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!