Time Bandit

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

29 June 2024 | The Hamptons, Long Island Sound
08 June 2024
07 June 2024 | Port Washington
21 May 2024 | Island Wanderer from ARC 2011
12 May 2024
04 May 2024
25 April 2024
03 April 2024
04 March 2024
14 February 2024
01 February 2024
06 December 2023
23 November 2023
18 November 2023
17 November 2023
15 November 2023
10 November 2023
09 November 2023 | Norfolk VA

Gawp, Gawp…

29 June 2024 | The Hamptons, Long Island Sound
Stuart Letton
(Gawp:- to stare with incredulity)

Once again, we’re on the Ocean Cruising Club cruise around Long Island Sound, and I’m sure that will bring back some memories for a few readers. Once again, the locals are showing us around their home ports and favourite anchorages.

As some readers will know, our “home port”, Bridge of Allan, is a small village of around five thousand souls just outside the city of Stirling in Scotland.

The village was first mentioned in 1146 when those in charge, at that time the nuns of North Berwick, were in a bit of a to-do with the monks of Dunfermline Abbey over who should get the taxes from the, no doubt, poor, impoverished villagers. Some things never change.

Later, much later, the village became famous as a spa town where the wealthy would come to “take the waters. Robert Louis Stevenson, the prolific but poorly author, had a splash around but ultimately opted for the somewhat better, all-year-round climate of Samoa.

From the mid to late eighteen hundreds, the village’s fame, its waters and its proximity to Glasgow and Edinburgh made it an ideal commuter town for Glasgow’s merchants and shipping magnates.

Consequently, Bridge of Allan boasts a few grand estates and a sizeable number of what can only be called mansions. However, the extensive estates, like the shipyards, are now essentially given over to housing for the riff-raff, and the grand estate houses have been converted into apartment blocks.

However, many large, sandstone mansions sitting majestically among their rhododendron bushes and Douglas Firs remain.

Of an evening, before we took to the waters in our own way, Anne and I would often enjoy a walk along Kennilworth Drive where most of these mansions sit at the end of their long, paved driveways.

All in all, right on our doorstep, we have a plethora of beautiful homes.

The difference between home, the Bridge of Allan, and where we are now, Long Island Sound, is that at home, we walk down just one road to see all the grand houses. Out here, you can gawp at similar-sized grand mansions costing several millions of US dollars, with their lawns rolling down to the sea, but you can do this, not for one street but for hundreds of miles. And half of them are holiday homes.

Isn’t it just lovely to see the colony doing so well.

Antigua Race Week

08 June 2024
Stuart Letton
Getting online is always a challenge, especially in the far-flung Islands. And when you find a Wi-Fi spot, uploads are depressingly slow and coffee decidedly expensive.

So, we are a bit late and a bit out of sequence with our videos and blogs but finally, here's Antigua race week. Hope you enjoy it.

Sticker Shock

07 June 2024 | Port Washington
Stuart Letton
Remember Covid? We spent over a year in Malaysia sheltering from the dreaded bug. Twelve or fourteen months of living in a low-cost environment, the kind of place you get a three-course lunch with a drink for four dollars. No exaggeration. Four dollars. All freshly caught and freshly cooked.

From Malaysia, as we headed south and west, the cost of living slowly but inexorably started to rise. South Africa was OK; Recife was fine, especially as Hans and Karina, our Outremer-owning hosts, entertained us most nights.

Come the Caribbean, we were beginning to dig a bit deeper in our wallets, but then, Bermuda. Yikes. Go into the supermarket, fill out our small recyclable "for life" (life of a moth) shopping bag and hand over eighty dollars.

Fortunately, we had four and a half days at sea getting from Bermuda to New York, and we could save up for the deposit on a cheeseburger.

I wasn't keen on the Caribbean - Bermuda - New York route, preferring the route via the Bahamas and lower east coast USA. Getting to Bermuda is easy enough; it's the next leg that gets you as the highs and lows spiral off the US, bringing all kinds of nasty stuff with it. Add in the mayhem of the Gulf Stream and finding a weather window, and it all becomes a bit of a challenge.

We use PredictWind for our passage planning and generally add ten knots to what it optimistically forecasts. However, it either omits, or I can't interpret the fronts that cause considerable amounts of anguish, lost sleep, panicked reefing and lots of "I told we should have reefed."

To back up PredictWind, we subscribe to Chris Parker, the weather guru for this part of the world. Each day we listen in and as a window seems to be opening, call in for a personal diagnosis. Which we then ignore.

"There's a big front coming off South Carolina. If you want to go, head due west, then turn north below the Chesapeake. That way, you'll avoid the worst of the front," said Chris.

This was forty-five degrees off our route, and I had a plan. Two days in, we got "fronted". Force seven to eight for about six hours with driving rain. Three reefs, genoa half-furled, and patio doors firmly closed, we bashed our way through the conflicting currents of the Gulf Stream eddies, promising I'd take Chris's advice next time.

Until the next time.

(If it all works, I've added photos in the Bermuda folder)

Clever Clogs

21 May 2024 | Island Wanderer from ARC 2011
Stuart Letton
For any readers who woke up today wondering what the weather was like in Bermuda, I can tell you it is just lovely.

There’s about eighty or ninety boats in the anchorage, all taking a break before heading for Europe, UK or USA. Interestingly the most represented marque is Outremer which must be good for our care home funding plans.

It was a slowish ride up here but on one day, surf was up and we skooshed along topping out at 15.1 knots. Fast but not entirely conducive to sound sleep. Maybe we should have put in that reef.

As luck would have it we arrived in the dark at midnight but fortunately, clever clogs had laid a track on the plotter when we left Bermuda back in November so we just retraced our steps following the breadcrumbs, found a spot amongst the myriad of masthead lights, plonked down the anchor and collapsed into bed for about twelve hours.

This ocean passage-making lark isn’t as easy as it used to be!

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.

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 - Cameron Highlands
Photos 1 to 15 of 15 | Main
Sponge Bob
Black coffee please
Happy families
Tea pickers at work
Privet Lane
Where your PG Tips might come from
Giant tea bags
Chilling out (while wearing fleece)
Lockdown luxuries
Seemed like a good shot at the time: Heading uphill
Non social distancing: The Corona Express Ferry.
Corona Express
Social distancing my foot