Winter in London
16 March 2018 | London
28 May 2017
We dropped the anchor at noon, and took the dinghy in to the tiny marina to check it out. It's tight, but there should be room for us to move in tomorrow. This must be one of our most dramatic anchorages ever, between the huge outer breakwater and towering cliffs. The best find is a great cafe. A large Pizza to share, four beers, two expressos and two cakes- €27 total! We plan to stay a while....
Bermuda to Flores (Azores) - Day 13
27 May 2017 | SW of Flores, Azores
Blue sky again, with happy fluffy little clouds. I can see a terrier chasing rabbits and ducklings along the horizon; Barrie thinks I definitely need to get to land. The swell is very slowly reducing, but the wind is from the north, meaning we are bashing into it for the first time this passage- but it's only 14 knots, and is due to back to the SW around midnight. We had three separate visits from dolphins yesterday. Once we heard the squeaks before we saw them. Some were spotty, so out came the reference book. 'Atlantic spotted dolphin- often in large herds of several hundred. Vigorous swimmer, able to make high leaps. Often plays around yachts'. The faster ARC Europe boats should have caught us up, heading for Horta, and I'm surprised we haven't seen any. We haven't seen a yacht since our first day out of Bermuda. We hope to be dropping the anchor before noon tomorrow.
Bermuda to Flores (Azores) - Day 12
26 May 2017 | Mid Atlantic
Last night was truly miserable. After heading 30 miles south, we turned east and made good progress with just a scrap of jib. The wind stayed 25-35 knots for eight hours, and the maximum recorded gust was 49 knots- the highest we've ever seen. And it rained- heavily for six hours. No reading or podcasts on watch- too wet for kindle or IPad. But for the last few hours we've been heading in the right direction again. It's still wild and windy but there are patches of blue sky, and the swell is due to decrease. 240 miles to go, so we only need to manage a minimum average speed of five knots to reach Flores in daylight on Sunday. It's our 38th wedding anniversary today, and not one we'll forget.
Bermuda to Flores (Azores) - Day 11
25 May 2017 | Mid Atlantic
It's not over until it's over.... We had a lovely overnight sail, with no stress on the watches and good sleeping down below. But we were concerned when we looked at the downloaded forecast this morning. We were in danger of running into the storm soon to pass over Flores. So we emailed Commander's Weather to ask their advice, and are now sailing due south as fast as we can, in totally the wrong direction. This will take us away from the worst of the wind and the swell when the storm comes through tonight, and once it arrives the wind shifts to the SE, so we can put it behind us and charge back to Flores. Saturday should be calm. Well, that's the plan, lets hope it works out. We are now likely to arrive on Sunday.
Bermuda to Flores (Azores) - Day 10
24 May 2017 | Mid Atlantic
What a difference a day makes! The sun is out, the swell is regular and gentle, and we're on reach in the right direction under full sail at 7 knots. Yarona is ship-shape again, and normal dinner service is resumed- creamy chicken with mash for dinner. We may will be motoring tomorrow, and as we have plenty of fuel there are no concerns there. But- getting in to Flores is looking challenging. We need to get behind a small intense low that passes over the island on Friday night/Saturday morning, and avoid getting headed by the wind from the north that follows it. We may decide to motor north then follow the depression along the same latitude as the island, but it's still a bit early to call. Barrie had to call up a Turkish cargo ship this morning (I was having a wash below), when it changed direction and a comfortable 3 mile CPA as shown on the AIS suddenly went down to less than a mile. Maybe they were coming to have a look at us, but that is far too close, especially as we are sailing to wind and not a fixed course. The watch leader agreed to change course and pass us to stern.
Bermuda to Flores (Azores) - Day 9
23 May 2017 | Mid Atlantic
I'm typing with one hand and holding on with other as a squall comes through. A band of big grey cumulus passes over us about once every two hours, with the wind always shifting clockwise and the speed increasing by at least 10 knots. We cope the lazy way- just head more downwind for 10 minutes until it passes. We have a good saw-tooth track. We have now turned towards Flores, maybe a bit too soon, as the latest downloads show less swell behind us. We probably haven't done ourselves any favours by going so fast as we've kept up with the worse weather. It should be calmer tomorrow, with slightly less swell. The less said about the catering on board today, the better. Less than 600 miles to go!
Bermuda to Flores (Azores) - Day 8
22 May 2017 | Mid Atlantic
It's still a wild ride here in winds of 25+ knots and seas that are now over 3 meters- but not due to get any bigger, thank goodness. Yarona is coping magnificently and blasting along- these conditions really bring out the best in her. We had another visit from Dolphins yesterday- giving us some moral support. Last night the front came through at midnight on my watch. The squall line looked very pretty on the new radar plotter, and I got Barrie out of bed in good time. The wind shifted from SW to NW so we jibed, and are still just about maintaining our due east course. We will probably turn towards Flores tomorrow morning, once the worst of this is over. At least the sun is shining now, but it's cold- thermals and warm hats are needed at night. The interior of the boat is a shambles- heaps of clothes everywhere, as putting them away is just too much like hard work and it's essential to time the opening of cupboards with the roll so as to not have contents flying everywhere.
Bermuda to Flores (Azores) - Day 7
21 May 2017 | Mid Atlantic
Half Way! The only problem is we are now 150 miles south of the direct route, galloping due East on latitude 34.30N. This seems to be succeeding in getting us away from the huge storm north of us, and winds are only 20-25 knots, with 3 meter seas and growing. But all is coming at us from behind, so nothing Yarona can't cope with. With only a well-furled head sail we are making 7 knots over ground. When not on watch the best option is to lie stuffed into a bunk with pillows, listening to podcasts and music on Spotify. The bad weather is all forecast to be over by noon on Tuesday, and we can turn north east towards Flores. The irony is we may be faced with three days of motoring in no wind.. So we are are using as little power as possible, turning off the chart plotter, turning up the fridge, and allowing the Hydrovane to steer the boat rather than the electric autohelm- old-skool sailing. The less diesel we use to charge the batteries, the more miles we can motor. It will probably be emergency foil-packed curry for dinner tonight- it's been on the boat a year so needs eating anyway.
Bermuda to Flores (Azores) - Day 6
20 May 2017 | Mid Atlantic
Commander's Weather have given us an updated route to minimise the worst part of the storm that is developing between Bermuda and the Azores. Unfortunately that has meant heading south east and east for a few days. It adds a few hundred miles onto our route; perhaps an extra day or so to our passage. Even so, we still expect the wind and seas to build during the next 3 days so we have been getting the boat and ourselves prepared. I've just baked some flapjack ...nothing like getting ones priorities right!
The conditions today are fabulous! We have clear skies and and warm sunshine. The wind is around 14 kn from our starboard quarter. Our big blue sail and some mainsail is pushing us along at a steady 6.5 kn.
We keep getting large pods of dolphins playing in our bow wave and there are quite a few sea birds (Shearwaters?) gliding just feet above the waves and swell. The only evidence of human life is the odd big merchant ship ...... and the disturbing number of floating plastic bottles! I could get all philosophical about it all but I will save that for another day.
Bermuda to Flores (Azores) - Day 5
19 May 2017 | Mid Atlantic
Last night the wind was from dead behind, and not really enough of it, so Yarona ghosted along wing-on-wing at barely four knots. The sea was calm, so I managed movie hour in the cockpit on my night watch. Neverland with Kate Winslet and Johnnie Depp was even more surreal mid-Atlantic. We both slept soundly off watch for the first time this passage. Today has been an excellent day, sunshine and a bit more wind. We have dropped the pole that kept the headsail from slatting, and are now creaming along on a broad reach at almost 7 knots. We have change course to head slightly more south. There is a really bad storm forecast for Tuesday, with its centre to the north of us, so we want to put more miles between it and us. We downloaded GRIB files and synoptic charts as usual this morning, gulped at what they showed, and sent a request to Commanders' Weather for an updated forecast and routing advice. They haven't sent it yet, but I suspect they are very busy with a lot of worried sailors out here. We are averaging a sighting of one ship a day. They all divert around us, the default CPA being about four miles. So far we have only seen one other yacht. On each of the last three days we have had a visit from a large pod of dolphins, always around the same time, late afternoon. We treat this as a good omen.
Bermuda to Flores (Azores) - Day 4
18 May 2017 | Mid Atlantic
It's time to head back to Europe! We've just enjoyed 3 weeks in St. Georges Harbour, Bermuda, exploring the island in between some very windy spells.
We left Bermuda at mid-day on Monday. Thirty plus boats in ARC Europe were scheduled to leave yesterday so it will be interesting to see how many catch us up.
We've had 3 fast days so far with good wind and fairly kind seas so we are well on track. The wind has dropped today so we are ghosting along at 4 knots using our genneker with a pole to stop it collapsing in the roll caused by the swell. I'm just starting to find my sea legs and beginning to feel human again! Distance to go is 1260 nm. With luck we should arrive in about 9 days.
Cuba. Sailing Day 14!
01 March 2017 | Cayo del Rosario, Cuba
Cuba is a big country. We're just over the half way stage of our cruise round the south coast of Cuba. Its all quite challenging but at least the wind is behind us. The anchorages are pretty amazing. More to add as soon as we have internet.
A week in Cienfugos
24 February 2017
Life here is interesting but frustrating. The shops have eggs one day, potatoes another, and I can't find any crisps or peanuts! The shop interiors are like Britain in the '50s. We gather our wits in a café on the square, entertained by this excellent group of musicians. The garage on the walk back to the marina is the best source of beer. But everyone is friendly, and a lot more patient than we are. It's been a choppy two days in the anchorage due to westerly winds, but tomorrow the Trades set back in, so we are heading out to the cays again.
Trinidad by Chevrolet
20 February 2017
Internet is new to Cuba, so no posts for a while! After two lonely weeks in the Beautiful Cays of the Jardín de la Reine, Yarona is anchored off the marina in Cienfuegos and we have come to Trinidad for the day in a Chevy that's older than us! We passed more horse-drawn buggies than cars on the way here. The town is fascinating and we are looking forward to lunch in a paladar. Cubans are allowed to have small private businesses now, to everyone's advantage.
HAM Radio Camp gives Isla Beata a Boost!
30 January 2017 | Isla Beata, Southern Tip of Dominican Republic
This is supposed to be very isolated, with a few fisherman spending a month at a time here, and a manned coastguard station. But as we were setting the anchor last night, a voice came over on the VHF. There is a Ham Radio camp here, 15 guys from the mainland establishing the first connection for 28 years, just staying a week. They run three HAM radio stations round the clock, and enthusiasts make contact from around the world, to 'collect' the island. 8,000 calls logged so far and counting! They are also doing community service, leaving behind some solar panels and organising a beach cleanup. We know this because we were invited ashore for dinner- very simple, grilled fish and plantain. Not the evening we were expecting!
Photo to follow when we have internet.
A morning at the market
27 January 2017 | Barahona, DR
We are anchored in a small basin at Barahona, our last town in the DR before Cuba. We know shopping in Cuba will be restricted to whatever is left over after the farmers have handed most of their crop over to the government to be issued back as weekly rations, so it was time for a big fruit and veg shop. We also know there is a large market here, so this morning we took the dinghy over to the town commercial wharf loaded with shopping bags, money safely zipped away. The first challenge was climbing out of the dinghy, using an old black tyre we assume had been suspended for just this purpose. The market was huge, crowded and filthy. We resisted the meat stalls, where everything was hacked up on a bloody board and covered in flies, avoided being run over by motorbikes loaded with bananas, and tackled the fruit and veg avenue. About six stalls later, we ended up with this lovely haul, shown drying in the cockpit.
For the first time ever, I have washed everything in bleach solution. At least it will keep well, being local and never having seen a fridge until today. There are no air-miles here.Total cost- about $10.
23 January 2017 | Las Salinas
There isn't much to do here- one hotel that has certainly seen better days and a few dusty streets. The most interesting things are the salt pans which are photogenic and still operating. We arrived to find two other yachts in the bay but both only stayed a day, so we have been on our own here for four nights now.
The job list is going down, including fixing a small mystery leak we have had for a while and a repair to the jib. The water here is lovely and clear, so we can run the watermaker and keep the tanks full, with plenty to spare for showers after a swim and to run the washing machine.
At last we have good internet to keep us amused, as one success in Boca Chica was buying a Claro data sim which is working well on board.
The Dominican Republic - A country of contrasts
21 January 2017 | Las Salinas
Kath - Sunny and warm with a light breeze
The Dominican Republic is known for it's vast all-inclusive resorts- but they are a long way from our route in both distance and experience! I knew from my research this was not going to be an easy country to visit by yacht, and so it has proven to be. Its the norm for officials here to supplement their very low salary by expecting a significant 'propina' (read tip, or bribe) for every service. We checked into Marina Zar Par at Boca Chica on the south coast. The official fees for entry add up to about $120, but the marina has done a deal with immigration to charge every boat arriving a flat fee of $250, to include everyone's little extra. Despite this, we still had three officials in the cabin with their heavy boots on within an hour of our arrival, and suffered the routine intrusive but pointless search. We are now only allowed to travel from one named port to another, with a new 'dispacho' for every journey. Lovely anchorages on route are off limits for overnight stops, and as you have to leave within an hour of getting your dispacho its almost impossible to complete each passage in daylight. When we arrived here yesterday the coastguard was alongside demanding our paperwork before we had even set the anchor. They need a bit of customer service training!
But rant over, here we are at anchor in Las Salinas, a beautiful sheltered spot where we are planning to spend a few days, chill, and get stuck into the jobs list. Having paid up, we may as well stay a while!
Off the Beaten Track!
27 December 2016 | Esperanza, Isla De Vieques, Porto Rico
We've enjoyed a month in the British and US Virgin Islands, but the time has come for us to start our journey west to Cuba. We've said goodbye to our friends Tom and Susan, met on the rally, who are heading south down the island chain. Yarona is on a mooring in Esperanza Bay on the south coast of Vieques, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands and part of Puerto Rico. This is a lively place with a hippy vibe. The photo is of Sun Bay, round the corner from our mooring, and a perfect Caribbean Beach with clear blue surf lapping onto golden sand.