Cruising is imminent it is mid March 2004 and after a southern "summer" in New Zealand and Australia we are in Indonesia and about to fly back to Kemer in Turkey on 27th March to begin our trek westwards. This years plans are to traverse the Mediterranean Sea between April and September then head across the Atlantic Ocean via the Canary Is to the Caribbean between October and December with the intention of arriving back in New Zealand late winter of 2005. That's the plan anyway watch this space for the actuality, plans are made to be changed.
26th April We are currently in Fethiye Turkey, after arriving back in Turkey on 27th March and relaunching on 31st March. We spent 3 weeks in Kemer marina near Antalya readying systems etc for our summer cruise and saying bye bye to cruising buddies. We departed Kemer marina on 20th April after the end of winter bbq and traversed Kekova, Kas, Kalkan on Turkey's south coast, arriving Fethiye 24th April where we await arrival on 29th April of Haruko our crew member from Japan who has just arrived in Turkey and is visiting some sites inland.
What a busy and cold month, where is the northern summer (see map)? We arrived in Siracusa Sicily on 31st May after a two day sail from Levkas in Greece and met up with old friends on "Mustang Sally" who arrived from Catania further up the Sicilian coast after their trip from Venice. Haruko our new crew arrived and went, finding Turkish textiles and charm a better option than bouncing around at sea. At the beginning of the month we left Fethiye Turkey after a week of catching up with friends and doing boat chores and moved west along the coast first to Skopia Limani, then Marmaris. 9 days in Marmaris at Netsal marina where the rigging was replaced (a long overdue task) and various repairs made to electronic equipment. We also caught up with Wattie and Jill from "Cariad" the first time we had seen them since Thailand 2002 and they were recovering well from their horror grounding in the Red Sea. After Marmaris, we went to Bozuk Burnu then Datca where we cleared from Turkey and entered Greece at Kos Island on 15th May. In 2 weeks we traversed Greece, day sailing (generally motorsailing into large lumpy seas and a cold northerly wind) stopping at Patmos, Mikonos, Siros and Poros in the Greek Aegean Sea, then onto Korfos (Peloponnissos), Itea (via the Corinth Canal) and Petalis (passed under the new Rion bridge near Patras) before Levkas in the Greek Ionion where we stocked up with supplies and departed for Italy (Sicily). Little Daniel has grown so much, has a keen sense of rythmn and is much more mobile this year, having found his legs, which has required a netting to be placed around the lifelines. There has been so much happening that no time has been available to complete detailed logs so here's hoping June will be a quieter month as we move further west through the Med!
History lessons and unstable air masses!!! Half way through the Med on our trek westwards (see map) and we were treated to some wonderful insights into this part of the Mediterranean which due to its central location had been subject to changing cultures and fortunes, as north, south, east and west met often and unmercifully at the point of a sword and later, its modern equivalents. Combined with a reluctant appearance of summer, cold temperatures continued and low pressure systems kept us on our toes with sweeping fronts and fresh winds.
We bashed our way south to Malta on the 3rd June in building SW winds and seas after an overnight trip from Siracusa Sicily in company with "Mustang Sally", Warren Batt and his crew of Mark and James. A week in Malta at Manoel Island marina saw good use made of the local chandeleries and safety, radio and emergency equipment was serviced or replaced between socializing or visits to Valetta's and Malta's places of sieges. Communication with the locals in English and transport in righthand drive vehicles was a little reminder of our origins, but conversion of the Maltese currency back to NZ dollars was something we didn't want to ponder too long over (1Maltese Pound = +/- 2.8Euro). We departed Malta in company once more with "Mustang Sally" via Comini and Gozo Islands just before midnight on 10th June with the luxury of an extra crewmember Mark, courtesy of Capt Batty on "Mustang Sally", to assist in the two night trip to Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia where we arrived on the morning of 12th June.
Tunisia was an unexpected treasure, the marina was safe, secure and located in nice clean, green outskirts of Tunis city. Train and taxi rides to and through Tunis were efficient and inexpensive and some remarkable mosaics and relicts of earlier Phonecian, Carthaginian and Roman civilizations were on display at the Bardo museum at Tunis and at Carthage (now a suburb of Tunis), and which was once the centre of Mediterranean civilization. Unfriendly weather for a few days whilst sheltered at the marina were the only negatives, with the elements unleashing wind and rain in attempts to loosen mooring lines, but we were safe and sound though "Mustang Sally" who had left earlier for Palma Mallorca had a rather arduous trip. Departure from Tunisia on 19th June was made after careful reference to weather forecasts and everything looked fine for our 152 nautical mile overnight trip north to Sardinia. We had 12 hours of windless conditions and motored north in flat seas through major east-west shipping traffic off the north African coast. Dark clouds materialized as usual out of nowhere and the wind built quickly to 30knots from slightly west of our intended destination. Triple reefed mainsail and a small part of the genoa unfurled carried us firstly off track firstly to the NE, then we motorsailed the remainder of the journey into building seas arriving at Malfatano anchorage in southern Sardinia on the morning of the 20th June. We enjoyed a quiet day at anchor on 21st where Ratna and Daniel had their first swim of the "summer" and when the wind shifted 180 degrees to the SE on 22nd June, we had a very pleasant sail with the wind behind us the 33 nautical miles to Carloforte, a small town on the little Island of Isola di San Pietro on the SW corner of Sardinia.
Carloforte, was a gem of a town (thank you Brett & Pam "Grey Dawn" for your tip) with an uncrowded marina in the centre of town with all facilities and tranquil surroundings. We enjoyed the friendly locals, the walks in the village and square in the evenings and a traditional sailing boat regatta. After 5 nights we set off on the morning of 27th June for Menorca, the easternmost of the Balearic Islands (Spain) 206 nmiles to the west. The trip was uneventful, with very light following wind insufficient to fill the sails and we motored the whole way, catching a nice Big Eye tuna as we passed through a large tuna fishing fleet. At 1445hrs on 28th June we anchored at Cala Taulera a nice enclosed anchorage at the entrance to Mahon town at the western end of Menorca Island. Here we found a gathering of cruising boats from everywhere, new and old acquaintances, including "Iranui", "Ronja", "Sweet Compensation", "Amazone", "Afun Davu" and others and the tone was set for the remainder of our stay.
"Animated anchorages" an Alan Lucas phrase, used when describing boisterous or lively anchorages in his South Pacific Cruising guides, captures the essence of this month. Weather generated swell found its way into all but the most enclosed anchorages even on lee sides of islands away from any prevailing wind. (see map) In addition, "man made" wash from 1,000s of boats and countless ferries bearing people from all origins (largely northern sunseekers) added to the "animation", as the Balearic Islands during July and August suffer an "invasion". There is rarely an anchorage that isn't spoilt by wash from passing ferries, speeding motor boats or jet skies. Those issues aside we travelled slowly after covering 1,600nmiles in the previous six weeks, taking 5 weeks to sail 280nmiles from northeastern Menorca to southwestern Formentera of the Balearic Islands and enjoyed some of the most convivial cruising anchorages we had experienced in the Mediterranean.
We departed Cala Taulera anchorage on 4th July in company with "Sweet Compensation" (Italy) and "Amazone" (Holland) and enjoyed a quiet sail to Cala Fornells on the north coast of Menorca where we anchored for the night in green coloured water and a weedy bottom. This was our first introduction to many other similar anchorages which required careful attention to burying the anchor and an eye to any weather changes or threats as the slippery weed played havoc with anchors holding capacity. The next day we left Robert ("Amazone") at anchor and "Sweet Compensation" and ourselves had a liesurely sail to the tiny Port of Cuidadela on the western tip of Menorca Island where Guiseppe had enticed us with the promise of the mouthwatering Spanish Paella in the local restaurants. The weather was deteriorating and tying up in the narrow little channel alongside another yacht was achieved without too much hassle and we assisted another yacht to tie up outside us as many fled into the shelter of the tiny port packing the harbour wall three deep in yachts. A harbour official came along collecting dues and we all gasped as we were confronted with some of the most expensive mooring fees yet encountered in the Mediterranean (37Euro for us and not even a harbour wall!). The next big gasp in chorus came when we all viewed a large ferry appear around the blind corner hiding the entrance to the harbour. This monster brushed passed the moored yachts and the opposite harbour wall with what seemed a horrifying proximity and was dragging half the ocean behind it as it travelled down the confined space. After everyone and all the boats had settled we departed for our Paella which was eaten in a very nice setting in a very nice little port. The departure of the monster and regular appearance and departure of several others the next morning prompted us to make a run for Mallorca Is to the west and we left "Sweet Compensation" who were returning to the European mainland to have some medical issues addressed (not food related and not publishable). We arrived at Pollensa anchorage on the afternoon of 6th July and enjoyed the next 5 days in relative shelter as winds blew from all directions. In between dragging anchor and then finding a vacant mooring we enjoyed the facilities of the pretty holiday town and the sights of nearby seaplane landings as they filled their bellies with water to fight fires being fanned by the winds in the surrounding hills. Australian yachts "Neliandra" and "Majic Carpet" arrived and we swapped notes and found they too were Atlantic bound. We departed early on 11th July and arrived at Porto Colom on the south coast of Mallorca in the afternoon after a lumpy motorsail. Porto Colom was a fully protected allweather anchorage and apart from boat wash and close proximity of neighbours (some acrimonious) due to its popularity, the town was nearby and had all amenities and we stayed here doing boat maintainance chores (varnishing) and added a growing hot chilli plant to Ratna's delight to our ships crew. Swedish yacht "Ronja" was also at anchor and Sune and Yvonne had set sail from Kemer in Turkey at approximately the same time as ourselves also bound for the Atlantic and Caribbean. After 6 nights we continued day sailing westwards around Mallorca enjoying the following winds firstly to Porto Campos, Cala de Santa Ponsa then Andraitx. The first two anchorages were adequate but rolly from previous mentioned sources but Andraitx was secure (tho afternoon sea breeze sent in a little swell) and most boats adhered to the speed limits. We enjoyed the proximity of the town, its shops and restaurants and the picturesque towering hills and cliffs surrounding it and spent more time with "Ronja" who were also anchored here.
A family rendezvous and preparations for overland travel. We departed Espalmador anchorage in the Balearic Islands on the morning of 5th August and headed westwards the 61 nautical miles to the Spanish mainland. (see map). Anchoring in the afternoon at Puerto Morayra we found the situation similar to what we had left behind in the Balearics. Pestering swell, annoying motorboat wash, and jet ski noise and wake which detracted from a very nice setting with clear water, high cliffs and pretty haciendas. We left shortly after sunrise on the 6th Aug and passing Greenwich Meridian (Longitude 00E/00W), enjoyed a nice sail with gennaker up and following wind and seas all the way to Torrevieja 60nmiles west, easterly winds had predominated for the past 5 weeks. Anchoring in the harbour behind a big breakwater we had flat water for what seemed the first time we could remember and found "Ronja" as neighbour again. We enjoyed a blissful sleep until just after midnight when a knock on the hull woke us and the Spanish Coast Guard were requesting us and others in the western part of the anchorage to shift as a ship at the Salt loading jetty was about to depart. Charming!! We did as we were told and reanchored, but relocated to a marina berth later on the 7th to prepare for the visit of family (Mark, Gillian, Scott, Laura and Fraser) who were driving down from the UK (Wales) and also to complete a number of overdue maintenance tasks.
The "Welsh" Buntings arrived at midnight on 11th August and for the next week "Star of the West" expanded and absorbed the extra crew successfully as nautical activities were the theme for the "landlubbers". Fishing, sailing and swimming were on the agenda and these were all achieved though the waters of the harbour and adjacent beach were not always the cleanest and most desirable, all of Europe was on holiday at the time! Fish were caught or frightened onto hooks by squeals of delight and Scott "Spiderman" Bunting imitated antics of his hero as we pretended Algeria was our destination with the lumpy seas outside the harbour turning his Mum green. "Star of the West" seemed unaturally quiet after they departed on 19th August and we took a few days to readjust to the vacant spaces onboard.
Bye bye Torrevieja and "Ronja" as we continued our journey westwards on the 22nd August, it was nice to be moving again after being in the one spot for nearly three weeks . We motored past and through large floating "fish farms" off the coast and rounded Cabo De Palos with a freshening easterly breeze which enabled a fast sail past Cathagena where we had intended to stop, on to Aguilas. We anchored in a small bay to the east of the main harbour in the late afternoon and had chewed 70nmiles off our westward trip. The next morning we set off in windless conditions but with a lumpy residual swell, which miraculously disappeared after rounding Cabo De Gata. Major east-west shipping traffic into and out of the Mediteranean was evident on our portside as we continued motoring in quiet conditions to Almerimar where we tied up at 1450hrs on 23rd August, 80nmiles west of where we had begun in the morning. After friendly check-in formalities and sensible berth fees, we nestled amongst apartments secure from any possible adverse weather and seemingly miles from the sea. Almerimar and its surrounds proved to be a little manmade oasis amongst a rocky desert covered with white plastic sheeted "hothouse" cultivation at the foothills of the towering and equally barren Sierra Nevada mountains. We explored our new neigbourhood and the adjacent area including Grenada and its famous Alhambra "castle" over the next week as we prepared for our overland trip to the north and undertook the usual boat maintenance tasks.
A holiday on terra firma. We departed Almerimar by car on 2nd September for destinations north and are visiting family and friends in the UK, Holland, Belgium and France. A whole new world has been revealed but that is beyond recall here. Return to "Star of the West" is imminent and continuation of our journey westwards, first to Gibraltar then out across the Atlantic as our next step to reaching New Zealand by this time next year, 2005 (see map). Being land based for a while and fast internet connections (thank you Mark & Gillian) has enabled a long overdue update of the website!
We arrived back at Almerimar Spain on 9th October after a wonderful 5 week break onland that saw us put 10,166kms on the hire car and opened our eyes to large parts of western Europe and enabled us to enjoy special times with family and friends. The trip will be summarised in the future as all available time at the moment is focused on heading south to warmer temperatures and favourable weather as the northern hemisphere winter approaches. The days following arrival back onboard were spent washing down the boat which was covered in red dust, bending on sails, washing clothes, getting shipshape and stocking up on supplies for our trip west, taking advantage of the well stocked supermarkets. The days were cold with the sun coming up late from behind the apartments and disappearing early. We departed Almerimar 1255 hrs on 13th October, "Star of the West" having been well rested for 52 days and we spent the next three days daysailing/motoring along the Spanish coast (Costa Blanca) to Gibraltar (see map). Our first stop was at Motril arriving just before dark on 13th Oct and we anchored in the harbour after motoring in flat seas. A westerly wind came up during the early hours and heralded a rocky ride to Benalmadena on the 14th Oct where we tied up in the marina just before dark and spent a rolly night as the westerly swell entered the marina entrance causing an uncomfortable surge. We continued next morning (15th Oct) onto Gibraltar deciding that we may as well make more westing than rock and roll in the Benalmadena marina. We arrived late on 15th Oct at Gibraltar (once again just before dark) and after a quick and efficient check in at the customs jetty anchored adjacent to the airport runway with half a dozen other yachts. The 144 mile trip from Almerimar had been a hobbyhorsing affair, motorsailing into a fresh westerly wind, a short sharp head sea and with an engine that was revving erratically caused by fuel starvation which saw our speed down to 1knot over the ground as we fought adverse current trying to round the southern point of Gibraltar.
On the morning of 16th Oct after changing the fuel filter, we moved to Queensway marina close to the centre of Gibraltar town under under the towering "Rock". Securing a berth depended on how many boats had vacated that morning and we struck lucky. The marina was convenient to shops, supermarket and facilities though exposed to wash from passing shipping causing a regular roll in the marina berths. James, our crew for the Atlantic crossing (ex "Mustang Sally") arrived on the evening of the 17th Oct from the UK where he had been crewing on the barque "Endeavour for a few months. Meeting him at the airport required a walk across the airport runway which was the main route to La Linea in nearby Spain and we walked back across the runway again and back to the marina lugging his bag filled with T-shirts "pay" from his "Endeavour" venture. The Furuno radar after 17years good service was replaced with a new Raymarine combo radar/plotter and depth sounder which was available "off the shelf" and was to provide valuable ship tracking abilities especially when we traversed the busy Gibraltar straits. Fitting the new equipment filled the next few days and we hosted Sam Batt, his girlfriend Shannon, Warren Batt (Sam's Dad and a friend of mine from 1960's University days in New`Zealand) and Trish, all from "Mustang Sally" who were moored at Lagos in Portugal and who were doing some overland travel. Reprovisioning was done in Safeway supermarket (a UK group) in Gibraltar and on the 21st Oct we departed Queensway marina firstly for La Linea anchorage in nearby Spain (only a mile away) where VAT customs stamps were obtained for goods purchased in the UK (as we were exiting the EU), then back to Gibraltar to fill with diesel at duty free prices (29p/litre).
We cast off from the fuel jetty at 1710hrs on 21st Oct and headed on our way into the Straits of Gibraltar, out of the Mediterranean after 2 and a half years and into the Atlantic ocean with a favourable weather window for the 4-5 day trip to the Canary Islands. We were looking forward to heading towards warmer weather!! Our departure in the late afternoon meant a night traverse of the Straits with her huge volume of shipping traffic and we motored in light winds, hugging the Spanish coast pushing unfavourable current and crossed firstly the westbound lanes then eastbound lanes southwest towards Africa and the Morocco coast either side of midnight, our new radar and ship tracking facility being put to good use!!
We continued motoring in an uncomfortable swell, initially through a Moroccan fishing fleet as we gradually drew away from the coast and then off across the continental shelf, catching a nice mahi-mahi (Dorado) enroute. We finally picked up enough breeze to sail at 2000hrs on 22nd Oct and with genoa poled out we rolled our way southwest all night until 0900hrs on 23rd Oct (a 13hr sail!) when the wind dropped out. We started the engine and motorsailed in rolly swell with the engine resuming its irregular revs and dying completely on several occasions. Fuel filters were changed, fuel lines blown out and bled, all to no avail until late in the day (2200hrs) when a pinhole blockage in the fuel filter fitting on the engine was recognized and cleared with a needle. The engine was back to its sewing machine like hum, phew!! and we motored on with unfavourable current through the remainder of the night until 1040hrs the following day (24th Oct) when the northeast breeze picked up to 12knots and we poled out the genoa and continued sailing again. We had strikes on our two trailing lures and lucked out as one fish hopped off and the other took lure and all. Our breeze (8-18 knots) continued from the northeast and we picked up some current assistance, sailing (35 hours!!) the remainder of the distance to Graciosa Island, catching a little mahi-mahi (Dorado), before motoring the last few hours to recharge our batteries and pass through the narrow channel between Graciosa and Lanzarote Islands. We dropped anchor outside a number of other anchored yachts at Bay of Francesa on the southern end of Graciosa Island in the Canary Islands at 2350hrs on 25th Oct with our trip taking 4 days and 6 hours. We were very satisfied in rattling 600 nautical miles off our westward journey, (see map).
A strong southwest wind was forecast to arrive within 24hours with unsettled weather and mid-morning on the 26th Oct (Happy birthday Mum!!), we raised anchor and moved to the nearby harbour of Caleta del Sebo on Graciosa Is. We were helped into finger pontoons by helpful cruisiers (Mike & his wife "A Capella"), (Don & Barb "Lutana II") who previously had only been voices on Mediterranean cruisers daily radio schedules. We found the place a delightful spot, full of real cruising boats (compared to the plastic mass-production yachts we had seen in the Med) and wind-vanes, jerry-cans, bicycles, etc predominated on yachts from all nationalities (including 3 Kiwi and 2 Aussie yachts) all resting up and getting ready for the longer haul across to the Caribbean. The little village was a gem, with its little square cottages, sandy streets set amongst an arid volcanic background, facing the towering lava/ash cliffs of adjacent Lanzarote Island. Marina fees were miniscule (E4.85/day for us) compared to those in the Med and restaurants, supermarkets, butcher, post office, internet etc were all within short walking distance. Fellow yachties were continuously helping new arrivals, greeting one another and swapping information and a large children's contingent meant a real family atmosphere. We caught up with friends we had sailed the Indian ocean and Red sea with in 2002 (Andy & June "Gold Eagle"), (Barry & Judy "Theta") amongst others (Patrick & Margaret "Aqua Majic", Chris & Mary "Aventura") who we had shared a winter marina at Kemer in Turkey in the Med. We made new friends (Des, Julianne & family "Woodwind", Dave, Judy & family "Danza") at "Pot Luck" get-togethers. Daniel made friends and won hearts dressed up with other "trick or treaters" (Erica, Ari & Antonia "Pangaea", Adam "Merlin" and Karina) on Halloween evening of 31st Oct as they went from boat to boat filling up their bags with treats!!! Little Graciosa Island will be hard to leave!!!
A month, where we advanced 1002 miles down the western Atlantic from the Canary Islands and onto the Cape Verde Is, prior to the 2000 mile Atlantic crossing (see map). Preparation, stocking up on supplies and socializing with old and new cruising companions, who were arriving from different ports in the north, all with similar plans, were the main activities.
"Hobbit II" (Tony and Sue) arrived at Graciosa Is on 1st Nov from Morocco. We had adjacent berths at Queensway Marina Gibraltar and they played sweet guitar music and shared meals with us ashore until they departed to fly back to Liverpool for domestic chores before continuing cruising again. "Mustang Sally" (Warren, Sam, Trish) arrived from Madeira on 5th Nov, and Graciosa kept us all busy, content and amused waiting for settled weather until we finally departed on 8th Nov. We sailed south, 26 miles down the east coast of Lanzarote Is to her main town of Arecife. Here, we picked up a mooring opposite the town, rather than anchor in the conjested harbour and shopped ashore in large supermarkets and well equipped chandleries. The next day (9th Nov) we travelled 18 miles to the southern tip of Lanzarote Is to Rubicon Marina, continuing in tandem with "Mustang Sally" and her new crew member Joleen, who had flown in from Ireland, At Rubicon, a large modern marina, we had fresh water, electricity, laundry facilities and wifi internet connectivity onboard for the first time since Gibraltar. We briefly caught up with Australian yacht "Neliandrah" (Vic and Dot) who we had last seen in Pollensa in the Spanish Balearic Is in July. The area around Rubicon though very touristy was pleasant and enabled us to complete long overdue laundry, change engine mounts and other overdue tasks while we waited favourable winds to head west to Las Palmas on Gran Canaria Is. We departed Rubicon in the afternoon of 13th Nov and had a boisterous overnight sail 92 miles to Las Palmas in a huge northeasterly swell and 25knot easterly winds.
At Las Palmas we shared a horrible night rolling at anchor with many yachts, (some ex Graciosa) as the swell penetrated the harbour anchorage. The adjacent sheltered marina was full with more than 200 ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) yachts, preparing for their coordinated Atlantic crossing to St Lucia in the Caribbean the following week. Enough was enough, only James ventured ashore and on 15th Nov we sailed 46 miles down the eastern side of Gran Canaria Is to Puerto de Mogan on it's SW end where we were kindly squeezed into a berth for three nights which allowed us to complete stocking of supplies, fill water/ fuel tanks and prepare for the 820 mile trip to the Cape Verde Is. "Mulloka II" (Tony and Val from Australia) who also wintered in Kemer marina Turkey, were also nestled in Mogan and we shared dinners at convivial shoreside restaurants before departing at midday on 18th Nov.
The six day passage to Cape Verde Is was largely one of two parts. A boisterous first half with sails reefed and hatches battened down in 20-25knot southeasterly winds and then a quiet sail with open hatches under gennaker, genoa and full mainsail in 8-10knot winds the remainder of the journey. Lots of fish were caught with our newly prepared lures from Pto de Mogan and sewing dominated quiet periods where James started professionally hand sewing a hammock and "Star of the West" acquired the Skipper's amateurish stern-extension to the bimini for shade from the tropical sun. We crossed the Tropic of Cancer at latitude 23.27 Nth and were officially in the tropics and immediately felt in cruise mode as warm clothing was shed, bedding reduced with the welcome increasing warmth as we continued southwest. Fish dishes and salads came out constantly from Ratna's galley and Daniel enjoyed the excitement of the fish catches and the gory surgery on the stern platform as they were prepared for the fridge/freezer.
On arrival on the afternoon of 24th Nov at Mindelo, on the Island of Sao Vicente, one of the western Islands of the Cape Verdes, we were guided to the anchorage by a "boatboy" in a dinghy. This system, though not sanctioned by the authorities, was one where the "lads" attached themselves to visiting yachts and offered services (dinghy minding, chaperoning around town etc) at exorbitant rates under the veiled threat of possible sabotage. Tony ("Mulloka II") made the comment that we were now being ripped off by poor people, compared to being victims of the rich (Marinas and moorings) in the Mediterranean. After a few nights of being disturbed with knocks on the hull and dubious "requests" for more money, we detached ourselves at a small cost and survived our independence for the remainder of our stay. Wire strops were fitted for the first time to dinghies and outboard motors to deter theft. This was a menace, apparently even greater in the Caribbean, whilst dinghies were unattended at jetties whilst ashore during the day or tied to sterns at night. We enjoyed re-supplying from the dusty almost ramshackle town, with friendly and obliging locals, amongst a mountainous backdrop. We reacquainted ourselves with Australian yachts ("Woodwind", Des, Juianne, Liam, Aiden, Irene), (Karminda II", Karl and Minda) who we had met at various spots in either the Med or the Canaries and American yacht "Danza", Dave, Judy, Young Dave, Jasper and Charlotte. The month came to a close with other yachts coming and going and we planned our departure after sail repairs, haircuts, fuel top-ups etc had been completed, ready to tackle the next much anticipated +2000 mile leg, to be our longest nonstop one for sometime.
The month of the Atlantic crossing (see map) and acquaintance with the Caribbean Islands of Barbados and Bequia (St Vincent-Grenadine Group), where we absorbed the green environment, the palm trees and white sandy beaches after the desert-like conditions of the western Mediterranean, Canary and Cape Verde Is. Also the horrific Boxing day tsunami in the Indian Ocean and the anxious wait for news of family and friends who were in some of the affected areas of Phuket, Langkawi and Sumatra. They were physically not impacted though like everyone, wear emotional scars from either firsthand or TV images.
The 2016 mile Atlantic crossing commenced at midday on 1st of December with departure from Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands and was completed in 15 days with arrival at Bridgetown Barbados in the Caribbean at midday on 16th Nov. The crossing was relatively slow due to lingering troughs south of the weak Azores high pressure area which had failed to provide reliable trade wind conditions. The troughs, due to slowly weakening tropical depression "Otto" north of us, brought unsettled weather with thunderstorms and squalls with winds of 25-35knots. These squalls kept us on our toes particularly during the dark moonless nights where they couldn't be seen creeping up behind us until the associated winds and rain had us scurrying to reduce sail and close hatches. We struggled to improve on 140 mile days as easterly sector winds rarely exceeded 15knots and had us using our three sail combo of mainsail, gennaker to leeward genoa poled out to windward trying to catch the fitful breeze.
Radio schedules with the numerous other yachts crossing, fish catches, shooting stars, bread/cake baking, James' celestial navigation and hammock completion and a mid-Atlantic swim dominated as the days and nights clicked by. Our trusty autopilot attached to the tiller did all the hard work steering with the exception of one night when a squall caught us with all sail up and hand steering was required whilst the sails were reefed and comparative order was re-established.
We sailed in sight of "Woodwind" for the first three days until we headed on opposite tacks and saw a few other sails at various times. One call on the VHF (short distance) radio to an adjacent yacht resulted in three responding in the vicinity so whilst we couldn't see many, there were lots of others undertaking the crossing at the same time. Some cruisers estimate that more than 2000 yachts make the annual migration during December and January across the Atlantic. We had 40 yachts on our morning HF (long distance) radio schedule, and listened occasionally to some of the 200+ ARC yachts, and other radio schedules we knew of. These schedules (apart from shrinking the vast ocean) were a valuable source of weather information gleaned from yacht position/weather reports and summaries of computer generated predictions (grib file downloads) or weatherfax transmissions.
Daniel became proficient in recognizing different species of fish (mahi-mahi, Wahoo, tuna, barracuda, flying fish), particularly enjoying playing with the smelly, scaly flying fish catch which regularly flew aboard during the nights finding it hard to return to the sea through the child-netting rigged on the rails. One mahi-mahi catch was a 3-in-one, as an elongate fish in its tum was found to have a small flying fish in his! Ratna became proficient in filleting fish and baking banana cake and various varieties of bread. James kept busy between watches doing sun and star shots with the sextant as he polished up his celestial navigation skills. He also plotted the point furthermost from continental Africa and America and we stopped for half an hour, hove to in lumpy seas on 8th Dec whilst he and I alternately swam in remarkably blue water, with Ratna & Daniel anxiously looking down whilst "Star of the West" with 5000+ metres of water below her keel pitched up and down. James visibly sighed when he finally completed hand-sewing his hammock, complete with handmade grommets. He rigged his hammock in the rigging on a few quiet nights and slept fitfully between thunderstorms as he swung at times through 180 degrees much to the alarm of Ratna and myself when we were on our watches.
Sails torn slightly along leach-lines (largely from slatting to and fro in the light conditions), one GPS malfunction, a burnt out deck light bulb, lost fishing lures and occasional diesel fuel line blockages were the main items of attrition as the miles ticked by. We happily saw the loom of Bridgetown lights early on the night of 15th Dec and at midday on 16th Nov completed check-in formalities with friendly Customs, Immigration and Harbour Officers at Barbados in Bridgetown's main harbour, amongst three huge cruise ships. We had logged 1950 nautical miles on our paddle wheel log, however the distance was 2016 miles from GPS measurement, so we had a net gain due to current assist of 66 nautical miles though at times we had current against us. After check-in we cast-off to anchor in adjacent Carlisle Bay where "Mustang Sally" and "Danza" greeted us having arrived the day before also from Cape Verde Is. "Narsikaa" (Magnus, Sarah, Jaochim and Camilla from Sweden) and "Woodwind" also anchored shortly after and other yachts came in during the day and following day ("Karminda II") when we all celebrated Warren's Birthday on "Mustang Sally" on 17th Dec.
We cleaned goose barnacles off our stern quarter, these amazingly accumulate even though yachts were constantly moving. Some had necks almost as long as 30cm, but most came off easily with scraper and drifted down to the bottom of Carlisle Bay to become fish fodder. Sails were hand repaired and assistance was given to a Dutch yacht which anchored nearby with her spinnaker tangled around her propeller. We donned dive gear and had to partly cut the sail free as it had badly twisted around the propeller and shaft after being dragged 600 miles. We ate ashore, enjoyed the pristine white sandy beach but a northerly swell was developing in the Bay rolling yachts at anchor and we happily departed on the evening of 20th Nov, after James was safely delivered aboard his plane for the long flight home to Perth Australia. The 90 miles almost due west to Bequia in the St Vincent/Grenadine group of Islands was a boisterous but fast sail and we anchored midday on 21st Nov in Admiralty Bay off Port Elizabeth with it's quaint bungalows, palm trees, flowers and white sandy beaches.
Bequia was a nice haven with over 200 yachts at anchor at times, and all facilities for servicing and provisioning yachts. We moved anchor from Tony Gibbons beach which became rolly, being exposed to the north, and anchored in the quieter water on the northern side of the harbour. Christmas and New Year get-togethers were shared with a large gathering of fellow antipodeans, (including "Theta" who arrived directly from the Canary Is just before Christmas), and other cruisers and our large children's contingent. We caught our breaths from the crossings, having been on the move for months and sadly watched the news as details of the Indian Ocean tsunamis unfolded.