Little Else will be minding her own business on her mooring for a few weeks while we undertake a new crewing challenge. We're off to Madeira and Porto Santo to join Sue Thatcher and her Victoria 38 Tamar Swallow on a tremendous voyage from Porto Santo to the Azores, then onwards to Plymouth. We'll be spending some time visiting five of the islands of the Azores, doing the tourist bit, then returning to Tamar Swallow for the long voyage home. I will try to keep our blog up to date en route, within the obvious constraints of lack of internet access when on the high seas. We are looking forward to visiting these remote islands, where many of the visitors arrive by yacht, mostly en route across the Atlantic
The plan is to return to the UK just before the end of July. Please comment on the blog if you read this, so we can get an idea of who reads the blog!
Off to pack the seasick tablets!
Two day journey now complete, in good sailing weather. Sailed all the way from Largs to Ardrishaig, promptly went aground in the entrance channel to the canal sealock, extricated ourselves immediately, thank goodness, and headed up the canal to Cairnbaan where a nice few beers and excellent dinner were provided for a small fee by the Cairnbaan Hotel. Off again in the morning into the final two uphall locks, then downhill all the way to Crinan. Great day, visibility 100%, could see all three paps of Jura very clearly, as we sailed up Loch Craignish in a north-westerly three to four. We popped on to the mooring and had lunch and a breather, then contacted the boatyard for a berth for a week or so. Snugly attached now, and off to Tom's for some hospitality! Great trip, 1391 nautical miles altogether from Lagos to here. Awesome!
Here's a pic of Tom with Little Else moored by lock 6 of the canal.
Check out also the new photo album, The Journey Home
Log of Little Else, Lagos to Largs April 2010
16 April Friday
Lee, Simon and I moved the boat out on to the reception pontoon around 6pm, Bev came to say goodbye, and left with our two large fenders, destined for the children's home funds, and Mark and Frances called by also. Then we went to Lazyjacks for dinner with Sue T, Stilts and latterly Lee and Barbara from Amour.
17 April Saturday
The off, at 5.30am, in the dark. The wind was light but the swell increased as we went out between the moles. It was my watch, so I helmed as we headed south for 3 miles, then turned on 240 degrees to clear Cape St VIncent. I went off watch and went below for a lie down. Came up again and was comprehensively sick. Ah well, I wasn't hungry for lunch when that came around, this was my first day at sea adjustment, I suppose. I recovered my sea legs in time to cook dinner. So far the snags have been that the log is massively under-reading, the loo seat required repair, and the loo door had to be removed for repair, as it stuck in the half-closed position and none of us is that thin! The seawater inlet to the sink was a bit niffy to start with (marina water, I expect) but it will do very well for washing-up now we are in the relatively cleaner open sea.
The new reefing system is working well, once the odd glitch was cleared up. Like having to lower the lazyjacks to dangle level when the sail is in use.
It was my night watch from 9 until midnight. There were lots of ships, although we were well out to sea on 10 degrees west, the convergence zone for shipping was well out to starboard. Light winds, so we motored all night.
18 April Sunday
Yesterday's lunch for me was one pate sandwich. And the dinner I made was pork chops with a stew of onion, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and mushrooms. I could just about face it! Lee has a brilliant 3-person rota for watches which, now I understand it, works really well. Basically from 6pm each night until noon the next day we are on 3 hours on watch, 6 hours off. But from noon there are one-hourly watches until four pm, when there is the dogwatch of 2 hours until six. Whoever does the noon one-hour watch is cook for the day, so cooks lunch between one and two, and dinner between four and six. That way the rota is fair and we cook one day in three. Cook gets a 'natural' sleep break from midnight to 6am as a reward!
Weather lovely today, sunshine, just not enough wind to sail. Heads blocked again. I thumped it clear, but we do have plan B in case it does it again. Lunch was a salmon salad with mayo and brown Bimbo (Bimbo is bulletproof, mould-proof, everlasting Portuguese sliced bread.) The engine was running all the time, still no wind. I called Trevor on the Satphone, as he had offered to help out with weather forecasting for our trip. He texted me back what proved to be very accurate forecasts for the next three days.
Dinner was by Simon, cheese pudding with broccoli and mashed spuds. If you think I'm dwelling an awful lot on the food here, please remember that food was the highlight of the day, most of the time, as a large seascape is devoid of any remarkable feature a lot of the time.(You long for a ship to watch... or a whale, or dolphins...) One highlight of the day was a swallow, attempting to 'land' vertically on the sail by putting its feet through one of the reefing point holes. Without success, I may add. We also saw three minke whales heading south and two dolphins playing under the bow. Another sunny day, with a noisy engine. We are now north of Peniche, ie north of Lisbon.
19 April, Monday
I was on watch from midnight until three. The crescent moon was lying on its back, to port. Distant ships, all to starboard. No rain, a carpet of stars all twinkling away, the odd plane, despite the grey ash grounding all UK flights, thanks to Iceland's volcano. Simon was sleeping in the forecabin, Lee in the cabin.
I slept well from 3 until 8.30 with the engine on all the time. I used the port side berth, very comfy.
On my watch from 9 the wind had finally got up, so I deployed the genoa and gave Vera the Volvo a well earned rest. I enjoyed sailing her for the rest of my watch, and both the guys slept until 11.30!
We had been getting concerned about the amount of diesel we had used just to get up the Iberian coast so a contingency plan arose to go to Bayona. When the guys came up on deck at lunchtime I talked them out of it, and we set a waypoint for Roches Point in Ireland, as it looked as though we were going to get some good wind at last. It was still 689 miles away, but as we were about 11 degrees west we should avoid most shipping heading for or from the channel, separation zones and the like.
We were considering deploying the solar panel as well as the wind generator to keep the amps up for the fridge and navigation lights and so on.
Latest breakages: our fancy, expensive Lopolight bow light only shows red, no green!!??, the heads blocks all the time, although I have found a way of emptying it out the top waste pipe directly into the sea using the freshwater syphon (no, before you ask, that does NOT require any sucking on my part). Memo, buy a new freshwater syphon!
Lunch was by Lee, a lovely salad with tuna risotto. Trevor SMS-ed us a good weather forecast, southerly winds, steady air pressure.
20 April, Tuesday
Dinner last night was chicken with spuds and assorted vegetables. I was on watch from 6 until 9, then attempted to sleep for part of the 6 hours until my watch at 3am. I slept badly, and the watch went very slowly, with only two ships appearing briefly in the distance. It was my turn to cook today. We were about 80 miles from Vigo on the Spanish coast. Mid-morning I got the syphon out again and had another go at emptying the heads tank into the sea. This procedure involved my lying flat on the side deck with one arm trailing over the side into the sea, holding the long end of the syphon tube down. Not comfortable, shall we say, and leave it at that? My attempts on this occasion were only partly successful, but I couldn't get the draining pipe clear, so Lee decided we needed to look for a Spanish port to do repairs. We planned a route to a port called Camarinas in a ria north of Finisterre, where we would arrive in the dark! My turn to cook today, so I made lunch which went down well. Then off for a relaxing lie down now we're sailing for a bit. Such a shame we had to give up all that westing - we were out at 11 degrees - to come back east and make landfall. Still, it had to be done. Three people aboard a boat with a faulty loo for five plus days across Biscay - not recommended, shall we say!
The guys put all 60 litres of spare fuel into the diesel tank. I made mince-n-tatties for dinner, which was a real hit. The Spanish coast hove into view round 5.45pm We were going to enter the marina in the dark so I got some shuteye in advance. As we neared the coast the mobile signals chuntered into life, and I got a text from Abby saying that her Lee has got a job! That was great news.
21 April Wednesday
As this was the first time into this port for any of us the night pilotage was challenging, finding elusive leading lights in the rain, my realising that the card in the Raymarine chartplotter was the Mediterranean and Black Sea, not France and Iberia as I had mistakenly thought. So that's why the land looked all square and pointy! But as I always say, we didn't hit anything and nobody died, so the entry to Camarinas was a success! We tied onto the pontoon at 3.30am, had a coffee with some Famous Grouse in it, and went unconscious very rapidly.
Woke up again around 8am and got stuck in amid rain and a cool breeze to fixing the the heads tank outlet and the bow light, and the log. The first revelation, amidst the buckets of shit and the deployment of air and water pumps, brushing and poking with various bits of stiff wires, was that there were lumps of variously sized bits of plastic down there, some possibly from Leescale bottles, and A WET WIPE! One of our dear friends or relations visiting the boat possibly did this, without thinking, not realising that boat loos are different from land-based ones. Anyway, for the very first time after Lee discovered this Sue Smith's long pipe-brush went all the way up from the seacock in the hull into the tank itself! Yessss!
I replaced the puzzling Lopolight with the old faithful steam-driven spare, which works a treat, so we can steam properly now and don't have to pretend we're sailing, with our tricolour on at the top of the mast.
Lee got a wet arm on taking out the log transducer, then flicked it round in both directions while I looked at the readout on the instrument. Crap! It only read 3 knots, tops. So we have retired it meantime and will take all measurements from the GPS. Bummer! We finished cleaning the boat and removing nasty niffs by lunchtime, then had a nice lunch aboard, made by Lee. Salad, with cheeses.
We went for a walk then up the town (closed of course, this is Spain after all, does it ever open?) then we had a beer in the Club Nautico, while waiting for the marina guy - who bore a striking resemblance to Colonel Gaddafi - to return after his siesta to sell us some diesel. Of the 200 litres we had when we left Lagos we were down to 12 litres when we arrived in Camarinas.
We ferried the diesel to the boat in the cans. rather than moving the boat to the diesel pontoon, which looked a tad shallow.
In the course of carrying a can of diesel to the boat I tripped over a cleat and fell into the marina. As I hit the water I hung onto the can, and had the presence of mind to keep my mouth and eyes shut. I kicked a bit and the can helped me surface. Simon's voice told me to let go the can and that it would float, but I already knew that as it had helped me. I handed it over and the guys pulled me out of the water. Lee grabbed my mobile and ran it quickly under the tap to wash out the corrosive seawater, but I'm afraid my phone did not recover. I had my second shower of the day and got into some dry clothes, then spent ages sitting on deck in the sunlight drying out euro notes from my wallet, which had been in a pocket. Lee then told me he had fallen into the marina in the morning, tripping over the same cleat, and SImon almost fell in on the diesel run after mine. The finger was very narrow, and some genius had placed two opposing cleats within a foot of each other. Difficult to see if you are carrying a can. Anyway, no harm done except the phone, and my composure, which took a shoogle!
Entertainment this afternoon was watching about thirty people in oilies and lifejackets doing a sea survival course in the fish harbour nearby. They swam around, shouted, waved, and generally got a clear idea of what being shipwrecked is all about.
Little Else iwas squeaky clean, and had stuff stashed where we have never dared. Down the bilges were supplies of coke, water and milk - being kept cool. The fridge was really cold - full of food layered sensibly on the USE NOW principle. I was learning a lot about provisioning for long ocean trips!
We were to be off again in the morning, with the right card in the chartplotter this time. Dinner smelt wonderful, and I was looking forward to a full night's sleep.
21 April Thursday
We were all up at 6 after that good sleep, then we left Camarinas by 8am. Lee asked me to put in a waypoint to Cork, and we would just head straight for it. I did so, and the distance as the crow flies is now 525nm.
Guess what, no wind again! A sandwich tern adopted our pulpit for its fish-spotting and feather-preening activities. It stayed for ages, balancing carefully but sometimes losing it and having to come round again. I took two photographs with Simon's waterproof camera.
Lee was cook and lunch was massive! Later dinner was also so massive that both Simon and I had to feed most of it to the fishes. Even Lee couldn't finish his piri piri spag bols! His full English lunch had floored us all. I decided that as I was to be cook on the following day I would be hot on portion control! It doesn't help that we're eating out of the big steel dogfood bowls!!!
22 April Thursday
Quiet night on watch. I was on the graveyard number - 3am to 6am. Dawn broke just a tad earlier all the time as we headed north. The absence of wind was oppressive. Vera the Volvo has been hard at it ever since we left Camarinas. As we were on a straight line to Cork, as it were, Vera might just have to do the whole journey. At six in the evening we still had 341 nm to run, so arrival on the Irish south coast should be on Monday morning somtime.
We have had a concern today about the amount of water in the bilge. We checked it every hour or every three hours, and found that there was more there than there should have been. Investigation proved that a cockpit drain pipe had started to leak, so we closed the seacock and that stopped the problem. We monitored it closely for the remainder of the journey. It was a dull day, with no glimpse of the sun until after dinner. Hardly any sightings of ships. At 7.30am Lee was on watch when he suddenly noticed a basking shark right in the path of the boat. He altered course, while the apparently sleeping shark suddenly came to, and dived underneath the boat, then surfaced behind it and followed it for some time. Not on my watch, sadly, though Simon did wake me to come up and see it, but by the time I did it had of course gone!
We did have another hitch-hiker though, a swallow, who finally brought a pal along as well to say hello.
I was cook for the day so I made pizza and salad for lunch and chicken curry with basmati rice, yogurt and poppadoms. Even the leftovers were consumed the next day!
My phone recharger died, blew up and lost its spring, and Thuraya told me I had hardly any credit left, so I reckoned I would just have to wait until Ireland to find out what is happening in the world.
Now only the 9 until 12 watch then I knew I could sleep until 6am. Hopefully some wind would come tomorrow!
24th April Saturday
One week since we left Lagos. 250 nm to Cork. Air pressure constant for days at 1010-1012. On engine all the time since Camarinas. Trevor's second forecast was hopeful for some wind for sailing. We were looking forward to getting to Ireland for a short break for fuel and some troubleshooting. I slept really well for my six hours and had a quiet watch from 6 until 9pm. Then an increase in wind brought a change in direction, which meant altering the plan and heading for a spot between Carnsore Point and the Tuskar Rock lighthouse. It only added about 30 miles to the distance to waypoint so that was OK. We put Vera off at 10am and sailed the boat. We only saw one ship in 24 hours, while we were crossing the Biscay shelf with all the confused seas that that involves.
The fridge was still full of food, somehow. The provisioning the guys did was awesome. I'll be digging things out of unusual lockers for quite a while yet!
One great success of this week's sailing and motorsailing at night has been the compass light, the fudged-up ex-christmas-tree light secured with blu-tack and insulating tape to the Sestrel compass, so that we can actually read it at night without needing to use a head torch!
Our probable landfall at this point was looking to be Wicklow or Arklow. The wind picked up to 22 knots, stronger than it had been all journey.
25 April Sunday
On the new heading, the weather was good, and at lunch time it was possible to sail, and we sailed without engine all the rest of the day and night, just counting down the miles to the waypoint. There were hardly any ships but a regular SW 10-17 knots to save us diesel. The main was preventered to stop it slopping about, and this made for comfortable sailing.
We began to get Irish and BBC radio, so we got the shipping forecast, and I listened to the Archers Omnibus!
Lunch was cheese and spam sandwiches and dinner was pork chops with mash. I had a quiet watch from 6 until 9 and from 3 until 6 in the morning.
26 April Monday
The engine went back on when the wind faded, and fog had set in, so Lee and SImon summoned me up on deck in full oilies and lifejacket. Visibility was down to 300 metres so I put on the AIS on the laptop and it reassured us there were no big ships about, but there are always fishing boats which don't show up on AIS. We were running the radar also however, and it showed nothing either. Lee ordered half-hourly position fixes in the log. The instruments showed we had another 24nm to go to the Tuskar light.
The fog stayed around as we closed in on the waypoint, but the tide began to set us back and to the west on the approach. By the time we got there it would be with us, and would help us get round Ireland's bottom right-hand corner. There were loads of harbour porpoises this morning, playing round the boat. Simon pointed out a mother giving her calf bow-diving lessons. We were about 8nm from Great Saltee, yet we couldn't see it.
Lunch was tuna surprise, and afterwards suddenly we could see the Saltee Islands. That was an emotional moment after five days at sea out of sight of land. I reckon it was because I finally put up the Irish tricolour courtesy flag that the land decided to materialise through the mist. It was now a lovely day, and we were heading for the Tuskar waypoint, and then to Dun Laoghaire for refuelling. At 4pm we passed the Tuskar rock in glorious sunshine, intending to follow a course inside the Arklow Bank towards Dun Laoghaire.
I made chili con carne for dinner with turkey mince!! Well, it worked!
The guys added the final 30 litres of fuel to the tank so we could guarantee safe landfall in Dun Laoghaire. Thirty litres equals 15 hours of engine, at 5 knots that's 5x15=75nm of distance. Well the tide shot us northwards at 8 plus knots for hours, then, with just a measly 20 miles to go, the tide went against us, fog set in again and we had to rely on the AIS and instruments to keep us clear of the ships which suddenly appeared, heading south past us. A real slog ensued, with Vera doing her best but only achieving 2 to 3 knots against the fierce Irish tide, so our expected arrival in port was shall we say somewhat delayed.
27 April Tuesday
Finally after one hell of a slog up from Wicklow to Dublin Bay, we found our way into Dun Laoghaire harbour and marina, tied up alongside at 5.30am, then had a small Talisker and went to bed. (Lee preferred brandy!) Next thing I knew it was 11am! We spent the day in the marina doing laundry and having showers and planning to leave on the next north-going tide at 6pm. However the weather forecast indicated rather stronger winds overnight than we wanted so we stayed put overnight after all, only shifting the boat to get a fuel top-up. Our gas bottle finally gave out during the cooking of our main meal of the day. Good going and good timing!
Wifi enabled me to catch up on email and banking and things, but early to bed was the order of the evening. No pint of Guinness!
28 April Wednesday
Up at five, cast off soon after, and I had a sailing lesson from Lee on the new reefing lines. Sea bouncy and wind around 18 to 20 knots. We put the sail up, then progressively put in three reefs, which we then kept in, to sail north with full genoa gving us drive. Simon gave me helming tips too. After an amazing breakfast of toasted cheese I stayed on deck for a while then retired below for what rest I could get.
I re-emerged around 1pm, to find that the guys were hand-steering in awesome following seas in 22 + knots of wind. I took a watch from 2 until 5pm, then handed over to SImon. I got up again later and did a watch from 9 until 12, then stayed with Lee on watch until 1am, when I crashed out for five whole hours.
29 April Thursday
At dark the wind had died away, as had been forecast, and the engine and autopilot, newly ennobled from Herr Otto von Helm to Baron Otto von Helm (Simon's idea) were now powering the boat up past Ailsa Craig. Lumps formed in my throat as I realised that now I was back in Scotland, I really really was!
Lovely clear day, visibility good, even warm in the sunshine as we rounded the south of Arran and headed for the gap between Cumbrae and the mainland. We motored the final miles and entered Largs Marina, tying up on berth F34, by 11.40am. Job done! Lee and Simon sorted out the boat, giving her a good clean, then I treated them to lunch in the restaurant in the marina, and Bren and Ek came by to take some photos, welcome us in, and evntually to offer the guys a lift to the station. So here I am, and here I will stay for about a week, until the next voyage begins.