy day trippers had anchored within a few metres of us. Rather annoying when they had a square mile of bay to find a space in, finally they left around eight and we had a tranquil night .

We woke to another day of zero winds but thankfully the mist didn’t reappear and we had quite a magical sail, well motor. The sea was dead flat and appeared almost like oil as it reflected the sun, we hardly spotted another vessel for the whole of the six hours, it was as if we had the coast to ourselves, with just the dolphins for company. Again we saw dozens of them, including a mother and calf that swam in our bow wave for a few minutes just under my feet! The landscape had become even more hilly and quite dramatic in places. The buildings had thinned out but been replaced with equally ugly acres of plastic, forming giant polytunnels that meet the demand for fruit and vegetables by the supermarkets of Northern Europe.


Acres of polytunnels

We are now moored up in Almerimar a rather strange place, a huge but friendly marina that looks like it was built with a whole new town around it. The building looks complete but only half the accommodation is filled, I guess that it may be one of the casualties of the Spanish recession.

Matt, Robyn and Rachael have just arrived (unfortunately Hugo has just started a new job and was unable to join us) and we are planning to head towards Ibiza over the next couple of days.

Passing the time in Lagos

Where to next?


The World may be our Oyster, but our Oyster has a deep draft, so some of the more shallow marinas and anchorages are off limits. Added to that we are trying to work out the best places for our friends and family to join us over the next couple of weeks, carefull planning is required.

We have been kicking our heals in Lagos, waiting for an engineer to look at our freezer. It died on us almost as soon as we left Southampton and typically as soon as he arrived, we switched it on and it began to work perfectly. The problem now is whether, having lost all its contents once, to risk refilling it or not.

To pass the time we have been enjoying the great beaches, swimming and walking. I was surprised to spot all these common plants we attempt to grow in our moist, fertile soil, growing wild in the sand dunes. It certainly makes you wonder why we spend a fortune on compost and fertiliser!?


Cascais to Lagos

We never really settled in Cascais and never got agreement on quite how to pronounce it. We felt a bit ripped off by the high marina fees, almost double everywhere else we have been so far, for the least appealing spot we have had. Our berth was right under the high marina wall, next to that area of water that all marinas seem to have, where all the rubbish and scum collects. The showers were not great either, I’m rapidly becoming an expert at what features make a marina shower good and having to press a knob to get the water to run, that turns off every 30 seconds, is definitely not one of them. And last but not least the free wifi was so weak it was almost unusable.

The town and bay were very pretty but very much a holiday town full of cheap Kiss Me Quick souvenir shops, restaurants tempting you in with pictures of the food – never a sign of high gourmet standards I find – and at the weekend it was full to bursting with day trippers from Lisbon.

But enough moaning, with a bit of effort we did find some fantastic food, Italian on a secluded roof terrace, bizarrely one of the best Indian meals we have had for a long time and we spent a very pleasant evening in the wonderfully named Douche Bar, discovered and thoroughly researched by Brad and Duncan, where we ate amongst other things fantastic grilled sardines. The hilly streets were paved in mosaic, as is common in Portugal, but many of the lanes were laid in wavy black and white patterns that were fun to look at but slightly disconcerting to walk over, especially after a couple of bottles of Portugal’s finest. There were three very nice beaches to explore, we did have a paddle and ate ice-cream but the water needed to be quite a few degrees warmer to tempt us in for a swim.

After Brad and Duncan left us we considered moving out into the bay and anchoring for a day or two, but those pesky north winds were still plaguing us and often reached F6-7 in the evening. We decided with our first night sail with just the two of us planned for the next day, a night checking our anchor was holding, was probably not the most restful way to prepare.

The crux of our passage plan was to round the headland – Cabo de Sao Vicente in the morning when the winds would be at there lightness, which meant leaving at about 2pm. I cooked a chorizo, potato and pea stew an easy dish to reheat for our supper, Rick filled our water tanks and we cast off. We were surprised by the chill of the north wind and were quickly back wearing three or four layers. The sea quickly built as we travelled further offshore but the wind was slightly lighter than we were use to and it took us a while to set the sails so they were comfortable. We ended up with the main slightly reefed, out wide on a preventer line and the Genoa full on the other side, with wind directly behind us, we goose winged down the Portugueese Coast for about twelve hours. The AIS told us there were plenty of boats about, but only a couple of fishing boats and one tanker came into view. We had a 72ft yacht sailing the same route as us, he was about five nautical miles behind when we first spotted it on the screen and  to ‘this is not a race’ Smith’s delight didn’t manage to catch us, in fact if anything we pulled ahead. We had a bright full moon and during his early morning watch Rick was honoured with a performance from a dolphin somersaulting out of the water, framed perfectly in the shimmering moonlight.

We didn’t do a very good job at getting much sleep. With someone always needing to be awake we opted for a three hour watch system. When I was on watch Rick tried to get some sleep in the salon so he was within easy reach if I needed him and I conscious of the fact that he wasn’t getting much sleep felt I needed to cut short my off watch periods to support him, I think we only managed about two hours each. Room for improvement but everything we do at present is such a steep learning curve and everything needs time to be worked out.

I have read many a time how turning the corner at San Vicente is a a real milestone and that everything becomes easier but we weren’t quite prepared for the dramaticness of this change. One minute we are fully reefed with 3m swells and white horses, just half an hour later we had calm blue sea and as the dawn turned into the morning the temperature rose steadily. Of course we paid for this by a drop in the wind and eventually had to put the engine on but to be honest we were more than ready for a bit of easy motor sailing.

On the chart the entrance to the river that runs up to Lagos marina is marked at 2m, the navigation app on my iPad tells me low tide is at 9.37am with just an extra 0.7m, a bit close for our 2.4m draft. We had estimated our arrival at about noon when the higher tide would gives us plenty of depth, but our fast progress down the Portugueese Atlantic Coast meant we were arriving at 10.30, we squeaked in with just a metre to spare under our keel.

We tied up as instructed at the welcome pontoon, only to discover a familiar face smiling at us, our friends Chris and Barry have been holidaying in Lagos for the past week and following us on Boat Beacon saw us approach, Barry cycled down to meet us. A lovely surprise and after the arrival beer and a catch up snooze we joined them for an enjoyable dinner at the Carribean beach bar a ten minutes walk away, (we must really try to fine some Portugueese food somewhere!).

The marina, it turned out, had no visitor berths large enough for us available and so we remain on the welcome pontoon. To be honest it’s rather pleasant, watching the comings and goings of the river and the people walking along the busy street on its opposite bank. The breeze is blowing into the cockpit helping with the temperatures that are in the high twenties and we are spending the day catching our breath.

Cleaning the Hull

It has been brought to my attention that in the last post rather than ‘we’ washed the last of the Southampton grime from the hull it should read ‘Duncan despite the heat, unstable platform and meagre support from other members of the crew, boldly scrubbed the hull for hours to remove’ the last of the Southampton grime from the hull. I take sole responsibility for the contents of this blog and sincerely apologise for any inconvenience or distress my mistake may have caused. 

Adapting to Change

I woke late this morning having slept for nearly eleven hours, I felt drugged, my head was thick and my limbs were heavy. As the morning progressed I gradually felt worse, everything from my toes to my eyes ached. We had sailed yesterday, a pleasant, breezy, sunny sail with Andy and his charming young family, but this was much more than tired muscles. The centre of my pain was the top of my left arm and across my shoulder, it slowly dawned on me that I am reacting to the yellow fever jab I had last Tuesday. Rick seems okay but we were told any reaction would occur between 3 and 10 days, so fingers crossed he is going to be OK.

Unusually for me I have taken to my bed and I am writing this after another two hour snooze. There are jobs needing to be completed of course, the decks are coated with a lovely mixture of salt and Southampton dust, the sail we dropped into the forward cabin yesterday remains as if a cloud has exploded on the berth but wiil take the two of us to flake and put it away and there are the scheduled spares list to be researched. But I just don’t have the energy. So I am sitting here watching people’s legs pass by the cabin window just feet from our bed and my head, reflecting on how well we have coped with the dramatic change we have undertaken in our lives.

The fact that I am relatively calm about this reduction in privacy is a good example of how well we seemed to be adapting. One of the attractions of our Oyster was the amount of light we have below flooding through our large windows, this does mean however, in the marina, that as people walk past on the dock they seem very close to us. If we are on deck we, and everyone else for that matter, are open to scrutiny. Then there’s all the trades men we have had crawling around the boat, everything they need to get at seem to be under our bed or behind our wardrobe, the phrase ‘airing our dirty linen’ often comes to mind and last but not least there is of course the delight of marina toilets and showers. But it is all part of living on a boat and I have surprised myself with how easily I have accepted it.

Against all initial evidence we have also been gradually managing to cut down on and fit all our belongings into the available space and it seems to have been relatively easy to give our possessions up. Rick, some may be surprised to hear, seems to have set himself the target of living in just three pairs of trousers/shorts and four tops, his wardrobe of designer clothes have been stored away. I gave my lovely Rolex to a friend last week for safe keeping, having already lost a previous version in a tussle with a mooring buoy to the Carribean sea a few years ago and mindful of some of the very poor communities we will be visiting in didn’t seem appropriate attire.

Additionally, we are beginning to cook “proper” food in the galley, ours maybe large for a yacht but is small compared to our kitchen at Ongley and has taken a while to get use to. But I have got on top of cooking with gas and become more organised to cope with the reduction in space. It has now become natural to pump out the sinks after use, to hand wash dishes and use minimal water.

Part of our success with processing this change is that we have been so busy working towards the end result that we haven’t had time to linger on these things. In fact I’m still not sure we quite yet realise what we have done, we are still psychologically, just on holiday.

Yellow Fever update – I am beginning to feel better, Rick a crumpled heap in bed!!!

Looking outwards

The sun is shining but it is still chilly on the river in the NE wind, I keep reminding myself that soon we will be escaping to perpetual summer as we sail first to the Med, then the Carribean and on to the South Pacific.

This morning, as we drove out on errands I noticed that spring had arrived, people’s gardens were full of daffs and trees were beginning to blossom. My mind has been so focussed inwards on the boat, I had missed its coming. As a gardener spring is usually the most exciting time of the year and that it hadn’t crossed my mind, has taken me rather by surprise. So I have put on another layer and am writing this in the slight shelter of the coach roof and looking outwards.

This part of the Itchen river is very industrial, so there are not many signs of spring here, however there are plenty of things to see if I you look. There is the constant buzz and activity of small ribs passing by, the odd yacht braving the cold and the sound of a sander as an industrious owner readies his boat for the summer up on the hard. There are dozens of swans on the mud flats newly exposed on the outgoing tide, a cormorant is diving for its lunch and hundreds of seagulls everywhere.

Watching the seagulls is fascinating, the pontoon we are tied up to is made of concrete and  always full of empty cracked muscle shells, this puzzled us for a while, until we saw its ingenious cause. The gulls tussle with the muscles that live on all available surfaces just below the tide line, once they have wrenched one free they fly over to our pontoon, hover about twenty feet up and drop the muscle onto the concrete. With the shell now smashed open they can feed on the flesh inside – clever birds.

Raya has really come together over the last week or so, the salon is now back in one piece, the new electronics are almost finished with the Iridium satellite dome going on as I write and the heating and plumbing are all funtioning. The two fore sails are up and rigged, the main sail has been altered and will be bent on again, as soon as the wind drops and the deck, that was sanded and recauked in the shed during the winter, is having the last few areas finished off. We now have an operating wifi network, so we have internet access and all our devices are linked up and hopefully this afternoon if I can motivate myself to leave this sunny spot we will have a connected printer. And that will mean, I will be able to finish off the accounts this evening, oh joy!

First night 

I have spent my first night aboard Raya. She is not really ready, when I arrived with a car load of our belongings last Friday I had to thread my way past the two guys beavering away in the salon, all of theirs and Rick’s tools, a couple of ceiling panels and holes in the floor. The forward cabin has become a disorganised storeroom, we have no means of cooking and the heating is still not working, but we have decided we can cope and next Wednesday we move on permanently!

We spent the day Friday moving two thirds of the contents out of Ongley and into two storage units. The removals guys were so quick and efficient that it was quite a challenge to keep everything organised for its correct destination. We watched in wonder as all our possessions miraculously squashed up into such a small space and both felt a bit odd as our life flashed before our eyes as it was all carried across the lawn.

With everything successfully packed away we returned to Shamrock Quay exhausted – to a very chilly boat. But we have very comfortable new mattresses and silky new fitted sheets, we had bought down our thick winter duvets and a warm furry blanket. Dressed in thermal vests and pyjamas, bed socks and hats we snuggled, giggling like a pair of kids playing camp, under the covers and fell almost immediately sound asleep.

Unfortunately I’m not a great sleeper at the best of times and within a couple of hours I was awake and the strangeness of my new environment kept me that way for most of the night. Boats aren’t quiet places, each has its own symphony of sounds that you gradually get use to as they accompany you through the night. So instead of hooting owls and screeching foxes, I had the tide sloshing against the hull and in place of the sound of the wind rustling through the trees, it was blowing through the rigging and rattling, the not yet connected, Davit drops.

Far too cold to emerge from our warm bed, I lay contemplating my new life. It had struck me during the day that my life is suddenly only accessible by punching a code into a keypad. The storage facility lies behind huge security gates that are accessed, both in and out, by entering a code into a keypad, each individual storage unit can only be opened once you’ve punched in a code to a keypad. Raya lies on a pontoon behind the marina gates again only accessed by punching a code into a keypad, even the marina shower block has its own code and keypad.

There is one difference with Raya however, she might be behind a security fence on one side but on the other side is the River Itchen, the sea and then the rest of the world and that, of course, is the whole point.

This is the Year

Happy New Year.

2015 the year our adventure begins.

All we need is for the house sale to finally go through, our stuff to be stored safely, the student house purchase to come together, Raya’s refit to be completed and our preparations to be finished.

Big breaths, fingers crossed.