Friday, 24 April 2015

Passage to Bermuda


I took a pleasant walk down a long track marked private, past signs warning of rapid security responses to suspicious behaviour (the trick is to walk through as if you own the place, or at least as if you might be invited to such a place). Well, it might be the last walk for a while, and people who put up such signs are usually protecting the nicest places. There were many fancy houses, and hammocks under the palms, and volley ball courts and curly tailed lizards and woodpeckers. I took amusing photographs of it all and thought up witty and wonderful captions to go along with them and loaded the photos onto my laptop.

Tom from Triad called by to give me a giant can of grapefruit juice to mix half and half with the rum or to ward off the scurvy. I can't remember which. Anyway, thanks Tom, and I'm so glad we met and you were able to keep up.
I sailed off in the afternoon on a light breeze.



Wind died slowly and I've been becalmed for the last 3-4 hours.

The laptop died. I can't fix it. Nothing shows on the screen. (That's why there are none of those final photographs of Georgetown, with all the witty captions.)

I have my little crappy spare laptop working but the keyboard is half bust and it has old versions of my navigation software. Still, it shows a chart and my position and connects to the AIS. So long as that one stays alive, I'm OK.
I've sailed 100 miles so far, 630 to go.

It's going to be a long night. It was a very hot day, and I snoozed through quite a bit of it, so not tired. There'll be no moon.



At midnight, a light breeze arrived. Dead against, but I started tacking into it at 2.5 knots. 30 degrees off the desired course, but something!

Dawn. Wind steady force 1 all night, now turned another 5 degrees against me. So it's now coming almost directly from Bermuda. The forecast had been for beam winds coming more and more astern. Done 21 miles through the night, 17 closer to Bermuda. This is hardly progress.

The wind picked up later and I'm doing 5 knots close to wind across flat water. There are tall thick clouds to the north east. I think the low I was waiting to pass by has come further south than forecast. That's why I'm getting NE winds. And I remember a patch of calm before the NE winds came. So I'm getting the right pattern, but the pattern is further south. Not worried though. I'm too far south to be affected by the strong winds, and there were several days of decent wind from the S and SW forecast.


The wind increased and gradually I've been able to aim closer and closer to Bermuda, and eventually, free the sheets. It had been a lot of work adjusting the sails so frequently, so I set about making myself a nice lunch. Chick peas etc. I held off, spuds or pasta, in case I caught a fish. Water was boiling for pasta when a dorado struck, and emptied the fishing reel of line. I slowed the boat and reeled in the biggest one yet. The last one had provided two meals for 5 people. I didn't put a lot of potatoes in the pan.

The fish was just cooked when I noticed a water spout forming under a black cloud.


Unfortunately I stood watching it open mouthed rather than look for my camera, but you can still make out the top and bottom of the spout on the right of the picture (it became disconnected in the middle).
I decided to evade that one, but a line of black cloud formed across my path and it seems unlikely I'll find my way through a gap.


Phew. What a day. Squalls. Mostly flat seas, then the wind comes and I'm doing 8 knots steady and hold that for as long as I dare, then reef the mainsail and swap jibs, then when the wind dies again, put a bit more sail up, but not as much as before cos now the sea is all lumpy and after a while the boat starts to wallow, and more sail is needed. Then it's a bumpy 5 knots or so till the sea flattens or the next squall comes.

The wind turned dead against and increased. I reduced sail and was still going 4.5 knots through rough water and at only 10-20 degrees. So I was basically sailing north, and I know that further north there's a strong east wind, so I gave up and hove to, for the first time with this boat. It's nowhere near a gale, but parking this way is easy and comfortable. I just left the reefed mainsail up and tied the tiller to leeward. The boat sits pointing close to the wind, going nowhere. I should be able to get some sleep though there was lightning upwind, so maybe a thunderstorm is coming. No moon, pitch black, so hard to tell.


17/4/2015 06:23

I awoke to the sound of the bathroom floor floating about, banging on the hull sides. It had rained so much in the night that the rain catching system had caused the giant green bucket to overflow. The collecting tank in the kitchen had also overflowed, but not enough to float the floors.

More urgent than dealing with that though was my own need for a bucket. Yesterday's large lunch of fish made me feel a little queasy all day, but there was so much fish to eat and it would have been such a waste that I had the same again for dinner. Not so good. Sadly, the rest will have to go overboard later, and I won't fish again unless I get desperately sick of beans. It's such a waste to kill such a big beautiful fish.... This one had a companion that swam alongside it till it was lifted into the boat.

I drifted just two miles to the east through the night, and now there is light wind and large messy swells and large clumps of black clouds in every direction. I'm not sure if it would be worth the bother of putting up sail to try to make some progress through the slop, or just leave it and wait for kinder steadier weather.
Why did I collect rain water anyway? My tanks are full enough. I had a vague idea of doing dinner laundry, but I have only two items that need washing.


I sailed through the slop, making the best of it, but it was hard work. An unpleasant motion and I frequently needed to adjust the sails and then stop the main boom bashing about. When the mainsail flaps about it puts a great strain on the gooseneck fitting, which I've had doubts about since the day it was fitted.

The gooseneck attaches the boom to the mast, allowing articulation up and down and from side to side. But when the mainsail bangs about, there is a rotational force on the fitting too, which causes a creaking and groaning I don't like at all. It is the only source of creaking on the boat, although there is one other source of groaning. I'd mentioned this problem to Tom and he showed me the gooseneck on Triad, which does allow the boom to rotate, the first design I've seen like that. When I mentioned that this might be a problem to the rigger that fitted the gooseneck, he said yeah, they break - keep the old one as a spare. Hmm, not so clever. I keep the gooseneck wet with WD40, and tie a preventer to the boom too, but this means there's an extra rope to undo and refasten every time I adjust the mainsail. Maybe I'm being over cautious.

Large black clouds in front and behind.

I hear loud thunder from behind and I'm beginning to think I'm doomed, but instead of being overtaken by a squall, the clouds spread out to fill the sky, and now I'm left sailing in grey gloom with lots of rain. The rain flattens the waves generated by the nearby wind, but great swells remain, coming from the east, and sailing over it at 6-7 knots is a bit roller coasterish. However, it's nice to be making decent speed directly to Bermuda for once, so no complaints.

I dumped the fish, and I'm feeling better now. I'm feeding on bananas, as it turns out the yellow, green and really green ones I bought are all ripening at the same time again, despite even going to the trouble of putting some hard green ones in the other cabin so they're not affected by the ether released by the ripening ones.
The crap little laptop warns me of a ship nearby. It proves the AIS is working. Actually, the phone is better for navigating, but the laptop is necessary for AIS. It uses quite a bit more electricity though, and there was little sun yesterday, and none at all today.

I've been drifting about often at 2 knots or less. I've decided even 2 knots is better than nothing. Nearly fifty miles a day. It's a struggle to minimise wear on the sails and to keep changing the sails about with every wind shift, bit what else to do? Sit and wait?

I seem to be in the middle of a low. I haven't seen the sun all day, and it has been raining half the time. I just wear a rain jacket and no trousers - it's too much, too hot, too much hassle to find waterproof trousers as well, and I now have 3 wet pairs of trousers, so I've given up.

At the last sail change I saw a great tuna jump out very close to the boat, leaping like a dolphin. The tail was vertical, not horizontal, but I wasn't sure if I could believe my eyes, so I hoped it would jump again. It did, one more time, right beside the cockpit where I was looking for it, a magnificent tuna. :)


18/4/2015 00:40

I awoke to find the boat doing 3 knots under a starry sky. Much relieved! Perhaps steady winds at last, so I raised the main and I'm now doing 4.5-5 knots on target. Worth getting up for, and still a steady motion to go to back to sleep with.


Only two major sail changes in the night, and I slept solid the rest of the time. I'd expect to feel totally refreshed, but I'm not. Still the wind is benevolent, light and from astern. I was surprised not to see the sun - there is thick cloud all about again, especially from behind. I'm doing my best to run away from it. It's nice to be able to sit about without having to keep out of the sun, but the batteries could really do with charging more now. I think they've had 3 days of thick cloud.

The black clouds don't bring heavy wind. Not squalls. Just rain. So I stay indoors with all windows and doors shut. This allows me to keep my trousers on. I feel more civilised with trousers on.


Halfway to Bermuda. It's been pretty slow so far with one night hove to and another becalmed, and then light headwinds.

Today, all day since dawn, the boat has sailed at 6 knots or more with the genoa and jib together on the forestay. Wind dead steady, and perfect speed. I'd get bored, but I'd gladly go all the way like this. The black clouds brought only a little rain. All day, the cloud everywhere I can see has gradually lifted higher and higher and they are no longer gloomy and menacing. Hopefully, tomorrow, after three very dark days unlike any I've seen in the Caribbean ( I guess I'm not in the Caribbean any more) there might be sunshine. I do my best to catch whatever sunshine is available.

I'm actually a bit cold, late afternoon. Guess I'd better get used to that.


19/4/2015 04:36

Becalmed. The wind has been constant in direction, from behind, for 36 hours, which has been great, but it started to slow at dusk and now progress isn't worth having the sails flapped about by the sails. 312 to Bermuda, 394 from Bahamas. Quite a bit of cloud about which is a shame. The batteries really need some sunshine. This crappy laptop uses twice as much power as my bust one did.

I've worn a jumper all night. It's been necessary!


A light westerly came at dawn, and I got the boat going at 1-2 knots. I was wondering if the amount of electricity used by the autopilot was worth the progress, and decided I should alter the autopilot settings so that it is less sensitive. That helped a lot. I think I have reduced the power consumption and wear and tear by at least a third. It's something I should have done a long time ago.

I've found also that I can put the little laptop to sleep and just check it every now and again for ships. That saves a lot of power too. Obvious, but if I'd put the other laptop to sleep, it wouldn't wake up, so I'd forgotten about that facility.

The sun came out, so I've hung the solar panels over the bow and the batteries are slurping up the power. Phew.
It's quite cool outside. Clear though, and that is much pleasanter than the overcast gloom and rain I've had the last few days. I saw a large dolphin and I see lots of Portuguese man-of-wars, or is it Portuguese men-of-war? Jelly fish with sails. Yeah, really. Did I mention the fish that fly already?


The wind is now from the east, coming from Bermuda. I'm close-hauled again, making just 3 knots. Approaching Bermuda at 1.5 miles per hour.


A little yellow bird called by.

It doesn't eat rice. I know this because I scattered rice over the deck wherever it landed. It looks like an insect eater, so I had nothing better to offer.

It got fed up with having rice thrown at it after a flight of at least 350 miles so it went indoors and studied French.

At last the wind has changed a little. I'm only 30 degrees off course now, but it seems to have settled on that. Hmmm, all I can do is use whatever wind I find to take the course that will bring me closest to the target. At least the batteries are now well charged.


20/4/15 07:06

232 miles to Bermuda. The wind very gradually turned more southerly and every hour or so through the night I'd adjust course a bit and finally at 4:30 I was able to point the boat directly at Bermuda. I've now also been able to loosen the sheets a little, and I'm making 4.5 knots. The wind is light, but I have a reef in the main and just the little jib up. The waves are all over the place but mostly I'm bashing into them so I keep it slow till the seas even out a bit.

Cloudy again. This isn't the tropics any more. This is the sub tropics. I've had a jumper on the last 24 hours and I slept under a duvet.


I've had headwinds all day, but at least I didn't have to tack. The wind got up and I had to put a second reef in the mainsail. I'd had waves over the roof occasionally, but it was just waves the windward bow dug into and flipped up. They are not that big at all really. The waves are hardly breaking even, but they're messy. Putting the second reef in stopped the but digging in, and it didn't show the boat much at all.

Dark cloud ahead again, so I'm guessing the wind will go round the clock, becoming southerly then westerly which would suit me fine. I'm thinking I could do with a day or two at anchor to get my bearings. It feels like I've been inside a washing machine for a few days. I'd certainly like to leave Bermuda with a following wind for at least a few days. Far pleasanter and easier than this bashing to windward palaver.


21/4/15 06:40 

134 miles to Bermuda.

Tuesday already! I've been out nearly a week. I feel overdue.

The wind did what I told it and it is now from just east of south. It was quite strong in the night, so I  made good but bouncy progress. Wind lighter this morning, but still bouncy! Doing 4.5 knots and there are no breaking waves. I should be able to set more sail and get going but the waves are all over the place and the bows dig in quite often even at this speed. I guess the seas are a result of the fact that the wind coming from so many directions.
I was sitting on the bucket in the cockpit thinking about raising more sail anyway when a wave came over the bow, bounced on the bridgedeck roof and went down my back. I left the sails as they were.

Another day so grey it doesn't matter where I put the solar panels. Which is OK as I'd probably get wet moving them. The sea is quite a bit colder than the Bahamas and it occurred to me in the night that I should find a thicker duvet.

I'm quite wobbly on the legs in the morning. But it's hard to tell, the boat being so wobbly. I would very much like to take a walk. I've decided to definitely stop in Bermuda, whatever the wind is doing. For a rest, and to walk awhile before the next stage of my confinement.

I might have to temporarily seal up the kitchen hatch too. Waves keep getting in there, and it's not good for the cooker, and I'd be no good without a cooker.


I did put full sail up at last and have spent most of the day sailing at 6-7 knots. I can't help it, but progress or the lack of it affects the mood greatly. Half an hour ago, black cloud came from behind and I put a couple of reefs in the main so I wouldn't have to do it in the rain. The rain came, and the wind has become more westerly as expected. There's a pattern to this weather.

61 miles to go to the nearest edge of Bermuda. It's a week now to do 730 miles. That's a bit pathetic.




It's dawn sort of. Low dark grey cloud all around. And chilly. But at least there is a light and favourable wind that has had me going a good speed through the night with just one sail change. The miles I've been measuring to Bermuda were to the closest corner.

The harbour is on the opposite corner, and I've had to sail round some shallow areas that are full of fish traps. So, 20 miles to go to the island and 15 or so, up the coast to the harbour.
Here's the harbour entrance at last.

And Scrumpy anchored finally. Just in front of the cannon.

Easy eh?

Here's the route a tired man makes looking for a spot to anchor. I'm early in the season. There are only a few yachts here. There's lots of room! It's just that I can't think straight!

At anchor, Neil from a neighbouring catamaran came over to invite me to a barbeque (too tired) and to ask if he might borrow some tools. His boat was robbed 3 times in Luperon and he has very few tools left. He needs to replace his gooseneck.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015


This will be the last blog post for a while. I have no satellite phone, and so no connection to the net. I'd like one - I could get a weather forecast each day and adjust my course accordingly. But then, I'd like a boat that was a little bit longer, and I'd like there to be less stuff on board (I'm taking home power tools I used to repair the boat in Antigua), and I'd like newer sails and... well, in the end, you draw a line through your list of what's needed and what's wanted and everything under the line becomes part of a would-have-been-nice list. And then you go.

I'm aiming for San Miguel, the east-most island of the Azores, 2730 miles away. That might seem a strange choice of destination. Bermuda is on the track, and Faial is a more convenient Azore. But there are cheap flights from the UK to San Miguel, so my wife can fly to meet me and we can spend a few weeks sailing and hiking. So San Miguel it is. Maybe I'll stop by Bermuda, for a fresh forecast mainly - it depends on the weather when I'm around there. I'd be loathe to sacrifice favourable wind for the time taken to obtain a new forecast.

I'll keep some sort of log on the crossing, and post it here when I arrive in San Miguel (or wherever).

In the meantime, this seems an appropriate place to answer some of the questions I'm frequently asked about sailing across oceans single handed.

Here's a question I like: what do you do at night? I've found that if I don't answer right away, the question might be followed by a further question, like whether I anchor each night, or if there is anywhere to stop. These questions display such an innocence about what is involved in crossing an ocean in a small boat (of course, most people have no reason to give it a moment's thought) that I can't help teasing, suggesting there are service stations along the way at convenient locations, or suggesting that since the Atlantic Ocean is no more than 10 metres deep, it is easy to anchor wherever I choose.

What I really do at night is what most people do, I go to sleep. I have electronic self-steering gear. I only steer for a few minutes of most sailing trips - sailing in crowded harbours. For all of the rest of the time, I have a little robot that steers the boat. Because I sometimes sail alone, the little robot is crucial. So crucial that I have two backups, and in case all three fail, or lightning wrecks my electrics, I have bungee cords to attach to the tiller so that I can rig a rudimentary self-steering system that relies on just the wind. Steering across an ocean is boring, and prevents you from doing other important things like cooking, reading, relaxing, navigating, sleeping and fixing stuff, in no particular order.

I'm always a little anxious on the boat. It's not so bad. If the wind changes when I am asleep, I notice and wake up, and adjust the sails and or the course if necessary. Every noise carries information. Every clunk and bang and whoosh - I seem to hear them all. And if I can't identify the noise, I have to get up and find the source.

Ships - I think I covered this in my mention of AIS in the last post. And I have a radar alarm too. An alarm goes off if a ship is running radar beams across the boat.

Floating stuff to collide with: as I can't look out all the time, this is just a risk I have to accept. I reassure myself that I am sailing on a catamaran with no ballast, and I have several full bulkheads, so even damage under the waterline need not be catastrophic. And I haven't hit anything yet, in over 40,000 miles. Had to swerve a couple of times, that's all.

Whales. I used to consider them benign and wonderful, and I was dismissive of stories of hitting sleeping whales or being attacked by one. But then I was chased by one... but it never caught me, and it was only one out of hundreds of encounters. I still consider them usually benign, and still wonderful, but I'm more wary.

Storms. I avoid them as much as possible. I set off with a favourable forecast, and choose a route to avoid high winds. I've experienced a lot of storms - when I first started sailing, I was under the impression that my boat ought to be pretty much invulnerable, capable of handling any storm, and I just had to learn to be the same way. I learned alright, eventually, to check the weather forecast and avoid storms. But the boat has to be able to endure a storm. On a long voyage, encountering one may be unavoidable. As my last resort, I have a Jordan series drogue, which I have never yet deployed. But I have a lot of confidence in it, especially as my experience with drogues made of adjustable loops of rope with a chain on the end have proved very effective in limiting the top speed of the boat as it surfs down waves. So I'll do all I can to avoid storms, but I have equipment to deal with very rough seas.

Calms. On a monohull, calms mean rolling. The boat picks up some momentum from swell, and starts rolling, and the rolling gets amplified by each new swell and stuff gets thrown around, and people are tipped out of bunks, then the swell and the rolling get out of synch and it all stops, only to gradually start all over again. It's maddening. On a multihull, the boat just stops. No rolling at all. You can sleep, rest, cook, read, whatever. I once spent 5 days becalmed in the Mediterranean, and ran out of water after two. I made a solar still from an inflatable dinghy, putting a bit of seawater in the bottom, and covering it with polythene. A shackle in the middle of the polythene made the fresh water condensing on the polythene run into a pan. Two of us had enough water for drinking and cooking that way. Calms can be very nice. In the Biscay, I had two nights surrounded by whales and dolphins, and went to sleep each night with the only sound being their breathing, little short puffs from the dolphins, and great wheezing expulsions from the whales. Soon I learned to distinguish individuals from their breathing sounds. Some I thought, might have lung infections, or colds - it sounded that way. Those two nights were magical. But anyway, usually people assume I'd motor through calms. Many boats travelling through areas prone to calms carry all the spare fuel they can with ranks of jerry cans lashed to their guardrails. I have to travel light in a little catamaran, but this means my light weather sails can really make the boat go. I have occasionally sailed past a monohull motoring in what they regarded as a calm. I have 2 gallons of petrol on board, enough for getting in and out of harbours. That will have to do. If I'm becalmed, I'll stop, and I'll be 'late'.

Calms can be hard work too. Sometimes a little wind picks up, and you pile on the sail, and move slowly, and then it stops, or changes direction radically requiring a sail change, but with the wind so light, you wonder if it is worth the work. Fickle light winds are tiring for crew and cause a lot of wear on the sails.

Of all the stuff that could happen out there, the real issues people seem to want to know about are loneliness and fear. Loneliness I deal with by remembering the brevity of my isolation - 2, 3, 4, 5 weeks max. And remembering the several people who will not have forgotten me within that time. And fear? There's the useful and practical fear, which has me climbing the mast to check the standing rigging, and swapping halyards round end-for-end to change the places the ropes are wearing, and generally being aware of the state of the boat and the state of the weather, and tweaking and adjusting things to prevent chafe and wear and stress. And then there's the useless fear, which comes when I am over-tired or stressed - the fear of doom, which is no different to the fear landlubbers and sailors alike feel in the middle of a wakeful night. My solution to that one is culled from years of studying the wisdom of the east (it took me a long time to discover there's much less of it than advertised), and a persistent but usually fruitless interest in psychology and philosophy - turn over, and go back to sleep.

So, if you haven't forgotten me in the meantime, you'll soon see a splendid blog post here describing the Atlantic crossing, full of interesting details and observations and jokes that occurred to me that I had no-one to tell and expressing delight at having had such cushy weather for the crossing. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Getting a cup of coffee on the last Bahama.

Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco is 100 miles north and east of West Bay, Nassau, so when a gentle east south east wind was forecast, I went for it. It meant an overnight passage, but Marsh Harbour would make a good jumping off point for going back across the Atlantic. 

The boat sailed well all afternoon on an easy close reach, sometimes hitting 7 knots. At dusk, the wind faded, and there was a shipping channel to cross south of Great Abaco. I was very appreciative of the AIS (Automatic Identification System) I've fitted. Mine has a transmitter and receiver, so the ships can see me on their computers as easily as I can see them on mine.

Here are two tankers coming from the west, and two cruise ships coming from the east. I turned close into the wind to slow the boat down, and at around 3.5 knots, I can see by the AIS that this would allow tanker 1 to pass half a mile north of me. After he'd gone, I'd be able to proceed at whatever speed I could make.

However, this tactic doesn't seem satisfactory to the tanker pilot, and he turns 25 degrees to pass two miles south of me. How nice!

It may seem odd for a tanker to get out of the way of a little yacht, but the nautical rules of the road stipulate that sailing boats have right of way over motor boats, unless they are in a channel which constrains the bigger boat's manoeuvrability. Whenever two boats might collide, it needs to be established who has right of way. The boat with right of way is obliged to continue the course they are on until the danger is passed. The other boat must  manoeuvre around the first boat. Rules of the road on the sea can get very complicated, depending on what angles boats are meeting at, and where the wind is coming from, but in all situations, it must be established who has to hold their course, and who moves about - otherwise, if two boats both try to get out of each other's way, things could quickly go wrong.

I do like my AIS! I can set an alarm too, which goes off if a ship might collide with me, and I use this far out at sea so I can sleep without too many nightmares. All ships over 200 tons are obliged to have AIS running, and so far, every ship I have encountered I have seen first on the AIS. And they have been able to see me, and find out that I am on a 9m sailing boat, and they can see how fast I am going at what angle, and what would be our closest point of approach.

Tom, get yourself an AIS!

Anyway, I sailed up the coast of Great Abaco through the night, snoozing and checking every half hour or so for other boats - there were none. At dawn, I was approaching the entrance to Marsh Harbour, and put the kettle on for coffee. The gas ran out. I tried switching bottles. I had just one left - a great big bottle I'd bought in the Dominican Republic when I found I was unable to fill my European bottles there. As soon as I turned the valve on, gas whistled out. The valve was bust. My great big bottle of gas, that I had filled at great expense and carried a mile back to the boat (with Jack's help) at Georgetown, was useless. No coffee for me.

In fact, no nothing for me. I'm on a gluten-free diet because someone with a crystal told me my energies were being sapped by gluten. Actually, it was a doctor with an antibody test and the diagnosis was confirmed by an endoscopy. So I'm on a stupid diet, which means there are almost no ready-made snacks available for me. Almost everything I eat I have to cook first, and with no gas... hungry times!

The bottle was useless without a leak-proof valve, and to change the valve would require the bottle to be empty. The best place to empty the bottle would be out at sea.

What a waste! But I could see no way to capture the gas - I tried connecting another bottle but the regulators only allow gas to come out of a bottle, not go in. So I just let it out into the air. The whistling soon stopped.

The bottle was frozen. I threw a bucket of sea-water over it, and the gas started flowing out again, but not for long. I threw a few more bucketsful over it, but I really needed to navigate - I was sailing the boat down channels between reefs, and I needed to pay attention to that. I also needed to be able to start the engine if the channel forced me directly into the wind. I didn't want to start the engine with the air full of propane. But I did want rid of the propane before I got to harbour. Discharging it in a possibly crowded anchorage wouldn't be good. One solution:

That got it fizzing. The sea warmed the bottle enough to stop ice building up as gas escaped. :)

Once I'd anchored, I rowed to the shore with my big and now empty gas bottle. I assumed I'd need to find a new gas valve for the bottle first, and then go to the gas filling station. I came across a hardware store, and having told the proprietor of my predicament, I was told I needed to take a taxi quick to the gas filling station. It was Saturday (I never keep track) and the place closes at noon till Monday. It was 11:30 am. I was hoping to sail for the Azores on Sunday, if the weather was kind. There being no taxis obvious, the proprietor collared a fellow in his shop and instructed him to take me to the filling station, a couple of miles away, and so we were off.

Gas bottle valves must fail often, because it was standard practise at the filling station to fit a working second-hand one onto a bottle for a tip. $5 seemed sufficient. Then back to the boat, attach the bottle, and finally, a cup of coffee at lunch-time.

After breakfast/lunch, a mad run around town buying all the supplies I need for a trans-Atlantic voyage, because tomorrow is Sunday, and perhaps nothing will be available. And then, at the end of the day, I find a wifi connection, check the weather, and realise I have to stay put. The forecast has changed. Now I have to start eking out my gas, carefully preserve my new perishables and be ready to go when the wind god interpreters suggest the omens are good.

Boats eh? 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Fowl Cay to Nassau

We stopped by Highbourne Cay, as it was about halfway to Nassau and according to the guide, it had a shop. A squall on the way in livens things up. We were hitting 9-10 knots when we were easily passed by Tom doing 20 knots (he later admitted it was only 19.9). We were too busy reducing sail and avoiding reefs and getting wet for pictures. We didn't bother with the shop, Tom informing us that a head of lettuce there would cost $8. We didn't even launch the dinghy. Tom and Judy called us over to give us some of their provisions, so I combined what they had with what we had and called it a curry which we all mostly enjoyed. The chillies from I'd bought from a stall in Georgetown were a little hotter than anticipated.

Nassau is a city of 250,000 and covers the eastern half on New Providence Island. It's where everyone goes by default, but I didn't fancy any urban dystopia after all the quiet and gentle places we'd been recently, especially as there are many reports that Nassau is the murder and robbery capital of the Caribbean. I appreciate my chances of being murdered here are statistically low, but it makes for an unpleasant atmosphere I find. I was not charmed by St Lucia, and was not entirely surprised when a man was murdered on the yacht next door. On the whole, as a friend put it, 'less murdery' places are preferable. So we sailed into Jaws Beach, at the western end of the island, Triad and Scrumpy arriving at the same time on account of a head start, and a decent turn of downwind speed for Scrumpy.

It made it difficult to pull in the barracuda.

But at least we had something to offer Tom and Judy in return for their kindness on this route.

The bay is a gated community of small hotels and plush resorts with very many security guards, and the afternoon breeze wafted the piped music across the bay, that strange ponderous and deliberate continuous piano solo you normally only hear in lifts. We weren't allowed on the beach. Fortunately, there's a small public jetty too, and just beyond that, a nature reserve with walks through the woodland.

The nature reserve had its gates locked. By the gates a couple were scouring the ground, as if they'd lost something. They'd had their car robbed there the day before, and they'd returned to look for clues or discarded possessions.

There was an easy way round the gate, and I walked a couple of miles through the woods. The flora is clearly Floridian, but there was a great lack of turtles, snakes, lizards and birds that I'd expect in such an environment. On the whole walk, I saw a 2" lizard and a couple of birds. At a beach along the way:

An authority I've never heard of is declining to accept responsibility for acts of God and fellow beach goers. Important too, because it is red. People in offices eh? What they dream up!

Access to the preserved slave houses was denied. I didn't bother climbing over. The photograph seems apposite and sufficient.

On the way out I was approached by a uniformed woman. I'm inclined to avoid uniformed people, but the woman was making great efforts to get to me, possibly hampered by an excess of high fructose corn syrup, and it seemed rude to run, or just walk away. I waited and was told I ought to have paid someone somewhere $5 to be here, and I ought to have a bond. I'd expected an American flat-voweled accent, and was quite confused as to what sort of bond I should get for $5. But her accent was more plummy than a Brit's, and it was a band I ought to have had, tattooed apparently on my wrist. But I'd met no-one to pay anything to, and it seemed pointless getting a tattoo to leave. Not that I'd seen anything worth paying for.

I walked back to the boat along a road, and leaving the road for the beach, found some wildlife at last.

And at the beach, an osprey pulled a pipe fish from the water.

and sat on a low in a tree over the sand, eating the thing as it writhed hanging below a branch.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Staniel Cay to Fowl Cay

Staniel Cay is one of those places where the big posh boats go.

This kind of thing, which needs to anchor so far offshore, further boats are needed to get crew and guests ashore and back.

And this kind of thing, which is towing a fishing boat with a 70hp engine on the back, as well as carrying a dinghy at the back and another dinghy and a jet-ski on the top floor.

Some are almost as big as the islands they park beside. This one has set up a volley ball court, three tents, some tables and chairs with parasols. There's nothing else on the island.

So now you know, if you didn't before, where your tax evasion money goes, your obscene bonuses, your unearned trust funds and your unearned inheritances. Sponsoring private volleyball matches on private islands. I doubt very much that these people know or care about the price of vegetables.

This is another private island - Fowl Cay, where we are now anchored.

You weren't supposed to snort any until after you'd landed!

Oh well, who needs drugs in a place like this?

This might be our last dive spot in the Bahamas, before the crew fly off to S America, and I sail back across the Atlantic. What we wanted was some food, some nice diving, and well, I've always had a secret wish for super powers. Would be handy wouldn't it, before a 3,000 mile solo voyage?

I found the food.

And Tom from Triad tried to catch it with his lobster noose, a sort of underwater lasso.

Sounds crazy but

And there was a bit of coral about, and some pretty fish, and some caves on Rocky Dundas - a tiny island a short row away.

Rocky Dundas

And in those caves inside Dundas, on our last dive on our last trip in the Bahamas, before our next big challenge, well, I finally got my super powers.

Of course, Sif wanted her own powers.

After that, we sealed the cave entrance so that no-one else could get in and steal the secret of our powers, leaving just a small gap for our nemesis in case we turn evil. Tom pointed out that today was Easter Sunday, and Jesus was beamed up to heaven from a cave on this day, but it's not those kind of powers we got Tom.