Time Bandit

It’s back to the Caribbean leaving a chilly USA east coast for the winter months in the sun.

22 April 2022
16 April 2022 | There Goes The Neighbourhood
06 April 2022
02 April 2022
30 March 2022 | V & A Marina, Cape Town
19 March 2022 | Mid Karoo
19 March 2022 | Mid Karoo
15 March 2022 | Monique & Bastiaan Above Hout Bay.
04 March 2022
21 February 2022
20 February 2022 | The Anchorage, Witsand, Western Cape
07 February 2022 | B&B Tulbagh
31 January 2022
24 January 2022 | Orange River, Augrabies National Park
20 January 2022
15 January 2022
31 December 2021
28 December 2021
25 December 2021

Flat Earthers

12 May 2024
Stuart Letton
Seventies music. You can't beat it.

The one and only problem I have with the Seventies is that every time I hear a Golden Oldie on the radio, "That was Hotel California from 1977" I think that was just few years ago. I then do the math and am once again shocked that it is somewhat longer ago than I thought and the reality is that while my head still thinks I'm in my twenties, it's supporting structure and mechanisms however are present day vintage.

This problem sometime gets us in trouble. For instance, our antics over the last two weeks......

Woaaahhhhh. Whoops. Splash. And there we were. In the water along with the turtles, looking at the upside-down hull of an RS something or other. " Not been here for a long time," I thought.

To her credit, Anne's first thought was, "I've lost my hat."

"You dipstick" would have been both understandable and excusable as I'd made a complete pig's ear of what should have been a highly impressive manoeuvre intended to clearly demonstrate that clearly showed our dinghy racing pedigree, executed in front of the cheering crowds thronging the beach.

First, the excuses! It was gusty, and we were racing against kids several decades younger, and the red mist trumped experience, and I blew it, trying to force a gybe when it wasn't ready.

Nonetheless, we clawed our way back to third in the Antigua Race Week Fun Day winning a bottle of rum, so it wasn't all bad.

As you might have read, earlier in the week, along with two other Outremer 51's we formed a mini fleet and did the Round Antigua Race. A. We made a bad start as in the years I've been away they've changed from 10-5-GO to 5-1-GO. It was a real shame I was going the wrong way at what turned out to be the 1 and not the five minute gun.

We fought hard doing as many sail changes as any race crew would do. Slight bear away at the windward mark; Code 0 up. Five miles on, bear off a tad more. Code 0 down. Code D up. Bottom mark. Code D down, Solent back out. Rest. Or more accurately, collapse in a heap.

All this nonsense in a "let's just do it for fun" race, us just two up. The other two boats had crowds on board. I've more entirely plausible excuses why we didn't win but I won't list them here. However, like the dinghy race, we clawed our way back to a podium position. If they'd invited us up on it that is.

Despite having exhausted ourselves, when we should have been sitting back with a digestive biscuit and a cup of tea, we dinghied ashore to the prize giving and cheap rum punches. While we were swopping excuses with the other crews another Scottish yottie, Ian Galbraith, hove into view. Some readers might remember Ian from Inverkip, the Scottish Series at Tarbert or cruising Southern Ireland. We first met Ian in the late mid to late seventies when we raced against him during the Scottish Series, he in JigSaw, and us in Smarty Pants.

Ian was in town to do something like his twenty fifth Antigua Race Week and kindly offered us a spot on the rail for the week. It was just like the Scottish Series but with sunburn.sunburn.

Sheets in, sheets out and ready about. Pole up, pole down. Preventer on. Preventer off. And all of it on a boat that was, as my sister-in-law would say was decidedly "slopey, slopey". Jeez. Tiring stuff climbing around at thirty degrees and two things we now know for certain, A) it's all much easier when you're in your youth and B) there's a lot to be said for sailing on a flat earth boat.

Trust me.

Off to Bermuda next southerly. Our tracker should be working at https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/TimeBandit/

The Old Magic

04 May 2024
Stuart Letton
We have a hurricane exclusion paragraph in our insurance policy, which requires us to be either south of 9 degrees, which means hot, humid and sticky. This latitude includes the delights of being up a muddy river in Guatemala or perhaps in the murder capital of the Caribbean, Trinidad. The latter is where most cruisers go to lay up their boats. Online, in the security forums it doesn't get a good rap.

"Trinidad and Tobago is a country definitely not known for safety, and you should take into consideration both the high rate of petty crime as well as the high murder rate in this country. Tourists are filled with disturbing stories from Trinidad and Tobago, but if you take all precautionary measures, you might just have a good time."


My cousin, who's married to a Trinidadian, simply refuses to go there.

Given all that, we prefer the alternative, which is to get north of 35 degrees. Unfortunately, it's well north of here. Fortunately, it has loads of places we quite like: Beaufort, Norfolk, New York, New England and such like. It's just a shame it's so far away.

So, lacking an alternative, and with 1700 miles to cover by the end of May, it was time to get pressing on. Right up until we got a message last week asking if we fancied making up an Outremer 51 class for the Round Antigua Race.

Now, racing is in our blood. Cut us through and, like seaside rock, you'll find more decades of racing than we'd like to admit to.

However, as I've learned from experience, keelboat racing is something that's best done in other people's boats. This extract from my "Forthcoming Book"....

"We were still tied to our desks, having started a business a few years after I'd had another of these "great ideas at the time" moments. Racing was in our blood, and a performance keelboat was at the front of our.....well, my mind. At the time, Jeanneau had just brought out their Sunfast 3700 something-or-other. Then, there was also the J-Boats, one of which I'd had an absolute blast on racing in the Caribbean with a bunch of guys from work, but that's another story and one probably best left untold to protect the guilty. What happened in Bombas stays in Bombas.

So, the search got started. Endless hours spent on the Internet, most of them looking at boats for sale. Not long afterwards, I joined one of my mates, Dougie, who will appear shortly, to crew in the winter weekend race series on the Clyde at Inverkip. "Perfect", I thought. "a great chance to see what's happening in the local race fleet these days". So, the following weekend, I drove down to Inverkip, joined the boat and headed out towards the start line.

Mayhem. Complete and utter mayhem. Before the ten-minute gun had gone, I watched one boat T-bone another. The noise of the crash, not to mention the shouting, was quite disturbing. And just a few minutes later, at the start, another splintering crash. Two boats, both trying to fit into a bit of water, only big enough for one, both screaming that they had RIGHTS!!! At a mark rounding a short while later, some Muppet who hadn't the vaguest clue about the racing rules barged in at a mark and crashed into the right-of-way boat, all the while shouting abuse at the other poor dumbfounded owner who was staring like a startled rabbit at his newly bent toe rail. I can tell you, it didn't take a genius to appreciate that while we'd been away from the race scene, keelboat racing had gone to the dogs. Too many folks with "all the gear and no idea" charging about in expensive, overpowered forty-plus foot yachts, clueless, full of testosterone and well insured. It wasn't for me. No way on this earth was I going to buy a new boat and join that zoo and have some dipstick splinter, my newly acquired fibreglass. It, therefore, made it a worthwhile weekend, firstly helping sort out my thoughts on what type of boat to get. Secondly, we got to see some yachting dodgems, which today would be classic YouTube "CRAZY YACHT CRASH MOMENTS!!!!"

And so, when the suggestion arrived that we get back on the race track, we were initially sceptical. We slept on it, checked with the insurance company and ultimately decided to give it a whirl. We met with the other two boats and agreed it was all just for fun, nothing serious, just a chance to see how the boats measured up against each other, and we'd see the island's east side.

We'd keep well clear and basically just shadow the other guys.

Right up until the first gun when, the old habits and adrenaline kicked in. It's just a shame. I thought the gun I heard was the five-minute when it was in fact the one minute.

You can't win them all.


25 April 2024
Stuart Letton
As usual, we’re “pressing on”, rushing around, getting up at the crack of dawn, literally on some days and that’s just after five, a truly ungodly hour, to thrash upwind to the next island up the eastern Caribbean chain. We’re on a mission……the grand winkies are coming to see us in Antigua and we need to get there on time.

Consequently, we’ve scooted through Grenada, Carriacou, Union, Tobago Cays, Mayreau etc…. ticking them off one by one, day in day out l, stopping only to hand over cash to assorted customs and immigration people, all to the point we lose track of exactly where we are.

Not only do we seldom know what day it is, often we don’t even know where we are.

A very few of you might have heard the comedy sketch from long ago in pre-PC times, in which the Lone Ranger says to Tonto, “Hey Tonto. Ride into town and get the sheriff. Tonto replies, “Go to hell. Every time I go into town, I get the s*%t kicked out of me.”

Well, almost as long ago, I used to have the pleasure of looking after the Corporation’s critical French account.

“Hey Stuart. Don’t you need to get over to Paris to sort out ….” whatever trivia had put their noses out of joint.

“Go to hell. Every time I go to Paris, I get the s*%t kicked out of me.”

That was my life for a few years, leaving a lasting impression. Auld Alliance? You know where you can shove that.

Well, arriving on the last but one island, as usual, not entirely sure where we were, nor caring, as long as it was further north and closer to Antigua, we popped into a local hostelry for a hot beverage.

“Hi. Can you do us a coffee?”

“Non, zees is a restaurant”.

Now, you have to say that “non” with a de Gaulle style emphasis, “nonnnne” elongating the …ong with a hefty touch of attitude.

“Aaahh”. I thought. “ We’re in France”.

Looking around at the masses of empty tables, I was about to give the poison witch a lecture on the benefits of both offering basic customer service and the concept of making a quick profit from the massive margin of four, five euro coffees but found myself hauled by the neck out into the street before I caused an international incident.

Gotta love the French …… especially as we have a few onboard tonight as we consider joining other Outremers in the Round Antigua Race.

Oh, La La.

Cruising On A Budget

03 April 2024
Stuart Letton
Nearly fifteen years ago now we used to browse the bookshelves of Largs Chandlers, looking for pearls of wisdom that might help us in our anticipated cruising lifestyle, even though, at the time, it was still on a distant horizon as we were still “working class”. Fortunately, we had been slowly getting prepared and doing the essential preparation as events conspired to precipitate an earlier than anticipated transition from working class to retired class, (for more details, see my Forthcoming Book, which, as some readers will know, has been forthcoming for many years).

One book I recall, was something like Cruising On A Budget, brackets You Really Can Cruise The World On Just Twenty Quid!

Real life experience proved that this concept was a complete and utter daydream. We bought a shackle yesterday, the previous one having got bent out of shape and rendered useless. $36 of your American dollars. Just checking in to St Vincent and the Grenadines, two hundred and fifty of your Eastern Caribbean dollars.

Nonetheless, there do appear to be a number of people trying to live up to the twenty quid ethic. I mean, just this morning, here in the anchorage in Bequia, there’s a poor girl on the foredeck of the boat anchored just behind us who can’t even afford the top half of her bikini. More worryingly, there’s a silver bearded old guy anchored to port who can’t even afford the bottom half.


What Would Grandad Think?

24 March 2024
Stuart Letton
We continue faking it through Patagonia, dressing in our bike jeans to go for a walk on the beach, chatting up real high latitude cruisers and “Cape Horners” then …… there’s these wild horses.

Faking It

04 March 2024
Stuart Letton
"Where are you going now? We'll be late." said she, exasperated.

"I'm going out to the garage" came back the reply from Mr Grumpy.

"Whatever for?"

"My jacket."

"Your jacket's right here at the front door."

"No, I want my Musto jacket."

"For heaven's sake, it's the boat show we're going to, not the Fastnet."

Sound familiar?

If you've ever been to a boat show, I'm sure you'll have recognised the fact that many attendees wear what you might call, "industry relevant clothing." Boat show folk wear their old Mustos and Henri Lloyds. Agricultural Show visitors wear their Barbours and Hunter wellies. Motorcyclists wear their Ducati leathers or BMW Adventure jackets.

Well, we're feeling a bit like that just now, walking around the streets and the decks of assorted ferries and "expedition" cruise ships in our motorcycle gear when said bike is tucked up in storage a thousand miles away. Top Tip: don't go on an eight mile hike wearing your three layer, Kevlar lined, motorcycle jeans just because it looked a bit cloudy. Phew. Even my knees were perspiring.

When we stroll past bikers all togged up in our gear, whether on the ferry or on the street, we can exchange a knowing nod and fake it as rufty, tufty bikers. Not that we've much choice as it's about all the clothes we've got. That and it makes me feel a bit less like I'm on a Wallace Arnold tour. The funny thing is, our fellow travellers aren't of that genre. Half of them are "kids" half our age, all long hair, tattoos and piercings who should really be at work, paying taxes to fund the pensions and health costs of folk like us. We don't think we like them.

Then, there's the other half. They're more our age, out blowing the kids inheritance, seeing the world, but annoyingly look twice as fit as we do. Two of them are wearing Ironman T-shirts. We really don't like them.

Our plan for South America always included a ferry trip as part of our recce to see if bringing Time Bandit, our lightweight, performance, cruising catamaran down here to the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties was entirely sensible.

Having been brought up in and around the River Clyde, ferries and ferry trips are nothing new. On our summer holiday to Arran we'd have a mini cruise on the Glen Sannox car ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick feeding the seagulls with stale bread we'd collect in the week or so before heading off on the big trip.

In all these trips, I don't ever recall having a safety briefing. However, aboard the Navimag, we were all summoned to the restaurant where the captain gave us his safety talk.

"Good morning" he says, "Firstly, this is a three day trip. On the first day get you get used to the ship. On the second day you get sea sick and on the third you recover. And' he stressed, "No Jack and Rose at the bow a la Titanic and finally, if you see me with a lifejacket on and running; follow me."

As always, if there's nothing on the tele, this might help pass a few minutes.......

The Vomit Comet

14 February 2024
Stuart Letton
Many, many years ago, decades in fact, we went on a cross (English) channel, pre-Christmas trip to load up on cheap French booze.

The trip was organised by Anne's work and we left in a tourist coach before dawn on a cold, grey and winter's morning from Slough, a picturesque fishing village about thirty miles west of London. We left early in order to catch the morning ferry giving enough time for a lunch of langoustine and frites plus load up on booze.

Two hours or so later we arrived at Dover ferry terminal to be told all ferries were cancelled owing to high seas and gale force winds......... all ferries that is, other than ours.

Around eleven, our little ferry boldly thrust its way onto the dock and started unloading.

First there was the Christmas tree truck. It was pulled out on its side in a shower of sparks, dragging hundreds of trees in the ramp in its wake. Once these had been swept away, the totally flattened Rover 2000 that the truck landed on was dragged out.

This somewhat alarming sight went on for about an hour until, decks cleared, we were gaily ushered on board.

Now, as it was lunchtime and few had eaten since the crack of dawn, the majority headed straight for the cafeteria where they stuffed Full English, toast, tea and coffee down their gobs before heading for the duty free. As I recall, a jolly nice Full English it was .....but then, I don't suffer from sea sickness.

No sooner had we hit the first swells outside the harbour than most everyone turned green and started filling their plastic Duty Free carrier bags with their Full English.

And so, here we are in Puerto Montt, sat in the cafeteria of the good ship, Esperanza, still tied to the dock, everyone stuffing roast chicken and veg down their throats and, just around the corner is the Pacific Ocean and the Roaring Forties where yesterday it was blowing fifty knots!

This is going to be interesting.

Patagonia Eps 1

01 February 2024
Stuart Letton
Some blog followers will know we quite like hooning around on motorcycles when we get the chance.

Our motorcycle tours generally happen during the hurricane or cyclone enforced off-seasons although for nine months from November '21 through until August '22 we had an epic time riding over 17,000 kilometres around South and Southern Africa, much of it off-road......and so the seed was sown.

Over the course of the one hundred and eighty seven nights we spent at anchor last autumn, the idea slowly germinated.

One hundred and eighty seven nights. That's a lot of guitar practice but more honestly, a lot of YouTube. And it's surprising what you can find down that Internet worm hole. Take your choice from a selection of wars, the antics of slippery politicians and, fortunately, sailing channels of people cruising the Beagle Channel and off-road motorcycle touring.

We have always toyed with the idea of sailing way down south to penguin land but, not only is it a long way, but every night, having found a sheltered but totally desolate, rocky and kelp strewn caleta, we'd have to launch the dinghy and one of us, probably Anne, row ashore to tie up the boat in a spiders web of rope. All while it's blowing seventy knots. Not many peoples idea of fun, least of all ours.

After scary nights in these caletas we'd no doubt arrive in one of the few ports down there where we'd be anchoring or rafting our beautiful, racy, plastic fantastic amongst the rufty, tufty steel and aluminium boats that frequent these waters. No doubt this would draw some critical looks and clearly audible "tutt, tutts" with the odd "harrumph". It would be like going to a heavy metal concert dressed in tutu.

However, is it really that bad? I've read of people doing the Beagle Channel in twenty seven foot, 1970's Albin Vegas and I've seen pictures of a cruising catamaran in one of the aforementioned caleta, albeit showing a decidedly bracing 06c in the cabin.

No doubt, quite soon, some yoof will round the Horn on a foiling kite board or jet-ski giving that weird pinky and thumb wave, so loved by both that generation and embarrassingly by those of an older generation who should know better. You can tell them even without the funny wave, they'll call you, "dude" and if you ever get close enough to shake hands it will be more like thumb wars as they try to give you the dudes version of a Masonic handshake.

Anyways, dudes, the problem we faced was how could we see the sailing conditions for ourselves and find out first hand what it was like without flogging all the way through the Canal and thousands of miles offshore to the frozen south in Time Bandit.

And so the idea to use a motorcycle to do a recce of the miseries of sailing down to Ushuaia was born. Well, the recce thing was just a fortunate and convenient excuse. I really did fancy riding the classic Ruta Cuarenta and Caraterra Austral routes through Patagonia.

I won't bore you with the complexities and bureaucracy of buying a vehicle in Chile. Just trust me. Don't even think about it. If you must do it; rent.

Firstly, last autumn, we had to head to the Chilean embassy in Washington to get the essential, personal RUT identity number before we could even think about buying some wheels, but in the end, after four visits and two tellings off, we got it.

We landed in Santiago on 29th December and had the pleasures of two weeks faffing around at motorcycle dealers, agents and notaries. Two full weeks it took, but finally we were ready. Until we found we'd been sold, or I bought, a "lemon". Firstly a major steering problem needing a new bearing then new fork seals. "Oh, didn't you read the Spanish small print, section 2b, saying suspension wasn't covered?"

That cost another three or four days and about a million or two pesos but finally we moved the bike out of the hotel garage and onto the street. We carted all our gear from the room and loaded our luggage for an anticipated three months touring into the three aluminium panniers. Luggage plus tools and spares for self sufficient maintenance if punctured off-road in the wilds, along with the tent, tent poles, ground sheet and tiny cook set. All loaded up and just as the bike had finally taken on the look of a true, off-road adventure tourer, Anne climbed on....... and the whole flippin' lot slowly and elegantly fell over in the street.

Out went all the camping gear. Tools were limited to the essentials and clothing pared to an embarrassing and potentially smelly minimum.

Finally, having shed some weight, we got saddled up, wobbled our first few hundred metres up the road and made the first eighty kilometres to Los Andes in the foothills of...... the Andes.

Waking to a bright blue sky we eagerly set off through the dusty villages heading for the hills and the border crossing to Argentina. Up and up we went round endless hairpins, climbing to nearly three thousand metres before arriving at the border checkpoint......and a two hour customs and immigration process. Fortunately, years of going through the same tedious clearing in and out process with the boat had prepared us for this usual nonsense. Finally clear of the border checkpoint we wound our way down the eastern side of the Andes onto the dusty plains and dustier villages of Argentina.

We spent the night in a very comfy cabana and next morning started heading southwards. Five hundred miles later, in the sleepy mining town of Zapala we hit a major problem.

Our fuel ejection system totally packed up. Three days treatment at the local service centre seemed to get things moving again so we set off on the next five hundred miles through the stunning volcanic deserts, ravines and mountains before arriving once again at the Argentine / Chile border where we did the whole clear-in and out thing again, just going the other way.

The grand recce plan had been to get to Puerto Montt then catch the Navimag ferry to sail the seven or eight hundred miles through the Chilean archipelago to Puerto Natales. This would give us a good, close up look at the sailing conditions and, perhaps a look into the caletas where we'd possibly be frantically trying to row hundreds of metres of rope to tie onto a spindly tree onshore.

Unfortunately, the fuel ejection problem came back with a vengeance and another three days were lost while the problem was dealt with. On the advice of the head mechanic, our motorcycling trip was over. It had all just become a complete pain-in-the-ass. All that planning, jumping through the bureaucratic hoops and mental effort then, before even we got started on the Careterra Austral, the game was up. But we had a problem. We were motorcycle owners, as yet without transfer of ownership papers - these follow four to twelve weeks after money changes hands - and we were now a thousand miles south of Santiago, the most likely place we could sell the damn thing.

Thinking laterally, as this was a kind-of sailing inspired trip, we contacted Rachel at the Ocean Cruising Club HQ. Rachel then put us in touch with Eduardo, the Port Officer at Puerto Williams and home of the legendary but now, I think, abandoned Micalvi, haunt of many a Patagonian cruiser. With Eduardo's help we found Raúl who is going to look after the bike while we continue by ferry and bus.

Now, where's my white knitted cardigan?

YouTube: SV Time Bandit
Vessel Name: Time Bandit
Vessel Make/Model: Outremer 51
Hailing Port: Largs, Scotland
Crew: Anne and Stuart Letton
About: ex dinghy and keelboat racers now tooled up with a super sleek cat and still cruising around aimlessly, destination Nirvana...
Extra: Next up....the Caribbean. We've left South Africa in our wake and now off to Namibia, St Helena, Brazil, Suriname and into the Caribbean. Well, that' the vague plan. We'll see what happens.
Home Page: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/timebandit/profile
Time Bandit's Photos - Main
No Photos
Created 26 May 2022
6 Photos
Created 2 April 2021
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Created 1 April 2021
A few pics of Maldives so far.....
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Created 29 March 2021
15 Photos
Created 22 September 2020
Our escape the the wild mountain thyme
21 Photos
Created 23 June 2020
21 Photos
Created 2 October 2019
18 Photos
Created 6 September 2019
16 Photos
Created 1 September 2019
Some pics from Debut and the Kei Islands
24 Photos
Created 30 July 2019
From the north of Australia to Debut Indonesia
8 Photos
Created 23 July 2019
No Photos
Created 19 October 2018
1 Photo
Created 20 October 2017
7 Photos
Created 23 June 2017
An interesting perspective on evolution in the Galapagos.
23 Photos
Created 7 March 2016
18 Photos
Created 30 September 2014
Mediterranean Spain to the Arctic Circle
67 Photos
Created 12 August 2013
Scraping and sanding hull back to gel coat for epoxy and Coppercoat treatments.
6 Photos
Created 3 February 2013