Time Bandit

Whiling away Covid lockdowns cruising slowly towards South Africa for November ‘21.

26 July 2021 | Covid safe, full body condom by Gucci
17 July 2021
09 July 2021 | Celebrating our permission to stay
03 July 2021 | Can’t get between a girl and her GS1200
26 June 2021
26 June 2021
12 June 2021
04 June 2021 | Sunset in Beau Vallon
29 May 2021
27 May 2021
14 May 2021
30 April 2021
23 April 2021
15 April 2021 | With Aisee on the Home Stay promotion site
12 April 2021
05 April 2021
02 April 2021
29 March 2021

Ginger’s Bright Idea - Stage 2

26 July 2021 | Covid safe, full body condom by Gucci
Stuart Letton
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.

How To Make A Small Fortune

26 July 2021
Stuart Letton
The usual answer to this is, “start with a large fortune.”

However, in today’s madness, from what I’ve been observing and now experienced first hand given we’re out the big, wide Covid world, the potential to truly make a small fortune in record time hasn’t been as good since 1939. It’s almost enough to tempt me out of retirement.

Get yersell down the government offices, or better, and as is the norm, certainly in the UK, call up one of your buddies working in government, probably one of the chaps you went to school with, and offer your services as a Covid response supplier / practitioner. Any old shit will do. Dodgy masks from China that cost a penny to make and sell for a quid. Hand sanitiser from any old gloop you can get your hands on, just add a dash of meths or acetone to make it smell “right”. Fill your shitty hotel that used to sell bargain rooms for £29.99 with quarantine guests. Serve them any old muck you can get from the nearest industrial kitchen and charge £150 a night. Brilliant. Then, fastest buck of all, the PCR Medical Centre.

Find some cheap, empty office space. Hang up some colourful posters made from Getty library pictures of serious looking doctors and nurses, stethoscope round the neck of course. A few old Dell computers and some ex-nurses happy to perform frontal lobotomies shoving giant Q-tips up yer hooter. Pay them just enough to feed the kids then, pocket what’s left from the exorbitant €110 test that takes twenty seconds. €190 if you want results real fast.

The profiteers of two world wars would be proud of their fine example and your success.

Next stop; Paris. Tune in for the next exciting instalment.

Enough....

17 July 2021
Stuart Letton
Shortly after we arrived in Seychelles, someone told us it was the Dry Season. Well, if it was then, it certainly isn't now. It's been chucking it down for over a week. Which isn't all bad. We can collect water and have a shower every three days ..... whether we need it or not.

"Ahh, never seen weather like this before" say the locals, as locals are saying all over the world as climate change rolls on and the politicians do hee-haw while the ice caps melt.

Meanwhile, it was probably the customs thing that tipped me over the edge. Having spent six weeks trying to check in, and still not completed, we're checking out ..... in the fly home and see the kids sense. Whether they want seen or not.

Enough was enough. Our boat is very comfy at anchor. And quite spacious, but after a year and a half of sitting on our butts waiting for Covid to pass, while watching weed and barnacles create a micro bio-system on our unused and currently pointless wave piercing, high performance hulls, I've cracked.

Regular readers will remember we heard that routing through Iceland could give us not only a change of scenery but the necessary ten days in a Green zone thus avoiding quarantine in the UK. In exchange for mild hypothermia and trench foot.

The flights were surprisingly reasonable, especially if you didn't take the exhorbitant Covid insurance. I mean, why would we need it? Like John Prescott*, the ex union leader turned politician (and all time hypocrite) we're known as "Two Jags". Us because we're doubly immunised, him because he had both his own Jaguar and, a second government Jag to roll around in, no doubt while visiting his working class and unemployed constituents.

So, flights booked, we were all set to go. Right up until one of our crowd tested positive. Seychelles ranks #3 worldwide in cases per head of population, so, with this sharp reminder it's still out there, and close to home. Now, because I saved a few quid on flight insurance and unable to cancel the whole great-idea-at-the-time, instead of quarantine in Heathrow, we're effectively quarantined here, which isn't so much different from normality I suppose.

Nine days until our Icelandic mini-break. Nine centigrade in Reykjavik yesterday. And raining.

Great plan Stuart. A motorbike tour of Iceland!

We’re What?????

09 July 2021 | Celebrating our permission to stay
Stuart Letton
"Please be informed that your application for temporary importation has not been approved. Yacht Time Bandit is to depart from Seychelles within seven days from the date hereof."

What the #%€$. Thrown out a country with four working days notice. And at our age! Russian assassins get longer than that. (Or maybe they were really interested in the cathedral).

We were forewarned that Seychelles bureaucracy was a bit of a minefield, and obviously one we had singularly failed to negotiate despite Steel Sapphire* and others having laid the white tapes; so to speak.

To get through the first phase, we needed to appoint an agent, absolutely none of whom came recommended and supply....

- Bill of sale
- Insurance documents
- Visa
- Certificate of registration
- Builders certificate
- Import permit
- Picture of vessel
- Copy of agreements for any work
- Approved temporary import permit.

We sent all this to both an agent, who, to this day has yet to respond to an email and the customs as a belt-and-braces. We even walked the four mile round trip and hand delivered hard copies to the customs office to add adult Pampers to the as belt and braces.

We're too depressed and discretion is probably the better part of good venting so I won't share more details here. Suffice to say that Anne is not someone to mess with when it comes to boat admin. And we had the evidence. We fought our corner and after a lot of stress, traipsing miles from office to office and escalations through the ranks of Seychellois customs officials, the notice of eviction was rescinded.

It took a lot of strain off, however, for thirty six hours we were frantically trying to sort things out. We had to prepare for imminent departure; food, fuel, charts, weather for 1,000 miles to Africa, recover antifoul pre-ordered and stored at the boatyard, all while building our "case". Didn't even have time for beer and skittles.

Anne set about provisioning for four months in Tanzania, as its well known there's no food there. I ploughed through six weeks of unanswered emails and exhausted some very expensive and rare-as-hens-teeth ink cartridges to build our case. We even went to the British consulate to solicit help. (Iain, a fellow Scot from Skye funnily enough).

Us Brits have left a number of legacies in the wake of our colonial past. All around the globe you'll find evidence of this; beautiful buildings, roads, trains, measles, small pox and the like. And of course administration and bureaucracy.

Some countries have taken the great British administrative model to astonishing heights, levels that Jim Hacker and his Department of Administrative Affairs would be proud of. (YouTube; Yes Minister).

Of the thirty or so jurisdictions we've passed through in the last ten years, including Panama, Galapagos and the USA, which does take some beating, Seychelles is a clear winner in the admin stakes.

To sail inter-island here, you have to apply for a special permit, walking another couple of miles. We'd started this prior to the bombshell. Thirty....THIRTY people are on the government copy list.

In the end, after being summoned to another meeting, at another level, peace was restored, the letter of eviction rescinded and....... as we've now gone past the one month customs allow to get the documentation, which was their fault, we have to apply again. Aaaargh. We trust a formality but, if they read this, you never know.

The daft thing is we keep getting tempted to go to Tanzania anyway. The problem is, it surely must be a Covid hotspot as prayer and a herbal infusion seems to have failed. That and I really don't much fancy the wind angle clashing with the cyclones come November. There's already been one rescue at sea and one cat limping back on one rudder. Getting to South Africa isn't looking easy.

Hopefully we can get all this straightened out, and then it's Plan C ........ if folk in Iceland would answer their flaming emails.

-----//-----

*Steel Sapphire - Scottish readers of a certain age might remember the electrical store chain, "Bernard Electrical". The company that brought colour television to the Scottish masses. I grew up right next door to the Bernards, and now, a couple of generations and continents later, we're anchored right next door to Peter Bernard, the grandson. Largs SC members might know his father who has a Fisher 34 in the marina.

Plan C

03 July 2021 | Can’t get between a girl and her GS1200
Stuart Letton
We went out for a sail the other day. Nothing special, just a change of scenery but then, a moment of excitement. “Look, look!!” shouted Anne pointing at the instruments as the odometer clicked through 50,000 miles. Right enough, only about ten thou of these are by us although, together, the two Bandits have racked up somewhere over sixty thousand. No wonder we’re exhausted.

The funny thing about all this sailing is that, no matter how long you’ve “been out” or how far you’ve sailed, just when you’re feeling a little bit smug, your sundowner, socially distanced guests and new best friends can easily top it. “Ooh la la” said the French lady we met in the Maldives, en route Red Sea, “we’ve been cruising for forty years”. Yikes. She is a GP and he a boat builder so every time they needed to top up the coffers they’d just pull over and work until the piggy bank was full enough to cover their modest costs for the next trip. OK. The cruising life beats working but come on: FORTY YEARS!

Here in Seychelles, schooner Windjammer said “Oh, we’ve been through your Caledonia Canal. It was lovely, a bit like the Falklands and Patagonia”. Double yike.

Such travels put our little Trade Wind jaunt in perspective. Our new Seychelles buddies were obviously a bold and adventuresome couple, recently landed here from far flung and darkest Africa.

We once had burning ambitions to cruise Patagonia, and dine in the now threatened Micalvi, the southernmost yacht club in the world ( https://www.yachtmollymawk.com/2016/07/micalvi/ ) but I guess we got waylaid in the sunshine of the tropics and sights and sounds, both audible and geographical. Mostly though, over the years lounging around the tropics we’ve just got comfortable. And perhaps lazy. We’re also not very bold travellers. I mean, it took many, many years for me to try a cappuccino. Consequently, we’re in a bit of a dither here as to what to do next, although of course, we only just got here.

Our options are five months in the Seychelles archipelago, “it must be hell” you must be thinking. The Plan B option is to head for AFRICA. More yikes. Tanzania to be exact. Unfortunately, as up until the last couple of months they neither measured nor treated Covid, I suspect it may be rampant.

Another downside of Tanzania is that the wind angle for getting south, come October is even worse than from here and as we’re clearly now fair wind cruisers that sounds like awfully hard work.

So, for the moment, locked out of the UK unless we do a ten day sentence in a Heathrow hotel bedroom, Plan A of going home to see the family is scuppered. Plan B of Tanzania seems a bit of an unnecessary risk so right up until this afternoon we were going to grin and bear it here. Murder. I know.

That was until Anne’s wee sister mentioned this afternoon that one of her Scottish pals went home via Iceland from locked down Malaysia. Instead of spending her ten day hotel quarantine money in a dodgy Heathrow Ibis, she had a ten day holiday in Reykjavik...... which sounds an awful lot nicer than Heathrow.

And they’ve motorbikes for rent!!!

Gotta go. Plan C needs some work.

Blocked Arteries

26 June 2021
Stuart Letton
After a couple of variable Seychelles days, cloudy mornings preceding afternoon sunshine interspersed with slight dashes of what really wouldn't be considered rain, at least not where we come from, our water collection system had only nudged a hair upwards from "E" for empty. It's dry season now, or at least moving into it. Consequently, as we're anchored out and couldn't just turn on a marina berth tap, we needed to make water and as the locals' houses back onto and possibly flush into the lagoon we're parked in, it's best to head out into clear ocean waters to make clean, fresh H2O rather than stay in port and sieve the local water.

And so, having walked the town from left to right and top to bottom, a stunningly informative video available at the end of this woffle, we actually pulled out some sails and had a bit of a skoosh round the top of the island to the tourist beach at Beau Vallon. Not only did we need water, but I'd the vain hope that if we could get up some speed, the sponges, muscles, mushrooms and stuff growing on the hulls would magically wash off. One reef, Code 0, ten plus knots and ....... not a thing moved. Two days it's taken so far to scrub one hull.

An hour later we anchored up in the bay, apparently, although we've yet to see it, right opposite the giant, red, Do Not Anchor sign.

It's a picturesque bay sitting under the forested slopes of the surrounding peaks, with an expanse of white sand fringing the bay, as do the hotels, tourist bars and hawker stands. The tourists walk the beach and do what most folk do on a beach on holiday - fry in the tropical sun. Some swim in the water taking their lives in their hands as JetSki riders do what JetSki riders do....... all around them and us. Ahh..... the fun you could have with an appropriate weapon. And perform a public service at the same time.

Anchored off this beach, watching the holidaymakers frolic in the surf, it was on our conscience that our holding tank was out of action and perhaps a better public service than knocking off a few JetSki riders would be to fix it, (apologies if you're reading this as you eat).

Like all boat jobs, what I had expected to be a simple fix of a jammed Y-valve, turned out to be a mammoth, two day project demanding the acquisition of a rental car, new hoses and a one inch gash in my palm where the screw driver slipped through the valve as I attempted to clear the arteries of our loo, chipping away five years of man made limestone build up. Just as well my Tetanus is up to date.

This whole blocked-hoses-in-the-bog thing is one of yachtings great mysteries. I mean, how does the digestive tract keep working for decades, stuff in, stuff out yet in a couple of years, the same process can completely block a one inch diameter hose with solid rock in a couple of years? Just another thing for me to ponder as we while away another lock down, or rather, lock out, as our plan to park the boat and fly home for a couple of months is Covid scuppered right now.

Maybe I should check the hoses on the other loo.

Or maybe not. Why do today what you can leave 'till tomorrow.



Blocked Arteries

26 June 2021
Stuart Letton
After a couple of variable Seychelles days, cloudy mornings preceding afternoon sunshine interspersed with slight dashes of what really wouldn’t be considered rain, at least not where we come from, our water collection system had only nudged a hair upwards from “E” for empty. It’s dry season now, or at least moving into it. Consequently, as we’re anchored out and couldn’t just turn on a marina berth tap, we needed to make water and as the locals’ houses back onto and possibly flush into the lagoon we’re parked in, it’s best to head out into clear ocean waters to make clean, fresh H2O rather than stay in port and sieve the local water.

And so, having walked the town from left to right and top to bottom, a stunningly informative video available at the end of this woffle, we actually pulled out some sails and had a bit of a skoosh round the top of the island to the tourist beach at Beau Vallon. Not only did we need water, but I’d the vain hope that if we could get up some speed, the sponges, muscles, mushrooms and stuff growing on the hulls would magically wash off. One reef, Code 0, ten plus knots and ....... not a thing moved. Two days it’s taken so far to scrub one hull.

An hour later we anchored up in the bay, apparently, although we’ve yet to see it, right opposite the giant, red, Do Not Anchor sign.

It’s a picturesque bay sitting under the forested slopes of the surrounding peaks, with an expanse of white sand fringing the bay, as do the hotels, tourist bars and hawker stands. The tourists walk the beach and do what most folk do on a beach on holiday - fry in the tropical sun. Some swim in the water taking their lives in their hands as JetSki riders do what JetSki riders do....... all around them and us. Ahh..... the fun you could have with an appropriate weapon. And perform a public service at the same time.

Anchored off this beach, watching the holidaymakers frolic in the surf, it was on our conscience that our holding tank was out of action and perhaps a better public service than knocking off a few JetSki riders would be to fix it, (apologies if you’re reading this as you eat).

Like all boat jobs, what I had expected to be a simple fix of a jammed Y-valve, turned out to be a mammoth, two day project demanding the acquisition of a rental car, new hoses and a one inch gash in my palm where the screw driver slipped through the valve as I attempted to clear the arteries of our loo, chipping away five years of man made limestone build up. Just as well my Tetanus is up to date.

This whole blocked-hoses-in-the-bog thing is one of yachtings great mysteries. I mean, how does the digestive tract keep working for decades, stuff in, stuff out yet in a couple of years, the same process can completely block a one inch diameter hose with solid rock in a couple of years? Just another thing for me to ponder as we while away another lock down, or rather, lock out, as our plan to park the boat and fly home for a couple of months is Covid scuppered right now.

Maybe I should check the hoses on the other bog.

Or maybe not. Why do today what you can leave ‘till tomorrow.



If Carlsberg Did Pandemics...

12 June 2021
Stuart Letton
They’d do it in the Seychelles. Eighteen months into Covid life, the local population still largely respect the rules; social distancing, wearing masks, sanitising hands at shop doors, only four at restaurant tables and consequently, to a degree, life goes on. Tourists are beginning to arrive in numbers. Emirates fly in a fresh bunch of peely-wally holidaymakers every morning at 06:30 ........... roaring overhead about three hundred feet above our mast. We see them in the marina complex, sat in the bars choking down beer or dragging their wheely bags along the docks to their waiting Lagoons.

The country seems to be well ahead of the game in getting everyone jagged up. They were even kind enough to give us our second shot.

Here’s a first quick look.



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: May’21. Now in Seychelles, either ‘till October when we head for South Africa or maybe we do an early side trip to Tanzania. Who knows.
Home Page: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/timebandit/profile
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Local transportation!: Our first taxi ride. Doors, seat belts and floor optional
Local transportation!: Our first taxi ride. Doors, seat belts and floor optional
Added 23 July 2019