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.