I’m With The Band
17 October 2021
Local knowledge said we’ve passed the hardest part of getting from the Indian Ocean to Cape Town. SPOILER ALERT!That was just a ruse to get us here. The tough bit starts now. The last two thousand miles is all down to timing. The cheery story is that every three to five days, a big, nasty weather system comes thrashing around the Cape of Good Hope, or Cape of Storms, your choice of name and outcome, depending on whether you get the timing right.
The effect of these blows is felt right up the Mozambique Channel where we and half a dozen others are impatiently waiting on a clear, three to five day window to make the dash to the first shelter, a weeny island where you can hang off the reef in residual swell and watch the fruit bats tumbling in the wind as they get blown out to sea. The alternative and/or next stop is a headland at Bazaruto, where you can creep through the sandbanks, no doubt with a three metre swell crashing all around to await the next window.
Pilotage wisdom here says “Starting on a low tide with sandbars visible, proceed to the first anchorage with good NE/SE protection. You can remain there till the wind switches, but this will put you in sight of the conservation authorities who will try and extort cash out of you for being inside a conservation area When it is time to leave it can take you up to 6-8 hours to get out as you may have to wait for the tide – time you can ill afford when sailing to a deadline and your next safe spot.”
Soberingly, we just read of a boat that got caught out and apparently ended up, trashed along with the owners’ dreams on a Mozambique beach. No casualties other than the boat but not what you want to hear just before you leave. Tomorrow was an option but in my opinion too tight a time scale to get to the nearest port of refuge. Well, sand bank of refuge.
The good news is we’ve cleared the first hurdle, the compression zone at the top of Madagascar.
As for Mayotte, unfairly I think, Wikipedia doesn’t give the place much credit. They say the islands are the poorest of France’s eighteen “departements”. That 29% of dwellings are made of corrugated iron and there’s an unhealthy level of youth unemployment. The community is allegedly ninety five percent Muslim although from what we’ve seen from the bins stuffed to overflowing with empty beer cans, the remaining five percent must be drunk as skunks 24/7.
It’s not Noumea or St Barts but what it does have is friendly people, multiple patisserie selling decent coffee and all kinds of highly calorific delights and an extremely welcoming yacht club.
Despite the weather threats I don’t think we can afford stay long. I’m only just getting back into my shorts and not having to hold my breath for photos, some of which you might see in Rolling Stone soon as, last night I made an appearance in Michael / Hylite’s “Jam Session” in the yacht club. Nine or ten folk responded to Michael’s chalked announcement, “Jam Session 4pm Monday. All musicians welcome.
It should have read, “All musicians, …….. and Stuart, welcome.” What I lacked in talent I made up for in embarrassment.
Write in for copies of my latest MP3 download. Or not.
Woffle over, here’s a short vid of our passage from Seychelles.
27 September 2021
If it's got a bit hotter these last few days, that will be our contribution to global warming from thirteen hours in a 737. Sorry about that Greta. However, we did make quite a few profiteering PCR providers happy.
It always seems amazing that in less than twenty four hours, albeit, mostly sleepless hours, sat with your knees around your chin, wondering what will get you first, Covid or thrombosis, that you can be transported to the other side of the world.
Edinburgh, across Europe, flying over places you've never heard of, the interestingly town named "Batman" for instance. Through what some might consider unfriendly airspace, to land in the middle of the desert, Doha to be exact, where you can get tooled up with a new Gucci handbag or a Rolex at eye watering prices at two in the morning. Really?
While we were home, in amongst the six months of junk mail was an invitation to enjoy one of the Scottish government's free medical screenings. Prevention being better than the cure as they say. So, off we went to the local hospital where I patiently sat in the waiting room, Anne wisely staying in the car. As I sat there in my socially distanced chair, I looked around and wondered if in fact it was smart to take my finely honed and healthy body to sit amongst folk with all kinds of strange symptoms. Most worrying was the double doors across from me bearing a sign, "Discharge Lounge". Yuck. Bring your wellies.
Back on topic, from the desert, it was a short hop to Seychelles and, as expected, the flight path went over the now, quite empty anchorage, then zoomed right over the top of Time Bandit, looking grey, even from a few hundred feet up, coated stem to stern in a layer of 'plane exhaust and fine dust courtesy of the cement works next door.
The fruit bats follow the same flight path and for the last eight weeks have been bombing our decks from a modest height. I don't know what they've been eating but, mixed with cement and aero fuel it's hardened like, well, cement. We've a good few days on our knees scrubbing under the tropical sun.
That should fix our peely wally look.
I Burned My Bra
18 September 2021
Well, we both did. Figuratively speaking that is.
We've been "liveaboards" or voyeurageurs, as I prefer to call us, (Def: sailing around peering into folks' front rooms, checking out their eating and shopping habits and generally gawping at their lifestyles) - and doing all that for over ten years. So, after renting our house for the years our little darlings weren't camping out Chez Stuart for free, while saving for a deposit on their own houses, we decided our future, wherever that may take us, was not going to be in Bridge of Allan. It's lovely there but, having spent most of our years in the sun kissed tropics, I think my blood has thinned and Scottish winters can be cruel. Consequently, we're now homeless. And, even more cruelly, unable to claim my first Winter Heating Allowance.
A friend asked us the other day whether all this was a liberating experience. I said at the time, "not really". However, this morning, our final day of house ownership after some 40 years or so and with a complete blank canvas in front of us, on reflection, it actually did feel quite liberating. We can spend some time looking at what's over the horizon, testing out a few geographic options courtesy of AirBnb or, look out, unsuspecting cruising pals....."Thanks for having us. We'll only be here for about a month".
If you live in the likes of Ventura, Salt Spring Island, Avalon or most places we visited in the Antipodes, you might be getting lodgers.
Right now, we're awaiting the arrival of a stork, bringing in GK5. Once we've air-kissed his tiny forehead, in a Covid friendly fashion, while hoping to avoid being seen as making an unseemly, and indecently hasty departure, we'll be on the next Corona Express back to the Seychelles. Antifouling, seal changing and launching await, prior to facing the rigours of the remains of the Indian Ocean, Mozambique Channel and a wheech round the Cape of Good Hope - of course, originally known as the Cape of Storms before the marketing boys rebranded it to avoid scaring away fearty seafarers.
09 September 2021 | Peely Wally Pins Oot For A Walk.
All the way through the Indian Ocean islands we snorkled over lifeless and monochrome coral, the vibrant colour and life bleached out of it by abnormally high sea water temperatures.
Way up here at 56 degrees north, equally distressing is the fact our bronzed, sun god and goddess bodies are going the same way, fading from tropical tans to Glaswegian “peely wally”white. We’ll not only be needing a PCR test before we return, more a couple of hours in the sun bed rooms of the local massage parlour…….. but then, that’s another high risk sport I’m not sure I want to try again.
We had three objectives in coming home. First, to let our kids see their inheritance was still walking , talking and being blown on lavish living. Secondly, let the grand children know we were more than a Saturday morning TV show, and worse, one that interrupted their favourite cartoons. And lastly, we finally decided to sell our house and it needed a complete clear out. That alone took weeks and a lifetime’s subscription to Gumtree. However, we’re now officially homeless for the first time in forty odd years ……. although as our Lucie said, “that’s other than Time Bandit, your three bed, two bath, lounge, patio apartment ….. AND swimming pool”.
All in all, a successful trip home. We’ve ticked off our objectives. and as a by-product, as you will hopefully see in the video, got to see Scotland at its finest. As we say up here, “Ye cannae whack it”. It will soon be time to head back - which is just as well because after these last few weeks of life at fifty degrees, savouring the best of Scottish fare, …… bacon, egg, sausage, black pudding, haggis, tattie scone, mushrooms, beans and tomato - all on one plate, have mysteriously had the consequence of making our trousers shrink.
24 August 2021
Great boats these catamarans. They go just as fast backwards as they do forwards.
This item just to keep you on hold while I think up some blog content that might be vaguely of interest until we get back to the boat. Not that they’re any more interesting there.
Fifteen to One Chance
14 August 2021
The search was on. The daily full body self-frisk.
Combine an ageing brain with a jacket and trousers that between them have fifteen different pockets and there goes another twenty minutes of your life trying to find your earplugs, keys, wallet, whatever.
Ginger’s Bright Idea of dodging UK quarantine, on the whole whole worked out. We got to see the glaciers, waterfalls, the mountains and a little bit of rain. Rain doing 70mph right enough but that’s motorcycling for you. A bit like going to windward in twenty five knots; it keeps you in touch with nature. Mind you, so does a couple of hours of Blue Planet while sat in a comfy armchair at home. Which is what we are doing now.
Meanwhile, here’s that thing you used to dread as a child - the showing of the family holiday snaps.
Ginger’s Bright Idea
02 August 2021
Well dear readers, we made it through all the checks, passport, PCR, customs, immigration, background history, inside leg measurement, the lot, landing in Reykjavik, Iceland (for those who are geographically challenged) at nearly midnight, just getting under the wire by twenty minutes before the Icelandic government imposed their new and latest Covid travel regulations.
We'd blown the budget and booked a taxi to take us to the hotel, I just couldn't face hanging about waiting for the Harry Potter night bus, then wandering the streets in the cold and wet Icelandic gloaming - that's Scottish talk for it not actually being properly dark, given we're a gnat's hair from the Arctic circle. That also explains why it was a bracing nine degrees and our luggage was stuffed full of fleece, thermals and waterproofs.
The video tells the story. Hope you like it.
Ginger’s Bright Idea - Stage 2
26 July 2021 | Covid safe, full body condom by Gucci
Well, we’ve made it to Paris. This is my first 2-part blog so I’m sorry if this is going on. I’ve been warned to keep posts short and pithy but there’s bugger all else to do, so, you’ll do well to get to the end.
Regular readers will know that my tolerance waters finally broke after eighteen months hanging around aimlessly at anchor. (Which reminds me of the time the heavily pregnant woman who went into labour at home and called the emergency services when her waters broke.
“Stay calm Mrs Jones. The ambulance will leave immediately. Where are you ringing from?”
“I’m wringing from the knickers down”.
Sorry about that bit of off-piste. Anyway, as you may recall, the “route through Iceland” strategy popped up on our radar a few weeks ago. Avoid UK quarantine in those shitty hotels, have a mini-break and get home to see the winkies. And, sssshhh. do a motorbike tour of Iceland.
One of the cruisers in Seychelles is a pilot with Emirates, spitting image of Endorphin Colin - just a bit younger. He flew somewhere recently - a long haul flight, and his only passenger was a cat! We were inspired and motivated. And indescribably bored. “There’s nobody flying. It’ll be great”. However, two flights down and on both you couldn’t swing a cat.
If only I’d thought it through fully. You see, for the last three years , every time we’ve flown back to see the family it’s been at least a twenty four hour trip give or take a few lifetimes hanging around the glorified shopping malls that are modern airports. Fourteen hours from Sydney to somewhere in China followed by another epic to Canada or Scotland. Twenty four to thirty hours of travelling and the same number drop in Celsius and we, the prodigal grand parents, returned to bless our offspring with our presence.
And so, when I saw Seychelles - Doha (wherever that is) - Paris - Iceland in twenty four short hours, I thought, “that’s not too bad”. What I didn’t fully appreciate was that in Seychelles, we were already half way home and for half of that twenty four hours we would be sat in the aforementioned airport shopping malls, trying to lay out in those chairs some miserable engineering git has spent hours designing so you can’t lay out.
We hauled the boat on Friday, 7.45 metres into a 7.8 metre hole in twenty knot cross wind, great start....., propped it, cleaned it, packed it away and made a dent in the “must do at haul” jobs list. And forgot to lock the hatches. “Michael............ fancy a ride to the yard?”
We had our ludicrously expensive PCR lobotomies, and, clutching our negative result, set off yesterday evening. Which already seems like twenty four hours ago.
I started this masterpiece in Doha airport after a slow and socially distanced disembarkation from a busy four hour flight and tried to kill time ‘till the Paris leg. I won’t tell you how long the layover is here. Suffice to say, I may download War and Peace. All of this travel while masked up, socially distanced, thats a joke, compression socks feeling like you’ve a boa constrictor on each leg, and sanitised at every move.
Some of the Asian travellers, who, let’s face it, have been wearing masks for years before this nonsense, have had to up their game and are wandering around masked and clad in full, top-to-toe Tyvek Hazmat suits, including hood.
Now, if I’d been wearing one of these yesterday when I was giving the antifoul a bit of a sanding, maybe my arms and legs wouldn’t be on fire right now.
All of which is to say this whole thing may well be another of “Ginger’s Bright Ideas”. But as Anne just said, “first time in months we haven’t been sweating.” And I’m all caught up on Al Jazeera.
Finally. Top tip for travellers - if the zips on your rucksack or luggage are corroded and jammed, WD40 will free them in a jiffy. You on the other hand will get your collar felt when your bag goes through that sniff test in security.