Vessel Name: Skylax
Vessel Make/Model: Warwick Cardinal 46
Crew: Rod & Lu Heikell
Before Lu and I got married I had to tell her that I would always spend more money on a mistress than a wife. The mistress at that time was a previous boat, seven tenths, a Cheoy Lee Pedrick 36. ‘Likewise’, she replied, ‘just as I will always spend money on my lover’. [...]
28 February 2008 | Greece to Antigua
28 February 2008 | Greece
Recent Blog Posts
07 March 2008

Updates before returning to Skylax

For the complete blog and supplement to Ocean Passages & Landfalls go to

28 February 2008 | Greece to Antigua

October 07 to Jan 08

28 February 2008 | Greece

July to September 2007

For the complete blog go to

October 07 to Jan 08

28 February 2008 | Greece to Antigua

For the complete blog go to
Cape Verdes to Antigua

Dec 7th to Dec 21st 2007

We left the Cape Verdes on December 7th and motored out into the channel between Sao Vicente and Santo Antao with three reefs in the main as there is an acceleration zone reported between the two islands. Off Mindelo there was around 20 knots of wind from behind and for a while I contemplated taking a reef out. A little further towards the southwest end of the channel the wind piped up to 30-35 knots so we left the third reef in and zoomed out into the Atlantic - well at least until we hit the wind shadow of Santo Antao where the wind dropped off altogether though the sea didn't. It took a couple of hours motoring to get out of the wind shadow and then we were off with the wind on the quarter and pointed directly for Antigua.

In Mindelo we had picked up a refugee off an ARC boat, Kaiso, that limped in with keel problems amongst others. Everything came out of the boat as most of the hatches and ports had been leaking and three of the crew opted to jump ship. Arabella walked the pontoon looking for a ride and although we were quite happy with just the two of us for the crossing, we decided to give 'Rab' a lift to Antigua where she was to join another boat.

The days ticked by with daily runs over 160 NM and up to 171NM with everything on under-drive to keep it easy on us and on 'Mole' the autopilot. Most of the time we had two reefs in the main with wind E-ENE at 18-25 knots. We could have carried more sail but the girl was happy and 'Mole' in charge without any strain, so we left it at that. There were a few BBC's and LBC's (big black clouds and little black clouds) around, but fewer that the previous crossing further north and with less weight of wind in them. There was not a lot of rain in the squalls either compared to the previous more northerly route and we carried a fair amount of the red dust that blows over Mindelo all the way to Antigua.

Often we didn't bother to reef the genny in as we were a little under-canvassed anyway. Most of the time we carried a reefed main and the genny poled out and when were making too much northing and not enough westing, we simply gibed the main over and headed west for a bit. I still have a theory that the wind goes more towards the NE in the day and back towards east at night, though we are not talking major shifts here.

We ate well, too well, and when it looked like we were going to get to Antigua well before christmas the mince pies were consumed, and then the christmas cake, though we didn't get around to the christmas pudding and brandy butter until after we had arrived. Lu baked bread, we lost several fish and lures, and generally slept, read, ate and navigated to Antigua.

We entered Freeman's Bay at 0300 on the 21st, probably a silly thing to do, but we did so very slowly and I have been in there a few times before. After the anchor was down we popped the cork on a couple of bottles, though we were by now pretty dog-tired so the last bottle didn't get finished before we all crashed.

It was hard to believe we were there with so little fuss after the previous crossing and encounters with Tropical Storm Peter in 2003. Still, a dip in the morning into the warm soupy water of Freeman's Bay soon convinced us we were in the Tropics and a trip ashore and a celebratory bottle of Carib sealed the matter.

One hour mid-Atlantic

14th December 2007

Midway between the Cape Verdes and Antigua

18 00'N 44 24'.92W

1330 (UTC-1) Course 300 magnetic

Squall clouds and rain. Wind E Force 5. Sea 2-2.5 metres. Cross swell.

Skylax two reefs in the main and genny equivalent of No. 3 out.

One storm petrel.
Lots of flying fish.
One tropic bird.
The odd strand of seaweed.
Puffy trade wind clouds

One hour in the Western Atlantic: Canaries to Mindelo (Cape Verdes) November 2007

1130 to 1230 local time (UT+1)

23 37'.06N 18 55'.17W to 23 31'.71N 19 02'.26W

Sky overcast with rain clouds to the south. Skylax with 1 reef in main and trades blowing 18-20 knots. Speed 7-7.5 knots.

Pod (c. 12) Atlantic spotted dolphins playing around the boat.

Madeira storm petrel flying around boat.

4 shearwaters

Lu sleeping

Another dozen or so Atlantic spotted dolphins join the first pod spotted and play around boat.

One hour in the Western Atlantic Gibraltar to Canaries November 2007

1400-1500 local (UT + 1)

34 28'.37N 08 33'.32W to 34 24'.07N 08 38'.13W

Light Portuguese trades. Wind NE 3. Sea moderate. Skylax motor sailing. s/y Sunrise off to starboard 3-4 miles.

8-10 petrels (?) flying south.

4 shearwaters

1 plastic bottle

Letter to Yachting Monthly Feb 08

Dear Ed
OK I was tired and should have been more attentive, but stuff happens to all of us on passage at times. On the way across the Atlantic this year during a controlled gybe, the restarining line on our gybe preventer, a Scott Boom-Lock, snarled on a cleat and after a tug of war between the main and 25 knots of wind, the wind won and bent the pin and plates that hold the Boom-Lock on. We rigged a jury preventer line through blocks leading back to the cockpit, but I was seriously peeved that I didn't have the control on a gybe that the variable spring clamp on the Boom-Lock provided.
In Antigua I emailed the company and they asked me to bring it back and post it to them. Four days after posting it, the Boom-Lock was returned, fully repaired, and at no charge. You can't can't ask for more than that and I'll be more attentive next time and keep those deck cleats covered.

Rod Heikell

BLT on passage

Lu has a really neat way of making BLT's on passage (and on terra firma as well) that she learnt from the chef of a restaurant she used to manage.

Fry or grill the bacon as per normal and while it is cooking finely chop the tomatoes and lettuce (and anything else you want to put in it). When the bacon is cooked chop it up as well. Put it all in a bowl and mix the mayonnaise into it. Then just spoon it onto the bread or into a warmed pitta.

In lots of places you can buy vacuum packed pittas (usually 6 in a pack) that have use-by dates of several months. They don't have to be stored in the fridge and to heat them up either put them under the grill for a while or put them on a stove-top toaster. You don't have a stove-top toaster. Then go out and buy one.

Chop it all up and mix in the mayonnaise, freshly ground black pepper, and anything else you think might be good.

Penyllan's xmas message

This is a wonderful christmas email from Penyllan. They left the Canaries en route for Barbados and 300 miles out lost the lower shrouds - ALL OF THEM. They used lines as best they could to steady the mast and turned back to the Canaries where they renewed all the rigging. This email is their son Brendan's account and Xmas missive (Pete calls it libellous), reproduced here with his permission, a wry, dry and wonderfully witty account of drama at sea.

© Brendan Metherall

Subject: Brendan's xmas message from Penyllan
Date: 12 Jan 2008 20:06:00 -0000

Seasons Greetings from Penyllan, whose crew had prepared themselves for a less than exuberant celebration this year on account of the weather. Would sound a rather banal reason to those bound to dwellings built on more solid foundations, but sailors do not discuss the weather to pass the time, nor because they've run out of more interesting topics of conversation. No, with much deliberation, scratching of heads, scribbling on charts and consultation with other sailors - themselves perched eagerly
at their radios, forecasts at hand, latitudes, longitudes, wind speeds and isobars circling in their salty minds, only needing a few verbs and adjectives to form meaningful sentences - after all this we decided that the turkey would remain in the freezer; that Jesus wouldn't mind; that in any case, the transition from Julian to Gregorian calendars made fixing the exact date of Christ's birth difficult to say the least, and after a quick hands-up: two agnostics and an atheist; none of us able to attend
the stock-take sales that otherwise mark the occasion (weren't gourds going cheep the day after the lord was born!?) - all made for good reasons to delay Xmas, at least until the wind steadied below 20 knots or the barometric pressure showed an upward trend.

So the day passed much as those sea-bound days preceding it, with much lively discussion on the speed and direction of the wind supplanting the more traditional exchanges of seasons greetings. We enjoyed a modest main meal of pork chops with stewed apple, instant mash and limp beans cooked to the Captain's taste. To say they're limp is an understatement. They arrive on the plate practically digested. But I couldn't complain. On this occasion, the meal was prepared by the Captain, so I had no leg
to stand on other than the two folded beneath me (the Cabin boy must sit on the floor at mealtimes) and I was not about to stand lest I bang my head on the ceiling again. Beans weren't worth getting all hot and bothered over anyway. If I'd wanted to start an argument I'd have talked about stowage. Aboard Penyllan this is the most contentious topic by far.

There isn't any. That's the whole deal. Penyllan is fighting three weight divisions above her class. She's so loaded down with stuff it takes 15 knots of wind to even budge her. Her bum looks big in an every stretch of water she's sailed over! I blame them both: the Captain and the Mate. He needs to be prepared for any breakage or problem no matter how unlikely; spares for everything, tools for any job. It has it's upside, particularly when something breaks, but his greatest fear - ironically -
is the sum of all the others: That one day Penyllan will sink under the weight of all his contingencies.

The Mate is something else again. She won't throw anything out, has a story about every Tupperware container; knows where and when she bought it and more often than not, the name of the person she bought it from. She has a big container for big clothes pegs, and a little one for little clothes pegs. No kidding. A whole system. She's the same with food too. Can't stand for anything to be wasted. It's not uncommon for a meal to be served with an announcement along the lines of: "I used the asparagus
just in time. Another day and I'd have had to throw it out!" or "There was mould all over the first two layers of the cabbage, but once I peeled them off, look it's perfect!" Such statements are in no way intended as a disclaimer. It's a tremendous source of pride for her to have avoided such a calamity! Never sold anything in her life, my mother.

So at this particular dinner, lunch or whatever you want to call it - it makes no difference when you're all up at different times of the day and night - we'd discussed stowage, we'd gone to town on boiled vegetables, and it isn't long before the conversation turned back to the weather, the possibility of a storm and that a second reef in the mainsail would be prudent. Such a reef was made good by the Captain and I, and after a while I retired to the shelf next to the anchor locker for a few
hours rest before my midnight till 4am watch: we drew straws apparently, though I don't remember this at all. It must have been when they plied me with all that liquor back in Las Palmas: fancy being shanghaied by your own parents - twice! Fancy drawing the graveyard watch both times!

For those of you who may not have heard the news, this Xmas day fell three days into our second attempt at the Atlantic, our first having been shortened by a rigging failure that occurred not far from where we were currently positioned. In truth, had we thawed the turkey, we would have been celebrating the passing of that fateful point in the ocean with more gusto than of that barn birth of twenty centuries ago (give or take a week or two). But without wishing to sound completely irreverent,
my thoughts of late had dwelt less on His great suffering than on our own during the return to the Canaries when over two days and nights we'd motored into heavy seas, mast threatening to collapse onto our sleepless heads with every wave. Herein, I suppose, lies the difference between the mortal and divine: that we're inclined to dwell more on our own suffering than that of others. That, I suppose, and that very few of us are born in barns. But I never in all my life expected to see the Captain
knelt in prayer before a cross, yet here he was bowed before our swaying, single-spreader mast, head down, praying for a miracle.

And his prayers, it seems, were answered. We made it back mast intact; fixed the rig; got drunk; drew straws, I lost again and now I'm back in my little cot, three days out again, three hours from the midnight watch again. I shouldn't complain, otherwise it's the plank or a keel haulin' and Penyllan's massive girth takes a good haulin' to get a Cabin Boy around.
But thankfully, it doesn't take long for me to sleep. Not having to digest my beans helps a great deal as does opening the fore-hatch a few inches to let in some air. Soon I'm dreaming: I find a secret doorway next to my cot. Through stacks of Tupperware, moved aside, the space opens up in front of me. There's a king-sized bed and more than enough space for my backpack; a whole cabin as yet undiscovered by the Captain or the Mate. I sink into the lush, dry mattress stretching out my legs, then

It's 22:30, 10:30 in Melbourne. John Howard sits alone in his living room, wearing his favourite Sydney 2000 tracksuit. He watches as on his flat screen TV, Ricky Ponting strides to the centre of the MCG for the coin toss of the Boxing Day Test. Jeanette is in another room, unpacking boxes. In downtown Melbourne, shoppers storm department stores trading blows over kitchen appliances. On Sydney harbour sailors make final preparations for the Hobart race.

Back at Christmas, I'm awake, have the lee-cloth down and am attempting to climb out of my dream but it's all uphill. What's more, the hatch, opened just a little, is spewing water, most of it directly onto me.

The ocean's Christmas present to Penyllan is a freak wave delivered with all the gusto of a hundred Santas. No need for a chimney, the wave crashes through every opening available, making some of it's own along the sides of the cockpit, where Mum stands startled, having been showered with the sea-lion's share of the Atlantic's bountiful gifts. The boat righting itself jolts me out of bed. There are torrents still falling from the forced main hatches and a water-fall cascades down the companionway
steps. There's enough water in the main cabin to boil a thousand beans, or blanch them depending on taste. The Captain is up in the cockpit and the companion-way doors are slammed shut. I guess I'll go down with the ship then, I think, but soon realise, with great relief, that I'm not being shut in. It's the water being shut out. We're not in fact sinking, it just looks that way.

In all the excitement, one of the life rings decides to jump into the sea, flashing it's strobe to it's own personal techno as it disappeared behind us, and another strobe goes off in a cockpit cupboard where one of the lifejackets self-inflates. It's a disco-extravaganza. The chart-table computer keyboard also over-indulges and is to be more than useless the following day, but every Christmas party has it's casualties.

And if a party can be judged by the amount you have to clean up afterwards then by this measure ours is a doozey, though people that say this seldom stick around to help out. As much as I can remember, none of Penyllan's regular crew got to piss in the pot-plants or pewk on the Venetians and then twist them shut so no-one will notice. These are figurative examples of course, but it is the ocean that has all the fun at our place, leaving us to soak up its excesses with already wet bedding, towels
and clothing. It arrives with a bang, gives of itself generously, but then leaves before we had time to say "thanks, but we'd have preferred a fish".

So we squeegee and soak up what we can, change into dry clothes and salvage the bunks as a priority so sleep is at least possible. I am deeply thankful there were stores of dry bedding stashed away. That this was one of those contingencies prepared for. But I sleep fitfully nonetheless. My dreams are haunted by disasters at sea. Penyllan is sunk to the ocean floor. Weeks later we share a life-raft. The Mate sitting opposite, speaks in a croaking, parched voice barely audible across the cramped
interior of the raft: "Better eat the rest of your father before he goes off."

I wake without an appetite, but manage to digest the eggs a bacon prepared by the Captain. I break a coffee cup. The mate spills hers across the cockpit. We laugh that laugh of resignation that comes at the end of shared hardship. Merry Christmas, says the Captain and it is in it's own way.

Lanzarote to Mindelo (Cape Verdes)


We potter out and fill up with fuel at the entrance to the harbour and then set off for the Cape Verdes. Very soon we are bowling along down the west coast of Fuerteventura headed for somewhere Lu and I have not been before. I've cooked a big goulash for the first few days. Fuerteventura is a big island and by dusk we are still not clear of it. We always cook up a big stew or ragu before leaving, enough for at least two dinners and sometimes more. It just makes it easy on everyone if a hot dinner is pretty much ready to go for a couple of days.


Mostly we have had Force 4-5 (14-20 knots) from the NNE-NE with occasional small increases up to Force 6 (25 knots) and a few lulls where it has dropped off to Force 3 (under 10 knots), though not for long. The wind is pretty consistent. We have carried our foresail downwind rig for a bit, genny poled out and staysail poled out the other side (lots of string), but this rig really needs 20-25 knots as the staysail is pretty small. Now we have taken it down and have a double reefed main up and the genny with the wind on the quarter.

Downwind rigs are something we have not really thought enough about. The main chafes on the lower cross-trees and especially on the leeward runner which is off and sliding lazily back and forth over the lower cross-tree chewing away at the main. Our staysail is not really big enough for a proper downwind rig with the genny out the other side, so we are caught betwixt and between for a downwind rig in the 12-18 knot range. Higher than that and the staysail is big enough.

Even so we have been making pretty good progress: 133/144/149/158 NM daily runs.


We have been talking to Andy on Balaena for most of the trip as we agreed to meet up in Mindelo a few months ago. Andy and I wrote Ocean Passages and Landfalls and, though we have met on terra firma, we have not met in our respective boats. Balaena is a 42ft gaff cutter that Andy built, a modern gaff cutter as Andy is always quick to emphasise, and he has certainly been clocking off some healthy daily runs in it. Mind you we haven't been dawdling too much either and have clocked off 166 and 164 NM runs in the last couple of days.

Around 20 miles off Mindelo I saw a flash of tan sail on the horizon and we hove-to to wait for Andy. Balaena came flying across the swell, all sails up including the gaff topsail, a wonderful sight, and as they went past we took photos of Balaena. Then we opened up the genny and flashed across their stern while they took photos of Skylax. Weird to meet up at sea, literally, and then sail in company down to the port.

We got in just at dusk and anchored off in the harbour. 968 miles in 6 days and 6 hours, not too bad with Skylax throttled right back. We took waypoints on the way in as Bill on Sunrise was some distance behind and wouldn't arrive until after midnight. Even worse Bill had some problems with his rudder, water was swooshing up through the bottom seal and into the boat and the rudder itself was making an awful clonking noise.

We cleared into Mindelo the next day, friendly officials and a good feeling ashore. Cruiser gossip can be a funny old thing. I had read an account of piracy off Mindelo, well not actually piracy but a trawler that was going slowly and didn't show it's stern (and name) to the yacht that reported the alleged incident. Actually that's not piracy, that's just a trawler working and they do go slow when dragging the trawl. Again in the Caribbean I came across a couple of yachts that told me that they didn't go to the Cape Verdes because of piracy. I told them how wonderful it is, that lots of yachts now go this way, and that the piracy reports are spurious, but they were convinced that there are pirates there.... despite my first hand report. What can you say?

Mindelo looking out to the anchorage over the outer marina pontoons. If it looks hazy, that's because it is though this photo was on a bad day. When the wind blows strongly enough you get red Sahara dust over everything and we are still washing it off. And it does blow some at times, around 35 knots or so on one day, but the holding in the anchorage is good and the moorings in the marina are solid although a bit of surge creeps in.

We anchored out for 3 days or so and it's quite comfortable with just a bit of ground swell creeping around into the bay. Local advice is to remove loose items from the deck, but I have to say I didn't hear of anyone losing anything and there had to be 20 yachts anchored off at times. A local will come out on his surfboard to offer services, but agree on a price beforehand. Our laundry cost us more than anywhere else I have cruised - ever, but then water is scarce and expensive. There are a couple of small supermarkets ashore, a good fruit and vege market up the high street, and a rowdy fish market along the waterfront. Ashore there is the Club Nautico, but on the street behind is a place called The Yacht Club on a 1st floor terrace with good food, cold drinks, and WiFi! The Yacht Club will often have live bands on the weekends and Cape Verdes music is stunning, the best I have heard in local bars/cafes since Cuba. They are accomplished musicians, the music is stunning and often sad, lamenting exile and struggle on the island or celebrating life, love and making love. Don't miss it.

The new marina is up and running here, 28 euros a night for us. The electricity (220V) is included but water is charged for and is not always on, so fill up when you can. The water is all from a reverse osmosis plant and so tastes fine and is potable despite some reports I've read. It's metered and not cheap so be a bit frugal. The security here is excellent and Kai, who runs the marina and has long been the inspiration for yachting in Mindelo is looking to expand the services. Those at anchor can bring their dinghies into the marina and leave them there for a small charge.

We spent 10 days in Mindelo and I would now always take this route going east to west across the Atlantic. Partly because Mindelo was such an enjoyable stop and partly because the trip from Mindelo to Antigua was easy as well with the wind on the quarter for much of the time.

In Mindelo Bill's (Sunrise) rudder, on the Sabre 452, needed something doing it to it. It was banging back and forth in the slight surge in the marina and water had been coming in at an unacceptable rate on the last few days down to Mindelo. So Andy and I dropped it, towed it over to Andy's boat, and I got out my epoxy and biaxial cloth (never leave home without it - there was none in Mindelo) and we repaired the stock where it goes through the bottom bearing. Then Bill towed it back and with the help of Tuga, a diver in the marina, we put it back in again. Bill got safely across to St Lucia when at one point he thought the dream might all be over.

And then what happened. A Spanish Beneteau Oceanis next to me in the marina popped out their rudder and so I donated the last of my epoxy to a good cause. They were headed for Venezuela - just hope they got there. I'll be expanding on the subject of rudders and other boat bits in the near future.

Gibraltar to Graciosa

Skylax en route from Gib to the Canaries November 2007


We slipped the lines at Marina Bay at 0630 and it's still dark. I've been talking to boats on the dock for the last week suggesting there will be a lot more wind around and after Tarifa than there is here, even if it is all in the right direction blowing out of the east. Bill and Sharon on Sunrise, a beautiful Sabre 452, are leaving with us.

We make our way out into the roadstead and weave our way through all the anchored ships, ferries zooming off to Morocco and bumboats going back and forth to the anchored ships. It's busy. We put three reefs in the main (yep -we've been here before) and motorsail towards Tarifa. Bill comes out in Sunrise and puts everything up. Maybe I'm being a bit over-cautious, but I stick with it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Get hold of a copy of Colin Thomas's Straits Sailing Handbook and follow his advice to the letter. It's worth the price just for the advice on getting in and out of the Straits of Gibraltar, but also has a lot of information and pilotage for the coasts around Gibraltar.

By Tarifa the wind is kicking up and Sunrise is starting to round up. Just after Tarifa it's up to 35 knots and it's not long before I've got 40 knots on the clock and we are doing 7-8 knots under a triple reefed main and nothing else. Bill tries to wrap up the genny, gets it in a muddle but finally rolls it up and puts three reefs in the main.

We fly downwind with F6-7 and more in the gusts until midnight. It's usually like this on this trip to the Canaries. Come out of Gib like a cork out of a bottle and then once you are off the African coast and a little bit around the corner the wind dies away to a gentle Force 4 or so and there you are putting up more sail to keep you moving comfortably through the Atlantic swell.


We have been slowly sailing downwind for the last four days. Sometimes with the wind on the quarter, sometimes wing and wing straight downwind. The days drift by in a relaxed fashion as the miles are clocked off, nothing spectacular at 147/132/123/127 miles from noon to noon, but not too bad either in the light winds. We see a few ships and bizarrely keep nearly bumping into Sunrise for the first three nights. Bill and Lu have a radio sched so they are nattering away in the evening.

Bill turns on the iron spinnaker to try and make Graciosa before the light goes, but we keep on drifting downwind and eventually make a night entrance into the southern bay on Graciosa and nearly bump into the outermost boat which doesn't have an anchor light on. Once we have the anchor down and are enjoying a glass or three of good Spanish red, someone on the outermost boat notices we are there and comes up and turns on the anchor light. Fool...


We move around to the yacht pontoon in La Sociedad on Graciosa and find a berth. Nice people come up and take our lines. La Sociedad is wonderful. A small fishing village where the streets are sand and 4 wheel drives rule. It has a few restaurants, a few shops, and posters everywhere proclaiming La Republica di Graciosa. They have no truck with big tourist hotels, most of the waters around the island are a marine reserve, and don't want villas and English pubs. Viva La Republica di Graciosa. It's the first place in the Canaries that I actually like and compared to the tourist ghettos of Lanzarote, Fuenaventura and Gran Canaria, it feels a bit like what the Canaries were 30 years ago (so I'm told).

After three days I pay the modest berthing fees (there is no water or electricity on the pontoons even though the connection boxes are there, and I figure this is intentional so the place doesn't turn into some cloned marina like others around the Canaries), around 7 euros a night for Skylax (46ft), and take a quick tour of the church with a distinctly nautical theme.

We motorsail down to Puerto Calero on Lanzarote. OK, it's a purpose built marina with villas scattered around it, but Mr Calero has succeeded in making it a lot less sterile than other places in the Canaries. We have been here before and the welcome is wonderful. They try never to turn a yacht away, however humble. It has a cetacean museum funded by Mr Calero. There is a drinks party with wonderful snacks for visiting yachts (that happens to coincide with the Bluewater Rally boats that are here before leaving for Antigua - in light winds and even worse wind on the nose, but that's how it is when you are on a rally and D-day approaches, Departure day that is) and for 28 euros a night you get water and electricity included.

We hire a car to go supermarket shopping and sight-seeing in Arrecife and drive over the moonscape that is Lanzarote to see Sunrise in Port Rubicon on the south side. It's a huge marina and despite restaurants and bars, it lacks a certain something. Bill and Sharon have hired a car and come to see us in Puerto Calero and somehow we cross tracks mid-island.


This was sent to me by Phil Kerin, known to most people in Antigua as Sir Phil. I met him in '99 when I towed his Falmouth Quay punt, Dunlin, down to Falmouth on Antigua on a pretty windless day. He was tacking slowly in and out on the passage inside Cade's Reef and not making a whole lot of progress. I met him in subsequent years, usually around Antigua, where he skippered and worked on classic yachts. Sadly he lost Dunlin in the tail-end of Hurricane Alex on his way back to Falmouth UK.

While this may not be directly related to sailing, it's amusing and, then again, maybe it is directly related to why we push off in small boats to go sailing.


The 39 steps to wisdom

1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative
on the same night.

2. Don't worry about what people think, they don't do it very often.

3. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than standing
in a garage makes you a car.

4. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

5. If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never
tried before.

6. My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

7. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.

8. It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.

9. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program.

10. If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.

11. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of cheques.

12. A conscience is what hurts when all of your other parts feel so good.

13. Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.

14. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it.

15. No man has ever been shot while doing the dishes.

16. A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.

17. Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the
waist change places

18. Opportunities always look bigger going than coming.

19. Junk is something you've kept for years and throw away three weeks
before you need it.

20. There is always one more imbecile than you counted on.

21. Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a
mistake when you make it again.

22. By the time you can make ends meet, they move the ends.

23. Thou shall not weigh more than thy refrigerator.

24. Someone who thinks logically provides a nice contrast to the real world.

25. It ain't the jeans that make your butt look fat.

26. If you had to identify, in 1 word, the reason why the human race
has not achieved, & never will achieve, its full potential, that word
would be "meetings".

27. There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness".

28. People who want to share their religious views with you almost
never want you to share yours with them.

29. You should not confuse your career with your life.

30. Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.

31. Never lick a steak knife.

32. The most destructive force in the universe is gossip.

33. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling
reason why we observe daylight savings time.

34. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely
suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby
emerging from her at that moment.

35. There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to
make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven.

36. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age,
gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep
down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.

37. A person, who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice
person. (This is very important. Pay attention. It never fails.)

38. Your friends love you anyway.

39. Thought for the day:
Never be afraid to try something new.
Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark.
A large group of professionals built the Titanic.

For more on food and photos go to and click on Gourmets and Gourmands
Passage food II

OK so I'm into a bit of a foodie stage. This section is on pasta.


We eat a lot of pasta, both on passage and at anchor or in harbour. In general we try to buy a well known brand such as Barilla as some 'own' brands can produce slimy slushy pasta when cooked. We always cook it al dente as per the instructions on the packet, usually about 10 minutes in boiling water. Commonly we will have penne (large and small), linguine, spaghetti, tortellini, tagliatelle, and some shells and spirals. Yep - we carry a lot of the stuff.

On passage we use a bit less water per serving than in harbour where we can refill the water tanks, purely to save water. It's important that the water is boiling vigorously when you put the pasta in. Generally we drain it in the galley sink with a little bit of cold salt water pumped in so that the boiling water doesn't cook the sink outlet pipe. You can drain it over the side from the cockpit but that can be dangerous if the boat lurches and you may also loose the pasta overboard.

Below are a few of the dishes we cook on passage.

Pasta pesto

Some people adore pesto, others hate it. We are solidly in the adoration camp.

For 2

Cook the pasta (3 handfuls of penne or similar, a small bundle of linguine or spaghetti per person - we generally break the bundle in half for linguine and spaghetti to make it easier to eat while bucketing around) and while it is draining put a little butter or margarine in the same pan on low heat. Put the pasta back in and add two tablespoons or so of pesto (we usually use green basil pesto). Stir it around so it coats the pasta and put some grated parmesan on top of each serving.

A one-pot dish if you disregard the colander.

You can also add finely chopped fresh tomatoes or cherry tomatoes when you stir the pesto in and chopped basil or parsley if you have any.

Salmon and cream

For 2

Small pack of smoked salmon shredded into bits

Capers - a couple of teaspoons from the jar

Knob of butter or margarine

Small (200 ml) pack of UHT cream

Pasta - tagliatelle or linguine work well.

Cook pasta and while it is draining add butter or margarine to the pan on low heat. Stir in shredded salmon, capers and cream. Add lots of freshly milled black pepper. Warm through and serve.

Smoked salmon often has a use-by date of 2-3 months on it and keeps well in the fridge.

You can also add chopped sun-dried tomatoes and chopped parsley if you have any. Lu sometimes puts a small tin of peas in as well (drained).

Salmon pasta with big flat pasta


For 2

Pasta. Penne, shells, spirals and linguine all work well.

Tinned tuna 150-200 gm.s. Get good tuna instead of some of the tinned mush that looks like cat food and is sold in places, usually in small tins. The Azores, Portugal, Spain, Canaries and Cape Verdes are good places to buy chunky tinned tuna.

Olive oil - a good glug.

1 onion finely diced.

2 cloves of garlic finely sliced.

Tin of chopped tomatoes or passata.


Sauté chopped onions in olive oil and add garlic towards the end. Add tomatoes and capers and simmer. When pasta is nearly cooked add crumbled tuna and warm through. Don't add tuna for too long or it will break up into mush. Pour sauce over pasta with grated parmesan and finely chopped parsley if you have it.

To the basic mixture before the tuna is added you can also add chopped sun-dried tomatoes, chopped olives, finely chopped green pepper (sauté with the onion) and a smidge of hot chilli sauce depending on taste. I have some basil flavoured sambal which is divine. The basic mixture can be adapted to your own tastes.

Tuna Nicoise

A bit of a variation on the above. For 2

Pasta - shells or penne are good.

Handful of cherry tomatoes or two medium chopped tomatoes.


Small tin of tuna.

Small can of anchovies

Lemon juice.- about a tablespoon (or white wine vinegar)


Cook pasta and while it is draining put oil, lemon juice, capers, tomatoes, tuna and anchovies into the pan and warm through for a couple of minutes. Tip pasta into pot and mix through.

There are lots more, perhaps later after something else other than pasta.

This is baked tomata and feta pasta. Go here for this.


OK, I'm going to get to the Atlantic passage when I have time, but there is important stuff that happens on passage and none more so than food.

Passage Food I

Cooking on passage is an art that needs to be learned. The ultimate passage food is one-pot cooking. If it's all in one pot then it can go in a dog bowl which makes eating it a lot easier when you are rolling/bouncing/bucketing around on the sea. Of course not all our cooking at sea is one-pot cooking, but it's handy to have a repertoire of dishes for those occasions when the motion of a little ship at sea makes cooking a difficult chore. And of course there is very little in the way of washing up compared to multi-pot cooking.

One of my old fall-backs is risotto. OK, maybe it's not the risotto you would have in a fancy Italian restaurant with arborio rice and truffles, but it is a versatile dish that can swallow all sorts of odd ingredients and it invariably tastes OK - sometimes it tastes divine.

Basic risotto

For 2

Olive oil (say 1½ tablespoons but I just glug some in)

Parboiled rice (2 cups)

1 onion finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced

tin of peas

stock (any sort, around a teaspoon, dissolved in a cup of hot water)

chopped ham/bacon/salami/chorizo or lardons (around 200 gms or more)

small UHT cream (usually 200 ml carton. You can find these most places and it's worth getting a good stock in. They usually have a shelf life of 6 months or so. Alternatively you can get tinned cream. Just make sure any of it is unsweetened.)

Cup of grated cheese. Parmesan is best but use what you have.

Use a large high-sided frying pan (you should have one on board anyway for all sorts of dishes) and glug in a liberal amount of olive oil. On moderate heat sauté the onions, the ham/bacon/lardons (if you are using salami or chorizo put it in with the garlic or it fries into hard lumps) and the rice, stirring gently. Towards the end (usually 5-8 minutes, when the rice has browned but NOT burnt) put in the garlic and sauté gently (don't burn it!).

Tip in the stock and another 2 cups of water, then the drained peas, and leave on low heat to cook. After 20 minutes or so, just before all the water has been absorbed by the rice, tip in the cream and the cheese and continue cooking until the risotto is just moist.


For more people adjust the quantities accordingly.

Some other risotto ingredients are:

Vegetarian option

Sauté onion, rice and garlic. Then use a tin of chopped tomatoes, capers and chopped olives.

Tuna option

Same as vegetarian option 1 but put a tin of tuna in.

Ham & bean

Sauté ham/chopped bacon/lardons and onion, rice and garlic as per main recipe. Then add a tin of cannelloni, borlotti or similar beans. Cook then go to cream and cheese at the end. Lu's speciality and tastes excellent.


Roast squash. Sauté onions, rice and garlic. Add stock and water and diced squash. Cream if you wish. Squash keeps well on board in a well ventilated dark space.

It's pretty easy to see you can add all sorts of things on board that need using on a passage. Finely sliced green or red peppers (sauté), fresh tomatoes (sliced or diced), mushrooms (fresh or tinned), leftover chicken, fresh fish, sausages (fry up first), carrots (sauté or tinned), tinned mushroom or chicken soup (no cream or cheese or stock as this thickens it up nicely).... Use your own creative powers to conjure up a special risotto out of what's available.

Risotto also has the advantage of being a bit 'sticky' making eating it when the boat is rolling around easy.


For 2

Olive oil

Pack of sausages, diced ham, chopped chorizo, lardons or chopped bacon.

Tin of beans (baked beans work well)

1 onion sliced

Tomato paste (not a lot, a tablespoon is about right)

2 medium sized potatoes diced/sliced.

Paprika (tablespoon)

Brown sugar (tablespoon)

White wine vinegar (2 tablespoons)

And if you have them 2 celery sticks (chopped) and an orange (peeled and chopped)

Sauté onions and sausages/diced ham/lardons or chopped bacon in olive oil. Chorizo can go in towards the end. Stir in tomato paste, paprika, sugar and white wine vinegar. Add beans and potatoes and enough water to cover ingredients. Add celery and orange if using. Simmer slowly with a lid on for around 30 minutes and check potatoes are cooked.

There are several one-pot pastas we do, but I'll leave them for a pasta section later.

Trapani to Gibraltar


We left Trapani early morning headed vaguely in the direction of Sardinia or Palma Mallorca depending on weather. It wasn't a great start as we tacked off Sicily until the promised NE winds kicked in and we sailed slowly towards Sardinia. Off the bottom of Sardinia a nice strong easterly kicked in and by late evening on the 12th we were flying towards the Balearics.


The wind died in the early morning and we entered what the Italian forecast called an 'area di instabilite'. Between thunderstorms, light variable winds and an overcast sky we motored for a fair chunk. Lu even had a couple of waterspouts off in the distance. By night a good Force 4-5 N-NE had kicked in and Skylax picked up her skirts and was sitting on a comfortable 7½-8 knots headed directly for the Balearics.

Early morning waterspouts in the 'area di instabilite'. It's overcast so the pic is not that great.


By evening we were approaching Mallorca still sitting on 6-6½ knots and early for a berth in Palma. Happily I'd phoned Terry who arranged a berth in the tightly packed harbour, though at a price: 90 Euros a night. Ouch.

Still it was good to catch up with friends and top up with water and victuals. On the 3rd day here a tornado brushed the east coast causing torrents of water to wash cars and houses away and killing one person. This was the second tornado in a week which sort of hints at some pretty dramatic changes to weather patterns. In Palma we had horizontal rain and the harbour turned liquid brown with all the goop washed down off the hills.

Palma harbour after the torrential rain and tornado


We left Palma for Cartagena with light winds that steadily increased through the day until we had a healthy 25 knots plus pushing us on and a disproportionate cross-sea. Lu even had the top of a wave dump in the cockpit on her watch. We flew down to Cartagena and were off the bay and outer entrance by nightfall. Lu was worried about catching the Rugby World Cup final between England and South Africa the next day, but I persuaded her we could carry on to Almerimar and easily be there in time for the evening kick-off.

Skylax flew and we tied alongside the arrivals quay at 1400 the next day.


We stayed a week in Almerimar relaxing and provisioning. Lu got to see the South Africans beat England, only just, and we read English papers and had a few big English breakfasts. Yeah, it's that sort of place, but easy on the brain and relatively cheap to boot. A week here cost a tad more than one night in Palma. The supermarket here has most of the things you need to get for the transatlantic and at good prices. And it's only a short trolley trundle back to the boat. So hurrah for Almerimar.



We fuelled up in Almerimar and were soon sailing slowly down the coast. Gradually a nice norther kicked in and we arrived off Europa Point early in the morning. A couple of months ago a cargo ship was rammed off here and sank just off the point with about half of the hull out of the water (at an angle). At the time we didn't know what was going on with large ocean going tugs holding it in place and isolated danger buoys all around it. We worked our way around it and finally pottered up to Marina Bay at dawn.

Skylax en route to Almerimar. Wind is around 25 knots with a healthy cross-sea.

One hour in the western Mediterranean

1200-1300 local time

37 52'.57N 00 06'.25W to 37 49'.65N 00 02'.18W

Wind east 20-25 knots

Big cross-sea 2-2½ metres

1 small loggerhead turtle

Yacht off to port (it's been there all night)

2 small bits of polystyrene

1 plastic water bottle

1 plastic long line ball

1 plastic food container

1 small yellow bird (migrating?)

1 small strip of plastic

Clump of polypropylene rope

2 loggerhead turtles swimming together

1 blue plastic bag

Short bit of rope

1 plastic detergent bottle


It's a love-hate thing with Gibraltar. Apart from the smell of stale fish and chips and lots of punters off the cruise ships wandering up and down the high street, it's not the place it was to provision up and get spares and repairs. In fact the amount of space for visiting yachts is decreasing all the time with Ocean Village building waterside property at a great rate and plans for more. I wonder next time if we will even stop here.

29th Sept 2007

Yesterday we finally managed to snap the bit of elastic holding us to Levkas and sailed down towards Sivota for an early morning departure. Or so we thought. After the incident with the radar and the torn genny in the Ionian Regatta, Robby at CYS just had to trot out the old homily about things happening in threes. Sure enough when the wind went light off Nidri I turned the key to start the engine and nada, nothing happened. True to my missed vocation as a car thief I got hold of a screwdriver and with a lot of sparks connected the main power to the ignition solenoid wire and bingo, the engine started.

At the time we were drifting around in circles and a charter boat chugged up to us. 'Gee, what sort of boat is that', one of the Americans on board called out, 'she sure is beautiful'. Sure, I thought to myself, but she would be more beautiful if the bloody engine started.

We spent a quiet night in Vlikho, that hurricane hole of an anchorage down past a bottleneck entrance from Nidri. A still night, faint sounds from the tavernas ashore, a few dinghies puttering back and forth to boats, a caique out laying a bottom net, stars overhead. It feels sweetly nostalgic.

We were up at 0730 and had breakfast underway as we motored down the Meganisi Channel in the early morning calm. There is a light mist over the mainland hills. A few caiques are collecting their bottom nets and long-lines. It seems like the elastic tying us to Levkas might finally part.

Motoring out into the Ionian there is a two metre plus ground swell from the strong southerlies of the last few days. It makes for an uncomfortable start on 250 magnetic to Siracusa. The wind direction needle is describing 360 degree circles. 'Shall we head up a bit' Lu asks, 'get a bit of wind in the mainsail'. Nope, when in doubt head for where you are going.

By afternoon a solid NW 4-5 has kicked in and Skylax heels on a close reach at 7-8 knots. Mole, the autopilot, (well he lives in a dark damp place in the lazarette), is in charge. We are going to Sicily.

30th September 2007

One hour in the Ionian Sea

37deg41'.80N 017deg28'.13E to 37deg38'.09N 017deg21'.06E

1030 to 1130

Brown ground dove hitching a ride

Polystyrene slab

Blue plastic carrier bag

Small plastic bit

Ship on horizon to the S

Line of plastic detergent bottles (marking long-lines?)

Small bit of painted wood

At night a big old waning moon comes up illuminating the eastern horizon with a watery yellow colour. Starry sky. The NW wind lasted through the night until midday today, then slowly died and clocked N-NNE. Slow sailing and in the late afternoon we turn the engine on (with my magic jump lead wire Lu has found for me).


Slow sailing with the wind on the quarter. Then in the early morning it dies. Lu calls me up at 0900 to say the boat is caught on a line, maybe it is around the prop. We cut it loose and all is OK. Earlier she had negotiated a huge mess of floating net, probably part of a drift net that had been chopped up by a ship. Drift nets are a menace at night, not just to yachts, but to all the creatures that dwell in the sea: dolphins, small whales, sun fish, and of course the intended victims, tuna and swordfish. Several years ago the government banned them, but relented after the fishermen blockaded the Strait of Messina.

Several yachts in the distance look as if they headed for Malta. And with the fresh NW we have made good time and are heading for Licata.

Clocks back one hour.

Off Pozzalo we get a plastic bag around the prop. Out of gear. Little burst of astern. Lucky ... the bag pops out the back.

It is lumpy for the last 50 miles to Licata. We sail hard on the wind a bit, motor a bit, sail some more, and arrive just before midnight. We anchor in the basin on the east after some delicate work getting through the new sheltering breakwaters, part of which are underwater and marked only by small buoys. This is probably the last time we will anchor here as work is underway turning it into a huge 1500 berth marina with apartments and a 'nautical' village ashore. The brochure talks about the feng shui of the place, though I'm not sure what that means.

Anchored where the new marina will be in Licata


We get a good nights sleep and set off for Sciacca the next day, motoring much of the way in a thankfully flatter sea.

The south side of Sicily is not a bad way to come late in the season. The winds are generally OK and it is reasonably warm, at least T-shirts and shorts in the day time. The coast is beautiful, there are enough secure harbours and anchorages to tuck into, and the people are friendly souls.

we set off early for Trapani. A bit of motoring and a bit of sailing. I promise Lu a slap-up meal and a marina/pontoon berth in Trapani. As it turns out there are none available, or at least none that we could get. The Lega Navale YC has no-one on it and the only other pontoon with a berth is pretty exposed to all the wash from the fishing boats hurtling in and out. So we go on one of the nice new and free moorings outside the Lega Navale put down for the Americas Cup.
We are weather-bound here with strong NW and west winds for the best part of a week. Still Trapani has it's charms, a lot of them, and we eat out, wander around the streets, take a trip to Erice on the cable-car, and do some boat jobs. Lu fixes the solenoid connection so now wonder of wonders the engine starts with the key.
09 October 07

Just before we left Trapani a huge floating crane and all sorts of tugs, tenders and workboats were gathered into a corner of the harbour over several days. A big salvage operation was underway and we were curious as to what was on the bottom.

Turned out to be one of the hydrofoils that run between Trapani and the Egadi Islands just offshore. It had a big hole where the front starboard foil should be, another hole forward in the hull, and the superstructure on the top was badly crushed. I have no idea what happened but it must have been at speed for that sort of damage.

© Rod Heikell 2007
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