Sailing Prior Years.

Sailing 2012.

Sailing 2011.

Sailing 2010.

Sailing 2009.

Sailing 2008.

Sailing 2007.

Sailing 2006.

Sailing 2004/5.

Sailing 2003/4.

Sailing 2002/3.

Sailing 2001.



Nova Scotia


Saturday 24th June 2006


What a difference it makes when the sun shines! The fishing harbours of Maine look quaint and pretty instead of gloomy and grey, and suddenly there are lots of little sailboats out testing their summer wings.


The launch of Al Shaheen at Bass Harbour went as expected: well, but frustrating! The multitude of little jobs that need to be done was compounded by a host of additional hassles after having had the mast down for 9 months over the winter.


Head lining in the main cabin that wouldn’t stay up, a drip that appeared from nowhere, sealing that hadn’t been resealed adequately. And some more serious stuff, all of which meant much extra money spent at West Marine! So far we’ve replaced the wind anemometer, the wind generator blades (which had survived Hurricane Ivan but got smashed in the Morris yards!), put in a new water pump, replaced the gas solenoid and right now John is doing some quiet cussing about the motor belt which has been “adjusted” and is far too loose! General feeling about taking the mast down for winter storage is – Don’t! It seems to cause more problems than it solves.


We motored round to South West Harbour (scene of our unexpected wedding last year!) and met up with some of our old cronies. We're moored back in the same spot, and it feels as if we'd never left. Micah, the dockmaster, regaled us with some recent activities - a big motor-boat (a 'stinkpot') manned by some brash loudmouths left in a hurry, and forgot to unplug the electric shore supply - when they felt the boat dragging, they simply 'put foot' - and pulled the connection column straight out of the dock! Off they went, trailing lines of electric cable behind him! Then another beautiful Hinckley yacht misjudged coming in to the marina (it's like parallel parking, only with much less control) and T-boned into the stern of the boat ahead, smashing a big hole in his very expensive 200 year old Indian mahogony rear! I'm glad we generally stay out of marinas - too many accidents waiting to happen in those confined spaces!


Waiting for our new bimini (oh yes, we now have a bimini on Al Shaheen, and new cockpit cushions and – wait for it guys – a new dinghy!) we did a short shake-down sail, and discovered the wind anemometer wasn’t working, which meant winching John up to the top of the mast in his ‘nappy bag’ to remove it. Fortunately, I had moved to look over the side of the boat, just in time to miss being clobbered on the head by a knife he'd dropped from some 60ft up! Would have been one brainless female if it had hit me!!


The immediate plan is to go to Nova Scotia & Newfoundland for the summer. We set off on 22nd, final preparations done, final goodbyes said. Weather reports showed favourable SW winds, and we planned to sail way out past Cape Sable to miss all the gnarlies, and head for Shelbourne as our first stop. The only dissenting weather voice was Chris Parker – but as we heard him only after we’d been at sea for almost 5 hours, and he operates out of Florida, a long way away, we somewhat overrode him. We should have listened! He was right – it was SSE winds all the way, hard on the nose, and even close-hauled we were not going to lay the course planned in the time allotted, but were going to hit Cape Sable and the overfalls head on against the 6kn tide expected.


It was freezing cold and the wind and wet was miserable; despite thermal underwear and 4 layers of clothing, we were both totally ‘nithered’. So after some 50 miles, we decided to treat this as a training cruise, turned tail, poled out the genoa and headed back for the comfort of South West Harbour again!


Sailing is supposed to be fun, and I think it’s too early for summer in Nova Scotia yet! And Micah’s birthday was Friday, and a big lobster bash planned for the dock side – couldn’t miss that! We’ll live to sail another day, as they say.



Friday 30th June 2006


Foggy, foggy days – they must have written the original song here in South West Harbor, Maine! We have sat encapsulated for the past week, some days unable to see the boat moored ahead of us, some days getting an excitingly tantalising peek at Sutton Island at the mouth of the harbour – but the upshot of it all is, we’ve stayed! Two Norwegian boats left on Tuesday, all hands on deck wrapped to the gills in very heavy weather gear, expecting the worst out at sea – they had a deadline to meet, needing to be in Scotland by mid-July, so decided to brave the elements. Mind you, they are hardy sailors, facing the thoughts of an Iceland stop-over with delight and glee – me, I’d rather wimp out in the warmth!


We’ve spent the time most productively however, John getting the website totally up-to-date, Jenny pounding away at her editing work, so it’s not been time wasted. And we’ve had a great time socially, gadding with lots of locals.


Blonde little 3 year old Jake (the dock manager Micah’s son) hurtles around the deck in a big electric car, and got stopped by the police the other day.

"Son," the policeman asked, "may I see your licence please?"

Quick as a wink, Jake handed him a piece of bubblegum paper.

"Hmm," said the policeman. "I think you need a new one. Let me see you drive."

So Jake did a tight turn around the deck, then pulled up smartly in front of him.

"You pass," he smiled and gave Jake a South West Harbour police sticker.

No flies on Jake though. "I need two," he said. "One for me and one for the car!"


Lucien (owner of big sports fishing boat Mighty Mouse) is also an avid model airplane builder, and every now and then the marina buzzes as his red and white single prop fighter plane strafes the burgees and stays of the yachts lying at the docks. It’s great fun to watch an unsuspecting boat come tentatively into the marina to tie up, only to be dive-bombed from a most unexpected source!


Carl runs a Friendship Sloop as a charter boat, making 2-3 trips a day with non-sailing folks to see the seals and eagles up Soames Sound. Beautiful wooden boat, built in 1899 and restored immaculately, we saw him the first day we came in, sailing very erratically around in the entrance to the harbour.

“What’s he doing?” asked my somewhat bemused skipper.

Turned out he was helping his client scatter her husband’s ashes in the bay!


And Chris – well, Chris is something else. 15 years old, he has his own little lobster boat, puts out 150 lobster pots, and pulls up about 100 of these every day in the same season – and has been doing this on his own since he was 11 years old. (He caught the lobsters for our wedding last year!) Astounding!


Most parents worry about their kids crossing the road still at that age, and here’s this young boy out there in the deep ocean, fog or no fog, weather or no weather, pulling up lobster pots! Chris can be seen on the right, leaning over the railing.


Of course, no conversation about South West Harbour is complete without mention of Mary, the lady who holds the whole thing together! Mary and Ed Dysart own Dysart’s Marina (where we’re loosely based), and every day in Mary’s life is an event – if it isn’t, she’ll turn it into one. Even Jake at 3 knows that. When told we’re going to Mary’s house, his reaction is, “Why, is that where the party is?” And a casual invite to, “join us for dinner” always turns into a group of 10-15 people and an evening of fun and laughter. Very special lady.


We even climbed Cadillac Mountain one day – all 1530 feet of it! Rated as the highest peak on the eastern Atlantic seaboard, the guide book calls it “a gentle climb” – Ha! I guarantee it equals the Grouse Grind in Vancouver for cardiovascular exertion! By the time we’d got up the north face (2.2miles constant uphill), stopped for 5 secs to click-a-pic to prove it (it was too misty to see anything from the top) then steadily made our way down via blue markers painted on the rocks or little rock cairns appropriately placed so we wouldn’t wander over the edge, it was a solid 8 mile hike. No wonder I couldn’t move the next day!


So, it’s been a week of preparation and consolidation, as they say – forecasts look good to leave Saturday for Nova Scotia, so that’s the immediate plan.



Sunday 9th July 2006


There are some passages that are always discussed in tones of either hushed horror or relieved braggadocio, and The Bay of Fundy is certainly one of them! Two weeks ago I wimped out and convinced John to “please go home” – it was too wet, too cold and too miserable to continue. This last Saturday, we did the crossing, and it was an absolute pleasure: South West Harbor, Maine to Shelburne Harbour, Nova Scotia (and yes, Nova Scotians do spell the correct way!) in 27 hours of fantastic sailing, great wind, great sun, great seas. Amazing difference.


First port of call was Shelburne Harbour, and we moored off the Yacht Club. Word of warning – always try to check what you’re picking up as a mooring! In 30 knot winds that afternoon, Isle of Skye broke the mooring chain, and hit the rock harbour wall bow on, doing some nasty damage to her caprails and bow-rollers before the owners recovered her. We decided to change moorings in the teeth of the gale, and with John not being satisfied with the ‘thin green line’ attaching us to the buoy, had to then reeve one of our own thick white warps through the buoy and back on deck. Imagine the scene – John in our new little dinghy trying to beat up against 25-30 knot winds and seas with our dinky little 3.5hp engine, me on Al Shaheen’s bow trying to throw him the warp without crowning him and both of us hoping like hell the thin green line wouldn’t snap and send me and Al to the rock wall!!


Shelburne Harbour Yacht Club is terrific – friendly people, a great clubhouse (free wifi, showers and coffee, an excellent cafeteria, the usual pub, fuel and water for the boat), and a small marina with the above-mentioned moorings. Very helpful, very obliging.


And Shelburne itself is a very picturesque little town, lots of lovely olde buildings dating back to the 1700s when the Loyalists first set up home here. Not a wealthy town, definitely working-class, down-to-earth folks, and a lot of the buildings have that air of slight dilapidation about them, but it’s a home town, not a tourist town, if you know what I mean. Some very good museums – the Dory Shop is well worth the visit, where Wilford still makes dories as they were made in the 1800s – 100 years ago they were putting out two a day; now he’s lucky if he can make and sell 2 a summer season. Sad to see the old skills go.


Talking of old skills, we visited with some “real” fishermen, watching and chatting while they were getting their boat ready to go out. They offered us a trip, and John was very keen to go – but the sight of all that rotten fish hooked on long lines and coiled into tubs ready to be released overboard, and the thought of all those guts and entrails splattering all over the deck for the next 4 days – well, we both decided we had other things, other places to do! Again, a dying breed of people though.

Despite their broad Scot/Irish/Cornish/Canadian accents, they were great to listen to, and told us how difficult the government was making their lives with licences, the quota system and regulations. I found it astounding that the licence allowed them to catch only one kind of fish – so if you have a line out and catch 4 kinds on your line, the other 3 have to get thrown back, even if they’re dead! And once you’ve reached your quota, everything else has to get turfed – seems very non-environmental to have to throw dead fish back: who does that help???


SHYC is port-of-call for some interesting yachties too. Apart from Rick, the eskimo on Eskimo, one of those been-everywhere, done-almost-everything type of solo sailors who turns up in almost every port sooner or later, we also met Wes and Walt of a Fast 40, Valiant. Wow, what a boat!


These two salts sailed this mean machine, sans any ‘luxury’ items like proper berths or galley or shower, minimum weight on board (“unnecessaries” like an extra pair of jeans gets dumped, and all food is weighed and discussed before being loaded) from Hampton, Mass. to Bermuda and then to Shelburne – just to participate in a fun run! Their grocery shop before leaving for their home port again brought back 5 apples and 4 bananas for the 2 day run home.

Sadly we left Shelburne on Friday, and motored some 43 miles up to Carters Bay in Port Mouton (pronounced Muh-toon) – no wind, but nice sunny day, good seas. We anchored overnight just off a lovely white sandy beach, shades of the Caribbean but definitely not tempting enough to swim in these temperatures!!  


Had a late lazy start to Saturday, and motored (again not a breath of wind) to the Le Have Islands for the night, only 33 miles this time. As you can see, we’re not exactly moving fast this season! Here we attempted to tuck into Baker’s Gut for the night, narrow little cut between two islands – however, at 2 metres below the keel we decided to turn back, only to have the depth alarm screeching its head off – we had 0.2 metres under the keel as we turned! John was a pale shade of white as we very very gently edged out! So we anchored just out of the Gut, in a wide sweeping bay, surrounded by pine-topped islands and privacy. It was delightful.


Today (Sunday) we left early, ahead we hope of bad weather coming through. Again a motor job, aiming for Lunenburg 16 miles away, and we got into the entrance to the harbour just as the rain started. Still, we’ve had no fog, and that’s been my big worry all along – so far, so good! We’ve picked up a mooring here, opposite the Fisheries Museum and Waterfront, in company with the famous Bluenose II schooner. We’ll wait till the rain stops before going ashore, but by all that we hear, this is quite a town – World Heritage Site because of all the historical buildings!



Saturday 15th July 2006


Lunenburg is a great little town, very picturesque, lots of delightfully painted olde buildings and historical sights - and a wonderful Fisheries Museum giving lots of insight into the doings and lives of the past. Tragic tales of families who lost son after son, brother after brother at sea - but still continued, because there was nothing else to do! It is a tourist town though, and after the warmth and friendliness of SHYC, was just a little empty of real contact. Although we did meet up with Al and Michele off Easy Listening, last seen in Puerto Rico in 2005!


Still, nice to move on, and after a fantastic sail out on Tuesday, we spent the next night tied up to a fishing boat in Sambro.

O Patricia is owned and manned by Homer and Donny, two old timers who had been sitting waiting for a weather window for 4 days - they're swordfish fishermen, and have to have absolutely dead calm seas and clear skies in order to harpoon the fish off a boom sticking out the bow of the boat - all quite hairy! We had a good time chatting with them - Homer was most impressed that someone with as fancy as boat as ours could tie a bowline - "mos' the yachties cain't" says Homer.


Left the next morning in fog, that everyone said would be lifting. Ha! Don't believe those weather forecasts when it comes to fog!! We sailed the whole day, across Halifax entrance and all the shipping lanes, in fog so thick I couldn't see the buoys 100 metres to the side of us - could hear them booming or clanging away, but couldn't see them! Anyway, Halifax Traffic Control is very good, and cleared us all the way across without problem, and all in all it was a great sail.

We were aiming for Jeddore, to meet fellow OCC member John van Schalkwyk - now there's a good S. African name! Turns out his father was a career diplomat, and after much world-travelling, he's now settled in Nova Scotia.


He offered us an OCC mooring in front of his house 'The Ark', up a long and winding channel to the head of the western arm of the Jeddore. He did say there were some shallow patches (mud and grass), so sent specific way-points and lat/long directions, all of which John carefully keyed in to the GPS. Unfortunately, the GPS was set to alarm at a quarter mile, and as these way-points were often less than quarter mile apart, the GPS had already moved on to point no.4 before we even got to no.2!! So we landed up with John driving by the seat of his pants - and he did exceptionally well, only going aground once, very gently!


John and Heather have a lovely home up on the hillside, and couldn't have been more welcoming - hot showers, laundry facilities, and a lovely meal laid on the first night we arrived. What a welcome. And they lent us their spare car, so we did some landlubbing exploring over the next 2 days, driving first into Halifax for the day then doing a round-the-coast trip to see the famed Bay of Fundy, site of the world's highest recorded tides (up to some 53 feet tidal range), and one of those areas where on a bad day you can have an absolutely horror trip at sea.


It was a beautiful sunny day when we drove around, so it all looked very harmless: it fact, we sat for 2 hours waiting to see the world-famous Tidal Bore come roaring through, when the incoming tide charges down the river mouth at a great rate of knots, scouring the banks and causing all sorts of drama. Of course it's a tourist trap, and there are at least 3 Adventure Tour Trips on Zodiacs to 'Ride the Bore'. Well, we sat and waited, and waited, and waited, then we heard the zodiacs, and the Bore came in - hmmm, yaa…wn, what a bore. 8 or 10 Zodiacs puddling ahead of an incoming wave that looked all of 2 feet high - well, I have no doubt it did get more exciting as the river narrowed, but it looked like a bad excuse to blow $75!!


Halifax is the biggest Nova Scotian city, all 380 000 people strong. It was almost flattened back in 1917 when a Norwegian ship hit a French ship carrying a top-secret cargo of explosives - huge loss of life. It was also the site where until 1971 all immigrants entered Canada from UK and Europe, some 1 million. Very good museum at Pier 21, sort of Ellis Island of Canada with stories galore. And like so much of Canada, there's always so much for kids - fabulous playgrounds, people painting faces, and Theodore the Tug toot-tooting around the harbour!


We've had a great time here, but we're both suffering from bugitis - the bugs here are either ginormous and draw blood when they attack, or no-see-ums that draw blood invisibly!! Whichever they are they are 100% worse than anything ever encountered in Africa! No wonder the local shops stock 'bug jackets', sizes ranging from small child to large man. The houses have bugscreens on all openings, the barbecue areas outside are enclosed in screening, and you sit/stand outside in fear of your life! John very cleverly concocted one for the boat before we got carried off, but we are both showing decided signs of wear and tear - big bulges in most unsightly places. Don't have a bugscreen for the dinghy yet!



Saturday 22nd July 2006


This has been a week of fog, rain, with the occasional day of glorious sunshine to negate all the previous - and topped with Tropical Storm Beryl last night! We have moved some 92 miles further east, taking in the sights, stopping to hunker down out of the storms - and of course taking the chance for some good boat clean-out stuff too. You know what they say, housewives' work is never done - even on a boat!

So often here at this time of year, the fog appears to lift: enough to get John's itchy feet moving and his Cap'n voice calling out the orders, "All hands on deck!" That was the case when we left Jeddore; the fog had cleared as far as we could see, so despite the glowering band on the horizon, we weighed anchor and took off. Of course, as soon as we got out to sea, it closed in immediately, and we motored for the next three and half hours in pea-soup with no wind whatsoever. Quiet, but very disconcerting. We decided to call it a day 20 miles further on, and pulled in to Owl's Head Bay, at the entrance to Ship Harbour and anchored with only 50 metres visibility.

The next day (Tuesday) was much the same, with the fog in the bay lifting enough to get everyone excited - we could see Friar Island outside!! However, by the time we got there, it had drifted away into the mist again - this really is a land of fast disappearing illusions! This time we managed 13 miles before calling it a day - a fairly close encounter with a fishing boat we hadn't seen through the fog also decided us it was time to retire! So we gingerly felt our way into Siteman's Cove, just the other side of a tongue that splits Ship Harbour. There is a shorter way through between the two anchorages, but that involves picking your way through narrow little passages over rocks awash and shallows of 2-3 feet - not much good to us with more than 6 feet draft!

Wednesday morning the sun came out, and we discovered we'd anchored in the most beautiful big bay, totally surrounded by high wooded hills and little islands. Couple of houses dotted the hills, and we hadn't been up long when a chap in a dinghy rowed over to chat. Chris Griffiths, ex Brit who has been here since 1979, is just retiring, and has plans to build a yacht club facility on the sea-front property - should do well, as he has both the protected bay and the personality to do it! He was very well-informed on the bugs that had been chewing us alive: "There are 5 types," he says, "no-see-ums, black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies and the grand-pappy of them all, horse flies." "What can we do about them?" "Drink lots of alcohol is the best!" Hmmm, sounds like the nightly G&Ts are going to need to increase in volume.


The Nova Scotian folks - and I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating - are such great people! Chris invited both us and Morning Watch across to his deck for a musselbake later, together with what he called a 'braaifest' (he'd spent a year living in S.Africa many many years back), and lathered with Tabard to fend off the bugs, we had a most enjoyable evening - lots to drink too, so I'm not sure which it was that worked, the Tabard or the drink! Delicious mussels - bought in bulk from the local fisheries, hung in a bag over the side of the deck, then just upended into a broth of red wine - oi vey, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.


We left Siteman's Cove earlyish Thursday, and had a fair-to-good motor/sail in sunshine across to the Liscombe River, some 50 miles or so. Listened on the VHF with great interest to the fishing boats out there, looking for swordfish mainly, but eventually anything they could catch. Much whingeing and whining about how little there was out there (one boat had been out for 2 days and hadn't seen a single fish, and was obviously in a bad way, because his mates kept sayin "Jeez, that's all you need on top of everythin' else").


Initially we thought we'd anchor just inside the river mouth, but continuous warnings coming from Halifax Coastguard about Tropical Storm Beryl hitting us the next day decided us to go all the way up the river to Liscomb Lodge - winding tortuous very narrow river channel getting shallower and shallower - nerve-racking! We anchored out in the river, not up in the mooring field near the Lodge, as we thought it was too shallow. Dined on the remains of one of John's famous curries, and crashed.


So Friday saw us scooting up to the Lodge early to get laundry done (and I had not only a shower where I could allow the water to run rather than do the 3-point lick-spit boat-shower, but also a sauna and a soak in the whirlpool - lux-u-ry!), before hunkering down to wait for Beryl to arrive. 2 anchors out, dinghy lashed up on deck, Red Ensign furled to save it being thrashed to death, and the wind generator furiously pumping out amps as the wind rose steadily from 5-10 knots, then up to 20, finally by midnight reaching a crescendo of 33knots. We dragged slightly, so in the middle of the rain etc, we pulled up one anchor, with me trying to keep hold of the second, motored forward and relaid it again. John was up until the wind died down, checking the status - I crouched below and buried myself in the 1580s with Mary Queen of Scots! This morning all is dead calm, no wind, lots of fog - gale warnings still out, but it's certainly passed us by. Thank God - on the OCC radio net this morning someone was talking of 72 knot winds at Bucks Harbor, Maine: that's not fun.


Dinner at the Lodge tonight? That'll be good!



Saturday 29th July 2006


Bras D’or Lakes! I had begun to believe they were as illusive as that gold nugget or the pot o’gold at the end of the rainbow – but on Thursday we actually motored through St. Peter’s lock, and entered into the Lakes – into sunshine, warmth and bliss of all blisses, no fog! You could feel the wall of heat as we came down St. Peter’s canal – so much so that by the end of it I had shed not one, but two layers of jersey and jacket, and was in my shirt-sleeves, pale white arms glinting in the sunlight. And within twenty minutes we were both complaining about the heat!


We had spent Saturday, Sunday and Monday stuck up the Liscomb River (wasn’t that the name of a song? Oh no, sorry, that was the Swannee!) in either heavy rain, or thick fog, or a combination of them both. All in all, a thoroughly uncomfortable few days, although I suppose if you’re going to be stuck anywhere, this was as good as spot as many. John did take the opportunity to do some of the inevitable maintenance work, and at some stage to go biking, but I stayed warm and dry, doing some editing/reading on board.

Chester the marina manager, who’s done this job every summer for 28 years, is an absolute gem – nothing’s too much trouble. On Monday night he rushed out in the gloom in a little dinghy to rescue a small sailboat that had lost its engine and was now drifting towards the shoals on the elbow of the river. Sans any other help, he hauled her in, rafted them up to another bigger boat, and chugged off back to fix that portion of the dock that had broken away during Beryl – all part of the days’ work!


All in all though, it was with some relief that we left early Tuesday morning in clear skies, and a weak sun – no wind though. For some 6 hours or so we had a great motor in brilliant sunshine – and then guess what? The fog closed in! We’d been undecided as to whether to stop early in the afternoon, but when the fog arrived we both decided it was safer to stay out at sea than to attempt to crawl in on radar through rocks and shoals to some unknown inlet, so we carried on to moor behind the breakwater at Canso, right on the point of Nova Scotia, and the jumping off place for Cape Breton and the Bras D’or. Canso was originally a thriving fishing port with big fish processing plant, but now a quiet backwater. The plant’s closed down, very little fishing traffic, and it appears that most of the little houses are probably used as summer holiday lets. Still, it has a cheerful feel about it, not dilapidated like some of the villages.


Next morning it was across the Straits for that illusive Cape Breton – we could see it 20 miles away, and it looked sunny! We took off like a cracker – a fierce 24 knot wind put a reef in the sail, and we chased whitecaps behind a heeled-over boat called Nomad, whose fancy Kevlar sails had him going like a Boeing! Until we got to mid-passage. And the wind dropped to 8 knots. Oi vey!! Still, we sailed determinedly across, refusing to put the engine on despite only doing 3.8 knots at times, past shoals and reefs breaking to port and starboard, through the entrance to St. Peter’s Bay and along the buoyed passage till we got to the entrance to the lock. Where the wind got up again and made it quite interesting getting the main sail down without falling overboard!


It looks as if the canal and lock haven’t changed since the 1880s or so when it was built: we visited a gallery of photos by MacGaskill taken back then, and it was exactly the same, just a few more trees. For those of you who know locks, it was an easy one, with only a few feet change in depth between entrance and exit – but as usual, it takes some nifty footwork to cast off the last warp from shore and doing a running leap back on to the boat now moving away from the side of the canal – and you!  


Wow! We tied up to St. Peter’s Marina, and a deluge of socialising hit us like a bucket of cold water! The marina was full, and got fuller – and as each boat is only two - three feet away from the adjacent one, you’re somewhat in your neighbour’s face. It’s a bit like a South African township scene; everyone gesticulating, everyone calling out greetings to long-lost acquaintances at the tops of their voices. Every third boat is having a social get-together; granted it was cocktail hour, but where did all these people come from?? Bit of a jolt after all the silence we’d got used to.

However, the marina (run by the local Lion’s Club) has all the mod cons; hot showers, laundry facilities – and wifi! Great to Skype everyone again, catch up on happenings all over the world family-wise, from my mom not wanting to have her hip op after all, to my son breaking his collar-bone playing soccer (at 40??!), to John’s son organising to go off on their next action adventure-hol, to John’s youngest grandson announcing proudly that the new hamster “has big balls”! (Visit to the vet determined this was not a tumour; he’s just well-hung!). What we miss by being away.


So, we’ve caught up with the necessities, re-provisioned, restocked the wine cellar, checked the charts, and will be leaving tomorrow to go explore this neck of the woods. Just in time: there is a Harley Davidson bike rally here this weekend, and the HOGs have been rolling into town all day – some 2,000 bikes expected. Time to leave.



Monday 7th August 2006


Knew we’d got too far north when Santa himself stepped off the red boat next to us on the dock! Big white beard, red t-shirt, big jovial ho-ho laugh – ok the yellow crocs are a bit off, but what the hang, he is on holiday after all. His business card says ‘Pere Noel’ but I know that means Father Christmas in English!! I asked him where Rudolf was, and he says he sends the reindeer out to pasture during the summer months as his food bills get too high! Still, John the captain of Santa’s boat, made us a mean plate of salmon and Solomon Gundy snacks for drinks that night.

Solomon Gundy is the find of the decade. Little glass jars packed to the brim with the most mouth-watering, taste-bud-provoking, delicious Nova Scotian pickled herring – to die for, dahling! John and I could scoff a bottle between us without thinking about it – we’ve had to discipline ourselves seriously.


But I digress. After going through St. Peter’s lock, we spent a week in the Bras D’or Lakes, doing the ‘gunk-holing’ thing. St. Peter’s Marina was a good place to catch up with provisioning, laundry, emails, (wifi reception on the boat, a great luxury!) all those sorts of things. Run by the Lions Club, it’s a very active marina: sailing schools, kids activities, something going on all day. And busy! It’s as well to make a reservation, otherwise you get what we did, trying to fit a 42ft yacht onto a 30ft marina slip tends to leave some frayed nerves!


Bras D’or was lovely – no fog, warm, flat water – somewhat fluky winds, sometimes absolutely nothing, next minute 25 knots! It was interesting to see the different community of boaters here – this was 99% local Nova Scotians down for their 2-3 week break, very few live-aboards like ourselves. It made for a different scene – lots of groups of boats moving around together or congregating together each night, much more usage of marinas and much less usage of anchoring generally. Mind you, that may also be because the coves and inlets and harbours are predominantly shallow with narrow entrances and silted-up passages – quite tricky for us in Al Shaheen with her 2 metre draft. We had her depth alarm screaming its little head off several times!  


However, by the end of the week both John and I felt we’d spent too long here now; it was getting boring! There’s something about an enclosed lake, even one with enticing anchorages and what everyone here calls ‘gunk-holes’ that just doesn’t make for exciting sailing really. We discussed it at quite length, and decided that it must be a great place to stay if you are a permanent live-aboard and need comfortable and cheap anchorages to spend the Caribbean summer, but otherwise for us it was a bit like sailing on Hartbeespoort Dam (for non-S. Africans like Lake Windermere!).


So, after exploring Dundee, Little Harbour (fantastic smoked salmon available from The Smokehouse!), Maskells and Baddeck, we decided to turn round and head south. Newfoundland is going to have to wait till next year – there’s a lot we that we missed along the Nova Scotia coast, and we’d like to spend some extensive time in the Chesapeake before making the jump south. At this point in time we’re thinking of doing this by going from Hampton straight to Tortola – an ocean trip of maybe 9-12 days weather depending. Anyone want a crew position to do this with us??? I’m definitely sure I don’t want to do it alone!


We’re now in Halifax, having roared in to the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron under sail in a cracking wind yesterday. Very nice marina, lots of history – Prince Phillip is the current patron, and they were given the royal warrant back in 1861, so members can fly the blue ensign! All very smart. Talking of ensigns, had a lovely run-in at St. Peter’s with the lady on board a rather scruffy yacht flying a white ensign. I made some innocuous (I thought) comment about the smart flag, and she snapped back in a very tart British upper-end voice; “That’s the Royal Yacht Squadron white ensign (she pronounced it en-sine) and I have the accent to prove it!” And stalked off down the gangplank, her back stiff with righteous indignation at an interchange with a mere colonial!


On the way down from Bras D’or Lakes, we’ve stopped in at some of the places we missed going up – very detailed chart-reading necessary, as each anchorage seems to be protected by ledges of rocks sitting just below the surface, making sailing in next to impossible and even motoring in quite difficult! Yankee Cove in Whitehead Bay for example, has a rock slap bang in the middle of the channel which is not on the charts – only reason you know it’s there is when someone hits it – as did John and Judy on Lola! They went in in thick fog, and were on it before their radar picked it up – fortunately not too much damage done, but giving them both a nasty fright all the same. We met folks in Dundee who were on the hard having their keel dropped and refitted after hitting a rock coming out of Bermuda – not exactly the sort of thing you want to do to your floating home. But we both love the scenery here, and the anchorages are fantastic. Apart from Yankee Cove, where we anchored amongst the mussel farms, we have been the only boat in the anchorage all the way here, and have sat, sipping G&Ts, agape at the stunning sunsets put on just for our solo benefit! Marie Joseph was another must-see, while Sally’s Cove was just beautiful. You start to run out of superlatives after a while!


Suffice to say that this Nova Scotia coast is a jewel waiting to be discovered by the international cruising world, and I’m glad we’ve seen it before they mess it up with coke-stands and beach cafes!


As a bush person, I’ve been disappointed by the lack of wildlife, but we’ve seen hundreds of seals, dolphins charging past us with some definite agenda to fulfil, lots of ospreys, bald eagles – and jellyfish the size of dinnerplates by the zillions! Apparently the unseasonal warm weather has brought them out, and you cannot anchor anywhere without becoming surrounded by these pulsating purple-blue shapes – quite awesome.


The weather’s been good, we’ve sailed most of the way, in fairly big chunks of 30-5- miles each day, without a sign of fog. The local guy on the motor-boat tied up next to us was complaining yesterday about the unseasonal heat wave!! We’re not complaining! And today (7th)  is Natal Day here, big festivities on the waterfront, so we’re heading over for some serious R&R just now. Till next time!



Wednesday 23rd August 2006


Bo Diddley concerts, Chester Race week, street puppets, mussel-picking, gunk-holing in Nova Scotia, then a cracking sail hitting 8.6 knots across the Gulf of Maine back to Rockland Maine, USA – gosh! Just too many good things happening to stop long enough to write an update! This has been an interesting 20 or so days, to say the least, from the sublime to the ridiculous.


Taking the decision to leave the Bras D’or was the right one for us – we both felt much easier and more at home once we were back out on the open seas, searching the chart for a hidey-hole for the night. What does that say about our combined adventurous ancestors? Must be Sir John Franklin’s shade breathing down our necks about the Northwest Passage or something!


But at the same time, it is good to get into civilisation every once in a while, kick back and enjoy the finer things of life – like dinner out in Halifax, or a Bo Diddley blues concert. I know, I also thought he was long pushing up daisies, but no, Bo Diddley I can confirm is still alive and well and playing blues in Halifax! Well, Dartmouth to be exact, but don’t let’s split hairs. GPJ (digress slightly, for those who don’t know, GPJ does not stand for either Grand Pasha or Great Passion – just GrandPa!!) and I mooched along to the Alderney Landing on a hot Friday night, and in the shade of the ferry terminal and together with several hundred mad bikers and grizzled Haligonians (note the age group please!), boogied to the sounds of Big Daddy Bo Diddley! He showed his age when he had to be practically carried off the stage by two buxom wenches in full-feathered Moulin Rouge type get-ups (who decides on this??), but boy, when he was playing and singing, did he hold us all in the palm of his hands! Fantastic show. Made all the more interesting by the side-shows – the ongoing Chair Circus performed by the security guys desperately protecting VIP chairs from the rapacious hands of bikers with aching legs and no seats to sit on (security finally stacked all the chairs together and oiled them onto the tables, then mounted serious guard around their property!). Also just the people themselves – I do love a people sideshow! The strange things that appear in the night! A 60yr old woman, large thighs, large butt, large tummy, in skinny-mini skirt and tight tank top, with a white baseball cap perched sideways on her coiled yellow hair. Huh? Not to mention the delightful young man mincing around in white chinos, pink jacket and pink Andy Capp cap?? Oi vey! Why did I leave my camera at home?


However, on a more serious note, while in the stately environs of RNSYS, we realised our fluxgate compass was acting up – not just slightly off, but to the tune of between 3 and 90 degrees off! So, after trying to correct it by doing these 360° turns in the middle of the entrance to RNSYS with all supercilious eyes trained on us (Yes, I know he flies a red ensign, but do you really think he knows what he’s doing, Jason?), GPJ decided it needed some professional attention – we ‘cleared out’ of RNSYS and made our way to Dartmouth Yacht Club, up under the two Halifax bridges and into the Bedford Basin.


Now here’s a club of a different sort! Very much a working-man’s club, lots and lots of boats, but these are not of the same ilk as RNSYS. As loved, if not even more so, but not as spit-and-polished – these are family boats that are also taken out to race when necessary, not the racing boats so prevalent at RNSYS! DYC was the home of John Hughes, the only Canadian to complete the BOC Round the World race – and who did it unsponsored. And the club is very proud of that, which says it all. But the facilities are great, the folks are very helpful and very friendly, and we got a new fluxgate compass and a course-computer software upgrade fairly painlessly – expect for GPJ’s back pocket!


While in Halifax area, we arranged for a wheelchair for my mother in South Africa – amazing what you can do over the internet these days! She’s 91 this month, and is becoming increasingly less mobile with arthritis – the wheelchair guys were great, even putting balloons and a birthday card on it for her. And had some more discussions and worries over John’s 100 year-old aunt back in the UK, who put a ready-made meal in the container under the grill, then forgot about it – fortunately the neighbours saw smoke billowing out the window and rushed around to check! We had just changed her gas cooker for a small electric one, because she kept forgetting to switch the gas off! One of the worries John and I both face is our aging relatives back home: no sooner had we got back to civilization and wifi in Maine than I discovered my mother had been given notice from her rented cottage in the retirement village – they’re planning to flatten the cottage and build another 20 odd units on the land! So now the panic’s on – trying to source a new home for an active old lady in a wheelchair in Durban, all done from a computer in Maine!! Thank God for both the internet and family and friends back home.


Finally tearing ourselves away from the fleshpots, we trekked out to sea again, and spent the rest of the time exploring Mahone Bay. Loveridge’s Cruising Guide is unfortunately more than 10 years old, so we have found generally that what he describes as a pristine, uninhabited cove might not always be like that any longer! Rogues’ Roost, which was entered by motoring through a tortuous channel of rocks and shallows towards a solid rock wall, which parted at the last minute, to show a narrow entrance, had some 12 boats in it by the end of the evening. Not that it made it cramped, it just wasn’t solitude!


Still, one of the boats gave us a full garbage bag of mussels they just picked, which we proceeded to steam in white wine for supper, so there’s a pay-off for everything. And Deep Cove has an ugly condo development being built at the head of the cove – bulldozers and back-actors started at 7am!! Of course, we did hit both these places over the weekend, which probably was not good timing, as everyone and their uncle was out to play. One group of 10 boats rafted up on a single mooring buoy – thank God it didn’t blow as it was supposed to! The same crowd were with us again in Mahone Bay Town Harbour, but they seem to have lost a few on the way, as there were only 7 there. Mahone Bay Town is not exactly the centre of the universe, and the dock-master is a young kid who lives with his mother on a houseboat on a small floating dock in the middle of the harbour! But they’re very obligingly helpful – when they switch their VHF on.


After chatting with Merlin on the morning OCC net (so useful this net – we have had invaluable assistance about anchorages, depths, weather and all sorts of other info from folks), we decided to break the trip to Maine into bite-size chunks, so sailed – sorry motored – to Lockeport for the first night. Great little harbour, completely enclosed by a stone breakwater, and we tied up at the dock. In order to have a sundowner overlooking the harbour, we needed to order food, so shared a plate of crab-cakes. Can’t get enough of this seafood! Mike Mulrooney off Maggie B entertained us with stories of local Scotians; 4th generation Irish extract, he knows a lot of the people and their foibles! He was single-handing, just pottering around the coast between Chester (his home) and Yarmouth for a few weeks.


Next morning we had to wait for Bruce to arrive so we could fill up with diesel, and sat on the fuel dock meeting some other locals – the rather shifty fisherman who sat at the other end of the dock and sent a go-between to offer us 2lb lobster – 6 for $30! Was very tempting, except I couldn’t imagine what we’d do with 6 large lobster crawling around the bilges while we sailed across to Maine – plus we knew they must be illegal caught after the season had ended, so we very righteously declined. Then met Bob, who has a double-storey house with the top storey totally enclosed in glass – an aged hippie, grey hair tied back in a ponytail, who regaled us with tales of buying a boat with some mates back in the ‘60s and sailing across to the Med for a year – their main stores consisted of a large amount of hash, which I think they restocked regularly in Turkey!!  


Once again a motoring job, this time around Cape Sable and over the tide rips and overfalls – quite an experience – round to Westhhead and into the harbour there, where we tied up to Maggie B, who was already tied up to a large fishing boat! A very busy fishing harbour, lots of fairly large fishing boats, not the usual little lobster boats that we’d become accustomed to seeing, these were big 50 and 100ft herring seiners. Being a Friday afternoon, I expected it to be quiet, but there was still quite a buzz going on, with boats preparing to leave and loading all sorts of ice and gear aboard.


There is a huge tide around the Cape Sable point, so we’d planned to leave the next morning at a time to hopefully catch it to our advantage – we were a bit late, and had 4 knots against us for quite a way. The slightly lumpy sea didn’t help the fact that we’d definitely had far too much wine with Maggie B Mike over dinner – we both had a slight green tinge most of the day! But we had a cracking sail! Shook the moths out of the sails almost as we set out Saturday morning, and sailed in a constant 18-19 knots SSW for the next 24 hours – the log showed our maximum speed at 8.6 knots – on my watch! I think that was at the time I had my eyes closed in panic!! Realising we were going to arrive in Maine in the dark, we took in 2 reefs to reduce sail – and still did 7.5!! So we arrived in lobster-pot area just as the sun was breaking, and spent the next two hours bemoaning leaving Nova Scotia – lobster-pot dodging requires major concentration and is tiring and very stressful. Especially at the end of a long overnighter. The ferry from Portland also crossed our bows on my watch, which was very frightening. By the time I’d seen her – and lit up like a Christmas tree she wasn’t hard to miss – she was already across our bows, doing 60 knots I believe?? Thank God she was at least 2 miles away! John is quite incredible on the water, and inspires full confidence; as a seasoned salt he has this amazing ability to fall asleep the moment his head hits the bunk and resurrect full of energy 20 mins before he’s due to come on watch. My body clock hasn’t got that rhythm down yet.


Rockland is civilization again: huge anchorage with umpteen boats either moored or at anchor, ferries and tugs bustling back and forth, town with all amenities close by – and OCC Port officer Peter McCrea and wife Peggy on hand to provide any help needed. Peter is a woodworker of note, and had John drooling over his workshop. Peggy’s a water-colour artist, and her travel journal is a dream of delightful sketches and text – very talented and warm couple. And we met Scott and Kitty Kuhner on Tumare, sailors extra-ordinaire! Two circumnavigations!! The first when their kids were small, back in the days when there were no such things as GPS etc. Wow! And we finally met Doug and Dale Bruce off Bluewater, co-authors of cruising guides on Nova Scotia & Newfoundland – these people make me realise that sailing is not just a summer holiday, but a fulltime way of life! Wonderful, wonderful folks.


And on the other end, we met up with Jeff and Peggy off Moonstruck, new to the cruising scene, to whom we are the “experts” – well, John anyway, I just tag along and allow some of the reflected glory to brush off on me! All kinds of people are out there on the water, and it is such a privilege to be meeting them. What a wonderful life.

John has decided he needs exercise, so he’s off to climb Mt. Battie – I’ve decided it’s far more important to sit on my butt doing computer work! He’s done some spade-work, replacing spare parts from Hamilton’s Marine Supplies (our expenses are all either boat spares or food – or liquor!!) and I’ve restocked my reading library – great 2nd hand bookshop in town – and the lockers are full of goodies.


I have a new project to start editing, and GPJ’s been busy unfolding, folding and refolding charts, pencil between teeth, determining the next week’s strategy. All’s well on Al Shaheen!



Saturday 2nd September


Time zones and hemisphereal seasons – take some getting used to trying to decide whether it’s too early to call Vancouver or too late to call Perth!! The 1st was Spring Day in South Africa, it’s autumnal in the UK and decidedly chillier here in Massachusets.


We waited in Scituate Harbour, just south of Boston (pronounced I’m told authoritatively Situite), for Hurricane Ernesto to become Tropical Storm status and blow out before we took off through the Cape Cod Canal and into Long Island Sound. With great pre-planning we pulled in here, expecting complete shelter in a small enclosed harbour. Small, yes – quiet no. There was no anchor room, so we are all on moorings – some 200 or more boats - our closest neighbour on the starboard side sneezed into our cockpit as he swings – fortunately the wind never really blew, 25knots at the most. The moorings seem very close together, but the only ones concerned are the boat owners – the girlie who drives the launch was quite irritated with some new yacht that was causing an issue because he “only had 4 feet behind him”. “When you’re touching the boat behind you, call me and I’ll get worried,” she said.


I spent a day in the Pomerantz’s house on the edge of the marshes - you would love it! Big hammock swinging temptingly on the deck, sun shining on the muddy banks of the little stream meandering in from the sea and winding just in front of the house, thick lush marshgrass surrounding me on three sides - how was I supposed to concentrate enough to work?? Which is what I was supposed to be doing - catching up on some editing while John installed a new fridge thermometer on the boat. And a new thingummijig into the shower system - and a new computer chip into the wind generator - oi vey, the man never stops fixing things! Still, thank God he doesn't – it means we have a very well-maintained boat.

We met Dave Pomerantz in Shelburne, our first port of call in Nova Scotia, when he very kindly lent us his Loveridge’s cruising guide to the area –without it we’d have had far less success dodging rocks in anchorage entrances.


So what have we done these past few days? I seem to have spent hours on the internet in Rockland Harbour Master’s office – I phoned my mother to wish her for her 91st birthday, and discovered she had been given 2 months notice from her little rented cottage in the retirement village as they plan to knock it down and build several new condos there instead! Have you ever tried to source accommodation for a 91 year old lady on one continent while sailing on a boat on another?? It’s not fun. Anyway, I have called in favours from all the family, and everyone is scrambling to sort things out.


From Rockland we moved to Portsmouth, and spent our first wedding anniversary having dinner with Greg & Debbie off Undine (PYC Commodore) and Gareth & Annie off Merlin – fellow Brits we’d been chasing all down the Nova Scotian coast. Greg produced a swordfish of note – not sure whether he caught it or bought it, but it was delicious!


Portsmouth is a very rolly anchorage – well, we moored actually, just off the point, but with the tide ripping through regularly and the lobster boats up and down all hours of the day and night, I seemed to sleep with one foot on the floor in case I rolled out of bed! But they do have a wonderful lobster place – you choose your lobster, they cook it and present it to you in a foil bag – we ate it in the PYC clubhouse in solitary splendour!


Might have been pure coincidence, but just about now our fridge gave up the ghost. “No problem,” John said, “it can only be one of three things, and I have spares for the xxx and the xxx.” Of course, it was the thermometer and no spare! Couple of internet calls later, Greg and John had found a replacement, and one more package was added to the list of spare parts to be dispatched to the Pomerantz household, our next mail drop.


The next day we had a long run to Gloucestor, a miserable drizzly day, horrible lumpy sea, but an incredible sail which kept the man of the home very happy. I crashed out below, and pretended I was not around. We pulled in just behind the breakwater, and anchored there for another rolly night. What is it with these lobster boats?? I was surprised at the number of yachts inside the breakwater – it seems a long time ago that we came through on the way up the coast, but I certainly didn’t remember that many.


But then we hit Marblehead! Gareth had told us there were some 2,000 moorings there, and we’d both laughed politely at the exaggeration. The laugh was on him – according to the Harbour Master, there are more than 2100 moorings in the narrow strip that makes up the harbour! Talk about a sea of masts! Not that there are lots available for visiting yachts, however. This is serious ‘home turf’ stuff here – I saw at least five yacht clubs (including the likes of the Corinithians) but we had to wait for some fifteen minutes while the Boston Yacht Club checked to see if there was something available for us. I think they were probably running a who’s who in the zoo check first – it was probably our Red Duster and the white ensign of the Tot Club that finally got us in – I don’t think they saw the defacing!


And everything’s done by the book here – at sunset it was like World War II as all the various yacht club cannons went off and everyone snapped to attention to salute the colours coming down – and lo and behold, at 8am the next morning it was the same. Not that I saw the snap to salute from my bunk then, but John did jump up from the early morning OCC radio net to put our ensign out!! Marblehead is a very quaint town though: we were there for the Wednesday afternoon races and the hamburger cook-up afterwards, and enjoyed a very social get-together in the clubhouse listening to a bunch of real old salts jamming some great jazz together. Sunny, a slight petite 80 year old had her dancing shoes on, and if anyone had joined her, she’d have been there all night! “My man went 20 years ago,” she told me, “but I don’t let that stop me now. I still miss him, but life does go on, you know.” Isn’t that the best way to see life?


From Marblehead to Scituite, then after the storm had passed and the seas died down, we had a wonderful sail across the bay into Cape Cod Canal and down into Pocasset, home of Stan & Julie Morton. We visited them last year on our way through, and it is wonderful to be back meeting up with them again. Stan’s call-sign is Salty Dog, and there’s a reason for that – he has more tall tales to tell than anyone I know – he outdoes me by a long way and that’s saying something!





And Alun & Margaret Thomas, old friends of John’s from Saudi Arabia, are also visiting, so the conversation is both fast and rich! Life is so good when there are people like this around. Once again, Al Shaheen is moored at the bottom of the garden – what a priviledge. And John has decided to get some exercise, so is out in Stan’s little rowboat – I have the ibuprofen/advil ready for his return!





We are still looking for a third crew member to travel with us USA to BVI, and also still trying to source new accommodation for my mother back in South Africa.


Life is never dull in the Franklin / Crickmore-Thompson household.








Sunday 10th September 2006


Short and sweet this week, as both John and I are feeling somewhat bedraggled. We’re in New England Boatworks, Portsmouth Rhode Island waiting to be hauled out for damage assessment and some serious repairs, after hitting the rocks - rather hard – in Woods Hole Passage en route to Nantucket on Friday. Not a fun event! (See Wood's Hole Grounding for more details).


John, Stan and Alun planned to take Al Shaheen from Pocasset to Nantucket, 40 something miles, through the narrow channel of Woods Hole, while the ladies did it the easy way by fast ferry from Hyannis. Stan has vacationed and lived in the area almost all his life, and is a very competent and experienced sailor, and very knowledgeable about these waters.


Woods Hole is known as a bad spot, but with lots of good advice and local knowledge from local salts, the men were well prepared. All the waypoints in, the tide and current tables studied, Stan was piloting with the chart in the cockpit, John at the helm and Alun enjoying the sun on the cabin roof when they came down the channel. The tide was with them, and was strong – they were doing about 9 knots over the ground, which in Al Shaheen is moving! The final leg is a Y shape, and they needed to take the right fork, and that’s where things went suddenly and quickly wrong.


Wrongly identifying the buoy, Al Shaheen left the channel just before the Y, and screamed from 17 feet to 3 feet under the keel in the space of seconds. She hit the rocks, bounced off, hit again, spun 360 degrees and hit again before the tide pushed her past the rocks and back out into the channel again. Alun flew off the cabin roof and hit the guard rails – thank God he didn’t go through them, as he doesn’t swim and there was no way they could have turned the boat to pick him up against the tide at that point!


Once he’d ascertained no-one was hurt and they were back on course, John checked for water ingress. There certainly was water coming in, but the bilge pump was coping, so they continued on and made it to Nantucket some 6 hours later – a very quiet trip, John says! A swim down showed a big gouge out of the keel fore and some damage aft, but no obvious break in the welds or tears.


She’s aluminium, and built like a tank, thanks to John’s insistence. So the next day we left to motor across to Newport, Rhode Island, a two-day trip at slow speed, which was all either of us wanted to push her at. It was glorious weather, a soft steady wind, and by Saturday as we neared Newport, everyone and their uncle was out sailing – including a mass of some 45 or so Farr 40s sailing the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship – “This would be such a lovely sail!” John kept saying. It was hard to keep motoring along slowly in this environment!


So here we are, waiting for surveyors etc. Bill the bilge pump is working like a champion – pumping out every 3 minutes or so. John’s estimated (lots of figures and calculations here!) that we’re taking on an average of 60 litres an hour – that’s a lot of water! Trust Bill continues, otherwise I’ll be developing a strong right arm on the manual pump!


Other than that dramatic news, we had an absolutely fantastic time in Pocasset with Stan and Julie, and Alun and Margaret. Far too much really good food, a bed that was so big I kept looking for John, and the best of all luxuries – a bath! And they re-introduced us to all the folks we’d met the last time we were here: I’m always amazed at how you meet someone and sooner or later find they know someone you know! Sure enough, Jay and Margo know Scott and Kitty from Tamure well – it is a small world. And a good world – and a great life, this sailing!



Monday 18th September 2006


Interesting. Here I was, sitting working in the cockpit of Al Shaheen, high and dry some 30 feet above the ground, between dozens of Farr 40s, Hinkleys, sleek mean-machine 60 foot racing boats that are all sharp angles and thin bulbed keels (and nary a one has an anchor to speak of!) – and listening to some Brazilian kid taking a break from polishing the hull by playing Spanish guitar, and playing it well, on a race boat nearby! Life is so full of quirks, isn’t it?


Our actual repair work still hasn’t started yet, but all the paperwork has been done – surveyor’s reports in, work estimates in, just the final insurance go-ahead needed. They’ve given us the go-ahead though, and we were hoping work would start on Monday – the yard wants us out of the way as they are starting a big new metal job soon and will need all their metal workers. Fine by us, the sooner the better, but as always, nothing has actually happened yet.

Stan has been fantastic – lent us his car, been in to see us several times to check that all’s ok, gone more than the proverbial mile to make things as painless as possible. It’s wonderful to have such good friends.


And there’s always a silver lining. We spent Thursday at the Newport Boat Show – mainly buying a new chart plotter – bit like bolting the door after the horse’s bolted I know, but we had been talking about it for ages! So installing that has been added to John’s already long list of maintenance jobs to be done while we’re out. I’m quite happy to lounge around with a good book, but not this man! We finally decided on a Raymarine C80 and will use it as a stand-alone with its own GPS antenna – a useful secondary if the main Raymarine system goes down. So long as it keeps us off the rocks, I’m happy!


We also bumped into George & Nancy Marvin at the boat show – witnesses for our wedding in SW Harbor all those months back – great to see them again. Had a most entertaining dinner with them and 2 other OCC folks; well, Jeff Wisch is existing OCC, Suzie Homer is just being inveigled into joining. One of Suzie’s claims to fame is that she’s one of the original women allowed to join the CCA – she stormed those bastions and knocked them flat!

We heard the story of the boat sunk in the entrance to Nantucket (see left) – solo Brit who was forced onto the rocks by tide and wind (in the fog), threw out an anchor, and caught his leg in the anchor chain. Had to have his leg amputated, and the boat’s still submerged waiting for the insurers and salvagers to stop arguing. Stories like that make me realise anew how fortunate we were!


And the good news is that we have found another apartment for my mother, in the same village she was in, so no stress of moving. Met Barry this morning – he’s a guitar player and artist who lost his home and studio in New Orleans in the floods – was not insured – so is up here buying an old boat which he will sail back down the coast. Says when the floods come again, he wants a house that can float!!! That’s the sort of attitude I admire.


We took off for the weekend, as no work was going to be done at the yard – in fact, I think they’d all left by 3pm on Friday to go to the Boat Show! So we went off to the Herreshof Museum in Bristol, then over to Mystic Seaport for the day. If you’re ever in the area, make sure you hit both of these – they are both well worth going the extra mile to visit. And you can anchor off both, which makes them even more attractive.


The Herreshof Museum tells the story of two brothers, John blind from age 15, and Nat, who created an incredible business out of designing and building yachts – including 6 entrants for the America’s Cup! Nat, the younger, was the designer, and everything started from the half-models he carved. John, the numbers man, then ran his hands over the model, and came up with the cost estimates – and for the entire time the two of them were in business they make a goodly profit this way, never allowing themselves to go into debt, never allowing a yacht to leave the dock unless it was fully paid for! Some lessons to be learned there.


And Mystic Seaport is a living museum, with working shipwrights and blacksmiths and restorers of old vessels, as well as two active Tall Ships – fascinating stuff! Suffering from lack of exercise, John threw himself heart and soul into ‘manning the capstan’ and ‘heave ho-ing’ merrily – fortunately he wasn’t allowed aloft to spice the mainsail!! By the end of two days, however, we were both museumed out and quite happy to meet the Jacuzzi at our lodgings – boy, what luxury compared to life aboard!


We trust all the repairs will be completed this week – depending on weather etc! And hope to be on the water and off again by next week. That’s the plan – but as you know, plans can change!



Monday 25th September 2006


It’s been an interesting week! Promises of ‘we’re starting work Monday’ became ‘we’re starting work Tuesday’, and by the time Wednesday arrived we were both pretty fed up with sitting around waiting. “Still,” I kept saying to John, “they probably have to call the experts off another job, and better to wait for specialists than let any old bozo do the job.”

Surprise, surprise! Wednesday morning two brawny Portuguese guys arrived, one with a blow-torch and the other with a sledgehammer – and these two proceeded to beat the living bejeezus out of the keel for the rest of the day! So much for specialists and high tec modern technology. (Take a look at the pics in John’s story of the Wood’s Hole saga).


Still, the brawn stuff worked, and by Thursday morning by dint of much heating and much beating, we had a straight keel again. Then Mannie, the younger of the two, brought in the big tanks, and spent the next two days building up the keel again, little bead of aluminium weld by little bead. Quite fascinating to watch! Alternatively grinding and building, grinding and building, he recreated our smooth keel, then left the job to the fillers and fairers to put on the ‘cosmetic touches’. This should be finished today – 4 layers of primer, and then the bottom paint will go on tomorrow and as far as all that is concerned, we’re ready to launch.


In the meantime, John has cut an ‘inspection hole’ in the cabin floor near the heads (where the water came up into the boat) to check why it came in. There definitely is a small hole there. The thought is that it is an incomplete weld, so this needs to be sealed before going back in the water again – just in case we hit something again!! No way it can be welded, however, without taking the whole boat apart, so it needs to be an epoxy job somehow. As you can see it only by lying flat on your stomach and peering down into the bilge with a ‘mirror on a stick’, not quite sure how easy this is going to be.


The week was spent on boat jobs – John fitted the new chart plotter, which involved much taking down of cabin headlining and rewiring and climbing into cockpit lockers – and much **!!@!x!** language, and we have been practising and playing with this before we get into ‘real time’ on the water. He’s put in a separate GPS antenna for this, so it will act as a stand-alone, a back-up (just in case, as they say!). He’s also replaced the throttle and gear cables for the engine, serviced 6 winches and umpteen other maintenance jobs – never stops, this man. I’ve done lots of climbing up and down the steps against the boat to the laundry room, to the marquee on the lawn to work on the computer, to meet friends for coffee, to just generally lounge around!


By Saturday we decided we needed a break from the yard, so took off for Martha’s Vineyard. As John says:


“We took the Fast Ferry from New Bedford, Mass. through Wood's Hole Passage to Martha's Vineyard. It was a pretty foul day, rain, murk and 20 knots of wind. Yet this thing did 35 knots, and didn't even slow down going through the rather tortuous passage! It was weird to be re-visiting the scene of the accident at such speed - rather like one of these amusement arcade computer simulations! Still, we survived this time.”


(The pic in John’s story of the accident shows the green buoy inadvertently left to port instead of starboard!)


Once we got there, we took a narrated bus tour as it was too miserable to walk around. Drove past the front of Peter Norton’s house (of Norton anti-virus fame), a strange dark rather Pyscho-type house, past the back of Caroline Kennedy’s 200 acre summer cottage property - overgrown jungle of weeds and conker grapevine protects you from seeing anything – down beautiful avenues of overhanging autumnal forests where our tour guide kept pointing vaguely off to the side to let us know ‘Bruce Willis lives somewhere here, Christie Brinkley here, some other big name here, but of course we islanders don’t pay no mind to them!’ Sort of reverse snobbery; ignore the rich and famous!


Oak Bluffs, one of the three main towns, was an old Methodist Campground meeting place: for years the Methodists came out every summer and put up their tents for a week or two, to worship and pray.

Slowly the tents gave way to more permanent places, and there is now an absolutely delightful village of small gingerbread-decorated cottages around the large open-air tabernacle – well worth visiting.


Other than that, life ticks on merrily. Would be nice to be back on the water though!



Saturday 7th October 2006


Back in the water! We were re-launched Tuesday Sept 26th and by the evening of Tuesday Oct 3rd we had made our next rendezvous: 460 miles in 7 days, Crab Creek in the Chesapeake! Some major moving involved – our best day was 72 miles in 10 hours, down Long Island Sound, a blistering sail.


Once we stopped running down below every 10 minutes or so to convince ourselves the water was NOT bubbling up into the cabin again, it was bliss to have Al Shaheen back in her natural environment. No more climbing down 20ft ladders at 4am to go for a pee for us! And she took to the challenge like the proverbial duck to water – in her element: you could see her flicking her tail in joy as she danced through the waves!


The trip was interesting as always: good shake-down motor-sail to Fisher’s Island the first night, then a screaming sail to Rowayton, Norwalk to meet up again with Scott & Kitty off Tamure (their home base). We had a bit of a fiasco here, trying to moor bow and stern along a series of buoys down the centre of a very rocky/rolly narrow entrance, which involved Scott in his rowboat trying to take our line to the stern buoy – in the process our trusty line cutter chopped John’s brand-new braided line in half (home-spliced very lovingly just days before)! It was a great story-swapping evening though!


Then through New York, no problems going down the East River, overnight down the New Jersey coast playing with our new chart plotter, to anchor for a few hours just inside the breakwater at Cape Henlopen at the entrance to Delaware Bay. We’re obviously just getting used to this new piece of equipment, and it led to some serious tension! You probably know the scenario well – course all plotted out on the chart, little ship image now just needs to follow along the dotted line. Conversation coming in to Cape Henlopen (very shallow!!) went something like this:


John: “How are we looking?”

Me: “Ok, but we need to be further over to port, we’ve gone off the line.”

J: “Ok.”

Boat moves a few measly inches to port. John’s used to following his nose and his instinct.

M: “Go to port, sweetheart.”

Few minutes pass, no apparent action.

M: “Go to port, the plotter shows shallow water near the breakwater. I don’t think we should anchor here.”

J: “We’ll just go around the breakwater and see.”

As we round the breakwater, depth alarms scream.

J: “Ok, where did you say we must go?”

M: “To port, sweetheart! Like the dotted blue line says.”


Still, the chart plotter is wonderful – I can’t imagine how we ever managed to sail without one before!!


The trip up the Delaware River was not a pleasant one – we left at 10pm to catch the tide, and it was a perfectly horrid night. Lumpy sea, miserable weather, drizzling on and off, and lots of commercial traffic up the channel. I find it very disconcerting to have this huge body of water, but to be able to sail only along a very narrow channel along it because of the shallows on either side! And at night these big commercial vessels look frighteningly large when they power up behind you – how close can they come??

Anyway, we got to the C&D Canal without any mishap just after first light, and eased along this until we reached Summit North Marina – pulled into a slip and crashed for the first good sleep since leaving Fisher’s Island 4 days prior. The next day we part motored, part sailed as far as the Chester River in the Chesapeake, dropping the hook early just inside the mouth for a well-earned gin & tonic and glorious sunset.

By Tuesday we had reached the South River, and meandered down this to find Crab Creek, home of Wolfgang Rueter of Ru’ah fame. Wolfgang is one of these special hosts – his heart and his home have expandable walls, and nothing is too much trouble for him!  

At the moment there are 4 OCC boats rafted up together at his dock, with another 2 in slips next to it, and a further 2 (including ourselves) anchored out! His home has a constant procession of bodies wandering through to do laundry, use his well-equipped workshop (“There’s lots of bits of scraps of all sorts there, use whatever you need,” he says!), plug into his wifi, or just sit with him to hear some of his stories. He is a mine of information, and a great raconteur. Some of the boats are here to take in the Annapolis Boat Show, some to join the CCA Rally this weekend: some just to take advantage of the sheltered creek – but all are having a blast!


The reason for getting here was to go to the OCC dinner in Mears Creek on Wednesday – and what a blast it was! Well organised, excellent food, fabulous company, some very very interesting people. I find myself in open-mouthed awe at the sailing/cruising adventures that most of these people have had and are still having. World travellers of note.


Pot luck at Wolfgang’s the other night hosted Gareth & Annie (Merlin), George & Nancy (Trumpeter), Gus & Helen (Wings), Mike & Kate (Cutting Edge), Andrew & Denja (Niketti), Mary & Pete (Noellia), as well as ourselves, Wolfgang & Gemma (Ru’ah), and several other bodies as land-based guests – what a story-fest!! The food was pretty exceptional too – surprisingly, almost everyone brought a curry of one sort or another: must have been the cold weather.


Unfortunately the weather has turned foul, heavy winds and lots of rain, all of which put a real dampener on the CCA Rally. And as always happens, the drama always takes place in the foulest weather! Comfortably ensconced reading below, John looked out to see Cutting Edge almost on top of us – she’d dragged her anchor badly, and was now on the verge of collision with us. I grabbed their stern rail to push her off (with Dunno their black Labrador licking my hand in joyful hello!) while John got our engine started (we’d also dragged, but not as badly). We called Wolfgang (Mike & Kate were at the Boat Show), and the next few hours were spent in re-anchoring – and re-anchoring – and re-anchoring! Cutting Edge finally decided sometime in the late evening to raft up to the other boats at the dock – we continued to drag all night, but only a little at a time, so let it be – just had to leap up each time the anchor alarm went off! Very disturbed night.


Most people (ourselves included) opted not to sail to the CCA rally Friday or Saturday, but to simply drive across the Chesapeake River to join in the parties at the end – can’t miss a good party, can you! The CCA group are somewhat different to the OCC crowd, but as full of characters. Like John Hawkinson, who marked out his trees some 30 years ago, cut them down 10 years ago, air-dried them, and is now building himself an old colonial boat, using old colonial tools and methods!


The plan from here is to join the OCC Rally in the Piankatank next week, and after that make our way to Norfolk and the beginning of the ICW towards Beaufort. Jeff Hardesty has agreed to join us on the trip across to the Virgin Islands at the end of the month, and we’re very pleased about that.



Update: Monday 9th October 2006


We are now anchored in the Little Choptank River in the Chesapeake - miles offshore because it is so shallow inshore, but still very lovely. Calm waters, full moon last night, thousands of migrating geese, wonderful sunrise this morning, etc. Now off to Solomon's Island on the western shore, then to an OCC meet near Deltaville 13/15th, then Norfolk for maybe 17th/18th.



Wednesday 18th October 2006


Life is getting complicated these days! By mistake I left a top in Halifax, and Zak has tried to post it on to me – only to be told he needs a ‘certificate of drycleaning’ before it can go through the US mail system!!! What?

We’ve spent the last 10 days or so in the Chesapeake, and loved it, despite the shallowness of the water here. Or maybe it's just that we're extra-aware of shallow water these days! There are zillions of little back creeks and riverways to explore, some of which we can poke our nose into, some of which we just wave at as we pass by: but in so much of this area we anchor in bays and creeks where it is as if time has stood still. I expect a duck-hunter to be lurking around each bend, twenty long-barreled shotguns aimed into the sky as he waits patiently for the geese to arrive! Unfortunately, they shot them all out years ago, and there's only a few miserly flocks that fly past these days - but all the hides are still here, just waiting.


And there's an ongoing war between the sailors, the fishermen and the motor-boaters as to who "owns" the waters!! Listening to the VHF is quite an education - these guys yell at each other, swear at each other, threaten death and destruction when the one encroaches or gets in the way or (in the case of the motorboats) goes by so fast everyone on board the sailing boat or the little fishing boat is almost dunked overboard by the wake!! You can imagine the backchat about the speeding motorboat called Big Dick the other day! And the Navy use this area for shooting range every now and then - just been listening to an exchange: "Calling Navy ship on our port bow, we're crossing ahead of you, will that be a problem?" Navy reply: "We're watching you, cap'n, and will not fire till you're gone." Huh??? What about us coming up behind?

And am learning to watch my tongue - I keep getting into trouble by making assumptions! Like assuming this dear frail little old couple sitting opposite at a yachtie do are (as I so sweetly asked them) "here to support your grand-children?" "Oh no," she says, hands shaking as she picks up a glass of wine, "We've just come to say goodbye because we're leaving for Australia soon." "You flying from Boston?" I ask. "Flying? My dear, we're circumnavigating!" She sits up straighter in her chair. He leans over and cups his ear. "What's she say? What's that?" I cringe back in my chair: here I think I'm this great adventurer, and I've never spent longer than 4 nights at sea, and then with another couple aboard - these oldies are talking about sailing around the WORLD, just the two of them!!!


The OCC has shown its party-face over the last few weeks – starting with a pre-Annapolis Boat Show get-together and dinner where Fred Hallet had us all racking our brains to see who knew the most about OCC’s esteemed Hump Barton, to the Piankatank rally at Fishing Bay Yacht Club (where the ‘informal’ informal drinks evening was followed by the informal drinks evening and then by the formal drinks and dinner evening – oi vey, my liver!!). In between all this was the crowd of 8 OCC boats camped out initially at Wolfgang’s dock, then about 15 at the Piankatank, and now 5 at Gary and Greta’s docks in Norfolk – the party just never stops!


It’s been a great time to really get to know some of the folks though – one of the hard things I find about this cruising life is the fact that you meet and part so quickly – usually just as you’re starting to get really interested in the other people’s lives. Of course, it also works the other way – sometimes you’re only too delighted to say goodbye quickly – and trust you never meet up again! And it is very very good to come into some place, and see a familiar face, or hear a “Hello Al Shaheen!” across the water.


So we’re back in Norfolk again – last year when we were here, Lorrigray was anchored off Hospital Point, and John and Graham had a good old time gawking at the buxom wenches displaying the wares in Hooters Bar. This time we have Merlin, Trumpeter, Anju and William Barron for company, and the party has been far more sedate! Greta and Gary are wonderful hosts for a boating crowd, and the dockside here across from NOAA is a busy place with all of us rushing around replenishing stores (both food and spare parts).  


Gary also acts as unofficial post office, and we have been able to receive several parcels here, including a new parachute sea anchor – for if we God forbid hit any really bad weather en route to the Caribbean. It all looks very dramatic – a neat little bag affair which gets turfed over the bow of the boat in a storm to billow out and fill like a parachute – the object is to keep the boat headed up to wind and moving very slowly, instead of screaming about the ocean at the mercy of the wind and waves. Hope we never have to use it, but it’s like a liferaft, nice to know you have it if you need it.

So, we’re off again today, to handle the myriad of locks, bridges and shallow channels of the ICW – the chart plotter SHOULD enable us to stay out of the mud this time! And of course, it just has to be foggy today!





Wednesday 1st November 2006


Jenny, Jeff (our 3rd crew member) and I left Beaufort NC for the Virgin Islands Tuesday noon and did about 145 miles by noon today. The weather gurus told us we'd have 10-15 knots of favourable wind, but we have had strong winds of 20-25 kts, are heeled over so we're walking on the walls rather than the floor and have a nasty sea which makes it a bit like riding the bucking bronco! Progress is good, however, if uncomfortable. Will apparently encounter even stronger winds Thursday night but are told these will moderate over the weekend, inshallah! Please don't be concerned if we don't email every day as it takes enormous effort to type on such a wild platform! But, we'll try! Only about another 9 days to go! All well on board. Noon position N34 deg 40.1, W 074 deg 26.3. John


Friday 3rd November 2006


Well golly gee whiz, who conned me into thinking this was a lark??? I lost my dinner in the cockpit crossing the Gulf Stream first night out, and haven't recovered since! The seas are horrific, waves twice the size of the boat, one side of the boat under the water most of the time as we're heeled over so far, while the waves break over the other side and dump gallons of wet water right down your neck!


Had 'some bad weather' (guru term for ohmigod weather) yesterday that forced us to heave to (first time ever for Al Shaheen) where she is officially stopped in the water while the storm rages all around - 45 knot winds and some (supposedly a severe gale). I buried my head in the pillow and pretended I was somewhere else. We are running under a main sail with 3 reefs and the small storm sail - bright orange for danger and also never been used before!! Both Jeff & I are popping seasick pills like peanuts, and even cast-iron stomach John has acknowledged a touch of the green gills. Jeff brought some motioneze stuff, so we all waft around in a haze of comforting lavender dabbed behind the ears. Are we having fun yet??


Currently at 32'30N and 070'43W, about 250 miles west of Bermuda. Hopefully nowhere near the triangle. All things actually going well, if very uncomfortable. Jeff has been an absolute star - huge help. Typing this with one finger and one arm around the computer to secure it. Jenny


Saturday 4th November 2006


Survived another night, hove to again waiting for storm to pass. Horrid huge lumpy seas, gale force winds outside, boat heaving like my stomach. Wanna go home!! Had a cracking day's sailing yesterday all the same, did 118 miles from last email. ETA BVI Weds next week at the earliest. Oi vey. Jenny


Sunday 5th November 2006


Well, well - scrub all previous complaints - the sun's up, the seas are down, the storm's gone and we're storming along at 8.5 knots towards latitude 65 (commonly called the I65), the latitude where we turn south definitely towards the Caribbean! It's a glorious day!!


I have to say though that yesterday was the worst day ever, nerve-racking as both our weather gurus (Chris in the am and Herb in the pm) promised dire storms, huge seas and very heavy winds. All of this made us decide to heave to for about 5 hours. A good decision in terms of letting the storm go far ahead of us, but a disastrous decision for already feeble stomachs. I now know why they call it 'heave to' - I did!! By nightfall I was ready to jump ship - cooking up the evening meal of fried chicken & veggies did me in finally, and I collapsed onto a pitching berth stoked to the eyeballs with seasick pills: I passed out for some 10 hours and the guys valiantly did all my watches (I think they'd decided they wanted to retain a cook on board!).


However, by today the pattern's changed, we're way past the dreaded Bermuda Triangle (we made it Mom!), and I suddenly feel on top of the world. Breakfast bacon and eggs were devoured by all, and we're making very good progress. I've decided the sailors of yore were called 'old salts' not because they sailed the salty seas, but because after months of being at sea they must have been absolutely encrusted - we are all coated with salt (my hair has doubled in weight, and I've given up trying to comb it, just put a cap on it!) Showering is a waste of time, as you can never co-ordinate getting your body and the water in the same place at the same time - the boat pitches and dances so much it's a major achievement just staying upright. Still, the bruises are at least turning a nice shade of green already.


We've made several adaptations to the interior - now have ropes tied from point to point all over her as handholds - it's quite a sight to watch someone lurching along from the galley to the heads, crashing into everything available. Eating is a major effort - we've all taken to sitting on the floor for stability. I am looking forward to land again, where both the plate stays in one place in front of you and the food stays on the plate! Everything is uphill - even sleeping! If you sleep in the downside bunk your face is continually squashed into the back of the bunk, while sleeping on the other side you are constantly being almost thrown out of bed!! Not to mention rising a foot off the berth every time a really big wave slams into us!


Jeff is an absolute Godsend - if a speed fanatic! He's constantly wanting to make the boat go faster (he spent most of his sailing days racing, and it shows). This draws mixed reactions from John and myself: he is torn between worrying about the stresses on the boat and really enjoying the exhilaration of seeing Al Shaheen perform above what he normally pushes her to. Me? I just want to get to the Caribbean asap! Jenny


Tuesday 7th November 2006


Life on the ocean wave is a washing machine thing - one minute monstrous, 24 hours later great, then even more monstrous, a period of recuperation, then horrid again etc etc!


From the beaming email gleefully sent previously, things degenerated once again: this frontal low pressure has stalled and is not going anywhere, which means we have been sailing along it, in it, supposedly through it, then back in it again for days now - feels like weeks. Every day the weather gurus tell us "It's going to get better tomorrow", but you know what they say about tomorrow - so far it hasn't come.


So winds regularly in the late 20s, gusting up to 35s regularly, (which I have learnt is gale force on the Beaufort Scale of measurement!) we have sailed almost the entire trip with 3 reefs in the mainsail (minimum sail area) and our until now previously unused storm sail, and we're still screaming along at 7-8 knots lots of the time! Wild sleigh ride!! To add insult to injury, yesterday we lost the use of the auto-pilot when Jeff fell and slammed into the instrument panel - mild panic on board as the boat skewed around 180' out of control! Of course, it just so happened to be my watch, so it fell to Jeff and I to be up in the cockpit fighting to regain control of the helm while John frantically tried to re-instate the instruments. Huge waves crashing into the cockpit, both Jeff and I were totally deluged several times - I'd just managed to have a shower and wash my hair for the first time in five days, and in one short hour managed to put all the salt straight back into it again.

Never did get the auto-pilot working again - it kept steering us off by at least 90', so we eventually abandoned it, and installed the wind-vane monitor, very nice piece of equipment which runs the boat by a separate rudder attached to a windvane aft. Only problem was the latch holding the rudder down kept jumping out, necessitating wild dives to the stern of the boat to sort it out again. By this time John was equally saturated, as only he knew how to fix it! Fixing it entailed hanging over the stern of the boat, tied on with two tethers, trying to re-latch a rudder that sits some 4 feet below and when necessary 'massage' it with a hammer - all under water off a pitching boat of course! All very fraught. But the alternative was hand-steering the boat for the next 600 miles, and this did not seem like a good idea.


Perseverance paid off, and we spent most of yesterday and the whole of last night on the windvane - we're now about 400 from the BVI, plan to get there by Fri morning. The weather gurus this morning say the weather is going to change for the better - tomorrow!! Jeff is calling for breakfast - he has stalwartly done french toast at 35 knots, with a stove that is swinging like a monkey on a rope!! Jenny


Wednesday 8th November 2006


Finally, finally broke through the low pressure system late last night and woke this morning to calmer more manageable seas and lighter winds. And we now have less than 200 miles to go. Am I pleased or what?? Of course, nothing is ever quite that simple however. It appears the winds are going to fall off completely later in the day, and we have not managed to get as far east as we needed to, so we will land up having to motor the last 100 miles or so. This means we will have to hand steer for perhaps a day or so - a problem of a different kind. Do you know, I really can't remember signing up for all this drama - I'm sure my contract stipulated blue skies, calm seas and white beaches!!


Still, it could all be a lot lot worse. We monitored a panpan call yesterday from a boat who'd just had an electrical fire on board and lost ALL their instruments, were taking on water, and are on the edge of a 2-day storm forecast with 50-60knot winds. That's not funny. They are frantically running for Bermuda, but may not get there in time, in which case they will have to sit out the storm off Bermuda, as it will be impossible to get in through all the reefs etc. And Kimberlite, friends from New York just ahead of us, were 'pooped', when a huge wave crashed their stern down, followed by a 2nd wave which burst a gland in the rudder stock and they have water pouring into the aft cabin! The sea can be very unforgiving.


The SSB radio has been an absolute blessing - it is our one major point of contact daily, and we listen to the weather gurus and the various 'nets' throughout the day, reporting our position and listening in to see where others are. It gives a great sense of security, just knowing someone else knows where you are and is waiting for you to check in! But I have to say, I've decided I'm not a circumnavigator after all - I like land closer to me than this, and don't really enjoy the days and days and days of sea and drama. So, the Pacific and Australia is out, I'm afraid, unless we fly! Jenny


Thursday 9th November 2006


It's 7pm Thursday, dinner of pork tenderloin & rum prunes (bottle left in locker, courtesy of Sheena!) over, Jeff's washing dishes, I've showered (yay!!), Cap'n John's on watch - and we have just on 60 miles to go to Virgin Gorda! Should be there by about 7am tomorrow. That is of course if the last bit of string holding the monitor together holds! The poor thing has been working so hard through all the bad weather that it has developed severe frayed spots, one not so serious, one quite serious. Bit like those soapie cliff-hangers da da da dah, da da da dah, does the heroine survive the last few miles, does the hero save the day - again? Wait till tomorrow to see!! Jenny


Friday 10th November 2006


Have just finished a 40 minute shower, a huge bacon & egg breakfast, cleared in to customs etc, and while the guys are cleaning up the boat I'm sitting on solid land, typing this. Have to sit, or else take seasick tablets to cope with the lack-of-motion-sickness!! The Caribbean is showing its best to us today, a glorious palette of blues and gold - when we came into the Francis Drake Passage this morning it was so beautiful we sailed on for another hour, reluctant to turn in to the marina!


All went well the last few miles, we managed to sail most of the way, the piece of string held up, and we only had to hand-sail for a few hours. John and Jeff have been absolute towers of strength - I have to confess to finally losing it in my last watch in the early hours of this morning. The combination of knowing that Anegada with its treacherous reefs was off to port somewhere, exhaustion, end-of-trip collapse and complete lack of wind just finally got to me! The monitor could not handle the lack of wind, and suddenly I could not control the boat, no matter what I tried to do (we were motor-sailing at the time, but the monitor was controlling the course).  


My vivid imagination took over as a sudden squall hit and the heavens opened, and I freaked! Kicked the motor back so we almost stopped dead in the water, and yelled for the two sleeping guys. "Get up here now - I can't control this boat!" Two heads appeared like magic in the companionway, and a calm John said, "It's ok, I'll take over." "Well," said Jeff "It's almost time for my watch, would you like me to take the helm, Jenny?" "Oh yes please," I replied meekly. While in actual fact every nerve in my body was screaming "Take this fucking wheel, NOW, Jeff!!"

John and Jeff are already talking about the return trip to Nova Scotia - well jolly ha ha, I'm flying! Signing off on dry land at last. Jenny



Monday 10th December 2006


Is it Charlotte Amalie or the buying of rings that is the problem?? Feb 2005 John proposed to me here in the anchorage – and the next day we rushed out to the shops to buy an engagement ring. Two days later I was back on the plane to South Africa for an emergency. Now, November 2006, we anchor in the bay again, and John suggests it’s time to finally buy a wedding ring – which we do. Two days later he’s on the plane back to UK for an emergency! So what’s the moral of the story – don’t anchor in C.Amalie or don’t buy any more rings? This is a country of contradictions, to say the least!


Sitting in the internet café the other day, I was somewhat taken aback to see the large policeman across from me – in uniform, nametag on his chest, butt overflowing the stool, intently flipping from port site to porn site! In the line of duty???


In direct contrast, I went over to Honeymoon Bay for hamburgers on the beach the other night. As the sun set, a sheet was tied between two palm trees, popcorn was passed out, and we settled down to watch Santa Clause 2 under the stars. An occasional squall chased us under the trees, but as soon as it was over, we were back in our seats again!


So, I’m sitting ‘home alone’ on Al Shaheen in Crown Bay Marina while John has rushed home to see to his aunt Va (almost 101 years old).

Life is a bit different when you’re a woman alone on a boat – the admiring glances thrown at the boat suddenly take on another meaning, and the casual smiles you throw around need to be definitely casual! But I’ve made fast friends with Lindi at Tickles Pub at the end of the dock – and as soon as she sees some guy coming on too much is quick to interrupt with “Hey, have a cold one, her husband’s coming back soon!” Sort of mom-behind-the-bar.


The pub is made up of a lot of the usual group of boaties – some aging derelicts, some local workers, some visiting yachties, some young crew waiting to pick up some/any type of work. But the vibe is good, it’s a family sort of feel: all the waitresses smile a warm welcome and my virgin pina colada hits the counter before I’ve even sat down. Saints only know what would happen if I changed the order to a real pina colada.

Tickles has live music – well, it’s live anyway! Open mic night is an education – why do so many people think they can sing/play?? And on Saturday we had The Two Pop Tarts performing. Despite being dressed to fit the part, they were nice enough to be anyone’s granny, and the Pop part was more country & western without Dolly Parton! Tomorrow is the Anna Cheek Band – wonder what delights that will bring us?


Right now sitting working in the pub (cooler than the boat): on one side is a group of civil servants having a working lunch discussing how necessary it is to get more cruise ships in – 7 a day is not enough?? At the same time bewailing the fact that crime is on the increase – something to do with the porn-peeping policeman’s example? At the other table is George, a pedantic little old man who has spent 20 minutes whingeing about the mis-use and abuse of language in the islands. “Will a soldier in the desert desert before dessert?” he keeps asking. I think I’ve missed his literary point.


Stan, solo sailor who’s a retired hypnotherapist is waiting for a weather window to go across to Puerto Rico to meet a friend. We’ve spent some entertaining hours discussing the big issues of life – I think the first conversation covered religion, death, baseball, sex and Bush – what else is there to talk about now?  


And we’ve done the tourist thing together – been to Bottoms Up pub in Independent Boatyard (now there’s material for a people-watching exercise!) where the iguanas come up from the mangroves for lunch, over to Coral World to watch the tourists ‘feed the fish’ underwater, wander round the Main Street amongst the cruise-shippers. And now Doug has just moved in to the slip next door – another solo sailor, just landed from Bermuda, having jammed his mainsail in the tracks, twisted his wind generator so it can’t spin, split his jenniker, gummed up his engine with bad fuel from Bermuda – quite a trip. Introduced himself by asking if I’d hoist him up the mast, please!


What can I say, people-watching is fun! But John is due back tonight, thank goodness. I have decided I am neither long-distance nor solo-sailing material – I do like my man around.


Tuesday 11th December 2006


It's the morning of the 11th, and John is back - hallelujah. Although minus his luggage which stayed somewhere around Miami - and his hair as he had a No.4 cut before coming back! As there was only a bit to start off with, the result is akin to the skinhead era!! But it does look good, I have to say.


Va's emergency seems to be in hand, with Emma picking up a lot of the slack - and, I think, the flack! It's very difficult being nearly 101: most improvements she refuses with "Don't worry about it, that ....whatever... will see me out".


Needless to say, he's delighted to be back - where's it warm, and away from British red tape and attitude. Wait till he gets back to the BVI - the attitude's still there!!



Friday 5th January 2007


Another year to get through in Paradise – not sure how we’re going to do it! Still, I suppose someone has to take on the job, and it might as well be us.


John’s aunt Va is recovering well after the unexpected upset. In fact, she’s already making loud noises that the care-givers now installed are no longer necessary: “I can do it myself,” she says – at 101, that’s quite some statement! She’s somewhat confused as to how the new washing machine in the kitchen got there, but does admit it makes a handy extra cupboard! Trust both John and I live that well that long.


Once John got back from his unexpected UK trip, we moved down island, taking a bit of a hammering first day out in short steep seas. The plan had been to make Antigua in one overnight passage, but after 20 hours we both looked at each other and said “this isn’t fun anymore!” So bailed out and crouched behind St. Kitts for a day to recover and wait for the seas to go down a bit.


Then sailed to Monserrat – first time I’ve ever sat directly below a volcano! Lots of steam and hisses from the active volcano, and the decks were covered with fine ash the next morning, but there was more excitement in the Miss Teen Monserrat pageant booming out across the anchorage – first prize was a weekend in Antigua, second prize I guess must have been two weekends!! And finally on into English Harbour, Antigua – oh dear, someone else has anchored in “John’s spot” opposite Catherine’s Café. Oh well, the water’s nicer for swimming in Freeman’s Bay, so that’s where we’ll be.


Not the most beautiful of islands, the British island of Antigua more than makes up for this lack in its ex-pat hospitality and party-throwing ability.

The Christmas/New Year period especially is one continuous saga that leaves your liver damaged and your stomach distended – not to mention the fact that your hips have increased! I mean, take Christmas itself: started with a hefty tot of rum with the Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua & Barbuda (always a bad start to any evening!!) then a rip-roaring dinner at Calabash on Christmas Eve, a champagne and loud music brunch at Nelson’s Dockyard that lasted until early afternoon Christmas Day, followed by a huge pot-luck dinner later in the day. Even Dunno the dog had his day!


We did a lot of catching up in Antigua, meeting up with old sailing friends that we hadn’t seen for a couple of years – wonderful. Kate & Mike on Cutting Edge arrived battered from their trip from Beaufort to St. Martin – a month later than us, and they had had a really bad trip with lots of damage. Including Penny, their most magnificent Mainecoon cat, whose dignity and feelings were decidedly upset by being solidly doused by waves into the cabin! And it was great to spend time with John & Christine off Oriole with son Robert and girlfriend Dani – who very appropriately announced their engagement to us on 1st  Jan! All in all, there were 9 OCC boats in Antigua during this period, and we all did our bit to keep the OCC flag flying high throughout all the festive activities.


And of course, don’t forget the Tot Club! Scene of many a serious gulp of rum (oi vey, why people drink Pussers from preference is beyond me!). And we joined Mike Rose on a “Rhum Run” – a trip out to visit Bushy at his post office. Bushy, a mid-60s something originally from Maderia, runs the so-called post office, which also has a very rusted but active petrol pump outside, and shelves stocked with umpteen bottles of various heavy spirits interspersed with engine oil and anti-freeze! Locals pop in frequently for their ‘tot & spot’ (tot of spirits followed by half-glass of water, and whiteys like us stop in to buy Bushy’s special concoction – 151% proof rhum that he cuts down and ‘mellows’ to his own recipe – and sells at 33EC for a gallon – that is approx. £6 or R60 a gallon!!!

We sampled it – when you arrive, he plonks an open bottle on the counter and you don’t leave until it’s empty – and bought a gallon. We now have several bottles of unmarked dark liquid floating around in our bilges!!


Friend Carol Martin arrived from Cape Town on 29th and is with us until we haul out on 9th Jan for a short hop back to UK to meet Dan, John’s son from Australia. So it’s Green Island (pounding introductory sail for here), then down to Guadalope (another wet, spanking sail). Was supposed to be a couple of days, but the weather’s turned a bit nasty so we might be here longer than expected! Still, there are worse places to be, and the pain chocolat with café au lait each morning is worth the change in plans!


Eastern Caribbean

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