Time Bandit

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

23 October 2021
17 October 2021
27 September 2021
18 September 2021
09 September 2021 | Peely Wally Pins Oot For A Walk.
24 August 2021
14 August 2021
02 August 2021
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

The Mozambique Shuffle

23 October 2021
Imagine, if you will, a rectangle of ocean seven hundred miles long by about four hundred wide. Now, picture about ten giant donuts up to about a hundred or two hundred miles in diameter. Now set them spinning, some clockwise, some anti-clockwise, some meshing together like gears. Others just wafting about. All moving huge bodies of water at up to four knots. That's the current situation in the Mozambique Channel.

Layer on top of that, wind patterns that blow from south through north, cycling between the two at three to five day intervals and you have the maelstrom of passage planning that is the Mozambique Channel.

Our goal is to get to South Africa, specifically, its northern most port of entry on the east coast, Richard's Bay. The problem is, when the wind turns south it's invariably blowing like stink. Push that north going wind up against a southbound current of two to three or more knots and you've a recipe for a very bad hair day. Six metre waves are not uncommon.

Consequently, we've been dancing an aquatic version of Scottish country dance favourite, Strip the Willow. In this dance, opposing partners in the set of eight, four each side, will “cast” off each other, linked arms, hunky, and usually drunk men, spinning their female partners around before moving up the set to “birl” the next victim and so progressing down the “channel.”

If you can picture this, that’s us. We're sailing around, miles off the direct track, zig-zagging around the ocean trying to find a directionally favourable current to “birl” us towards the next swirl and on to one of the few safe harbours down this stretch of water.

We're out two days now and approaching half way ….. with a weather window slowly easing shut ahead of us and I can tell you, my head hurts.

I’m With The Band

17 October 2021
Stuart Letton
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.”

Oh joy.

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.

Flight Paths

27 September 2021
Stuart Letton
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
Stuart Letton
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.

Like us.

Bleaching Event

09 September 2021 | Peely Wally Pins Oot For A Walk.
Stuart Letton
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.

Fast cats

24 August 2021
Stuart Letton
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
Stuart Letton
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
Stuart Letton
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.

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
Time Bandit's Photos - Indonesia - Part 1
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Added 30 July 2019