Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Day 4 and Maunie's first catch

A little additional news from today for you – at lunchtime Fergus announced that he thought it was time to go fishing so he attached a green plastic squid lure to the new line, purchased in Las Palmas and loaded onto the sea-fishing reel mounted on Maunie's aft rail. Between us, what we know about ocean fishing could be written on a matchbox so there was not much confidence of a result, it must be said.
35 minutes later, though, the reel started screaming so we wound in the 150m line to land a beautiful 4lb Dorado. A shot of cheap vodka into its gills finished it off in a humane way and Fergus 'Robson Green' McDonald gutted and filleted it very expertly. So we're looking forward to our fish supper.
From now on blog entries won't have as many photos, due to limits on sat phone data for each month, but we'll try to add a few special ones as we go. We'll still aim to update the blog with a story each day.

Day 4: A sample of on-board life

Hi from us all on Maunie. Life aboard is settling down (though the boat continues to sail straight or level!). We're making steady progress though the wind in just a bit too much for the Parasailor and not quite enough for really good speed under the foresail. Winnie the Windpilot continues to work brilliantly so the on-watch crew can keep an eye on her but not be chained to the wheel for hours at a time.
Rich – whose susceptibility to sea sickness is legendary – is now feeling good and enjoyed his night watch.  He looks a little rough but assures us he'll have a shave soon!
Fergus has been doing some Extreme Washing so has a clothes line rigged on the foredeck; look out for photos of Extreme Ironing in future blogs. Aside from this he's our nominated rig expert so does a daily check of all the wires, ropes and shackles; this morning he found the snap-shackle at the bottom of the yankee had popped open so we rectified this safely but it illustrated the importance of these daily rig inspections.
Di has been doing sterling work around the boat – she had quite a lively watch last night when some rain squalls arrived so Graham was on hand to help gybe the boat (alter course to bring the foresail onto the opposite side) to get a better direction and speed.
The skipper is fiddling with water-maker and generator to ensure we don't run out of electrical power and to provide water for luxury showers. Last night he cooked a roast chicken dinner, with new potatoes and green beans. We all had to balance our plate to prevent spillage but it was very much enjoyed and it was a nice bit of normality in a slightly surreal world to be able to sit together at the dining table.
As we write the sun is out and we are trundling along at nearly 7 knots. Our best 24-hour run is 160 miles so we're keen to beat this – we want to arrive in Saint Lucia before the faster boats drink all the rum!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Day 3 and the Parasailor adds entertainment

All well aboard Maunie, we are pleased to report. Yesterday afternoon the Force 6s began to ease so we launched the Parasailor spinnaker – the first time a moment of inattention from the skipper at the wheel resulted in a perfect 'wine glass' knot so we sorted this and relaunched for an hour or so before dusk when the photo was taken.
Last night was a lot less rolly so we all managed some off-watch sleep after a good evening meal and feel a lot more with-it today! The generator has been running for 3 hours to recharge batteries and to allow us to put the breadmaker into action – the first Atlantic Loaf looks pretty good! Meanwhile we flew the Parasailor again for a couple of hours but lots of clouds kept bringing extra gusts of wind under them so we took it down before it became too emotional to keep sailing with such a huge sail!
Life on board is beginning to fall into a good routine. Rich, Dianne and Fergus are on a 3-watch system so they each run the boat single-handed for 3 hours at night and 4 in the day. Graham floats between watches and is the first to be called on deck if a sail change is required; he also runs the 16.00-20.00 watch so that the normal watchkeeper becomes 'mother' to clean the boat and cook the evening meal. During the day there is usually a couple of us on deck and there are daily jobs to be done – running the generator and watermaker, downloading weather information (and emails) from the sat phone and taking part in the daily SSB Radio 'Net' where boats equipped with these long-range radios share their positions and weather conditions and any other tips or news.
The weather isn't exactly wall-to-wall sunshine at the moment – lots of clouds – but when the sky does clear at night the full moon is absolutely stunning. We're still on a strategy of making some distance southwards as well as west as there is a low pressure system developing in mid-Atlantic which may just give us a patch of no wind if we get too close to it. For the moment, though we have excellent sailing conditions and Maunie is doing well; you'll be able to see our position on the Fleet Viewer on the ARC website (we can't view it due to data limitations).
Best wishes from us all

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

ARC Day 2, Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

We've decided that although we left the Las Palmas marina to the sound of the 'Yeo Valley Naturally' song on the stereo, we should change Maunie's tune to the 'Theme from Rawhide' as we're certainly Rolling, Rolling, Rolling now!
The 11.00am start was quite a spectacle, with 200 yachts jostling for position for a good start; some jostling more competitively than others, it must be said, with 2 boats incurring a 3-hour time penalty for being over the line before the gun. We got a good start and were soon charging south with boats all around us. Big rain squalls brought 30 knot gusts so we reefed down (reduced the sail area) and then dropped the mainsail to sail through the night with just the yankee (foresail) up, a safe and still-fast rig. We've been averaging close to 7 knots and are currently (10.00am) about 75 miles due south of La Gomera, heading slightly south of due west.
Conditions were pretty tough on board with Force 6-7 winds behind us and a 3 metre swell so Maunie has been sleigh-riding down the waves. Getting any sleep off-watch has been tough so we are all feeling a bit jaded this morning. However, a full moon last night, bright sunshine and dolphins all around us this morning and a breakfast that included Bimbo toast have been highlights of the passage so far. The dead squid found on the deck was a surprise too.
Thanks for your messages and we hope that you can follow us on the Fleet Viewer. We're about to download the weather forecast to decide on our course strategy. At the moment, following the Great Circle (shortest distance) is good, with these fresh NE winds, but we think we'll need to head south to avoid a low pressure system at the weekend.  Best wishes from the Maunie Crew.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Leaving at 11.00am

The postponed start kicks off at 11.00am today so an early start for the crew this morning. Slight administrative snag has been discovered, however: our magnetic cards won't open the gates on the pontoons or the shore loos this morning! Aaargh!

There will be lots of photos photos of the start on the www.worldcruising.com/arc website and we'll try to post a blog from sea this evening.

Please do contact us! We can't see comments on the blog but we can receive emails. The boat address is:
maunie (at) mailasail.com

(you'll need to replace the (at) with an ampersand - it's written like this here to stop the spam bots) so do drop us a line (we can't manage photos or attachments),

Best wishes from the crew

Monday, 26 November 2012

Safe, Happy, Fast

Crossing the Atlantic in a 38ft yacht is no small challenge so we thought it might be helpful (and reassuring to family and friends) to put some notes down about our strategy for the voyage - both on the ARC and beyond. So, whether you are sailing with us or just following our progress, you'll know how we're approaching the trip.

Our order of priority will be: Safe, Happy, Fast.


Safety is our top priority and our approach is a combination of safety by design, safety through training and safety through behaviour.

Safety through design

Fundamentally Maunie is a very safe boat. Her heavy displacement, immensely strong construction, massively over-specced rigging and the shelter offered by her deep cockpit and her pilothouse mean that she'll cope with conditions that we aim to avoid.

Our voyage will predominantly take advantage of favourable trade-winds (so we don't expect to be beating to windward as in the photo above!) and ocean passages will be timed to avoid seasonal bad weather but we’ll still be prepared for the worst. Talking to those who've experienced ocean crossings themselves and to the organisers of the ARC, it's clear that these voyages inflict a lot of pressure on a yacht compared to coastal sailing. In particular, rudders and steering gear do a lot of work in downwind sailing in sometimes large ocean swells. Maunie has a full ‘skeg’ rudder so that the rudder blade is supported by strong bearings top and bottom, unlike a lot of racing-derived boats where the ‘spade’ rudder is only suspended from a top bearing. Maunie also has a second Windpilot self-steering rudder on the stern which will do most of the steering at sea (the main rudder will be locked off in the straight-ahead position) but it also offers emergency back-up capabilities.

We carry a storm staysail (in a fetching shade of orange) and, together with a triple-reefed mainsail, this gives us a gale-proof small-sail rig which will allow us to maintain control of the boat without being over-canvassed. At the other end of the wind-scale a new Parasailor spinnaker has been purchased that will minimise uncomfortable and potentially dangerous rolling down-wind.

A well-designed boat is only as good as its maintenance regime, of course, so over the past 3 years we have been assiduously updating things. The rigging and sails have been replaced, as have the sea-cocks, the gas system, fire extinguishers and life raft. We've added additional safety devices such as an active radar transponder (which makes us look like a very big echo on a ship's radar screen), an AIS transponder (which transmits out position, course and speed to nearby vessels), an EPIRB emergency beacon (linked to satellites), a personal locator beacon (a small EPIRB carried by the person on watch), an AIS man overboard locator and a heavy-weather drogue anchor. Life jackets have been professionally serviced, emergency flares replaced and our first aid packs updated.

Maunie carries a long-range single side band (SSB) radio which has a range of many thousands of miles and we have added an Inmarsat satellite telephone which will allow us to download weather and safety information anywhere in the world.

Safety through training

Dianne and Graham have done many thousands of sea miles in a variety of boats in voyages which include two round-Britain circumnavigations. What’s become clear is that we never stop learning – which is part of the appeal of sailing to us – and, whether it’s learning by experience, mistakes or formal training, we keep adding to our combined knowledge bank.

We have both completed our RYA Yachtmaster Offshore courses, both theoretical and practical, which cover navigation, boat-handling and safety issues in yachts. Graham is a fully-qualified Yachtmaster, Dianne’s exam was cancelled due to bad weather but we’re pretty confident she’d have qualified if it had gone ahead.

Beyond this we’ve both completed the RYA Sea Survival course, the Ocean Safety course and sailing First Aid courses. Dianne has recently gone on to complete the 10-day ship’s medic course of advance first aid, plus second aid, at sea.

Our crew, Fergus and Richard, have also many sea miles to their credit and have both undergone recent training including Sea Survival, Safety at Sea, First Aid and VHF Radio.

Safety through behaviour

We have learnt through experience never to underestimate the power of the sea or to overestimate our own abilities. We therefore adopt a safety-first culture on board at all times. Personal safety is the individual responsibility of each crew member but the collective responsibility for safety of the crew and the yacht is that of the skipper, so this is his one area of absolute rule! One important safety responsibility is to ensure that the crew is properly fed, watered and rested to minimise accidents caused by fatigue, so a watch-keeping regime will allow the boat to be properly managed 24-hours a day whilst giving the crew time to rest.

Aboard Maunie, lifejackets are worn on deck unless conditions are so benign that a decision is given by the skipper not to do so. At night they are always worn on deck and crew members always clip their life harnesses to strong-points; those same harnesses will be used if conditions become challenging during the day and this is again the skipper’s decision.

Running the yacht in challenging sea conditions brings a range of safety risks, from slips, to cuts and rope-burns. A spillage of hot food or liquid in the galley, for example, could cause a substantial scald so don’t be surprised to see photos of the chef wearing a rather fetching bright orange waterproof apron at the cooker! We will be particularly cautious at the start of passages and at watch change-overs to make sure that we can acclimatise to the conditions.

Rest assured, sailing is statistically a safe sport but our crew behaviour will be vital in ensuring that all the ‘just-in-case’ emergency systems that we have in place will never be needed.


This is going to be a voyage of a lifetime and isn’t designed to be some kind of test of mental and physical resilience! There will be a lot of time at sea where there isn’t a huge amount to do, sailing wise, since the self-steering will do the pointing-in-the-right-direction task and the sails, if properly set, should look after themselves. So we’ve put some thought into comfort, wellbeing and entertainment, with a particular reference to sailing in the heat of the Tropics.

Maunie’s a pretty comfortable boat to start with but additions like cushions for the cockpit seats, a large bean-bag for reclining on the foredeck and a bimini sun-shade over the cockpit just add a few important notches of comfort. A reverse-osmosis fresh water-maker will mean that drinking water won’t have to be rationed on voyage and that regular showers and clothes washing will mean we don’t start to smell too badly – we probably wouldn’t notice but anyone meeting us in St Lucia will be pleased.

Food and drink will become important highlights of our days, so two well-stocked fridges will allow us to enjoy fresh food for most of the 3-week Atlantic crossing, hopefully augmented by some freshly-caught fish. We’ll make fresh bread aboard and have upgraded the cooker to a very smart new model which will be more economical on its gas usage and will not add undue heat to an already hot galley.

Off-watch, we’ll have films on the laptop and music on the ipod, linked into the boat’s stereo, plus plenty of reading matter on the Kindle.  We just don’t want you worrying that we won’t be having a good time as we sail steadily towards the palm trees and coral sands!


Maunie is no racing boat but we will still sail her to the best of her capabilities – half a knot of consistently lost speed due to poor sail trim could add two days to our crossing time between the Canaries and the Caribbean. The new Parasailor spinnaker should deliver extra speed, safely, compared to just using our white sails so hopefully will give us a couple of days’ advantage and the fancy folding propeller will similarly add about half a knot of speed compared to the original fixed prop. The ARC isn’t a race but there are prizes so there is a natural competitive spirit and we want to get to St Lucia before the rum runs out!

On the ARC we’ll be on the small-side, at 38ft, compared to the average of 50ft and, put simply, increased waterline length delivers greater boat speed. So on the ARC website, you’ll find a tracker which shows the live position of each of the 230 boats taking part. Some of the big, fully crewed racing boats will complete the trip in about 11 days but we expect to be closer to 22 days; so we’ll have more people to cheer us in at the finish line in St Lucia.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress as we cross the Atlantic. We just can’t wait to go!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Hurry up and wait, again

The final preparations were in full swing yesterday and almost every mast in the fleet seemed to have a crew member perched in it, fixing anti-chafe materials and checking fittings. At lunchtime we had the Skippers' Briefing, which included the latest weather forecast from weather guru Chris Tibbs.

The news Chris shared wasn't good. Once again the weather isn't doing what it normally does here at this time of year so instead of a nice north-easterly to blow us south towards our preferred route, Sunday's start would be in a very breezy south-westerly so we would be beating to windward for the first 24 hours. To add to this challenge, the predicted swell at the south of Gran Canaria would be 6m (with wind waves against the swell) and big rain squalls would follow. There were a lot of glum  faces in the room, I can tell you.

So, for only the second time in the history of the ARC, the start has been postponed until Tuesday for the Cruising Division (the Racing crews still have to go today!). It must have been a tough call for the organisers but they clearly recognised that to send a wide range of heavily-laden cruisers, many with children aboard, out into these conditions would not be a good thing.
Have a look at the www.worldcruising.com/arc website for more details

On Maunie we would probably be one of the better boats to face the predicted sea and wind conditions (we've already experienced similar on the way here) but it would have been a wet and uncomfortable start to a 3 week voyage so we're now resigned to a couple more days here and hope that things will be better on Tuesday.

Our extra time here won't be wasted, of course. Rich is perfecting his sewing and creative skills and produced an excellent net bag for the onions whilst Fergus has been setting up our fishing kit. Di produced a batch of excellent-looking flapjack yesterday (of which the rest of us are negotiating early-tastings) and is now talking about carrot cake...  Graham is studying weather charts and routes and we're all just working though the little jobs that will make life on board more comfortable. We'll keep you posted!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

One day to go!

Well the start of the 2012 ARC is only 29 hours away! Yesterday was therefore the last big big push to complete boat preparations (though the to-do list is still quite long) so the crew divided in the morning. Rich and Dianne headed into the central market and had a hilarious guided tour of the 'freshest stock' store rooms to select fruit and veg at different stages of ripeness. Once back at the boat they painstakingly washed everything in a solution of Milton liquid and stowed them in a hanging net in the forecabin.

We resisted the temptation to buy a full hand of bananas like this boat - hope they have lots of recipes for bananas as they will all ripen at the same time!

Meanwhile Fergus and Graham removed our leaking forehatch and carefully removed every trace of the old sealant before re-fixing it with new Sikaflex so we hope that it's now fixed.

A hundred and one little jobs have been completed, including the important one of collecting a huge bag of our newly-laundered washing. Today we have a Skipper's briefing which will include the latest weather forecast for the next few days so this afternoon we'll decide on our planned route - the direct line between here and Saint Lucia ins't necessarily the quickest as the favourable trade winds tend to blow more strongly a bit further south. The traditional advice was to 'sail south until the butter melts, then turn right'!

Best wishes from all of the Maunie crew - we hope we'll have time to post a final blog tomorrow morning (the start is at 1.00pm). 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Parties, mast-work and food

The preparations continue apace here so yesterday saw Fergus up the mast adding plumbing insulation foam to the aft shrouds (the wires supporting the mast) to stop the mainsail chafing on them when we sail downwind and adding more plumbing supplies (plastic pipe) to the guardrails. "Chafe is your enemy" at sea - a rope touching a stainless steel wire can be damaged in a matter of hours if not protected from wear.

With this in mind we have added a second spinnaker halyard (the rope which hauls the sail to the top of the mast) and will fly the spinnaker with both attached so if one halyard chafes and fails, the Parasailor won't fall into the sea. Also at the mast our replacement mainsail car arrived yesterday and was refitted (with some frustration at the terrible design of the mast gate which is almost impossible to refit without dropping the stainless screws -  at one stage the skipper was heard to shout "Stupid Boat!!" Sorry, Maunie, he meant "Stupid Mast").

The partying continues in between the work. Wednesday night was the 'Masked Ball' which saw quite a range of different fancy dress; some crews clearly have too much time on their hands. On Maunie we had the sewing machine out for other minor jobs so some airline sleep masks were modified:

It was a good evening though Di found that climbing off the boat in her long dress wasn't too easy!

Last night we opted to stay aboard for supper and Fergus produced an excellent tuna and bacon pasta, thereby disproving his previous claims of culinary ineptitude; Helen and the family will be able to look forward to some great cooking from him on his return.

As we write, Rich and Di are heading off to the market for fresh fruit and veg whilst Graham and Fergus are setting about a hatch which leaks in heavy rain. Hopefully by this afternoon we can relax a bit and get prepared, mentally, for the voyage ahead. 

A final bit of news: The boat handicap ratings were announced yesterday. In our division there is a wide range of boat sizes and types so we are each given a handicap rating which adjusts our actual sailing time at the end to produce the final placings. Large boats have a rating of greater than 1 ( a boat with a 1.21 rating, for example, will have its actual time in multiplied by 1.21 to give the corrected time) whilst smaller boats have a rating less than one. The ratings are calculated using a formula which takes into account sail area, boat length, weight and beam. According to this, Maunie will be the slowest boat in our division, with a rating of 0.962. We take this as something of a challenge!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A successful test sail

After a morning of safety drills and dry-runs of spinnaker pole handling in the marina we went out for a test sail yesterday afternoon. The MD and the sales manager (the irrepressible Tomas Wibbernitz) from Istec, who made our brilliant Parasailor spinnaker, came out with us to share some tips and tricks on how to manage it safely. It was a really useful session so has boosted our confidence.

There are some photos of us on the ARC website here

Whilst on the subject of the ARC website www.worldcruising.com/arc you will be able to follow our progress on a 'Fleet Tracker' page - every boat has a Yellowbrick automatic satellite transponder so you will see a position, with boat speed and course, for every yacht.

More news and photos to follow but, in the meantime, still lots of jobs to do!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Maunie Crew Assembles

We are glad to report that the transatlantic crew is all present and correct. Richard and Fergus flew in yesterday from Gatwick with slightly overweight baggage (bringing a few important items for us!). It's great to have them aboard and they have had a busy first day.

Fergus was at Oxford with Graham and they sailed for the university team in Laser II dinghies. Later they chartered boats in Turkey together and he sailed with us on our last boat, Gentoo, and on Maunie before taking up the ARC challenge.  It's good to have Fergus' experience aboard - he's also very competitive so is eyeing the huge amount (and weight) of stores with some concern and is determined to eat as much as possible early to reduce boat weight, even at personal risk to hi waistline. 

Rich sailed on Graham's race boat 'The Daily Telegraph' in an eleven-day non stop race around Britain and Ireland and has sailed with us since. He's a very proficient helm and a  general enthusiast for sports of any kind and is finding the temperature her a bit of a shock. He normally works in the Milton Keynes snowdome providing ski training for additional-needs youngsters so finds anything more than 5 degrees centigrade a bit warm.

Both haven't had much time to see the sights yet - this morning we had our detailed Safety Inspection so Rich, as designated Safety Officer, spent a lot of time checking everything in advance. 

Our inspector congratulated us on having such a well-prepared boat, having found nothing amiss, so we were pleased. For the rest of the day we've had a mix of training seminars run by ARC and on-board briefings for the new crew - Di took them through the deck systems and safety and Graham covered below-decks.

Tonight we have a 'sundowner' drinks party and then the Crew Dinner so 

Monday, 19 November 2012

It's a small world!

We've had a busy few days here. Boat preparations continue and our crew will owe us a large drink for all the food shopping we've done! We have completed all the long-life provisioning so will just get a delivery of fresh meat and fruit and veg on Saturday (the day before the start).

We employed the World's Fattest Diver (a wonderful chap of at least 20 stone) to come and give the underside of the hull a good polish. It's a bit psychological but it's good to know that there's nothing growing on the keel that might slow us down and it's probably worth a tenth of a knot of boat speed which, over our expected 3 weeks crossing, would equate to about 50 miles of better progress, or 6 hours or so. Watching him struggle out of the water on to the pontoon was quite a spectacle but he had a brilliant sense of humour; when he finally flopped onto the walkway he turned to us with a grin and said, "Like a seal, huh?"

Yesterday was the Grand Parade and official opening of the ARC 2012. We ambled round the marina behind national flags and were very amused to see that Peter from Stormvogel was the official flag-bearer for Germany:

 Heidi and Peter
 Cool Canadian Retriever
 The march begins
Flags raised and speeches

When we got to the end of the parade we were introduced to a chap called Andy from England who had seen our boat name on the entry list. He had been the delivery skipper who brought Maunie across from Ireland to be put on sale in Lymington so was the last person to sail her before we bought her! She was in pretty poor condition then so he's really keen to come and see her again. He's now a professional skipper and invited us aboard his boat for a coffee. His yacht is a brand new Oyster 82 called Raven - truly a super-yacht (and about 4.5 million quid if you fancied one!) - the owner arrives on Wednesday and there will be 9 aboard for the crossing, including a chef. 

On a much smaller scale we got chatting to another skipper who has a boat the same length as us, 38ft. We are definitely at the small end of the scale as the average size of boat is 50ft so it was good to compare notes on our plans. Nigel's boat is a Sigma 38 so we said "Oh, we chartered one to do the Round the Island Race a few years ago, She was called Paraselsus.", to which he replied "Well, I bought that boat just after that, did her up and sold her last month".

The final small-world connection is that the skipper we had on that race was a really good, ex-Challenge guy called John Farndell. John is skippering a Challenge 72 in the ARC this year, though hasn't arrived yet.

Enough of the coincidences - we're back to work today. Fergus and Rich arrive later and meanwhile the Raymarine engineers are coming to fix our faulty wind vane and they will also update the software in our chart plotter. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything

If you know The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, you'll know the story of a race of intelligent beings on a distant planet who built a super-computer called Deep Thought to come up with the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything. On the day of the Great On-Turning, Deep Thought confirmed that there was indeed an answer but he'd have to think about it - for about 300 years. 300 years later he confirmed he had found the answer and with great majesty pronounced it to be: Forty Two. 

So, it's an important number, and with a prefix even more so we think. Maunie's ARC Rally number is 242 and Stromvogel's is 142. Peter and we have decided this is a Sign and Peter has already made the Hitch Hiker's Guide connection on his blog - Graham and Peter think very alike!

So back in Las Palmas, preparations continue. Graham has been up the mast to try to resolve our wind speed and direction indicator which has decided to go on strike - it appears that the torrential rain has done for the electrical connector at the top of the mast! It have him the chance to take a few photos whilst he was up there:

 Looking down on the two smallest boats in the ARC (both 32ft). Troskala (top) is a Rival 32 sailed by Oliver and Carlotta who we met in Porto Santo; their blog is here

Just a few boats!

Meanwhile we have discovered a problem with one of our mast cars (sliders that keep the front of the mainsail attached to the mast); it has worn and lost its ball bearings. We spent a frustrating hour trying to remove it (finally having to drill out a couple of seized screws) but the local sailmaker is confident that he can get a replacement.

So with all this boat work, so far we haven't really walked out of the marina! Today the programme of seminars starts, so Graham will go to one on 'Routing and Weather' given by weather guru Chis Tibbs whilst Dianne is going to 'Provisioning' and 'Fitness at Sea'. The latter will be important as it's very easy to over-indulge here; there's a 'Sundowner' event each evening with free drinks and nibbles and last night we were invited to a brilliant curry meal aboard Roysterer who we also met in La Gomera. Di obviously wants to look her best at such social events so it very pleased with her new travel iron!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

In Las Palmas

We arrived yesterday evening after a fairly testing 55 mile sail in a Force 6 ( a close reach so we reefed down and bounced around in the swell). We posted ourselves into the tightest spot available in the marina and took on the new-to-us challenge of the 'slime line'; there are no finger pontoons off the main pontoon here so instead you pick up a wet and weedy mooring line that has an anchor 20m from the pontoon. You then work the boat in between neighbouring yachts and use the slime line to keep the bow from hitting the main pontoon (we elected to go 'bow-in' to keep the boat pointing into wind and to give the cockpit some privacy). The downside is that we have to climb aboard over the high bow so have rigged a step (a Fox's blue tub from Graham's first job in a biscuit factory in Batley) and a rope to make things easier.

The place is amazing and there are lots of seminars and parties so we must prioritise which we attend. As ever, there are boat jobs to do but we're working through them steadily and we met up with a few crews, including Stormvogel, Ooh-Jah and Indulgence, for a cheeky beer last night. Photos to follow!

Sunday, 11 November 2012


The culture shock from sleepy Garachico to the city of Santa Cruz is fairly extreme. Di announced that Garachico was probably her favourite place so far; the old town was enchanting and the garden in its centre really beautiful

Whilst we've been in the big city we did the Big Shop - a fun afternoon around Carrefour and El Cortes Ingles. The obliging taxi driver dropped us right at the top of the walkway down to the boat and so this morning's task was to remove excess packaging (remembering to mark items with indelible pen!) and load them into our 8 large plastic crates, whilst updating our stores list at the same time. We've tried our best to group products together so that we don't have to open every box each time we want to cook:

 The sorting process under way

 Items loaded into numbered boxes

Miraculously they all fit under the starboard pilothouse seat 
- and don't make the boat list too much to starboard!

The rest of the fresh food we'll buy in Las Palmas at the very last minute. We'll set off from here early in the morning - it's a 55 mile passage and we'd like to be there before dusk as finding our allocated space will be tricky and there could well be a queue of boats waiting to check in.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Santa Cruz, Tenerife

The sail round the north west corner of Tenerife yesterday was dramatic in terms of scenery and weather. We had blue sky to the north and big black menacing rain clouds following us along the rugged, mountainous coast. Luckily we crossed wakes with a lovely 62ft French ketch called Frida; she was completing a 4 day passage from the mainland so we took some photos of her and one of her crew reciprocated. We've ended up in the same marina and this morning the photographer called round to Maunie with a memory-stick of his pictures so we were able to swap them with ours. Here are three that really give a good idea of the scene:

Today, by contrast, has been a shore-based, chore-based one. This morning we managed to bag one of the two washing machines to clean clothes and bedding; the washing was pegged out on a triangular washing line strung from the forestay to the forward shrouds and, with a combination of sun (at last!) and a good breeze, was dry in about any hour. Meanwhile we were able to give the boat a good airing and ourselves a bit of a spruce-up as well.

In the afternoon we walked into the city on a recce mission.There is a huge Carrefour here (a bit like a Tesco Extra) and a Cortes Ingles (a very large Waitrose) so we visited both to see what each offered. There are similar stores in Las Palmas but we think we'll try and do the big shop for non-chilled items here tomorrow rather than joining queues of yachties at the checkouts there.

We aim to arrive in Las Palmas on Monday. Fergus and Richard arrive a week later so by then the boat should be pretty much prepared and we should have worked out the geography of the huge (800 boat) marina. 270 or so of these boats will set sail on the 25th November so the atmosphere with be interesting in the days leading up to the off. We look forward to catching up with a few boats we've met on our way here, especially our friends in Stormvogel. Peter's blog makes interesting reading - they have continued to spend huge amounts of time, effort and money to resolve various issues with the boat but it sounds as though they are nearly through the process so we'll share some beers with them not doubt.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Sitting out the rain in Garachico

The forecast promised another healthy dose of rain today and sure enough we got it! Plans to sail on to Santa Cruz were shelved so instead we spent a very productive morning updating our stowage plans, working through our recipes and doing a bit of useful revision on the medical skills.
By  the time you read this we'll have walked back into town for a coffee and wifi access, updated the forecasts and, al being well, will be set for an early morning departure. The first thirty miles will be beating to windward so we hope that the swell isn't too unfriendly!
Incidentally, we've discovered that a big harbour isn't anything really new here. In the 15th century a port was established here which became the biggest  trading centre on Tenerife, with the British holding a rather unpopular monopoly on wine exports. The big volcanic irruptions of 1706 destroyed it and the current town is built on the lava flows.

Monday, 5 November 2012

From La Gomera to a very new marina in Tenerife

The jungle drums in the sailing community work very effectively around here. We've heard more reports of the 'no anchoring' rule being applied with enthusiasm by the authorities (and met one yacht who had been called by the coastguard for a ticking-off after they anchored for a night) but a another story began to emerge of a brand new marina on the north coast of Tenerife at a place called Garachico. Yachts could stay, so the rumour went, but the place wasn't finished so there was no mooring charge.

So we set off yesterday morning with 'Rafiki' (crew Emily and James, above) and had a very pleasant couple of hours with the Parasailor set then switched back to white sails and finally motored for the last couple of hours. We found this mysterious new harbour in frankly a fairly exposed and rocky stretch of coast where the swell was crashing ashore reasonably spectacularly at times. Sure enough, though, we turned in past the huge new breakwater to find a brand new harbour, with expensive pontoons and perhaps 8 yachts plus some local boats.

 The sign at the entrance proclaims this to be another 'last of the cash' EC project - 33 million Euros no less! The project started in 2008 and was due for completion in September last year; apparently there was a grand opening ceremony a few months ago. However, whilst there are pontoons,  complete with water and electricity, park benches and even wooden planters with cactus plants in them, there is no office, no showers and no toilets. So we were welcomed by a young security guard who noted the boat name on a crumpled bit of paper and we've watched a bloke with  a petrol-powered leaf-blower blow dust from  one end of the gleaming concrete to the other but there is no other sign of life!

Because of its unfinished state there is no charge for using the marina. Crazy! After all that cash investment, you'd think they'd install a portacabin for facilities and start broadcasting their wonderful new marina to everyone to get some income back in return. But no, this is Spain, so they are donating electricity to foreign  yachties who would be quite happy to pay for it and they employ a bloke to blow dust about.

In spite of the millions, it's not quite a perfect harbour, though; in spite of the huge breakwater construction of meter-cubed blocks designed to absorb the waves, there is a bit of a surge in the pontoons so we had a disturbed night until we adjusted our lines.

The town is about 1km from here - Graham (feeling particularly under-exercised) went for a run and a recce there before breakfast, then swam under the boat to give the hull a clean. Di went for a run slightly later (and found it suddenly very hot) so breakfast was late; we'll walk into town this afternoon, hopefully to find a cafe with wifi to check the forecast and catch up on emails. We'll have another night here then go round to Santa Cruz, the main port in Tenerife, to refuel and stock up on long-life ingredients for the Atlantic crossing before picking our moment to head to Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. The encouraging news is that the more normal northerly winds look as though they are about to arrive at last!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

So what is going on with the weather, exactly?

It seems slightly churlish to moan about the weather when the Caribbean and New York have suffered so badly with Hurricane Sandy but, bloody hell, we've had some rain here in the past 36 hours! The water in the marina, which was crystal clear (and full of fish), turned a muddy brown yesterday as all the rain washed sediment down from the mountains and there were a lot of frustrated yachties, trapped below decks by the weather. At least on Maunie our pilothouse saloon lets us look out (past the rain streaming down the windows) rather than upwards through narrow windows slots that are the norm in most boats; the lightning flashes were pretty bright.

Clearly 2012 has been a pretty odd year for weather and it follows a series of 10 warmer-than-average years so we're either in one of the planet's natural temperature cycles or we're reaping the results of mankind's abuse of the environment (or possibly a bit of both). Personally, we're in the 'it's man-made' school of opinion and it'll be interesting to see whether the effects of Katriona and now Sandy in the States will precipitate any real change of direction when it comes to policy around the environment and climate change.

Today, at last, it has stopped raining for the moment but we are in a little low-pressure system so will have little wind and variable weather for a few days. We were planning to sail for Tenerife today but it looks as though we'd be motoring for most of the passage so have decided, instead, to renew our enthusiasm for La Gomera with a walk. Di is also threatening that we both need to buy some trainers and do some running after several days of relative inactivity! That's ok except she says she needs Graham as a running partner.

Whatever our plans, we'll head to the fresh food market this morning to stock up. Unfortunately, we've seen out first cockroaches here (hideous things) so we need to be very careful about bringing aboard unwanted visitors. We now leave shore-going shoes on deck rather than walking below in them, we remove all card packaging outside the boat (it can harbour cockroach eggs) and we're starting to wash fruit in a solution of Milton liquid before carefully drying it for storage. Unfortunately this process can shorten its storage life. Experienced tropics sailors string netting up in various places below deck to store fruit and veg so that air can circulate around it and also so that it's easy to pick our any items looking a bit mouldy. We've got the netting but haven't worked out where to rig it yet.

Must go, the sun has just come out (first sighting for about 3 days!). Hope your weather is good.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Sheltering from the rain

Yesterday's heavy rain finally cleared in the early evening and we had a lovely evening aboard the very racy J-122 'Oo Jar' with owners Peter and Chrisine and our other neighbours Peter and Penny who sail a very fine vintage Oyster. It was great to compare notes with two different boats and particularly as host Peter had sailed the ARC in 2002. Our evening was enlivened by a group of children from various boats coming round for 'Trick or Treat' ( with a nice twist - they gave us sweets!)

Today has been warm and muggy with little sun and a few sharp showers so we got on with various jobs on the list, including getting the sewing machine out to repair our blue ensign and club burgees - they were all distinctly frayed at the edges after the strong winds and one has to maintain standards. We treated ourselves to a light lunch at the yacht club and were delighted to find that a beer and a glass of wine came to 2.60 Euros.

Tomorrow threatens more heavy rain so we are planning to leave on Saturday. We'd like to spend a few nights at anchor ( it's free!) but have read various reports that the Tenerife police are moving non-Spanish yachts on, saying they can only stay in marinas. This sounds like an infringement of EC freedom of travel laws but these people carry guns so we guess you don't argue. We've tried a premptive email to the Tenerife port authority to seek permission to anchor so we'll see if that delivers a response (probably a police boat waiting for us!).