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…

Gentle beginnings

Position: 39° 48’N 026° 08’W
Wind: SW 14knots
Daily run. 135 miles
Course: 070

We finally tore ourselves away from Horta yesterday morning. We had a lovely sail down to Sao Jorge and admired the precipitous coast that Daisy and I had made intimate friends with (don’t think we would have attempted it had we seen it from the sea first). Then the wind slowly died and reluctantly we turned the engine on. By early evening we were off the inviting coast of Graciosa, beckoning us to pop in until the wind picked up again. We resisted, knowing that next week is forecast to be even lighter and less reliable, and thinking we could easily find ourselves still here in September!

With limited fuel, the last thing you want is to blow most of it in the first 48 hours, so throughout the night we sailed whenever possible and only used the engine when we no longer had steerage. There was no shipping during the night, but quite a lot of yachts to be found on AIS, purple shapes heading our way or further north if making for the channel. And one going in the opposite direction, making a painfully slow 0.75 knots, a straggler from the two handed Les Sables – Azores race, the early finishers from which had been creeping in on Saturday morning. No opportunity to use the engine for those poor bods.

By dawn things were looking rosier as the sun rose in a very clear sky, the sea gently heaved underneath us and the winds began to reach dizzying strengths of 10 knots. We’ve held the wind through the day, making 5-6 knots, fighting an irritating current which will stay with us all the way to Spain.

Crew morale is high on this glorious gentle day, as we slip back into passage making mode – picking up a good book, sleeping two hours during the day, answering Dora’s Nat Geo quizzes (again). I think much patience will be required on this leg but we just have to take each day as it comes, as is always the way at sea.

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.

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.

Live and kicking in Paradise

When planning this entire trip, Daisy and I were adamant that we had to include a visit to a small town in North West Guadeloupe called Deshaies. Deshaies has a very pretty church and some bars overhanging the water and is best known amongst non sailors as the setting for the BBC series, Death in Paradise. I know there will be lots of you out there who share our guilty pleasure in this long running show, so I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that filming on the next series starts again this month. They’d actually closed off the set in preparation but the very charming location manager came and opened up for us.

The police station itself is a permanent set and is exactly as it looks on film. The girls took a turn at JP’s, Florence’s and the Inspector’s desks and had a good rummage through their drawers.

Daisy running the financial checks at JP’s desk.

On the shelves are ring binder folders of past cases, all labelled correctly 2016/April/Mooney/216-2569 etc. Pinned to the walls are genuine regulations about noise abatement and court procedures. It’s just a delight.

They have a crew of approximately 70, both English and French and they film from April to September each year. They try and film within a short radius of Deshaies otherwise it gets too complicated accommodating everyone, and the Location Manager said she was always delighted when a new fancy house or hotel was built as she was running low on locations.

Dora looking for the resident goat in the cells.

Daisy with the Inspector’s magnifying glass. Behind her on the wall is the map of St Marie (v similar to the butterfly shaped Guadeloupe) with all the rivers and place names written on.

The Inspector’s beach house is a few miles to the North, on Anse Perle, which is not as deserted as you might imagine. Dwayne is sadly not coming back, much to everyone’s sadness. Pilgrims come from as far as New Zealand, Estonia, France, Canada and Russia to leave their messages of admiration on a replica of the Inspector’s white board, and then pop down the hill to the Madras restaurant which is is the set for Catherine’s bar.

We had a great stay in Deshaies, which Tom has already written up. One high point for the girls and I was the spotless and air conditioned municipal library where we’d retire for 3 hours a day to get some schoolwork done in unusually comfortable conditions. So now, when I arrive in port, I look for showers, a supermarket, a laundry, a tourist information office and a municipal library. It’s glamour all the way.

That reminds me to mention our showers in Basseterre, Guadeloupe. The staggeringly grumpy marina manager would not let us use their showers, even though we offered to pay. She directed us to the showers by the local beach, which are two sided, beach one side, petrol station the other. So Tom and I had the unusual experience of showering al fresco, on full display to those filling up their cars on the way home. Of course we were in our swimwear but it made me realise that in your late 40s you just don’t really care much and would do anything for nice clean hair.

Monday, Monday

Puerto Calero

Well, there’s no wind at all this morning and precious little forecast for tomorrow so we’re staying put until Wednesday morning, busily laying in provisions (four PotNoodles per head per day for a month?), checking systems mechanical and electrical and occasionally wondering wether it might not have been more sensible to stick to an annual cruise to Ostend and back.

Our course will take us down the East coast to Papagayo Point (the SE corner of Lanzarote) into the Estrecho de la Bocayana which separates Lanza from Fuerteventura. Then we’ll sail a little South of West to pass North of Grand Canaria and towards the Southern tip of Tenerife then, leaving the Canaries astern, in the direction of a more or less arbitrary spot at 25N20W near the Endeavour Bank where the seabed rises from a couple of miles deep to just 150m. The best trade winds to blow us West are found (roughly) between latitudes 5N and 20N so the old saw runs that you should sail South from the Canaries until the butter melts then turn West. I’m hoping up cut the corner a bit, hopefully shaving a few miles of the 3000 odd that lat between us and Martinique.