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21 June 2012 | Clyde Marina, Ardrossan
20 June 2012 | North Channel, Irish Sea
17 June 2012 | Bay of Biscay
15 June 2012 | Coruna Marina, La Coruna
14 June 2012 | Marina Coruna, La Coruna
13 June 2012 | North Atlantic Ocean
12 June 2012 | North Atlantic Ocean
09 June 2012 | North Atlantic Ocean
07 June 2012 | Ponta Delgaga
06 June 2012 | Ponta Delgada
04 June 2012 | Angra
02 June 2012 | Horta, Faial
01 June 2012 | Horta , Faial
28 May 2012 | North Atlantic Ocean
25 May 2012 | North Atlantic Ocean
24 May 2012 | North Atlantic Ocean
23 May 2012 | North Atlantic Ocean
22 May 2012 | North Atlantic Ocean
21 May 2012 | North Atlantic Ocean
20 May 2012 | North Atlantic Ocean

3 Oceans and 7 Seas

08 April 2008
Susan Mackay
On our first circumnavigation we visited 30 countries between October 2007 and April 2008 covering 24,241nm. We spent 163 nights at sea, 189 nights at anchor or on a mooring, and 174 nights in marinas (using the term loosely for many times we were alongside a quay or jetty without power or water).

This article is a summary of our trip which was published in the Clyde Cruising Club Journal 2008.

Yacht : Stella
Type: Amel Maramu Ketch 1988

It began with a bonfire on the beach. January 1st 2004 and David and I stood on Rhu spit armed with a can of petrol. We cast our eye furtively around and satisfied that we were not going to become a public spectacle laid waste to the vestments of our working lives, namely one of David's business suits and my nurse's dress. The wind, which characteristically was blowing a "hoolie" made short shrift of the soggy bundle lying at our feet and within minutes of the match being struck and tossed, our past was enveloped in a ball of flame and history. Where do we go from here? We wanted adventure. Having been fortunate enough to be able to take early retirement we hoped we could spread our wings and set sail in our much loved cruising yacht, Stella, an Amel Maramu 13.8metre ketch. The short term plan...... to cruise down the west coast of Ireland and then across to the English south coast arriving in Torquay for July where we had signed up for the Biscay Triangle, a cruise in company organized by Blue Water Rally. This would we felt get us across the Bay of Biscay in the company of other like minded intrepid voyagers, (we had never sailed south of the Mull of Kintyre, nor ever done a night passage at that point in time). After that we did not know. Perhaps we would enter the Mediterranean, a sortie across to the Canaries.....if we dared. One step at a time, we would wait and see. Now we had all the time in the world and the world was there waiting......
We had bought Stella in 2001, looking for a boat that would look after us out on the open sea. (Commodore Jim gave the thumbs up when we flew him out to La Grande Motte on the French south coast for her survey and Bryan Collins (MD of Silvers Marine), endorsed his approval as a good sea going yacht.) Never having sailed out of sight of land up till then, we wanted a boat that was robust, seaworthy and comfortable. Stella seemed to fit the bill and 6 years and 30,000nm later she has lived up to all our expectations and more. The next four years were spent in preparation for long term liveaboard cruising. We installed a holding tank, watermaker, SSB radio, Navtex, EPIRB, replaced the rigging, fitted a new set of wireless instruments, added a kedge and second bower anchor and increased our chain to 100 meters, (a wind generator and solar panels were already fitted to the boat), the list goes on and on and so the bills became larger and larger......
May 2005 and we cast off our lines and our cares from the pontoon at Rhu Marina. We were full of hope, desire and expectation. We were not to be disappointed. Over the course of the next ten weeks we sailed down the Atlantic west and south west coast of Ireland, enjoying a reunion at Kinsale with Evelyn and Harry McDermid (Ellida), crossing to the Isles of Scilly, to meet up with Marian and Barrie Waugh (Zubenubi), both of whom were participating in the CCC cruise in company to Ireland that year. Finally we day sailed along the south coast of England, arriving in time for the start of the Biscay Triangle. That trip lasting three weeks, Torquay to La Coruna to La Trinite was for us a great success, a real moral booster and the beginnings of things to come. David was hatching a longer term plan....Unbeknown to me he had talked of a circumnavigation with other Biscay triangle crews. Flushed with the success of our Biscay crossing why could we not push our boundaries that little bit more. A January visit to the London boat show, an encouraging chat with Peter Seymour of Blue Water Rallies decided it. Our entry form was completed, the deposit paid, we were going to sail around the world. I think that almost up to the last minute I would have welcomed any excuse to pull out, coward that I am, but David was undaunted. The fleet departed Gibraltar, October 2005, twenty five boats under nine different ensigns. An eclectic mix, ranging in size from a Hallberg Rassy 35 to a Garcia 62, Stella was very much in the middle range and at 19 years, the oldest. Hallberg Rassy had captured the market with 7 of their number. There were three catamarans, interestingly, all with French speaking skippers. Gipsy Moth 1V came along too. It was her second circumnavigation and perhaps a reluctant one at that for she grounded at least a couple of times on the trip, and was all but lost on a reef in Rangiroa in the Tuamotos, but for a huge and expensive rescue operation by the French Navy. We could not help but wonder if Sir Francis had had a divine hand in it, she was after all in his own words, "a pig to sail". We were treated to a real Scottish farewell, Elspeth and Martin Yuill (Pondskater) came to see us off, a giant Saltire waving from the top of the headland at Europa Point, whilst the music of bagpipes blared from cockpit speakers. It was a poignant moment. We were on our way..... there was no turning back.
Apart from the advantage of the many supported stopovers, the biggest benefit to us of being part of the Blue Water Rally was the daily radio net that kept us all in touch with one another. Within one day out of sight of land you are also out of sight of any other boat in the fleet. The ocean has a vastness to it that you can only really appreciate when you have a 3000nm passage to undertake and are at sea for a minimum of three weeks. Every day a "net controller" came over on the SSB airwaves to take our position reports, in addition to any adverse weather or problems within our small group and it was this spirit of camaraderie which was to endure throughout our entire voyage. As the old adage goes, "a problem shared is a problem solved". On the opening leg to the Canaries, strong winds and big swells highlighted all the teething problems, mainly inadequate or inappropriate stowage and we spent the time in Tenerife ironing out the problems, and in major provisioning for the next leg. More CCC friends, Dot and Bryan Collins (Caitlin of Argyll) turned up to wish us well. We battened down the hatches and departed Tenerife. We were sorely tested on the Atlantic crossing. One week out from Tenerife, tropical storm Delta snaked its threatening way towards the fleet. "Get south", said Stokey Woodall, who was in constant touch with the rally directors at this point, "down to 150 S", and so we did. Half the fleet diverted to the Cape Verde Islands while waiting for it to pass through. The rest of us carried on and became known as the "Corgies", the "carry on regardless group". Twenty three days later we made landfall in Antigua where we partied, and did our utmost to recharge our batteries. Christmas and New Year were spent recovering and relaxing in Antigua before cruising down the Caribbean chain of islands. To our surprise and dismay, four rally yachts decided not to continue with the voyage. This was announced at a "get together" dinner in St Lucia, and became popularly known as the "last supper". We cleared out of the Caribbean at Union Island and headed for Bonaire, part of Dutch Antilles. It was then that we learned of the sinking of one of our group, a Bowman 40, manned by a French crew. Off Los Roques, reef strewn islands opposite the north Venezuelan coast, she had left at night and was holed when she foundered on a reef. Thankfully all aboard managed to scramble ashore very shocked but unharmed. Within 24 hours amazingly the boat had been completely stripped out including the engine! (Happily we have since heard that Jacques and Catherine have bought another boat and are setting off once more on the next Blue Water Rally.) With six boats now having pulled out, our group was much depleted but others joined us in the Caribbean, Australia and Thailand. Leaving Bonaire, we once again experienced strong winds and sizeable seas but still Stella took it all in her stride. Many a time I had cause to be grateful for her deep safe centre cockpit and electric furling main and genoa. Cruising around the San Blas islands, lying east of Panama, gave us our first real taste of tropical island paradise and provided a fascinating insight into the lives of the Kuna Indians.
Now we had come to the real turning point of our circumnavigation, the transit through the Panama Canal and onwards into the Pacific Ocean. There was no going back. Passing under the Bridge of the Americas was certainly one of the great highlights of our trip. It is a point of no return for with an easterly current and a prevailing easterly wind why would you ever want to sail in an easterly direction. After a brief stopover in the Las Perlas Islands, one week later we arrived in the Galapagos Islands, having dutifully paying homage to good old King Neptune as we crossed the Equator on the way. The Galapagos or "enchanted" isles as they are otherwise known, were extraordinary for their unique climate for they lie almost on the Equator at 0.430 S, their abundant and varied wildlife unmatched in any other part of the world. As the Ecuadorian government imposes very strict regulations on visiting, the best way to see them is by local cruise boat so we swapped sails for power for a four day boat trip around the islands where we walked amongst blue footed boobies, swam with the sea lions, idly strolled by iguanas spread eagled on the rocks, marveled at the giant turtles which can live for up to 300 years, witnessed whales within feet of our boat. A water wild life park except we were the ones to be kept within limits and boundaries. This was their natural habitat and we were very much the intruders, exactly as it should be. It was memorable. After another major ocean crossing of 3,000nm as the crow flies, the longest of this circumnavigation, but aided with an average one knot of favourable current, our next landfall was the dramatic French Marquesas Islands. The scenery was simply breathtaking. Sitting right out there in the middle of the Pacific Ocean these islands were wonderfully lush, mountainous...... completely exotic. It was what we had sailed there to see. Our diet, now rich in exotic tropical fruits and vegetables, consisted of pineapples, papayas, mangoes, giant pamplemousse, breadfruit and sweet potato to name but a very few. We had never been healthier. On to the Tuamotos, the contrast could not have been more different. This group of atolls are so flat that you would certainly not want to make a landfall at night for they are only a few feet above sea level, and the land yields nothing but coconuts. It is predicted that these islands will disappear in years to come. This was I think our finest true taste of paradise, palms trees swaying in the wind, turquoise water, coral reefs that we had to enter via a "passé". Eyeball navigation was an absolute essential especially as by this time our laptop was playing up and we could no longer rely on electronic navigation. Our next landfall was noisy, expensive, bustling Tahiti. However we were warmly welcomed with garlands of flowers and treated to traditional local dancing. With grass skirts, coconut shell tops, hips a-swaying and wonderful was all real "south seas" stuff. With its up market marina and hypermarket, we realised we had once again rejoined civilization. But not for long, for after meandering through the other islands which make up French Polynesia, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Bora Bora, and after another 1,000nm westbound passage, we came to Niue, a tiny island devastated by a 2004 cyclone but surviving just, and as isolated from the rest of the world as one could imagine. To our amusement and delight we became members of the yacht club. A yacht club with a difference..... no premises and no yachts, it was a virtual yacht club with only a web site. On to Tonga.....beautiful islands, handsome proud people, and unfortunately for us, terrible, terrible weather. Leaving in a gale and still without our electronic charts, we had to go down to 19011' S in order to come up safely through the Fijian archipelago. Tempting though it was it is absolutely forbidden to anchor, let alone land in the southern Lau group without special permission from the Fijian government, which is such a shame for the islands looked lush and tempting and having sailed off the west coast of Scotland for many years in complete freedom it is hard not to be able to explore ashore. But rules are rules and it does not do to flout them especially when in a foreign land. Having safely arrived in Savu Savu, we were now bound towards Musket Cove our final destination in Fiji and jumping off point for Vanuatu. This presented a real challenge to us as it involved sailing over the course of four days, inside one of the longest reefs in the world. It needed four pairs of eyes and with the help of my twin brother Peter and his friend Sandy who had joined us here for the leg to Australia, Stella came safely through. Vanuatu, known before independence as the "New Hebrides" a name given to them by Captain Cook as they reminded him of the "Hebrides" of Scotland was our next stopover and we did not do these lovely islands nearly enough justice, (for many they were a favourite). Their culture was fascinating, the people extremely friendly, the vegetation very lush. In between partying and sightseeing, we rested up, and once more did a major provisioning for the final stage of our Pacific crossing to Cairns. Peter was a complete non sailor and Sandy's experience amounted to cruising around the islands of Vancouver in his weekend boat. We were in consistently strong force six to seven headwinds for the ten day, 1000nm crossing, and they both had to overcome their sea sickness. Describing it "like being in a washing machine on top of a mechanical bull" the boys felt that their experience would be a dinner party conversation piece for quite some time to come. We were so proud of them. We arrived in a wonderful dawn to see the shores of another great continent, Australia. Another great landmark had been reached.
Now we had the luxury of a six week break, so we took the opportunity to tour around, visiting Brisbane, driving down the Gold Coast to Sydney which we explored over the course of a week, particularly enjoying a visit to the city's National Maritime Museum, and a concert in the opera house. Back on board Stella once again we continued north, and suddenly found ourselves next to an ill fated boat in Port Douglas, our first destination after leaving Cairns. Croc 1 was Steve Irwin's boat and we moored alongside completely ignorant as to the terrible tragedy which had taken place the previous day. The 1280nm passage north inside the barrier reef to Darwin remains as one of the most memorable of the whole trip, and this leg we shared with Marian, a Dutch friend who had lived in Australia for many years. Day after day the winds blew with consistent strength and with sparkling flat seas Stella and crew were in their element as we frequently touched eight knots under genoa and mizzen alone. The scenery changed on a daily basis, and once north of Cooktown, it was as remote as one could wish for, with only the occasional spire of smoke coming from an aboriginal settlement to remind one that life did exist on this vast stretch of north Australian coastline. Rounding the most northerly point at Cape York, was not only another great landmark for us and Stella but an absolute highlight, the sail through the Albany Passage exhilarating, as Stella raced through with 30knots of wind, and the tide sweeping her along at over 10knots. Looking at Marian, I watched her wipe a tear from her eye and felt exactly the same sentiment. We were now over halfway around the world. Darwin, in complete contrast to Cairns was very hot and humid and it would remain thus from that point on until we entered the Red Sea. There we took advantage of the superb supermarket shopping as it would be some time before it would be so good again. Leaving Darwin we left civilization as quickly as we had entered it, for within 24 hours we arrived in Kupang, on the island of Timor, the entry port for Indonesia. Very much a third world country we again found the people warm, friendly and with great generosity. Indonesia was a huge revelation. If ever there was a need, opportunity to write a pilot book then this was it. I could have spent at least two years happily cruising around this most interesting and varied archipelago. It was fascinating, quite fabulous. We crossed "the line" for a second time in company with three other rally yachts and I wrote a poem to celebrate the event. Now we were in what is popularly known as the "Far East". It conjures up all sorts of images, but Singapore is as glitzy, cosmopolitan and westernized a place as you are ever likely to find. Now the heat was intense, the humidity worse. We suffocated in the heat of our cabin, sweltered in its streets, only enjoying short lived respite in the cool air conditioning of its shopping malls. On through Malaysia, taking time out for three day's sight seeing in Kuala Lumpur, and a brief stopover on the island of Langkawi, we arrived in Phuket for our second Christmas of the rally. A week's free cruising around the stunning offshore islands of peninsular Thailand, it was heartening to see how well the people had recovered from the 2004 tsunami and it was business as usual on Phi Phi Don which had been devastated. (The previous rally was there when it struck). We had now sailed over 18,500nm. A champagne party aboard a Catana 47 catarmaran, Biotrek, saw in the New Year, with a fantastic firework display from Patong beach to go with it. The following day we set sail for Sri Lanka. Unlike Phuket, they were still struggling to recover after the tsunami, but the place and the people of Sri Lanka captured our hearts. The country is so very beautiful, the people wonderfully welcoming, they could not do enough for you. Returning from a five day tour we prepared for Burn's night and clung to tradition, eating haggis, neaps and tatties, toasting the Bard with whisky and rounding it all off with a ceilidh. David addressed the haggis, and I replied to the toast to the lassies. It was a great night. And now we headed on out into our last and final ocean, the Indian Ocean, towards the Maldives. We anchored off an idyllic coral atoll, experiencing our last taste of desert island dreams, and this provided us with a welcome respite before what was undoubtedly the most stressful and arduous leg of the entire trip, the passage through the Gulf of Aden and the hard slog up the Red Sea. This took the form of a convoy and although difficult to achieve, it did furnish us with the security of other yachts during our transit through pirate waters. We were nearly home and dry, but not quite. An attempted attack just half a day and 30nm away from the port of Djibouti saw our little group put the rally safety tactics into real practice. It was a real adrenaline moment. The Red Sea passage will remain with us not only for the short steep seas against winds that sweep down from the north but also because Stella's engine finally screamed enough as the fresh water pump failed. Not having a spare on board, we gratefully accepted a tow for several days from another rally yacht (Saoirse K). Scotland is a long way to go to collect a spare but we also welcomed the opportunity to see our first grandchild for the first time, born one week earlier. Back in Egypt and with Stella's engine once more operational we returned to head northwards and to meet and welcome more CCC friends Marian and Barrie Waugh. The ancient antiquities of Egypt offered some of the best sightseeing ever, and included a one day visit to Luxor and a three day visit to Cairo, not to be missed and a perfect way to pass the time while we awaited the go ahead for our transit through the Suez Canal. Out through Suez, and a last minute diversion due to contrary winds found our small group heading towards Israel, definitely not on the rally agenda. Another courtesy flag was hastily concocted and added to our collection. Waiting for a weather window for the last and final phase of our voyage, we took the opportunity to visit the Dead Sea, sampling a swim in its extraordinary strong saline waters. In a race against time to get Marian and Barrie to Crete to catch a flight home, (they had already had to rebook due to our diversion to Israel) we set off towards our final destination of Crete. The engine seemed to be on its last legs as it kept skipping a beat, but it would appear it was merely a protest at having to work so hard for it gave no further problems thereafter. (Much of the second half of our voyage was windless and we motored practically all the way from Darwin to Thailand!) The reality was however, that we were given dirty fuel in Port Suez. Our arrival in Crete was celebrated by sharing a glass or two of bubbly with Marian and Barrie. And suddenly it was all over. It goes without saying that the partying that followed was rather riotous and it took some time for it to sink in that our momentous voyage was finally at an end.

What a life enhancing experience it turned out to be. Thirty countries visited in 17 months, which included 24 supported stopovers. If anything summed up what the rally was all about then it was the enduring friendships between the boats and their crews that developed en route, particularly that between Pytheas flying a Greek ensign and Anouk flying his Turkish one. Takis and Ekram and their respective partners formed a unique and close bond. Friends and family came and went. Our youngest son Scott came to Antigua for Christmas to play a round of golf with his father. We flew home from Gibraltar just before leaving, for the wedding of our son Colin to Nicola. They then spent some time with us in French Polynesia. By the time we had completed the voyage, we were grandparents to their baby daughter Hannah. It was a great joy to me that my twin brother, Peter, a complete non sailor braved the leg from Vanuatu to Cairns in Australia, a challenging ten day passage known for its strong winds. And Marian, our lovely Dutch lady who accompanied up through the Great Barrier Reef. She had had an accident on board their own yacht leaving Gibraltar which had forced them to abandon their voyage early on, unable to continue with the rest of us. Sadly due to illness, Evelyn and Harry could not share our journey from Singapore to Phuket. Marian and Barrie, undertook probably the least appealing leg of the trip. No downwind sailing for them, balmy ocean breezes at our back, but a bumpy ride in the chilly early spring winds of the Mediterranean. Yes, at times it was tough, tiring, testing but we were so lucky. We had the health, the means, the time, the courage and the desire to do this trip. During the course of our voyage we took anti-malarials for the Panama Canal, Vanuatu and Djibouti. Happily no one contracted malaria as one person did on the previous rally. Our health stayed with us and apart from my catching a "flu" type virus on two occasions we had never been fitter or stronger. Obviously the life agreed with us. We ate fresh food all the way round, only opening tins where the weather dictated against spending time in the galley. To my amazement, my seasickness cured itself, the Stugeron tablets, crystallized ginger and sea bands long since forgotten and redundant.

Going round the world on a sailing yacht is the best history and geography lesson one could ever wish for and so much more fun to be "out in the field" than in the classroom. I had no knowledge of the San Blas Islands to the south west of the Panama Canal, the haunting Marquesas Islands right out there in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Tuamotos archipelago which one day will be no more, Niue, the tiny windswept volcanic island heavily subsidized by the New Zealand government, and the Vanuatu group, a great favourite of those seeking remoteness from today's civilization and a genuine desire to step back in time.
If ever tributes were to be paid, it would be to two yacht master skippers. Liam Carver brought me back from the brink. My earliest memories of sailing on the Clyde in the mid-eighties were so nearly my last. Cold, wet and miserable is the only way I could describe it, but after a week's sailing course out of Craobh Haven Marina in Liam's Westerly Storm 33, (Storm Venti), it sowed the seed to change my life. A year later I went back for more and realized that here was something that not only I could share with David but I actually enjoyed it. Stokey Woodall was my other mentor. We undertook our first ever ocean passage aboard a Gulfstar 52 from the Azores to Lagos in Portugal, sailing the legendary "Stokey's Trench", just to see if we liked it, but more perhaps to see it we could cope with sailing on the ocean on our own boat. In spite of feeling very seasick for almost the entire passage, sleep evading me most of the time through what was more likely anxiety and stress, I proved to myself and more importantly to David that I could after all "stay the course". And since then we have never looked back. Our choice of boat was.....Stella. She looked to us to be immensely strong for a GRP hull. At the time we knew nothing about these French built boats but have subsequently found that they are well proven seagoing yachts. The fact that her 15 tons can be lifted by four anchor points at deck level in her hull proves testimony to her strength. Her unique deep and safe cockpit kept us dry in all but the worst tropical squalls. Ok, she may not be a party boat and we cannot hold ceilidhs in her cockpit but our safely and security never felt threatened. Never could I have imagined in my wildest dreams of what we were to achieve. Of course nowadays you can so easily get to visit any part of the world, but to do it on your own yacht under your own command is something I do not think can ever be equaled in achievement, satisfaction and just sheer adventure. I would recommend it to anyone. But it does take stamina, determination and courage. I will admit to the first two but had to look to my skipper and husband for the third. All things are possible but to that end you have to make it happen. David made it happen for us. We followed our dream..... we sailed round the world.

Click to see more photos
Vessel Name: VOYAGEUR
Vessel Make/Model: Amel Super Maramu 2000
Hailing Port: Rhu, Scotland
Crew: Susan and David Mackay
David first learned to sail on a Loch Fyne day boat out of Helensburgh Sailing Club on the River Clyde in his mid twenties. With the arrival of a family he did not do any more, until in 1984 we bought our first boat, “The Golden Soak”, a Matilda 20. [...]

Our motto:Carpe Diem

Who: Susan and David Mackay
Port: Rhu, Scotland