What we’ve been up to in La Coruña

This is our short video about what we’ve been up to while we wait to sail back home. Polly and Dora have flown back to England and Hum and Marlow have joined us to make our last voyage. A big low developed over Biscay so we’ve been waiting it out in the marina but should be able to set off tomorrow lunchtime. While we’ve been out here there has been a superb medieval festival lining the old cobbled streets of Coruña so we’ve been spending our evenings wondering and gaping at the amazing musicians who play around the city. Lot’s of boat maintenance has been completed, easy jobs like polishing and the tricky job of getting all the small weeds off the hull above water line. We’ll update again when we land in England wherever that might be…

Making your mark

After a lovely stay on Flores we sailed 130M SSE to Horta, the port of Faial in the central group of the Azores. One of the traditions for yachts anchored or moored in the harbour of Horta is to paint a small plaque on the sea wall.

Daisy took charge on our behalf and here’s what she came up with.

Horta is dominated by the 2400m peak of neighbouring island Pico’s volcano which looms over us, sometimes lost in cloud but always reappearing huge and imposing.

In a maths lesson we estimated that from the top of Pico the horizon would be 100M away and you’d be surveying over 30,000 square miles of sea, more than the area of the island of Ireland- as well as all the islands in the central group – in the most unlikely event of the atmosphere being clear enough to see 100M!

We’ve been walking a lot around the many calderas (old volcano cones) on Faial, here we are on a small one near the port.

We thought its inside would make a good anchorage in settled weather.

But the swell breaking on the outside was a bit scary!

We also went for a big walk on Saturday, here’s a clip of Faial’s main caldera at the top of the island – it’s only about 1000m high so a tiddler compared to Pico but big enough to be a 7km walk round the rim.

Today we’re all hard at work boat cleaning, polishing the bright work. More soon, Dora & Daddy

Waterfalls and Bays

Here’s a quick clip of one of the many waterfalls that plunge down the sides of the cliffs surrounding our anchorage at Faja Grande. Good spot for a long overdue hair wash!

And here are Daisy and Dora scrambling about below it…

Finally, a picture of Cherubino riding to her anchor in the bay.

This really is the most enchanting spot! More soon, T.

The Western most anchorage…

…in Europe. We’ve reached the Azores and have just anchored in the bay at Faja Grande on the West coast of Flores. A bit of a W swell is rolling in so we’ll probably not be going ashore today but we’re delighted to have a some peace and quiet after a full on passage across from Bermuda (1690M logged, ten and a half days). Here’s a clip of the Bay, more soon after some zzzzz…

Holding on!

Position: 37.00N 042.30W
Day’s Run: 190M
Speed: 8kts
Course: 080T
Wind: SSW, 20-23kts

We’re tearing along at eight knots under genoa and mizzen with a mostly blue sky above us.

Beam reaching in a blow is hard work, on deck you’re constantly dodging the regular showers of spray sweeping downwind as the bow head-butts the incoming wave. Occasionally a cry of surprise and disgust rings out signalling someone has been too slow to get their head down. Below one has to be very careful moving about as the boat violently pitches and rolls her way East. Reading in bed is the safest off watch activity.

Yesterday we recorded our best day’s run yet, 190M noon to noon but there’s no time to feel smug as a low is forming S of us that will bring E winds from Thursday so we’re racing to reach Flores before then. To complicate the picture, a front is moving slowly across our path threatening a return of the torrential rain that characterised the first three days of this passage – so there’s plenty for the navigator to ruminate on. As our original destination on Flores is untenable in an E wind we’re now hoping to find shelter on the other side of the island in the bay of Faja Grande Europe’s most Westerly village.

Fingers crossed we get in before head winds, absurd rain or both catch up with us!

Sint Maarten to Bermuda

After a busy week fixing, mending, polishing, trimming and generally getting ready we finally got away from the seething fleshpot that is Sint Maarten early in the morning Thursday 16th. Here’s a happy snap (courtesy of our friends Blair and Edi) of us passing out of the lagoon and into Simpson’s Bay. Note Daisy pondering whether to go for the full ‘Rose Dawson’.

After getting clear of the lee of the island we hoisted the main and mizzen, rolled out the genoa and had the most wonderful afternoon beam reaching North in a 10-12kt Easterly as we passed Anguillita (the tiny island off the SW corner of Anguilla) and then between Dog and Prickly Pear Cays and out of the Caribbean two months after we arrived in Martinique. A small group of dolphins appeared to jump around in and out of the bow wave, reminding us of how much we’d enjoyed their company on the way across. Late in the afternoon we were overtaken by the long legged ‘Morpheus’ also heading for Bermuda, 850M ahead. The Atlantic was in a gentle mood that evening, a nearly full moon rising into the clear sky just before sunset meaning that it hardly got dark at all.

Next morning the gentleness became all embracing, the wind dying away to just five knots but I was feeling pretty relaxed, happy as long as we could make at least three knots in the right direction. This state of affairs was brought sharply to a close when we received the five day forecast which showed strong Northerly winds for Bermuda from Wednesday. Out of the window went noble thoughts of drifting slowly up – it was time to shake a leg or face a beat into a 25kt+ headwind. Beating into a F6 is all well and fine in its season but is unlikely to be much enjoyed by the girls. Likewise, Pols feels she had enough tough windward work to last a lifetime back in the Red Sea fifteen years ago – so on went the engine. We’d got five days to make good about 720M.

The skies echoed my darkening humour, clouding over as I ran through the arithmetic, which ran thus; the wind was set to remain light for them next few days, mainly from the SE and S around F2-3, sometimes F4. We’d do well to make much more than 100M/d in the F2-3, 125, maybe 150M/d in the F4 so long as it wasn’t too much to the S (ie dead behind us). If we kept sailing we’d be probably 150-200M short of Bermuda when the wind veered N. That would mean perhaps two days of head-banging before getting in. Yuk. Alternatively, we could motor at about 7 knots, which would get us there in plenty of time – except that our diesel tank would have run dry about, er, 150-200M short. Oh dear, same outcome.

Faced with this hand we decided to set a minimum boat speed target of five knots, sailing when we could make that pace and motoring when we couldn’t. For three days the light winds and overcast conditions were varied by regular torrential downpours from clouds as black as the Earl of Hell’s weskit, tho’ mercifully the gusts associated with the squalls were modest – rarely more than 25kts. A routine of engine on, sails down, sails up, engine off every six hours or so was established. The sea state was generally vile, a nasty chop being delivered by post tropical depression Andrea (first cyclone of the season) out to our West. It was all rather hard on the nerves after a two month residency on Easy Street but relief arrived on Tuesday afternoon. After a yet another dump of cold, fresh water from the heavens, the wind finally firmed up from ESE soon reaching 15 knots and we were able to sail fast directly on course. Early on Wednesday morning we passed through the frightfully narrow Town Cut…

…into the stunning natural harbour of St George’s to go through the formalities of arrival with the charming officials on Ordnance Island. Our anchor chain rattled out at 0800 with the wind freshening in the West having veered sharply overnight. By noon it was blowing hard from the N. Like Waterloo, the passage had been a damned near run thing.

Woof woof from Sint Maarten?

Reflecting on St Martin/Sint Maarten I am reminded of one of my favourite bits of dialogue from the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall…

Henry: “When I went into France, I captured the town of Therouanne which you, in Parliament, called…”

Cromwell: “A dog hole, majesty?”

Henry: “How could you say so?”

Cromwell: “I’ve been there.”

Well, perhaps that’s a bit harsh but the wonders and charm of Statia, St. Barts and Anguilla throw the tackiness of Sint Maarten’s casinos, seedy bars and strip clubs into sharp relief. The state of the French side nearly two years after hurricane Irma is shocking. President Macron might well ask “where did the money go?” On the upside, there’s an international airport, a peerless yacht chandlery and its been nice to sleep on a yacht quiet and safe in a lagoon not rolling about in reflected swell but all in all St. M is a place to get fixed up and fuelled up before heading off somewhere more agreeable.

To that end we’re all astir getting ready for our next leg, 860M or so N to Bermuda. The weather outlook is somewhat uncertain, suggesting light to moderate E trade winds for Thr/Fri (good) but large calm patches over the weekend (less good). Anyway, we’re determined to be off so we’ll have to put up with what’s provided.

I had a nice moment chatting to the owners of Morpheus, a handsome cruiser-racer from San Francisco, suddenly realising that we’d sailed together before – in Tonga in 2002 when Morpheus was brand new and Jim and Debbie were sailing with their sons who were the age Daisy and Dora are now. Happy memories. Jim is something of a master blogger as this https://morpheussailing.wordpress.com/2019/04/06/yesterday-was-a-shitty-day/ description of a less than perfect day in Deshaies shows. I hope this goes some way to dispel the myth that live-aboard cruising is a non stop round of turtles, white beaches and sunset cocktails!

We’ll try to do daily updates as we head North, T.

Road Bay, Anguilla

Thoughts on Anguilla from the skipper’s perspective…

Approach: We sailed N. from Ile Fourchue (NW of St Barts) past the E coast of St Martin to round the NE corner of Anguilla through the Scrub Island Channel, an unsurprisingly lumpy experience given the shallowness of the water (20-30m) and the long fetch of the trade wind waves (3000M). Scrub Island channel is worthy of respect being open to the SE, only 2 cables wide and 7m deep. We surfed through gratefully, close to the cleaner N side in beautiful turquoise water. Indeed, there may be lovelier looking island in the Caribbean than Anguilla but the waters around it are second to none. Turning E and then SE down the Anguilla coast requires close attention as there are plenty of fishing buoys as well as unmarked (tho’ well charted reefs). Road Bay is approached from the W with no off-lying hazards and gently shelving depths.

Anchorage: The bay is three quarters of a mile wide by half a mile deep and open to the W. During our stay while the trades were blowing hard there was no swell at all. Anchor on either side of the (informally) marked approach channel to the Roro dock. Most people will choose to be on the N side to be closer to the dinghy dock. Depths are between 3-4m on the N side, 4-5 on the S side. Holding is excellent on soft sand. The bay is an active place with ships calling at the Roro dock most days…

…supply boats ferrying out supplies and tourists to the outlying islands and ‘party cats’ coming and going from local bases and St Martin. Plenty of turtles are to be seen and the dramatic wrecks on the S shore remind you that this isn’t a place to ride out a hurricane.

The beach is of the most beautiful white powdery coral sand, the water gin clear.

Formalities: Customs and Immigration are to be found immediately in front of the dinghy dock (which the local kids love diving off in the evenings) where notably friendly officials are to be found between 0800 and 1600 daily. If you want to take your boat anywhere other than Road Bay you’ll need a Marine Park Permit. These are not cheap and are priced according to GRT thus:

Under 5: US$28/d

5-20: US$56/d

Over 20: US$140/d

If you buy six you get another, seventh, day free. The permit allows you anchor (or pick up a mooring if you can find one) anywhere round Anguilla and its outlying islands but you can only overnight at Crocus Bay (ie you have to come back to either Road Bay or Crocus Bay each evening). One might be tempted to ignore the rules but we had the strong impression that the authorities keep a keen eye on visiting yachts and would be highly unamused by any violations.

Services: Road Bay has a number of excellent beach side bars and eateries – but cheap it ain’t – expect to pay at least US$20 for a burger and chips. Elvis’ is particularly lively and fun, live jazz at Jonno’s on a Sunday afternoon was mellow. Road Bay doesn’t have a filling station, a grocery, much less a chandlery. If you hire a car (which is easy and not too expensive by Caribbean standards) you can visit the Best Buy supermarket which has a pretty good offering, but it goes without saying that Anguilla isn’t a place to stock up. Like most islands that are short of water laundry is expensive and of questionable quality.

Things to do: Lolling about by a beautiful beach glugging rum cocktails will suit many but elsewhere we enjoyed driving up to the N to walk round to (another) amazingly beautiful beach at Captains Bay.

Our children loved the water park not lest because they were the only visitors that morning. Shoal Bay was also a favourite. We joined friends to take their yacht over to Prickly Pear Cay which was, surprise, surprise, even more staggeringly lovely than everything we had previously seen on Anguilla. The colours really have to be seen to be believed – US$140 might seem a bit steep for a day anchorage but in this case it was a bargain.

All in all: Anguilla is lovely (if expensive) but the best thing about is the quite extraordinary friendliness of everyone we met. People getting cynical about the Caribbean should make Anguilla their next port of call.

Hobbling on

Yesterday afternoon, through a piece of prize idiocy, I managed to drop a heavy and solid object from a considerable height onto my unprotected foot. The howl of pain and rage might have roused the residents of the churchyard on the cliff above our anchorage. Inspecting the gory mess, I imagined that I’d lose the foot for sure and was comforted by the thought that a wooden leg would rather suit my present beardy look. However, the foot’s still attached and I have two lacerated and swollen toes wrapped up in a giant bandage – the very image of a martyr to the gout.

All this aside, we got away from Oranjestad before 0600 this morning and enjoyed a brisk cracked sheet reach across the 30M stretch to Gustavia, St Barts.

We’re heading out again once Pols…

…. has got our passports stamped and internet access will become somewhat sporadic but we’ll post when can.

Hopalong Tom.