03. Caribbean, St Lucia to Panama 2008

14:04.59N 060:56.91W Rodney Bay, St Lucia 20th December 2007

During the crossing my credit card expired and it has caused all kinds of problems with the billing for the website and me being able to update photos and video. It is proving tricky to sort out from the Caribbean, but normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. I can obviously still add words (like these..and these) but just now I have more interesting stuff to do. I’ll start it up again before continuing west. Summary of events in Rodney Bay, St Lucia so far. Eat, drink, party, party, beach, eat, drink, party etc. Tom arrived yesterday for Christmas and New Year. Lori leaves for Portugal tomorrow and is back New Years Day.

14:04.59N 060:56.91W Rodney Bay, St Lucia 22nd December 2007

The website access problems seem to be solved and there are now new photos on . Although video is going to have to wait for a faster internet connection than they have here in the marina. The Award Ceremony was held today for the ARC. Graptolite got a special mention for blogging but no trophy. After the award do, Patti, Tamsin, Tom and myself went to the Gros Islet ‘Jump Up’ which is a Friday night shanty town street bash. A Notting Hill Carnival meets Cowes Week type do. Note to self: never let Tom loose with rum punch again. Lori left for Xmas in Portugal with family. The rest of us will be toughing it out here until maybe Boxing Day then having a sail south to the Grenadines. There are still a few more bits and pieces to fix on the boat before leaving though.

14:04.59N 060:56.91W Rodney Bay, St Lucia 23rd December 2007

A Crabbers blog,

Crew here; We realise that our public gets anxious when the blogs dry up but it feels to us that there is no news in port. Liz’s sister did remark that all we seemed to do or write about doing whilst at sea was eating. You wouldn’t think so if you’d have seen us on arrival; Skipper with new notches on his belt (to make it go smaller), others with a more svelte look – all now restored thanks to Caribbean cuisine and Piton beer.

Anyway, the prize giving was last night and we were there. The gig started off with a duf mic on the stage which when fixed came on at full volume plus feedback which blew all the fuses in the house. Time for more rum punch till it got fixed. You don’t know how boring these events can be till you have to sit through the whole thing and not the edited highlights. In the intermission Liz and I made for a less congested bar behind closed doors but didn’t stay long as the ARC MD was hosting drinky’s for the St Lucia PM, Cabinet Ministers and other hangers on – Ooops!  Got a good rum punch recipe from the PM’s wife tho’.  As for the results we came 16th in our class, one place in front of Andante of Mersey which may interest a couple of readers!

As for the awards, we wuz robbed guv!  As an example of witty / humorous blogs, Graptolite’s blog was quoted verbatim. (It was one of Martyn’s – not one of the really good ones) Then the prizes were given to three other boats. Pah!

Rant aside, the marina has seen a mini ARC exodus following the collection of trophy’s last night so after a serious go with a cattle prod to those in need, a number of jobs have now been ticked off.  After two stints at the top of the mast by Liz we finally saw the genoa halyard back in its rightful place and this am saw the new genoa furled (bent – for techies) onto the forestay. A trip to the supermarket and other checking out technicalities will see us heading out tomorrow for an anchorage in view of the Pitons 3 hours away.

Pitons, St Lucia 24th December 2007

Tom, Midshipman here,

  After succumbing to a lax Caribbean lifestyle, waiting at the fuel pontoon for an hour and Ian almost removing several of his own fingers with a sailing knife, we finally left Rodney Bay at set course for The Pitons.  A fine cruise all day with light hail and a minor snowstorm. When reaching the Pitons we were offered assistance by Boat Boy Ethiopia but then he buggered off leaving us with Equal Rights. He tied us up nice and tight onto a Palm tree, after dropping anchor just off a beach underneath The Pitons, and leaving us after taking $5. Five minutes after arriving I was off straight into the sea followed by Martyn and Liz. Ian seemed very keen but couldn’t due to risk of major infection. Were staying in tonight with Chicken on the Barbie. Nice.

13:14.73N 061:30W Walliabou Bay, St Vincent, Christmas Eve 2007

Cleared Customs and Immigration in Soufiere, St Lucia in the morning and then sent Tom for a swim to the beach to take the long line off the palm tree. We then set a course south with the Pitons mountains falling away behind us. By late afternoon we arrived at the equally mountainous island of St Vincent and pulled into the tiny Wallilabou Bay to check in with the St Vincent authorities. All the buildings looked strangely familiar and our boat boy told us it was the film set for ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. It’s a little bit decayed now but still recognisable as the dock Captain Jack Sparrow stepped ashore from the top of his mast. Serious toilet trauma was narrowly avoided this evening when a flying fish swooped in through the forward heads portlight. Fortunately no one was busy. A Merry Christmas to all our readers. If you didn’t get a card from me as usual then you are not alone. Due to ineptitude, sloth and being nowhere near post-boxes, I didn’t manage to send any out this year. Not even the electronic ones. I’m assuming nobody sent me one either except for my Uncle Reg and Auntie Nora who managed to get a card to Rodney Bay Marina before we left telling me I now own part of a cow in Africa. Well done. Best wishes to all. from Martyn (and Tom, Ian & Liz)

12:58.36N 061:14.85W, Petit Nevis, Grenadines, Christmas Day 2007

Santa didn’t turn up but it was possibly not putting mince pies out that did it. Some pressies though from family. Thank you very much. Had a swim off the back of the boat as one does on Christmas Day morning. It’s very warm here. Tom was sent towards the beach to untie us from a piling, and we set off for the Grenadines. The first island rounded was Bequia but we ended up anchored off a small uninhabited island to the south of Bequia called Petit Nevis. Near the landing jetty we found an old whaling station with cauldrons for boiling blubber which are apparently still used by the locals when the IWC lets them. Swam some more this afternoon but I think we may have missed the Queen on the telly.

12:38.09N 061:23.89W Mayreau, Grenadines, Boxing Day 2007

Just the usual Boxing Day activities here. Sailed to Tobago Cays in the St Vincent Grenadines. Anchored and swam with some turtles and stingrays. Then found another anchorage for the night in Saline Bay on the tiny island of Mayreau and watched the sunset.

12:56.54N 061:18.63W Bequia, Grenadines, 27th December 2007

Back to the island of Bequia (pronounced ‘Beckway’, apparently) and this time to the harbour of Port Elizabeth. Our cruising permit expired today, and we wanted to make sure we are legal to stay longer (we are). Nice harbour with lots of yachts on mooring buoys. We bought a crate of St Vincent beer called ‘Hairoun’ from one boat boy then haggled for some spiny lobsters from another and ended up with three huge ones weighing nearly four pounds each. Some of you will remember boiling up three lobsters at a time in a big pan on the deck of Graptolite a couple of years back on the Hamble River. These brutes had to be folded up just to cook one at a time. Two of them were more than enough for the four of us. Spiny Norman survived as he is the biggest and baddest and is now living in a lobster pot hung over the side of the boat. Nobody wants to mess with Norman.

12:59.40N 061:14.11W Bequia, Grenadines, 28th December 2007

A lazy day. Tom and I went into Port Elizabeth by dinghy to buy a St Vincent Grenadines courtesy flag then we all took a short sail to the other side of Bequia Island to Friendship Bay for a quieter mooring and swim. Spiny Norman was invited for lunch. He was quickly despatched with a knife through the head under veterinary supervision, but it takes lobsters a little while for them to come to terms with the fact they are actually dead. It’s not particularly nice seeing food jumping around by itself on the barbie but it doesn’t get any fresher than that. And very tasty too with an avocado and tomato salad. The mooring in the bay has been a bit bouncy with lots of surf on the rocks nearby. Talked ourselves out of going ashore through the breakers for dinner and watched ‘Shrek’ on DVD instead.

12:56.54N 061:18.63W Bequia, Grenadines,  29th December 2007

We nearly rolled the dinghy in the surf but eventually stormed the beach in Friendship Bay and had lunch in a hotel beach bar. In the afternoon we circumnavigated Bequia back to Port Elizabeth for clearing out formalities to be able to leave at first light to get back to St Lucia for New Year.

Port Elizabeth harbour in the evening was very raucous with parties on every other boat. We went ashore and had dinner in ‘Frangipani’s’ restaurant surrounded by smoking Italians and small dogs. Food was good though. Later Ian fell asleep on deck and was soaked in a rainstorm. It was probably just Natures little way of saying drink more water and less rum punch!

We plan to be back at Soufriere/Pitons tomorrow and then moor in Marigot Bay, St Lucia for New Years Eve.

13:58.00N 061:01.46W Marigot Bay, St Lucia, New Year’s Day 2008

Had a swim in the coral reef of the Pitons anchorage then sailed to Marigot Bay. Dinner of Lobster Thermidor and Beef Wellington at Doolittle’s, followed by limbo and fire-eating (by other more flexible people) and then big fireworks over the bay. Tom had nothing to do with the rum punch, for those concerned. Don’t know where he gets that from! Happy New Year to all at 00:52 Caribbean time.

13:58.00N 061:01.46W Marigot Bay, St Lucia, 2nd January 2008

Still tucked in the mangroves of Marigot Bay and easily managed to do almost nothing all day except watch the comings and goings of other yachts and buying a few croissants. Lori arrived back by helicopter as one does.

14:04.60N 060:57.45W Rodney Bay, St Lucia, 3rd January 2008

Moved up the coast a bit from Marigot Bay back to Rodney Bay. This time anchored off Reduit Beach. The marina will be seeing enough of us over the next few weeks. Everything is still shut here for New Year so didn’t do much today. No apologies.

14:04.58N 060:56.96W Rodney Bay Marina, 4th January 2008

Back into the marina so Ian & Liz could make an early morning flight to the BVI’s for some real sailing. Friends and relatives of the Crabbers need read no more of this blog as they left before 05:00 this morning. Ian & Liz, thanks for your reliability, resourcefulness, and northern sense of humour. It made an otherwise arduous Atlantic crossing a real pleasure. Good luck with the leg op, Ian. Port tack will never be as easy again.

14:04.58N 060:56.96W Rodney Bay Marina, 6th January 2008

A Lori blog. Well, it’s good to be back on Grapto and I am now over my jet lag. I’ll make the most of being in control of the blog to say a big thank you to my family and Ben and Kerry for a fab Christmas in Portugal – my only regret was that I didn’t get to see my dad – love and miss you loads dad. Thanks too to Baz, Jenny, Rosie and Ava for a great NYE.

Skip took Tom to the airport this afternoon and the next time he will be on the boat will be when it arrives in Cairns. He will be missed on the boat and it was sad to see him go. I had a day going thro’ the boat cleaning and making a note of the food we have and the food we will need for the next leg. Have the first hammock up for fruit and veg – shades of Las Palmas. I can feel the excitement building again – that promise of the next adventure ahead. World ARC boats are arriving and gathering on pontoon A.

I have been reading about the wildlife on the Galapagos (have you seen a picture of the blue footed boobie? how cute is that?) and in preparation I have started my open water PADI diving course. My first dive was off the Pitons in a marine reserve, the second was off a coral reef between the Pitons and Marigot Bay and I was completely knocked out by the experience! There’s so much to see down there! Seahorses, Norman’s great aunt, fish of such brilliant colours – ok, so you know but I didn’t. Everyone must take up diving immediately! Need to obtain the advanced level if I’m to see the Hammerhead sharks off Galapagos though so I’ve been studying for my first written exam in between cleaning. The next stage starts here in St Lucia. I can’t wait. Lori

Martinique 16th January 2008

In Martinique just now. I’ll put the location in sometime. Came here to get a generator serviced but ended up hitting a submerged wreck. Obviously, it wasn’t where it was supposed to be according to Sir Francis Drake’s chart. Should have posted someone up in the crows nest. I went over the side with a snorkel to have a look while Lori was looking for a diving manual and an instructor (Ian – you’re not the only one now to go over the side to sort out my problems). The sight was all a bit nasty with the keel bulb stuck in the flanks of this battleship and my bow crunched up on its topsides. We managed to drag it off using a kedge anchor just before it got dark and limped into the nearest marina. Left a lot of expensive anti-fouling paint behind but mostly it was just scrapes and bruised pride! Back to St Lucia tomorrow when the generator has been fixed up.

14:04.58N 060:56.96W Rodney Bay, St Lucia, 23rd January 2008

What has been happening to Grapto all this time? I hear you ask. She’s now back in Rodney Bay, St Lucia. Martinique, although it’s a nice place in itself, the visit does not rank up there with the best of experiences. While having the generator serviced, the fuel system turned out to have had been given some dodgy diesel at some point and was infested with diesel bug and water. The tanks needed cleaning out, biocide-ing and the fuel pump replaced. It all took three days to sort out. It didn’t help that after the first day the French engineer working on the problem got thrown in jail and had his tools and car impounded by the Police. Too much enforced idleness after many months at sea also got Lori and me to realize that maybe we could both do with a change of company. Lori’s family and friends will find her on another World ARC blog for the yacht ‘Quasar’ until the Spring.

New Grapto crew flew in a couple of days ago in the ample shape of Colin Laidlaw who you will remember from Lagos, Portugal. The next leg will be crewed by Colin and me to Panama, possibly stopping off at Aruba, Netherlands Antilles for a rest and a bite to eat on the way. I’m going to need a few more bodies for handling ropes for the Panama Canal transit if any of my gentle readers care to jump on a plane fairly quick. The World ARC start is out in Rodney Bay, midday tomorrow. It might take us a week to get to Cristobal, Panama. Watch this space.

13:55.0N 061:50.7W 24th Caribbean Sea, January 2008

Colin and I picked up a few groceries in the morning and mooched out of the marina about 11:00. Naughtily we zoomed past ‘Kealoa 8’ on the way out of the marina lagoon. Let’s face it, there are going to be very few opportunities for me to beat a 72-foot boat to anything on this trip. Any way I hope you got a good photo, Rosie. We anchored out in Rodney Bay and had a sandwich and a beer waiting for the off. We crossed the start line close to the hooter and everyone piled into the channel shoreside of the ‘Barrel o Beef’ rock, rounded a turning buoy near Castries and pointed towards Panama. (Actually, Aruba but don’t tell the Race Committee). As darkness fell there were boats in the distance ahead and to port and starboard. More importantly, some were also behind us. So. Result! The resident chef cooked up a spicy pork dish with baked potatoes and we started a watch system which should keep us nice and knackered for the next 500 miles. I’m writing this on my first watch and I’m going to have to have a look around outside now in case we are being overtaken.

13:26.0N 065:10.0W NW of Caracas, Venezuela, 25th January 2008

I was just in the process of writing what an enjoyable sail this has been when a squall crept up on us in the dark about twenty minutes ago and snapped my spinnaker pole in two. I’m not a happy bunny now. Still, I gather from today’s radio net that a good few boats couldn’t start on time in Rodney Bay because of problems with kit so it could be worse.

We are currently about 180 miles NW of Caracas, Venezuela. Still aiming for a quick Aruba stopover about 280 miles further on.

12:54.61N 067:19.10W North of Venezuela, 26 Jan 2008

We took a look at the busted spinnaker pole this morning and concluded that a shorter but probably useable pole can be cobbled together from the bits. It needs bigger pop-rivets than I have on board to do a good job but it can wait until Panama. Burns Night tonight. We have nae chieftain’o’the puddin race in the stores nor neeps and tatties but we could be having a wee dram of something later if the squalls stay away. We are only 24 hours from Aruba.. Only one day away from….

12:31.22N 070:02.56W Saturday 26th Jan 08

What an interesting day we’ve had. The morning was uneventful but just as we sat down for a lunch of some Jamaican jerked chicken off the barbie, all the boat’s 12v power died. This was not the usual batteries, which were good, but maybe something to do with a short in the isolator switch. Colin is an electrician by trade and we gave it our best shot but failed to fix it while bouncing around hove-to.  This was somewhat serious in that we had no way to start the main engine, no way to start the generator, no navigation instruments, and charts (more about this later), no radio comms, no autopilot, no radar, no depth sounder. We were thrown well back to the 19th Century in terms of sailing capabilities, and we didn’t even have the old salt who says “Three fathoms, sand and broken shell, Cap’n” either. Although we had planned to go to Aruba anyway and Aruba was only about 40 miles away, we suddenly found ourselves wondering if we could actually find the place. We did have a few bits of modern technology still functional. There was a primitive hand-held GPS out of the grab-bag. Our paper charts were a bit limited, Aruba being off the official route, but the laptop still had enough power to read our electronic chips of the main system. The sat phone also still had enough power to make a call or two but it really didn’t want to play (more about this later as well). As the chicken went cold on the deck table we set sail in the approximate direction of Aruba. Landfall was at night, naturally. If you ever need your bowels loosening, then approaching an unknown reef-fringed island in the dark without any navigation instruments, navigation lights or engine is the way to do it. As we were nearing our best guess at Oranjestadt, the capital, wondering where the marina was and if we actually had the right stuff to sail into a crowded berth anyway, we had an unlit Coastguard RIB come up alongside our own unlit boat demanding that we hand over our firearms and other contraband. Getting almost no sense out of either Colin or myself they took pity on us and offered to lead us through the reefs. Them in a RIB and us sailing (note: sailing) after them. They took us to what turned out to be the cruise-ship dock where we came to rest against some tractor tyres and concrete. Then we were thoroughly searched for the aforesaid firearms etc. Very politely too, I have to say. Later, fired up with adrenalin, Colin and I tried to head towards the sound of a loud music concert but discovered that nobody gets in or out of the cruise-ship dock without the right paperwork. A visit from Immigration and Customs has been promised for 06:00 tomorrow. Hopefully a specialist marine electrical wallah as well. The sat phone problem was found to be bits of yesterday’s broken spinnaker pole being lashed across the external antenna. Now sorted, this is how you are getting to hear this sorry tale.

12:31.22N 070:02.56W Orangestadt, Auruba 27th January 2008

It turns out that our power failure of yesterday was the result of an electrical fire and there are melted wires everywhere. It might take a while to get somebody in to fix it up. There are worse places to be stuck than Aruba at Carnival time. The boat will soon become uninhabitable without power or water so if news dries up for a while it is because I’ve not been able to charge up my laptop or phone.

12:46.48N 071:03.76W, Orangestadt, Aruba 30th January 2008

When all the major wiring and switches inside a boat turns into a nest of smoking, dripping black and red snakes, surely a skipper can be forgiven for thinking that it’s all over. To those I sent text messages to, saying just that, well, I might have been a bit pessimistic. After three days of rewiring by Clifford Rosa and his electrical men we got the welcome sound of engine and generator back. Not all is perfect and there are some circuits still fried but we had enough to put to sea about 22:30 UTC Tuesday and we are now going at flank speed to get to Panama while there are still WARC boats still around to be rafted up with. What was the problem with the wiring? The electricians had found that a big cable coming out of the generator had got heat and vibration damaged and short-circuited against the casing. The generator was only installed last summer. The company shall remain nameless for the moment (you know who you are) until they have had an opportunity to make amends. I’m sure you are all bored to tears by now about these problems. Not all was bad news in Aruba. Once we could get the main engine running we moved out of the cruise ship dock to the marina in Oranjestad. As part of the marina package we got full use of the Marriott Renaissance Resort & Casino facilities of pool, gym, spa and private island and beaches. Although we never got to the private island. Or used the gym either but they did have nice showers. Oranjestad is mostly a town set up for huge cruise ships to dump their portly American passengers for a day of spending in the Dutch-meets-Disney shopping malls, but the Aruban people seem friendly, and the place is probably worth a longer visit sometime.

12:03.38N 073:18.37W somewhere north of Colombia 31st January 2008

For most of the day, throwing caution and a degree in environmental science to the wind, we’ve been burning up diesel as fast as we can to try to get to Panama to make the transit with the rest of the WARC fleet. During the afternoon the wind picked up and we gave the engine a rest and got even more speed by hoisting the asymmetric spinnaker and goose-winging with the mainsail. That is until the wind topped Force 7 and we had thoroughly frightened ourselves. Other than that we have had the usual kamikaze squadrons of flying fish bombing the topsides and we had a big escort of dolphins for a while. No video this time though for a change.

11:04.02N 075:45.34W 40 miles north of Cartagena, Colombia 1st February 2008

We hear that the San Blas Islands are a good stopover before Colon, Panama. Not sure if we have the time now after our electrical adventures in Aruba but we are going to give it a try. The wind has been with us. Too much at times with up to 45 knots on our tail on occasion. It’s also been a bit bouncy. Colin goes a bit green-ish if I don’t make him bacon butties at regular intervals. That’s my theory anyway.

10:00.68N 078:13.76W 40 miles north of the Panamanian coast 2nd February 2008

It looks like we will miss the official end of this leg tomorrow by just an hour or two unless Grapto goes faster than she ever has before. “More steam down there in the boiler room!”

I’ve just been re-reading Capt. Joshua Slocum’s ‘Sailing Alone Around the World’ for inspiration. Thank you again Mike and Jacqui for the birthday pressie. I wonder how the good Captain would have handled suddenly becoming engineless and without electronics when he didn’t have any to start with. A simpler age when merely waving a rifle in the direction of thieving natives got them to run away. Times change.

09:22.09N 079:57.02W Shelter Bay, Panama 3rd February 2008

Graptolite has arrived at the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal 17:01 UTC and we are now in Shelter Bay Marina. We will probably be off through the canal on Tuesday but we have a few repairs and a few preparations to make before the canal transit including getting extra-long ropes and finding the bodies to handle them.

09:22.09N 079:57.02W Shelter Bay, Panama 4th February 2008

We are expecting to be into the Canal tomorrow (Tuesday). You may even get to see us on the Panama Canal webcams at (just Google it, it will be easier).

08:54.70N 079:31.34W 23:00 near Panama City 6th February 2008

After fuelling-up and taking on an American, Dixon Cole and Danish/American, Stig Pedersen for additional line-handling crew, the departure from Shelter Bay was uneventful. The group of seven yachts assembled on the Flats near Colon before dark awaiting the pilot boat. After the pilot came onboard, we motored to the Gatun Locks entrance where we rafted up with a non-WARC boat called ‘Scratch’. On entering the big concrete locks, which were all lit up in the dark, heaving lines, to collect the long lines, came whistling in from the line handlers on the lock walls. The gates closed behind us and we were turbulently lifted through three giant flights to Gatun Lake where we anchored for the night. Before daybreak, the Howling monkeys in the forest ashore started a dawn chorus and by 6:00AM we were making breakfast. It seems to be pancakes with maple syrup every day these days for some reason. A new pilot came onboard after breakfast and we were off again across the Gatun Lake. Although a man-made lake (one of the world’s biggest apparently) it is exceptionally pretty with its rain forest covered islands. We motored mostly along the ‘banana route’ out of the main channel, through the islands for about forty miles and reached the down-going Miraflores Locks flight by mid-afternoon. After rafting up again with two other yachts we started in on the down-flight. Maybe somebody was watching the webcam. I waved.Leaving the Canal system, we motored to Flamenco Island Marina in sight of the towering modern city sky-line of Panama City, and then had a few beers and other drinks and a buffet dinner with the rest of the WARC-ers. ‘Graptolite’ is now bathing her bottom in the Pacific Ocean. Who would have believed it possible? This is also a point of no return in that the quickest way home would seem to be to keep going.

02. Atlantic Crossing ARC 2007

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This blog post is a compilation of smaller blogs sent from Graptolite during the 2007 ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). These were originally posted on the Mailasail blog site and emailed in using a low-bandwidth, and horribly expensive, Iridium sat phone. The coordinates, in a machine-readable form, were read by the Mailasail website and used to create a map track on Google Earth. Connecting the blog coordinates with straight lines sometimes gives the impression of sailing over land. The map tracks on this post correct the most egregious areas but they are still approximations as actual navigation data is too detailed to be used here.

My excellent crew on this Atlantic leg of Graptolite’s Around the World voyage were Lori Murdock and Ian and Liz Crabtree. The crew made guest contributions to the blogs from time to time. Very sadly, Lori died in November 2015 after a brave battle with malignant melanoma. The tropical sun can be a dangerous enemy for those of us with northern skin. Fortunately the Crabbers are still going strong.

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Tue 13/11/2007 23:52

28:07.68N 015:25.49W

Lori and I got up early and sailed over a hundred miles (from Lanzarote) to Las Palmas in a nice N F5. Lots of dolphins on the way. Arrived at the enormous harbour at Las Palmas in the dark and threaded our way through big ships and oil rigs to the marina and tied up on the reception pontoon just after the ARC office had closed. Bit of an anticlimax but nevertheless we are here……at the starting line of the race. 

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Fri 16/11/2007 16:27

28:07.68N 015:25.49W

Checked in with the port authorities and was issued with a Mediterranean mooring on Pontoon 10. Checked in to the ARC office and got a pile of papers.

While eating lunch with Lori in the Sailor’s Bar Ian and Liz arrived making up the complete crew for the Atlantic crossing. That was Wednesday. We’ve had a couple of Happy Hours since then and the race safety inspection and also finished installing the wind/water generator.

I gather there are something like a thousand people living in the marina waiting for the off. There are a good number of parties to survive over the next week so there may be some gaps in this blog which are outside of the authors control.

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Sun 18/11/2007 20:17

28:07.68N 015:25.49W

The parties and happy hours give almost no time for boaty preparations. I took Lori to the Boat Owner’s Cocktail Party last night. The poor thing doesn’t get out much. A new black frock bought from El Corte Ingles combined with tatty deck shoes looked at treat. Similar ‘smart yachting’ clothes for the skipper but in my case it was an old blazer that had been crumpled up in the bottom of a locker for years.

Earlier today we marched in an Olympics-style flag parade to the ARC opening ceremony. Team GB included a bagpipe player. 

Following accusations that my missives are a bit lacking in emotional content, such writings have now been delegated to crew. Expect some sooner or later.

Las Palmas, ARC minus 5

Wed 21/11/2007 02:18

28:07.68N 015:25.49W

Tuesday and five days left until the ARC. For those of you hadn’t appreciated it, the Atlantic crossing part of this circumnavigation is a race involving another 239 other boats. Most are here now in Las Palmas and very prettily flying signal flags from stem to stern.

The preparations are reaching the final panicky stage and we spent most of the day in El Corte Ingles buying food. In my opinion El Corte Ingles has to be one of the finest food emporiums in the world. I could easily live there and die very large. We still have fruit, veg and booze to buy and a rough calculation of volumes makes it look like we will be sleeping on deck until about half-way.

Had a problem with the new set of sails being to long but managed to find a sail maker called Charlie to chop them down a bit. Visited the yacht club in the early evening and had a swim in the excellent rooftop pool. As we are in Spanish territory I made paella for the crew’s dinner. Chicken, chorizo, prawns, squid, mussels etc. Damn good I thought.

The problem looming for tomorrow is what costume to wear for the ‘Jungle Safari’ fancy dress party. Lori has already made something out of a couple of scraps of chamois leather. This will get her a huge amount of attention from the lecherous crowd of salty dogs here. Even a normal day usually sees one or two other boats luring her onboard for drinks and trying to entice her to jump ship. Somehow I don’t see the situation improving.

Las Palmas, ARC minus 3

Thu 22/11/2007 18:50

28:07.68N 015:25.49W

Thursday and three days to go. The boat is beginning to fill up with supplies and the usual waterline has disappeared. Three hundred cans of beer takes a lot of stowing. Fruit, vegetables and meat are all ordered and hopefully will turn up in time for the off. Jerry the Rigger came by yesterday, shinned up the mast, then gave it a clean bill of health.

Yesterday evening’s ‘Jungle Safari’ fancy dress party went well and the weather was very warm. I went as the ‘Great White Hunter’ in bush hat and fly-fishing waistcoat (as did half of the other people who went). An earlier trip to El Corte Ingles produced a native bearer loincloth for Ian and some bird of paradise feathers for Liz. Lori’s scraps of leather mostly stayed in place although her lion’s tail was found the pontoon this morning. This is despite it being firmly tied on by the skipper. Lori danced with close to a thousand other party-goers and then returned to the boat, rain-soaked and bedraggled but unpoached. 

Las Palmas, ARC minus 2

Sat 24/11/2007 02:17

28:07.68N 015:25.49W

Friday, an interesting day for fruit and veg. The delivery arrived and instantly turned the boat into a fair sized greengrocers. Most of it was eventually stowed in fishing net hammocks. Somebody over did it with the oranges and pineapples on the starboard side and the woodwork gave way at one point.

Thursday night was dinner in an all you can eat place with the crew of ‘Minnie the Mooocher’ followed by some WOMAD concert. Food was good. The world music was a bit iffy.

The pace is hotting up with food, drink and equipment deliveries to boats on the marina. One delivery nobody wants is the delivery of cockroaches although some boats are rumoured to be overrun. One purchase today was some roach motels just in case.

Las Palmas, ARC minus 1

Sat 24/11/2007 20:18

28:07.68N 015:25.49W

The race starts tomorrow (Sunday 25th) at 13:00. The weather has suddenly turned from nice and sunny to cold and windy and is much like I expect the Solent to be just now. There is too much wind about to put up our newly recut sails. Everything else seems to have come together but we are going to have to bend on sails in a Force 5 on the way to the starting line which could be a bit messy. 

ARC Day 1

Sun 25/11/2007 21:37

27:37.43N 015:23.98W at sunset on the first day.

Nicely kitted out in our team uniform of white shirts, blue shorts and silly grins we had a photograph taken by our Spanish neighbours on their boat ‘Bet’. ‘Bet’ also gave us a bottle of wine for a scare and a minor bump a few days before.

Then it all started going horribly wrong as we pulled out. It was blowing fairly hard and the turn took us across the lazy-line of another neighbouring boat and it got wrapped around our rudder. We had to be hauled back in to our berth by the crew of ‘Bet’. On the second attempt we got the lazy-line of ‘Bet’ wrapped around our prop and full marks to Ian for diving in and untangling it. Only Johnny Foreigner would think stretching ropes out in the water is a good yacht-mooring idea.

To the sound of brass bands we finally left the marina and anchored in the main harbour to try to get our sails furled on where we could face into the wind. Job done, we discovered that a clevis pin holding the in-mast furling gear in place had come off and fallen inside the mast. With half an hour to the start we were still anchored with a mainsail on the deck and with a police-launch shouting at us to get a move on.

Making the best of it we motored out of the harbour just in time for the starting gun and crossed the line under a reefed genoa. It could have been slicker but we were far from the last to go. After contemplating a return to the marina for spare parts that probably would need importing, we decided to press on and managed to retrieve the clevis pin with a wire coathanger. A squally shower stopped us having another go with the mainsail. It is now dark and we can see the lights of Gran Canaria in the distance and the lights of other ARC yachts around us. Unfortunately the mainsail is still on the deck. Only another three weeks to go. 

OPEX for today runs to two sides: BE insider comment from Ian but we’re all still smiling.

17 Degrees West

Mon 26/11/2007 17:29

Survived a night of F7, gusting F8, winds with the only damage being severely bruised avocados in the fruit hammocks. Went into the wind shadow of Gran Canaria at one point to make it easier to fix the furling gear and rehoist the mainsail but there was a bit of motoring needed later to find the wind again.

Just now we are about 60 miles SE of Tenerife and it is nice and sunny. Some flying fish have been seen. Other boats seem scattered all over the place judging from the radio position reporting. The good news is we don’t seem to be last.

Choice of restaurant was a bit limited at our location last night so we ate on the boat for a change. Had a spag bol pre-prepared by Lori.

19 Degrees West

Tue 27/11/2007

19:2826:21.2N 019:31.30W

We got the cruising chute out of its bag for the first time since leaving the Solent. An enormous red, white and blue kite always adds a bit of drama to the situation although there is nobody anywhere in sight to appreciate the spectacle. A large pod of striped dolphins swam with us for a while and they were keen to get a good look but they are not all that knowledgeable about downwind sailing kit, as a rule. Other wildlife has been a bit sparse recently. We will have to get the fishing rods out and haul something in to get a close look.

We now have a four-hour watch system at night with two awake and the daytimes are when everyone is up, apart from naps, and we have all meals, run the generator, use the radio and play music. It seems to work but the naps are getting longer.

A soiree on deck with guacamole dip is planned for later. What else do you do with crushed avocados?

22 Degrees West

Thu 29/11/2007 01:34

25:44.96N 022:25.15W at 00:00 UTC Thursday 29th

The cruising chute worked well apart from ripping the seat off the pulpit rail and almost chafing through the spinnaker halyard. Might have to get a bowsprit fitted in St Lucia.

All is well apart from that. We have even worked out how to stop plates from sliding off the table onto the floor but have yet to find a solution for food sliding off the plates onto laps.

The crew keep saying they are going to write something for this blog. Don’t hold your breath.


23 degrees west – its spitting!!

Thu 29/11/2007 19:41

25:05.30N 023:36.58W at 16:30 UTC Thursday 29th

This is the crew here; now breathe!   Just sailed through a shower, most peculiar for this part of the world.

We have now slipped into a routine of watches from 6pm -6am, Liz and me alternating with Martyn & Lori 4 hours each alternating first watch each night. Everyone seems ok with it but the Skipper seemed a bit bleary this am which was cured after a snooze.

After the disappointment with the cruising chute we have taken a view on the situation and decided to get radical and put both sails up instead of the poled out Genoa. There’s a big triangular one that we found in the mast that works a treat but means gybing a few times a day. However the other good news of the day is that after setting both sails, we saw another boat with single head sail and left him in our wake.

Skipper has now laundered his shorts to remove last nights spag bol and is declared clean again. He is currently resting in preparation for making tonight’s dinner. As for crew, Liz is buried in an almanac and working out were we were three days ago from sextant sightings and reducing the over-ripe banana situation, Lori has been plotting other boat’s positions to see where the next party might be and I am writing this hoping not to offend close friends and family, Admiral Insurance, Colleagues and the general public.

Thought for today; “Nobody has ever seen Russell Crowe and Martyn Pickup in the same room at one time …”


Fri 30/11/2007 23:05

24:01.93N 025:59.83W at 20:35 UTC 30th November 2007

Far from living on ships biscuits and weevils someone must have popped out to the butchers today because tonight we were mostly eating steak and roasted vegetables and very nice it was to. We ate al fresco, surprisingly, with Ian giving his best David Bailey performance yet so stand by for the pics.

Life has settled down into a routine now with all normal life going on except we are surrounded by water at every turn. The take away we ordered yesterday still hasn’t arrived yet though. It’s surprising how interesting one wave after another can be. If we spot the lights of a passing boat we all get very animated. That said, it doesn’t happen that offen.

We have several parties planned en route (ok, I have planned several parties) and the first will be the half way mark, 40 degrees W. Haven’t quite sorted my frock yet though as I calculate that it’s still about 850 nm away. The scale of this ocean is impressive. I love it.

I’m sure that when we arrive in St Lucia we will have difficulty walking as we have all adjusted to walking around the boat like something out of Monty Python.

It’s so easy to settled down into a good book and forget that actually this is a race. Luckily Liz is on the case and I can hear her on deck now mounting our campaign. All in all life here on the move is good and we are a content band of four.


29 Degrees West

Sun 02/12/2007 05:59

23:54.3N 029:08.6W at 04:20 Sunday 2 December 2007

..and another fine day on the high seas had by all. Tonight we watched the Ipcress File and found ourselves marvelling at the fact that when ‘my name is Michael Caine’ poured a drink the contents not only made it into the glass but the glass remained on the table. How can this be? What has happened to us? The joys of ‘running’ for a long period in an Atlantic swell is clearly taking its toll.

We would all like to say thanks to the production of Pickup pickles which has complimented Spanish cheese at lunchtimes and turned an ordinary lunch into a gourmet affair. Cheers Mr P.

We are blessed with good trade winds with a fairly steady F4-6. Every degree W is a cause for celebration at the moment; it’s countdown to the half way mark at 40 degrees W.

At supper we were speculating as to how we will cope with our first meal ashore in St Lucia. At the moment one utilises every finger and thumb available to hold down what is on the plate, the plate, the knife, the fork, the drink, all simultaneously. Arms and legs are requisitioned on demand and the result must look quite comic.

04.46 and all is well. The moon is waning, the stars bright and I’ll soon be off watch. Another day in paradise.


1st December – White rabbits

Sun 02/12/2007 05:59

23:54.52N 028:33.00W at 23:30 UTC Saturday 1st

Crew #3 here today (Liz), skipper will wish he kept quiet about us blogging; whose laptop is it anyway?

Now that we have got into the trades proper, we are back to a single poled out foresail bound for Rodney Bay along the rhumb line via the night-time blackness of the Atlantic illuminated by a “beautiful canopy of stars” – thanks to Lori for that observation. 

The daily radio report indicates that we are in a bunch of 7 other yachts but still we wait to see more than a glimpse of one of them, such is the size of this ‘pond’!!

(Jo) Sunrise through the trade wind cloud formations is a sight to behold. Watching it with a cup of coffee completes the picture. I think you’d like it …

Dinner tonight was on me in more ways than one thanks to the swell, the rest of it went on the plate. It must have been ok as the skipper was asking for seconds before he’d finished plate #1. Lunch had been a ploughmans style with fresh bread etc. and an excellent chutney from Mr Pickup snr. Thanks very much.

More dolphins called by to see how we are doing this pm.

I have suggested that we should have fresh fish tomorrow – watch this space.

31 Degrees West

Mon 03/12/2007 00:30

23:41.50N 031:13.68W at 22:50 UTC Sunday 2 December 2007

One whole week at sea and no mutiny yet. Officers, men and women, all getting along fine but food and drink is still plentiful and downwind sailing easy.

The skipper, for it is I back on blogging duties, caught a big mackerel-like fish today which fed everyone (as a starter). Liz and Ian had already made Italian meatballs for dinner so there seemed little point in fishing out this part of the Atlantic. The first bite had while fishing today broke the hook so who knows what we could have been dragged aboard. Anything that would like to eat us as well is welcome to run off with the tackle.

In the general excitement we almost didn’t see a freighter coming at us a few miles to port then a big motor yacht passing us a mile to starboard. As these were the only boats we have seen for days, it all seemed to get very busy at once. It’s hard to describe the sensation of an empty horizon in all directions and, although we know that there are other boats out there from radio traffic, the sense of isolation is about as good as it gets this side of space.

Half way in sight

Mon 03/12/2007 21:32

23:07.89N 033:18.79W

Crew here again; Just as we realised that the half way stage could soon be ticked off, some weather came in disrupting the trades that gave us our best day so far yesterday – 159 miles compared to 100 or so at the start, possibly due to the influence of the Azores high in mid Atlantic. Undeterred, we have the first of three bottles of champers in the fridge ready for 1/2 way. The others are one for the finish leaving one for some other milestone. Suggestions on a postcard to Graptolite, Atlantic.

After the hectic events of yesterday, today was ‘steady’. No fish, boats, or tsunami – yet. However Lori “allegedly” saw some flying fish shortly after coming up after a nap. The fishing tackle has been modified with a shiny spinner about the size of yesterday’s fish; “We may need a bigger boat”

As we have moved time zones by two hours, the watch system is being shifted to match daylight times.    You’re on the edge of your seats with this blog aren’t you!!

Skipper had reservations about Dinner; “Real men don’t eat Quiche” but is helping to make it anyway.


Wed 05/12/2007 00:27

What a busy day. Hard to know where to begin. Before I left a friend of mine said that that long distant passages were boring (you know who you are) I have to say I disagree. Firstly yesterday no one believed me when I said I had seen flying fish. Today the Gods were kind and provided me with evidence by way of a dead but beautifully formed specimen found on the foredeck. As a result I later had a rather bizarre conversation with the Skipper which ran something like this. ‘Can you get the spring onions out of the fridge? They are next to the flying fish’. Naturally the fish had been preserved as evidence (it’s the solicitor in me). Unfortunately the spring onions were not there so now no one believes that the spring onions exist.

Skipper proved his weight in gold today by landing a dorado, all 1.60kgs of it and very gorgeous with yellow markings with blue fins. Supper was cooked by Ian and Liz and cracking it was too. We had a rather impromptu small select ‘disco’ in the galley during preparation of the fish to ‘Go West’ by the Petshop Boys. Can’t remember why now.

There are always sails to trim, logs to complete, books to read, blogs to write and positions to report. We are planning a special ceremony for when we reach 40 degrees W. I have created a flag (because you can’t have too much flagage) and skipper has selected the music. The idea is that we thank the Atlantic for our save delivery to halfway and for the fruits of the sea for which we are truly grateful.

Last night I dreamt I was staying in a 5 star hotel and had an entire nights sleep….

Just returned to the blog having reefed down as we hit a squall. See how busy it is?

Just to reassure you, we are all using life jackets, jack stays and lines, especially of a night. So all is well.


Funny old day

Thu 06/12/2007 02:21

20:30.58N 037:24.84W

Liz here for tonight’s summary of today’s proceedings.

Woken up at 8 for our first watch to squally conditions which was fun upstairs but less so for people trying to sleep. Surfing down waves saw a peak of 13kts on log or 10kts on GPS whether you believe a spinning magnet in the hull or Uncle Sam’s billion dollar satellite programme, still skipper thought it ok to leave top hatches in his cabin open (“Close whilst at sea”) so got a damp sea water wake up call over his bed. Trundled happily with minimal sail through the morning until things settled.

The rest of the day was spent alternating between catching up on sleep and watching the squadrons of flying fish doing acrobatics round and across the waves and not a lot else, but what else do we need?

I dressed for dinner again tonight, or rather wore it as a gust tipped red and white wine off the table, my way; so instant stain removal. Half way through the meal, Skipper leapt away from his food (yes really) as the fishing line on the back of the boat was buzzing but unfortunately the quarry bit through the nylon and ate four hooks!!!

Overnight watch’s dress code is now shorts and t-shirt (plus life jacket, clipped on). Temp around 80degF, humidity rising and we’re not quite half way there yet!

Halfway celebrations are being planned-watch this space!!

Pancake Day

Thu 06/12/2007 22:22

20:03.5N 039:40.7W

Skipper writes:

More flying fish leapt aboard earlier in an obvious attempt to circumvent immigration laws. We know what they are up to.

Today has been a bit rough with squalls and big seas rolling us around. Food cooking and eating is developing into something of a dangerous sport. Lori tried making apple pancakes for dessert this evening and ended up wearing the batter. Nil point, although she wore it well and the salvaged pancakes qualified as entry to the final. Other food disasters include the discovery that the bilge veggie store had started to ferment into an evil brew and even set the gas detectors off. Fresh food storage is going to need a rethink for the Pacific.

Graptolite continues to keep us safe and is currently whisking us westward under a tiny scrap of headsail. Half-way point of 40 degrees west is close and may be reached by midnight tonight although the partying may have to wait until tomorrow. In reality we are fully in mid-Atlantic already and whatever happens we will end up in the Caribbean. As will the few nearby abandoned and drifting boats we get reports on from time to time.

Half Way!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fri 07/12/2007 13:18

19:57.9N 040:08.40W

There appear to be more definitions on board, of ‘half way’ than what constitutes a weapon of mass destruction which raises the point that we are deprived of breaking international news from the rest of the world – our loss. Briefly is it longitude, distance to go versus distance travelled or how many potatoes are left in the bilge? – more of that later. But the consensus is that at 40deg longitude there is no doubt that there is less to do than has been done and the Champers gets it in the morning.

The last 24 hours has been a sample of what we thought the Atlantic might be on a ‘nice day’. The sun has shone the wind has been steady (F6) and the rollers have been sweeping us towards Rodney Bay. The size of the swell has increased such that the odd one has doused the cockpit floor from the stern and the saloon from an open ceiling hatch. The waves are the size of a row of houses that the camera doesn’t do justice to. Each one lifts us gently up on its front and we slip down its back, generally pointing in the same direction.

Today’s food fashion victim was Lori. After corned beef hash she offered to make apple pancakes -“oh all right then if you insist”. One freak wave and she was wearing the batter mixture. The remaining pancakes however, were good.

Some of the potatoes in the bilge had been bruised and started to ferment! Enough to set the gas alarm off, Another rethink for storage methods or do we diversify into Poteen production?


Half Way party

19:30.1N 042:18.90W

Crew reporting; When all watches were finally present after the frankly tiresome night of squalls and lumpy sea, the sun shone once more and the sea settled albeit slightly so that we could enjoy the 1/2 way party in the cockpit.  After several large hints to Skipper that the bottle in the fridge labeled “Half Way Party” was indeed for that we finally got things under way. Liz started with a traditional offering to Neptune, not the champagne but a tin of lager. Next to the sound of Land of Hope and Glory came a rousing speech from m’learned colleague Lori, all she was short of was her Lawyer’s wig and gown. Mid speech I raised the new journey ensign, the speech reached its peak and there wasn’t a dry seat in the boat. Rations were embarrassingly luxurious with Smoked Salmon, a small Foie gras, crackers and fresh bread. And of course, a bottle of Mumm.

The afternoon was filled with chores like battery charging, lead acid and crew (Zzzzz). Dinner was had, then into the routine for night watches when Liz spotted our closest possible ARC contact yet since day one! Approx 4 miles off we can see the stern lights of a yacht. Much excitement especially if we can overtake it.

Apparently a large boat imaginatively named “AAG Big One”, more used to competing in Volvo 60 series and crewed by Russians was due to finish today. But for our first day hiccup we’d have given them a run for their money!

Tomorrow will see the distance to go drop into three figures – currently 1100Nm -ish. Alas the bubbly budget doesn’t stretch to another party yet, maybe a tin of beer and four straws.

No fish today due to wave conditions but Skipper has prepared the latest tackle to tame the beast below. We are not going to eat this one, just lasso it and ride the bow wave to St Lucia, more later…

Daily Life

Sun 09/12/2007 07:04

18:41.7N 045:26.6W at 05:20 Sunday 9th Dec

After nearly two weeks at sea and some relentless bouncing and rolling these past couple of days, there seems to have been a humorous blog failure aboard so it falls to me, the skipper, to fill the breach.

Maybe tomorrow!

Grapto crew here slow to the laptop. Well I thought I saw a whale today but decided not to labour the story for fear of finding one on the foredeck tomorrow morning. It would be quite difficult to get into the fridge next to the elusive spring onions in any event.

Meal times have become so important and we all fall onto our food with gusto. It’s also a case of getting the food into your tummy before it hits the deck. Luckily Ian and Liz came up with a stunning hearty Spanish style stew tonight. It’s not quite Lord of the Flies yet but I feel we will need to be reintroduced gradually into polite society for fear of scaring the locals in St Lucia.

Washing a few T shirts in the normal course of events doesn’t seem that ambitious, well it didn’t to me when I embarked on the project at 0900. I can only describe the process as hand washing inside a washing machine. There was more water on the galley floor than in the bucket and naturally the moment everything was out over the guard rails a squall hit. Ian’s comment that the final rinse cycle had arrived was little comfort. T shirts are still festooned across the saloon keeping my reputation for lowering the tone wherever I go intact.


Monsters of the Deep

Mon 10/12/2007 05:11

18:02.1N 0047:56.9W at 0400 UTC Monday 10th Dec

Call me Ishmael! The latest fishing tackle has been chewed off the end of the line without so much as a by-your-leave, leaving us with no fish supper again. This kit was swaged steel hawser with a hook the size of a kedge anchor. Only the explosive harpoons left in the tackle box now.

We are hoping to rescue a boat in distress tomorrow so we can blag a few free drinks in St Lucia! From radio reports we are getting, it seems like lots of other ARC boats are picking up fresh crew along the way. All the sinking boats always seem to be hundreds of miles from us. We spotted a couple of big tankers in the distance yesterday but otherwise we are still all alone. At least as far as the horizon.

The weather has been mostly kind to us so far for wind strength and direction although sometimes rain squalls prevent quoits being played on the pool deck. I must have a word later with the Purser about the seating arrangements at the Captain’s table just in case some riff-raff have recently joined this cruise.


St Lucia here we come


17:19.1N 050:01.2W

Grapto crew calling. There are yachts arriving in St Lucia every day now including our next door neighbour from Las Palmas, Minnie the Moocher, who arrived today at 13.20. My neighbours from Topsham in Aqualuna are due to arrive within the next 24 hours. If anything all the talk of landfall makes you appreciate every moment of the day more. It’s great to lie down in the cockpit on watch and look up at the stars, obviously with one eye looking out to sea.

It has been mentioned before but to date we have been blessed with fantastic winds, a classic crossing really, poled out genoa and then away she goes, surfing down the waves. Obviously the 48kt gusts were not on our wish list but hey. Grapto has behaved beautifully and is clearly enjoying her release from the confines of Swanwick. We thought we may have a few problems brewing today but so far nothing to worry about.

No luck fishing today so carpaccio of tuna must wait until tomorrow. Skip’s now talking ’bout bigger and better tackle for the Caribbean Sea so we can build on our success to date. Plenty of tuna there I hear.

I’m not trying to elicit sympathy as we do know what the weather is like in the UK but it’s very hot and sticky now. Yep, just as I thought, no sympathy.

Looking forward to making those home calls now. The bets on board for arrival are as follows: Ian Friday pm, Liz Saturday am, me Saturday pm and skip’s gone for the broad brush approach of anytime after Saturday. We are now taking our night watches as an opportunity to swing things in our favour.

Lori, out.

Finish line fever

Wed 12/12/2007 02:47

16:32.6N 052:32.8W

Crew here with the first and only blog of the day – I think.

It seems strange, but with about 3 whole days sailing and 420 miles yet to go; more than I have sailed in one go and about as much as the others here have done, it feels like the home straight. Current plans are for a finish in daylight on Sat am. So watch that one go totally pear shaped, along with my entry in the sweep [Friday pm]. Talk on board is what the complimentary Rum punch is going to be like, followed by swimming pools, eating horizontally & stationary, parties (Lori).

Although there are for some reason, still three hundred tins of chopped tomatoes left, fresh food is now depleting rapidly although Lori did rustle together an identity confused sponge/fruit cake. The WI would have slated it but I guarantee it will not see the morning. Also a date flapjack which may be, or keep us regular from now on.

Today saw the second milestone of the trip ie. Champers moment. The chart plotter tells us today that there are less than 100 hrs to the finish, so the second bottle of Mumm may get it tomorrow.

The sextant managed to pull down Venus or Neptune this morning. Watch this space in a few days, when the figures have been calculated, to find out where we were at 0800 this morning.

Fishing… Oh dear! He is now talking about a bigger rod, reel, line, bait. Talk from other boats of Carpaccio of Tuna doesn’t help – thanks Aqualuna.

And finally; Pedlar the puppy is 12 years young on the 12th of the 12th tomorrow. Currently being spoilt rotten by Liz’s Mum & Dad. Happy Birthday Peds!

Nearly there …

Thu 13/12/2007 07:46

15:06.3N 055:39.8W

Crew here again; First, apologies for inaccurate dist to go in last nights blog (420 Nm), was more like 500. However we now at 0400, have 320Nm to go after a best day yet of 165 miles thanks to a steady F7 ‘breeze’ from behind and those Atlantic rollers to surf down. Speaking of which, you would think that we would have realized that every 324th wave came towards us with an address on like “Ian, Snoozing on port side (just put clean shorts on)”, “Martyn, sat on transom (just had shower)” or “Saloon, via hatch left open – again (just dried out from last time)” but no. Four old dogs, no new tricks.

The current progress means that a St Lucia arrival would be in the hours of darkness so the plan is to reduce sail on Friday so that we can make our approach in daylight on Saturday morning. “What thoughtful planning and good seamanship given the navigational hazards that may exist” I can hear you cry. No, we just want to look good on the photos!

Still no sighting of ARC boats although from position reports there are two from our group approx 10 miles behind us – too far to see but at least we are not last. There’s about 80 boats in total vying for that honour.

Captain’s Log Supplemental

Thu 13/12/2007 20:29

14:45.2N 057:21.2W

This sector has been found to contain a mysterious layer of dark-blue di-hydrogen monoxide. A vast wave phenomenon at the hydrosphere-atmosphere interface is propelling Graptolite at warp speed towards the west. Damage Control reports that the shields are being breeched and DHM is invading the living quarters and engineering compartments. “She canna take it Cap’n” “We’ll be blown half way across the Atlantic”. Fortunately for us there are no Klingons on the starboard bow.

[Captain now confined to his cabin]   

Still crazy after all these waves

Fri 14/12/2007 03:37

14:41.9N 058:02.2W

Crew here, reporting worrying tendencies among the ship’s company. First the skipper goes off on one in a trekky moment. Does he not realise it’s the daleks we are trying to evade!! Liz has been heard to be muttering to herself that its not fair that she didn’t even get to put the fish down and when can she at least operate on someone. Perhaps most worrying is that another crew member who must remain nameless has openly admitted to a crush in her younger years on a TV character. Not Magnum PI or The Saint, but none other than Scott the Thunderbird pilot. We wondered why she had log entries of “2000 hrs, 57degrees F.A.B.” I, being the only rational one left and on the basis of some impressive surf’s down waves have entered us in the next Sydney – Hobart race.

All the ships company have now resorted to shouting at the approaching waves Canute style, to ward them away from the boat. At least one of them didn’t listen and tipped us over a bit. Nothing to worry the insurers though…

There were shouts earlier of “Look at those lovely brown boobys” the male contingent assembled on deck but all to be seen were a couple of sea-birds circling the boat, one of which attempted a landing on the spreaders but failed the crew entrance examination.

The next log should be with land in sight for the first time in nearly three weeks…

Falling Apart

Sat 15/12/2007 03:43

13:56.3N 060:22.7W

The genoa came splatting down today because of a broken wire halyard. The spare genoa that has been lurching about my cabin for three weeks turned out to be no use at all as the halyard is now down inside the mast. A bit vexing as it was our best downwind sail in these squally conditions. Now we have the mainsail up and a bright orange storm jib hung on the spinnaker halyard at the front which should get us some sympathy when we limp into Rodney Bay. St Lucia is only about 30 miles away now as the seagull flies but seagulls can travel downwind a bit better than we can just now.


Arrived Rodney Bay, St Lucia

Sat 15/12/2007 22:35

14:04.59N 060:56.91W

It’s all very exciting making landfall after so long at sea. The lights of St Lucia twinkled in the distance then we were very quickly very close and racing along the northern edge of the island in a strong wind in the dark surrounded by more boats than we had seen since leaving Las Palmas. Everyone had their best tropical whites on as we entered Rodney Bay. We passed between two anchored square-riggers and saw the race committee boat. A photographer rushed out in a RIB taking pictures; there was a very nice pink sunrise and it was all over.

We were temporarily berthed on the fuel dock in the marina for much of the morning and finished off the complimentary rum punch (with ice) and very excellent pancakes made by Joanne from the boat in front of us. By coincidence I had been in email contact for most of the summer with Joanne about crewing on Graptolite through the Caribbean and Pacific. She had sent me a photograph some time ago but I didn’t recognise her straight away with her clothes on and not holding a large fish!

All this way and Graptolite has only just reached the start of her circumnavigation route which starts here in St Lucia on 23rd January and ends here sometime in the distant future.

The weather is hot and steamy with heavy rain between sunny spells. After berthing on B dock we sheltered in a bar and had fish and chips and a couple of Piton beers. Might have a nap now.


This voyage continues around the world with many adventures and different crew along the way. The next step was the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal and into the Pacific. Then island hopping across the South Pacific to Australia. This was followed by Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean and into the Red Sea and finally into the Eastern Mediterranean and the Adriatic. Graptolite never did make it home to the Hamble River.

01. East Atlantic, Solent to the Canary Islands 2007

This blog begins with the preparations for a circumnavigation starting from my long-time berth at Swanwick Marina on the Hamble River. This section ends in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria at the start of the 2007 ARC race across the Atlantic. Crew from the Hamble River to Falmouth were an old oil industry friend, Dan Bendig (USA), a new recruit, Ian Jack (former British Army living in Germany), and a very old friend from Blackburn, Julian Swarbrick (UK). Dan and Ian made the traumatic Biscay crossing with me. From mid-Portugal to the Canary Islands my crew was mainly Lori Evans/Murdock (UK) with some help from my son Tom around the Algarve.

Preparing To Go,
Thu 22/02/2007
50 52.81N 001 18.04W

Crew and equipment are shaping up for a departure sometime in August this year.
The plan is to get to the start of the ARC 07 in Las Palmas by the end of November. Then in January 2008 will be joining the World ARC heading west and hopefully all the way around.

Refit Almost Done
Wed 27/06/2007
50:52.81N 1:18.05W

Nearing the end of June and still sat tight in the River Hamble but Graptolite is now taking on something of the appearance of being a real blue-water cruiser. At least under the waterline and under the seat cushions. She is now buzzing with her own electricity and awash with fresh water made from the salty stuff. Her bottom has been buffed and painted to keep the barnacles away and she sports a very nice shiny new propeller.

Most Big Stuff Now Completed
Sat 14/07/2007
50:52.81N 1:18.05W

It’s now mid-July and much of the main expenditure has been made. Let me tell you, it has been a painful experience in the wallet area. The SSB radio and satellite phone are now in place although they have yet to be tested at sea. A new spinnaker pole is tied on the deck and a spare set of sails are on order. The electronic charts that are onboard reach as far as Australia and the paper charts as far as the Caribbean. There are still hundreds of things left to do but mostly trivial things like getting unbreakable crockery.
An interesting arrival today was the set of national courtesy flags needed for the World ARC. The flag locker now has flags for over 19 countries. Fortunately many of the islands are colonies or dependencies so some of the flags can be recycled.
This posting is the first one using the satellite phone email. If you are reading this it has obviously worked.

The First Day
Wed 29/08/2007
50:37 09N 002:14.79W

A gentle first day. Sold my disintegrating Land Rover at auction in the morning and by 12:30 we were off in nice weather making 10 knots westward in a northwest wind and an ebb tide. The multinational inaugural crew are Dan Bendig (USA), Ian Jack (Germany) and Julian Swarbrick (UK).
We flew past the Needles and cracked open the first bottle of champagne by 16:00. At sunset, which was very pretty, we sailed into Lulworth Cove and anchored in between a few other yachts. The crew tell me they are now doing something with a chicken and they are going ashore to the pub afterwards.

Lulworth Cove to Dartmouth
Fri 31/08/2007

Early-ish in the morning we left Lulworth Cove and motored close inshore past Durdle Door, Stair Hole and other famous geological bits of the Jurassic Coast. The sails went up and we made a good speed along the east side of Portland Bill. Rounding the tip of Portland Bill, westerly winds stopped us making much progress across Lyme Bay without another helping hand from the engine. As evening fell we slipped into the River Dart where there the very busy Royal Dartmouth Regatta was underway and got probably the last berth on the river at the ridiculously expensive Dart Marina. Ate on the boat and watched a very good firework display over the river from the deck. Strolled into town and joined the crowd for a few more beers.
Lori Evans, who is planning to join Graptolite in Portugal, had been racing at the regatta during the day and is expected to come for a short sail with us tomorrow.

Dartmouth to Falmouth
Sat 01/09/2007
50:09.23N 005:03.91W

Lori’s short sail turned into just coffee on the deck as she was going back to work but it was enough to convince the lads that maybe there might be some truth in the skipper’s ravings about sailing around the world with a boat load of blondes.
Left Dart Marina and threaded our way through the regatta boats in the river almost getting mown down by dozens of racing yachts out in the bay. A few porpoises played around the boat off Start Point and then we were off to Falmouth via the Eddystone light. During the afternoon the fishing rod came out and a few mackerel were hauled in. (I do catch fish sometimes, John!). Due to a traumatic Catholic upbringing Dan doesn’t eat fish but for the rest of us, Ian baked the mackerel with onion and very good it was too.
As night fell we were still sailing along at a good speed. Luminous plankton sparked and flashed in our wake like we were riding a bottle rocket. In the early hours of the morning we motored into Falmouth Harbour and moored up to a buoy for the night. Knackered.

Sun 02/09/2007

Moved onto a pontoon at Falmouth Visitors Marina. Julian left by train from Falmouth Town and the rest of us provision the boat and clean up a bit. Later, out on the town for a traditional British curry.

Leaving Falmouth
Mon 03/09/2007
49:15.98N 005:43.10W

A big breakfast, a few last minute purchases and a tank of diesel and it got too difficult to think of reasons not to go. So we went.

Clearing Lizard Point we acquired about ten bow-riding dolphins. “So long and thanks for all the fish” said one. Now at 22:00 BST we are approaching the shipping lanes off Ushant and the sea is very rolly.

Bay of Biscay
Tue 04/09/2007
47:06.93N 006:54.35W

A good day yesterday with 173 nautical miles of water slooshing by in 24 hours. Today finds us in the northern Bay of Biscay with sunny weather and a northerly breeze.

More dolphins around the boat earlier. Night-time now and it has suddenly got very busy with oil tankers all around us for some reason. Radar is a very useful bit of kit.

Aproaching Spain
Thu 06/09/2007
44:17.38N 006:57.59W

Radar is a rubbish bit of kit as it has now stopped working.

Across the southern Bay of Biscay we have taken a bit of a hammering with F7 winds from the east and big waves trying to get in to the boat. Biscay’s reputation is intact! The night sky is very clear which partly makes up for having to keep watch lying down in the spray. If I had one I would be tempted to get the sextant out. We’ve had to head southeast to keep the bow more into the breaking waves. When daylight comes though, we can have a nice run west along the Spanish coast towards Coruna.

We have a bit of fixing up to do when in port. The battery charging is poor and we have to keep the generator on more than expected. A wardrobe door in the forward cabin also got ripped off its hinges during a particularly bad bounce through a wave. And the radar needs looking at.

La Coruna
Fri 07/09/2007
43:22.06N 008:23.19W

Arrived in La Coruna. A nasty night with F7-F8 winds and big waves. The cruise along the mountainous northern Spanish coast today was nice although it was more surfing than sailing. Arrived in Coruna just as night fell. Lurched into the first marina we came to and tied up on a pontoon hammerhead. Dan’s Mexican Spanish came in useful with the marina nightwatchman. Although asking how many pesos it would cost for the berth must have confused.

A meal of gammon ham, pineapple, sweet potatoes and a shower and shave rounded off the day. As I write I hear the crew snoring.

La Coruna
Fri 07/09/2007
43:22.06N 008:23.19W

A day in La Coruna fixing things and looking around the town. Had lunch in the marina restaurant and went looking for supermarkets and chandlers.

Most of the things to fix were the result of Bay of Biscay violence. These are:

Saltwater in the freshwater tanks. (not sure how but we think the anchor locker filled up and water got forced into the tank overflow)

Batteries not charging properly (looks like a loose battery terminal caused by the batteries shifting slightly)

The shackle holding the anchor on to the chain came undone with all the shaking. Nothing lost but a bit scary. Now fixed on with an extra cable tie

Also, the satellite phone email is not working too well. (a blog update has been sent every day but now I’m on a faster connection I see they didn’t arrive. Might not be able to get that fixed until Las Palmas.

Sun 09/09/2007

After a bit of a food shopping excursion into downtown Coruna, today was a pleasant cruise in the sunshine westwards to Camarinas along the very wild looking coast of Galicia. The views are spectacular but you really need to like wind generators as there are thousands of them. Ian said he saw sunfish but the sighting is uncorroborated.

Dan is to leave tomorrow by bus to Santiago de Compostela to get a flight to London and thence to Columbus, Ohio. Some people have all the luck.

Ria de Arousa
Sun 09/09/2007
42:34.37N 009:04.2W

Up early to see Dan off by taxi to the airport.

It’s been a useless sailing day with thick fog and no wind but nothing stops Graptolite heading south. We crept out of Caramarinas and rounded the lighthouse of Cape Finisterre close in to the rocks to the sound of a fog horn thoughtfully provided for the more electronically challenged boats.

By early evening we arrived at the approach to the Ria de Arousa and dropped the anchor in the harbour of the small fishing village of Corrubedo. The multifunctional Ian dived down to check the anchor and baked a loaf of bread while the skipper flounced about in a new wetsuit.

Spain to Portugal
Tue 11/09/2007

The morning saw thick fog again all along the coast. Left Corrubedo harbour using only the radar for eyes (the radar is now back in favour since it started working again!). Bobbed and weaved through small islands and fishing boats towards Isla de San Martin where miraculously the fog began to clear. The island turned out to be a mountainous pink confection with pine trees and lighthouses. We sailed up to near the main deserted beach and anchored for a swim and lunch.

With little wind we mostly motored south in the sunshine past Vigo and Bayonna leaving Spanish lobster-pot-infested waters and passing into Portuguese-lobster-pot infested waters by early evening. Entered the port of Viana Do Castelo and squeezed into a berth. The initially unpromising-looking town turned out to be a gem with a very nice historic centre. Had a late night meal in the town and read each other bits from Sunday’s ‘Die Welt’ and ‘Telegraph’.

Tue 11/09/2007

Left Viana Do Castelo about lunchtime as a new swing footbridge across the mouth of the marina was being tested and we couldn’t get out. Did a little bit of sailing in a F5 wind but it fell away and we were back to motoring after a few hours. By early evening we were nearing Porto and turned into the port of Leixoes where we anchored near the yacht club away from the cruise liners. Our only yachty neighbours at anchor were some Germans. Ian conversed with them but I don’t think he mentioned the War.

Figueira da Foz
Thu 13/09/2007
40:08.79N 008:51.57W

Left the harbour of Leixoes, pointed Graptolite south in the morning and turned up at the marina at Figueira da Foz before dark. Nothing more to say about it really. Almost no wind and a bit of fog in places. Read books, dozed, ate lunch. Could have been anywhere. Last supper with Ian in the Figueira Yacht Club. All crew signed off now until early October. Skipper to do boat maintenance and learn Portuguese before reaching Brazil.

Daily blogs now on hold until something happens.

Figueira da Foz
Sat 15/09/2007
40:08.79N 008:51.57W

Third day in Figgy. Explored the big fish/fruit/veg market this morning and got some bread and sardines for lunch.

Helped to drag ‘Spangle’ into the berth next to mine from the reception pontoon using a 50m warp and some prodding with dinghies, ‘Spangle’ is a heavy-duty ferro-cement ketch that was towed into the marina on Thursday, pooped and with her engine wrecked mid-Bay of Biscay. Showed Bill and Clare, from ‘Spangle’, where the nearest beer supplies could be bought and then found a WiFi hotspot in the lobby of the Ibis Hotel. Uploaded some photos and tried to upload some video clips but the battery on the laptop ran out. On reflection the video files could be a bit too big anyway and might need a rethink. Be patient, gentle viewers!

Before it starts to seem normal, I will mention that the marina here fairly boils with thousands of huge grey mullet. They are no good to eat and it seems unsporting to fire the spear gun at them.

Still in Figueira da Foz
Fri 28/09/2007
40:08.79N 008:51.57W

‘Graptolite’ is still on the Rio Mondego over two weeks after arriving, but it has been fun so far.

A highlight was the wild evening at the ‘Paintshop’ Hostel with Lori and her daughters Hannah and Leah on their brief house-buying visit to Figgy. Ben the owner and his dad Roger did a huge barbecue in the courtyard and poured way too many drinks at the bar later.

“Barnacle” Bill Grooms left the berth next to me early this morning to sail single-handed down to Madeira in ‘Spangle’. Bill is one of the saltier dogs of the cruising tribe. An ex-Navy stoker who can fix anything, which is just as well given the engine-less state ‘Spangle’ arrived in. I’ve had many sardines and beers out on the town with Bill and his visiting partner Clair over the past couple of weeks. As is the way with this nomadic life, I expect I will meet up with Bill again further south in Madeira or the Canaries. Last night we had Bill’s pre-departure drinks with our other neighbours, Jeff Plummer and Carol Preston, onboard their enormous old boat ‘Akka’ and then had dinner with them later at the Yacht Club.

More Figueira da Foz
Sun 30/09/2007
40:08.79N 008:51.57W

Yesterday, I bought some biggish raw prawns for dinner in the fish market but later got invited around to eat aboard ‘Akka’ by Jeff and Carol, so we had the prawns as a starter.

Had a phone call earlier from Bill Grooms who had been blown into Cascais Marina. The same strong southerly winds at Figueira delayed the leaving of a very big and expensive new yacht being delivered to the Frankfurt Boat Show. A good decision, I thought, given that it would almost certainly have been blown into ‘Graptolite’ on departure.

Figueira continues to be a difficult but charming shopping experience. With many of the shops it’s impossible to tell what they sell until you are actually inside. Even then it’s not always that clear. Hopefully, I’ve not been browsing through the native’s sitting rooms by mistake. Mostly the stuff I’m after is the little bits and pieces for the boat that any old ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ would have. The problem here is the shops that claim to be ship’s chandlers have almost no stock. The one on the marina seems to only sell plastic fuel cans (I bought three). There are other shops in town, which mostly sell dusty gardening equipment and power tools that also do a few boaty things. As not much is on display there has to be lots of arm waving. It took me twenty minutes of work the other day to get a bit of string to use as a flag halyard. Yesterday I tried to get some stainless-steel washers. I was directed to an industrial-type shop in the town by a Russell Crowe, Master & Commander, look-alike at the marina chandlers. There I was led downstairs into what must have once been a very big wine cellar. They had shelf after shelf filled with boxes of washers. None of them were the size I needed.

Later I spotted a key-cutting place down a backstreet and tried to persuade the grizzled old proprietor to engrave ‘Graptolite’ on the ship’s bell given to me as a leaving pressie by Mike and Jacqui. Twenty minutes later he was still having a jolly one-sided conversation in Portuguese trying to make sure he had the pronunciation of “graptowleetie” correct and ringing the bell above his head. It turned out that he didn’t do engraving anyway but maybe the tiny shop across the street, that looked like it was a seller of religious relics and Indulgences, would do it. Naturally, it was closed for the day.

The Plot Thickens in Figueira da Foz
Tue 02/10/2007
40:08.79N 008:51.57W

Dined at the Forte de Sta. Catarina Tennis Club restaurant last night together with Carol and Jeff and their friends Manuel, Natasha and baby Arturo. Despite this restaurant being famous for seafood we all had steak. Don’t know why.

Jeff and Carol are going home to the Norfolk Broads tomorrow. Jeff’s tales of racing around the world with Chay Blyth and working as a mud man in the oil industry have been entertaining.

The weather is not too special today with southerly winds and cloud. Made another attempt to get the engraving done on the ships bell. The agitated, pale, monkish-looking man in the shop said he couldn’t do it but slipped me the address of a place across town. It turned out to be another tucked-away religious curiosities shop and it was closed, obviously. I have the uneasy feeling that I’ve stumbled into some kind of ancient conspiracy, probably involving the Knights Templar. I had best say no more about it for now.

Sun 07/10/2007

Just to say I’m on the boat and all is well. Thought you might be worrying Dad!

Fri 12/10/2007
39:35.03N 009:04.53W

After over a month in Figueira Graptolite today resumed her southbound passage. Had a text from Bill Grooms as we set off who tells me he is now anchored in the crystal clear waters of Porto Santo.

The crew (Lori) turned up over a week ago on the 3rd. It’s all been a bit of a blur but what I think we’ve done is had some meetings with Philipe, Lori’s architect, had some drinks and food with Kerry and Ben at the Paintshop Hostel, tried various restaurants and bars and explored up the Rio Mondego by dingy. Much of it was general loafing around. Loafing is not an easy skill to acquire and Lori, only recently departed from the world of work, has needed guidance from the Master.

Just before departure, the ship’s bell was finally engraved with the word GRAPTOLITE. The final inquisition in the engravers inner sanctum must have gone well. The wind generator has also now been bolted to the back of the boat but still needs the electrical work doing.

Today was mostly motoring in light winds but we made 43 miles to Navare and parked up in the marina there. Just opposite a fish processing factory. As I write, hundreds of associated seagulls are making a racket and trying to turn the boat into a pile of guano. The usual non-joined-up bureaucracy had us having to leave either ships papers or a passport as deposit for keys to get into the marina. A passport was left which was fine with the marine police, who only wanted ships papers, but naturally it was not fine with the immigration police.

Sat 13/10/2007
39:35.03N 009:04.53W

The plan was to continue south today but the skipper got a 24-hour bug that had him in his bunk all day shivering his timbers. So, one more night here.

The crew explored Navare.

Ihla da Berlenga
Sun 14/10/2007
39:24.66N 009:30.41W

A short trip today of 26 miles to Ihlas da Berlenga about 5 miles off the coast of Peniche. We found an unattended mooring buoy in the bay of Carreiro da Fortaleza close to the 17th Century fortress of Sao Joao Batista. The dingy was used unsuccessfully to attack the fortress (the waves were a bit big) so we landed at a nearby beach and found a small village although there were only a handful of people there. The island is a big pile of pink granite with a lighthouse on top and is a nature reserve. More exploring tomorrow when light.

Mon 15/10/2007
39:24.66N 009:30.41W

In the early hours a Customs launch crept by with a spotlight on us threatening paperwork but it turned out they were just there to do a little night fishing and we were probably on their mooring buoy.

Had a pleasant morning climbing over the Ilas Berlenga, lighthouse, fort, birds etc. Lori swam off the beach where we landed the dinghy, but it was to cold for sensible people!

Back to Grapto for lunch then a short sail to the port of Peniche on the mainland. Dinner of fish stew in a touristique restaurant then back to the boat for DVD’s on loan from the Paintshop Hostel.

Graptolite Crew Calling
Mon 15/10/2007

We are in Peniche (think you were here on tour when the Culm Valley boys went large Tom?) and today was wash day. I took a rather traditional approach. Skip decided to don wellies and tread sheets in the heads…Figgy seems a distant memory already and it feels good to be on our way even if we are making short hops. Nazare was an interesting town and within striking distance of Figgy for future trips from the Pink House. The old town has the most wonderful views from the cliff top towards Peniche and Berlenga south to Cabo Mondego in the north. The old town is reached by way of a funicular railway but I was driven there by Sally, wife of Captain M. F. Hadley, the harbour master, lovely couple from Torbay originally. When they sailed into Nazare nine years ago they intended to stay one night.

Ilha da Berlenga was a delight and completely unspoilt. We are staying in Peniche another night so we can explore the town and inland. All is well dad and I haven’t been asked to walk the plank, yet. Hope all is well at DHHQ Lester and I that RA is doing well in the bottom’s cup Ian. X’s H,T & L Lori

Wed 17/10/2007
39:21.12N 009:22.60W

Lori suffered from a misguided attempt to run around the whole Peniche peninsular. Later a bus trip to Obidos. A nice fortified town with tourist shops. Walked the walls and turrets. Had lunch. Looked in the shops. Bus back.

Still in Peniche
Thu 18/10/2007
39:21.12N 009:22.60W

Looked around the fortress in Peniche today. Much of it was used for political prisoners during Portugal’s dabble with Dictatorship so it was a bit depressing. Intend to head to Cascais near Lisbon tomorrow.

Thu 18/10/2007
38:41.76N 009:24.81W

Sailed south from Peniche to Cascais and anchored in the bay.

Sat 20/10/2007
38:41.43N 009:25.10W

Moved into the marina at Cascais as it was a bit rough for landing the dinghy. Cascais is a much more upmarket than the Portugal seen so far. Lots of tourists though.

Had a curry for dinner followed by a couple of pints in a British pub. Guilty pleasures! Maybe we will go see the World Cup Final there as well.

Sun 21/10/2007
38:41.43N 009:25.10W

We had dinner in a square in the centre of Cascais and watched the Rugby World Cup Final surrounded by South Africans. All Portuguese restaurants proudly feature several big TV screens on the walls. For sporting events on warm evenings, they are even propped up outside on the tables. It makes a night out in Portugal feel a bit like shopping at ‘Comet’.

The crew left the boat this morning for a few days shore-leave taking the train back to Figueira. This is supposedly so Lori can meet up with Hannah and organize some work on the Pink House although I suspect the real reason is that the girl is sick of the sight of the skipper!

Tue 23/10/2007
38:41.43N 009:25.10W

I fear that Portugal will never become a major economic force in Europe.

Had a day trip on the train to Lisbon in search of fibreglass repair materials and some rigging wire and returned empty-handed. Walked for miles and visited five chandleries. Two were closed, contrary to advertised hours, and the others had nothing in. Except one near the Cais do Sodre station which had a good selection of wire and a swaging machine but the owner and his assistant thought they might only be able to find time to sell it to me the next day as even though the shop had no other customers, one was way too busy winding up a ball of string and the other was supervising.

Thu 25/10/2007
38:41.43N 009:25.10W

A day spent sightseeing in Lisbon. It’s an interesting old place with lots of vertical travel to castles using giant lifts and trams.

Tom Pickup arrives at Lisbon Airport for a Half-Term sailing the Algarve. The taxi driver from the airport gets us stuck in a traffic jam caused by the Celtic-Benfica match and trousers some extra fare money. According to the street map there was no need to go anywhere near the stadium in the first place but lacking suitable Portuguese swear words made the situation unfixable.

Still in Cascais
Fri 26/10/2007

Ex-Texaco friends reading this will have some vague recollection of the Cascais/Estoril area from a ‘business’ trip the entire office had here in the early 90’s. Back then excess alcohol was obligatory. I suppose like the 60’s if you can remember it then you weren’t here and I can’t remember a thing except for Cyril falling out of a lift. Anybody remember anything else?

Provisioned the boat for a few days travel but after lugging food and drink across town from the ‘Jumbo’ it was too late to go. Later, Tom and I took the dingy up the coast to see the Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell) sea cave. Lori went shopping.

Sun 28/10/2007
37:57.08N 008:51.95W

Refuelled at Cascais marina and motor-sailed 65 miles to the port of Sines. Arrived in the dark and dropped anchor.

Sun 28/10/2007
37:06.65N 008:40.52W

Upped anchor at Sines at first light and motor-sailed south. By late afternoon we rounded the big cliffs and lighthouse at Cape St. Vincent on the most southwesterly part of mainland Europe. Some dolphins escorted us for a while.

Turning eastwards along the Algarve coast the weather warmed up and we arrived at Lagos Marina as night fell after a 90 mile run. Arrangements had been made by email and text to meet two future crew persons that evening in Lagos so we were just in time. Colin Laidlaw, on the marina in his own boat ‘Inshala’ with his partner Belinda, is to join ‘Graptolite’ in the Caribbean. Caroline Bonner, in Lagos berthing with friends between boats, is to join in Faro for the trip to Las Palmas. The six of us, Colin, Belinda, Caroline, Lori, Tom and myself had dinner in a nice restaurant booked by Colin. No idea what it was called or where it was. I had some grouper fish which was semi-cremated in the traditional Portuguese way. Rick, they need some help here!

Heard some fireworks going off around midnight but nobody could be bothered to go and look. Ooh! Aah! The crew gets an extra hour sleep time as the clocks go back.

Sun 28/10/2007
37:06.65N 008:40.52W

Tom and Dad had a ‘Full English’ breakfast with Colin and Belinda at ‘Lazyjacks’. Lori went to the marina pool to cook some skin and swim. Looks like we are here another night.

Tue 30/10/2007
37:06.84N 008:31.30W

Had a short sail from Lagos to anchor in the harbour of Portimao. Has a big, slightly effeminate-looking pink stone castle and beaches.

Tom jumped off the boat and discovered that the water is cold. Took the dingy to the beach where Lori had a swim and declared it warm but the water is still way to chilly for the skipper to get wet.

Wed 31/10/2007
37:00.50N 007:56.43W

Sailed from Portimaio to Faro in the sunshine. There is a long narrow winding channel across a big swamp to get to the anchorage near Faro. Took the dingy to town and had a few beers and pizza. Returning to Graptolite turned out to be a nightmare as the half-mile or so of open water between anchorage and shore had turned into muddy, stinky marshland with the falling tide. Three of us dragging a dingy through waist-deep mud in the dark is not as much fun as you might think.

Wed 31/10/2007

Dingy to shore then taxi to the airport at Faro to send Tom back to school. Caroline called to say she lost a crown and can’t sail with us. I didn’t even know she was royalty!

Skipper and crew discuss plans for heading south shorthanded. Think maybe Casablanca could be a good stopping off point although lack of courtesy flag and pilot books might be a problem. Attempted to source charts etc in Faro but as usual it was a waste of time.

Tried to find a marina where groceries, fuel and water could be sourced. Navigated about ten miles through the waterways of the Rio Formosa delta to the town of Olhao. Parked beautifully in the marina and was told to bugger off by an official with a clipboard who said it was all private. German neighbours said they told him they had an emergency and had to stay. Being British we left and anchored nearby.

Ate in a restaurant with a Halloween Party in full swing. In Portuguese style it included children running riot and wielding axes.

Thu 01/11/2007
37:01.36N 007:50.52W

It turned out that not only is there no room in the marina for visitors but the only source of diesel is a petrol station in the town. Not much use if you need hundreds of litres. There is a commercial dock but the size of the concrete wall and the big rafted-up trawlers make it impossible to get near the pump. Water is also a problem without sneaking into the marina. There are supermarkets but stuff would need ferrying by dingy. Decided to go to Vilamoura tomorrow which is 20 miles back along the coast to the west.

Sat 03/11/2007

A short trip to Vilamoura to provision the boat. Off to Morocco in the morning. Should take a couple of days.

Gulf of Cadiz
Sun 04/11/2007
34:58.47N 008:44.92W

A very rough night with F6-7 winds from the SE and 2m waves. As usual the forecast did not match the real world which was for F5 from the east. Smashed my last remaining glass cafitiere in the early hours. For those of you paying attention, yes I did have three onboard.

The cockpit was too wet so Lori and skipper hid below looking out at the breaking waves every 20 minutes. Not quite as bad as Biscay but close. Only saw the lights of one or two ships in the distance, plenty of stars and a planet that looked like a bit like something on the horizon.

By sunrise we crossed into Moroccan waters and are now about 100 miles NW of Casablanca and the sea has calmed down and the winds are lighter. Expect to be in Safi for breakfast on Monday.

Safi, Morocco
Mon 05/11/2007
32:18.33N 009:14.91W

The second half of the crossing was very gentle. 388 miles after leaving Portugal we arrived at the port of Safi, Morocco. Officials made off with our chocolate biscuits as we didn’t have Marlboro. Public holiday tomorrow here so a problem leaving ships papers and passports for an early departure. Still waiting for Customs and Immigration people showing up.

Essaouira, Morocco
Wed 07/11/2007
31:29.53N 009:40.47W

Customs turned up eventually and waved a grubby form at me from the harbour wall so I had to clamber over two yachts and a rusty freighter to get it. While filling it in (difficult as just in French and Arabic) the Immigration Police arrived on the boat. Filled in his form (almost identical information to that needed by the previous three officials seen). Immigration wanted to take the passports away but could only return them after 10:00AM unless I went with him to the police station. Met the Customs man who was waiting in his car for his form. Customs man decided he would drive me to his office to wait while Immigration man did something else. Drove what seemed like miles, finished Customs paperwork then I was sent to the Police Station where I waited hours for Immigration man turning up do some more forms and passport stamping. After being let go I got lost in the very big and very smelly fish dock. After almost finding my way back to the commercial harbour, Immigration man roared up in his van and I got bundled into the back while some more paperwork was done that he forgotten about the first two times we met. Some dithering about involving requests for baksheesh then I was back to the boat with all paperwork done and still in possession of all documents. It’s not easy to keep calm after spending a couple of nights at sea beforehand. All officials were friendly enough but obviously couldn’t do admin for toffee.

During the night the boat got a good covering of phosphate dust which is mainly what the port does. In the morning we motored through the very filthy harbour dodging bits of fishing net and plastic sacks. The King of Morocco was apparently turning up to the city the next day so some of the bigger boats were dressed with dusty bunting. Hope he likes it.

There was no wind so we motored all day to Essaouira. Several miles offshore, Lori, wearing a bikini, waved enthusiastically to a bunch of Moroccans in a fishing boat who naturally wanted to come over and sell us fish. The skipper vetoed this on the grounds of safety and was declared to be a ‘tourist’ rather than a ‘traveller’. C’est la vie. And this is off the desert coast of the Maghreb!

In Essaouira we rafted up with a French boat on a small pontoon in the very picturesque fishing harbour. Paperwork was not too bad. I just had to visit two offices. Different uniforms, same information. Oddly, they always need to know how many children you have at home. Explored the streets of the fortified town in the evening and ate a good meal at the ‘Chez Sam’ restaurant next to the pontoon.

Essaouira, Morocco
Wed 07/11/2007
31:29.53N 009:40.47W

Walked through the fishing harbour and explored the medina of Essaouira which is a big area of narrow streets with shops, stalls and barrows behind the old walls of the legendary city of Mogador. All very colourful with lots of ‘sand-people’ looking as if they are collecting broken droids in a galaxy far, far away.

Looked for a Morocco courtesy flag for the boat. It can sometimes cause trouble with officials if you don’t fly a small version of the country’s flag from the starboard spreader. A Moroccan French teacher I got talking to in the medina took me around to loads of shops where we eventually found something that would do. Wouldn’t accept anything for his trouble, which was nice.

Lori’s son Tom and his partner Heidi turned up in town for the night. They had been coincidentally on a surfing holiday further down the Moroccan coast but there was no surf.

It now looks as though Porto Santo and Madeira will have to be given a miss as time is getting short to get to Las Palmas. Tired of Portuguese food anyway. Thinking of going to Isla Graciosa first, which is a small island north of Lanzarote, as it will be the nearest landfall.

Essaouira, Morocco
Thu 08/11/2007
31:29.53N 009:40.47W

Did some minor repairs around the house and a bit of shopping. Had an excellent tagine of lamb for dinner in a place down a dark alley in the medina called ‘Le Patio’. Nice place but seemed to lack a patio. It was a bit more expensive than intended but worth it to cut down the chance of being out of action on the passage to the Canaries.

Atlantic 200 nm NE of Canaries
Fri 09/11/2007
31:05.82N 010:26.76W

Got passports stamped with no hassle. The police were practicing putting handcuffs on each other when ‘Mon Capitan’ walked in. It wasn’t immediately obvious what they were up to. I thought somebody’s paperwork wasn’t in order.

Used up some local currency in the fish market (a kilo of shrimp and three big red fish with huge eyes) and left Essaouira harbour at midday. Pointed the boat towards Lanzarote and had a beer.

Atlantic 70 nm NE of Canaries
Sat 10/11/2007
29:53.03N 012:24.71W

A fair NE wind. Made 163 nm in last 24hrs. Only saw a few ships passing in the night. Expect to make landfall at Ilas Graciosa to the north of Lanzarote tomorrow and should be in Las Palmas on Monday or Tuesday.

Isla Graciosa
Sun 11/11/2007
29:13.73N 013:30.10W

After a night of listening to the local VHF radio operators putting on silly voices and insulting each other’s parentage, we returned to Christendom.

Made landfall at first light and sailed to Ila Graciosa off the mountainous northern coast of Lanzarote. Tied up on the eastern harbour wall of Caleta del Sebo harbour and the skipper had a sleep until lunchtime. The crew being less worn out by the responsibility of command, washed her knickers and rented a bike.

Went to a bar in the village for a beer or two later in the afternoon. This is a really pleasant location with white boxy houses around the harbour and the mountains of Lanzarote across the narrows and volcanic cones behind.

Mon 12/11/2007

Sailed the length of Lanzarote today to get a bit closer to Gran Canaria. A strange lunar landscape of volcanic cones and pumice. Now in Marina Rubicon on the south coast of Lanzarote. A very posh marina. Poor old grubby Graptolite looks out of place against the big yachts bristling with satellite dishes and Gucci handbags.

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Tue 13/11/2007
28:07.68N 015:25.49W

Got up early and sailed over a hundred miles to Las Palmas in a nice N F5. Lots of dolphins on the way. Arrived at the enormous harbour at Las Palmas in the dark and threaded our way through big ships and oil rigs to the marina and tied up on the reception pontoon just after the ARC office had closed. Bit of an anticlimax but nevertheless we are here……at the starting line of the race.