St Marys Harbour and departure for Greenland
22 June 2016
#7 21th June A clear sunny day in Mary's Harbour. The mayor, Alton Rumble, told us there is now a population of 300 in town. There are not many options apart from fishing, so most of the younger generation have gone to St Johns or other major cities. We met several other Rumbles around town as they seem to have a share in the co-op fish processing plant, the port management, fishing boats and the town council. Alton kindly lent us his car to have a quick look around town (and that was driving slowly) and do some provisioning. The warm dry wind was ideal for drying out the boat and our wet weather gear. We also re-seamed some stitching on the mainsail and topped up the fuel using the longest fuel hose I have ever seen. They pull it 100m down the dock using a ute. Ashley and Cathie talked to the local fisherman about ice to the north. A tanker is stuck in the ice trying to get into Cartwright and the pack ice is well south so they have decide to leave Labrador in the morning and head under the bottom of the ice straight to Greenland. Also in Mary's Harbour was a nice 42' French designed Garcia aluminium yacht and its skipper Gilbert who at the age of 70+ years is going to sail solo through the North West passage. He came on board for a glass of wine and told us stories of losing his boat in Colombia and also rescues in Greenland and Iceland! 22nd June Departed Labrador at 0500hrs and set a course NE to Greenland. A little rain overnight but the skies cleared and we motored with no wind. Looking back at the icebergs grounded along the coast we saw an interesting mirage effect. This Arctic phenomenon is known as a "superior image" or :fata morgana" and occurs when a warm offshore breeze flows over cooler air lying just above the cold sea water. Light travels slightly faster through warm air than through cold causing a light ray as it passes from cooler to warmer air to curve back toward the cooler air. This means that to somebody observing a distant object, say an ice floe, through air that is warmer above than it is below, the floe will seem higher that it really is; it will also be elongated vertically making it seem taller than it really is. Sometimes cooler air can act as a duct between layers of warmer air and images appear of objects below the horizon. At 1030hrs the wind came in from the SE and we set Fore, Main, Balloon Jib and Fisherman. We passed through a band of "growlers" several miles wide, probably coming off the end of the coastal pack ice. These growlers range in size from that of a football up to the size of a container. I saw a wonderful iceberg mirage of a Tall Ship with sails furled on the yards floating above the horizon. We made good progress under sail despite a confused sea and by 2200hrs when we lost the wind and lowered the sails to resume motoring we had covered 130nm.
St Anthony to Marys Harbout
21 June 2016
18th June We tidied up the boat and then took Don's ute into town to get gas, outboard fuel and do the laundry. Caught up with the news and chatted to Mich once we got Wi-Fi. Ashley made some modifications to the fuel lines to further improve the diesel heater operation while at sea. In the evening we dined at the Lighthouse restaurant. Lovely view over the passing icebergs and nice food. 19th June Hitched a ride into town and visited the Grenfell museum. Dr Wilfred Grenfell, a 27 year old medical doctor came from England to Labrador in 1893. There were no doctors and the standard of health was terrible. He spent the rest of his life establishing a health care service which included hospitals, nursing stations and hospital ships. In the afternoon we hitched a ride 30kms out to L'Anse aux Meadows. This is the only authenticated Viking site in North America and the earliest evidence of the eastern migration of humans from Africa meeting their western migration cousins. The Vikings arrived here in 985 AD, but it wasn't until 1960 that their settlement site was discovered for European culture by Helge Ingstad. The sod houses have been recreated and there is an interpretive centre with enlightening video. The thumbs took a little longer to work on the way home, but we all arrived back safely after once more enjoying the hospitality of the locals. Today was the warmest day of the trip, reaching 18° C. The bright sunny skies made a pleasant change to the foggy damp conditions we have mostly experienced. 20th June Left St Anthony at 0500hrs and motored until the wind came in from SW @ 20-25kts. Sailing with main, fore and staysail. Water temperature is 3.2°C which chills the wind considerably. We passed several scattered large icebergs along the way. These are generally stuck in shallower patches of water, 80m or less. In the afternoon we pulled into the National Historic Site of Battle Harbour. The entrance was down a narrow snaking Tickle past barren rocky outcrops that open out into the tight harbour lined with white washed buildings with red trim. This island community at its peak with cod fishing and to a lesser degree seal and salmon was the hub to a population, including the surrounding area, of 4,000 people. When the cod fishing finished most of the population was relocated, but the young unemployed were encouraged to restore the old buildings. Today it is a piece of living history that caters to visitors with day trips from Mary's Harbour and accommodation in the restored cottages for those that want to stay. We could have stayed the night at their dock, but we thought the $2/ft charge was a little steep, so we motored the 9nm to Mary's Harbour.
21 June 2016 | St John's
It was quite the shock when we sailed into the the busy commercial harbour of St John's, hosting cruise ships, large commercial fishing vessels and small boat tour operators. I had become so content with the pleasant and simple nature of the smaller fishing communities of Newfoundland that we had come to know. Immediately the the sky scrapers and crowds of people set this island apart from the rest of the province. We tied up alongside an old fishing boat and received clearance into Canada, but only after convincing the custom officers that the outrageous amount of French wine we were carrying, was solely for personal consumption. I stepped foot onto the dock and instantly felt unbalanced as my sea legs had found their form and hadn't let their guard down. However, this was no longer an issue once Matt and I discovered what the provinces capital is so well known for. Downtown St John's is home to the smallest and most famous street on the island; George St. Renowned for having the highest concentration of bars and nightclubs per square foot in all of North America, it is bustling with musicians and colourful tapestry in honour of the rich Irish heritage. Strangers quickly befriended us and opened our eyes to the culture and traditions of Newfoundland that vivaciously prospered through the streets. One particular tradition, "screeched-in' began in the early stages of European settlement into Newfoundland, and still continues to this day. It is the locals way of welcoming foreign traders and travellers to their land. They will take you to the bar where you are required to drink a shot of rum, kiss a stuffed cod fish and finally eat a piece of Newfie meat, thus officially honouring you as a fellow Newfie (Newfoundlander).
I spent the following day hiking the dramatic coastline to Signal Hill, the easternmost point of North America, where Gugiemo Marconi flew a kite in a gale to receive the first ever transatlantic wireless signal in 1901. It was a significant scientific breakthrough that drastically improved the safety of ships crossing the North Atlantic ocean to and from Europe.
St John's offered us the opportunity to restock provisions and purchase some warmer gear, however we were ready to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and head further north, to one of the oldest towns in Newfoundland; Boavista.
Departing the harbour in the dusk of the following morning, had us surrounded by dense fog with the sound of the lighthouse foghorn blasting in the distance. The presence of fog is a common navigational hazard in the North Atlantic, the notorious southwesterly winds pick up moisture from the warmer waters of the gulf stream and carry it over the much cooler waters in the Labrador current. The contrasting temperatures being brought together, react and create fog. It becomes disorientating, mysterious and dangerous when navigating through fog in such unpredictable ice ridden waters.
Lumsden Harbour to St Anthony
19 June 2016
15th June Departed Lumsden by 0530hrs and motored north. No wind but thick fog. Two on watch to look out for ice. The radar picks up bigger icebergs and even smaller bergy bits show as intermittent blips. There are some interesting names on the chart. Having crossed Hamilton Sound we motored up "Dildo Run" to the "Main Tickle". Large icebergs have landed on then north facing bays and we motored around several as we entered the small fishing port at Durrell next to Twillingate. The small museum in Durrell has a stuffed polar bear on display. The 2 year old floated south on icebergs and became a menace to residents when he landed here. They couldn't tranquilise him so they had to shoot him. Walking towards town we came to a shop doing wine tastings. The wines are made from berries mostly found locally. Rather than being full bodied berry flavour they seemed to just have a hint of berry taste. Visitors from Gander gave the six of us a lift into town in the back cab of their pickup truck. Gander was for a short period one of the busiest airports in the world when the USA closed its airspace after the 9/11 attack and all incoming trans-Atlantic flights were diverted here. The locals opened their homes and looked after the flood of stranded passengers. We had a beer at the Anchor Inn with our transportation hosts before walking down the road to Addy's Fish Restaurant where we tried Capelins, small sardine sized fish. They had been baked and were very dry and salty - an acquired taste. Also on the menu were Cod Tongues which are highly prized, but we found them disappointing. Murray had some highly rated Snow Crabs and Maggie and I ate grilled cod fillets that had lovely and flaky white flesh. Ashley tried Moose Soup which he said was very salty. After dinner a short time with the thumb out soon had lifts with locals back to the boat. 16th June Departed Twillingate at 0500hrs motoring with no wind, grey skies and clear visibility. Very calm sea and a thin cloud cover around noon almost let the sun through. We covered the 80nm to Englee by 1730hrs. Englee is a small fishing village nestled in a cove near the entrance of Canada Bay. The fishermen were unloading Snow Crabs on the dock where we tied up. The town is quite isolated with no TV, population 400 and the Salvation Army building the biggest in town. 17th June We cast off from Englee at 0600hrs and headed north. Large icebergs have beached along the coast here and we saw a small section break off one as we passed by. It is blowing 15kts from the north and raining. We have better visibility with the cold northerly winds and despite the rain we can clearly see the icebergs and bergy bits, unlike the south westerlies that pick up moisture over the warm Gulf Stream waters which turns into fog over the chilly Labrador Current east of Newfoundland. A passage from John R. Bockstoce's book "High Latitude, North Atlantic" reads: "On the average the west Greenland glaciers calve about 27,000 icebergs each year. They then begin a 2-3 year voyage of about 2,000 miles, melting and calving as they travel, first north along the Greenland shore to Baffin Bay, then south, past Baffin Island and Labrador. On average about a thousand bergs per year reach Belle Isle, but most are bound down the east coast of Newfoundland to the Grand Banks where they meet the 60° F water of the Gulf Stream and vanish quickly." Now days this number could be more like 30-40,000 bergs heading south each year. The flat bergs are generally from the low lands around Baffin Island while the peaked ones are from the mountainous Greenland glaciers. The wind and sea built through the day and the motion stirred up sediment in the fuel tanks which caused a blockage in fuel filter which stopped the engine. We drifted for nearly an hour while Ashley changed the filter and bled the system. The wind was now blowing 40+ knots and the cold spray stinging our faces as we approached St Anthony. We dodged a final couple of bergs near the harbour entrance and entered quieter waters. Don, a trawler owner helped with our lines and came on board for a chat before we had a quick dinner and went to bed early.
Where France meets North America
19 June 2016 | St Pierre
Following Windjammers extraordinary welcoming to Newfoundland, we headed south-east to where North America meets France. With Brie, baguettes and Bordeaux in mind, we set sail for St Pierre, one of the last two remaining islands belonging to the French empire in North America. St Pierre is like a little piece of Europe on the opposite side of the Atlantic. The smell of freshly baked bread and croissants seduces your senses whilst meandering through the cobble stone streets of the old town, the locals greet you with a smiling 'bonjour' as they pass by. We befriended a local Basque fisherman who retired from the trade to open his own bar, he is renowned for his heavy hand when pouring a good rum. He bragged about his cooking and proceeded to invite us back for lunch the following day. When asked why he did not open a restaurant, he simply replied 'because if people didn't like my food, I would have to kill them'.
Windjammer's cellar had been cleaned out for the opportunity to refuel with France's best. And so, over 100L of red wine and rum were eagerly sourced and stowed; in hope of satisfying six thirsty sailors for 3 mo
nths of cold climate sailing. Let's just say that we did our duty of upholding the stereotype that is of both sailors and Australian's.
Threats of gale force winds caused us to delay our departure from St Pierre, putting us slightly behind schedule for our Arctic adventure. We spent the day making use of the yacht clubs showers and internet before we cast off the lines early the following morning, and said a final farewell to this delightful french island.
St Johns was our next destination, a two day passage north along the east coast of Newfound to the provinces capital. With unfavourable wind conditions and minimal breeze, the sound of the engine roared through the wooden floorboards as we stood our watches through thick lingering fog. Huge swells sent Windjammer rolling though the waves forcing the crew to quickly adjust to the unstable conditions. Late afternoon the wind came around and the great King Neptune finally answered our prayers. The sail covers came off, the three glorious white sails were hauled and the roar of the engine was finally no more. There was wind in the sails and a firm grip on the charming wooden helm as we sailed through the night. The fog cleared by morning and the weather was kinder, allowing us to shed a couple of layers and move more easily about the boat. Now that we were sailing, the uncomfortable and unstable rolling soon transitioned to a pleasant and soothing motion. With the help of the heater, the more favourable conditions were sending the crew into a sleepy trance whilst they waited to be called up to their watch.
St Johns to Lumsden
14 June 2016
13th June Left St Johns at 0500hrs. Fog and no wind with light rain. Wind came in from the SE and we raised sail at 0800hrs. The rain set in during the morning and we made good speed to the north in 15-20kts of breeze. We saw a number of icebergs - some well over 100m in size. Rounding Cape Bonavista we sailed into smooth waters and made 10kts down to Bonavista town in the freshening breeze. Ashley saw 32kts on the wind gauge by the time we were lowering the sails at the harbour entrance. Several locals braved the weather to assist us tie up at the inner fishing boat harbour. All lines secured by 1730hrs. Thoughts of a walk into town were dispelled by the rugged weather. Cathie cooked up a lamb roast with rice and veg and we turned in early. Along the way we have grappled with some of the local lingo, so here are a couple of terms we have picked up. Floater - Seasonal fisherman who leave at the end of the fishing season. Livyer - Those who choose to stay through the year Tickle - A short narrow channel between islands Rattle - A passage where currents can really boiled 14th June This morning we visited the "Matthew", a full scale replica of Cabot's 15th century carvel. Giovannini Caboto was a Genoese explorer, sponsored by the King of England, who in 1497 set sail from Bristol, England hoping to find a route to the Far East, but instead landed in Newfoundland. Instead of spices or silk he found cod which sparked settlement in North America and the establishment of the huge cod industry. Today in Bonavista fishing is still the main industry. With the 1992 moratorium on cod fishing still in effect, at this time of the year they are catching crab and lobster. We left Bonavista at 1330hrs and headed north. There is not enough breeze to sail and we motor across the lumpy sea in thick fog. There are a number of icebergs floating through this area which is known as "Iceberg alley". We maintain an iceberg watch on the bow and can only see 100m ahead at most. There is a tricky approach to Lumsden harbour with a buoyed passage between shoals and then a dog leg into a small fishing harbour. We only see the buoys through the fog when we are almost on them. A couple of local fishermen who came to help with our lines were impressed we got in. We were secure by 2030hrs. Cathie cooked up a pasta with the last of the scallops from Ramea.
St Pierre to St Johns
13 June 2016
9th June The storm has passed and we departed Saint Pierre at 0800hrs. A grey day with fog and a very lumpy left over sea. A light breeze turned to the SW and we motor-sailed with the main, fore and balloon jib. The wind died early in the afternoon and didn't pick up again until 2100hrs when we raised the sails again and turned the motor off. We sailed through the night at 6-7kts. The water temperature has dropped to 6° C, but it is quite reasonable on deck. We are standing 2 hour watches with 2 up. The barometer is reading 992. 10th June In the morning as we headed north we could hear the fog signal of Cape Race long before we caught a dim glimpse of it through the mist. As we approached Cape Spear Ashley spotted out to sea our first iceberg for the trip. Cape Spear is the most easterly point of North America. As we rounded the lighthouse there were many bergy bits calving off a large iceberg stuck against the shore. We entered St Johns harbour at 1800hrs and tied up in the security zone astern of the Venezuelan sail training ship, Simon Bolivar, to await customs clearance back into Canada from Saint Pierre. After a prolonged wait we cleared in without any problems or duty needing to be paid on our Saint Pierre wine purchases. Steaks were eaten at a dockside establishment before the younger folk took off to sample the delights of George Street. 11th June Went for a walk in St Johns and had a big cooked breakfast. Bought some camping mats as insulation to mitigate condensation in the forward berths we anticipate when we get into the colder northern climate. Received an email from Steph telling us she is engaged to Dylan!!! - much rejoicing in the Smail camp! In the afternoon we visited The Rooms Museum. This is an excellent display of the history and culture of the region. 12th June A sunny clear day for a walk around St Johns harbour entrance to Signal Hill. Cabot's tower on Signal Hill is famous as the site where Gugliemo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal on 12th December 1901. Also at the tower we met the very handsome, 70kg "Chieftain", a 2 year old Newfoundland dog. This local breed is famous for their kind and water loving disposition. We walked past the tower and down to Quidi Vidi, a picturesque group of house built on the edge of a Tickle. We passed up a tour of the local craft brewery in favour of delicious fresh lobster rolls at the Mallard Cottage. We have enjoyed St Johns with its colourful terraced houses and broad selection of cafes, restaurants and pubs. Most of the pubs have live music and Matt says the party starts at midnight and they close at 3am. Matt gives George Street a 5 star rating. In June and July the weather is described as "Capelin Weather" as this time of year these small sardine like fish run and the weather is always wet and foggy. Maggie and I bought traditional sou'westers in St Johns. These hats are also known as Cape Annes' and are oilskin with a felt lining and flaps to cover your ears.
12 June 2016 | St John's
The shiny green topsides and raking masts shined flawlessly in an otherwise dull morning as Windjammer took to its name as a "floating curiosity". Despite the long journey and early arrival from the opposite side of the world, I climbed out of the zodiac with great anticipation. The familiar sense of homeliness flushed through me as I set foot on the deck of the traditional gaff rigged schooner. And so, as Windjammer eagerly awaited departure from Sydney, Nova Scotia, my next chapter begins; Crossing the North Atlantic Ocean.
Our crew comprise of six salty sea dogs of whom are well accustomed to sailing on Windjammer. Ashley & Cathie are the captain and wife who set sail from Australia six years ago, Matt crossed part of the pacific with them and Murray, Nick and myself were apart of their adventure to Antarctica.
Our journey begins on the west coast of North America where we will sail through Newfoundland as far as Labrador before crossing the Davis straight to Greenland. We will continue to sail north on the western coast of Greenland to enter the arctic circle then return to round the south tip of Greenland and cross the Denmark straight to Iceland. From there, I will sadly say farewell and return to Australia, while the crew continue to circumnavigate Iceland and then sail to Norway.
Newfoundland is like a little lost piece of the world that people seem to forget exists. The communities are small, the words are few but the fiddle always plays its tune. Our first night aboard was an overnight passage to the Ramea Islands where we pulled into the small fishing village in the town of Ramea. The town is home to around 150 people, two small grocery stores and one restaurant that closes for months at a time. We tied up alongside a fishing boat and watched as the men sung sea shanties and guzzled beers mid morning while offloading thousands of live scallops. We learnt the trade of shucking scallops and indulged in the rewards of our hard work for dinner that evening. We continued to explore the northwest arm of Grey River and landed at Deadman's cove where we hiked a 350m high mountain with smooth rock faces overlooking a spectacular fjord carved by glaciers.
The next stop was Francois, a small fishing village on the banks of a sheltered inlet on the mainland. With no local pub in town, the 'Newfie' locals make do with a shed on the waterfront. We were invited to join them while they played music, drank and danced to their hearts desire. Although we may have not been able to fully comprehend the speech through the thick Newfoundlander accent, their welcoming nature and love of music won us over.
The weather has been charming us by showing off its glorious sun beaming through clear blue skies and not a breath of wind to disrupt the crystal glass water surrounding us. We have been watching dolphins play in picturesque sunsets and whales skimming the surface. Yet the crew would not be the sailors they are if they were not craving wind to pull the lines that would have the big white sails gloriously billowing in a steady breeze.
South Coast of Newfoundland to St Pierre
05 June 2016
5th June We left Francois at 0700hrs. Sea flat, no wind. 50nm to the island of Saint Pierre. The wind picked up mid-morning and we set main and foresail in 5-10kt breeze. The sea temperature here at 47° N is 8-9°C so any breeze blowing off it is very fresh. The sun is shining and we watched many Fin whales blowing just off the island. The first French island we passed was Miquelon and we arrived at Saint Pierre at 14.30hrs, but we had to adjust our watches forward 1 hour for French island time. Customs and immigration were waiting for us at the dock and were very pleasant. After we completed formalities we walked the short distance into town in bright sunshine. Being Sunday most shops were closed. We watched some local fisherman cleaning cod which they had caught on hand lines at 80-100m depth close to St Pierre. We called into the only bar open in town, the Txetxo. This is a Basque bar. The Basque were the first cod fisherman beginning fishing these waters in the 15th century. They supplied the European market with cod and jealously guarded their source. With Matt translating we had a good chat with Jose the barman. He worked the cod boats from the age of 14. He is proud of his Basque heritage and talked about his life and supplied us with tapas of whelks, cheese, salmon and sausage. He asked us back for lunch on Tuesday for a meal of traditional cooked Bacala. Back at the boat Cathie cooked up a wonderful risotto and Windjammer remained tied to the Eric Tabarly wharf for the night. 6th June It was a treat this morning to have croissants and baguettes fresh from patisserie. The yacht club has good showers and a washing machine so we tidied up before heading into town to the bottle shop. As this will be the best opportunity to buy good wine at a reasonable price we bought a good volume. Saint Pierre is a duty free port and has a long association of suppling alcohol. During the prohibition in the USA it was even one of the staging grounds for Al Capone. The wine and other liquor was delivered after lunch and Murray spent quite some time stowing it all aboard. In the afternoon Murray and I climbed up to the ridge above town for some good views of the island. Despite having a population of 6,500 the town is remarkably quiet with the locals friendly and considerate to pedestrians. 7th June (46° 47'N 56° 10W) Ashley has decided to wait in St Pierre for a strong storm cell to pass. I strolled into town to buy baguettes and croissants for breakfast. The sun has disappeared and the air is quite cool so I spent the morning reading on the computer and took a walk with Murray for a coffee break. We went back to bar Txetxo to have lunch with Jose and his special cod dish but he hadn't been able to buy any Bacala so he produced a family pot of steak and carrots with plenty of bread and also a scallop and saffron dish. He wouldn't take payment for the food as he doesn't usually provide food in the bar, but just enjoys cooking his family recipies. In the afternoon we took the tender over to I'lle aus Marin, the small island across the bay from St Pierre. The island was known as I'lle aus chiens (island of dogs) but they changed the name in the '60s. The island was the original centre for the cod fishing industry and in the late 1800s had a population of around 700. Today there are around 40 houses only and of these only 15 are original. Others have been renovated and there are some newer ones retaining the same architecture that are used as holiday homes. The cod fishing started to die out in the late 1930s and a number of houses were deconstructed and rebuilt in St Pierre. Some of the buildings are now museums recording the history and hardships of the residents. They were a very self-reliant and also strongly religious (Roman catholic) people. The biggest building on the island is the church "Notredame aux Marins". The museum curator did a marvellous job explaining the exhibits wearing only a t-shirt, long pants and gumboots while we were all rugged up to the eyeballs. 8th June Spent time this morning looking for insulation to go around the mast in the forecastle. The mast, being made of steel works extremely well in removing any traces of heat that might make their way forward from the diesel heater. The locals are all very helpful and a gentleman took me to his house where he had some insulation stored and gave it to me for nothing. It is a miserable day with strong wind and rain. The barometer is reading 999 and falling.
Sydney Nova Scotia to south coast of Newfoundland
04 June 2016
2nd June 2016 Arrived in Sydney, Nova Scotia at 2am and was met by Ashley and tendered out to Windjammer. Ashley and Cathie have sailed her up from Rhode Island where they had spent the winter. The rest of the crew, Maggie Kerr, Murray Spence and Matt Po arrived at various times on the 1st June. It is great to be back on board and share a new adventure with crew we have sailed with before. Sydney was famous for its coal mining and steel production. It was a gathering point for ships doing the Atlantic convoy crossings in the 2nd World War. These industries have stopped now and tourism is their mainstay. The cruise ship terminal has a small museum which records the early Gaelic settlers and later the battles for possession between the English and the French. A huge fiddle outside the facility is a reminder of the early settlers and their heritage of language and music. We departed Sydney at 1.30pm after fuelling and taking on water. A cold breeze was blowing in the bay but died out as we left the land and headed ENE on the 140nm crossing to Newfoundland. As we were motoring we stood solo 2 hour watches. A brilliant sunset over an oily calm sea was enhanced by the silhouettes of dozens of dolphins jumping and a few whales feeding. 3rd June First stop in Newfoundland is the small island of Ramea. The sea is flat calm and there is no wind. We arrived at 11.00am and tied alongside a large fishing boat. They were unloading scallops which they keep alive in the flooded holds. They generously gave us a basket of scallops and showed us how to shuck them. They did it very quickly and we ended up with several kilos of scallop meat. They also gave us some flounder fillets which Cathie cooked for lunch. Winston the skipper and owner was very proud of his vessel the "Burin Tradition" and showed us over her. He is licenced to fish for scallops, sea cucumber, whelks, cod and halibut and even allowed to catch 8 blue fin tuna a year. We had a walk on a board-walk out to the lighthouse. The country is boggy with stumpy little spruce scrub and weather rounded bare rock. We left Ramea after lunch and headed across to the main island of Newfoundland and entered the Grey River fjord. The town of Grey River has been largely abandoned as the fishing industry has declined since the moratorium on cod fishing in 1988. A local told us in his extremely broad accent there are only about 70 people left in town and only 14 children in the school. We anchored for the night a few miles up the fjord. We all battled to understand the Newfies "language". Their accent is quite unique and you need to listen very carefully to get their meaning. We dined in style with the fresh scallops cooked in ginger, sherry, soy and maple syrup and served with fresh asparagus and mashed sweet potato. 4th June Ashley changed the sump pump in the shower. It has lasted 6 years! We motored up the west arm of Grey River for a look around before heading out to sea and following the coast east to Lahme Bay. The coastline here is steep bare cliffs with little sign of vegetation. We entered Lahume Bay and anchored in Deadman's Cove. The massive hills here are well rounded by glacial action and waterfalls break the silence as they tumble hundreds of metres down the walls. We had a good climb up to the tops with views back over the bay and down on Windjammer at anchor. On the way down we noticed what we thought were white goats, but later we were told that they would have been young caribou. Leaving Deadman's Cove we motored 5nm along the coast to the small community of Francois which nestles at the head of a small cove with a backdrop of craggy cliffs and a river cascading through the centre of town to the sea. Like Grey River, this was a busy fishing village relying on the cod fishing but with its demise most residents have left. Today there are only 70 locals, but it seemed quite lively with several visitors staying in B & Bs ferrying in from bigger towns for the weekend. A quick stroll around the town was followed by pre dinner drinks on deck and then a delicious roast dinner. Later we went to one of the boat sheds where some visitors were having a sing along with guitar and lagerphone. Matt played some Spanish tunes and Cathie had a good bop.
Sailing to Nova Scotia
09 May 2016 | Sailing to Nova Scotia
The front has eventually passed and we are now on our way to Lunenburg. The extra two days dockside at Newport turned out to be quite productive and I was able to free up the engine stop cable that was forever challenging us to an arm wrestle. Cathie managed to add another ice breaker to her arctic collection and a new pair of foul weather pants so we are all good in the clothing department.
We left the dock at 6 am on Sunday, thanks to Mike for helping us with the lines, and motored all the way in the rain to Onset Town at the southern entrance to Cape Cod Canal. A good work out for the new foulies. Must give Gill a bit of a plug here, they gave me a complete new set to replace the previous ones that were just starting to leak even though they were 5 years old and done 55K miles. They provide life time warranty on their gear.
Back to Onset, this town is noted for having the best Pizza Joint in Cape Cod "Marc Antonio's" and for offering a safe anchorage for boats waiting for the tide to transit the canal. Beer and Pizza with an early night set us up for our 5am transit of the canal next morning, hooking in to a brisk 4kn tide.
After "popping" out of the canal, sails were set, fortunately without a hitch, though it did require several "umm is this the one" after our six month winter layup. The heater is working a treat but we do have to gybe the flue first before we gybe the sails to ensure clear airflow over the chimney.
A little dove landed on the foredeck this morning then took off again looking quite lost, lots of Northern Fulmars and little shearwaters flying around us sporting their new summer plumage.
Our expected arrival in Lunenburg is tomorrow morning (Tuesday).
Arctic Circle passage
05 May 2016 | Newport RI
Spring has finally arrived in Newport and it's time to get moving again. Just waiting for the weather front to pass, then we're off to Nova Scotia via Cape Cod canal and Provincetown on the end of Cape Cod peninsula. From there it is a 320 mile passage to Lunenburg where we start our meander up the coast to the Bras D'Or Lakes in Cape Breton via the St Peters Canal. We need to rendezvous with our crew in Sydney on the 1st June for the start of the northern passage to Norway via Greenland and Iceland.
It will be sad to say goodbye to Newport and all the friends we have made here during the winter. As it turned out it was quite a short winter for us due to the 7 weeks spent in Australia and the road trip to Quebec. We did however manage to complete our project "wish list"... painting and varnishing the internals and non skid deck. Cathie made new cockpit cushions and some new covers while I did the engine maintenance stuff... heat exchangers, injectors, water pumps etc. On the big spend side we had to replace all the Lifeline AGM batteries, liferaft and anchor chain. We also completed our Ham Radio licence, something we have been wanting to do for some time.
We built a frame over the boat, then shrink wrapped it. A few clears for windows, a wooden door and a chimney turned Windjammer into a very cosy igloo.
Newport Rhode Island - our winter home.
10 November 2015 | Newport RI - Photo: Berthed at Newport Harbour Hotel and Marina
We are back in Newport where we will spend this winter berthed at the Newport Harbour Hotel and Marina in the heart of the old town. Our in water berth includes shore power, cable TV, heated pool and access to the hotel facilities all at a cost of $400.00 per month. During the on season they charge $5.00 per foot per day so a very good deal for us. We are part of a community of 25 live aboard yachts in the marina so looking forward to building some new friendships. Our first project though is to build a frame over Windjammer so we can shrink wrap her with plastic to keep out the snow ....mmm this is going to be interesting.
Bar Harbor, Maine to Newport and New York
02 November 2015 | Manhattan - Photo: Anchored off Ellis Island near the Statue of Liberty
After disembarking Tom and Sylvia at Bar Harbour in Maine we sailed down the coast to Newport with a quick stop over in Rockland and Rockport. Newport was going to be our home for the winter so we were keen to check out the place to ensure we knew what we would be getting ourselves into. The Newport Harbour Hotel runs its marina during the winter at very reasonable rates and as a result there is quite a large live aboard community there. It is also conveniently located in the centre of the old town with everything in walking distance. We had also arranged to pick up Alex and Maggie our two daughters and Alex's boyfriend Dan. The Big Apple" was our next destination and the reason the girls had made the long flight from Australia. Neither of them having visited New York before, needless to say they were very excited. We spent one more day in Newport and then continued to make our way through Long Island Sound en route to NYC. We made a short stop on the north fork of Long Island, then onto Mystic where we rendezvoused with an old friend Jay Grant from the Whitsundays and his wife Monica sailing south to the Caribbean. Mystic Seaport is one of the largest maritime museums in the US and was founded by Walter Howland who owned the schooner "Integrity", the lines on which Windjammer (nee Leanne Marie) was built. We spent a great day touring the museum and town before sailing across to Dering Harbour on Shelter Island.
The following day we had a terrific sail down the sound but then the weather turned and we had to hole up for a day up the river and off the village of Old Saybrook near the old whaling town of Essex. It is a lovely New England town and happened to have a scarecrow competition running in the Main Street. Halloween was the theme, with pumpkins at every doorstep and some pretty scary and hilarious scarecrows. The next day was absolutely flat clam with no wind, so we left early and motored 100 miles into the East River and arrived to greet Miss Liberty at sunset. We anchored just off Ellis Island on the Jersey side of the Hudson River, popped the champagne and enjoyed the illuminated grand city view of NYC. Wow, what an anchorage. The girls were keen to explore the sights and duly set off the next morning for Central Park, Times Square and the Empire State Building. We took it easy and visited the two 9/11 memorial reflecting pools. These pools are almost an acre each in size and sit within the footprint of the original Twin Towers. They also feature the largest man made waterfalls in the world. Very impressive.
Over the course of the next five days we wandered through Central Park, saw a Broadway show, explored the village and neighbourhoods of New York, sampled the local cuisine and the girls even went ice skating in Central Park. Central Park is beautiful at this time of year with the leaves turning and all the colours of the fall. The last night before leaving was Halloween so we watched the ghoulish characters transiting the subway and streets to their party destinations and parades.
After seeing off the girls and Dan we had an early morning departure next day to catch the tide through "Hells Gate" - a boiling cauldron in the middle East River if you don't get the timing right. We slipped through with ease and continued our journey back to Newport. A great 10 days in NYC.
22 July 2015
We finally made it to Maine, a bucket list destination with Penobscot Bay and all the wooden classic schooners. We had heard so much about cruising in Maine, how beautiful it was, best cruising ground in the world, lobsters etc etc. We therefore had very high expectations.
Our next stops after Portland were the twin towns of Rockland and Camden. Rockland is a great working class town and we arrived just in time for the annual blues festival, the largest on the east coast, so that really got us into the swing of things. Camden is a quaint town just north of Rockland and draws a good summer crowd. These towns are well known for the "Windjammers" that operate week long sailing tours around this coast. We did a lot of exploring with our bikes and one of the highlights was being invited onboard the three masted schooner "Victory Chimes" by her owner the legendary Captain "Kip". Built in 1900 as a lumber trader, she now operates as a charter vessel during the summer season. She does this without an engine, as do most of the schooners that charter in the area. She does have a wooden tender called a "yawl boat" or "push boat" with a single piston engine to manoeuvre and push her around between sailings.
We again caught up with L'Hermione for Bastille Day celebrations at Castine and the majority of the "Windjammers" turned up for the festivities. It was indeed a grand site. We spent a great few days here doing some varnishing and participating in the celebrations ashore. Castine is a relatively wealthy but small town with a mature population. There is a large maritime academy here and is the home of the famed schooner "Bowdoin" which is the Maritime academy's training ship. We watched L'Hermione depart in the early hours of a foggy Monday morning and that was our cue to also make way.
We had a great sail down through Eggemoggin Reach which is a scenic thoroughfare between Deer Island and the mainland. We stopped in at the Wooden Boat School which is at the southern end of the reach. Bought some books on half modelling, (winter project), browsed around the school which offers numerous boat building and related classes and then made our way to Southwest Bay on Mt Dessert Island. We spent a few days biking around the island. They have a free bus sponsored by LL Bean which you can put your bikes on board and jump on and off at many places around the island to explore the Acadia National Park which covers the majority of the island. We also visited the main town on the island, Bar Harbor. This is a very wealthy area and summer residents include the likes of Rockefellers, Martha Stewart and other "beautiful" people.
The down side to cruising Maine is of course the lobster pots, and we encountered literally thousands of these, and I mean thousands. There were carpets of buoys everywhere, even in the anchorages and fairways. We found it quite stressful navigating our way through them. Unlike the local boats, we do not have a folding propeller or a cutter so a vigilant eye had to be kept. We left Southwest Harbour early for "down east" Maine, our aim being to reach Roque Island some 40 miles to the North East. The fog got worse as the day progressed and Cathie had to man the bow with the foghorn. It was like "pea soup" and sure enough we snagged a pot. Not having suitable wetsuits on board it was like, what now! Mmmm... try this, start the engine and slip the gear quickly into reverse and out... bingo it worked. We ended up dropping anchor in a place called Mistake Island Harbour just off Great Wass Island. We stayed put for 3 days due to the thick fog, did some fishing, (unsuccessful), and some indoor jobs. This was quite a pretty anchorage and there was another yacht about 50m ahead of us which we hardly ever saw, The fog didn't look like lifting and I was getting cabin fever so we decided it was time to leave Maine and head to Nova Scotia.
We were still encountering lobster pots in the gulf some 40 miles offshore. In thick fog later that afternoon we made our way into Yarmouth Harbour, Nova Scotia. This was a very hairy entry. We could only see as far as the handrails. The sound of foghorns and bells on markers were ringing all around us. Despite the thick fog, there was quite a bit of fishing boat traffic coming out of the narrow channel and our radar was working overtime. Needless to say, we were relieved when we finally picked up a mooring at the base of the harbour. An hour later it cleared up completely and we were able to head for shore and a well earned cold beer and some warm Canadian hospitality.
While Maine is a very pretty place in terms of the islands, boats, etc, it was not really our cup of tea. The lobster pots create an air of visual pollution and really detract from the scenery and the constant smell of the rotten processed cowhide (which many use for bait) as they bring up the pots has put us off eating lobster totally . The towns and villages are pretty but after a while they all look the same. The shop fronts with their gilded signs and tourist merchandise are copied from town to town. Even the restaurants seem to share the same menu. It is also incredibly busy with almost every harbour chock a block with boats and every available space filled with moorings for transients, hardly leaving space to anchor. Every square foot seems to need to generate an income. We have obviously been spoilt with the places we have cruised so far. Now looking forward to a more laid back atmosphere in Nova Scotia.
Nantucket to Portland Maine
08 July 2015 | Portland - photo: L'Hermione at Castine, Maine
Our next destination was the island of Nantucket famous for being the largest historical whaling town in the US. We had read good reports about the museum and after reading the Nathaniel Philbrick book, In the Heart of the Sea, (the story of the ship Essex from Nantucket which was sunk by a giant sperm whale in 1820. This in turn is the story upon which Herman Melville's book Moby Dick was based), we were keen to visit. It turned out to be a trifle disappointing, expensive and more focused, it appeared on promoting the movie based on the above book which was to be released later in the year. After the whaling ended, Nantucket became a popular retreat for artists and a big holiday destination. Although very touristy, it is not as manufactured as Martha's Vineyard and has more of a local feel. There are still many descendants from the Quaker families that set up and prospered in the town during the whaling years.
After only a short stay in Nantucket we sailed across to Provincetown on the Cape Cod peninsula. It was early July and the weather was warming up but the crowds had not as yet hit this area. It was two days before 4 July celebrations, the official beginning of the holiday season. We managed to find an anchorage a long way out in the bay and dinghied ashore to check out P- Town, as it is affectionately called. This town was very different to anything we had encountered so far. In the 1960s, it's isolation helped spawn a thriving artist colony and in turn a very large gay community. Everyone was celebrating the recent legalisation of gay marriage. Today it is a thriving tourist town with lots of colourful shops, people and art studios.
Next stop 40 miles across Massachusetts Bay was the fishing town of Gloucester. We had a nice gentle sail all the way, right into the harbour. Another historical US east coast fishing town and the home of the Gloucester Fisherman memorial "Man at the Wheel", a 2.5 metre bronze statue commemorating nearly 5,500 fisherman and 1000 ships who had been lost at sea. There is still a reasonably active fishing fleet and it is a real down to earth town. There is a big art community here at Rocky Neck with some interesting and quirky art. We met some really lovely genuine people, and one in particular who having known us no longer than 10 minutes offered to lend us her car to go get provisions for our trip to Maine. Thanks Amanda. We spent a few days anchored off ten pound island just outside the main harbour and celebrated 4th July here. We also picked up two new bikes, it was good to be mobile again.
We then sailed north to the Isle of Shoals. These are a small group of islands about 35 miles north of Gloucester. There is an old hotel on one of the islands and private residence and a marine research facility on the other. It was a great place for kayaking and we spent a couple of days just chilling out and paddling around. There was a university program underway where they were monitoring common and Arctic terns. They had helmets and protective clothing to shield them from the terns that were dive bombing them as they went about their research. These islands were once a popular summer tourist destination for the residents of New Hampshire and Boston in the 1950's but the once grand hotel is now in a very bad state of repair.
The weather was with us and we had a great sail 50 miles north to Portland Maine. We tied up in Dimillios marina, took on some fuel and water and then anchored off Fish Point not far from the abandoned Fort Gorges that lies at the entrance to Casco Ba . We had trouble setting the anchor and it took a few goes to get settled in. Next day we took the bikes ashore and cycled around the city. Portland is Maine's largest city. It is a charming and stylish city with great bars and coffee shops along the brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets in the old port district. The reason we stopped in Portland was that we had considered spending the winter here after recommendations from a friend, however on talking to the locals about the freezing winter the previous year we decided further south would be better.
Fort Lauderdale to Marthas Vinyard
27 June 2015 | Savannah, Georgia photo: Docked at the Waterfront for the Jazz and Blues Festival
We left Ft Lauderdale on a bright sunny day with not much wind and followed the coast line for Savannah, Georgia. There were recreational fishermen in droves out on the water so had to maintain a close watch. The city of Savannah is located about 10 miles up the Savannah River, so we made a left turn and headed up river. The river is very busy and you are sharing the channel with large tankers and cargo ships heading in both directions. There are no anchorages or marinas
for tying up until you get into the city itself. We arrived late in the afternoon and there was limited space on the downtown waterfront dock where a number of boats were already tied up, however with insufficient space between them to allow us to tie up. Now if we could just get one of them to edge up a little and move the other boat back there might be room enough for us,(the other option was to go back down the river and out to sea). Hence I headed across in the dinghy to ask the Dutch cruising couple if they wouldn't mind moving... just a little. It was now drizzling with rain and they were very reluctant to oblige, however with a bit of gentle Australian persistence and persuasion, we finally worked our way in.
The waterfront is a busy and vibrant area with lots of restaurants and tourist souvenir shops. We arrived on a Friday evening and as it happened there was a Jazz and Blues Festival on the dock right beside us over the weekend. Front row seats! Savannah is a lovely southern city with lots of squares and green park areas scattered around the city. It also boasts many stately buildings and homes and monuments dedicated to the civil war and American War of Independence. We had been here 30 years earlier and really enjoyed the city and of course the famous Pink House Restaurant. We were compelled to take a trip down memory lane and it didn't disappoint. They provide a very different take on southern food. All in all a great few days spent in a lovely city with warm hospitality and good food.
The next stop was Charlestown, South Carolina. This is also a lovely city, with federation style buildings and a very southern feel. The confederate flag was still flying on the state parliament house. We anchored off the Charleston City marina and walked into the city every day (about 15 min walk). We also hired a car for a day to pick up maintenance bits and pieces and our new toys, two inflatable kayaks. We were in Charleston for 4 days but were keen to keep heading north to Chesapeake Bay.
We entered the Chesapeake Bay at Norfolk and Portsmouth Virginia, home of the US naval dockyards, which were remarkably empty compared to 30 years as ago when there were massive ships of every description.
Next stop was Solomons and its delightful maritime museum. There were literally hundreds of boats in and around Solomons, mind boggling. The museum was fantastic with the prime exhibit being an actual lighthouse that had been removed from its original location in the bay. The lighthouse had been built on 5 steel stilts which had been drilled into the seafloor with the prefabricated lighthouse bolted on afterwards. The museum convinced a drilling company that it was in there interest to cut the steel struts and transfer it ashore (free of charge) to the museum site.
The replica of L'Hermione, an 18th century French Frigate was doing a goodwill tour of the USA. We had been following her for some time but had not as yet had the chance to catch up with her in dock. She had just berthed at Annapolis for more celebrations so that was to be our next port of call. She was an extremely popular ship with the Americans. The respected Captain Lafayette sailed her to the US and assisted the American rebels against the British in the American Revolutionary War in 1780. There was lots of music (including a sea shanty band that had travelled from Marseille on their own accord to add to the festivities of the L'Hermione), dancing and French fare to be had and the town was alive with celebrations for a week. We happened to come across a bar where a sea shanty gathering was taking place with the French group as well as locals and ring ins from around the US participating in a very entertaining evening.
Whilst ashore one day we found a note taped to our dinghy which read " Hi Ashley and Cathie, fancy seeing you here. I am anchored next to you, come over for a drink, Jay Grant". Jay is an old friend from the Whitsundays whom we hadn't seen for 12 years. So a few rum and tonics later we had caught up on old times past. It was really great to see him again. After we had arrived in Annapolis we learnt that there had been a mass shooting in Charleston, at the very church that we had walked past each day on our way to the city. A young white guy shot dead about 10 black worshippers. After this shooting, it was decided by the state to remove the confederate flag from the state house.
We moved on a couple of days later as our plan was to check out New York prior to meeting our girls there later in the year. We left Annapolis early to get the right tide to go through the C&D canal through to Delaware. It was a pretty uneventful trip and not particularly scenic. The plan was to anchor somewhere on the Delaware side but the water is so dirty and shallow, we decided to keep heading south to the entrance to the Delaware Bay to Anchor at Cape May. We arrived around midnight and went inside to the marked anchorage, however when we got there it was extremely crowded with no space. There was another anchorage across the way where the tugs etc anchor but it was such a mess in there that we aborted plan A and decided to keep running north as the wind was favourable. We had just set sail but the wind continued to veer so New York was out and Martha's Vineyard was looking good. We encountered a bit of a blow on the way, but reefed down quickly and the front passed over within an hour or two. Three days after leaving Annapolis we anchored in Vineyard Haven on the island of Martha's Vineyard. "The Haven" as it is called is schooner central. There were some really beautiful and well kept yachts. It is also home to the topsail schooner Shenandoah. She had just undergone a refit and everything was being put back together to get her ready for the season. It was time for a drink ashore, so we ventured to the nearest tavern. It was just as well we had decided to eat ashore as this is a "dry" town and alcohol is not permitted to be sold unless served with a meal. Until recently no alcohol was allowed in the town at all.
We weighed anchor and moved around to Edgartown. This is the main town on the island and a huge tourist area. Lots of beautiful shops, fancy restaurants, and manicured gardens with holiday homes for the rich and famous. This is also home to Chappaquiddick Island where the "Chappaquiddick incident" occurred in 1969 when Senator Ted Kennedy drove a vehicle off the bridge into a river and left the scene and his young woman colleague to drown.
A severe weather warning was issued for our area so the harbourmaster allowed us to enter the inlet which runs about 2 miles inland from the town. There are very strict regulations about where you can and cannot drop anchor in this neck of the woods. We sat out the storm as the only boat anchored amongst a plethora of oyster and mussel farm enclosures. We raised anchor the next day spending most of the morning cleaning the chain and decks of filthy, sticky, smelly mud.
Jardines del Rey to Havana and Florida
03 June 2015 | Cuba - photo: Near Baracoa Cuba
We spent a wonderful week cruising through the Jardines del Rey, a 210 mile stretch of cays, reefs and sandy beaches on the North Coast of Cuba. On our first snorkeling/spear fishing session we managed to get a red emperor and our first fresh lobster. Ciguetera can be a problem in this region so we decided to return the emperor to the sea and settled on BBQ'd lobster for dinner instead, tough decision! We sailed an average of 30 miles a day, stopping at different cay's along the way, mostly all were uninhabited. There was some good snorkeling spots with good coral, lots of tropical fish and of course, crystal clear water. Steady easterly winds nearly all of the way so had some great sailing under foresail and balloon jib with an awning over the mainsail booms for shade.
While exploring around the mangrove channels on a remote cay by dingy we came upon some fisherman who were using fish traps they gave us a pineapple which we greatly accepted in return we gave them some bread and a packet of biscuits. Not to be out done they then gave us some lobster tails, 8 or more but we explained that there was only two of us and 8 was far too many so we accepted 4 large ones. Lobster thermador for dinner coupled with mojitos and salsa on the foredeck (a memorable evening).
We then sailed past the tourist area of Valadero and onto Marina Hemingway which is located approximately 25km to the west of Havana. This is quite a large marina with 4 canals running parallel to the coast. There was a variety of boats and nationalities here, Canadians, Scandinavians, French, Germans and Australians. There were also lots of game fishing boats. The last couple of days there has been an influx of American boats sailing under "sanctioned activities" this allows Americans to legally visit Cuba. Things are moving very quickly. In the city the other night we were at a music venue and no less than four US senators and their wives "dropped in" and made an impromptu speech as part of a visiting "Arts Delegation".
We spent 4 days in Old Havana City staying in a "casa particular", these are rooms in a local houses which are rented to tourists. There are literally hundreds of them ranging from one room to 18 rooms per house. There also many hotels but the casa particulars certainly out number the hotel rooms. A lot of the restaurants,(paladares) are also located in locals homes. The city was amazing. We were unaware of how rich and prosperous this city was in its heyday. There are literally hundreds of palatial buildings of the baroque period. Quite a few of these have been restored and in good repair however there are many more that are almost in ruins. The old city has been given a Unesco World Heritage listing and there are major restoration projects going on everywhere, the city has a good vibe with music on just about every street corner. There are new small private enterprises, mainly bars and cafes popping up everywhere and the restaurant scene is quite good. We did spy a Ralph Lauren shop and a few Italian high end boutiques - probably getting in early.
Two days back on board making a new hatch cover and a bit of varnishing and we were off to Vinales by bus. Vinales is about 200km south west of Havana. It is a village that sits in a valley amid a stunning mountain range. The area has been open to tourism for some time and therefore is quite prosperous. all of the houses, which number about 300, are all painted bright colours, have a porch and 2 rocking chairs out the front and every second house has a room to rent. In the valley there are fields of tobacco, corn and a type of potato and large drying sheds for the tobacco. It is the largest tobacco producing area in Cuba. We took a hike through the fields and into the mountain range where there are numerous caves. We did a tour through one of the large caves which is 14 miles long aided by a guide with a large LED light. There was even a fresh water pool at the end of the cave where Ashley took a plunge. We then rented some bikes and toured the town and outlying areas. Next day it was back to Havana and Windjammer to get ready for our departure to the US of A. Our destination was to be Key West, but the day before leaving we read a blog of a Dutch boat who entered Key West from Cuba 3 days earlier and had been refused entry as it is apparently still illegal to enter the US from Cuba. They were told to leave the country and re enter from another country,(probably Bahamas). We didn't want to risk this (we had heard that the customs officers in Key West could be difficult), so we decided to make landfall in Miami. We arrived in Miami early Sunday morning (a quick passage with the assist of the Gulf Stream) and tried to check in. It was all too difficult with shallow waters in the river, bridges that we couldn't get under and dredges everywhere so we aborted plan B and went Ft Lauderdale instead. One phone call to customs had us cleared in and a trip to the immigration had our visas sorted, our freezer and vegetable baskets untouched by a gloved hand. Phew! Ft Lauderdale was very busy and expensive so we are now heading north to Savannah, Georgia.
Oh and just noticed that our log has reached 50,000 miles since leaving Australia. Might be time for a celebratory drink of Ron Zacappa, our special rum.
Link to Havana Photo Album
Link to Vinales Photo Album
Entry in to Cuba
12 May 2015 | Cuba SE Coast - photo: Fidel
Friday 8 May at 11.00am we made landfall on the south eastern coast of Cuba at Pt de Vita. We were instructed by the Capitania de Puerto to drop anchor outside the marina and standby as we would need to be boarded and cleared by the local officials prior to entering the marina and Cuba. This we duly did and by 12.30pm we were tied up in the marina and cleared by immigration, customs, harbour master and a Doctor specialising in infectious diseases.
All very efficient and such a contrast to our 7 hour wait in Puerto Rico for US customs to clear us. After a good wash down, a few rums and a hearty dinner we retired for a good night sleep. The following day we hired a car and drove to Santiago de Cuba, the second largest city after Havana. On our way to collect the car, it seemed as though we were caught in a time warp, American cars from the 1950's graced the roads along with the more common form of transport, horse and buggy, as well as motor scooters, bicycles and public bus and truck transport.
We picked up our car, a Chinese 4WD, complete with squeaky steering wheel and after a quick drive around the beaches and resorts that crowd this part of the coastline, we headed for the city. It was a lovely 4 hour drive though sugar, banana and pineapple plantations, a very fertile part of the country. Arriving in Santiago de Cuba we found as expected a large busy city with a distinctly South American flavour. The old city though has beautiful Spanish architecture very similar to that of old San Juan in Puerto Rico, however unlike San Juan, the buildings are in fairly poor condition some with roofs caving in and crumbling walls. There is obviously a long term plan for restoring these old buildings, and once completed will rival San Juan. It was Saturday night and there was lots of music playing in the many piazzas that dot the old city. Lobster for dinner, salsa in the square and then the plan was to end up in the local jazz club, however our footwear, thongs, not being appropriate we were denied access. Next morning we drove through Guantanemo en route to Baraccoa on the south eastern tip of the country. Unfortunately you cannot get anywhere near the US base as it is ringed with Cuban military bases, so after a mothers day lunch of pizza, pasta and beer, (all for about $1.50 US in the local restaurant) we continued to Baraccoa through a spectacular mountain range. Baraccoa is one of the oldest towns in Cuba and is a vibrant little town nestled at the foot of the mountain range. The town is centered around a main piazza with a restored church and buildings connected with cobblestone streets. There was lots of music, lovely little restaurants and a generally good vibe. We found lodgings in a local home and a relative of the owner took us on a tour of the area. We swam in the river in one of the gorges, visited a coco plantation and learnt how chocolate is made.(this is the Cacaoa capitol of Cuba). In the evening we had our first salsa lesson. One hour later we both seemed to have mastered the 8 basic steps required. I think however a few more lessons are needed before we take to the dance floor.
We set sail from Pt de Vita yesterday for the "Jardines del Rey" an archipelago with a succession of cays that stretch 210 NM and line the north coast of Cuba. The seaward side of these cays boast mile after mile of sandy beaches, fronted by intermittent barrier reef and small islets,(and hopefully lots of fish and lobster). Intermingled amongst these remote cays are some big tourist facilities on some of the bigger cays. At 3.00 this morning we anchored off a very pretty little cay that houses a Guardia control station and the Cuban control station for the Old Bahama channel. It is noted in our guide that we may not go ashore as it is considered a military facility. From here there are many cays to explore, all within a short distance of each other, so will spend approximately a week "gunkholing" before heading further west to Varadero and Havana.
Now its off to the reef with fishing line and speargun!
Antigua and the Greater Antilles
05 May 2015 | En route to Cuba
After nearly 3 weeks in Antigua where we had great fun preparing and then participating in the Classic Yacht regatta, we dropped off our hearty crew and headed for the island of Barbuda. As our South African friends who we were buddy sailing with said "Barbuda is the real deal". Beautiful sandy pink and white beaches, with crystal clear turquoise water and very few other yachts. This is something we had not seen too much of since leaving Trinidad in February. These places however are not without their challenges and checking out on a Sunday was going to be one of them. After landing the dingy in breaking waves, we then needed to summons a water taxi to take us across the 1.5 mile lagoon to the main town of Codrington. Engine problems sorted, the taxi finally collected us for the bumpy and wet journey across the lagoon. It was 1.00pm and the offices close at 2.00pm. Upon arrival a friendly local offered to drive us to the customs office. Alas, there was no one there. A series of phone calls from our ever friendly driver had the customs officer arriving in 1/2 hr. After completing our customs check in procedures, we needed to visit immigration but the immigration lady was currently indisposed, so we headed off for lunch at a small cafe for lobster and beer where we happened to come upon the port office administrators, also having lunch, they duly took our paperwork, processed them and then returned them to us at our lunch table. It was turning out to be a very pleasant day. On our return for the trip across the lagoon we encountered the local water taxi legend George who took us on a guided tour of the magnificent frigate bird colony and nesting area ,one of the biggest in the Caribbean.
It had been a while since just the two of us had been on our own on board so we needed to lift our game a little and get used to setting full sail on our own again (the single handed race in Antigua had been good practice). Next morning we had a fabulous sail to the island of St Barts (playground for the rich and famous) where we spent 3 days. It was a lovely island and we would have liked to stay longer but we were keen to make a start on the 800 mile passage to Cuba as it is getting late in the season and we need to be heading north to the US around the first week in June. We did 250 miles to San Juan in Puerto Rico where we had a short 2 day stop for reprovisioning. After a 7 hr wait to clear US customs we eventually got to explore the old town of San Juan which was truly delightful. The architecture is very European with narrow cobblestone streets and gorgeous colourful buildings home to quaint restaurants and bars. The restoration of the old town is just abut complete, and the Spanish colonial influence has been brought back to life.
We are due to make landfall in Cuba in a few hours. We have had the wind behind us all the way, so have been gybing our way west and have been averaging around 8.5 knots most of the way. Our plan from here (as much as we can plan) is to explore the north coast of Cuba then head up to Maine and Nova Scotia for the summer. So excited and looking forward to lots of fresh fish, lobster salsa music and exploring Cuba.
Jammin in the Trade Winds
24 April 2015 | Antigua - photo: Soufriere, Saint Lucia
Our first blog since the 28th February! - We have been so busy jammin between the islands with various friends on board that blogging just had to take a back seat. Since leaving Trinidad we have sailed up through the Windward Islands, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines including, Union Island, Carriacou and Bequia. After our 2 years in central and South America where we met the occasional yacht, arriving in the Caribbean, one of the most populated cruising grounds on the planet, was always going to be somewhat daunting.
Thirty years ago when we last sailed here the Grenadines was still relatively undiscovered. Today it is a thriving tourist and yachting mecca and in our view completely overcrowded. Almost every bay is filled with bareboaters and seasonal cruisers. Below the cyclone belt, (Trinidad, Grenada, Carriacou and to some extent Bequia) there are also the permanent liveaboards adding to the congestion. Going further north to the French Islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe was a breath of fresh air, we had some great tradewind sailing. The French culture, great food and wine which abounds in these islands and notably absent from the south was wonderful. We explored some of the interior and did a number of hikes, including a 3 mile hike along an old canal wall feeding water from the mountains to a distillery in Guadeloupe with 800 metre vertical dropoffs.
Then it was on to Antigua for the Classic Yacht regatta with a great bunch of invited friends we had made during our cruising.
Link to Photo Album
Arrival in Trinidad
14 February 2015 | Trinidad - photo: Carnival 2015
We are currently sailing down the north west shore of Trinidad on our way to Chaguaramas, ten days after leaving Brazil and we are ready for Carnival. It has been a wonderful trip, good winds all the way, lovely warm weather and great crew. This is definitely what cruising is all about. We are yet to go ashore but the island looks very green and mountainous. The population of Trinidad I believe is around 1.4 million so expect it to be very busy after six weeks at sea. We are ready for the culture shock though! Our plan from here is to haul Windjammer out, either here or in Grenada, so not all party and relaxation just yet as we have some work to complete first. Sails have been stowed and hammocks, awnings, spear gun and snorkeling gear have been moved up to the deck lockers ready for quick deployment. The "Rum cocktails of the Caribbean" book has been located and dusted off....as they say.....no worries be happy!
Link to Photo Album
09 February 2015 | Two days out from Trinidad - photo: Pirate of the Caribbean
Looks like about 2 days left to get us to Trinidad which will be a nice end to our 5400 mile crossing. Since the last post we have been maintaining good daily averages of about 170 miles thanks to the Brazil current and steady trade winds. Crossing the ITCZ was quite comfortable this time round with only the occasional cloud driven squall which never exceeded 40 knots and then only for short spells. We did have a spell of bother when a squall passed over us and left a wind void behind it which resulted in us having to drop sail in a very confused sea on a bucking deck with booms and gaffs swinging wildly. Graham lost his footing and head butted the main mast, coming off second best with a nice bruise on his forehead and partial black eye, looking very much like Johnny Depp in "Pirates of The Caribbean".
With only three of us on board now the watches have changed to 2 on 4 off, so spending lots of time catching up on lost sleep.. The winds have been steady at 12 -16 knots from the ENE giving us a good reaching angle so hardly any sail trimming required and allowing for some deck and rigging maintenance. After our incident in Fortaleza we decided to head directly to Trinidad, the up side is that we should be there in time for Carnival, second only to Rio, at least Graham wont need to dress up!
The Pirates knife
04 February 2015 | Brazil - photo: the 12
I half joked that disasters generally run in threes! The glue in our two dingy repair kits had gone off, the guy in the English yacht next door came to the rescue with some hypalon glue, nope also gone off, then the marina maintenance man turned up with a tube, nope also off. So it was tools down, stop filling the water tanks, grab the months worth of laundry and head into town with the old glue tube as a sample. Yesterday we had spent a fruitless afternoon taxiing around the city looking for someone to fill our propane gas tanks, was this going to be a repeat? Fortunately we had a good taxi driver and after only three stops found a little hardware store that sold the "best glue" in town. Things were looking up, there was no queue at the laundrette, we had an unexpectedly good lunch, and I even managed to find a single element electric hot plate to run off the genset as a back up for when we ran out of gas. Now it was just a matter of getting back and repairing the dingy.
Disaster number three....who turned the water off before going into town..... oops!!..... floorboards were floating in the saloon! The rest of the afternoon was spent pumping, bailing and drying out the boat. Cushions and clothing littered the deck and my brand new camera was drowned. By early evening we had things back under control again, dingy glued and patched and decks cleared. We delayed our departure for the morning and went off for a well earned swim in the marina hotel pool with a few cold beers to send off Kirill and Bruce. The next mornings departure was uneventful but what a relief to be out at sea again with a steady breeze and a one knot NW current under the keel.
Oh! and the pirates, the 10 inch pirate knife still lies untouched on the coach house, every time you walk past it you get a bit of a shiver up your spine, I'll have to get rid of it, but not quite yet.
So what do I think of Forteleza ... not worth a stop in fact it should be avoided. The marina is so dilapidated that it is positively dangerous. There are not even basic yacht services and it is quite expensive, although there is a good super market down town. Don't anchor out unless you have to then maintain a watch and be prepared to repel boarders with suitable weapons. If they do get get below decks unannounced and in the dark they will have control of the situation then its best just to submit to them. We have learnt some positive lessons and certainly wont be complacent moving forward.
Our next stop is Iles De Salut off French Guiana (The notorious prison island that Papillion escaped from) - 560 miles to go.
31 January 2015 | Fortaleza Brazil - photo: shipwreck off the yacht club breakwall
2nd February - Just another day cruising.....or was it? We arrived in Fortaleza under a full moon at 3:00am and made our way across the bay to the yacht marina. A shipwreck lay near the entrance but almost a mile closer than was noted on the chart. As we passed between it and the marina break wall we suddenly noticed more unmarked wreckage just above the water directly in front of us. With our 6 cylinder engine going full steam astern we managed a lucky escape! By 4:30am we had anchored in the bay and sat down with a nerve calming brandy enjoying the moonlight view across to the beaches lined with modern high rise condos.
Half an hour later I was woken by Kirill shouting that there were people trying to board Windjammer. Expecting customs officials I was surprised to find 3 knife wielding bandido's shouting pirata, pirata trying to climb on board! There were no guns, at least that I could see. Kirill appeared next to me with our largest galley knife and it suddenly dawned on me that we were in a tricky situation. I dashed across the deck, grabbed the boat hook and set about defending our position. A boat hook used as a thrusting javelin by a half naked shouting maniac makes for an awesome weapon. I managed to dislodge my pirate with some handy body blows while Kirill's pirate decided to take to the water. The third pirate still in his wooden dingy kept coming at us with his knife and paddle. Making no gains he then attacked our inflatable, still in its davit's, with his knife slicing a nice big gash in the side. This turned me into a bit of a pirate, fortunately my boat hook is made of stout Tasmanian oak. Graham, now also involved had a close shave when one of the pirates in the water threw his knife at him just missing. Cathie had turned the deck lights on making the whole thing seam quite surreal, then jumped in the front line with a can of Alaskan bear spray, luckily she did not have to use it as we were down wind from the Pirates! Needless to say we were quite shaken by the experience and were only to happy to be tied up alongside other yachts in the security of the marina. It soon came to light that a French yacht anchored out the previous evening was also boarded and held up, having all their electronics and money stolen. Probably the same guys.
This story continues.........
Fernando De Noronha
30 January 2015 | En route to Brazil - photo: Bahia San Antonio - Fernando De Noronha
At 16.30 hrs on Friday 30th,we arrived at Ilha De Fernando De Noronha, a small island roughly 7 miles long, 2 miles wide and 200 miles off the coast of Brazil, just in time to race Holly ashore to clear customs and sound out the immigration people. We were somewhat concerned that as the Island was not an official port of entry that there might be a problem releasing her from our crew list for her return to the UK. The officials, dressed in casual T shirts looking like we had just interrupted their day on the beach could not have been more accommodating. Half an hour later we were sitting in a delightful bar restaurant on the hill overlooking the anchorage with a splendid view of Mount Pico, a volcanic plug, drinking capariniha's and Mojito's. We managed, in the true manner of a sailor to eventually find our way back to the boat in drips and drabs with support from the crew of "Spirit of Adventure"
Next morning we all filed into the immigration offices at 10.00 am sharp, looking rather worse for wear, then it was goodbye to our ship mate Holly, London bound. Perhaps we will see her again in Antigua for race week.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the island with its 4000 inhabitants and hordes of tourists from the mainland indulging in mainly scuba diving and beach activities and driving around in beach buggies. The cost of living on the Island is very expensive even compared to European prices.
At sunset we stowed the anchor and once again set sail, this time for Atol Das Rocas 85 miles to the west.
This morning we dropped anchor off Isla do Farol, a low sand spit on the north west side of Atol Das Rocas. Graham and I took the dingy to scout out a passage through the reef to the sand spit which housed two small wooden huts a radio antenna an old ruin and four windblown palm trees. We managed to thread our way into a lagoon where we met a guy and two girls taking marine samples. It turned out that we were trespassing a marine sanctuary... gone are the days of hedonistic exploring! After a quick swim we upped anchor and set sail for Fortaleza 272 miles to the west.
Bruce's 21st Birthday
26 January 2015 | En route to Fernando de Noronha - Photo: Celebrating Bruce's 21st Birthday
Yesterday (25th) was Bruce's 21st birthday and up until 3pm she could be forgiven for thinking that we had forgotten it was such an occasion. Other than a few hugs and quiet "Happy Birthdays" it was a quiet normal day onboard Windjammer. But, unbeknownst to Bruce, we had been plotting... As Bruce settled in for her afternoon watch we all disappeared below and the companionway hatch was closed. Within was a veritable buzz of activity, the galley and mess area were decorated in netting, stars, sea creatures, "21"s and keys, a tower of cupcakes cake was assembled, decorated and safely stowed for later, and the fancy dress outfits we had been surreptitiously assembling for the last couple of days (out of whatever we could pillage on board) were dug out. The theme was 'Children of the Ocean' and so assembled a pirate (me), a seal (Ashley), a flying fish (Cathie), Neptune (Kirill) and Africa-in-da-net (Grahame). Considering the lack of resources the outfits were pretty damn ingenious and a photo definitely needs to follow this post at a later date. Cathie's wings were so big that she could only move sideways, Ashley's seal mask defies description and Grahame's outfit definitely left very little to the imagination! Windjammer was put on autopilot, Bruce was allowed down into the galley and I think we impressed with our efforts.
We all assembled on deck for rum punch and it promptly rained more than it has all trip, lucky it is so warm it doesn't matter. The rain soon cleared and next came pink champagne, a card and present, and a wonderful lamb roast dinner on deck bathed in the warm evening light. Bruce's present was fairly unique - a piece of scrimshaw, carved by Ashley, depicting Schooner Windjammer and her route from Cape Town to Brazil via Saint Helena. To shake us back to normal, Ashley gave the order to drop sails (we've lost the wind again) and our rag tag bunch, still in fancy dress, jumped to obey. This schooner had Neptune in the rigging and a pirate on the bowsprit! Sails stowed we called Bruce below decks again for another surprise of the cake and candles.
Needless to say we all ate far too much! Once all the washing up was done we returned to watches as usual, although some of us were on far too much of a sugar and rum rush to sleep. I started my watch on the helm at 0300, put my iPod on shuffle, stripped down to my bikini and danced my way under luminous star-filled skies through the sunrise to 0830. Just one of those tropical nights when everything is perfect. Oh, and revenge was had yesterday for the airhorn wake up call... a metal pan and spatula brought an abrupt end to Ashley's nap (and the his face upon waking was enough to make me scarper quickly!).
A day in the Galley
22 January 2015 | En route to Fernando de Noronha - photo: Bruce and Kirill baking bread
As some of you may have gotten the impression ,there are several things on board that provide an inordinate amount of pleasure. Cooking is one of them and, as I write, the pineapple and rum cake is in the oven. We all did the rounds earlier to lick the bowl clean of cake mixture and we now wait in anticipation for the final result. Cathie has also baked a seed and raisin loaf for accompanying coffee and tea breaks. No doubt neither will last very long. The last of the chocolate cup cakes disappeared yesterday - we suspect Ashley to be the culprit.
The wind for the last couple of days has been reasonably settled between 12 and 18 knots from the south east and we have been able to maintain a good course for Fernando de Noronha. We had a couple of unexpected squalls, heeling Windjammer over nicely just in the middle of dinner preparations but allowing some of the crew to have an unexpected deck shower! As the weather has been so lovely the arrival of the squall was followed by frantic closing of hatches which have been open for weeks. Everything on deck has had a fresh water wash and it was temporarily lovely and cool, the seas were flattened and a few cobwebs were blown out. Over the last couple of days we have also seen a couple of ships; a large tanker and a cargo ship on the horizon. There's still been no sign of any other yachts along our route. The nights have been feeling warmer and we're wandering on deck in boardies, relaxing under starry skies. With our watch cycle there is little difference between day and night, life continues on its own cycle. During the day, bikinis and shorts are the usual, and we have a lovely cockpit cover to keep the sun off when it gets hot. Sundowners have also been a pleasant and fairly frequent occurrence recently. To update: we've just finished the rum cake (while still warm), along with rum custard and proper coffee with rum added... very yummy and didn't last long!
Becalmed and no one to talk to
20 January 2015 | En route to Fernando de Noronha
20th Jan. Yesterday evening we ran out of wind. Having tweaked sails and course (and crew) trying to keep going we were eventually forced to conclude defeat and drop sail in the evening and motor. Back to a world of noise and vibration. On the plus side, running the engine allows us to get a good charge into the batteries and, for the first time since we left St Helena, run directly towards Fernando de Noronha.
The south-easterly wind continues to tease us as we can only head west or north of the rhumb line- we are not able to run very square to the wind, particularly with a swell running and low winds. Highly frustrating given that we have a deadline for arriving in Brazil! The dreaded deadlines! Bright and early this morning the wind was back and a rag tag bunch of zombies assembled on deck to raise all sails. Ashley attempted to rally us as we raised the main sail, fore sail, staysail, topsail, fisherman staysail and spinnaker. All this up we were then able to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and some toast for breakfast and finally wake up.
Communications from ship to the outside world are done through a modem connected to HF radio, this provides us with emails, a means though which to receive grib (weather forecasting) files and, of course, a route through which to update the blog. While emails are not sent frequently, it is still nice to be able to pass on messages to family and friends occasionally. Between Cape Town and Saint Helena our nearest station was Maputo (in Mozambique), but in the last few days connection has proved increasingly difficult and we are now beginning to use the station in Chile. If anyone reading this blog is sending us emails... please keep them short and sweet, and be aware that we may not receive them for a couple of days.
Day 3 and settling back into the routine
17 January 2015 | En route to Fernando de Noronha -Photo:Sunset over Jamestown with Jacobs Ladder lit up
After the excitement of leaving St Helena, getting back to sea and settling down, life onboard has resumed its normal routine. We have all passed the day - the one just out from port, when all the crew, transitioning from normal hours to watch hours suffer from a bout of exhaustion - and everyone is starting to function (relatively) normally again. Although, looking at some of us sitting bleary eyed at the helm this morning you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise! Thanks to Ashley for capturing that moment on camera... revenge will come.
We've also resumed our previous activities, picking up where we left off with books and ipods, and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are being watched (again). A session of dominoes was played yesterday, however having done a round of the ship we realised that everyone knows how to play but no-one knows the rules! The winner is somewhat undecided - it may be Ashley who had the most points or Cathie who has the least - to be settled by a re-match today. As part of our supplies raid we pilfered a yachting magazine, this acquisition of fresh reading material is being read to within an inch of its life, including amusingly an article on 'How to plan your Atlantic crossing' - ironic reading given that we're already halfway across. Food remains important and we have been enjoying yet more lovely meals from Cathie, with Kirilo and Bruce making pizza for lunch yesterday which went down a treat; we're also eating plenty of fish curtesy of the Strumpet boys - thanks guys! Homemade fish cakes for lunch. The plan for today also includes some baking... current options include croissants, cup cakes, or (my favourite) pineapple and rum upside down cake. We also need to start planning for a birthday, it is Bruce's 21st in 7 days.
The breeze remains light and fickle, pushing us further WSW than was intended but not quite far enough to be worth putting in a gybe yet. The distance to run is still over 1400nm, and we're not even heading in the right direction. Oh well, we'll get there eventually! We're being accompanied by several yachts sailing on from St Helena to Brazil, but none have been visible since we left the island. We haven't even sighted a ship. The storm petrels and flying fish are keeping us company but cetaceans and larger seabirds haven't been seen for a while. Now where was that book....
Departure from St Helena
16 January 2015 | En route to Fernando de Noronha - photo: Cocktails at Government House St Helena
0600 this morning the bell rang for all hands on deck to stow the tender and prepare Windjammer for her onward passage to Brazil. The crew were a tad tardy in responding and everything seemed to take twice as long, but then again, we did have a rather big final night ashore! It soon became evident that one crew member had gone AWOL, however, arrived back on board as the sun was creeping over the horizon.... No names! Last night we attended a formal reception at the Governor's House with drinks and hors d'oeuvres served by uniformed waiters and waitresses on the grassed terrace. We were all dressed in our best, although given the limited wardrobe that was still definitely on the casual side of the specified 'smart casual' attire, flip flops were still in evidence but at least the dresses came out.
The view over the green hills and valleys with the blue Atlantic ocean as a backdrop was quite awesome, particularly with the late afternoon light. In the foreground, next to the tennis court were the famous tortoises wandering around on the grass Jonathon the eldest was shipped in from the Seychelles in 1877 . Wine, beer and nibbles flowed freely and the reception offered another opportunity to get to know the other crews, local characters and island visitors. For the most part everyone behaved as suits at a formal reception and we all headed off back to town to Ann's Place for a far less formal braai. Fish was supplied by the Strumpet boys following their successful fishing trip, with Ann's Place providing a wonderful braai area, bar and accompaniments. Needless to say, more than a few drinks were had and we all had a lovely night with friends new and old, some of which are heading out along the same route as us over the next few days and some of which are soon heading back to Cape Town on the RMS Saint Helena when she leaves on Saturday. We wish them all fair winds and calm seas!
We left Saint Helena at 0730, having dropped the flags and performed a quick raid for additional supplies. The sun was out and it was going to be another gorgeous day. It was bittersweet to be leaving, there is so much to see and do on the island that 5 days doesn't do it justice but we are all excited to be heading off to the horizon and on to somewhere new. The mooring was dropped and we headed out to the west - our next stop is Ilha de Fernando de Noronha, another 1700 nm to the north west. There was initially 18-20 knots of breeze and we were all happy to be sailing again. By midday the island was no more than a shadow in the distance and we are all settling back into our watches and into the rhythm of life onboard; Cathie cooked a fab Thai fish curry and we watched another stunning sunset... life onboard is good.
Tour of the Island
14 January 2015 | St Helena - photo: The Islands converted Chevrolet tour Bus
Our exploration of the island started with a tour of the island on an old classic 1929 Chevrolet open truck seating 16. There was a canopy which could be pulled over for rainy days however the weather was magnificent as we headed off with our local driver Colin whose family has been on the island for many generations. The first stop was the local distillery where they make a number of different spirits, the most popular being Tungi, a schnapps made from the local prickly pear. It's about 50% proof so not for the faint hearted! They also make rum, brandy, lemon liqueur and a gin made from local juniper berries that grow in abundance on the island. Paul the owner is busy making a special batch of brandy to commemorate 200 years since the exile of Napoleon, who spent the last 5 1/2 years of his life on the island. This will be specially bottled and shipped to Paris.
After a lovely drive through wooded mountains and flax plantations we ended up in Longwood at the farmhouse where Napoleon spent his time in exile until his death in 1821. He was buried in a quadruple coffin in a beautiful valley looking out to sea, his favourite spot on the island. The body however was exhumed 19 years later and shipped back to France.
The population of St Helena has been hovering around 5000 with a mixture of Portuguese, English, Dutch and South African, however just recently they lost approximately 1000 who took up citizenship in the UK when it was offered. The local accent is very musical and quite pleasurable.
The tour around the island gave a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the diversity of the island. From the approach by sea the island looks barren and arid, rich red/brown earth forming inaccessible cliffs and land slides. Once you enter the interior of the island you find a lush, tropical, green land crossed by narrow lanes that wind up and down the hills and mountains. Walking around this island would keep you fit as every road is a steep gradient. Closer inspection of the greenery confirms the influence of many countries and a number of non-native species form part of the vegetation. Jamestown is the main town on the island, but there are several districts around the island - Half Tree Hollow, Longwood, Mount Pleasant and others - which vary from small collections of houses with a shop or two, or a cafe, to the large Half Tree Hollow district with bakeries, shops and daycare which houses nearly a quarter of the islands population. The island is now British (it was once Dutch) and was initially owned by the British East India Company. It's location was strategically important and even today it offers a good anchorage sheltered underneath imposing cliffs which offer protection from the prevailing winds. The Main Street in James Town is lined with beautifully maintained Georgian houses extending just over a mile from the water front and up the valley.
Arriving St Helena
12 January 2015 | St Helena - photo: arriving at St Helena with a steady breeze and a full set of sails
07.30 hrs Sunday 11th January and it is day 15 out from Cape Town. I have just sighted land hiding beneath a large cloud on the horizon. The isailor app on my Ipad confirms that it is indeed St Helena Island and we should be there in about 2 hrs time. There are now lots of red billed tropic birds and fairy terns visiting us as we broad reach under full canvas towards James Town anchorage.
09:30 hrs and we hug the shore beneath shear cliffs passing close to the islands fishing boats and onto our designated anchorage where seven of the seventeen competing yachts have already arrived. The crew do a smart sail drop and we pick up our mooring to a round of cheers and welcome from the other yachts and committee boat. The moorings are arranged in lines with risers fixed to heavy ground chains all in good condition.
10:30 hrs and we hurry ashore to catch the customs and and immigration who are fortunately still on duty this Sunday morning, clearing out the departing passengers on the Royal Mail Ship. Once the formalities were completed the race organisers were on hand to brief us on the Island and scheduled activities. A short walk from the waterfront to the Castle Gardens found us at the renowned Anne's, a watering hole and restaurant decked out with memorabilia from past visiting yachties. There was even a memorial plaque in the gardens dedicated to Joshua Slocum who gave a lecture on his solo voyage around the world in 1898. Annie's provided us with a good lunch and a few Windhoek lagers before we hit the wall and headed back to Windjammer for some well earned sleep. First impressions are very promising So tomorrow we start exploring.
Day 13 - Trade winds at last
09 January 2015 | En route to St Helena- photo: enjoying the catch of the day
Day 13 and the St Helena high has finally moved back south allowing the trade winds to settle in at a steady 12 to 14 knots. The days are clear with polarized blue seas and fair weather clouds on the horizon. We are now 170 miles from St Helena and expecting to arrive early Sunday morning. We managed to catch two Dorado's yesterday and served them up for dinner with JT's lemons. Today we caught another so will have him for lunch as sushi and sashimi. Holly has turned out to be an ace fish filleter and is now in charge of the fish knife, 'must be all those years of dissecting!
I am amazed by the lack of sea birds on this passage, we occasionally see a solitary little "Wilson's Storm Petrel" but other than that very little, though I expect we will see a lot more as we get close the Island. Grahame had a busy session in the galley this morning baking a corn and honey bread loaf which we renamed the "tsunami loaf" due to its unusual shape, must have been the ships heeling, but as they say the proof will be in the tasting.
The crew are now becoming quite adept at gybing Windjammer as we zig zag our way down wind. First the fisherman sail has to be lowered to the deck and lines secured, then its on to dowsing the spinnaker and releasing the preventers and running backstay before gybing the main and foresails. Once completed we then hoist the fisherman and spinnaker again, secure preventers and finally coil down ...all under 10 minutes.
Had a big day sorting and exchanging music files, uncovering some real beauties, so Windjammer is now rocking to some "cool tunes"
Day 12 - End of race for us
07 January 2015 | En route to St Helena - Photo: where is the wind?
Current position 20o 11'S, 000o 15E. - 422nm remain between us and Saint Helena but we're being pushed west by SSE winds. The winds continue to be fickle, tempting us with promises of breezes; clouds and ripples and dancing patterns on the water but a consistent, steady breeze is proving hard to find. In response to this we raise sail, we lower sail, we motor and then we raise sail again. And repeat. The night's sleep has become punctuated, not just by watches, but by interim wake up calls to haul up or drop sail. As a consequence Windjammer frequently looks a strange scene with crew strewn asleep in the galley, mess room, bunks or scattered on deck catching a few moments snooze.
To keep occupied we have raided the Windjammers library, working our way through a variety of maritime themed literature, from stories and rigging books to marine life guides, windjammer history, Wooden Boat back issues and flicking through cruising routes of the world. Ashley gave us all a knots workshop; testing our knowledge before getting us to tie them backwards and blind. There's also been carpentry, rope work, baking bread, sea shanties and attempting to learn celestial navigation, squeezebox and ukulele to keep us from boredom. Nature has been continuing to entertain, with somersaulting bottlenose at sunrise and porpoising tuna at sunset but it has been quiet on the bird front for the last few days.
Officially we have retired from the race. The 100 mile motoring allowance has been exceeded as we became painfully aware that unless we motored further in search of wind we would miss the race cut off date but also the end of race celebrations and the Royal Mail Ship leaving St Helena! Continued forecasts indicate that if we had waited for wind we may well still have been in the same 50 miles of ocean as we occupied 2 days ago. We are not the only yacht to retire and motor in search of breeze, and from the position updates it looks like there may be others. Unfortunately it was only after our decision to retire that the race cut off was extended, ho hum! The first yacht Banjo, a trimaran, has reached Saint Helena.
Day 9 from Cape Town
05 January 2015 | En route to St Helena
After plain sailing for the New Year, on the 2nd of January the wind finally left us. 5 days of plain sailing then nothing, nada. The sails flapped in the swells, the blocks rattled and kept us awake as we attempted to ease Windjammer forwards on ever decreasing puffs of air. Finally we dropped sail and motored. Race rules for the Governor's cup allow vessels in the cruising class to motor for 100 miles. Now we chose to use this wildcard, motoring north in an attempt to escape the Saint Helena high which has us (and the rest of the race participants) frustratingly without wind. For the next 2 days we hoist sail at the slightest breath and then, disappointedly lower them again as it evades us. We ghost along at night with light breezes under a full moon. During the days the cockpit awning comes out. In the evenings Kiril emerges with the guitar or we tell stories and sing sea shanties. We drink coffee. We lunch on deck. We jump over the side for a swim in the impossibly blue ocean and make like pirates climbing back aboard on the bobstay and swinging off the bowspirit. We sunbathe, we read and we snooze, lots.
As soon as the wind left, so too did the albatrosses. The oily calm of the ocean surface seeming desert like, save for drifting Portuguese men-of-war and by-the-wind-sailors. Yesterday evening this was broken spectacularly by a pod of pilot whales joining us at sunset. Dorsal fins breaking the flat ocean surface, all around us. Combined with rain clouds (a free shower!) and the promise of breeze it raised a smile from all the crew. As it was it was all coupled with a glass of wine, some of Cathie's fabulous cooking for dinner, chocolate brownies and coffee - life doesn't get much better.
This morning there was long awaited breeze. As we hoisted sail we spotted dark torpedoes, cruising along, effortlessly keeping pace with us - tuna! Gorgeous flashes of yellow and iridescent blue just below the waves. We watched spellbound... and then we reached for the fishing lines. We dangled the hand lines attempting to get a tasty looking lure in their general vicinity. An initial investigation and then they ignored it and us. Failing this Ashley dug out the fishing rod, selected a shimmery lure and we tried again. They seemed to sense our less than honourable intentions, moving away and re-appearing somewhere else alongside. Hmmm, smart fish. 5 minutes later Ashley reappeared with a speargun...nah no luck .. what else can we do? the wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce remain patiently on standby!
A day for swimming and relaxing
02 January 2015 | En route to St Helena -photo: Kirill getting rid of some excess energy
900 miles to go until we reach St Helena, we have been without wind for most of the day. There is a high sitting just to the west of us and keeps moving our way. We motored for a while but then decided to stop and go for a swim to cool down. The sea was very calm and we came across a turtle also enjoying the calm seas and sunshine. Also saw a small shark cruise by. The whole fleet seams to be becalmed, if this go's on we wont make the finish in time.
We took advantage of the down time, baked some bread and everyone caught up on a bit of sleep. The wind has just come in again albeit very light so we have just hoisted all sails again and are moving along slowly, hope it holds. It is however a beautiful night.
New Years Eve
31 December 2014 | En route to St Helena
And a Happy New Year to all our friends and relatives from the crew of Windjammer, may 2015 be everything you hope for and fairwinds and safe anchorages to all. We celebrated with an early sit down dinner this evening with a suitably good bottle of Cape wine followed by a sticky date and banana pudding (starting to loose the bananas) which was delicious.
We have had to put in a couple of gybes to get us up to the St Helena layline where there is more forecasted wind but this will be short lived as a high pressure system is moving into our area which will stop us dead in our tracks. False Bay Yacht Club are providing position updates on their website as well as corrected times and apparently we have been leading the cruising class for the past few days - sure this wont last for much longer with the wind dropping off. This morning we set the light weight balloon jib (spinnaker) which has made quite a difference so are flying absolutely everything we can, even contemplating setting our spare jib as a"water sail" on the underneath of the main boom!
The new crew are all adapting well to life onboard and the rotation of watches with Bruce (Ashleigh) now able to stand a steering watch on her own which is quite an accomplishment in these tricky down wind sailing conditions. We have been collecting a few squid on board in the mornings so hoping to land a nice tuna or yellow tail soon but then again with our luck......but it is a new year!!
Sunny days and easy sailing
30 December 2014 | En route to St Helena - photo: powering along
Have had a steady 15-18 kn breeze for most of the day but the wind direction put us further south of the rhumb line which is about 55 miles. Hoisted the fisherman at sunrise this morning which added another knot to our boat speed. The weather has been warm and sunny and the crew have been quick to exploit it with clothes washed and drying in the rigging and deck showers were had by one and all.
This afternoon the sea swell had subsided so we took the opportunity to bend on the main topsail so now running under full canvas with 6 white sails billowing aloft, a sight to warm even an old scurvy dogs heart. We even managed lunch on the deck. What a pleasure it is to be sailing in the trades again. Winds look good for the next few days. All are happy and healthy and the "mal de mer" is all in the past. Lost all HF radio communications this afternoon but were able to talk to a passing ship on VHF and they notified Cape Town radio. Eventually found the problem with the external antenna cable, at some stage we must have nicked the outer cover and overtime water found its way in and corroded the copper strands.
Cape point to starboard
29 December 2014 | False Bay - photo: Working our way out of False Bay
The start of the race out of False Bay was always going to be challenging and the 25knt sou'easter didn't disappoint. We worked our way out of False Bay to Cape Point which took about 4 hours and was wet and uncomfortable with a little "mal de mer" amongst some of the crew. You could read the "what have we got ourselves into" etched on their faces. We finally bent around Cape Point inside the bellows which was spewing white water, eased the sheets and ran off toward St Helena. A collective sigh of relief and smiles all round. We were met by a pod of orca whales surfacing just meters from Windjammer. What a wonderful send off from the fairest Cape of all, and after 8 months it is a great feeling to have water rushing under the keel again.
Windjammer has a spring in her heals and the 18:30 log entry 24 hours later recorded a 202.2 mile run. Not bad considering we had a, not very clean bottom. The seas have settled down and the wind is a comfortable 25knots. Crew are in good spirits, "Boeuf Bourguignon" on the menus tonight thanks to Holly. Oh and it looks like we are one of the lead boats which means 1st on handicap, might as well enjoy it while we can!
We bid farewell to Cape Town
28 December 2014 | False bay yacht Club - photo: Race crew: Ashley, Kirill, Ashleigh (Bruce), Grahame, Cathie and Holly
It was a busy morning at False Bay Yacht Club. The air was full of excitement and anticipation as the 17 yachts entered into the Governors Cup race from Cape Town to St Helena were doing their final race preparations. Crews milling around, chatting, having coffee and saying their goodbye's. The new Windjammer crew were assembled briefed and ready to go.
We had lots of friends and family come to see us off which was great. Haven't had such a send off since we left the Whitsunday's. On board we have Grahame, Ashley's cousin in law (if there is such a term), Holly from England whom we met on our stop over at Tristan de Cuhna, Kirrill who lives in Israel but grew up in the Ukraine and young Ashleigh from Cape Town. We decided it was far to confusing having a Captain and crew on board with the same name so she has been renamed "Bruce".
After our eight months of living, exploring and enjoying everything that Southern Africa had to offer, from 4 wheel drive safaris in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to the vineyards of Cape Town it was a sad moment for us. New adventures were beckoning and we lowered the rainbow nations courtesy flag. Thanks to all those who made it such a great stay for us in Cape Town.
False Bay Yacht Club
02 July 2014 | Simonstown - photo: False Bay Yacht Club
Alongside at False Bay Yacht Club for the winter we hope? A lot of uncertainty and hopeless bureaucracy, I thought we had left this behind in South America but South Africa has taken it to a whole new level!
Nevertheless we are undaunted and taking advantage of the time we have here. We have a car and lots of ideas. Our son and daughter, Sam and Alexi, flew in from Australia and we set off on a road trip through the Garden Route to St Francis and Addo Game Reserve and back via route 62, through the Klein Karoo. Our next excursion is a self drive 4x4 safari with friends to Namibia and Botswana in August. In the mean time a few boat projects are under way just to keep us busy.
17 April 2014 | 14 miles off Cape Town - photo: At last Table Mountain breaking through the fog
14nm off the coast of South Africa and still no sign of land, the AIS is on overdrive. A slight fog creeps in and suddenly consumes us so that we cannot even see 5m past the bow. Desperate to see land we powered through dense cool fog, we would either run right into it or sail right past it and end up back in Australia. Suddenly the fog began to clear, a small light shone through and then a second light. Curiously staring at the lights directly ahead, trying to determine if it was a ship or land, the fog cleared as quickly as it had come and the two lights became a thousand lights. "LAND AHOY!...finally". Table mountain is next to appear through the clouds as the crew stand in silence taking in the beauty of Capetown. Captain Ashley proudly drove his schooner into home ground, flying the new ships flag with a wandering albatross logo.
Once tied up in front of the luxuriously famous Table Bay hotel we dove for the opportunity to set foot on solid ground, just to ensure it was real. Unbeknown to us, as we had no sense of time or day, we had arrived for the start of the Easter weekend and during the middle of a charity run. We were situated on the public jetty right on the waterfront, therefore our welcoming to Cape Town was quite unique as the waterfront had come alive with thousands of people and live bands and entertainment. The floating curiosity lived up to her name, attracting much interest as we impatiently sat confined to the small jetty, waiting for customs to clear us. Almost two hours had passed and after repeated contact with the port authority, customs had still not shown. Becoming aware of the term "Africa time', we radioed through and told them we were going for breakfast nearby and would return to continue waiting for customs (after we had dropped off all of our stowaways and drugs of course). So there we were, enjoying a traditional large South African breakfast of; bacon, eggs, chips, boerries, steak and mushrooms, as illegal immigrants. With still no word from customs, we were lucky enough to find a man with a truck who knew the ins and outs of customs and immigration. So we loaded up, Tammi and Maggie in the tray, and officially checked into the country. The boat was then given a very thorough scrub and relieved from it's crystallised layer of salt, leaving one to consider the Atlantic crossing as smooth sailing.
The crew were all enjoying a beer at the pub with the waterfront local sailors that afternoon. We must have drunk far too much because we ended up jumping on a boat, ironically a schooner, for a sunset sail. It wasn't until we were out of the harbour that we began to question why on earth we thought that after an exhausting passage where we were so grateful to be back on land, that it was a good idea to get back on a boat in the typical howling South Easterly winds. However, free champagne, great crew and a beautiful boat proved us wrong, as it was a fabulous welcoming to Cape Town. The following evening we were invited to our first South African braai (barbecue) by the Capetonians and introduced to the meat loving culture.
We spent the week dining out, exploring the waterfront and catching up with family. Cathie and Maggie did 7 loads of salt ridden laundry (the first machine wash since January) while enjoying a long anticipated bubble bath - thanks Adrian! With the World Triathlon taking place at the waterfront, we were forced to move into Cape Grace marina till we could find a more permanent yacht club. Cape Grace is an ideal location, however the outrageous rates and lack of facilities encouraged us to look into berthing at Simons Town and Haut Bay. False Bay Yacht Club at Simons Town proved to be the best option with a community of cruisers and weekend sailors involved in the busy and well-facilitated club.
Saturday morning, a week after arriving, we were due to set sail once again to round the Cape of Good Hope and take up a permanent berth in Simons Town. "bridge control, this is schooner windjammer......can we please request the bridge to be opened so we may exit from the harbour". "Schooner windjammer, bridge control, umm..i don't think so". Initially we thought he was taking the micky out of us, until he came back and told us he was under instructions not to open the bridges due to the triathlon that was being held in he harbour. We contacted the port control and eventually the bridge was opened for us as race officials escorted us out of the harbour. With our new crew, Colleen and Graeme on board, we left Cape Town behind and had a wonderful day of motor sailing around the cape and into False Bay. It took about 10hours with minimal wind and was quite pleasant with the sun, whales and seals coming out to play. We arrived in the marina to find a small boat parked on our reserved dock. There was a regatta over the weekend so many boats had crammed into any space they could find for the night. Idling at the end of the dock with no where else to berth and the sun quickly fading, we were forced to take severe measures, we would send in the big guns to make him move - Cathie. Sure enough, a quick word with the boss, the boat had moved back allowing us room to berth. It was a tight squeeze and with many interested people standing by to assist (still penguins), Ashley was feeling the pressure to park it well. He swung around and reversed in and we laughed as the small boat pulled out a small fender and threw it over their hull. The mannerism of the onlookers showed much disbelief in the captains ability and confidence in such an attempt, however respect was gained when the boat was parked skilfully without concern. At the yacht club, where we went for dinner, we found a wine from Vergelegen; an estate that belonged to Ashley's grandfather, Samuel Kerr. Windjammer has continued to attract attention in the marina this morning with the locals referring to us as the Wallabies. Work has already commenced on the exterior timber, the sand paper and varnish is out and there is much work to be done before the rest of the Kerr family arrive in June.
140 miles off Cape Town
16 April 2014 | Southern Ocean Crossing to Cape Town - photo: Cape lookout
Finally arrived off the coast of Southern Africa only to be met by a big south easter and the north flowing Benguela current. Have been close hauling for the the past 55 hrs averaging 4 kn, but the good news is that the wind should veer and soften in 12 hrs then we can start heading back towards Cape Town. If all goes to plan (which has rarely happened on this leg) then we should be at RCYC by nightfall on Thursday, otherwise first thing Friday morning. Either way hoping to get some good shots of the "fairest cape of all" and Table Mountain without her table cloth.
Burgers, birthdays and bitttersweet winds
13 April 2014 | Southern Ocean Crossing to Cape Town
The South Atlantic has, and continues to deliver 'interesting' winds leaving Jammer confused and the crew frustrated! "What's the wind direction?" Someone shouts from the galley, "It's everywhere but nowhere" replies the helmsman. "Uh okay then what is the wind speed?" "It's kind of varying between 3 and 20kns...." We expect to arrive at Cape Town on Wednesday around midday; however it seems that now, as we are finally so close, King Neptune is determined to tease us. Take today for instance, we were motoring along as there was limited wind, the wind began to build just as I was busy preparing dinner. Having burger's laid out on the galley bench and a constant 12kns wind we decided to hold off on dinner and set the sails. Upon hoisting the foresail, the wind began to build to 23-25kns. We put a reef in the main, all the while I am worrying about the burger patties flying all over the galley floor! The burgers held up, but the wind didn't, it was within an hour that we had to bring all the sails back in with only 3kns wind. Everyone is keeping a close eye on the distance to Cape Town as we begin to see increased traffic and the change of east/west longitude as we crossed the Greenwich meridian.
Arrival is much anticipated as we are almost completely through our gas supply; cups of tea are limited and the hope of a hot shower before stepping onto land is doubtful. We have had a substantial amount of rain which has made watches uncomfortable as it became almost impossible to dry anything. We did however use the opportunity to catch the fresh rain water, enough to overflow the tanks. Strong gusty winds are predicted for our arrival into Cape Town, we may not have the desired stylish entry into the Captains home town. This seems to be consistent when Windjammer enters a new country...challenge accepted! We may have to go for a tough sailor approach, sea shanties and all! Ashley's birthday was on Thursday, I won't reveal his age but will tell you he did not wish to celebrate being a year older. Tammie, however thought it was the occasion to write him a poem:
"When the lines are coiled and the sails are set, stand back, and look, and smile. Because your schooner and crew are healthy and happy, and that's what makes it worthwhile.
You've scaled the mast one too many times, and you've nearly lost a ball. And it's unfortunate but not nearly as bad, as being on a week long close haul.
Like Robin Hood, or more appropriately; Peter Pan, in your marvellous blue-green tights. The Falkland Islands and Tristan da Cunha, are hardly the most cherished sights.
You fixed the bowsprit and the generator, you fixed the heads and yet another sail. So now we are fairly confident that with your help, we can helm forth into another gale.
You may feel the need, as most men do, To relieve yourself off the stern. But please, dear Ashley, with only a week to go, don't fall, as this may cause some concern.
Birthdays, you know they come and go, so aren't you lucky to be with us on a boat. And its great to have you as captain on board, otherwise, god knows if we'd still be afloat".
Tristan da Cunha
06 April 2014 | South Atlantic Crossing to Cape Town
The lights of a small town were seen before dawn as the swell was rolling in and the strong winds prevailing, we dropped sail and hove to, allowing the current to take Windjammer the last five miles towards the Island of Tristan Da Cunha. A day of motor sailing around the Island with light winds and large seas was tedious, the anchorage was right in front of us but we had no chance of anchoring in the conditions. Contrary to the Port Captains recommendation 'please come back and try again tomorrow' we safely anchored late that evening as the conditions calmed and stood anchor watch. The excitement of the evening came when a Chinese fishing vessel made contact with Tristan's radio operator - Andy, asking the requirements to come ashore for a medical emergency. Andy, asking them the nature of the emergency visit, found it difficult to understand their intentions as they were communicating in very broken English. After much anticipation we finally made out that it was actually a deceased person they wished to offload.
An early start to the morning had us launching the dinghy, attempting to coordinate the lowering of the engine with the swell, while Cathie was on the radio to the port captain asking permission to come ashore. After ensuring medical clearance, we were told to wait for his call of when it was safe to do so. Unwilling to leave the boat unmanned in the conditions, we decided to split into two groups to go ashore. Cathie and Ashley took the first trip with all the immigration paperwork but were shortly called back to the ship with strict instructions to wear life jackets. The port captain, a descendant of one of the original Dutch families, then stood on the edge of the break water and signalled when it was safe to enter between the large waves. Such safety measures that seemed 'over the top' were necessary precautions as there is only basic medical treatment and technology on the island and no immediate access to any means of evacuation . We later discovered that pregnant women were encouraged to travel via ship to Cape Town to have an ultra sound and give birth. The only assistance the local doctors can provide is to determine a heartbeat.
An efficient check in process thanks to Alex and Loraine (administrator and immigration officer) and a personal tourist guide, Dawn, were what awaited the first landing for Windjammer, an accurate first impression of the welcoming nature of these hospitable Tristianites. They were given a tour of the lobster factory during the Saturday processing which employed about 50 women. Eric, the manager offered to box up some of the rejects - lobsters not suitable for export due to missing legs etc - for us to take back to the boat, little did we expect to receive a large box of 30 fresh lobsters killed and cooked that morning. They were then able to reprovision, making do with the limited stock of what was left on the Island. They island generally receives produce and supplies from the cargo ship, Baltic Trader or fishing vessels every six weeks. However, the last ship was unable to unload its cargo due to rough seas for 15 days and had to return to Cape Town. Therefore their last shipment was in January which left the supermarket with many handwritten 'out of stock' signs. Upon returning to Windjammer two marine biologists Hollie and Greg, temporarily living on the island setting up a new project as British Initiative, jumped onboard to have a look. We loaded up the dinghy with the spare fuel drums and the rest of the crew ventured off to visit the island. As we were warmly greeted by the Harbour master and tourism guide, Dawn, we were given strict instructions to leave the port by no later than 5pm. We dropped the drums off to be filled and then headed to the tourist shop and cafe where we sent some postcards and browsed the small historic museum. Dawn then phoned the shopkeeper and asked her to open the shop once more for us to stock up on our beer and snacks supply. We later came out with almost the remainder of the islands cookie supply and South African beer. We then headed to the lobster factory to pick up the box of lobsters previously arranged and found ourselves looking down at the harbor entrance where the port captain was standing looking irritated at his watch...it was 5pm. So there we were, 160L diesel, 1 box of 30 lobsters, 2 bags of cookies and 4 crew wearing life jackets, playing Tetris in the small dinghy heading into the swell out of the harbour back to Windjammer. We filled the fuel tanks and treated ourselves to a lobster risotto for dinner and blue berry and pear crumble for dessert, topped off with a full night's sleep free of anchor watch in calm seas. The following morning after awaiting the port captains 'ok' we all headed back to the island for a better look as it was a beautiful warm sunny day with minimal wind and swell. While Cath and Ash went to explore the volcanic surface, the rest of the crew ventured off in search of Runaway Beach, a beach with black sand. Hitching a lift on the way with Hollie, in one of the few cars on the island, had us gripping on tight in the back of a ute while she sped along the skinny road past the potato patches. The landscape is absolutely beautiful, the land is so green and there are waterfalls trickling down the rock face. After a quick dip we began the trek back to the town, but it wasn't long before we were chased down and invited to a local house party. A number of young people on the Island had camped out at the potato patches the night before and were cooking up a BBQ. We gladly accepted their offer, we got to know a bit about the locals as we drank with them and played frisbee and badminton at what they call �"the waterfront shack�", their private getaway from the parents. We then hitched a ride into town to get a sneak peak of the 'Albatross Bar', the most remote bar in the world! It is part of the town hall which we were told hosted Saturday night dances, just like high school dicos! We continued to chat with the locals hearing their fascinating stories about growing up on the island and what it was like to live in such a tight community.
This is what we discovered; Tristan da Cunha is the most remote island on the planet, an erupted volcanic island, 2km in height is currently home to 268 residents. There are 7 original family names on the island that are of Italian, Dutch and English origins dating back to 1810. Although it is such a small community, there is a bar, cafe, supermarket and a school of 23 children. All of the islands electricity is fuelled by diesel and they have access to very slow internet, few landlines, no mobile phones, and three channels on televisions. The only private enterprise on the Island is a lobster factory owned and operated by a South African company that employ a vast percentage of the community, everything else is owned and operated by the government. Sundays are the only day of the week that no one in the community works, every other day each member is working, schooling, farming, or making Tristan potato chips and biltong to sell at the pub. To obtain residency, you must have a connection with one of the original families and live on the island for a minimum of twelve months. Residents are given a piece of land by the government to build on, something that becomes a community project and are allocated a certain number of cows which are branded accordingly. There is an abundance of cows on the Island which are free to any residents who wish to hunt them for extra meat. It has become tradition amongst the community that when a cow is slaughtered, it is bagged up and delivered around the community for all to enjoy. Chickens. sheep and potatoes are also in abundance as well as the variety of fish that are easily caught around the island. The government owns a house in Cape Town that is available for use by the residents to use on holidays; many only do this every few years due to the only mode of transport being the cargo ship that takes 7-10 days each way, often in rough seas.
We set off Sunday afternoon and motored all night as we had light easterly winds, however got the sails up the following morning and have been sailing well on course to Cape Town. Wind looks good for the next week so hopefully it's smooth sailing from here on out!
Middle of the South Atlantic
01 April 2014 | South Atlantic Crossing to Cape Town
Three consecutive days of beating upwind in 20-30 kn well and truly tested the stamina of the crew. George, the autopilot, threw a hissy fit and decided to take his leave before we could make use of him on the upwind sail, another to add to the 'list of things to look into' that Ashley is constantly attending to. Setting the jib for the first time in over a year caused some issues which lead to the Captain enjoying a rolling ride to the top of the mast in the bosun's chair. It also took him to the tip of the bowsprit where he took a duck dive as the sprit dove deep into a wave. He decided he may as well do all the extremities of the boat as he was already two thirds of the way there and crawled out to the end of the mainsail boom to tighten the leach line.
A well needed break came when the wind completely died out over night and we decided to set only the staysail amidships and heave to. This allowed a good night's sleep and preserved fuel. We also needed to slow the pace to postpone our arrival to Tristan. If we arrive before Saturday the winds may not permit us to anchor. So today we woke, a little displeased that we missed the opportunity for a morning swim before setting sail with some newfound wind, but the sleep in was much needed. We had a massive clean up of the boat, pumped all the bilges and dried everything out.
The wind arrived just as we completed our house keeping and was a gentle 12 knots on the beam, so all sails up including the fisherman in clear skies and warm sunshine. A nice break from the weather of the past two weeks.
We were able to collect some water in the tanks with the constant rain we have had and the girls have been known to stand on watch and wash the salt from their hair with the fresh rainfall. This passage is taking many weeks longer than we anticipated, however lucky Cathie always has a somewhat unlimited supply of pasta and has been making some fabulous rye bread so we are all well fed and happy and hopefully we will catch a fish soon!
Just landed our first Mahi Mahi - Sushi tomorrow!
Making Headway to Tristan da Cunha
27 March 2014 | South Atlantic Crossing to Cape Town
Our last update mentioned that we had made our way north to 38 degrees to avoid a series of marching lows, and in anticipation of westerly trade winds, the idea of a smooth easterly course to Tristan da Cunha was in sight. Ironically, we soon encountered a band of high's that forced us to turn back south, which brings to mind the truism �"go where the wind blows�", so new pages are added to the log book and new days to the watch list.
We have been gybing our way north and south in search of wind, making a discouraging zig zag design along the 40th parallel. This has made the distance to Tristan da Cunha a tedious figure at any point as we wait for the wind to dissipate or significantly change direction. The disappointing reality of not being able to approximate our arrival date in Tristan has proved enough reason to ban all talk and bets predicting so. We have had some beautiful sunny days and glamorous starry nights north of 40degrees, however a noticeable change in temperature as soon as we head south.
Light winds encouraged us to pull out the fisherman, Cathie's favourite sail, although requiring much careful attention, similar to a spinnaker, a powerful sail that gracefully billows aloft, guiding Jammer as she surfs the swell of the following seas. A large flock of what we estimate to be about 60-80 storm petrels have been with us for the past few days, circling the boat and dropping squid on the deck. We have also been fortunate to see a few wandering albatross, which are an endangered species. The trawling line has been re rigged and the race is on to catch a fish, apparently Tristan da Cunha has some excellent tuna so we are all looking forward to some sushi.
Last night we hosted a fancy hat party and cracked open a bottle of champagne to celebrate Nicolas' 21st birthday. Cathie and I managed to whip up an impressive, although somewhat lopsided black forest cake as the boat was listing 20 degrees. Tammie emphasized the 'new year, new look' motto by giving Nic a stylish new designer beard, trimming his beard with a razor in rolling seas without drawing blood demonstrated much skill. A tropical low is predicted to pass over Tristan da Cunha over the weekend so we have our Hawaiian shirts ready as we approach this isolated island with only 250 inhabitants and no airport.