Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Saturday, 31 December 2016

New Year's Eve

Saturday 31 December 2016
Position 16 41.787N 54 26.048W 13.30GMT

Just before dawn Niall was on watch and saw the first ship for about 10 days. Called the SeaBiscuit, we wondered if it was a luxury yacht with a horse racing owner. I called on VHF and wished them Happy New Year. Turned out it was a 200 m long cargo ship heading for New Orleans.

It's peaceful being alone on deck for the 6-9am watch, whilst the other three sleep peacefully below. The sky lightens a long time before the sun rises when the sky is clear. Flying fish scoot across the waves as we thunder down a big swell. I ate my muesli in bliss, eyes alert for any whales, soaking in the rosy dawn. Then two white tailed tropic birds joined me, circling overhead, long white tail feathers streaming in the wind.

Yesterday we saw no whales, but Kyle fished as usual. However he was shocked to lose the line and tackle again to something powerful. To bring in a big fish we really need to slow down rather than roaring along at 7-8 knots. However we had poled out the Genoa so that we could aim more directly downwind to Antigua, and turning to windward to slow down is more involved. So next the Watamu Yoyo was deployed with its very strong line and steel tracer. Not long later that lure had gone too and so had the teaser, an orange fish that splashes along on the surface, its wire snipped through by very big teeth we suppose.

We have now eaten all the last big dorado, cooked four ways over three days. Absolutely delish fish!

We had new signs of life yesterday with 20 metre-long strings of sea weed undulating over the swell. Mark captured some, and It seems to be like sea holly, with thin serrated leaves and tiny green-brown air-filled berries which provide the buoyancy.

Ahead we have 2017 and in four more days, Antigua. It will be a strange transition from endless cycle of watches as we race across the ocean, eating, sleeping, fixing boat issues, doing crossword puzzles, sketching or reading. Mark practicing the ukelele.......I need to do the same. Questions that we can't answer can't be Googled, the news is only just accessible through the crackle and whine of BBC World Service on the long range radio, but it doesn't seem worth worrying about. In this strange limbo we approach 2017, wondering what it will hold.

Best wishes to everyone for a HAPPY NEW YEAR from Paul, Mark, Kyle and Niall aboard TinTin

Thursday, 29 December 2016

We sail with Whales !

29 December 2016 17 57.67N 50 08.38W 16:30 GMT-3
Every 15 degrees that we travel westwards our sunrise gets later and later.
So when we reached 45 degrees west of Greenwich I put ship's time back a other hour so that we are 3 hours behind GMT, which means that sunrise is back to 06:45 and sunset is 17:30 ish.

Yesterday we had a wonderful encounter with a whale which looked about 4-5 metres long, and had a greenish brown tinge. We could see a small dorsal fin and a white flipper. Attempts at photography were made both above and below water, but we didn't get a really good look at it. Studying our whale book we deduced it was a minke whale because of the white flippers.
It seemed to follow us discreetly for ages.

Then today at breakfast we gybed to head SW and soon found that we had whale company again. But this time there were three Minkes, and they seemed very relaxed and inquisitive.. We furled the Genoa and hove to and, almost stationary rolling in the big swell, we had an extraordinary hour or so with our companions, and managed to get some very beautiful video in the clear blue water.

We also had brief visits from Wilson's petrel, Cory's shearwater and a tropic bird. The sea has more debris in it. Yesterday we passed a big black ship's fender, and a red milk bottle crate. Then today we saw a few bits of bladder wrack seaweed, the first so far, and just now a tennis ball. You can tell it's exciting out here! The puzzle is that the North a Equatorial current which is meant to be pushing us west at 0.5-1.5knots appears to be running north or south at different places. So debris mostly is blowing westwards, but the current may bring the seaweed from somewhere else.

Meanwhile Mark has got full capacity out of the watermaker so I can now allow everyone a brief shower. Having said that we stripped off on deck this morning to get a fresh water wash in a tropical rainstorm. The other problem of the engine battery appears to have been resolved too, so all is well.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Calm and rainstorms

Yesterday was Boxing Day and we had a gentle time of it as the wind died and we ghosted along with quieter seas. We passed the midway mark and are now as remote as it's possible to get on this earth more than a thousand miles from land in any direction, with no sight of ship or plane for a week now. We managed to make some more drinking water and provided that keeps going we can relax. However we need more wind to get to Antigua, and at this rate the computer estimates arrival on the 1st of February! We hoisted the colourful spinnaker and this pulled us along well in the light breeze.

We had tropic birds occasionally visit us and all tried to get photos. Certainly we had red-billed tropic birds, but also one with black shoulders and a yellow beak that was likely a white tailed tropic bird.

Last night the calm seas were deceptive as big rainstorms crept up and suddenly delivered a gale and pouring rain. On the radar they looked like bright red blobs coming to get us. On night watch I saw a strange light flash periodically near Cursa, a star near Rigel in the Orion constellation. Not an aircraft, as it held station for 15 minutes. Not a low earth satellite as they pass quickly. Just possibly a geostationary satellite, but these are 36,000 km away and they don't normally flash. So rather a puzzle!

The light winds continued this morning and we had another slow day being pushed north. Kyle and Niall got out the GoPro camera and got some great underwater footage in Bombay Sapphire blue water and bright sunshine. When we played them through on the computer the last shot recorded sounds like Dolphins clicking. At that point Mark yelled from the deck as a whale had just passed alongside. We rushed up but missed it. If only we had kept filming a little longer!

Kyle was disappointed yesterday by a big dorado that took his line and ran it straight out of the reel, but then today, as the sun was setting, he got another beauty a meter long and 7kg in weight. This time I brought the boat to a stop and hove to so that he could reel it in successfully.

The wind suddenly picked up after dark and we are now sailing fast in the right direction. However we now have a new puzzle to fix. The engine has insufficient electrical supply to start, despite having a new engine battery fitted in Tenerife. Fortunately we have a few days to trace the problem.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas everyone!

We woke this morning to find four little stocking hanging under the sprayhood. Somehow Santa had shinned down the mast last night between watches! For a nasty moment e reckoned that he wouldn't find us as our navigation lights were off for a while by mistake, but fortunately Niall put that right. Kyle was so entranced by the Christmas Dawn that he didn't retire to his bunk at the end of his watch but got out the rod and started fishing. The tropic bird returned, a red-billed avian Rudolph, and looked at Kyle's bait with a knowing eye and moved on. The day opens before us sunny wth deep blue seas towering above astern and crests of foam roaring as they crash alongside, rarely offering more than a splash to our cockpit. The ride seems smooth, with occasional exciting rides down the steeper seas in a flurry of foam. Happy Christmas!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Eve

Today we were already 100 miles west of Recife in Brazil! We are making good progress averaging 7.3 knots so far. With 1400 miles to go we are more than a thirds of the way there.

We had a lovely sunny day, as always amazed by the size of the big following blue seas topped with white foam, and often pale green blue at the crest where the sun shines through. Red-billed tropic birds are regular visitors which circle us briefly and then examine our foaming wake for food before heading south.

We have settled in to the process of running the boat, delivering meals on time and reading or fishing. Mark and I each spent an hour nursing the watermaker and achieved about 70 litres. Water rationing is on hold for a bit longer.

Mark erected a little Christmas tee on the aft deck and we listened to crackly broadcast of cars from Kings o. The radio. Then we had a sunset party with gin& tonic and nibbles before. Supper and delved into the Christmas box happily unwrapping false beards, games, seashore patty lights and miniature buckets and spades. All thanks to Anne!

Then as Mark produced supper Niall and Kyle spotted a pilot whale!

Finally we tested our satellite phone and managed a Christmas message or two. Now we are on night watch hoping that Santa will shin down our mast tonight

Friday, 23 December 2016

Day 3 - Water water everywhere.......

We have had a day of sunshine and showers. I re-lashed the dinghy which had worked loose and was swinging about, and then emptied the aft locker of water. Yesterday's attempt at sealing the leak had been partially successful, and instead of 2.5 buckets I only removed one. More sealant applied, but In the process of crouching in the locker the door swung and banged a bolt into my head. Luckily nothing worse then a lump.

Kyle then got his fishing rod out and managed to get the line wound into the wind generator. This resulted in some risky balancing acts, whilst fully clipped on of course, which eventually got the mess sorted out. His rod is now deployed to port :-)

Mark not feeling well unfortunately. We are being vigilant about hygiene to avoid it spreading.

Water usage is a issue. Our 600 litre tanks are enough for each person to have 10 litres per day for two weeks. Yet usage has been double that figure. This is not a problem if the watermaker functions well as we can produce 60-90 litres an hour while the generator runs. But although it has been working OK up till now, yesterday it wouldn't. Today Kyle helped me to investigate, and we found the primary pump wasn't working. This turns out to be a failure of a transformer which delivers 12 volts. Fortunately the deck wash pimp is in the same compartment, and we managed to plumb that in. However the system did not run smoothly and although I sat hunched up in the forepeak for an hour twiddling the knobs to coax it along I think we only made 30-40 litres. So I have to institute water rationing until we can reliably top up the tanks.

Back on deck for tea and Stollen and the treat of seeing several individual red-billed tropic birds circle us and then head off south.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

We're fixing a hole........

Mark and I checked the port deck locker again this morning, and in 12 hours it had collected about 45 litres of water. Once it was bailed out and dried I locked Mark in to look for light shining through gaps in the seal. Nothing there so we got it all dry and watched for water appearing. Eventually we found that the second stringer down from the deck was occasionally squirting water in from the weld to the transom. By videoing in a tight space I could see a small hole which was letting water in. The transom plate has a water tight box the other side, so that must have water in it which slops around as the boat heels. For it to get in that box there must be a hole and we hope that we have found and sealed that. It's where a block of wood was screwed in to support the swim ladder.

A few hours later..... we found there is still seepage but maybe not so much.

We crossed tracks with a ship and logged Tin Tin's 7000th mile at midday.

However midday is not what it used to be. I shifted ship's time from GMT to 2 hours earlier as we have come 300 miles west of Cabo Verde. I have also changed the watch rota so that each person has 3 hours on and 9 hours off. We had been doing 4 on and 4 off in pairs till now. The new crew are now trusted to handle their watch solo!

Imam sat in glorious sunshine on the aft deck with beautiful blue sky blue sea and blue flying fish around me as we make up tri 12 knots westwards.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Kyle catches his first fish

It has been a grey overcast day with big seas and strong winds. We have seen 12.5 knots surfing down the waves. Eventually the clouds thinned and the sun gave us a little warmth and sparkle on the sea. We had three brief visits from dolphins today with flying fish a frequent sight springing from the waves. The only birds sighted were Wilson's petrels? In the afternoon I chucked the Watamu Yoyo out to try fishing and was soon joined by Kyle as he put his new rod together. He soon caught my line, but we sorted that out, and as we were just finishing supper his rod bent encouragingly and he soon had a beautiful electric blue fish with a yellow tail close alongside. I gave it a squirt of rum to put it out, and then Kyle set about filleting.
Today we managed 180 miles in 24 hours. The wind has eased a bit but is forecast to rise again.
Our position at 19:30 21/12/16 is 17 08N 28 17.5W on the direct Great Circle route to Antigua.

Farewell Cabo Verde

It was great fun having visitors in Cabo Verde, and sad to see Anne, Becky and the children off last night. But today has been busy filling up with water, stowing food, fixing the aft heads again, hoisting Mark up the mast to check rigging, filling the gas tanks. We had a final lunch in the floating bar, handed back our passes and detached ourselves from the marina. We had to circle while another French boat filled with diesel and then topped up with 122litres. Our last fill up was in Cascais in Portugal.

Setting a triple reefed mainsail and full Genoa we roared out of the harbour past the various wrecks and into the channel between São Vicente and São Antao. Big seas rolling down and wind a steady 35 knots, but nonetheless it felt comfortable and I felt very happy and relieved to be setting off at last.

We soon passed the French boat, Vedrouille, we had seen earlier and spoke on the radio. They are a family with six year old on board heading to Martinique.

The mountains either side are so dramatic and to my joy several Tropic birds flew past with their long pair of white tail feathers streaming in the gale it's their breeding season and I'd been surprised that we'd not seen them or the Magnificent Frigate birds.

Mark produced an exceptional chicken balti with all the trimmings as night fell and we rounded the southern tip of São Antao and headed due West to the Caribbean.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Roaring Forties!

When I went off watch last night at midnight we had been roaring along in a full gale towards the island of Sao Nicolau. Later when I came back on watch at 03:00 Mark showed me the maximum speed on his watch, which set the record so far at 12.5 knots. The waves had got even bigger as the gale blew unabated, and he'd had a long surf!

The moon was full and despite the veil of cloud, it lit the sea well so that one could see the waves rear up behind one. By early morning we were running along the southern coast of Sao Nicolau and its mountainous spine was clearly visible in the silver glow. As we rounded the southern-most point the sea shallowed abruptly from 3000 metres to just 100 and if the full swell had still been with us it could well have broken like surf, but we rounded it OK and hardened up to the north towards the port of Tarafal seven miles on. Here we finally dropped anchor in calm water under great cliffs, to the sound of a cockerel heralding the dawn! Once we were happy that the anchor would hold in the vicious squalls funnelling down from the peaks we turned in for a couple of hours of sleep.

Over breakfast we saw that the beach was a tumble of volcanic boulders and black sand. Buildings sprang from the same soil like unripe grey blocks, of which a relatively few mature ones had ripened into vibrant pinks, greens, blues and yellows. In front of us a huge canyon cut back into the mountain, it's alluvial fan dotted with buildings, built by people with so little experience of rain that they appeared to be unaware of the risk of being washed away by a hundred year cloud burst.

I took the opportunity to try sketching the view, and then we watched while a tug towed in a yacht that had apparently been dismasted. A frisson of interest went through all seven anchored yachts and cameras appeared, while squalls blasted spray out of the harbour surface. We had considered a trip ashore, but the need to get to Mindelo was pressing, and we would be required to fill entry forms at the harbour office, so we upped anchor and set off.

Along the south coast was smooth water with sudden squalls, and flying fish passing like plump guillemots. Soon we were out in the roaring sea again with good sized waves occasionally as high as the first spreaders on the mast. We found that the staysail and triple reefed mainsail was a good combination, and had a fantastic roaring sail in 40 knot winds for 50 miles along along the chain of islands to Mindelo, marvelling at the fantastic jagged skylines they presented. Despite the waves breaking over the cockpit I managed a couple of sketches to remind me of the dramatic views.

Sunset came at 19:08 and we eventually turned down the channel to Mindelo in heavy seas and pitch black conditions, cutting inside the rock, Ilheu dos Passaros, guarding the entrance and into a more sheltered bay full of anchored freighters. Amongst these were many anchored yachts and we found a good spot clear of all to drop anchor in 5 metres, letting out 35 metres of chain in order to secure ourselves in the gale.

Mark made a curry and we watched " Where Angels Fear to Tread" the title of which appealed to us after our adventure today. Tomorrow we meet Anne, Beccy, Kyle, Niall and the children and will get on with provisioning do the Atlantic crossing.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Farewell o Sal

Coming ashore in a foreign port is strange, as one tries to orientate oneself to the layout , the location of the port offices and immigration and at the same time trying to gauge the temperament of the people one meets, trying to take your line at the dock, offering to sell baseball caps emblazoned with Cape Verde No Stress, and vendors of cowrie she'll bracelets, dolls, necklaces and countless other trinkets. We assiduously locked our outboard to the tender, and led by a lad named Sandro, wandered into the village of Palmeira. Sandro kindly relieved Stuart of the black bin liner of rubbish. And then showed me the police offices. Here we hung around for a couple of hours waiting for the immigration official to stamp our passports, and then eventually made it to a little bar overlooking the harbour for a well deserved beer. This was followed by a fish lunch in a nearby restaurant, at which point I got a taxi to the airport to meet incoming family.

Two hours later they had finally escaped the melded of visa queues and luggage mix ups, and we set off to their accommodation in Villa ao Mar at the southern tip of the island. I must say that I was impressed with the beachside apartment and the little town itself was most congenial and not overdeveloped. I would certainly come here again for a winter beach break.

I stayed the night, while Mark guarded the boat, and then the next day everyone Trekker to Palmeira for lunch before Mark and I set off for Our next rendezvous in Mindelo.

The wind was now a full gale with 40 knots raising sand into the air. Mark had put a rope snubber on the anchor chain to stop it snatching, but it had snapped. He dived successfully to pick up the hook and severed line before we set off.

I'm now on watch at 23:00 halfway across the 70+ miles to Sao Nicolau. The wind is still a full gale blowing 35-45 knots and the seas are large. Under Genoa alone we are making 8.5 - 11.5 knots. Once dawn breaks we aim to explore a new island and then push on the remaining 70 miles to Mindelo.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

arrival in Cape Verde

We woke on. Monday 13th to find ten flying fish on deck. Their glorious ephemeral pale r blue had faded, and their extraordinary gossamer wings tinged with chestnut were but shrivelled fins at their sides. Nonetheless one could see in the lower elongated tail fin how they could dip that into the water to give an extra boost to keep flying, and the extra muscle shows as a dorsal bulge. Their large round eyes must be adapted to see in air as well as water, because thy quite clearly navigate the slopes of waves and guide themselves round crests. The less experienced flyers tend to get caught sideways by the wind and splash out rather too soon, but the big boys..the survivors, can keep flying a long, long way, just dipping the lower tail fin and giving a quick flick to keep flying, rising over the big waves using the lift to stay airborne. One wonders whether they revel in flight or whether it is a fearful flight,always. Anticipating the jaws of a hungry dolphin.

All day we sailed downwind I. force 6-7 towards Sal. Eventually I got fed up with tacking downwind and set a direct course, goose winging the Genoa. I produced lake soup and hrs dump,Inge for supper, and we watched the sun go down and the full moon rise while we ate. Just before sunset we had a visit from eight blunt headed short finned pilot whales, who gave us a quick once over before setting off to find their own supper. No frivolous dolphin playtime for them, mores the pity,

Finally at about eight pm we began too see evidence of the island of Sal. As th moon rose and illuminates the scene ahead it became evident that what we had thought of as a flat island was actually formed of several volcanic peaks. As we entered the channel between islands, and turned up to the wind we suddenly felt the full force of what we had been sailing info the last 5 days, and now inflatable wtR roared long at 9.5 knots.sc

Shortly afterward, at half past ten, with sails down we motored gingerly into Palmeira port, and found a spot to anchor amongst twenty other yachts. We toasted our 880 mile trip with a glas of rum, and reflected on the five and a half days it had taken to get here. Tomorrow we will deal with port clearance, and then meet Anne and Beccy et al.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Flying Fish!

It is getting warmer as we travel south, and suddenly the seas seem to be more obviously alive. Sudden swarms of flying fish burst from the waves tails driving them forward to then glide off for a hundred yards to safety. Their bodies are an iridescent blue underneath and silver on top, and they hold transparent fairy wings that are held stiffly out sideways. Sometimes the bigger fish touch their tails into the water and give a powerful thrash that propels them back into the air.

We had two dolphin visits, the first of which was a group of 8-10 Atlantic spotted Dolphins which had new tricks to show. The waves had built up to impressive size so that we could see the Dolphins swimming just under the wave surface as it rolled towards us. Some of the group were leaping from high waves with a half twist to land with a loud smack in the water. Others had the trick of leaping out and tail smacking to make a loud slap. To my surprise I saw a small light brown shark amongst them, the first on this trip.

We tried to get video of the Dolphins, but as soon as I had the GoPro on a pole they shot off.
However it proved useful later when trying to investigate an annoying vibration in the rear cabin. Eventually we tracked it to the port rudder, and lowered the camera down to get a look at it. There we found a clump of reeds trapped between rudder and hull, tapping furiously as the water rushed past.

I have just come on watch at midnight and Mark reported seeing a blue light in the water earlier. The spotlight showed no reflections from liferaft or life jacket and it was consistent with an oceanographic buoy.

While we had supper the sun set and suddenly there was a shower of flying fish, one of which landed in the cockpit. It was about 9 inches long and I had difficulty grabbing it to get it back to the sea. Later Stuart was on watch and was pelted with fish, many of which are still on deck.

We are sailing a little to the east of our direct course, as this is dead downwind and uncomfortable to sail. With a steady Trade wind of 25 knots, gusting 30, we are making between 6.5-9 knots through the water. The Canaries current, which is meant to push us along has been ahead for much of the time, although now it is flowing across our track towards Africa. Our ETA at Sal is about midnight on 13th December, so there will be some tricky navigation getting into Palmeira amongst the wrecks and rocks.

The plan is to then complete port formalities, and put Stuart ashore as he flies home from there. With luck we will be able to meet up with Anne, Becky, Kyle, Elwin, Ion and Niall.

Monday, 12 December 2016

The Southern Cross

I came on watch at 06:00 to find that the wind had conveniently come round to the East a little, bringing us back on track towards our destination. Yesterday it had backed north a bit forcing us to head towards Africa rather more than we needed.

The moon had gone down leaving the night really dark. I was thrilled to see that the Southern Cross, or Crux, was clearly visible above the horizon. A glance astern showed The Plough or Big Dipper upside down, and pointing to the Pole Star. Our position is at 20 02.44 N and 20 30.93W at 07:00 as dawn lightens the sky and the stars are hidden.

Earlier I was on watch at about midnight engrossed in reading a book. I got up for a scan of the horizon to find a very brightly lit cruise ship just a mile away. Rather a shock after seeing nothing for days, and it is a reminder of how quickly things can appear over the horizon. I checked that we were going to pass clear, and then called the Aida Cara to check that they could see us on AIS. I was pleased to hear that was working fine, and that we were also visible on radar. It was rather nice to have a little chat with them as I watched the purple, blue and red flashing lights of their disco floor glide by.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

into the Tropics

Sunday 11th December 2016
We are making good progress southwards, and passed the Tropic of Cancer at about 1am this morning. Our three hour watch rhythm has settled in and is working well, giving us all plenty of rest.

Last night was wonderful moonlight again with a few bright stars easily identifiable, but it wasn't until about 4am after moon set that it became dark enough to see the multitude of stars, and then some meteorites as well. When I came on watch I found Mark practising his ukelel and that spurred me on to follow suit. I've got as far as Twinkle Twinkle .....

This morning we started the watermaker which replenished our tanks, giving everyone the chance if a shower. We had three Dolphins visit us, and both Mark and Stuart saw turtles swim past. Wilson's petrel had been an occasional visitor, and to my astonishment I saw a small moth, 180 miles from Africa and heading south.

The barometer dropped from 1012 to 1008 this morning suggesting that stronger winds are due to arrive later.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Down the coast of Africa

Saturday morning dawned and I came on watch at 09:00 to relieve Mark. The boat is sailing fast under full sail with a 25 knot beam wind taking us along at 8knots or more. As a result our ETA in Cape Verde has come back from 14th December to the day before.

We breakfasted together in warm sunshine in the cockpit and the day has been absolutely perfect as we race along with a very peaceful motion. A couple of cargo ships appeared on our AIS chartplotter but at 10 miles I couldn't see them. One was a Chinese tanker heading to Singapore with an ETA on 14/1/17. By then I trust we will be with Kate and family in the Caribbean.

Bits of driftwood appeared intermittently. Mostly reddish sticks from reed beds, occasionally with a green shoot poking hopefully skywards. Mark saw a small white bird. Exciting stuff!

However last night I had a magical 3 hour watch from midnight with the moon blazing a path across the sea. I hard a few unusual wave sounds and soon saw the dark shapes of Dolphins. Over a period of an hour they kept coming from the west, leaping through the moonlight to play under our bow wave.

This voyage is almost perfect with steady wind, lovely temperature, and a kindly motion over the swell. However we have all been taking time to get our sea legs so there has been an uneasiness as we go about the tasks of navigating and making meals. Yesterday both Stuart and I succumbed briefly, but today are feeling on top of it all. Big smiles all round!

Friday, 9 December 2016

Farewell Tenerife

I rejoined TinTin on 6th December after my medical course, carrying a big bag of Medicines and first aid kit and an improved knowledge of how use them. I found that Mark and Stuart had done lots of useful maintenance jobs and had got an electrician to deal with battery issues. It being a bank holiday we had a couple of days delay whilst a new engine start battery was procured and fitted. Stuart and I took the opportunity to explore the island by car, and were able to get up the volcano Pico Teide by cable car. Such dramatic scenery ,
Sketch from Pico Teide 

We left Tenerife on Thursday 8th and have now sailed 170 miles South. Atoll Feeling a Kittel qu'est, (errr... All feeling a little queasy!) but hoping to get our sea legs back soon. Today we had a welcome visit from exuberantly leaping Atlantic spotted dolphins. Later I spotted a big green turtle swim past. Sun is now setting and Mark is putting together couscous and ratatouille for supper.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Medical training in the UK

Mark and I have now completed the 4-day Medical First Aid course at Hamble School of Yachting with our excellent trainer Sue Johnson.  The four day course was tough but very interesting and engaging, and has given us a great set of skills to respond to medical emergencies at sea, from fractured limbs to heart attacks.
Putting a neck brace on a suspected spinal injury
Then, while Mark and Stuart went Tenerife for a few days maintenance work, I stayed on for the  5-day Medical Care course, so that I could get the full Marine & Coastguard Agency approved qualification required for commercial vessels, which will allow me to prescribe and requisition any necessary drugs without recourse to a doctor.

Days 5 & 6 dealt with lots of wound treatment, and a detailed practical using sterile procedures and proper equipment to learn to insert catheters.
Ready to start with the sterile catheter kit

At the end of Day 7 I am proudly able to inject sub-dermal anaesthetic and suture wounds neatly.  
My dressmaking skills are handy suturing wounds
Following the course our over-riding aim is to prevent accidents from happening!

Meanwhile back in Tenerife, Mark & Stuart are cracking on with all sorts off outstanding jobs.  To my great relief they report that the freezer is working well and maintaining -12.7 degrees C.

I aim to be back on board on Tuesday 6th December and to then set sail for Cape Verde on the 7th.  

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Arrival in Tenerife

Rather than arrive in the pitch dark we dawdled downwind overnight, timing our arrival for dawn. What a great sight as the clouds cleared to show the 3870metre volcano of Teide lit by the rising sun.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

The Salvagem Islands

I woke at 08:00 to relieve Mark to find that the Salvage Islands were just 15 miles ahead. By 10:00 we were in rough seas approaching the rocky NW approach. The depths suddenly decreased from 4000 metres to 80 and I called Mark from sleep to come and see. The island shows orange red layers buckled and twisted and then capped with a thick flat layer of black basalt. A red and white pole on the highest point carries a light. Then we rounded a little headland to find the marked anchorage and a buoy in a very uninviting cleft in the rocks. Ashore there is a building and potentially there are people there who monitor the nature reserve, but we didn't see anyone.

So we turned and made our way out of the various offlying dangers int deep water. The other yacht, Vahine, had nearly caught up by now, but were less adventurous and stayed well out in deep water.

We set sail for Tenerife, 90 miles due south, noting that the barometer had dropped 3millibars in the last three hours, a sure sign of an impending blow.

Moonlight sailing

It's 03:00 and I have just completed the log with another hour to go on my watch, before I hand over to Mark again. We are at 30 54.56' N 16 14.74 W. On the radio earlier we heard an All Ships call to help with a Man Overboard from a commercial ship at 42 N. That was 600 miles north of us, so not something we could assist with, but it is a bleak feeling to think of the man in the water on this rough night.

Heading south from Madeira, tonight has been brightly lit by the waxing moon. So bright that the colours of the yellow diesel cans on the aft deck, and of the orange life buoys and the "Red Duster" flying from the stern are clear. Rare to see colours by moonlight!

The broad reach under Genoa alone has taken us roaring along at between 7 and 9 knots in 20-30knots of wind. We rise over the swell which breaks beneath us, with an occasional dollop into the cockpit. The wind is mild, but it feels chilly enough to wear full thermals and the Musto suit on top. My new Madeira cap keeps the head warm.

Astern is a 20 m yacht, Vahine, which has been struggling to get within 5 miles of us all night. I still cannot see her lights. Otherwise the sea is empty of traffic.

We are about 50 miles north of The Salvage Islands (Islas Salvagem) a nature reserve which requires permission to anchor in. We should be there about 10:00 and will have a look. There appears to be a mooring buoy which we could pick up but if not we will sail through.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Farewell to Madeira

Friday 11th November 2016
After a happy day exploring the island we prepared to set sail for Tenerife. But first I had one of those nasty jobs that a skipper has to face from time to time. The aft heads (WC) wasn't working. This has happened twice before, but I had taken most of it to pieces before I remembered that I have an equipment book in which I note problems and solutions. There it was "16/4/16. Stuart removed pump and found that the pressure switch was stuck". Sure enough I took it off and pressed the switch a few times to ffee it and everything functioned again. Next time I will consult the manual before taking everything apart!

With that fixed we were heading out of the harbour at 11:00 and set off due South towards the Selvagem islands 24 hours away. The islands are home to the greatest colony of Cory's Shearwaters apparently. We aim to stop for lunch and then it's only another 18 hours to Tenerife.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Exploring Madeira

Mark and I had a great land exploration day. Hired a Fiat Panda (received empty of fuel) put in €10 of fuel and off we went. Madeira is either travelled below ground in miles of EU funded tunnels. (known as Portugal's Greece for its fiscal policy)

Instead we did our best to stay above ground on winding tracks up impossible mountains. I doubt we got out of 1st and 2nd gear until we got back to the motorway.
We mooched in Porto Cruz sketching the cliffs and visiting the rum distillery, saw Madeiran Firecrests (Mark got a great photo. I get credit for identifying it.) Then a walk along a levada to a precipitous drop over a valley, with blackcaps and chaffinches and? Canaries.
Finally a mad drive into the cloud to 1810 metres so we had done the peak, before descending through a giant forest fire burn scar that had taken out much of the forest above Funchal and the botanical gardens.

Tomorrow we set off for 48 hours sailing south to Tenerife, aiming to drop in at the Selvagem islands on the way for lunch. Does anyone know anything about these?

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Four nights to Madeira

I came on watch again at 04:00 on Tuesday to find that the island Ilha do Porto Santo was visible ahead with its lighthouse flashing 3 times every 15 seconds. Given our speed through the water we would be arriving in pitch darkness, so as a mark headed for his bunk I reefed the Genoa right down and slowed up to 3 knots so that we arrived as dawn broke.

The rhythm of our sail from Cascais had settled down through initial queasiness to feeling much more at home. There's a curious separation between the outside and the inside of the boat. One can step below out of the wind and noise into a calm environment. A glance out of the windows shows the sea going past like a roaring river, but the sensation is of a smooth calm ride, despite the surge and roll of the sea which one's brain somehow discounts.

During the night hours we alternate four hour watches on deck and in our bunks. In daylight we are often both on deck enjoying the sunshine. "George" steers most of the time, although occasionally Mark or I take the helm to enjoy the ride more.

Yesterday I finally dug out the fishing kit Tom th aft starboard deck locker ( pity it as the the other side ass it turned out later) and trailed it astern. The Watamu Yoyo was with us in 2005 on the ARC but didn't catch much. It trails a very strong line with a bungee to take the shock of a strike, with an orange fish that skitters along the surface trailed by a bright red 4" long squid which hides a big hook. Two hours later I checked again and there was a big golden dorado. Once aboard, this beautiful golden fish was subdued with a slug of rum in the gills, and then we saw its beautiful sky blue spots and golden colour change as it died. It weighed 6 kg and was 85cm long, and as I butchered it on the rolling aft back, slippery with gore I wasn't sure I had the appetite to eat it. We had a couple of big steaks for supper though and they were excellent with rice and tomato salsa.

We have been plagued with a mysterious electrical problem which Mark has been very assiduously trying to track down. Something somewhere is leaking electricity to the metal hull. We spent many hours trying to track it down, finally concluding that the problem got somewhat better when the boat rolled heavily to starboard. Mark crawled into the engine space to see if a loose wire was swinging and making contact. We lifted floorboards, isolated electrical systems and still it continued. We postulated that it might be water in the bilges sloshing into a piece of electrical equipment and spent ages pumping water out of every place we could find. All to no avail !

So our arrival at Porto Santo was to find a calm anchorage and go through Nigel Calder's book The Boat Electrical Bible and follow his methodology to isolate and disconnect each piece of equipment in turn to track down the current leak.

As we prepared to enter the port we had the option of anchoring or finding a spot in the little marina. I got fenders out of our aft port deck,locker, and was horrified to find it half full of sea water! In there is also our long range radio transmitter, and here was the solution to the problem that had been plaguing us for the last three days. Once pumped out, rinsed with Fran water and dried the cu rent meter was showing all green again. What a relief! The problem was to find out how the water had got in and we can only conclude that the new seal we installed round the lid has failed.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

en route to Madeira

We set sail at 16:00 on Friday 4th November from Cascais heading for Funchal, Madeira. The wind was brisk F5 and we sailed close hauled into th night and heavy rain. The following morning dawned with the wind having backed round to the NE so that we were on a broad reach making 9knots.

Last night we sailed past a series of submerged sea mounts, part of a long line of volcanic pimples leading to Madeira, where the continental plate has slowly slid over a hot spot. They rise from 3000 metres to just 30 metres below the surface, and with a big swell running wouldn't. constitute a great hazard to a small boat, as the swells will slow down, rear up and break.

Settling into our 4 hour watches, still a bit vulnerable to seasickness.

To my alarm we seem like to have -50mA current leakage again. Spent a lot of time isolating systems, crawling in bilges and cupboards to no avail.. not great for feeling queasy.

Power usage is a challenge. Using the autopilot to steer ( rather essential on a dark, cloudy, moonless night) and running the freezer both consume power at about 6 amps. After 6 hours we need to run the generator to restore the 36 Amp-hours used. During the day the solar panels extend that period. Last night, Saturday night, I was on watch twice, and watched the battery capacity run slowly down to 90%. Then I discovered that I should have been following the voltage which was down to 10.5 volts. I tried to start the engine and just got the useless ticking of an under powered solenoid. Then the generator...... same thing! I recalled that Kate and Mark had had the problem of power failure about here in 2005. Their plottings are on the same chart that I am using now.

Fortunately I recalled that we can cross link the bowthruster battery to the generator, and it was with immense relief that I heard it rumble into life.

Breakfast of Bircher muesli and fresh baked rolls with butter and honey. Sadly Mark saw his again shortly afterwards. It's an unsettling big sea.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Exploring Lisbon

Today I woke ridiculously late at 09:30 after vivid dreams involving boats, driving a Landrover across boggy terrain and rescuing a strange floating ice sculpture on a rocky coast - probably St Mawes. It was all so real that even at breakfast I was still concerned about what I had done with the Landrover keys!

Mark then set about changing the oil in the new engine, which seemed to take a very long time, and I did my bit struggling to get the oil filter off, and devising a strap lever to do it.  No success there as it had been spray painted into the engine! A call to John at MarineTech put our mind at rest, as the filter is good until the first proper service after 12 months.

Then at last we could set off into Lisbon, catching the little coastal train which costs just 5 euros return for the half hour ride.   Once in Lisbon I could see just how huge the river is, with ferries to the other side travelling the same distance as crossing the Solent.  Much of the waterfront was being torn up and improved, but we soon came to magnificent buildings and the most enormous square, Placa Commercao, dominated by a great statue of Saint Vincent, I think,  with his horse trampling a nest of great snakes beneath its hooves.

Mark had been there before and guided me through little crumbling streets and alleyways, past tiny restaurants and cafes, and up flights of stairs, steeply climbing walkways and tunnels until we popped out on the terrace at the top of Alfama, overlooking a great sweep of roof tops down to the waterfront.  A little formal garden with shady parapet walkway led to a higher terrace where I could wipe the perspiration from my brow and enjoy a, much longed for, cold beer.   Mark was very patient as I set to sketching the great sweep of buildings in front of us.  As dusk fell I had to rapidly convert my painting into a night scene with all the different lighting emphasis. A second beer was very much called for to carry this through.

Lisbon's streets as in Cascais are all paved with little black and white blocks of stone about an inch and a half each side.  The patterns are lovely square edged shapes in some streets, but in larger spaces and wide streets  there is a superb pattern of alternating black and whit waves.  Seen from one angle they produce a convincing illusion that the streets are deeply rutted, and that one must be careful to avoid stumbling over the raised ridges. The astonishing amount of labour need to accomplish this iss quite mind boggling.  I picked up a couple off pieces from a damaged area, and was surprised to find that they were blocks rather than tiles, as I had hitherto imagined.

We caught one of the flock of ancient and picturesque trams and came down from the heights with a great screeling of metal wheels on metal rails as we rounded the corners.  I smiled at someone enjoying a ride in the opposite direction, as we were both videoing each other's tram passing, and as we came to a halt alongside she reached out to me and shook my hand. A brief encounter!

Thanks to arriving, euphemistically, on much more solid ground at last, I was really looking forward to enjoying some Portuguese cuisine.  We walked a very long street lined with restaurants, tugged, cajoled and importuned by the doorman of each to enter his fine establishment,  The range of languages tested was impressive, and eventually we gave in at one owned by Luis, who got us sat down and hooked with a complimentary glass of port before proffering some rather disappointing well-thumbed laminated picture menus.  Nonetheless once he presented the platter of fresh fish we settled on sole and grouper, and very much enjoyed the dishes once they appeared. I took the risk of  enjoying a half bottle of Dao white wine, which was bliss after almost two weeks abstinence.

Meanwhile Luis had triumphed over all his competitors by hooking a group of 14 Dutch tourists who settled in noisily next to us.   It was time to leave!

On the night train back to Cascais I caught up on news on my phone and, reading about the parlous state of American politics, was reminded that although Hilary was corruptly using a private email server, the other candidate seems to use another method of sending signals through the fog of campaigning.  These are foghorns which I found in a chandlery in the Isles of Scilly !

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

A relaxing day in Cascais

We had a relaxing day in Cascais, enlivened by the arrival of visitors Tamsin Isaacs and friend Alex, who took us through the streets of Cascais to have breakfast in the delightful House of Wonders.  this colourful cafe serves a wonderful array of vegetarian and fruitarian treats.  In the light of tummy troubles I opted for the safe option of a big bowl of yoghurt, wisely refusing the granola, but for better or worse still had the mango chunks  Of course coffee was out of the question - orange and maracuja is lovely.

Later on we completed port formalities ad paid or fees, receiving a presentation bottle of wine as a welcome gift.  Outside the heavens opened briefly - November weather had arrived.

With the lure of the big blue and white lighthouse nearby, I set off to explore and sketch.  The Farol Santa Marta lighthouse museum was excellent with great displays of Fresnel lenses to focus light.  Amazing how a small light bulb can be concentrated into a bright bean to sweep across the sea.  Next door is a fascinating palace or mansion house, with lovely walls of blue painted tiles showing great scenes, ad little balconies out over the rocky inlet giving views of the lighthouse.
Across the inlet a convenient cafe gave a great view of both buildings, and sheltered from the rain showers I settled down to sketch.  Midway a cheese omelette seemed a good idea (although medics please note that I didn't touch the salad!)

I made it back to the boat just as the sun set dramatically behind the lighthouse,

Tomorrow, all being well, we will probably set off on our 3 day voyage towards Madeira.  We take individual watches of 4 hours over the lengthening night, trying to keep the sails trimmed for maximum speed, but motoring if the wind falls too light.

Our battery banks give us about 6 hours operation at the power consumption of the freezer, autopilot and other instruments at night, and longer in the day with the solar panels. If it's very windy the wind generator makes a big input, but with the wind behind us at moderate strength it doesn't keep up at night.  A water driven version is supposed to get round this, but that we do not have. So often we run the diesel generator for an hour or so to get everything charged up - it can be a surprise to those asleep in t forward cabin to have that leap into life under the bunk.  Sorry about that Niall - should have warned you !

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Sailing to Lisbon

We set sail from Oporto on Monday morning, but with no wind were forced to motor all day and night. Finally got some wind at 4 am and lay close hauled down south. Then as we approach Lisbon we have a lovely 20 knots but right on the nose with current against us it took ages to make any distance.

Sadly my guts are still playing havoc with my body. Ho hum!


The entrance to the Douro River and Oporto was a lovely sight in warm afternoon sunshine with an avenue of palm trees along the waterfront making it feel really foreign. Up river the gorge narrows and is spanned by many bridges, the first giving a huge 60metre clearance.
We moored up in the very welcoming Douro Marina, and met up with Mark's friend Frank Verheijen. He whisked us of in his car along the waterfront and up the gorge to the most spectacular city. The buildings cling to the cliffs rising high above to grand buildings set high on vertiginous drops. I hopped out to sit on the riverbank and sketch whilst Mark got a city tour.
The river flows at a great rate through the gorge, setting up standing waves like rapids. Through this power the trip boats, built on the design of the long elegant barges that carry the barrels of port down river. Along the bank, original barges are moored, their long steering oars trailing in the current, angled down from the high steering platform above the precious cargo. Flags fly from the barges with familiar names such as Sandeman.
As the sunset I packed up and headed across the bridge amongst the throngs of visitors to meet Mark and Frank at little restaurant set into the walls of the town above the river. What a spectacular spot to sit and eat dinner. Fantastic!

The following day I fully intended to head back to explore Oporto, but was laid so low by gastroenteritis again (3rd day) that I couldn't manage it. However in the evening Mark coaxed me into the dinghy and we went up river to view the city again. Well worth it!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

A Stormy Passage to France

We had a peaceful night anchored in Newton Creek on the Isle of Wight, and I had everyone up for a 6 am breakfast before we set off at 07:00. There was a fair wind and, as we sailed out of Hurst Narrows on the rush of the ebb-tide, the grey morning was enlivened by a ray of pink sunrise illuminating the Needles.

Our course took us straight out past Poole and eventually past Portland. I had calculated our departure to enable us to arrive at the entrance of the Chenal du Four at 10:42 GMT to pick up the south going tide. However the shipping forecast was for an easterly gale after 12 hours. The satellite weather maps agreed that winds of up to 30 knots were due late evening and all Sunday. I took the view that Niall was proving to be hale and hearty , and that we should be able to handle a gale.

We have now passed through the Chenal and are at the entrance to Brest, having arrived exactly on time for our southward passage.

However the gales was not quite as forecast with winds rising to sustained 52-59 knots for several hours. This qualifies as Violent Storm 11, after which the only other classification is a Hurricane above 64 knots. I'm glad to say that both boat and crew did very well in mountainous seas, reducing sail appropriately and surfing at almost 12 knots at times. The autopilot, George, did his job well too.

Once in the Chenal du Four the seas were flatter, the wind dropped to 40 knots or so and we shook out some reefs to race another yacht through. Now as I write this we are held up waiting for a naval convoy to pass before we make for a mooring in Camaret or Brest.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Off at last!

Friday came and we still had Steve and John from MarineTech on board finishing off the engine, and helping fix the electric loo and repositioning some deck hardware. Then we set off as far as the fuel pontoon, took on 360litres of diesel and at 6pm sharp, Mark steered us out into the Solent.

Darkness fell as we navigated through the lights of buoys, sailing boats and great illuminated cruise liners, past Cowes and down to Newton Creek where we dropped anchor for the night.

Mark cooked up some pasta, and then we turned in ready for an early start. Tomorrow we head down Channel towards Dartmouth and will then turn left towards Brest.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Our crew arrives

Our novice crew, Niall Gallacher, arrived today catching the green foot ferry from Portsmouth Harbour station to Gosport where Tin Tin is moored.  The exceptionally high tides mean that we get a great view out of the harbour entrance and can wave at visitors arriving on the ferry.

In a spirit of optimism we loaded frozen goods for the freezer and our personal kit bags.  Mine is packed with thermal underwear and thick jerseys and socks for the first part and shorts and T-shirts of the second part.

At the boat we found three engineers still struggling finish the engine installation, plus Jerry the Rigger installing the boom vang.

We did a tour of the boat for Niall and then some knot training.  He quickly got the hang of round turn and two half hitches, clove hitches and bowlines.

We left with hope that the boat would be ready for trials on Thursday morning.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Captain Morgan comes aboard to show us the way.

One step forward......

Mark and I felt a sense of foreboding as we arrived in Gosport today. In fact we sat in the car putting off the dreaded moment of finding out what progress had been made while we ate sandwiches.

Finally I called Jerry the Rigger. GOOD NEWS! They are on deck running through the final items. Replace worn topping lift, replace worn mainsail furling line, replace staysail attachment, and re-rivet the boom vang.

So then down to the boat.

BAD NEWS! The electrician has done his back in and can't finish the engine today. Aaaaarghhh! Will it be done tomorrow? Who knows!?!?! Can we sail on Wednesday ? Who knows?!!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Open Day on Board

The rain stopped, the sun shone and TinTin was polished and tidy for Sunday's visitors.

It was great to see Mark's 3 boys; Matt and Elisa, Tim and Amy and Nick and Emma, plus Richard and friend Louise, just arrived from USA via Italy.

Paul served tea in the best China mugs, but then disaster struck when everyone tasted it. SALT! It was an awful discovery to find that our 600 litre water tanks, freshly replenished on Saturday, were full of seawater!

We quickly resorted to drinking beer and then all ten of us were treated by Richard to Sunday lunch at the Boat House.

We were also joined by Phil, and once everyone had left we dealt with the technical problems.
Investigation of the boat manual's water pipe diagrams showed a possible link to sea water. On investigation I found some rather alternative French piping which lacked a non-return valve crucial to the separation of fresh and salt water systems.

Meanwhile Phil instantly solved our wifi router issue ! A very useful man to know!

Now we are desperately hoping that Monday will have a successful conclusion so that we can do sea trials on Tuesday and leave on Wednesday before the weather deteriorates.

Sent from my iPhone
Apologies for any text errors

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Always look on the bright side of Life.... Aha aha ! Alway look on the bright side of Life... aaaaaargghh!

It's Saturday morning in the Big Brother House, and it feels as though Mark and Paul are characters in "Waiting for Godot".  

Every day we stow stores, tackle any maintenance issues and prepare for departure, but every day the engine room is still full of crouching engineers muttering curses against French yacht designers for the lack of space.

Friday was a BIG disappointment. When we arrived after lunch, hoping that the engineers had finally packed up and gone, they were still in contorted positions in the engine room. To everyone's dismay the parts sent from Volvo France, recommended by Alubat for installation of our engine, proved to be for a different engine. They now have to construct various new brackets to fit the bits, and won't be able to work on the boat this weekend.  So it's fingers crossed that all will finally be completed on Monday.  Then we still need to do sea-trials on Tuesday and try to leave on Wednesday.

Meanwhile our weather forecast shows that Wednesday would be perfect condition for a fast sail south, but that we don't want to arrive in Spain later than Saturday 22nd as there will be southerly gales for a few days.
The weather forecast looks promising if we can get away on Wednesday19th.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The French Connection

Good News! Since I discovered that the engine installation was putting current through the hull, the MarineTech team have been hard at work trying to sort the problem out.   Calls to Volvo UK, Volvo France and ultimately to Alubat in Sables d'Olonne have resulted in the useful discovery that the Volvo D2-75 engine is also fitted to the latest OVNIs, and there is a solution to the problem.  So now parts will beacquitred to sort this out, but they don't arrive till Thursday.  Just possibly will have the boat back for testing on Friday !

Meanwhile we have an appointment onWednesday 12th, much postponed, with Joanna The Compass Adjuster.  So at 14:30 tomorrow we shall be swinging!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Loading the Stores

We loaded just over 800 items of food on Sunday weighing in at 315kg.  Miraculously it stored away neatly join cupboards and under the floor.

To my great relief the new freezer equipment is pulling it down to -15 C which is just as I wanted it for longer term storage of Mark's medical supplies - ice cream :-)

Today we are taking down more equipment and will aim to be ready to sail on Wednesday/ Thursday. The compass adjuster is booked on Wednesday to make sure we g  in the right direction.

As an added bonus, Niall Gallacher called to say that we had been delayed so long that he was now available again to crew down to Spain.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Initial sea trials completed OK

Mark & Paul headed down to Gosport for the umpteenth time, but this time, after a full morning of making things shipshape, we started the engine.   With engineers, John and Ashleigh, aboard, and with the floor of the cockpit removed so that they could tend the engine, we warped ourselves out of a tight corner and reversed slowly out into the harbour.

The engine ran smoothly and quietly, and we head out to the first to test it.   Running at full throttle (3,100 rpm) we made about 8.6 knots, which is maximum efficient waterline speed.  Lots of white steam out of the exhaust, but this soon settled down.  The engineers were busy checking temperatures, filling cooling systems, checking for leaks etc, until we were all satisfied.  Then a bit of manoeuvring practice in the harbour to check engine performance for fine manoeuvres before heading back to the berth.

Mark and I then did a comprehensive scrub of the deck and paintwork before heading home.   Issues to fix on Monday; speed, wind and autopilot instruments not working, masthead wind sensor not rotating freely, current leak to hull when engine connected, engine not charging batteries, electronic engine monitor not connected to chart plotter, keel hydraulics still need some attention.

Tomorrow I think we can load the stores.  Then on Monday we can focus on getting these jobs fixed.

I think we are almost there ........ :-)

Friday, 7 October 2016

Still in Gosport, watching friends sail off for Spain!

Our friend Nick Russell has now found enough crew to set sail from Falmouth towards La Corunna in his 55' ketch, Rogue Trader.  We watch them go with fair winds for the next 5 days, and wish them bon voyage, wishing that we could be casting off too!

However the engine should now be ready for sea trials on Saturday, so we will find out whether everything works as it should.  

Yesterday we had help from Justin doing lots of cleaning and clearing out which made the aft deck feel shipshape at last.  Tomorrow we have a huge job getting the main cabin ready for sea, before we can cast off for our trial run.

Meanwhile Mark has been helping me complete DIY jobs at home, and has been working on fettling our gangplank.  I bought a scaffolding plank and sanded it down to give nice surface.  Mark has then been burning into it the words TIN TIN MMSI 235111559 so that it is identifiable if it floats off.  It now gets a number of coats of preservative so that it withstands the sea water and sun.   Holes have been drilled to attach ropes, and we should soon have a perfect means of getting ashore in Spanish harbours, where one moors stern to the dock.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Tracking Tin Tin

I have set up a tracking map on a web page, which you can find on the blog.  Click on the link "Tin Tin's Progress" on the right to see our track, and last reported position.  This is sent from our Iridium GO! satellite communicator.  Don't panic if our position doesn't move - the GO! might not have been switched on, or can't catch a passing satellite..

Initially you will find us in the Bight of Benin at 0 degrees longitude and 0 degrees latitude !

Tin Tin of St Mawes

The boat is now officially Tin Tin of St Mawes as her unique name registered under Part 1 with the Marine Coastguard Agency.  It has taken a long time to get this accepted as they kept demanding new documents which were hard to acquire from the ageing previous owner, and eventually I had to have documents translated and notarised from French and Latvian.

A carving and marking note has been issued, and now a brass plate is being manufactured in Manchester which must be permanently fixed to the boat.

New Engine delivered

The new engine is in!  Launch will be on Friday and with luck we will be doing sea trials on Monday!   If all goes well ( and why would I expect that?!) we could set off on Tuesday, subject to weather, of course.

Meanwhile Anne and Paul did a huge shop at Sainsbury's to fill up with dozens of cans of long date meats and vegetables - the check out manager wanted to know if we were preparing for the Apocalypse!

My to do list keeps getting longer despite being ticked off rapidly.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Engine update

The new engine will apparently be delivered on Friday next week, and by the time that is all fitted in and we have done sea trials, cleaned and loaded the boat  I hope we can finally set sail on the weekend of 1st October.  

Unfortunately this is past the window of availability of our first brave crew member, Niall Gallacher.    Meanwhile the delay also badly affects our next crew, Peter Eatherley and Antony Wheatley, who had booked flights to meet us on 23rd September in A Coruña, and we are not likely to be there now until 6/7 October.

So does anyone fancy a sail south to Spain in a couple of weeks time?

Meanwhile Mark & I are booked on an offshore medical course on 26-29 November, and I enjoyed my first of three rabies jabs yesterday, advised because one might meet rabid dogs, cats, monkeys and bats.....  Meanwhile Mark is due to get his yellow fever jabs topped up on Monday.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Frustrating delays - but valuable time to finish off the jobs in hand

Wednesday 14th September 2016

Tomorrow was meant to be our departure date, but after conversations with the engineers I find that the new engine I have ordered has already been put on display at the Southampton Boat Show, and it's going to take longer to get one delivered than I thought.  ten days delay could be  realistic now :-(

At the same time the service of the hydraulic pump for the centre-plate reveals a faulty valve that cannot be replaced.  Guess what....... a new pump is needed!

Meanwhile I keep ordering things that are on the to do list, and friends keep giving me wonderful things to take. Rosalind Ranson sent us a magnificent pressure cooker, Tony Gourlay has lent a hand held GPS, Antony Wheatley has sent a magnificent Overseas Pro fishing rod (I can see self sufficiency fishing ahead), Peter & Cherril West brought Rum, William and Elizabeth Stephens brought Port, and Kate, Beccy, Alice and Emily have produced elegant tin espresso coffee cups, a ukulele and song book and a lovely photo album to remind me who my family is!

Then I got rather a strange surprise when Googling for this blog.  What do I find?  TinTin already in Mayotte which is on our list of places to go http://tintinsailingadventures.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/mayotte-blend-of-africa-and-france.html   Somehow it all seems less of an adventure into the unknown......

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Just when it was all going so well.....

Sadly we have a problem with the engine on Tin Tin....

Fortunately it can be dealt with in about a week.  

Coming back from Southampton there was a lot of blue smoke and suddenly the engine lost power and produced black smoke...

Today's investigation indicates that piston rings need to be replaced.  This means the engine must be lifted out.  Fortunately Tim Newell's team at Endeavour Quay are able to collect and lift Tin Tin out immediately "after our tea break"

Then John Dew, Andy and Ashley (next week's holiday cancelled I fear!) at MarineTech will lift out the engine, and rebuild it in "about a week".

So Thursday 15th September may not be our actual departure date, but there is still a faint hope.  

On the positive side the engine problem has been identified whilst still in the UK, and can be fixed before it fails in a critical situation.....  one less thing to worry about!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Launch Day

Launch Day

Anne, Paul and Mark set off early to get down to Saxon Wharf in time to launch Tin Tin at 9 a.m.  the team already had Tin Tin in the slings when we arrived towing the new tender.

We tested the bow thruster with its new sealing plate, which worked well and had reassuringly large bolts holding it in place.

While Tin Tin was dropped in the water by the big boat lift, our little tender was hoisted by a gigantic fork lift truck and lowered in alongside a pontoon. Mark and Paul both have forklift  licences and really fancied a go!

The new bimini seems just right, and I hope it will do a good job of keeping the crew on watch cool and dry.

Anne kindly delivered the trailer back to its owner while Mark & Paul set off down river to slip under the bridge before the tide rose too high, and sailed down the Solent to Gosport.

On route the engine was very smoky and ran oddly, and so we had a couple of engineers from MarineTech Engineering to meet us join the dock in Gosport to look it over and service it.  We were also met by Marine Electronics to get the Navtex going again - it had been disabled all round Britain denying us automatic reception of weather forecasts.  The cause turned out to be a tiny stray wire in the antenna cable which had occurred when the SSB radio was installed.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Last lap before leaving

Sunday 4th September

I have started looking ahead at Biscay weather using PredictWind, hoping that the recent bad weather ther doesn't set in. This evening we had a dinner party with 6 sailing friends, highlighting how much there is to explore in the Mediterranean. We then pored over maps of the world sketching out the proposed route and talking about where we might next meet. It's beginning to feel very exciting.

Last week I met an Australian couple in their yacht Taipan, who have been circumnavigating since 2004 from Australia to Africa, and up to Europe.  It was good to discuss all sorts of practical experiences including whether one should stow a RIB on condition or on the davit when passage making.  Turns out that Davits were safer for them than on deck.  I think I could also have chosen a larger 3.5m RIB too.      Other useful experience is that it's best not to pre ok airline tickets, as its stressful trying to meet the deadline imposed.  Kris and David explained that  their research showed it was usually cheaper to wait until arrival and then buy one.


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Just 3 weeks till we set sail round the world!

Sunday 21st August 2016
This week I took delivery of 210 Admiralty charts covering our planned circumnavigation from the Caribbean, through Panama to Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga to Australia and then on across the Indian Ocean, with A few extra to cover Madagascar and even the Comoros and Mayotte, in case we visit Elodie! From there to South Africa, up to Ascension Island and St Helena before reaching Brazil and the Caribbean again. At £24.99 apiece it's a big investment!

Then today I went down to TinTin, on the hard at Saxon Wharf, and stripped out all the pilot books and charts we had used round Britain and lugged them home.  Will we ever sail that way again or should I put them on eBay? I really hope that I will be able to explore more of Great Britain when I get back. There was so much that we missed, and some beautiful places that I should love to revisit.

I have been endlessly making lists on outstanding jobs, trying to schedule all the things that need to be achieved before we set sail, conscious that it will get harder in other countries.

I have recontacted Martin Kramp at Ifremer with my offer of carrying ocean monitoring buoys to release in the Pacific but, sadly, it seems that they don't have any at present, despite being keen.  I hope we will still be able to contribute to marine knowledge as a Voluntary Observing Ship (VOS).   With the huge El Niño last year now fading away, and the evidence of unseasonal gales in UK this week, and exceptional heat and floods in the USA, I wonder what sort of turbulent weather systems we will have to contend with on our trip.

Meanwhile at home I am trying to get everything in order so that I can leave Anne without too much chaos to handle.  

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Loss of Power

Thursday 26th May 2016

I planned to catch an early tide and sail round to Westerly or round to Kirkwall. A big Farr 65 moored near us left at 06:00 but ran aground. As we prepared to leave we were quite smug that we would have no problem with our lifting keel. I reversed out of the berth into the space between the moored boats but then, to my horror, found that I couldn't make the engine work. The throttle cable had snapped!

We were drifting down onto the sterns of moored boats, when Mark had the bright idea of diving into the engine room and controlling engine speed manually. Just before we hit anything I was able to manoeuvre out and around the boat that was aground into the harbour, where we dropped anchor out of the way of shipping. We tried to diagnose and fix the problem ourselves but it soon became apparent that we needed professional help. The Harbour Master kindly put us in touch with Hamnavoe Engineering, and Ralph put aside his other jobs and met us back on the dock. There followed a frustrating time trying to fit a new cable, complicated by the difficulty in gaining access to the binnacle, because of the amount of cable squeezed into the small space. This was clearly going to take some time, so Colin and Sue sensibly left us to it, and hired bikes to cycle to Skara Brae - a not insignificant journey!

Later we had a visitor from the Orkney Yawl Association who had brought their club boat round for a sail. She was a beautiful craft very wide in the beam with a canoe stern and a gunter rig. I was offered a sail but, to my lasting regret, I turned them down in favour of staying for our supper which was ready to serve.

The Orkneys - Wednesday 25th May

Wednesday 25th May 2016
Today is crew changeover day with Justin catching a 16:45 ferry to Scrabster and Colin and Sue Watts arriving by plane to Kirkwall this afternoon.

However with a morning ahead to explore the island we called a taxi to take us to the Ring of Brodgar standing stones and from there to the Neolithic village at Skara Brae.

The standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar
The museum was excellent, but most amazing are the actual houses, now roofless, and re-exposed to the elements 5,500 years after they were occupied. A sandstorm had apparently buried the houses and the settlement which had been occupied for 600 years was abandoned. the stone furniture, beds, food stores etc were impressive. We also looked round the grand house at Skara Brae, kept as a period piece.
Neolithic stone dwellings at Skara Brae

Back in Stromness we said farewell to Justin and welcomed Colin and Sue on board.

Monday 22nd May 2016

Monday 22nd May 2016
The morning was occupied with grocery shopping, buying a chart of NE Scotland from the Stornoway Shipping Company, and filling 490 litres of water. Then we slipped our mooring and headed to the fuel dock where we took on 157 litres of diesel - the first since Bangor in Ireland.

Once again the weather was very calm and we motored out into an amazing sea of light with fishing boats apparently floating in the sky, and pods of dolphins slowly curving through the water. They may have been sleeping, and they did not come to play with us.

Our destination was Loch Inchard and the port of Kinlochbervie, but as we progressed well I decided to head straight for the Orkneys, passing Cape Wrath while it was in a benevolent mood As we passed in the sunset, a shaft of sunlight illuminated the lighthouse, against the black 800 foot high cliffs of the Cleit Dub'h, and we toasted the Cape with a dram of Oban whisky and some Belgian chocolate.
The black cliffs of Cleit Dubh and Cape Wrath, safely astern

I took first watch until midnight, and the sky still showed a red sunset streak at that time, and then the moon rose preceded by an intensely red Mars.

Tuesday 23rd May 2016
When I came back on watch at 05:40 to relieve Justin it was daylight, and the Orkneys were visible twenty miles away, with the significant shape of Hoy dominating the skyline, withers cliffs of 1040 feet.. Astern the mountains inland of Cape Wrath were still visible 50 or more miles distant.

 As we tacked back and forth into the headwind we could begin to see The Old Man of Hoy silhouetted against the sky, finally coming into Hoy Sound past the experimental tide power buoys just before their tide turned against us to deny entry.
The Orkneys appear on the horizon
The Old Man of Hoy appears in the distance

I called Stromness Harbour Control on channel 12 and we were allowed to enter, and found a finger pontoon to berth on.

Stromness seemed deserted as we strolled through the stone streets, amongst neat stone houses, and found our way to the Museum. It had interesting displays of ships and the local explorer John Rae, who had explored the Arctic learning survival skills from the Inuit.

We ate and drank well in the Ferryboat Inn, kindly treated by Justin, and then retired to bed exhausted.


Sunday 22nd May 2016

Richard was out rowing this morning on the calm loch, looking very relaxed. Sadly we had to say goodbye in Stornaway and made our way there to moor up in the harbour. It is a lovely spot, with a castle and lovely grounds coming to the waters edge, just across from all the colourful fishing boats. the new pontoons certainly make this an easy harbour to stay in.

Justin appeared looking leaner, footsore and weather beaten, having walked up the islands from South Uist where we had put him ashore. Lauri, whose plane was later in the evening, kindly treated us ago a splendid Sunday lunch.

We fought off sleepiness and tackled various jobs, fixing the kitchen sink which had come unstuck from the work top, and replacing the copper "fuse" for the centreboard hydraulics which had been punctured when we hit a rock on Loch Uiskevagh.

Sunday 22nd May 2016

Richard was out rowing this morning on the calm loch, looking very relaxed before breakfast.  Then we raised anchor and motored in calm weather to Stornoway.

Sadly we had to say goodbye to our crew and made our way there to moor up in the harbour. It is a lovely spot, with a castle and beautiful grounds coming to the waters edge, just across from all the colourful fishing boats. The new pontoons certainly make this an easy harbour to stay in.

Justin appeared looking leaner, footsore and weather beaten, having walked up the islands from South Uist where we had put him ashore. Lauri, whose plane was later in the evening, kindly treated us all to a splendid Sunday lunch.

We fought off sleepiness and tackled various jobs, fixing the kitchen sink which had come unstuck from the work top, and replacing the copper "fuse" for the centreboard hydraulics which had been punctured when we hit a rock on Loch Uiskevagh.

Saturday 21st may 2016

We left Scalpay and sailed in light winds towards the Shiant Islands. The wind died and we ended up motoring through a glassy calm with amazing light from a dramatic cloudy sky lit by patches of sunshine. The number of sea birds increased dramatically with rafts of guillemots, puffins and razorbills interspersed with solitary gannets.

The light reflected off the sea was extraordinary and the islands seemed to hang in the sky. We found a mooring just off a rocky beach under dramatic cliffs crowded with sea birds.
Moored in the Shiant Islands

The weather looked as though it might change at any moment, so a party of 5 went ashore immediately, managing to land safely in the surge of the swell onto the rounded boulders on the beach. Richard and I scrambled up a steep grass cliff to reach the viewpoint on the crest, looking far down to Tin Tin, and across the islands through swirling clouds of birds.

Leaving the islands behind we headed northwards to find shelter in a remote anchorage in Loch Mariveg. Anchoring required several attempts, and in thinned we laid a second anchor out to control the bots swing between rocky cliffs. The evening was very calm with a lovely sunset glow and we enjoyed rowing and clambering up the surrounding hills.
Loch Mariveg

Friday 20th May 2016

We had a slow start with a full Scottish breakfast the Loch Maddy hotel. Then we set off into much easier conditions of 25 knots topsail under genoa only northwards towards Harris.

Once across the Sound of Harris we explored a little loch called Roday, anchoring close under a cliff to have lunch in eh sunshine, but rolling heavily in the remnants of the swell that crept into they. The old church here is the burial place of the standard bearers of the MacLeod clan, and is reputed to have fine architecture, but sadly we didn't have time to venture ashore.
Loch Roday
Once under sail again the wind dropped to 15-18 knots and at last we flew our new spinnaker which gave us 7.5-8.5 knots in 14-15 knots of wind. However getting the Parasailor down proved difficult at first, with Mark hanging his whole weight on the rope to snuff it and then getting lifted off the deck!

Richard helmed us through the rocks of Loch Tarbert to North Harbour on Scalpay Island where, after 3 attempts, we managed to get the anchor to hold in thick weed. The harbour had fishing vessels moored on one side and some houses around the other end. A beautiful sunset rewarded us and we sat on deck until the night chill drove us down to the warn cabin where Mark had prepared a delicious supper. Meanwhile I set an anchor alarm in case the wind blew up and our anchor dragged in the night.
North Harbour, Scalpay Island

Friday, 20 May 2016

A few Hebridean photos

Seabirds on a remote rock

Dramatic Duart castle passes happy sailors unseen :-)

Will Tin Tin fit under the Bridge over the sea to Skye?  

A brisk sail up to Portree on Skye

There's a nesting white-tailed sea eagle in this photo!

Seals hanging out in a sheltered bay on Ronay island