Greece and Turkey summer 2018/2019
25 April 2019
After sitting out a few stormy days in Syracusa on the Island of Sicily, we set sail for Kefalonia, in the Ionian Islands just ahead of our friends, an Aussie family from Brisbane with their three boys on their catamaran "All Together". It was a good crossing with a nice brisk breeze and we did the journey in good time. Arriving in the early hours of the morning we anchored off the harbour in Argostoli. Went ashore in the morning for formalities and tiropitas. AAHH... it was so good to be back in Greece. We have such fond memories of this country and Argostoli didn't disappoint. It is such a lovely town with friendly people. After clearance it was off to find "souvlaki mi pita" for lunch! A couple of day's later we headed south to the island of Zakynthos and Agios Nikolaos where we tied up to a private jetty with the help of the family who also owns the taverna, service station and the supermarket. We stayed for three days, eating our favourite dishes at their taverna which was excellent. They produce lots of honey on Zakynthos so we re-stocked our supplies from a nearby farm.
We sailed around to the west coast of the Island to Shipwreck Bay. This is a spectacular bay with massive cliffs rising from the turquoise waters and a huge shipwreck sitting high and dry on the beach. It was certainly a magical place and we had it all to ourselves once the day trip boats had left. The water was cold but it was so inviting that it called for the first skinny dip of the season.
We continued south around the Peleponnese visiting many small towns and villages along the way among them Pilos, Finikounda and Methoni where we had one of our most memorable lunch. We were given a choice of local specialities directly from the oven. The taverna "Sapienza", set amongst a stand of trees including Eucalypt was owned by a young Greek couple who had lived in Australia for a number of years. It was still the month of May and the tourist season had yet to start allowing us to enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Greeks prior to the silly season. We also visited the island of Kythera at the very bottom of the Peloponnesus, being the only boat anchored in the port in Kipsali. Magnificent views from the Chora on the hill. Almost the entire island moved to Australia during the 1960's, (as did many other Greek islands) and today they call Australia big Kythera and the island Little Kythera.
We then sailed north to the spectacular medieval fortress town of Monemvassia where we spent hours exploring the narrow streets with a host of souvenir shops, tavernas and unique accommodation dwellings. We met another Australian couple, John and Jenny on "Faraway" who had been cruising in Greece and Turkey each summer for 8 years.
Hydra Island: spent a few days tied up in the main harbour. Still no cars allowed, the only form of transport is by donkey and mule. Did lots of hiking around the hills. Whilst tied up in the harbour, this guy on the dock comes over for a chat with Ashley "as they do ", and it turns out they know each other from the early 1980's when he used to run Antigua 4 out of Hydra, a beautiful Swan 60 and Ashley was just starting out as a bareboat skipper.
Poros: tied up to the town dock and got stuck into some maintenance and met up with Jenny and John again. The wind was very gusty and on the port quarter. The boat next to us left after first losing its owner over the side between the dock and the boat as he slipped off the passer rail and into the water. After all the mayhem, they dragged their anchor over ours and we ended up leaning on the guy on our starboard side. The wind was gusting at 35Knots and in an effort to avoid any incident we decided to leave in a hurry and caught our dinghy painter, which was tied to the aft rail, on an overhanging steel extrusion protruding from the other guy's pulpit. Wow, lots of damage to our stern rail but there was very little damage to the other boat. The damage to Windjammer, was to say the least extensive. We were due to meet our kids in 5 day's time for a months of cruising in Greece and this was not good timing. The starboard side timber stern rail and adjoining stainless rail incorporating the davits had been totally ripped out. We considered renting a bareboat among other things, however, after assessing the situation and determining that there was no structural damage we proceeded to put all the stern gear back together again. With a lot grunt and sheer determination plus a bit of duct tape we managed to get her looking reasonably tidy. We headed off to Aegina on Jenny and Johns recommendation to get a quote for Windjammer's repairs and deal with the insurance people. We then collected our son Sam and his girlfriend Kate the following week from Poros and made our way to Ermiono on the mainland to get another quote from Basimikopolous Shipyard. The quotes were both in excess of 20,000 Euro. There was quite a bit of work to be done but as nothing was structural we decided to continue with our cruising commitments and get the repairs done at the end of the season.
The next six weeks we cruised the Cyclades with our family, Alex joined us from London with her old school buddy Fran. Maggie our youngest who was working on a yacht in Spain at the time flew in to join us in Mykonos for 4 days. This was the first time in four years that we were all together. Being June. the weather was mostly good and we visited Siros, Sifnos, Milos, Santorini, Mykonos, Amorgos, Folegandros and one of my favourites Sikinos. There were so many os's that Sam couldn't remember the names of the islands so Folegandros was referred to as Fairy floss, and so on. We had done a two-week bareboat charter with the kids 12 years earlier so they were all keen to relive the experience. It was a fabulous time but over too soon.
After the kids departed, we continued on our journey to Turkey. We left for Turkey from Rhodes, the island that Ashley had been hankering to get back to since his early days of skippering in Greece. It was now totally overrun by tourist from cruise ships with virtually every spare space in the old city dedicated to selling souvenirs. We couldn't wait to leave so we handed in our cruising log to the port authorities who informed us that we had overstayed our Schengen visa by 1 day. They made a bit of a fuss about their rights to fine us 600 Euro each but chose not to, so with that we left for Turkey the following morning.
One of our reasons for visiting Turkey was to get a new suit of sails as the old ones had done 65,000 miles. We had quotes from Croatia, Portugal and Spain which were really expensive and from China which was much cheaper. The quote we got from Turkey was very reasonable and if we could get them exported without VAT, the price would be comparable to what we could get out of China. With this in mind we headed straight for Gocek where we had arranged for North Sails to measure up for us. In the end we decided on UK Sails in Marmaris. They have a large loft in Marmaris and did a fabulous job. We were originally only looking at having the main and foresail done but were so impressed with the quality and workmanship we decided to have the balloon jib done as well. We cruised in Turkey for just over 2 months spending time in Fethiye, Marmaris, Bodrum, Datca and Didim with numerous stops along the way. Our favourite places were Datca and Bozborun and the anchorage at Ekincik where we hopped on a tour boat that took us up river to Daylan and the spectacular tombs built into the cliffs. We had many a night anchored off Marmaris and Bodrum with all night party music and the morning call to prayer leaving little time for sleep. The lira took a steep fall whilst we were there so we ate like kings for the majority of the time.
We had arranged to meet our friends Rudi and Gerda in Greece for 5 days but with the Schenghen restrictions, technically we were not supposed to go back to Greece for another month, but decided to do an "illegal" entry and just stay out of the main harbours. We left Didim with our first stop in Greece being the island of Agathonisi. We figured if we kept a low profile we should be fine. So to say the least we were shocked when entering the tiny harbour we saw a parade of port police and army trucks on the dock! We attempted to drop anchor and in a "lost in translation" moment we understood them to be demanding us to tie up to the dock and they were to come aboard. We now had to get our story straight, coming up with all sorts of excuses as to why we hadn't checked out of Turkey and into Greece. It soon became clear that in fact they were telling us to get out of the harbour as there was another vessel coming in that needed room on the dock. This turned out to be a Greek naval vessel with Brigadiers and Generals on board. The port police actually had no interest in us so we tootled off and anchored in a stunning little bay next door. Phew that was close!
We then made our way to Samos to pick up Rudi and Gerda. After the ATM eating my credit card in Samos we spent the next 5 days sailing through the Dodecanese to the islands of Lipsi Leros, Patmos and finally ending up in Kos where Rudi and Gerda left us. We had a lovely few days, some nice sailing, good food, laughs and swimming in the crystal clear waters.
We sailed back to Marmaris to pick up our sails then back to Bozburun to clear out of Turkey and back into Greece. We were just short of the 3 months required to be out of Greece but decided to give it a try and checked into Simi in early September where no one batted an eyelid. We caught up with our friends Sandy and Phil from "Southern Wing" whom we had met in Fethiye. It was Phil's birthday so we went out for a celebratory lunch. From Simi we sailed back through the Cyclades and met up with our English friends Peter and Sandra. We picked them up in the "Small Cyclades" which encompass the islands of Schinousa, Irakleia and Koufonisos. These were very pretty however Koufonisis was packed with tourists. We tied up to the last remaining spot at the end of the small pier in Schinousa one evening and were rudely awakened at 2.00am in the morning by the massive Blue Star Ferry which had backed up to the pier just metres from Windjammer (that's why it was empty) and was creating a huge turbulence. PHOTO!!!!
Peter and Sandra spent the next week with us and we sailed to the southern end of Naxos where we found a taverna up on the hill serving locally grown, killed and barbecued lamb, served with the equally famous Naxos potatoes. A great evening. There was some weather developing, with the Meltemi on its way and we ended up having an exhilarating sail across to Sifnos anchoring in Platas Gialos on the eastern side of the island. Its a beautiful anchorage with lots of activity ashore. We had been here earlier in the season but this time it was pretty uncomfortable so motored around the west side of the island stopping at a couple of the anchorages then on to the main harbour in Kamares. We hired a car for a day and drove around the island. This is our favourite island and particularly the village of Kastro on the East side. It is quite diverse with pretty little towns and lovely anchorages.
Peter and Sandra left us and took a ferry to Folegandros while we headed off to the Saronic gulf with a short stop in Serifos. Peter and Sandra's intended 3 day stay on Folegandros was cut short by a day as they were advised to leave the island early as the ferries would not be running for the following few days due to heavy weather. They ended up having an horrific 18 hour ferry trip back to Piraeus.
The heavy weather was a pre cursor to the forecast for a Medicane (Mediterranean Hurricane). The forecast had been changing daily and the whole of the Greek Islands and mainland and also parts of Turkey, were on alert. In the end the worst of it passed over the eastern Peloponnesus where we were. We took refuge in Portocheli as it was reported to be one of the best anchorages to sit this out. It's a very large and protected anchorage with a narrow entrance and good holding. There were lots of boats, both on the quay and at anchor. As the storm hit, boats on the quay were having trouble and scrambling to get off the dock. Our anchor held well but there were a number of boats dragging throughout the night. The storm lasted more than 36 hours, a tiring couple of days.
We were due to haulout in Aegina in another week so spent a couple of days exploring Spetses then back to Hydra (another favourite) for a short stint. On the 5th October we hauled out at Planaco to commence the repairs.
Wow where to begin.
We had a quote for repairs and the time frame quoted to do the job was 4-6 weeks. But being Greece we knew it would take a little longer. It became apparent after 3 weeks that work was going slowly so the time frame was extended to 6-8 weeks. The insurance company agreed to the extension. At least we would be finished before our scheduled trip to England and Australia mid December. We had originally considered getting the work done in July after our cruise with the kids, luckily however we didn't because the job ended up taking over 6 months. We would have foregone the whole summer. Two steps forward and one step backward, and at times two steps backward and one forward. The carpenter employed to do the job was a very nice guy and spoke perfect English and at the time of quoting seemed skilled enough. However he was not always on the job and left unskilled employees to do the work which meant Ashley had to manage the job all the time. We couldn't leave the boat for a moment. It was a very frustrating experience however it did allow us to do a lot of work which we had not planned on so all was good. We made our trip to England to catch up with Alex over Christmas doing a road trip to Cornwall, Devon and the Cotswolds. Very pretty but oh so cold that time of year. We then left for 6 weeks visiting Sydney, Gold Coast and the Whitsundays to sort out problems with our house and damage it had sustained 18 months earlier in Cyclone Debbie. There was no further work done on Windjammer during our absence and on returning mid February we were expectant that the job would be completed by the end of March at the latest. But with inclement weather and lack of commitment from the yard to get the job done we were there until the 25th April. In addition to the repairs to the damaged stern and rail, we had touch up work done to the topsides and painted the entire combings as well as fitting our new propeller. We also had new upholstery both internal and external.
So now in the water its off to Aegina Customs to collect our Cruising permit and head out. Surprise surprise, Customs closed due to Easter break, mind you this was three days before the Easter break. We had to wait a week before they reopened as we could not leave with out the permit. AAAHHHH. So spent a few days at the adjacent island of Agistri where we joined in the Easter festivities. On Easter Sunday, the end of lent, whole lambs are roasted on the spit in towns and villages, large and small all over Greece. It is a celebratory day with lots of eating, drinking, dancing and music.
Sicily West Coast to Kelibia Tunisia to Malta and back to Sicily
05 May 2018
We spent the morning preparing for our departure to Sicily and then went for lunch to the delightful L'Osteria Di Castello, a small cafe come delicatessen next to the bastion. The slow cooked dishes were to die for. Definitely one of the highlights as far as food goes in Sardinia. Simple but delicious.
5th April 2018
We left Cagliari at 8.00am with a nice light westerly wind which lasted most of the day but eventually dropped by the evening and therefore had to motor the remainder of the way. Around 9.00am next morning we arrived at Isla Marrettimo in the Egadi Islands about 20 miles east of Trapani. We were not able to tie up at the wharf as space was limited and the ferry was due in so anchored just at the entrance to the harbour. The island has a huge fishing community and also sees its share of tourism although not as much as is experienced on the two adjacent islands of Favignana and Levanza. There wasn't a lot going on but it is a lovely little island. We had lunch at a small cafe overlooking the harbour . The wind was picking up so decided to up anchor and head for Trapani. There is a lot of rock on the bottom here and it played havoc with the anchor chain. We had a frustrating hour or so trying to weigh anchor. Finally done, we had a nice breeze to take us into Trapani. We anchored next to the main fort guarding the harbour. The following morning we took our "Bromptons" ashore and up with the cable car to Erice, a fortified town on top of the mountain overlooking Trapani. Historic castles, churches and picture postcard cobble stoned streets overlooking farmlands and the sea. 750 metres above see level we could see the winding road back down to the port, so decided to try out the Bromptons on a steep downhill run. Spring was in the air and there were wildflowers everywhere. Such a beautiful scenic ride down. The weather turned that evening and so had to anchor on the other side of the harbour which is marked as a designated anchorage. There was one other boat anchored with us and he soon joined us. We waited out the weather, stayed put and made use of our time doing maintenance. The following morning the French boat that was anchored next us brought up his anchor which was fouled very badly with a long fishing net. It was all caught up in his chain and he had to bring the entire thing on board to try and cut it away from the chain. A couple of hours later when we decided to leave, we found the remainder of the net on our chain. Due to our anchor not being able be brought on deck ( it comes through a hawsehole) we had to launch the dingy to cut it away. It's scary to think how much of this type of rubbish lies on the bottom of the ocean floor. We eventually set sail for Mazara de Vello a fishing port about 30 miles to the south. We considered taking a marina berth but entering the harbour we found it to be silted up and very dirty so we chose instead to anchor just outside the harbour wall which turned out to be a quite a comfortable spot. We took the dinghy into the harbour and ran aground! The harbour and river entrance was full of old derelict fishing boats, possibly to do with the tussles over fishing rights and sequestrations of North African fishing boats. The town itself was really quite interesting. It has a very large Tunisian population who seem to integrate well but live mainly in the ancient Arab quarter or Casbah with its beautiful murals and decorative painted tiles.
Birthday celebrations for Ashley, lovely lunch ashore at one of the many restaurants. Next morning at 2.00am we left for the fishing port of Kelibia in Tunisia. A good stiff northerly with a reef in the main gave us a fairly quick passage. 12 hrs. We arrived in the fishing harbour with the plan to refuel. Diesel here is a less than 1/3 of the price of Italy. At €.047c per litre it was certainly worth the detour. It was however not without its challenges. The fuel wharf was very busy with both small and large fishing boats. We waited our turn and eventually went stern to the fuel wharf in between one large and one small boat. Mayhem for a bit but we were finally tucked in. There was no way to secure the bow ( dropping anchor was not an option) and all was well until the big boat next us decided to leave whilst we were in the middle of refuelling. Trying to keep Windjammer (with her large flared bow) stern to a dock with a stiff beam breeze and no bow anchor is not an easy task. We did end up with a bit of damage on the stern but nothing too serious. This is a very busy fishing harbour and there is very little room in the harbour for leisure boats. When we eventually finished fuelling we were directed by the self appointed dock master to tie up against a 30ft boat for the night, however after a little discussion we managed to get ourselves alongside something a little bigger at 40ft. We visited the local village and also took a taxi into the main town about 5km away, a bustling town with typical markets, dust concrete and rubble, men chatting in cafes and lots of tantalising takeaway food outlets.We checked out the following morning and headed east for the island of Pantelleria where we docked in the main port at Porto Vecchio. We had been led to believe that berthing was free on the main quay but after docking we were advised that it was going to cost us €50 per night. As we intended staying 3 days we negotiated a rate and handed over the cash up front with no receipt offered. There is a big monument in the town dedicated to a number of men who have been killed by the mafia, so we didn't argue, anyway we were expecting another big blow and were only to glad to be secure.
Next day we unfolded the Bromptons and cycled around the south coast of the island. It is very volcanic, black rock everywhere. The houses are traditionally built in the North African style with volcanic rock and concrete domes on the roof for the purpose of collecting water. The island is very fertile and agricultural. The following day we cycled to the Mirror of Venus, a lake in a volcanic crater with hot springs. Apparently the singer Madonna spent time here when she was pregnant. We lathered ourselves in sulphuric mud and took our first plunge for the year. It is a very interesting island with fantastic views and interesting architecture. Definitely worth a visit.
Left Pantalleria at 3.00pm for Malta. Wind was light to start with but filled in later in the day and we had a great sail. Arrived in Malta next afternoon and dropped anchor in St Paul's Bay anchored just adjacent the big cliffs across the bay from the town. The anchorage itself was quite pretty but there were numerous fish farms and one immediately behind us. We went for an afternoon nap to catch up on sleep and soon woke up to a thud. The wind had picked up substantially and we had dragged on to the fish farm. The stern had drifted over the huge floating line surrounding the farm and the anchor chain was on the other side! With careful planning and then quick action we managed to come out of the incident unscathed. Phew! We reset the anchor, set the anchor alarm and had a peaceful nights sleep. Next morning we motored into Valletta. We had booked a berth at one of the marinas for 5 days. Due to high demand, the marinas here are quite expensive so upon entering the harbour we cruised around to see what other options might be available. We turned into Siliema Harbour where all of the tour day boats leave from and saw a German flagged catamaran on the town quay. We questioned whether private boats could tie up and they told us they were actually a charter boat and paid berthage but we could tie up overnight free of charge but would probably be asked to leave the next day. So we did. There was a bit of a wash on the dock from the passing ferry and cruise boats but it was in the midst of the action so to speak, which we always enjoy. Our new German friend then informed us that there was a mooring in the harbour that was owned by another charter boat who wouldn't be back for a month or so and suggested we may choose to use this for our stay which we did. Great spot overlooking the fantastic city of Valletta. We had a great time here catching up with old and new friends and managed to pick up some maintenance supplies which we hadn't been able to find elsewhere. We went to see a symphony orchestra, visited the Old town of Mdina, chased down the best Maltese Ftira sandwich (a local specialty that Ashley had more 40 years ago and couldn't wait to get to Malta to have again to make sure it was still the same) and wandered around the old city visiting various bars and cafes.
There had been no wind the previous few days and no wind forecast for the next few, but it was time to leave, so after a quick cruise around Grand Harbour we were heading back to Sicily. We motored all the way to Syracusa arriving late in the evening. We anchored out in the bay that night and moved to the town dock the next morning. Syracusa is a very lively town and the dock is a hive of activity. Lots of people, tourists and locals walking, talking, eating and laughing. The Ortigia Street market in the old town is a buzzing and colourful place. We ate lunch there most days enjoying many Sicilian delights. We also managed to catch up with one of our old crew members Georgina who happened to be visiting Sicily at the time. We visited the local puppet theatre which was really fun. Almost life sized puppets, the knight rescuing the damsel in distress and killing the soldiers, chopping off heads and saving the day. It was really funny and quite fascinating.
We hired a car for a few days and drove out to the town of Noto, Modica and Ragusa. Noto was a lovely town, as was Ragusa. The following day we had planned to drive to Mt Etna but the weather was due to deteriorate and a strong SW wind forecast which blows straight onto the dock and I had heard that a lot of swell also fetches up on the dock in these conditions. So not wanting to leave Windjammer on the dock unattended, we made use of the car to do some extra provisioning in the morning, then returned it early and moved out to anchor in the protected part of the bay. There were a lot of boats tied up on the dock, sailing yachts as well as some big motor yachts. Some moved off the dock that afternoon and some stayed. The big motor yachts who had decided to stay had all sorts of problems when eventually deciding to leave with anchors overlayed, one picked up another's and ended up hitting the dock causing damage to the stern. We thankfully had a nice quiet night.
We met a delightful family from Brisbane with three young boys who had been living on board their catamaran for 3 years and were being home schooled. We exchanged stories and enjoyed listening to their adventures and bid them farewell hoping to catch up with them somewhere further in our travels as you inevitably do.
A now it's off to Greece!
Almerimar Spain to Sardinia
04 April 2018
After three and a half months at Almerimar, we are finally leaving and starting off on our Mediterranean Odyssey . It was a very productive 3 months though. We hauled out for three weeks and did some much needed paint work on the hull and combings. We had originally organised for the yard to do a lot of the work but they just didn't seem interested or motivated so we ended up doing all the work ourselves. A job well done though and very economical. A lot of work was needed after our harsh winter the year before in Amsterdam. We found a great German mechanic, Frank and used the opportunity to have him overhaul the anchor winch. It was a job that had been waiting for just the right time and this was it. Ashley took advantage of the downtime to have his right thumb seen to. An old rugby injury that came back to haunt him. This ended up with surgery. The second thumb knuckle was pinned and fused followed by 6 weeks in a cast. We hired a car for a couple of months, went to visit some old friends who have a house in the north of Spain over the new year. We had a lovely five days just hanging out in their house, chatting, a few drives and bicycle trips around the countryside and a wee bit of gardening. We also did a bit of touring around Spain visiting Córdoba, Granada, Valencia and managed some skiing in the Sierra Nevada's. We bought a couple of Brompton folding bikes and had them delivered from the UK. They fold up into a small vinyl bag which we made onboard and weigh less than 10kg handy for stowing in the lazarette or in the back of a car.
Almerimar itself was not a very interesting place, a large marina with many expat live aboards from Scandinavia, UK and Germany. However the location was great in terms of weather to do maintenance and access to the Sierra Nevada's and Andalusian countryside.
From Almerimar we planned on sailing up the coast then across to the Balaeric Islands. There was a strong south westerly breeze when we left and getting out of the marina (after a slime line snag on the propellor) and a big sea running was an abrupt wake up to be back on the move again. After a few hours all was calm and we had a lovely sail up to Cartagena. We spent a couple of days at the Club Nautica waiting out a blow and mending sails. Our foresail is in dire need of replacement so we have to be gentle with it and try and keep up the preventative maintenance. Its looking like a bit of a patchwork quilt. Our daughter Alex who had joined us in Almerimar took a bus to visit Maggie in Valencia for a few days and arranged to meet us in Denia. After a somewhat challenging and nerve racking exit from the Port of Cartagena (due to the seabed rising fairly rapidly as it nears the shore the swell really pumps through here, especially after a big blow) we once gain had a lovely sail up to the island of Tabarca just south of Alicante where we anchored for a couple of nights. A lovely little island just a few miles off the coast. It was very quite as it was off season, but very quaint and I'm sure a lively place to visit in the summer. From there we continued on to Denia and checked in at the El Portet marina. I'm not sure if this is a family run marina but the staff were just great, extremely accommodating and friendly. It was one of the most pleasant personal encounters we had during our time in Spain. Alex returned from Valencia and the it was off to Ibiza. My only knowledge of Ibiza prior to this time was that it was a big party island with loud music and late nights. We had originally not planned to visit as this is not really our scene, but being out of season we decided on a short visit. We crossed to the bay of San Antoni, the shortest distance with best protection and anchored just off the marina. We had anticipated going ashore but after reading this excerpt from the lonely planet, "San Antoni, widely known as 'San An', is big and about as Spanish as bangers and mash. The locals joke that even football hooligans need holidays, and somehow they seem to end up in San An. It's the perfect destination if you've come in search of booze-ups, brawls and hangovers" we decided to stay onboard and leave early the next morning for the north of the island. We had another great sail and the weather was starting to warm up. Still only early March but things were looking good. We anchored in Cala Portinax in beautiful clear blue water and I could actually see the anchor on the bottom. Its a long time since we have seen that. Alex decided it all looked to enticing that she was over the side for a swim, whaaa! water was only 16.8 degrees. A quick exit. The next day we did a great hike up along the ridge to the north eastern side of the island. This really is quite a spectacular coastline and well worth the stop. Being out of season though most of the town was shut down but we did manage a nice lunch at one of the local restaurants. A good SW breeze took us across to Mallorca where we anchored in the pretty little bay Cala la Portals on the south western side of Bahia de Palma. We were expecting another blow that night and despite the anchor being set in sand we dragged 3 times. A long night so left early in the morning and took a berth at the Palma Yacht Club. Alex left for London to start an 8 month work stint. We caught up with an old Airlie Beach friend, Christian Pleydell and his wife Amy who have been living on the island for the past 8 years. It's always great to meet up with people in random places. After coffee and a chat we were off to the north end of the island to catch up with some other Airlie friends Charles and Megan Wallis who were on a cycling tour in the town of Pollensa. First day we had a great sail up to Puerto Soller, then continued the following day to Pollensa. Once again the SW breeze was up, but turned out to be quite a bit stronger than forecast. 15-20 turned into 35-40 knots, too late to drop sail so we goose winged up the coast until the main shackle on the main boom suddenly gave way. The gaff hit the spreader which broke. Finally got things under control and fortunately no other damage. Made it for our lunch appointment with Megan and Charles and had a lovely afternoon catching up. Our plan was to spend four or five days in Menorca but due to another weather system coming through which was going to hit Menorca pretty hard and our plans to meet another friend in Sardinia gave way to us deciding to sail straight for Alghero in Sardinia. The weather appeared to be favourable and so we left about midday estimating an approximately 40 hour trip. A nice 15 knot breeze faded to no wind about 24 hrs later and within 1/2 hour to 35 knots. Once again too much sail up and too late to take it down or reef we rode it downwind for about 1 1/2 hrs and arrived in Alghero at 3.00am. Exhausted, we dropped anchor inside the harbour wall and slept until the coastguard turned up at 8.00am informing us we could not anchor in the harbour (which we knew but could not find anywhere to berth on our arrival). We found a space on the main dock just outside the gate to the old town and headed off in search of a good Italian spaghetti for lunch. We spent a week in Alghero. A nice old walled city with lots of charm. Murray joined us and and we headed across the bay to Porto Conte where we picked up a mooring in Cala Dragonera and walked to one of Sardinia's most famous attractions, Neptune's Cave. We had a guided tour of this fascinating cave. Only 5 of us on the tour. In summer, the cave can be accessed directly by boat and tours sometimes consist of 300-400 people. Hard to imagine. Some things are just better done off season.
Contemplating the weather again...do we go north east to Bonafaccia in Corsica and then to the Maddelana islands or head down the west coast to Cagliari. The wind made the decision for us and down the west coast it was. Had some great sailing, with stops made at the pretty town of Bosa and the Island of Carloforte. In Carloforte we bought some of the local wine
for €2.50 a litre and had a great meal at the local pescheria (retail fish shop) directly opposite the town dock where we docked for free. We wandered in to take a look and noticing a few tables in the back asked if we could eat. The proprietor informed us that he would need to wake the cook (his wife) as she was taking a short nap. She cooked us some local pasta, octopus and two large fresh bass. Fabulous meal and company. We were aiming to make it Cagliari for the Easter weekend where there were reputed to be local festivities so we left early next morning and rather than going straight to the city, anchored off the ancient ruins of Nora, just 10 miles SW of Cagliari. We took a guided tour through the ancient city with its old bath houses and mosaics. Beautiful sunny day!
We finally made it to Cagliari and booked a berth for a week at the Sant Elmo Marina about 2kms out of the city. After exploring the city for a couple of days we hired a car and drove into the interior of the island. Our mission was to find some roast suckling pig, a Sardinian specialty. Murrays' nose for food took us to the town of Oliena and the Su Gologone restaurant. This town is in the Barbadian hinterland between the mountains (which had a fresh dusting of snow) and the valleys. It is a large agricultural region with vineyards and olive groves. We booked an apartment in the town and went for dinner. It didn't disappoint, everything we expected and more. They offered us a wine tasting of the regional wines after dinner which was really very personable and interesting. The following day, Easter Sunday, saw a religious procession through the town which included men firing guns of all types, rifles, pistols and even an AK 47 from the roof tops. It was really quite bizarre, there were plastic shells everywhere. It is apparently a tradition (not sure where it comes from) but there are many murals in the town, one of which depicts a local granny who loved to fire her rifle every Easter Sunday from her balcony.
Back in Cagliari, we dropped Murray off at the airport to fly home to Australia and we were off to Sicily.
15 June 2017
We anchored off Islenorsay and after a quick scout ashore continued north to Broadford via Kyle Rhia narrows. Motoring at first in light winds we set sails as it increased and even the balloon jib, whoops wind increased to over 25 knots, big trouble getting it back down again with just the two of us. Lots of rain and wind in the afternoon. Went ashore in Bradford and had our first mussels of the season at a little traditional Spanish restaurant owned by a young couple from the Balearics accompanied of course by a lovely Rioja. Got chatting to a very interesting English gentleman who was on a hiking trip in the highlands.
Woke up the next morning to no wind and no clouds - sunshine at last, its been such a long time. Sailed over to Rhona Island and anchored in Big Harbour. Very pretty spot. There was a little farmhouse ashore where we bought some local island venison and fresh eggs. A great hike to the highest point on the island yielded great views over the islands and the presence of a Scottish naval submarine, surfaced and slowly making its way south.
We then headed further north to Loch Torridon and Sheildag to the town of Shieldag anchoring in front of the town we went ashore and feasted on the local langoustine sandwiches at Nancys cafe. Very fresh and tasty. These lochs are surrounded by numerous mountains and is a particularly stunning area. We spent a few days here catching up on our varnishing in the unusually warm weather.
Set sail for Staffin Bay in the north east side of the Isle of Skye. We entered looking for somewhere to anchor but no apparent places to take the dinghy ashore so continued around the top and ended up at Ardmore Bay on the western side. A small cove with a few farm houses and people scouring the shallows for sea snails, apparently worth a lot of money in France according to the Polish guy collecting them. We collected a bunch and cooked them up, not my cup of tea though, ended up tossing most of therm over the side. We continued on to Loch Dunvegan where there was another huge and famous castle (one of many we saw during our time in Scotland). There was a very active seal colony close by with some very entertaining characters. The town itself was somewhat run down, nowhere to tie up the dinghy so didn't hang around for too long.
Motored across to North Uist in the Outer Hebrides and anchored in Bagh Bhorain. Rainy grey day. Tried our hand at fishing but nothing to be had. Wind was increasing and swinging and not much room so headed south for Loch Boisdale. We had been recommended this spot but we didn't find much interesting here at all, so following day set sail for Barra Island. Decided to stop in to Eriksay Island on the way. We docked freely on the fishing pontoon and were helped in by some very friendly local fisherman who gave us a few tips on walks and places to eat on the island. This was a beautiful island with friendly people, nice beaches on the western side and a fabulous cafe "The Politician" where we stopped for lunch. Later that afternoon we left for Barra Island anchoring in the north east side next to the fish coop and decided to take a walk to the "beach airport". This is an airstrip that is only open at low tide where planes land on the hard sand. Not having a GPS with us we underestimated the distance to the airport, so after about 2 1/2 hrs walking there and 1/2 hr back it was getting dark so decided to try and hitch a ride back. We were picked up by a lady who was visiting her sister on the island for the funeral of her 14yr old daughter, she had just been killed in the mass shooting at the rock concert in Manchester. She had been given the concert ticket for her 14th birthday. We drove past the cemetery and could see the men digging the grave - so tragic.The Outer Hebrides is a very small and close knit community and the death of the young girl was felt by all.
We moved further south to the bottom of the island and anchored just off the Castle in Castle Bay. This is the capital of Barra Island and it has the most gorgeous anchorage.
We spent the evening ashore listening to some local folk music. Next day we moved on to Vattersay Island and anchored off its beautiful white sandy beach. Another stunning anchorage with clear water, white sand albeit too cold to swim. We met some keen kayakers we had previously seen on Eriksay Island.
Next day we sailed across to Canna Island and anchored in the main harbour for a few days. This was a great island for walking with some interesting old churches and buildings. There is a great cafe ashore run by a a lovely local couple where we had the local lobster speciality.
We had a friend to meet in Maillag so sailed across and took a berth in the marina to do some provisioning and laundry.
Our friend Rudi arrived on the train from Glasgow. This train trip I am told is one of the most scenic in Scotland. Wasting no time we sailed that afternoon for Rum Island to check out the Kinloch Castle. Unlike the grand castle at Loch Dunvegan this was in rather a sorry state. There are so many of these castles and unfortunately visitor numbers do not generate enough revenue to maintain all of them. There was not much else on the island and as the wind was due to get up up decided to head up to Loch Brittle on the south east side of Isle. This anchorage puts you directly under the Cuillin mountain range, a draw card for international climbers. We didn't go ashore here but there were lots of vans and campers on the beach. Our next anchorage was Loch Scavaig, which we had read, Eric Hiscock rated as his favourite anchorage in the world. Definitely worth a visit. It is only a small anchorage with room for no more than 2 boats and very much subject to good weather conditions. We had tried entering the day before but conditions didn't allow so went around to Loch Brittle instead. However today was a great day and we managed to do a 2 1/2 hour hike around the lake. A popular place for day trip boats. I'm not sure about most favourite in the world (mine would be Hanalei Bay on the Hawaiian Island Kauai or the anchorage at Pio Sena off the Beagle Channel in Patagonia) but one of the nicer and most scenic anchorages we encountered in Scotland.
We decided to revisit Canna Island as we really enjoyed our previous visit there and took Rudi to the quaint little cafe. Rudi ordered the lobster for dinner and as there weren't any left in the kitchen, the owner promptly hopped into his boat, made a trip to his lobster pots and brought back a fresh one - great service! Great place.
We sailed to and spent the night at Lunga Island in the Tresnish Isles which is part of the Inner Hebrides. This was a lovely quiet and remote anchorage. The next morning we headed for Staffa one of the more famous of the Treshnish Isles. With its sheer basalt columns rising out of the sea is was indeed impressive. The Vikings gave it the name Pillar Island as its columnar base reminded them of their houses which were built from vertically placed tree logs. Fingal Cave is a feature on the island. The cave is formed from hexagonally jointed basalt columns and is renowned for its acoustics. We anchored off the island, very deep and usually a lot of swell and took the dinghy in for a quick look into the cave. It was a bit dicey but managed to get in and out unharmed! afterwards we hiked around the island which had a huge puffin colony. We were so close to some that you could see the ticks infested under their feathers. To date we have seen literally thousands of puffins in Newfoundland, Iceland and Scandavia. They are such interesting little characters. I could sit and watch them for hours. A tourist boat arrived from the mainland breaking the spell so upped cameras and returned to the boat. We then had a short stopover on the Island of Ioana with its abbey dominating the skyline, chic craft shops and lots of tourists. Up anchored and headed to the Island of Jura and the entrance to the infamous Corryrrecken narrows also known as the "Speckled Couldron". The Gulf of Corryvrecken lies between the islands of Jura and Scarba, the underwater topography and tidal race creates the third largest whirlpool in the world so we had to be sure to time our transit right. We anchored in Bagh Gleann Nam Muc, a bay on the northwestern side of Jura and the entrance to Corryvrecken narrows, and would await the early morning slack tide.
This proved quite a challenge. Whilst this was a protected anchorage once you were inside, getting in proved quite hectic as we had miscalculated the timing of slack tide! not thinking it would have such an impact this far out from the narrows. The overflow from the tidal race pushed us around like a tiny cork particularly as we made our entry into the small bay, white knuckle stuff! Apparently George Orwell almost lost his life here in 1949 whilst circumnavigating the Jura. We transited the narrows the next morning dead on slack tide going as fast as we could but even then there were waves starting to break by the time we made our exit from the narrows.
Our friend Rudi was due to fly out of Glasgow in a couple of days so we decided to transit through the Crinan Canal and drop him at Ardrossan with easy access to the airpot. This canal transits from the Inner Hebrides into the Clyde and avoids having to round the Mull of Kintyre which we were told can be quite a challenge. Anchored off the entrance to the canal the wind was once again howling. We approached the canal staff with the boat details to transit. All the literature we had read indicated that the canal could take the size and depth of Windjammer without a problem, however upon checking in we were told they would need to pump an extra 100mm of water into the canal to accommodate our draft. The canal supervisor payed us a visit and was sceptical as to whether our length including bowsprit was in fact going to be a problem. The last lock with its exit gate opening inward was potentially going to be a problem with only centimetres to spare. We were however committed and decided to risk it. There was no turning back once in. So next morning we locked in. The canal is only 9 miles long but It has 15 locks, 7 bridges, 6 swing bridges and a retractable bridge so it was going to take some time. The entrance was very narrow and windy but opened up the further we got. We stopped at one of the small towns along the way for a short walk and lunch as we needed to get to the exit by 4 in the afternoon to lock out.
We decide to continue on to Portavardie, a marina - residential complex another 12 miles southwest that would provide better shelter. This marina had a ridiculously narrow entrance and once in, no where to turn around.
The complex was not overly interesting for us and required a tactical effort in turning Windjammer around the next morning to actually get out again. This required some serious planning as we had rocks 5 meters abeam of us. We swung around on single bow line in a tight tactical manoeuvre. After all the years sailing with Ashley these manoeuvres still continue to impress me.
The wind was now blowing at 25 knots with gusts of up to 50 and we were flying on the flat seas. It was wet, cold and windy again. We saw a lot of this during our time in Scotland. Poor old Rudi was pretty sea sick, finally arrived in Ardrossan. Unfortunately we did not have much pre information on the marina or where we were to berth so once we cleared the gate we found that we were in for another exciting ride. With winds of 35knots we had to negotiate a number of tight turns and manoeuvre or way into a tight berth. Once again Ashley's skills kept us out of trouble and we eventually tied up safely with out damage. Rudi left us the next day and we spent the next few days cleaning up and repairing the anchor windlass.
London to Caledonian Canal and Isle of Skye
23 May 2017
We spent 5 days in London at Limehouse Basin near Canary Wharf, originally built for the canal barges transporting lime and other products via inland canals to the Thames. We had to lock into the basin and only just managed the tide before they closed the gate. Not much under the keel in the lock! This is the home of the Cruising Yacht Club and were very fortunate to get a berth here. There were lots of traditional canal boats with liveaboards. There was only one other cruising yacht came whilst we were there. Unfortunately I spent most of the time in bed due to a bout of chronic bronchitis, so, Ashley visited the maritime museum at Greenwich and cycled his way around the Canary Wharf district visiting the local pubs discovering his favourite ,"The Grape". We met up with an old friend Bex who had worked for us in our previous life chartering in the Queensland's Whitsunday Islands. It was great to catch up and reminisce. It is always good to go back to London, which we had visited many times over a period of 20 years marketing our sailing holidays in the Whitsundays to all the Brits who wanted to escape the bitter winter weather. We had also both worked and lived there in our younger days.
After getting the obligatory photograph under the Tower Bridge (the main reason we went to London, yes really!) we then headed back out the Thames ready for our cruise around Britain.
As the wind was coming from the north we anchored near the Thames entrance at Queensborough for a couple of nights. The east coast of England is fairly shallow with few anchorages and harbours to to take refuge in. We then had nice sail with fisherman up all the way to Felixstowe where we took a berth at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, just making it over the bar on a falling tide. This is a wonderful facility and a beautiful building. This obviously marked a period of prosperity as the town itself is now very run down with lots of empty houses and old warehouses. Seems there is a lot of welfare and unemployment in the town with every other shop in the high street being a charity shop of some description.
After two days we again headed north with favourable winds for an overnight sail to Whitby. We arrived late afternoon ready for the bridge opening to take us in to the marina but alas the bridge control had blown a hydraulic hose and could not open so we spent the night tied up to a small floating pontoon in the outer harbour. Whitby is best known for being the town where Captain Cook grew up. It is a thriving tourist destination with fish and chip and ice cream shops on every corner and every child is fishing for crabs. We met an interesting guy maned Dave who had taken his self built "Whitby Coble", (a traditional north east coast fishing trawler) to the Brisbane World Expo in 1988. He also did a lot of voluntary work for the unemployed youth and had been invited to attend the annual Queens Garden Party! We spent a fabulous day with Dave driving us to surrounding villages and quaint fishing harbours. He also introduced us to the best haddock and chips ever!
After four days in Whitby it was time to get moving again and we continued our journey visiting the town of Blythe and the Northumberland Yacht Club. There were some strong northerlies on the way and the Holy Island of Lindisfarne offered the best shelter. After coming through a winding tricky channel we anchored in front of the Lindisfarne Castle. Lindisfarne was the base for Christian evangelism in Northern England. The island is linked by a causeway which can only be crossed at low tide. The tides in these areas move extremely quickly and there has been many an unsuspecting tourist either stranded on the island or in fact left floating halfway having to sit on the roof of their car. It was cold and windy so we didn't do much ashore except a couple of times to the pub for a pint and bite as we were limited with tide as to when we could even get ashore.
After the weather settled we headed north again to the town of Arbroath, home of the "Smokey (hot smoked haddock - mmmm delicious)". We really enjoyed the town and we met "Jake" the singing Jack Russel who was apparently a TV celebrity. There is a tidal gate into the harbour which opens and closes according to the tide and in our case it was mid morning, we had to scamper to make it as we needed to get to Peter Head by nightfall.
Peter Head is a large commercial port just north of Aberdeen and was a bit daunting when we arrived at 20.30. We needed to get into the "yacht harbour" which was very small and required a tight turning and small entrance. After tying up on the large wooden pier awaiting instructions from the Harbour Master, Ashley did a quick reccy of the harbour, this was just as well as he found a small sandy knoll in the middle of the entrance which we didn't and wouldn't have known was there. It was tight but once again we managed to tie up without incident. We departed early the next morning with the tide and rounded Rattray Head en route to inverness. With a stiff 25 knot breeze on the beam and heading for Inverness to transit the Caledonian Canal, George (our usually trusty auto pilot) groaned and then gave up! We decided to make for MacDuff Harbour to see if we could get the hydraulics fixed. Another small tricky entrance with a hard left turn into a very tidal harbour. Most of the large fishing boats were sitting on in the mud at low tide. We had the pick of the spots with water under the keel in front of the fishing coop. This was one of the more interesting stops on our cruise around Britain. MacDuff is a shipbuilding town and the townspeople were ever so friendly and accommodating. We were given hydraulic oil by a local fisherman who helped us tie up but lack of oil proved not to be the problem and we needed to order spare parts for George which we did and arranged to collect at the end of the Caledonian Canal.
We spent the next week traversing the Caledonian Canal which is 60 miles long and comprises of 29 lochs. Entering at Inverness we crossed Lochness to the pretty town of Fort Augustus which sits under the watchful eye of Ben Nevis and then through Britain's' longest staircase lock, "Neptune's Staircase" at Banavie. This is a series of eight lochs which can lift a boat 20 metres. We had lots of keen onlookers who helped with the locking process moving us from one lock to the next, which was both helpful and entertaining.
Our package of "O" rings arrived while we were in Corpach at the end of the canal and we overhauled the autopilot steering ram. Great to have our extra "crew member" back in action again. We exited the canal and made our way to the anchorage in Loch Aline for the evening. The following morning, we set sail fro Tobermory, a lovely traditional fishing village with coloured houses along the waterfront and of course its famous single malt distillery. We met up with an interesting couple on board the pilot cutter "Annabel J" who were on their way to Iceland. We had experienced lots of muddy anchorages however this was SERIOUS mud and a deep anchorage. Our engine driven deck wash pump for the anchor was of course not working so it took us nearly 2 hours to clean the 70 metres of chain we had out! A smelly morning.
A gentle sail then to Muck Island where we went ashore for their famous crab sandwiches and a walk around the island before heading off to southern end of the Isle of Skye in the afternoon. You can see why the Scottish love to walk so much, these islands offer great walking with miles and miles of open moors, albeit a little windy and wet at times.
Brugge and the channel crossing to London
24 April 2017 | London
Prior to crossing the channel to London we had planned a short visit to Brugge. It was a town that we had wanted to visit by car whilst in Amsterdam but didn't get the chance. It was noted in the information that we were given by the Belgian Waterways that it was a 1 1/2 hr journey to Brugge, which according to the charts looked correct, and that we could tie up in Brugges Marina. The small lock into the the canal to Brugge was closed so we had to go in with the big guns in the Van Damme lock. Talk about overkill for a small yacht, this was bringing back serious memories of the Panama canal. It was the most difficult lock we had been through as there were limited places to tie up to as all the bollards were way up high for the BIG ships. A very stressful experience. We managed to come out fairly unscathed on the other side and made our way through another three bridges to the lock leading to Brugge, at the end of the canal. Waiting, waiting, waiting. No one answering the VHF channel so clearly and visibly displayed at the entry to the lock. We were contemplating turning back when hey presto, the light goes green and the lock opens. Upon tying up in the lock a lovely lady approached with a high vis vest and informed us that no we cannot go into the city as the bridges don't open. She did offer for us to tie up around the corner from the lock free of charge which we duly accepted. Only a 10 minute cycle to town, perfect. Brugge is a fairytale looking city and hence VERY touristy. Busloads of people everywhere. It is a heritage listed town and there are some beautiful buildings from the 13th and 14th century but the majority are actually 19th and 20th century made to look from this period. Beyond the main square however there are some lovely enclaves through the meandering canals where we took the opportunity to sample some Belgian beer and local specialities.
I had a bad case of the flu so took the next few days off trying to recover enough for the Channel crossing.
It was Tuesday and time to leave at a pre arranged time with the lock keeper but not the bridges further along. Once again, no one answering the clearly displayed VHF channels posted at the bridges. Eventually after an hour and much frustration we passed through the last of our 65 bridges since leaving Amsterdam and headed for the last of our 12 locks (the dreaded Van Damme lock) to get out into the English Channel. The controllers of this lock are very efficient as they have many large cargo ships entering and departing daily. Without too much ado we were out of the lock into Zeebrugge and at 21.00 headed out into the Atlantic setting sail to cross the channel.
A nice 15-20 knot breeze on our aft quarter was perfect. We had heard many stories of crossing the English Channel and were prepared for a busy night. The place we had chosen to cross however centred around two shipping lanes merging and both going off in different directions . The AIS looked like a bunch of hungry mosquitos on a bare patch of luscious skin. We nerve rackingly picked our way through the mass and made it out the other side arriving In Queenborough Harbour at the entry to the Thames around 10.30am. All in all a good time for the 100 mile stretch. It was time for a hearty breakfast and sleep. We anchored overnight around the corner from the harbour and next morning made our way up the Thames to Limehouse Basin Marina near Canary Wharf.
Heading south along the “Staande mast” canal route
15 April 2017 | Oostershelde
It was time to leave the north of Holland and we had arranged to buddy boat with our German friends Ralph and Sabine on their yacht "Beluga" through the "stand up mast route" to Zeeland and Brugge. They had done this journey many times and Sabine being the tour guide knew all the places to go to when the bridges opened and made many enquiries on our behalf for berthing Windjammer. With a draft of 2.5metres, space is limited. Good job Sabine! We visited the beautiful old cities of Haarlem and Gouda and the modern city of Rotterdam. Quite a contrast. Whilst Rotterdam is not what I would call a beautiful city it certainly has some very interesting and innovative architecture. The Rotterdam marathon was on whilst we were there which delayed our departure due to bridges not opening, however we left on the Sunday afternoon headed for Zeriekzee. This was also a very quaint old town on the canal where we spent Ashley's birthday.
Ralph and Sabine left us to take up their summer mooring in Woolphardsdijk just 10 miles down the canal. We spent another quiet night at Zeriekzee where we met the loveliest Dutch/ Scottish Harbour Master who gave us a discount because it was Ashley's birthday and our surname was Kerr !!! Our next stop was to be the "museum town" of Veere, but half way there we heard a wolf whistle from the side of the canal, it was Woolphardsdijk marina and Sabine doing what she does well. They had enquired with their harbour master and he said that they had room where we could tie up for the night, so we did. The following day we all went for a visit to the Delta Project museum/ theme park. This sits on the flood gates into the Oosterschelde. After the disastrous floods in southern Holland in 1953 which killed more than 1800 people, it was decided that the Dutch would try and tame the sea and the Delta Project was born. It took almost 30 years to implement but in the end they have an impressive structure with 65 gates and miles of bridges spanning a number of areas along the North Sea. The museum could have been better done and the theme park designed for the family market kind of detracts from the whole thing (which is by the way very ordinary and dilapidated), but hey when they can charge 22 Euro per ticket to see the gates and a couple of movies and 9 Euro for parking and people willing to pay it, why change.
After some "kibling" and chips for lunch it was back to the marina and finally time for us to say goodbye, once again to Ralf and Sabine. Destination Veere. We anchored off this little town late in the afternoon and dinghied across to the yacht club. This is a cosy club with very friendly and welcoming locals to whom we got chatting over a few beers. One was a major player in the shipping import market from Russia and the other a celebrated ship builder and surveyor.
It was then through the Canal door Walcheren into the Westerschelde from where we would make our departure across the English Channel to London. What's that wolf whistle I hear, Ralf and Sabine on the side of the canal, just happened to be in the town shopping that we were passings through. How uncanny!
Our Winter in Amsterdam - April 2017
04 April 2017 | Sixhaven Marina
The long gloomy winter is finally over and we are on our way south, in search of warmer weather, for the short term at least, before heading north again to Scotland.
Amsterdam turned out to be everything we expected it to be, bustling with visitors, even on the coldest, greyest days and we were never short of things to do and places to explore. Lovely little brown cafes/bars with limited seating and lots of character, museums galore which we really enjoyed. The close proximity to Schipol airport and Transavia Airlines allowed us to fly relatively cheaply to Italy where we did a 3 week long road trip and then again in Morocco. We also managed a short family catch up to Australia.
Our marina, "Sixhaven" was conveniently located across from the Central Railway Station separated by the river IJ and connected via a 24 hour free ferry service that ran every 6 min. What a fantastic service! The marina recently had a total makeover so the facilities were excellent and there were about 20 live-a-boards which made it quite cosy and social. The temperature was at times -5 deg but mostly around 0 deg with frequent overnight frosting which made moving around deck and the walkways challenging. We had a few light snowfalls and sheet ice on the water but it was considered by all to be quite a mild winter. Due to limited shore power, 6amps, we had to run our diesel heater full time which kept things nice and toasty below decks but bumped up our winter budget. We also had WiFi to fill in the mornings and a Netflix subscription for the evenings.
We had a bit of excitement early one morning with one of the yachts going up in flames. I was still up and and about around midnight and heard the screams of the Hungarian student living onboard and raised the alarm. The girl had just ducked out to the toilets and when she returned discovered the fire below. When she opened the door it was like woof, and the entire internals flared up. A group soon assembled to help and we managed to remove the gas cylinders and moved the yacht next door which was about to catch fire. The fire brigade then arrived and took over. The clubhouse opened and we all had "calming down drink" - no point going back to bed at 4.30am!
We managed to catch up with a number of Dutch friends from Ashley's backpacking days on a Kibbutz and as a result got to see some different parts of Holland. We also had some lovely visits from friends in England and Linda our French au pair from 20 years ago with her young family.
Our winter marina berth finished at the end of March and as a going away weekend we thought we would get together a group of friends from the marina as well old kibbutz mates and register to participate in the Pieperrace (Potato regatta) in Volendam, just north on the IJslmeer. This is an annual event for all of the "Plateboots" or flat boats in Holland. Upon receiving our entry the race committee called to say that they thought our keel was too deep for the course but kept us registered. So as the time approached we were having second thoughts and were discussing these with our German buddies Ralf and Sabina, with whom we spent some great times with over the winter. They told us that they had been reading information on the regatta and it was written that the course had been changed from previous years because there was a schooner from Australia participating with a 2.5 metre draft. That was it, no going back now! It was a lovely sunny weekend with over 80 boats participating. Quite a spectacle. Wasn't much wind on the second day, but a great weekend was had by all with lots of dancing helped along by 'Schieper Bitter'.
We also had a surprise meeting with our South African cruising buddies David and Lea whom we originally met in St Helena and then cruised with in the Caribbean. They just happened to be in Amsterdam visiting Lea's parents. Dave and Lea did the Antigua Classic Regatta with us and Dave was the "winch" on board. Dave joined us and Mike and Sally for the sail to Volendam and thought seriously about staying for the regatta, but chose instead to fly into a blizzard and go skiing as originally planned.
Copenhagen to Netherlands via Northern Germany
30 October 2016 | Amsterdam
Was time to leave Copenhagen, so after managing to track down and bunker duty free Diesel we set off for Malmö in Sweden. On the way we stopped at the private island of Saltholmn with its impressive fort and WW2 gun placements. Cought up with Bruce and his parents who had sailed their yacht across to meet up with us. Spent two days in Malmo cycling around the city and the lovely University town of Lund where we had lunch and ended up watching new students being initiated into their university houses. We also had a look at the "Twisting Torso" a neo futuristic residential skyscraper designed by the famous Santiago Calatrava and as the name depicts, does indeed look like a twisted torso.
Left early and sailed down to the island of Rugen to the town of Sassnitz in NE Germany. We tied up behind the German pilot schooner "Atalanta" which was crewed by a bunch of volunteer guys mostly over the age of 65. Murray and Ashley were invited on board for a look around and a sampling of their local "Wismar beer" directly from the keg.
The next morning we had a great sail across to Peenemünde to visit the museum and Luftwaffe test site of the V2 rockets. These rockets and missiles, were developed here between 1936 and 1945 by Wernher von Braun and hundreds of German scientists. Later in the 1960's he designed the Saturn V rocket for NASA that was used to fly to the moon. The role of the former rocket engineer in Peenemünde, however, was to develop weapons of war. What was also of interest was the soviet nuclear class submarine left behind after the fall of communism. Certainly an educational and interesting day. Herrings and good German beer for dinner.
Our cruise along the North coast of Germany was focused on the five 12/15th century Hanseatic cities of Griefswald, Stralsund, Wismar, Rostock and Lubeck. All very impressive walled cities with fabulous architecture, a lot of which was still under restoration from damage during the war and the fall of communism. We had a farewell dinner with Murray in Wismar and made our way to Lubeck where we spent two weeks. This was an amazing city and we really enjoyed chilling out and hanging out with all the traditional boats in the "Museum Harbour" and it was free of charge.
We left Lubeck and made our way down the river again with a short stopover in Travemunde at the mouth of the Trave river to visit the old grain ship Passat. As far a museum ships go it was one of the most impressive displays we have seen. Travemunde is a big German holiday town with all the hotels and souvenir shops and beach chairs one would expect of a seaside resort.
Next stop Heiligenhafen where we dropped anchor just off the town with the intention of staying overnight, however the weather got up and we decided to head into the marina for a day or so. As we approached the town we saw lots of traditional boats tied up in the small harbour, some of which we had seen in Lubeck. We then noticed posters advertising the "Kohl Regatta" that coming weekend. Kohl is the German word for cabbage. The Cabbage Regatta, now that sounded interesting! Heiligenhafen was a lovely little town with very friendly people. We made enquires about the regatta and were immediately invited to participate. The history of the regatta is based around the early trading and export of cabbages which was the mainstay of the town. There was large tent on the dock with old guys doing sea shanties, beer and bratwurst stands, the whole gambit. Race day came and we set off on the race course with 3 young locals as crew. To qualify to finish you needed to have caught a cabbage that was thrown to you at the rounding mark. Cabbage in tow, we crossed the finish line. Tradition has it that you must dress the cabbage, mount it on a pole with a spike inserted (given to you on registration) and then take your mate to the party. There were some great cabbage heads attending, who wanted to interact with our own Cabbage "Queen Elizabeth". A fun night with copious amounts of beer was had by all and the next morning with good weather we headed for the Kiel Canal.
With a stiff 25knt breeze we made good time and tied up late in the evening ready for an early morning transit. We exited the canal early afternoon and made our way to the port of Cuxhaven for the night. As the tide was with us so we decided to continue on to Heligoland, a small German archipelago in the North Sea that enjoys tax free status, so it was worth the extra miles to top up with duty free diesel and Akvavit. The fuel dock was subject to tide and we had a 90 minute window to get in and out. We arrived a little late and due to the lay of the land decided to drop anchored and tie stern to the dock as there was quite a swell running. A stern German voice came across a loud speaker informing us that we were forbidden to take fuel in this manner. The tide was dropping and we were desperate to get fuel on board as soon as possible. So we eased Windjammer alongside, used two pumps to fill the tanks, payed the bill and got out by the skin of our teeth. The weather was turning the next day and we would not have had another chance. Phew, got away with that one!
Spent the next couple of days tied up in the main harbour until the weather improved and then made our way south to the fishing port of Borkum. It was a late arrival for our an overnight stay.
Next morning we left at first light for the Dutch Frisian island of Vlieland. These islands are renowned for their shifting sands and inaccurate charts and we were to have our own 'Riddle of the Sands' moment. "What's that breaking water up ahead?".... We had an intimate moment with an uncharted sandbank but with Windjammers strength and determination were strong enough to part ways.
We were keen to get to the Netherlands and find a place we could spend the winter. Amsterdam seamed to be a good option as we wanted to do a bit of travelling in Europe over the winter. We made our way down down the Wadden sea to the Island of Vlieland then through the Ijslmeer spending a week visiting the lovely port towns of Harlingen and Enkhuizen with their large "Brown Fleets". From there a short sail to Muiden at the entrance to the river Ij. In the end we found a berth at Sixhaven Marina, directly opposite Central station. Great location, good security only 15 minute train ride to Schipol. After a few days settling into the marina we headed off for our first road trip to meet up with Ashley's brother Mark and partner, Stephen in Cinque Terre and Tuscany - Pasta, wine, pecorino and beautiful autumn country side.
Norway to Copenhagen
08 September 2016 | Copenhagen
We had earlier considered wintering in Norway but it was proving just too expensive, not so much the marinas but supermarkets and restaurants not to mention alcohol! Instead we decided to head further south to Northern Europe. Our first port of call in Denmark was Skagen across the Skagerrak (the body of water that separates Norway from Denmark. This is a huge port with lots of ships anchored out in the roads waiting to load and unload. We arrived late in the evening so took a long walk into town looking for a restaurant but only found a little pub. Not much going on, however on the way back we found a bunch of restaurants around the marina all in the process of closing up, we did manage to get a nice glass of Australian red on the last call.
We had heard about the town of Saeby from the Norweginas we had met in Gyerhaven Inlet so this was to be our next stop. After another good sail 25 miles down the coast we arrived in what was a very pretty town. It had colourful Danish cottages with cobble streets and a river running through the centre of town driving an old sawmill.
And yet another 6.00am start as our next destination was the island of Anholt which is located about half way between the Northern tip of Denmark and Copenhagen (approx. 50 mile run).
Sailed most of the way with a SW breeze, but as the wind clocked further south, we had to harden up and motor sail the last 10 miles. Just outside the harbour as we dropped sail, the engine cut out. Air in the fuel (again) a problem we had encountered a number of times due to low level of fuel when one tank and been shut off and not equalised after heeling. Not a problem however, dropped the anchor and Ashley quickly bled the fuel line and restarted the engine. The ferry had just arrived so we had lots of onlookers. The fisheries patrol guys and SAR team were also on board. They were concerned as rocks lay just behind us, apparently they had seen so many boats end up on the rocks there. They quickly launched their patrol boat to assist us. After we had weighed the anchor and started to head into the harbour we encountered a secondary problem. The engine overheated! caused by the raw water pump impeller blowing out. This was totally unrelated to the fuel issue, but as they say, things tend to go in multiples. Fortunately the SAR and fisheries guys were standing by and towed us into the harbour. It was a good training exercise for them and good entertainment for the town. We found a small hut across the road made from recycled packing cases and rustic wooden furniture selling coffee. The barista was an equally interesting woman from Copenhagen with a huge rasta hairdo. The hut was only open for the holiday season which is about 6 weeks per year and this was there last day. Of course, having provided so much entertainment they wouldn't let us pay for the coffee.
After replacing the impeller we spent the rest of the day cycling around the sand island. The weather was somewhat cool, however you could see the attraction of the island as a holiday destination for the city dwellers from Copenhagen. The population drops back to under 200 out of season. We had a huge buffet barbecue at the local pub before heading back for a well earned rest.
The next day we left Anholt at 5.00am and headed down the Kattagat on the west side of Jutland. No wind so motored all the way. We arrived at the harbour town of Helsingor mid afternoon and tied up in the "Kultur" Harbour next to the Kronenburg Castle, the setting for Shakespeare's "Hamlet". The Kultur Centre which is a relatively new facility, houses a new library, concert hall and Maritime Museum. The library was extremely modern in its furniture, art works and use of space. Helsingor has a quaint town centre with cobblestones streets and traditional Danish buildings. We dropped the foresail off for repair at the oneSail loft, this time an accredited sailmaker. We spent a couple of hours removing the patches ourselves that our "shoemaker" from the Faroes had sewn on, some 6 weeks earlier.
The next day the sail was returned perfectly repaired. After bending on the sail we set off for Copenhagen arriving late afternoon where we were lucky to get a berth in Nyhaven. This is traditional boat hangout and middle of tourist central in Copenhagen. We were right at the exit of the new pedestrian and cycle bridge and the traffic, mostly bicycles were whizzing by. We did the tourist bit and went for "moule et frites" at one of the many waterfront restaurants. Not a good choice, the culinary experience was some what wanting, but the "people watching" was fabulous. We then ventured off to one of the traditional sailors bars below street level and met some very interesting characters over a few local schnapps.
7 /8 Sept
Spent the next couple of days exploring the sights of Copenhagen. It is a fabulous city and we took in most of them including the Royal Palace, changing of the guard, Parliament buildings and of course the Little Mermaid. We also visited "Christiana", the neighbourhood hippy commune. The buildings were originally a military base but when vacated by the military in the 60's, squatters and hippies moved in and created a commune. The government were never able to remove them and today they have negotiated a lease on the buildings. There is an entire community that operates within this compound, albeit with a little help from a few banned substances to keep the calm. A very colourful community.
In the afternoon we caught up with "Bruce" aka Matthias and his lovely girlfriend who had crewed with us from New Zealand to Hawaii.
Hagesund to Kristiansand - Norway
29 August 2016 | Norway
It was a sad moment for us to say goodbye to Nick and Michelle as we left the dock in Hagesund southbound for Stavanger. Michelle no doubt was delighted to have her husband back after almost 3 months at sea. We arrived in Stavanger late in the afternoon and tied up alongside the floating dock in the centre of the old town. Stavanger has a lively cafe and restaurant culture and there were lots of tourists and locals alike out enjoying the last of the summer weather.
The following day Murray and I decided to do the famous hike up to Pulpit rock. This is a very popular tourist hike to a rock landing overlooking Lysenfjord. After a ferry then bus ride which took approximately 1 1/2 hours we finally arrived at the base of the trail. Popular was an understatement, there were streams of people coming and going. The hike took us around 2 hrs each way and was indeed spectacular and well worth the effort and Murray managed to get some great photos.
Ashley had spent the day catching up on boat tasks and visited the 'Oil Museum' giving a fabulous account of Norway's association with oil extraction in the North Sea oil. A very impressive museum by all accounts.
The following day we explored some of the backstreets of Stavanger by bicycle while Murray paid a visit to the local canning museum.
Plan was to keep heading south and our next destination, Gyarhaven, was one that had been recommended in our Norwegian Cruising guide. This was a gorgeous but tiny inlet and when we arrived (being Friday evening), there were lots of small boats all tied up with their bows to a small jetty. We dropped anchor next to the rock face and ran a stern line to a steel post embedded in the rock.
There was a small hut ashore where some of the boaters had gathered for evening drinks around a cosy log fire. We were soon settled in amongst them. As it turned out this was a favourite weekend destination for Stavanger locals. The dock and hut had been built by them with funds for material provided by the local council.
We had a good chat, in broken English, and were told that Windjammer was the first Australian and certainly the largest boat ever to anchor in their little inlet.
After a bit of a lazy morning we headed for Kirkehamn (Church Harbour). This was anther place that had been recommended, this time by Murray's friend Cathy from "S/Y Pura Vida". On the way we stopped at Eggersund for a quick look but it turned out to be fairly industrial and a bit smelly so we continued on. We had a very pleasant sail down narrow channels between a group of small islands off the west coast of Hidra. Finally down Flekkerf fjord and into the beautiful harbour of Kirkenham with its prominent church at the entrance. In the afternoon we hiked up the mountain to the ruins of a German WW2 "Hagasen" coastal fort battery with gun placements, accommodation and hospital facilities. Most interesting were the huge bunkers built into the rock faces. This was an important lookout point and has a history dating back to the Napoleon wars in the 19th century.
We tried booking into the renowned Kongshamn restaurant but it was booked out for a private function so continued on to Farsund where they were holding the North Atlantic Festival.
Arrived early evening and managed to tie up to the main dock, thanks to the locals making space for us. As we were getting ourselves ready to head out to dinner a couple of music students took interest in Windjammer, stopping to have a chat. Within the next 10 minutes there were a dozen of them, all with different instruments. This followed with an impromptu private show for us on the dock, singing Whisky O' Johnny and other sea shanties. What a treat! It took us ages to find the music venue only to find they were not serving dinner and by the time we found something to eat in town (not an easy task), it was too late to go back. Turned out we had missed most of the music that day, and indeed the festival.
Very wet and windy so we stayed put in Farsund for the day. Met a fellow yachtie, Jaap a Dutch guy who gave us a lot of good information on where to spend the winter in Holland. Being a Sunday, nothing in town was open so ended up at Burger King in the shopping centre doing internet stuff.
Left early in the morning for Kristiansand with a good wind and sailed all the way arriving late in the afternoon. Kristiansand is one of the largest domestic destinations for families in Norway. Nice beaches and lots of tourist activities surrounding the area. The town is also renowned for its ceramic works. There are lots of very interesting sculptures located around the town and quite an impressive convention centre. Finished the day with a curry buffet at the "Queen of Curry India" cafe.
Bergen to Haugesund -Norway
23 August 2016
13 - 14th August
The North Sea was very kind to us on this passage of 180nm. A gentle westerly at 10-15kts and a calm sea in the lee of the Shetlands made for a very comfortable sail as we passed a pod of Killer whales on departure from Unst. The wind died on Sunday morning around 0900hrs and we motored the rest of the to Bergen. First impressions of bare granite headlands soon gave way to wooded hillsides and lovely tidy homes and their waterside boatsheds. Three cruise ships and lots of shipping passed us as we entered the sound with many large oil rigs moored along the way.
The North Sea oil fields are close to Bergen and we sailed past some of them on the way across from the Shetlands. We tied up right in the heart of Bergen beside the bustling fish market at 1900hrs. There was a lot of activity on the waterfront which is the core of the tourist area.
15th August - Bergen is a very busy port with ferries coming and going and they have over 300 cruise ships docking in the harbour each year with over half a million passengers. Opposite our berth was the World Heritage listed Bryggen precinct which has been a centre of trade for centuries, especially with the Hanseatic League in the 1800s. The building facades are all askew as, apart from their age, a munitions ship exploded in 1944 giving them a nudge sideways. The wooden buildings and narrow passages are now propped up with stays, but still open to trading.
Overlooking the city is Mount Floyen and a lovely wooded 3km track leads to a lookout on the summit. Good to stretch the legs and soak up the sunshine while enjoying the forest and the views. Visited the Bergen Maritime Museum with its history from the Vikings through to the present day. A very good display. Enjoyed lunch of Halibut in the bustling fish market. The young people serving here seem to have a grasp of numerous languages and there is plenty of banter for all nationalities. There were lots of students around the city as it was orientation week for the university. It is a lovely city with a pedestrian mall up the middle and a lake and well-kept gardens. Lots of people were about, but there was no feeling of rush or crush. The port activity is amazing with cruise ships, ferries, oil rig tenders, coast guard vessels and freighters coming and going constantly.
16th August - A clear sunny day with a leisurely start in Bergen. A light breeze gave us a lovely 2 - 3kt sail across Bjornafjorden, down through the narrow gap between the mainland and Tysnes Island to our evenings anchorage near Vikane.
17th August - Low cloud obscured the hill tops on this windless morning. Ashley inflated the collapsable kayaks and we all had a paddle around the islands. We then motored across to Rosendal and tied up at the marina. After lunch we walked up to the Baroniet Rosendal Castle. The manor house has beautiful grounds with huge old trees and a classic 300 year old renaissance rose garden.
18th August - Another misty morning. Went for a walk up the hill behind Rosendal to the Sjethaug viewpoint. The mist lifted in the late morning and with the wind behind us and bright sunshine we sailed up Hardangerfjorden to Norheimsund with a light following breeze. Today was warm enough for the boys to bring out the shorts and expose some very white legs. As we entered the sheltered harbour and dropped anchor in front of the elegant, whitewashed Sandven Hotel there was a girl waving and dancing on the waterfront. It turned out to be Nick's wife Michelle, so a welcome aboard toast and a catch up sitting in the sun at the deck settee.
19th August - This morning we walked up to the very popular Steinsdalfossen waterfall and followed the track behind it for views down the valley. Norheimsund is home to the Hardanger Maritime Museum where wooden boats are not only displayed and restored, but also built. There are displays in rope making and splicing too.
We continued up the Hardangerfjorden in the afternoon passing numerous small orchards along the water's edge mostly growing apples. At Utne we walked around the many small buildings of the outdoor folk museum and enjoyed the modern and unusual artworks displayed amongst them.
Until recently apple cider was only made by local orchardists for their own consumption, from July this year it has become legal to sell it. The bottles we tried were fruity without being too sweet with just a very slight spritzig and a good kick.
20th August - Ashley and Cathie cast us off for an early start up the Ulvikfjorden to the picturesque town of Ulvik. The sleepy little town was a pit stop for the Voss to Gielo bike race and we watched some of the 800 riders pass through. Returning down Hardangerfjorden we anchored for the night at Herand. The town is a base for all year round glacier skiing about 40 minutes drive away. The stream running through the town is harnessed to drive a grinding mill and also a sawmill which is still active and provides timber for restoration work. The Herand Boat Builders museum is in a boat shed by the water's edge with a partially completed hull demonstrating the craftsmanship involved in building timber boats. There was also a fine display of all the tools associated with boat building. For dinner we had excellent pizzas in the Meieriet Restaurant served by a delightful Swedish waitress.
21st August - Continued down Hardangerfjorden to the narrow Maurangsfjorden passing Furebergfossen waterfall and stopping at Sundal. We tied up alongside a small pontoon at the Sundal Campground and Cathie said it was the first time they had paid camping fees for Windjammer. The small village is the starting point for walks up to the Folgefonna National Park and the Folgefonna glacier. We followed the fast flowing glacial stream up to Lake Bondhasvetnet and walked around the shore. Wild raspberries growing along the way were ripe and delicious. The tail of the glacier is rapidly retreating, but still clearly seen from the lake. The steep pine covered slopes and reflections in the lake make a great scene.
22nd August - A cloudy calm day as we motored down to Husnes in search of a refill for the gas bottles. It's like the Holy Grail with different fittings for gas bottles in every country. No luck...Motored on to Haugesund through rain squalls and arrived at 16.30hrs. We had a wonderful Indian meal at the "Indian Gate" restaurant.
23rd August - Nick and Michelle leaving the Windjammer and her crew this morning.
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to share another leg on Windjammer's world voyage. We have had a happy and harmonious crew and we have all enjoyed discovering this North Atlantic region. Thanks a million to Ashley and Cathie.
Torshavn - Faroe Islands to the Shetlands
14 August 2016
Torshavn is a mix of old and new with beautifully maintained old buildings around the point of Tinganes, with their turf roofs and the more modern homes stretching up the hillside behind. Tinganes means Parliament point and the Faroese claim one of the world's oldest having presided here for over a thousand years. The general assembly is known as the "Thing". Ashley suggested that the MPs should be known as "Thingamajigs".
The National Museum describes the development of the islands from their volcanic beginnings. In the early times the Faroese were subsistence farmers living on sheep and catching birds for food. At one stage 97% of the Faroese income was from making woollen socks for the King of Denmark which he in turn on sold to the army and navy. Fishing came later and is now the main source of income today. Most other trade is restricted to passing through Denmark.
After several sunny days, the weather took a turn for the worse with up to 50kts of wind and rain over night, so we took a bus trip up to Bordoy Island to get some perspective of the country. The excellent road network connects most of the islands skirting the coast and crossing the water via bridges or tunnels under the sea. Small farms line the steep green valleys and fishing ports dot the coast. There are hiking trails all over the island and an absolute paradise for bird watchers. The weather was wet and windy with a strong NWer gusting to 50kts.
A sailmaker that was recommended by one of the charter schooners collected our torn foresail and returned with it the following morning. On inspection we found that it had been repaired with dozens of little patches painstakingly sewn with a large needle leaving rows of rather large pin holes. The danger of course was that the first strong wind loading up the sail would have a zipper effect tearing the sail along the stitched seam. C'est la Vie
9th - 10th August - The Wind was forecast to ease so an early start was made from Torshavn and we cleared the harbour by 0600hrs. There was still a big sea running after the blow, but the steady 15-20kts NW gave us a good sail to the Shetlands. We are standing 2 hour watches so can catch plenty of rest.
We sailed around the Muckle Flugga lighthouse, built in 1857-58 by Robert Louis Stevenson's father Thomas, (The map in "Treasure Island" resembles a map of Unst) the northern most point of the UK, then down the east coast of the north island of Unst and into Balta Sound tying up at Sandison's wharf at 1800hrs. It was a relief to pull into flat water after such a bumpy trip.
On arrival we were met at the wharf by Penny and Gordon Thomson with a box of treats; bread, biscuits, fudge and a bottle of the local Reel gin and some tonic water. Murray knew Penny from way back in the 1980s in the Med and had advised her that we were on our way. They came aboard for a G & T 's before generously shouting us dinner at the local pub.
11th August - The day dawned windy and overcast. We walked a short distance from the boat to the famous Unst bus shelter ajacent to paddocks with strings of Shetland ponies. The bus shelter (mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide book) is decorated with a different theme every year. The present theme is "maps" which are spread throughout, together with atlas and picture books from different countries. There is a strawberry patch out front and a beer and soft drink should anyone have to wait too long! This was our first stop on our tour of Unst. Penny picked us up and drove us to the Unst Boat Haven, a wonderful array of old wooden boats collected by her father Duncan Sandison. He kindly showed us around describing first hand experiences with some of the boats and their construction. He showed us a Sixareen (six oared) boat he had built himself. These were open boats used to fish for cod and ling 30-40 miles offshore. Baltasound has a history of fishing which peaked with the mackerel fishing in the early 1900s when there were 10,000 people working here and it was in its heyday the biggest mackerel port in the world. Today the island has around 600 residents. There was also a large herring fishing industry here and they also mined chromite.
A wee verse at the Boat Haven from Spike Milligan caught my eye :-
The herring is a lucky fish
From all disease inured,
Should he be ill when caught at sea;
Immediately - he's cured.
After lunch Gordon drove us up to Lambardess on the northern part of the island. There was an important radar station located here during and after the 2nd World War. The RAF base called Saxa Vord now houses a brewery and a distillery. The rolling hills are green and dotted with sheep. We stopped to admire some of diminutive native Shetland ponies which were often used to transport cut peat,the islanders used for fuel. In the evening Penny and Gordon hosted us at their home where Gordon had cooked a delicious heather raised roast lamb. This was followed by a candle topped cake for Cathie's birthday.
12th August - The rain came down this morning preventing us from seeing much of the countryside on our bus and ferry trip to Lerwick, the largest town and capital of the Shetlands. It is a busy port with ferries, fishing boats and North Sea oil industry service boats. The old town with its grey stone buildings and narrow streets steps up the hill from the water front. The excellent Shetland Museum describes the lives and culture of the islanders from prehistoric times to present day. One interesting fact was that the Shetlands were given to Scotland as part of the dowry of a Danish princess.
On our way home the weather lifted and we had a better view of the countryside. Rolling, treeless hills with improved pasture in the valleys, flowering heather covering the upper slopes and much evidence of cutting peat from the bogs. There were lots of sheep and some cattle grazing in the dull green fields and there were salmon and mussel farms in the coastal inlets. With the still overcast sky it looked very much like a wet, windswept, cold country.
We dined again in the very comfortable and cosy home of Gordon & Penny and later they drove us to the "Galley". Here every winter preparations are made for the "Up-Helly-Aa fire festival"celebrating the island's Viking heritage. A Jarl (chief) is elected each year and he is responsible for gathering his clan, preparing helmets, shields, etc. for the torch lit procession and bonfire. The whole community gets involved with the celebrations, dance and a few "wee drams".
Special thanks to Gordon and Penny for their wonderful hospitality and for giving us such an insight into the life of Unst.
Westmann Island, Iceland to Torshaven, Faroe Islands
08 August 2016 | Faroe Islands
We had a busy day starting with a climb up the very steep slopes of Heimaklettur, the 283m knoll that overlooks the harbour. It is a roosting site for hundreds of puffins and the Icelandic sheep graze the lush grassy upper slopes. We also walked around to the natural amphitheatre where the festival was held under the steep volcanic face of 220m Haha.
After lunch we visited the Eldheimar Volcano Museum. It is built around the excavated remains of one of the 400 homes that were buried by the 1973 eruption. It tells the story, with audio and visual displays, of the trauma of the eruption, the evacuation of the island and the fight to save property and keep the lava flow from blocking the entrance to the harbour. Climbing to the 221m summit of the volcanic crater Eidfell gave us a good view of the lava flow and the havoc it caused. The volcano added 20% to the island's land mass. As with most towns we have visited in Iceland, Heimaey has a great swimming centre with indoor and outdoor heated pools, hot tubs and steam rooms. It was a treat to have a hot soak at the end of the day.
After checking out the weather forecast it was decided to leave after dinner. We fuelled up and departed Heimay at 2300hrs.
3rd - 5th August
Our passage from Iceland to the Faroe Islands was uneventful. We had an ENE breeze for most of the way but not strong enough to push into the lumpy swell without the motor. Midday on the 4th the wind died completely and we motored the last of the 385nm mile passage on a glassy sea. When we arrived at the Faroes their renowned currents picked us up and as we passed between the islands of Stremoy and Vagar we were doing 12.6kts.
In the Vestaranag harbour we found an empty berth in the marina. Torshavn is the capital of the Faroe with a population of around 18,000. There are 18 islands in the Faroe which are part of the Kingdom of Denmark. The islands were settled by Norwegians in the early 9th century but became part of Denmark at the Treaty of Kiel in 1814 after the Napoleonic Wars. Faroese, derived from an old Norse dialect and similar to Icelandic, and Danish are the official languages, but English is also widely spoken. The Faroese also have Gaelic blood in their veins.
Denmark provides 5% of the Faroe income and restricts and controls all their trade. Talking to the skipper of the schooner Nordlysid and his friend, who are staunch Nationalists, it seems that some Faroese would like to sever all ties to Denmark. However, as most Faroese are Danish citizens it is most unlikely that they would break away from Denmark. The population is only 50,000.
They also said that a couple of years ago the EU imposed an embargo on their export of mackerel as they wanted to put a quota on their catch to allow the EU to take more. To balance out this loss the Faroese sold farmed salmon to Russia in contravention to the EU embargo on Russia. One - Nil to the Faroese in the Mackerel war! They also told us that local sheep are for domestic consumption and most restaurant lamb is imported from Iceland and NZ. Here they slaughter their sheep at the end of the summer and leave them to hang for 5 months to produce an air dried meat like biltong. The warmth at the beginning of the process encourages bacteria and they call the end product Skerpikjot or fermented lamb's meat. One of the locals dropped by a sample for us to taste. It was quite gamey to start with, but had the flavour of the remnants of a leg of lamb after sitting in the fridge for a couple of days.
As with Iceland the landscape is devoid of trees as the sheep, introduced by the Celts, ate the small trees and shrubs that existed here. Murray and I had a delicious meal at the Asrstova Restaurant. The entrée was a lobster bisque and for the main course we werTorshavn is amix of old and new with beautifully maintained old buildings around the point of Tinganes, with their turf roofs, and the more modern homes stretching up the hillside behind. Tinganes means Parliament point and the Faroese claim one of the world's oldest having presided here for over a thousand years. The general assembly is known as the "Thing". Ashley suggested that the MPs should be known as "Thingamajigs". The National Museum describes the development of the islands from their volcanic beginnings. In the early times the Faroese were subsistence farmers living on sheep and catching birds for food. At one stage 97% of the Faroese income was from making woollen socks for the King of Denmark which he then on sold to the army and navy. Fishing came later and is now the main source of income today. Most other trade is restricted to passing through Denmark.
After several sunny days, the weather took a turn for the worse with up to 50kts of wind and rain over night, so we took a bus trip up to Bordoy Island to get a perspective of the country. The excellent road network connects most of the islands skirting the coast and crossing the water with bridges or tunnels under the sea. Small farms line the steep green valleys and fishing ports dot the coast. There are hiking trails all over the island and is a paradise for bird watchers. The weather was wet and windy with a strong NWer gusting to 50kts.
e presented with a delicious slow cooked whole shoulder of a lamb. Between us we ate every skerrick of melt in the mouth meat to the bone. Afterward there was no room for dessert. Cooking instructions for shoulder: 20 minutes at 210 degrees then 2 hours at 120 degrees followed by at least 4 hours at 80 degrees.
Torshavn is a mix of old and new with beautifully maintained old buildings around the point of Tinganes, with their turf roofs, and the more modern homes stretching up the hillside behind. Tinganes means Parliament point and the Faroese claim one of the world's oldest having presided here for over a thousand years. The general assembly is known as the "Thing". Ashley suggested that the MPs should be known as "Thingamajigs". The National Museum describes the development of the islands from their volcanic beginnings. In the early times the Faroese were subsistence farmers living on sheep and catching birds for food. At one stage 97% of the Faroese income was from making woollen socks for the King of Denmark which he then on sold to the army and navy. Fishing came later and is now the main source of income today. Most other trade is restricted to passing through Denmark.
After several sunny days, the weather took a turn for the worse with up to 50kts of wind and rain over night, so we took a bus trip up to Bordoy Island to get a perspective of the country. The excellent road network connects most of the islands skirting the coast and crossing the water with bridges or tunnels under the sea. Small farms line the steep green valleys and fishing ports dot the coast. There are hiking trails all over the island and is a paradise for bird watchers. The weather was wet and windy with a strong NWer gusting to 50kts.
Reykjavik to Vestmannaeyjar Islands - Iceland
01 August 2016
31st July 2016 This morning we waved goodbye to Maggie who heads back to University in Melbourne. Departing Reykjavik at midday we sailed with a light Nor wester around the end of the Reykjanes Peninsular and tied up in the fishing port of Sandgerdi. A very excited young chap who had had a good day fishing greeted us at the wharf with a bag of fresh mackerel.
1st August After departing Sandgerdi at 0600hrs we were amazed to see an iceberg shining white on the horizon, but eventually we found it to be a large guano covered iceberg shaped rock! Our destination is the Vestmannaeyar Islands, a group of small volcanic islands 5 - 10nm off the coast of Iceland. They are named after Irish thralls (slaves) who were killed for murdering one of the original Norse settlers in 874. The most recently created island is Surtsey which popped up after an underwater eruption in 1963. The only inhabited island is Heimaey where in 1973 an eruption produced a new conical mountain, wiped out part of the town and improved the harbour by blocking off half of the entrance.
Patreksfjordur to Reykjavic - Iceland
31 July 2016
30th July A relaxed start to the day before motoring 30nm from Patreksfjordur past the bird breeding cliffs at Latrabjarg and anchoring near the "red" sand beach (Raudasandur). Roast lamb dinner. 24th July Light rain and low cloud lifted midday as we motored across the wide Breidafjordur to the Snaefellsnes Peninsular. Dropped anchor in the harbour at Grundarfjordur with a stern line to the wharf. A very tidy town with one restaurant and a couple of cafes which seems to be about standard for most small towns. We find the opening hours for the cafes a little odd in that often they don't open until 11am or sometimes only 1200, but only stay open until 5pm. 25th July Grey day with light rain in the morning. Dropped off some laundry and then had a swim, a hot tub and a shower at the local pool. In the afternoon we walked out to a waterfall at the base of the Kirkjufell "Church Mountain" (463m) which features prominently in Iceland's promotional material. (It also featured in the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"). There are plenty of tourists here as this area, the Snaefellsnes Peninsular, is readily accessible from Reykjavik and is a microcosm of Iceland's scenery with glacier, waterfalls, mountains and green valleys. Fresh Iceland gravlax for dinner. In the evening the sunset was spectacular with wonderful soft light on the mountains and clouds.
26th July An early start. Away from Grundarfjordur by 0500hrs. We sailed with a light NE breeze around the Snaefellsnes Peninsular and anchored outside the timy harbour at Arnastapi. It was a beautiful clear afternoon as we walked around the coast from Arnastapi to Hellnar. Interestinmg volcanic rock formations provide many homes for nesting birds. The country slopes steeply up to the snow and ice capped Snaefellsjokull. 27th July Sailed with clear skies to Reykjavik arriving at 1600hrs. Tied up at the Brokey Reykjavik Yacht Club marina which is centrally located and overlooked by the spectacular Harpa concert hall.
28th - 29th July Reykjavik The city has over half of Iceland's 320,000 population living in it and is a modern busy centre. A mix of tall new buildings and older, mostly corrugated iron, dwellings, the centre caters to a flood of tourists in summer. There are numerous bars and restaurants and shops selling souvenirs, especially knitted woollen jumpers. A steady stream of cruise ships offloads into the city and it has a busy airport at Keflavik about 40kms away. Food and drinks are good, especially the icecream, but everything is very expensive. All the people we met spoke good English and the locals are helpful and friendly. (Fixed chipped tooth and cracked iPhone.)
30th July It is a public holiday and Reykjavik was deserted. We hired a car and drove around the tourist route known as the "Golden Circle". This route is followed by all the tour buses so we had plenty of company! Our luck with fine weather continued and it was very calm which is apparently rare. It soon became apparent where all the Icelanders were as all the campgrounds were full. There are hiking trails all through this part of the country and the Icelanders seem to be a fit, slim, outdoor loving mob. Our first stop was at Pingvellir. Geologically this is where the European and American continental plates meet and are separating at 2cms a year. On the surface this shows as a rift in the rocky terrain. The narrow gorge formed by the rift is of a major significance historically. In early times the settlers, who arrived from Norway in the late 9th century, gathered here annually. They came from all over the country to pass laws and adjudicate disputes and it was here they formed their first Alpingi or Parliament in 930. Since then Icelanders have gathered here for significant occasions. In 1930 when Iceland was a sovereign state under the King of Denmark thousands gathered to mark the millennium of the foundation of the Alpingi and in June 1944 for the foundation of the modern Republic of Iceland. The geothermal activity is very noticeable in this part of the country with steaming vents dotting the countryside. There are clusters of small bungalows with their own hot pools. Over 99% of Iceland's power is generated by geothermal or hydro power stations. Our next stop was at Geysir which lent its name to all the Geysers in the world. This geothermal field has many pools bubbling away and one geyser that spouts 15-20m into the air every few minutes. We had a picnic lunch on the cliffs above the Hvita River and then drove upstream a short distance to the spectacular Gullfoss falls. This was as far north as we could drive in our 2 wheel drive car as we were in sight of the Langjukull icecap which covers a large part of the centre of Iceland. As we headed south towards the coast the valleys widened out into farm country with hay making, sheep, cattle and horses. Apparently, the Icelandic horses are a pure strain bred from the original imported from Norway and their bloodline is strictly controlled. They reportedly have a fifth gait which makes for a very comfortable ride. The lower country also grows grain crops and greenhouses produce mushrooms and tomatoes. At the coastal port of Portakshofn we turned north past Hveragerdi with its geothermal park and over the lava fields to Reykjavik.
Isafjordur to Patreksfjordur - Iceland
22 July 2016
20th July This morning Ashley and Cathie filled the gas bottles and we cleaned the boat. Leaving Isafjordur under a brilliant blue cloudless sky we motored across the still fjord waters to the island of Vigur. This island private island used to be a sheep farm, but is now a sanctuary for nesting birds, particularly Eider ducks. The female Eiders plucks down from her breast to cover her eggs and keep them warm. Part of this down is collected 2 to 3 times during incubation which encourages her to produce more. The very light, fine down is cleaned by machine and hand after heating to disinfect it. On Vigur they produce 60kgs of eiderdown each year and it the whole of Iceland around 3,000kgs are produced each year. It takes about 60-80 nests to produce one kilogram of down. Also nesting on the island are thousands of Arctic Terns which dive bombed us as we walked past their nests. Hundreds of Puffins were fishing for Capelin off the beach and had their nests in the grassy banks behind. Black Guillemots were nestling in nooks and crannies all over the property. We sat in front of the old farm buildings and enjoyed a cup of tea and some homemade cakes, soaked up the sun and watched the antics of the birds and a whale blowing out in the bay. Under way Ashley trawled for salmon, but they didn't take the lure so he changed the rig and stopped the boat for bottom fishing. Almost immediately 7 cod were on the deck. In the evening we stopped in the small fishing village of Bolungarvik to fuel up. After dinner we wandered the town and were asked in for a drink with the owner of the Einarshusid guesthouse. This old building was prefabricated in Norway and housed the large family of a fishing fleet owner. Unfortunately, all the 12 children and his wife died of T.B. but the house survives. It is a wonderfully comfortable relic with a marine theme and the salvaged wheel from the French wreck of the "Pourqui Pas" which foundered in 1936 on the south coast of Iceland. It also serves as the local's pub and restaurant. Apparently it is illegal to fish for Halibut in Iceland, but many people do including the owner who recently pulled in one weighing 98kg, so it is served here on the menu as "Big Flat Fish" rather Halibut. 21st July Departed Bolungarvik at 10.30am and had a good sail down the coast with a fresh breeze to Patreksfjordur. We moored in the harbour with a German Dufour called "Ruby Tuesday' moored outside of us. 22nd July A still overcast day beckoned and Cathie organised a hire car and we drove around to Raudasandur to visit the "red" sand beach. The long strip of sand enclosing the lagoon is better described as golden rather than red. The highlight of the day were the cliffs at Latrabjarg. Up to 400m high and 14km long, the cliffs provide a breeding roost for seabirds. In early summer it is estimated there are 1 million birds nesting along its length. The main species are Guillemot, Brunnich's Guillemot, Razorbilled Auk, Puffin, Fulmar and Kittiwake. Our favourites are the Puffins with their colourful beaks, squat bodies and large webbed feet. Between us we probably have enough Puffin photos to fill an album. We had a picnic lunch at the lighthouse here and then drove across to the Amsfjordur for a soak in a very hot thermal spring. On our way home we had a beer in Bildudalur before driving back to Patreksfjordaur. We dinner at the Stukuhusid Café and enjoyed a very good meal of fish soup, lamb fillets and meringue dessert.
19 July 2016
18th July Our Iceland entry port is Isafjordur and we rafted up beside the yacht Aurora Arktika at 0600hrs local time. We advance our watches 2 hours forward to match GMT time. Isafjordur is a small tidy town and the gateway to the Northwest with an airport and ferry service. Situated near the entrance to the Isafjardardjup (fjord) which penetrates 40nm inland it is also a day stop for cruise ships. We had a relaxed day in town, a welcome hot shower and a sauna at the local pool. In the evening we ate out and tasted the delicious Icelandic lamb at the restaurant Husid. 19th July We were all up this morning to wave off Matt Po who is heading back to Germany and work. We will miss him as he has been good company and a good crewman. Murray organised a hire car for the day and we drove off along the coastal road. At Sudavik we visited the Arctic Fox Centre where we watched a couple of foxes being fed and listened to a short talk about them. Because of their threat to sheep flocks they are often shot except in the northwest national park. Until fairly recently, if a farmer had more than 6 sheep he was required to shoot 2 foxes a year or pay a tax. Today fox numbers are controlled by government shooters. The Arctic fox is much smaller than his red fox cousin and for a long time their pelt was sort after as a fashion item being draped around the necks of the "beautiful" people. Following the road to the head of the AlftaFjordur we stopped for an hours walk up the Valagil valley to a waterfall and gorge. The valley walls rise steeply up to 1,000m and the tops are remarkably even. Our lunch stop was at an old turf roofed farm house. The dry stone wall work on the old house and the stone fences is fantastic and grows a mottled rusty colour lichen. Perhaps the highlight of the day was a soak in a hot spring pool. Iceland has a lot of geothermal activity with numerous hot springs dotted about the countryside. This one, although on private farm land, was a simple small concrete pool by the side of the road with a small change shed. The water temperature was 44° C so it took a little time to ease into the water, but it was fantastic sitting there with the steep fjord sides rising above us and the sea lapping just below. We continued driving on for views of the Drangajokull icecap and a cold beer at a funny old hotel, which used to be a school, at Reykanes. The day had started with fog hiding the hill tops, but improved during the day and we had a lovely drive back along the coast with the soft evening light reflecting on the fjords and hilltop snow patches.
Passage from Greenland to Iceland
17 July 2016
15th July We departed Sermiligap at 0700hrs and motored north through the fjords to 66° 02'N before turning east and sailing from Greenland towards Iceland. There was a big swell and the wind was 15-20kts from the NE. We hoisted Main, Foresail and Staysail. The wind increased we had a very bouncy ride with bigger seas. We continued to see the high jagged snow-capped coast of Greenland for many hours and to pass the occasional iceberg far out to sea. Late in the evening with gusts over 30kts and the fog descending we put a reef in the Foresail and while we were putting a second reef in the Main the Foresail tore above the reefing point. We dropped the Foresail and Ashley decided to heave-to and ride out the weather for a few hours. 16th July After heaving-to for 4 hours we started motor sailing around 0330hrs with the wind25-30kts NE and a very uncomfortable sea on the nose. As the day progressed the wind gradually eased and we shook the reefs out of the main and rolled out the Balloon jib. 17th July The wind eventually died and we dropped the sails at 0330hrs. The stretch of water between Greenland and Iceland is known as the Denmark Strait and it has shown us several moods. From rough seas to calm and gale force winds to practically nothing. Now with 90nm to Iceland we are motoring over a smooth oily swell. Except for a few ripples on the surface it is hard to discern between the sea and the fog that envelopes us. During the afternoon the wind came in from the south and we sailed for a while, but it died and we were back on the motor. Removed Foresail from boom. Everyone on deck to help with the sail and for the first time in a while not needing full wet weather gear. Ashley restarted the heater and then later turned it off as unbelievably we were getting too hot! The water temperature today has gone from the 3-6° C we have had since Newfoundland to rise sharply to 12° C as we entered the warm Irminger Current that runs north along the west Icelandic coast. Consequently the air temperature off the water has improved noticeably and with it the interior temperature of the boat. First sighted Iceland on Murray's watch at 2200hrs. The sun stayed behind some cloud, but there was a glorious 3 hour red sky as the sun travelled across the northern horizon. We entered the Isafjardardjup Fjord at 0100hrs.
Qutdleq - Sermiligac - East Coast of Greenland
14 July 2016
11th July We left Qutdleq at 0500hrs with clear skies, but by mid-morning the fog had closed in and we didn't see the coast again until late in the day. Ashley and Cathie have decided to press on through the night to Tasiilaq. There is no wind to speak of and we continue to motor across the oily, gleaming, unruffled water surface. The Northern Fulmars fly in tandem with a mirrored image reflected in the glassy surface as they play around the boat. Several whales were spotted. Pilot, Humpback and during the night Murray spotted some Orcas. There hasn't been much ice during the day, but around midnight we passed through a large field of small bergy bits which are easily seen in the bright dusk, turning straight into dawn, twilight. At midnight the sun's glow on the horizon lit a golden path on the sea to follow north and illuminated the mountains to port. 12th July Another windless day of motoring north. A thin silvery cloud layer shielded the sun and the icy coastline emitted a luminous glow. A number of whales were sighted during the day including Long-finned pilot whales, Sperm whales and Fin whales feeding on Capelin (small fish). In the evening a pod of White-sided dolphins played around the bow. While we have been cruising around Greenland Cathie has called in to Aasiaat Radio twice a day with our position, destination and ETA. On one occasion, in the Fjords behind Nuuk, when Cathie was unable to contact Aasiaat they contacted Australia who in turn contacted Windjammer by email. Another time Cathie waited to call in until we had anchored later in the day and they said they had been searching for us, so they are very efficient. 13th July We pulled into Tasiilaq at 0215hrs and rafted up to a small coastal trader, the "Johanna Kristina". Spent the day in Tasiilaq. The laundry had hot showers, so luxuriated while the laundry was done. There is an interesting book shop with a very eclectic range of products and a helpful proprietor. He/she serves lunch, coffee, ice-creams and sells books, baby clothes and very slow internet. While in town the Johanna Kristina we were rafted alongside moved to the other side of the harbour and took Windjammer still moored alongside with her. Carl-Peter, a young local working as a sailor on the Johanna Kristina told us how lucky he was to have a job. Apparently most young people are unemployed. The locals fish and hunt whales and seals for their own consumption, but there is no fish processing plant here to earn cash, so welfare dependency is high. We anchored off in the afternoon as the Johanna Kristina and dredge were on the jetty and went ashore for a pizza and a beer. The pizzas were quite good, but because of the liquor licencing laws we had to go to the down stairs bar for the beer. 14th July Fuelling up was tricky as Ashley had to manoeuvre Windjammer stern to the jetty, with both boats still tied alongside, while Murray played tug with the tender. Mid-way through the re-fuelling the Johanna Kristina decided to slip her mooring and slide out from inside the dredge causing a few missed heartbeats on board Windjammer as we wondered what was going on. Departing Tasiilaq at 1100hrs we motored through some spectacular fjords before stopping at Ikatek to look around a WWII air base. This was a large American air force base, "Blue East Two", mostly used for search and rescue and now marked with thousands of empty rusting 44 gallon drums, the remains of a hanger and many trucks, some still with air in their tyres. The gravel airstrip, although unused, is still in good condition. We motored past a few very blue frozen water icebergs which are quite different to the common compressed snow icebergs. In the evening we anchored off Sermiligaq with 2 stern lines to the small jetty. Lots of children were sitting at the end of the wharf and when playing with the stern lines managed to let one go. Around 0100am Ashley heard some noise on board and was surprised to find 2 women in the saloon. They had been drinking and were after some more beers and a chat! All the children were still up and playing about at this early hour.
Prins Christian Sund - South Coast Greenland
10 July 2016
6th July - Continuing on the inside passage with low lying islands and a mountain range backdrop we made for Uunartoq. This island has the only hot spring in Greenland which has been popular from Norse times and mentioned in the Sagas. We anchored on the south side of the island and walked over the hill to the hot springs. On the north side of the island a number of commercial motor boats were swinging on public moorings. This is the first time in Greenland we have experienced any real tourist attractions, although most of the "tourists" were Greenlanders. The shallow natural pools were beautifully warm and just the right depth that you could sit on the gravel bottom and luxuriate in the hot water while looking at the icebergs in the channel. The hardest part was getting out of the water into the cold air, but the ground was delightfully soft under foot as we ran up to the changing shed. Back onboard we had lunch then continued down the fjord with its mountainous cliffs to Nanortalik. The original Norse name for Nanortalik translated to "Bear hut island", but an Inuit lady we met at the hot springs who lived there told us she had never ever seen one. About 1,500 people live here. After dinner we walked the town calling in at the Café 44 where a live band of 5 was crammed onto a tiny stage, but still produced a good sound. Later we called in to the motor boat "Mona" alongside which we had rafted in Nuuk and had a chat and a night cap with the two Danish/Local couples and their children.
7th July - We spent the morning in Nanortalik visiting the lovely historical old part of town and catching up with Wi-Fi at the tourist office. The oldest stone buildings date back to the 1820s and are in excellent condition. In the afternoon we motored to Torssuqataq Sound, as usual, dodging icebergs along the way and anchored in Paakitsuarssuaq, a wonderful peaceful cove nestled in amongst the rounded 800m granite hills.
8th July - We had a wonderful day with clear sunny skies and very little wind. Leaving our anchorage we motored along Torssuqaataq. This fjord is lined with tall granite cliffs which reflect in the calm waters. This area has become popular with rock climbers who tackle the "Baron" Spire (1,340m), the 600m wall of the "Baroness" and the "Thumbnail", a 1,460m cliff rising straight up from the sea. We pulled into a small fishing village, Aappilattoq, its entrance just a cleft in the rock and the town hemmed in by the soaring peaks behind. The population of around 100 people fish and hunt seals from small boats. Ashley met a family celebrating their child's 1st birthday and invited in to their home for tea and cakes. The grand father showed him the skull of a polar bear the he. had shot recently near the village. He said it was the 3rd polar bear he had shot and they all enjoyed eating the meat. We also met fishermen returning with a catch of the local halibut and a seal.Continuing on along Prins Christian Sund we passed numerous waterfalls cascading hundreds of metres down from glaciers and ice caps above. Some of the glaciers come down to the waters edge. At Sermerunerit Glacier Ashley, Murray and Maggie hopped in the dinghy and took some fabulous photos of Windjammer up against the ice face. Further along we passed the wide Svardfisken Glacier with dark streaks of debris highlighting its march down the valley. Seals keep a low profile in these waters because they are hunted, but we did spot a large "Bearded Seal" relaxing on a bergy bit.
Nearing the entrance to Ikerasassuaq (Prins Christian Sund) we pulled into the small dock at the Ikerasassuaq radio and weather station. There was a little surge coming in, but we had a comfortable night with a breast line taken across to an adjoining rock. For dinner we enjoyed the last of the mussels from Kapisillit which have been treated to a change of sea water every day and kept happy.
9th July - The grey drizzly morning emphasised how lucky we were yesterday to experience such a clear day in the Sound. We climbed up 270 stairs to the weather station, which although unmanned and totally locked up, is fully operational and remotely operated. When the station was still manned, there were dogs kept as an early warning system for polar bears. The staff must have had a lot of time on their hands as we noticed a TV antenna on one of the kennels and an ash tray half way up the steep steps. When Ashley had manoeuvred Windjammer out of the very tight harbour we motored into a fresh NE wind with low clouds, rain and a choppy sea. The day steadily improved giving us the first views of the east coast and some huge icebergs grounded along the way.
Fortunately, there are not many growlers about so we were able to stand solo watches in the chilly breeze. Mid-afternoon we pulled into Kangerdlarajik Fjord and dropped anchor in Peersvig Bay. Ashley ranked this as one of his top anchorages in the world. An open bay with the shore sweeping up to high snow-capped peaks and numerous glacier filled valleys that disgorge ice into the fjord. Nearby a torrent of glacier water cascaded into the bay. As we clambered up its course to the lake 300m above the bay. Blue sky's opened up from the east and we had a wonderful view over the fjord with the soft evening sunlight highlighting the the surrounding snow capped mountains. "Mona", the motor yacht we'd last seen at Nanortalik was also anchored in the bay.
10th July - A fine sunny day with little wind as we continued motoring up the East Coast. This coast is quite different to the West Coast. There is no hint of greenery here, but bare weathered and scoured rock where the snow and ice have melted near the sea. Glaciers stretch down to the ocean and the icecap stretches up into the distant horizon with only occasional peaks penetrating the frozen white mantle. This is a very harsh, desolate and almost overwhelming piece of coastline. Everyone took advantage of the glorious conditions to do some washing and airing of clothes with hardly any unused space on the lifelines. We watched as wisps of lenticular clouds played around some of the coastal peaks and we were occasionally temped to set some sail, but the calm conditions continued throughout the day. It was very pleasant taking a nap on deck in the relatively warm sun as the low swell rolled under the boat. We spotted seals and whales in the sea during the day, but they all appear very timid. In the evening we anchored in a sheltered bay on the island of Qutdleq. There are remains of a Loran C station here that was abandoned in 1973. Loran C was a terrestrial navigation system used before the advent of satellite systems. Establishing a station here would have been quite a challenge. Onshore there was a landing, a big fuel tank, a boat house, a bitumen road and the remains of the pylons for the conveyancing system used to lift all the building materials and supplies up to the main station above. We came across a large set polar bear foot prints in the snow as well as a smaller cub set. This created some anxiety for us as Murray had left us for a climb up the steep hill behind the anchorage to check out the top station. This was the first time we had ever separated but the visibility was so clear allowing a good all round view. His return was a relief and much quicker, sliding down the snow slope at speed albeit oblivious to the threat of a lurking polar bear.
Nuuk Fjords and heading south - West Greenland
04 July 2016
1st July A crystal clear morning encouraged Ashley, Cathie, Matt and Maggie to walk over the hill to view the Kangersuneq Isfjord packed solid with ice. On their return we gathered mussels from the beach and as we up anchored and motored along Cathie created a delicious mussel and fish soup. Not a cloud in the sky as we cruised through impressive fjords to Qooqqut. Fashion ON the floe: Mid-afternoon, with a towering granite backdrop and sparkling seas we enjoyed another fashion treat. Matt (ice tester), Ashley (model) and Maggie (photographer) boarded a submarine shaped iceberg. With professional panache our model soon appeared in his trendy briefs (jocks) with straw hat, umbrella and crampon equipped Ugg boots. Paris eat your heart out! Matt, not to be outdone, stripped down too and rolled on the ice - proving that old ice is hard ice by skinning his elbows. In the evening we dined ashore at Qooqqut Nuan. We enjoyed a meal that included Musk Ox, lamb chops (NZ), scallops, prawns, shrimp, red fish and cod. Our excellent young waiter, Joorut, mixed us a Greenlandic coffee to finish the night! Irish whiskey - representing the man, Kalua - representing the woman, coffee - representing the arctic night, cream - the arctic snow and flaming Grand Marnier - the northern lights. Joorut also told us that anyone can apply for a permit to build a cabin along the fjords and that if the regional office approves the permit there is no cost or ongoing fees to use the land. #11 2nd July A 0600hrs start from Qooqqut motoring through the fjords saw us back in Nuuk by 0930hrs. We spent the day catching up on news, shopping and enjoying a free concert in the town square. There were a couple of pigs on the spit served with salad and potatoes and the local draught beer went down a treat. The old fellow who was tapping along to the music next to me was 88 years old. Almost everyone who passed him said "Hey" and touched him on the shoulder. It was a real family get together. We didn't manage to find any water to top up the tanks, but we fuelled up before leaving Nuuk and motored south for an hour to a sheltered anchorage, recommended by a local, for the night. Mussels from Kapisillit with pasta and a tomato sauce for dinner. 3rd July Weighed anchor at a leisurely 0900hrs and motored out of the fjords heading south. 1100hrs with a freshening cold N wind we raised sails including the Fisherman and sailed SE. The fog receded in front of us leaving a sunny corridor between the mountainous coast and fog shrouded ocean. 4th July The wind died in the early hours and we doused sails and continued on through the fog down the coast under motor. The sun fought a losing battle with the fog and despite thinning considerably we remained cocooned all day. In the evening the fog thickened and because of impending icebergs we began two man, two hour watches. 5th July Ashley plotted a course down the Inner Lead, threading down narrow passages through the coastal islands. We entered the first passage around midnight still in dense fog following the plotted course and monitoring the radar. Only the still water confirmed we had entered the channel until we saw peaks towering above the fog behind us, first to port and then close to starboard. As we passed deeper down the narrow tickle the fog cleared showing the bright sky with the midnight sun looming just below the horizon. Ashley timed the run through the narrowest part of the passage, where strong currents run, for slack water and we were glad we had good visibility as we slid between the rocks barely a boat length away on either side. It was good to have the sun and good visibility as this is a very scenic area. We arrived at Qaqortoq (Julienehab - most towns in Greenland have, confusingly, two names - the local and the Danish names) mid-morning. This is the biggest town in SW Greenland with a population of 3,000 with a Norse history, some lovely old colonial buildings and a growing tourist industry. We wandered the town and enjoyed a beer outside a central café where we could watch the locals go by in the sun. Mid-afternoon we fuelled up and took on water. Continuing on we motored around to Sadnoq. This is a small isolated settlement. Largely abandoned, with optimistically around 40 people remaining. We wandered around and came across some old graves made of slabs of rock and were probably packed around with earth and peat originally. That has weathered away and you can see the skulls and bones through the rock. We kicked a ball around with the local children and their dog. The Greenlanders we have met are very friendly and relaxed. The younger generation speak some English, but the men on the island didn't.
Nuuk Isfiords - Greenland
02 July 2016
#11 30th June 2016
Our original intention was to continue north to Disco Bay but the ice charts indicated that there was still significant ice in the bay. A chance visit to the Nuuk Yacht Club revealed that one of the hidden treasure of Greenland "Isfjord" was tantalisingly close by. A network of fiords and glaciers was a favourite cruising ground for locals in the know, but overlooked by cruising yachts bound for Disco Bay or the North West passage. So armed with mud maps and recommended secret anchorages we set off to explore.
June and a clear cloudless blue sky gave us a wonderful appreciation of the majestic scenery as we weaved our way through the still waters towards the Ihilialik Glacier. The ice became harder to navigate as we approached the glacier and eventually we were stopped by it. Before turning back we watched a couple of Humpback whales as they blew on the surface before sounding. With the motor off we enjoyed the sounds of the whale's breath and the cracks, hisses and occasional whooshes as pieces break off the bergs and slide into the sea. There was a lot of ice in the water which made it slow going as we piloted our way back past the shaved faces of the rocky peaks lining the fjord. One granite outcrop rising sheer from the water looked like a chimney with the smoky clouds billowing out. It showed on the chart as being 1,220m high. In the mid-afternoon we arrived at Kapisillit, which means "the salmon", and we anchored near the mouth of a stream where the salmon spawn. Supposedly this is the only salmon run in Greenland. The town is very neat with some short sections of paved road along which there are regularly placed bench seats. As there are less than 100 locals living here we suspect that there is about one bench seat per person. There is also street lighting and a huge fuel storage tank. Ashley and Maggie caught loads of cod and Matt caught his first ever fish here, but not before losing his fishing gear over the side. Luckily he was able to retrieve it. One huge cod Ashley caught weighed over 15kg. No salmon were spied. We had our first encounter with Greenlandic insects and the head nets we purchased in Newfoundland were put to good use.
Fashion at the Floe: There have been some comments passed around regarding the 3 Tele-Tubbies with Matt, Murray and Nick wrapped in their blue, red and yellow outfits. Though no one compared to Ashley this morning, elegantly suited in orange jacket with matching fluorescent orange fisherman's gloves that matched the orange logo on his caps.
1st July - A crystal clear morning encouraged Ashley, Cathie, Matt and Maggie to walk over the hill to view the Kangersuneq Isfjord packed solid with ice. On their return we gathered a bucket of mussels from the beach and as we up anchored and motored along Cathie created a delicious mussel and fish soup. Not a cloud in the sky as we cruised through impressive fjords to Qooqqut.
Fashion ON the floe: Mid-afternoon, with a towering granite backdrop and sparkling seas we enjoyed another fashion treat. Matt (ice tester), Ashley (model) and Maggie (photographer) boarded a submarine shaped iceberg. With professional panache our model soon appeared in his trendy briefs (jocks) with straw hat, umbrella and crampon equipped Ugg boots. Paris eat your heart out! Matt, not to be outdone, stripped down too and rolled on the ice - proving that old ice is hard ice by skinning his elbows. In the evening we dined ashore at a quaint restaurant at Qooqqut Nuan catering mainly to the Nuuk day trippers arriving in small motor boats. We enjoyed a meal that included Musk Ox, lamb chops (NZ), scallops, prawns, shrimp, red fish and cod. Our excellent young waiter, Joorut, mixed us a Greenlandic coffee to finish the night! Irish whiskey - representing the man, Kalua - representing the woman, coffee - representing the arctic night, cream - the arctic snow and flaming Grand Marnier - the northern lights. Joorut also told us that anyone can apply for a permit to build a cabin along the fjords and that if the regional office approves the permit there is no cost or ongoing fees to use the land.
Nuuk - Greenland
02 July 2016
#10 27th & 28th June Two days in Nuuk, capitol of Greenland. Nuuk means "the headland" and the city sits on the end of a peninsular at the mouth of the vast fjord system "Nuup Kangerlua". We wandered into the town centre which is easily done as everything is close. There is an excellent museum which describes the different eras of inhabitants going back to 2,500 BC and up to colonisation by Denmark. There is a definite Greenland "look" influenced by their i=Inuit ancestry and the locals are cheerful and helpful and most have some English language. The city itself is not very inspiring with a lot of high rise apartments built in rectangular blocks, although a few traditional houses in the old town are quite picturesque. We definitely felt that we had left North America and entered Scandinavia as the modern shops were well stocked with everything you would find in Denmark. Unfortunately most of the cafes and restaurants seemed to be a bit un-inspirational and served fast food type menus. We saw a local street vendor selling dried whale meat, but no seal meat. The climate dictates the fashion and most wore jeans or slacks with warm jackets and boots. Wi-Fi is quite expensive, but we managed to get a free fix at the library. 29th June Having spoken to the locals, Ashley and Cathie have decided that rather than sail 300nm north to Disko Bay we will explore the extensive fjords of this area. What a good call! Today started off wet, cold and windy as we motored the two hours to Ikkuttut bay. Here we were out of the wind and Ashley and Maggie caught some lovely cod. They were hardly landed before being cleaned, filleted and pan fried by Cathie - delicious. After lunch we motored through increasing numbers of icebergs to Qoornup, a small community set up to survey the West Greenland in 1927. This small island has a fete every year on the first weekend of July, but we won't be staying around to join in. As the day progressed the weather improved and when the cloud lifted we could better appreciate the magnificent setting of chiselled granite mountains rising sheer from the iceberg cluttered waters. Glacial action has scoured out the sides of the deep valleys which carry tiny patches of tough native vegetation. Erik the Red, the Viking who landed here hundreds of years ago, who was accused of false marketing when he named the country Greenland to attracts settlers. 80% of the country is icecap and there are lots of bare rock, but there are green areas and apparently the Vikings ran sheep and cattle as the climate was milder back then. Leaving Qoornup after a good walk around we piloted Windjammer through numerous icebergs, bergy bits and growlers. It was difficult to find a safe anchorage clear of ice, but we found a good corner of Tasinsap Bay and reminiscent of Patagonia days we anchored with a line ashore by 2030hrs. Cathie bought fish in Nuuk which she was told was trout and she cooked it in the pan with a delicious orange sauce. A fine white flaked fish with a delicate flavour served with snow peas and wild rice. A wonderful way to finish an awesome day.
"Eskimos and the Igloos" - Maggie reflecting on the present day Inuit communities we have been privileged to experience.
26 June 2016 | Nuuk, Greenland
The sun was setting over the snowy mountain peaks as they took to the form of devils teeth, ascending from a dense mysterious fog lingering low on the ocean surface. As midnight approached, the tedious four day passage across the Davis Straight, had come to an end. We had sailed to the edge of the earth - the home of the North Pole, and Windjammer proudly flew a new flag to acknowledge new territory. What awaited was an island that has never been circumnavigated. Where ice reaches more then 3km above sea level, permanently covering 80% of the land, its glaciers are responsible for producing the majority of all icebergs in the North Atlantic Ocean. Although its name begs to differ, Greenland is most certainly the land of ice.
Have you ever heard storieis, the stories of Eskimos living in ice Igloo's? Well, the term 'Eskimo' is a European derogatory connotation of all people native to the Arctic. In Greenland, the native people are more accurately known as Inuit, which translates to 'The People'. The inuit were very resourceful people and used what the land offered to build their homes, unfortunately this was limited to stone and ice. In the summer months, small communities lived together in small houses made of stone but the winter required more warmth in the bitterly cold climate. A home built from Ice may not appear to be effective, however by insulating the interior with animal skins, it effectively provided a warm environment. Their clothing design cleverly mimicked a polar bears coat, comprising of skin and fur predominately from birds, musk ox, seals and bears.
Since the Danish inhabited the island in 1728, the Inuit still stand true to old traditions, which has fundamentally shaped modern Greenlandic society. Hunting was an essential part of inuit life and necessary for survival on their land. With the belief that everything in nature has a soul spirit, they recognise a relationship between human and nature. They believe in living in mutual respect to ultimately maintain the balance of the world. If they were a good person, with a clear conscience, an animal would offer themselves to be killed, thus maintaining the cycle of life. If the hunter did not have respect, he threatened to disorder sea and land as well as birth and death; the relationship between humans and nature.
Too often Westerners have judged the inuits for their way of life. They have been called 'savages' yet their ways have outsmarted Western culture for centuries. They have been criticised because they hunt the mammals that we have grown to love so deeply. Although, what we have been so ignorant to see is that they hunt purely to survive on this land, just as the polar bear hunts the seal and the seal hunts the salmon. They do not kill for profit but to provide food for their family. When the hunter returns home with his kill, he calls the family to come and share the food for their stomachs, the skin for their warmth and the bones for their tools. The entire community comes, because to an Inuit, family is everyone by association. How can Western society be so quick to judge these intelligent, resourceful, humble and honest people when our culture is ignorantly damaging our natural world beyond repair. The Inuit have such an undeniable respect for nature and all its beings, the same cant be said for the Western culture driven by such greed.
As history writes itself, the influence of European culture is impacting on the indigenous people in ways we have seen too often across the world. The introduction of alcohol has troubled communities and the dependance on this foreign good is unsettling. Naturally, the government has enforced strict quotas restricting the natives ability to hunt, a tradition that not only depicts their lifestyle but represents the essence of their culture. There lives have been turned upside down by the Danish, they have been forced to adapt to a new way of life. For that, the government heavily supports the native people, so much so that most have become solely dependant on the welfare system. Regardless of the desire to thrive on employment and gain independence, the lack of employment opportunities has founded the expectation of financial support which has become a fundamental part of their new way of life.
Great new adventures and great new seas
26 June 2016 | Nuuk, Greenland
Great new adventures and great new seas awaited as we prepared to cross the first section of the North Atlantic Ocean.The sun rose over Mary's Harbour, Labrador as we set sail for the the Davis Straight destined for Greenland. As much as I thrive in the excitement of wandering on new land, crossing oceans is what truly stirs my sense of adventure. As the last sight of land fades into the horizon and there is only blue ocean as far as the eye can see, one has the opportunity to experience a unique connection with the ocean. Without the dependance on land and the draw to reality, there is only the ocean. It is at that moment of realisation that one experiences the raw beauty of this world without distraction to the eye or disruption of nature in its most pure form.
You lose track of time, days and worries as you become completely immersed in this newfound reality. You ponder the journey the whales are on as they gracefully skim the ocean surface and admire the birds as the joyfully ride the wind that has taken them so far from land. The days do not begin, nor do they end. The sun sets in the North and lingers on the horizon while the moon rises in the south. The sky is luminous all day and all night for the arctic summer holds onto its light. Our days are not filled with expectation, but the freedom to just be. We sailed, we dreamt and we laughed, for our four day passage was so pleasant that if it was not Greenland we were approaching, the idea landfall would have been far less attractive.
We hit the western coast of greenland early evening and with a crisp fresh bight to air. The vibrant orange tones from the sun struck through the heavy low clouds and the fog rolled out revealing the land. The charming Norwegian style houses along the entrance of the harbour were a welcoming sight as we approached the capital city of Nuuk. Fireworks from the town took to the sky and we marvelled in the idea that Greenland was a country that none of us had ever thought we would one day explore. By dawn we had snuck in and tied up to a row of boats on one of the many jetty's packed with small powerboats, careful not to disturb the quiet and stillness of the colourful harbour. Windjammers crew slept soundly, yet with great anticipation as the morning would bring the opportunity to climb across the neighbouring boats to find out if Greenland really is green.
Marys Harbour, Labrador to Nuuk Greenland
26 June 2016
#9 25th June The wind died in the early hours and we dropped sails. It is a rainy grey morning. Around 0900hrs the wind built and we raised sails. The rain cleared and at lunchtime we had a short glimpse of the sun. The wind picked up in the afternoon and swung more to the west and we barrelled along at 7+ knots. The heater is going well after Ashley's work yesterday although there were hiccups this morning until he realised the engine vent cover was on which starved the heater of oxygen. Finished reading "Cod", an excellent book on the history of cod fishing and its impact on the culture and economics of many countries on both sides of the Atlantic. Maggie saw an iceberg on her afternoon watch, the first ice we have seen for a couple of days. 26th June The wind died in the very bright early hours of this morning and we dropped sails. The swell persisted which caused much rolling without the steadying of the sails. Grey skies and no wind and we are now over 62° north. There is no real darkness up here and you could happily read a book on deck in the middle of the night. Cathie spotted a lone iceberg this morning. Sea water temperature has dropped to 4.9° C. We spotted a couple more distant icebergs as we motored through the day with the ground swell only reluctantly abating. Maggie created a tasty vegetable curry for lunch. We sighted land at 2015hrs and as we approached Nuuk we were welcomed with a fireworks display ashore. A very cold breeze blew off the tall snow-capped mountains that tower over Nuuk. We rafted up in the inner harbour at 2300hrs having travelled 720nm from Mary's Harbour. Nuuk is at 64° N.
24 June 2016
23rd June We haven't seen any ice since midday yesterday, but for safety sake we stand watches with 2 on during the darkest part of the night. One on the foredeck on ice watch and the other at the helm monitoring the radar. It never got completely dark as we had a clear night sky with an almost full moon and the glow from the sun still lighting up the horizon even at midnight. The heater has been off since our hot day in Mary's Harbour and the boat was freezing this morning. Everyone is feeling the cold except Ashley. In the morning there was not a cloud to be seen in the sky and the horizon is as sharp as a knife edge in marked contrast to yesterday's mirages. Just after sunrise we passed the carcass of a small white whale floating on the surface. Possibly a Beluga? We finished off the final small pieces of re-seaming on the mainsail and applied a few chafe strips and in the early afternoon a light breeze filled in from the west. Raised Main, Fore, Balloon Jib and Fisherman. Two schools of small whales, probably pilot whales, passed us during the day. As we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon on deck we came across a Sperm whale cruising on the surface before it showed us its tail and sounded. The wind died in the evening and we motored through the night.
24th June A light breeze from the SE came in this morning and we motor sailed until it filled in around lunch time. Set Fisherman. We have not seen any ice for a day and as we clear the cold Labrador Current and enter the Davis Strait the water temperature has risen from 3° C to 10° C. Ashley worked on the heater for several hours and seems to have found the problem causing the irregular burning. Looks like the spring valve in the regulator may have been incorrectly replaced. Much better burning now. Made steady progress under sail through the day and with 324nm to Nuuk we are over half way there.
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 Harbour - Newfoundland.
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.
St Johns - Newfoundland
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 - Newfoundland
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.
Bonavista - Newfoundland
15 June 2016 | Bonavista
Bonavista is one of the oldest towns in Newfoundland and home of the Atlantic Puffin. Before spotting the vibrant orange and yellow parrot-like beak, I quickly mistook it for a penguin diving beneath the water in search of fish. They are quite a treat to watch, they lift off from the water resembling what can only be described as a wind up toy. These amusing seabirds only inhabit the North Atlantic and therefore have been proclaimed the official bird of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I spent the day soaking up the history of Newfoundland which all began in this quaint little fishing community. The North Atlantic is rich in fishing history, predominantly cod fish, which the Newfie's refer to only as 'fish' and everything in the ocean as 'everything else.' Captain John Cabot discovered the eastern coastline of Newfoundland in 1497. He had hoped to discover a passage to Asia, however, returned to England with news of New found land that was highly overpopulated with fish. It wasn't long before the English, French, Spanish and Portuguese came annually to fish the waters and permanent settlement of Newfoundland was established. Cod ruled the fishing industry, it consumed the lives of Newfoundlanders and wars were fought over it. By the 1900's, the impact of commercial fishing caused such a significant decline in fish stocks, that the atlantic commercial fishing industry nearly collapsed. The federal government had no choice but to impose a moratoriam, putting an end to over 500 years of northern atlantic cod fishing and in turn, over 40,000 jobs. The practice of overfishing shaped the lives and communities of Newfoundlanders because after all, it is known as the land of cod and as the cod became scarce, so did the communities.
Over 40,000 icebergs break away form glaciers in Greenland and Baffin Island each year, the Labrador current draws them south along the east coast of Newfoundland to what is known as Iceberg Alley. Departing Boavista at dusk, we headed north and officially entered the notorious Iceberg Alley. In the Northern Atlantic, ice is the dominating navigational hazard, it is unpredictable and often unstable. What is most daunting is that only one 1/8th of the iceberg is visible above the surface. Consider dropping an ice cube into a glass of water, majority of the ice sits below the waterline. But now put that in perspective, that ice cube is on average 30m high and 204K tonnes, this is what we are up against. However, it is not necessarily the initial iceberg, known as a 'growler' that proves to be the hazard as they are generally picked up by the radar. The ice that breaks away from the berg, known as 'bergy bits' are what are most dangerous to cruising yachts as they are difficult to see and often can be mistaken for white wash. Navigation through fog and at night seriously reduces visibility and requires two crew members communicating wth each other on watch at all times. One crew at the bow keeping watch for ice and one at the helm ready to alter course in order to efficiently dodge any ice. Although the crew have experience navigating in iceberg frequented waters in the Southern latitudes, the north does not even begin to compare. With a significantly higher concentration of ice, iceberg alley officially introduced us to ice navigation in the North Atlantic.
St Johns to Lumsden - Newfoundland
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.
Where France meets North America
13 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.
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!