Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Martinique to Panama Stormy Seas

Dear Phyl,
We are now anchored off the Balboa Yacht Club and expect to leave here in two days time for the Galapagos Islands, which are about 1000 miles southwest from here. I wrote from Martinique to say that we hoped to make a quick passage to Colon. This was not to be. We had our roughest passage yet, on this trip.

Leaving Fort de France at about 4.30 in the afternoon with a fresh breeze, we made good time for six days, bowling along before winds of from force 3 to 5.

The sixth night found us off the coast of Aruba where we spent an anxious few hours trying to identify the lights. The following day, we crossed the gulf of Maracaibo with the wind gradually increasing in strength and us gradually reefing down to match it. By nightfall, we were off Point Gallinas, with the wind right behind us and gusting at Force 8.

All that night we lay to with no sail, taking the sea’s on our starboard quarter and hoping for better weather in the morning. No such luck. In the next six days we were only able to put up sail twice and then only the small red jib of 40 sq ft for a few hours each time. The rest of the time we spent battened down below, trying to read or sleep, with the seas getting larger and longer and the wind whining over us.

Occasionally a sea would break over us, and spray would find its way in through the louvres in the washboards. Almost everything in the boat became moist with either spray or condensation we could feel ourselves getting dirtier and dirtier without being able to do a thing about it. With the violent rolling of the boat, every movement became an extreme effort. Meals were limited to porridge for breakfast and stew for tea, this needing only one saucepan. Baking bread was out. Even tea and coffee making required three hands. It was impossible to put anything down without it falling over.

Using the head became an acrobatical feat. The self draining cockpit took care of most of the spray which came over our stern, but a certain amount, inevitably found its way through the sides of the locker lids into the bilge. Periodically I would clamber out in my safety harness to pump the bilge and get some fresh air. I soon found from experience that it was easier to strip off to do this rather than take off wet clothes every time I came back in. Sitting on the bridge deck with my back to the washboards and my hands stretched out, gripping the combing each side I would watch the seas rolling down on us from astern.

By the 5th day, these had built up to massive proportions. The Yacht would often be in a trough and a huge sea would bear down on us, increasing in size until it loomed, seemingly, mast high, right over us, threatening to roll us end over end. Then with hissing of water it would lift our transom and surge under us leaving the shuddering Stella to wait for the next one. During all this, I would be hanging on for dear life and cowering down to lessen the blow of the wall of water that I was expecting to pour down on me. I came to realize that these large waves seldom came aboard us. The ones that caused us most trouble were the medium size ones that appeared to rise up from nowhere and hit us at an angle. These would slop into the cockpit through the cracks in the hatch and washboards. One of these, catching us right on the beam, fell, square on our starboard dodger and flattened two stanchions back onto our coach roof.

At the end of these 6 days, our morale was at its lowest, at one point I had gashed the ball of my foot and had quite a job to stop it bleeding. Although not really frightened, we were both mentally and physically worn out with the movement and the noise. (Note from Penny:- Every time Dad went outside to pump the bilge, I was really scared that he would get washed overboard and I would be left alone on the boat with no hope of rescuing him) We were later to learn that Pierre in ‘Kantredi’ was in the same storm as us and his boat did a complete roll. He managed to limp into the port of Colon under a jury rig looking very much the worse for wear, eyes completely bloodshot.

We had not the slightest idea of our position, within 50 or 60 miles. At a guess we had drifted at a rate of about 1 ½ knots, (which turned out to be fairly accurate) but whether we had gone straight downwind or to the north or south we did not know. The whole of that time, I had a horrible sinking feeling about piling up on the shore at Colon.

On the evening of the 6th day the wind began to ease but the sea was, of course, much slower to go down. In the morning we were able to put up our working jib and later on our genoa was goose winged. By noon the clouds had started to clear and we took a sight, followed by another three hours later. From the position these gave us we had drifted 230 miles in the 6 days. It was lucky for us that the wind had been in the right direction for us (South East by East) and had kept us off the coast.

On the 13th day, we put out a fishing line and had a bite and started to pull it in. Suddenly there was a terrific tug on it and it went slack. This was to happen to us quite a few times on the rest of our trip and we could only conclude that a shark had taken the fish we had caught.

On the afternoon of the 15th day we sailed into the harbour at Colon and anchored off pier 9 as directed in the Eric Hiscock book. An immigration officer came aboard and spent nearly an hour with us, filling out various forms, one with six carbon copies, the last two of which were indecipherable. When we asked what happened to all this fiction we were told that it went into the files and was promptly forgotten.

After the free and easy way in which we had entered all the previous ports we had been in, we were not very impressed by the American brand of freedom. We couldn’t help wondering if Russia could be much worse. Picture, if you can, Stella Mira anchored 300 yards from the Panama Yacht Club. Me, having to row, against a strong wind and sea, in a rubber dinghy 600yds to the docks (outboards being prohibited without a special license, for which a test is required) where I must obtain 3 copies of a form and then walk ½ a mile to the yacht club, get them signed, walk back to the docks, hand in one at the gate and take one to the port captain, then row back to my boat, before proceeding to anchor off the yacht club.

The Americans we met were individually, very nice people, and were very kind and helpful to us but the canal company seems to have a form for everything.

We were almost surprised to find that when we went to use their toilets, we only needed blank forms!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Letter from Sim St Lucia to Martinique

Stella anchored at Castries, St Lucia
In the morning, just as we finished breakfast a dinghy arrived and we were warmly greeted by a chap we had met in Barbados, Davey Keefe, he had been crew on a large boat called Artemis, of which his brother was skipper. He was now skippering his brother’s own boat “Sirius”, a gaff ketch which his brother had sailed out three years previously, and Davey was now fitting out intending to day charter. We mentioned that we were very hard up, and also that we wanted our boat slipped. He invited us to come and anchor near him and said that if Penny would cook us all a good meal he would provide the food. It seems he had been living on baked beans and the like for the last three weeks. We all straightaway went into town and bought the makings of a good meal and then while he motored back we prepared to follow.

Before we could leave, we met the people from the Nicholson who told us that they had been lucky enough to get booked in this very day to go up on the local slip (due to a cancellation), and the price quoted seemed a reasonable one. The outcome of all this, was that over a slap up meal that evening, we told our host, Davey, that we intended to inquire about slipping here in Castries, and about our engine trouble. It turned out that he was an engineer by trade and had the facilities to remetal our bearings. We came to an arrangement that he would provide the food if Penny cooked for the three of us, whilst I helped him refit ‘Sirius’, in exchange for which he would help us with our engine. The earliest booking I could get for the slip was three weeks ahead but the price would be even less that I had hoped for.

In practice, everything worked out very well. Stella Mira was on the slip for two days during which time I antifouled the bottom, Davey and I took out the engine and the shaft and Davey remetalled the bearings and checked over the engine. Sirius is now sailing and hopes to charter, shortly.

We came to know and to like Davey immensely in this short time. He is a short, dapper chap, with a beard, and has a great sense of humour and is fun to be with. He comes from Dorset and worked in Canada for two years, then decided that life was too short to be wasted so packed up his job, bought an old car and as he puts it, bummed his way through Canada and the U.S., climbing mountains, which is his other hobby. He is 29. We were all three very moved when it came to parting time. Whilst at St Lucia we met several other interesting people including Grace Gantor, of whom he had heard even before we left the Canaries.

Grace runs a chandlery business and is a very knowledgeable person about the islands and yachts that have visited them. In character, she reminds me very much of Minnie (Sim's mother). We went to a small party at her bungalow to celebrate the roof going on. Penny got drunker than she has ever been before but didn’t show it until she got up to leave, Davey was nearly as bad. Imagine us going to Sirius in an outboard dinghy with the intention of making coffee, at 3 am. Davey steering an erratic course in and out of the boats in the harbour, reaching Sirius and Penny half on Sirius and half in the dinghy incapable of helping herself.

Afterwards, me making hot drinks for both of them, neither of them capable of holding them, and then Penny getting hysterical and crying “Take me home, Dad. I’m so ashamed, take me home”. Then bundling her up on deck again, dropping her bodily into the rubber dinghy, rowing back to Stella, hoisting her on board and putting her to bed. What a life!

Sirius had an initial tryout, sailing about 10 miles up the coast of St Lucia, so we accompanied her in the Stella and sailed rings around her. When we got there we went on board Sirius and had a bit of a picnic.

On another day all the visiting yachts in the harbour (about 10) along with local dignatories were invited to an evening on board a visiting Canadian warship. We were grandly announced as "Captain Simpkins and his daughter", having never been called captain before I felt rather embarrassed. Roscops, who we had met at Teneriffe were also there.

From Castries to Fort De France, Martinique is around 40 miles. For this trip we motored for the first two miles in a flat calm. A breeze then came down on us from our starboard quarter, and soon got itself up to a pleasant force 4. We ran before this under main and genoa, enjoying the best sail we had had for ages. With a clean bottom, the boat was a pleasure to handle. By 3 pm we were in Martinique, the anchor was down and the sails were stowed.
Whilst waiting for pratique we identified ‘Mistral’, belonging to Julio, a Spanish chap we had been friendly with in Las Palmas (he sailed with us in the race to Fuertoventura) and whom we had last seen at Barbados, and also 'Kantreidi' sailed by Pierre, a Swiss we had also met in Las Palmas.

Both are bound for Panama and the Pacific, so we shall probably see them again, there. They are both here fitting out and we will all leave within a few days of each other, so we shall perhaps make a race of it. Our three boats are all about the same size.

With luck, we should all be going through the canal at the same time, together with the Flemings on ‘She’ and the Hiscocks on ‘Wanderer IV’.

It is 1200 miles to Christobal Colon, give or take a few, and according to the chart there is a favourable current of two knots, so with luck we could be there in twelve days. When we get past Panama we should make better time, as there are fewer places to stop at.

Our money is dwindling down, but we estimate that we have enough food on board for nearly 150 days by which time we hope to be home and dry (touch wood).

There are lots of things I would like to ask you but by the time I get the answers I would have forgotten the questions. Anyway I know that when our mail does catch up with us, you will have told us all the news.

I hope you are all well and that you will forgive me for causing so much trouble.
Goodbye for now,
All my love,

Monday, June 23, 2008

Barbados to Martinique part 2 Grenadines to St Lucia

Pettit St Vincent doesn’t have any water supply but they have built a desalination plant and sell water to us by the gallon. The plant has round pans with solid floors and stone walls around the perimeter. These walls are built of double brick with a space inbetween and a framework over the top with a plastic covering. They pump seawater into the pans, the water vaporizes up to the plastic in the heat, and then trickles down the sides into the cavity between the bricks and is then collected.

There was a nice little harbour to moor in and we picked up a rubber dinghy here which Encantada had promised us in Grenada. We had had no dinghy since ours was stolen in Las Palmas. This is a much bigger dinghy, intended to be used with an outboard motor and we are able to use the oars from our old dinghy with it although it was a lot harder to row than our old one.

From this retreat we went on past Tobago Cays and stopped the night at Canouan before going on to Bequaia. We didn’t feel very welcome in the township there and they didn’t have anything to sell us. (at this time there was a lot of poverty here, although it now boasts luxury resorts).

Bequaia is the island I had most wanted to visit, having read so much about it, at home.

I was not disappointed, except in the weather. Bad weather and contrary winds have dogged us all the way up and with our engine almost useless we had found it very tiring and determined to get our bearings done as soon as possible. Most of the boats out here motor sail 75% of the time when coming up the islands. At Bequaia we were welcomed by the man and wife crew of ‘Boofer’, a 20ft Felicity, they had packed in their jobs in Essex and shipped ‘Boofer’ out in a Geest boat (Banana boat), intending to cruise out here for 6 months.

They were in their late twenties and said they weren’t prepared to wait until they were too old to enjoy a trip like this. He worked for Plesseys and said that if they wouldn’t take him back, someone else would.

Another pal we made here was a chap with a 26ft Macwester, who had come here 7 years ago and liked it so much that he had stayed on, taking an occasional cruise up and down the islands. His name was Jack Lindsay, and we found out afterwards that he had written 3 books. He was about 50. He claimed that he could live comfortably, here, by making one pair of earrings a day, which the local handicraft shop sold to tourists for him. He had started this as a hobby, making them from shells and driftwood he found on the beaches. Some of them were really original. When we left, he gave Penny a pair.

Whilst at Bequaia, Susan and Eric Hiscock arrived. Not wishing to presume on our indirect contact through Harold Hayles, we did not venture to call on them. It gave our morale quite a boost however when Eric rowed over and invited us on board for tea. We were shown over Wanderer and had a long chat.

From Bequaia to St Vincent is about 20 miles. As we left the harbour the sun was shining and we were able to lay our course for the distance St Vincent hills. Within 20 minutes the sea was shrouded in mist and driving rain and neither St. Vincent nor Bequaia behind us was visible. The wind was Force 6 and gusting 7. We were both wet through and very worried. Contrary to all our previous island sailing, the wind was from the South West and the harbour we were making for was completely exposed from this direction. We could imagine ourselves sailing up the main street to the supermarket with a force 7 wind and 8 ft seas behind us: Looking at the chart, we decided to go east of the town behind the headland and hope that we could find shelter there.

When the headland loomed up out of the mist we eased off to the east, but nearer the coast and not liking the look of it we ran down parallel to it hoping to find shelter behind a small island (Young’s Island). Before we reached this, however, the storm abated as suddenly as it had started and by the time we had anchored the sun was shining as if it had never been obscured. There were several yachts here, lying off a small pier which belonged to the local aquatic club.

A Nicholson 32 (Jylder) we had met previously at Grenada, Carriacou and Bequaia, exchanged paperbacks with us. We both sailed for St Lucia, leaving in the early morning. With very light, fluky winds, late afternoon found us still in the lee of St Vincent. The Nicholson, with a sound engine in her had left us far behind and obviously intended to keep going. Coming out from the lee of the island into the open sea we found that the wind came strongly from the N.E with a reasonably heavy sea. Not wishing to spend the night battering into this we ran back into the lee of the island and anchored for the night. In the first light, off we went again.

The whole of this day we spent tacking against a N.E wind, but with no engine, our bottom foul, and the tidal stream pushing us west at about 2 knots we made no apparent impression on the distance to be covered. It took us 26 hours to get into the lee of the Pitons (hills on the south of the island) and another 9 to get to Castries. Here we checked in with the port authorities and then dashed ashore to get some bread and grapefruit, just as the shops were closing. We then both slept like logs for 12 hours.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Barbados to Martinique - part 1 Grenada

Grenada to British Yacht Stella Mira
Martinique C/O H.B.M Consul
Society Islands
Pacific Ocean.

Dear Phyl,
The above address is the only one at which we are likely to be sure of getting mail from you.

We have had no mail since you wrote to Barbados. It seems unlikely that we shall have time to go up to Nicholson’s at Antigua, especially as there may not be anything for us, even if we did. Penny will write them and have anything sent to us at Balboa, which place we hope to be in about 14 days (God willing)

As you will have gathered from the postmark we are now at Martinique, where we have called to change our gas cylinders before leaving for Panama. This is the only place which does camping gas. For the last few weeks we have had to manage with paraffin for cooking and lighting. My last letter put you in the picture as far as Barbados, so I will go on from there.

We left Barbados a week before Christmas to go to Grenada. This is called the Nutmeg Island and is the principle source of this spice. It took us about 30 hours of downwind sailing and as we rounded the headland to approach the harbour we were hit by one of its famous white squalls. For a ¼ of an hour we were deluged, visibility through the really stinging rain (we had only our swim suits on) was only 25 yards and the wind heeling us to the cockpit combing, forced us to let fly our sheets every two or three minutes. It soon abated, and we were then able to pass through the entrance into the lagoon, where we dropped anchor alongside ‘She’ which had arrived there several days before. Sheila and Bob Fleming told us that they had arranged to go up on the slip on Christmas day to antifoul.

The harbour was full of charter boats, mostly 40 to 50 feet long, earning fabulous money, chartering to rich Americans, and in consequence, the fees for hauling out, etc were far beyond our humble pockets, so having heard that a yard called ‘Grants’ in Martinique was reasonable, we decided to wait till we got there. We met a lot of old friends and made a lot of new ones among the charter and other boats moored in Granada. The yacht club made us welcome, and although we could not afford meals there we were able to use the showers and read back numbers of yachting magazines we had missed whilst drinking iced cokes.

The charter boat crews had bought a live pig and proposed to kill and barbeque it for Christmas dinner at the Patio Club adjoining the mooring stages. We were invited to participate in this and to go to several parties. One party, on a boat called ‘Zelina’ was a continuous one, from Christmas Eve to New Year, guests knocking off to sleep at irregular intervals.

Whilst in Grenada, we went to the local cinema, which showed mostly Italian made westerns, and James Bond type films, real ham, but very funny. It was a bit scary walking at night there, there seems to be a fair bit of violence among the locals with a real risk of mugging so we only went in a large group.

‘Sugar Creek’, a boat I have previously mentioned had arrived, and although not much bigger than ‘Stella Mira’, had made an agreement with a local hotel, and was taking out four or five guests at a time on day charter, at 15 U.S dollars a head. They intended to do this for the entire season, and then with the proceeds buy a plot of land and build a bungalow, which they will furnish and let through an agent to American tourists. Then they will go on through into the Pacific, and continue cruising with an assured income.

As usual, we stayed longer that we had intended in Grenada. We make so many friends and then the longer we stay, the harder it is to part from them. Each day we say “We must go tomorrow” but something always seems to crop up to stop us. Then someone says “You must come and see this or that, you may never get a chance to see it again” and so time flies.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Letter Mid Atlantic from Penny

‘Stella Mira’
500 miles out in the Atlantic
Nov 6th

Dear Mum,

You are at long last getting a letter from me, but then you know how I hate writing letters. I’m able to do so at the moment because there’s nothing else to do. We’ve run out of books and the boat isn’t moving very fast. We’ve been at sea for 11 days now and we haven’t had good weather, we keep getting 2’s & 3’s instead of the 4 & 5’s we want. However we’ve managed to get the self steering gear to work (touch wood) so we don’t have to helm the boat at all. The only trouble is that it comes undone every few days and dad has to climb on the back and reset it.

We aren’t doing too badly for food at the moment, but some of the stuff we’ve got we just can’t face; we’re going to try and swap some at Barbados. Surely someone likes freeze-dried peas, dried potatoes and tinned stewed steak or corned beef. Here’s last week’s menu, see what you think of it.

Sun Minced Beef & onion, mashed potato, tinned carrots and tinned oranges
Mon Spaghetti and sausages (one pot meal cos the weather was bad) and tinned grapefruit
Tues Corn Beef omelette & chips (that’s the only way we can eat corn beef) & banana custard
Wed Stewed steak pie, boiled potatoes & surprise beans (that’s the only way we can eat stewed steak too) & pears (ugh they make me want to heave)
Thurs Chicken omelette & chips, jam tart and custard
Fri Pasties & chips & instant whip (lemon flavoured which in dad’s words ‘tasted like shit’ I couldn’t eat it)
Sat Roast Beef, mashed potato, carrots tinned & Royal Pudding

The only other foods we like are hamburgers and salmon, but we’re waiting for the cress to grow to eat that. (The salmon I mean). Unfortunately we’ve run out of ordinary potatoes and we’ve only got the dried stuff left. I tried to make croquettes with it yesterday but the potato just evaporated away in the hot fat. It was quite funny really. However you can fry it if you don’t use much fat. By the way please keep this letter and if I ever complain about the food you give me, just show it to me and I’ll shut up.

We don’t know when we’ll arrive in Barbados, at the rate we’re going, not for another 40 days. I certainly hope we arrive there before my birthday; I don’t want to finish my teenage years at sea. The blasted wind’s just changed direction again but it’s grown in force so that’s alright.

By the way do they sell smoky bacon crisps in Australia? And grapefruit? They didn’t in Las Palmas. What I miss most is roast potatoes, nice crispy ones.

We make bread nearly every day with yeast and it tastes alright but it’s always a white colour, we don’t have the egg to spare to make it brown. The pies don’t brown very much either but they taste alright and that’s all that matters. Do you know anyone who’d like about 30 packets of Vitawheats? We’re going to try and swap that in Barbados too as now we cook bread we don’t eat it.

Mr Thomas (Colonel Bayldon, everyone calls him Mr Thomas in the yacht club in Las Palmas) gave us a stem of bananas as a parting gift when we left Las Palmas. Unfortunately they all ripened before we left Gomera and we couldn’t keep up with eating them (we even had banana fritters for breakfast) and had to give some away. They’ve all gone now; all we’ve got now is a few apples and a few raw carrots. Funny all I seem to think about is food I’ve got it on the brain.

It will be wonderful when we reach Barbados to go in a shop and ask for what you want in English. I can understand Spanish very well and speak it reasonably well; the only trouble is that nobody understands my accent. I go into a shop and say something like “Yo quero (I want) ½ kilo de Gallieta Popular (biscuits)” and they look at me quite blankly, eventually I point it out and they say “Oh Gallieta Popular” exactly the same way as I did. Oh well never mind! We shan’t be going anywhere they speak Spanish again. The only trouble is we might go somewhere where they speak French and when I try to speak it all that comes out is Spanish. Still perhaps my French will come back when I have to speak it.

Same Day, 3 hrs later.
We’ve just had a bath in the cockpit, we filled it up with sea water, and I got in first, sat down and washed myself with washing-up liquid and afterwards sponged myself down with fresh water. Dad threatened to take a photograph of me when I was sat there but luckily he didn’t. When I finished he got in and had his bath and to quote him ‘Bath night at the Ritz’. If it ever rains we shall stand out in the cockpit and have a shower but unfortunately so far it hasn’t rained hard enough. Please excuse the wonky writing but it’s where the boat keeps rolling.

We’ve arrived Sun 24th Nov. Dad will write full details of journey shortly, we’ll post this and pick up the mail at the same time.

Love Penny.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Crossing the Atlantic continued (told by Sim)

Running before the wind

The next day the wind increased to 5, but not for long.

Until Saturday November 16th the average wind was below force 4. Even so we estimated that we were putting about 100 miles a day behind us. By now we had settled into a daily routine. I would awaken and tune the radio to the British Overseas Services to check my watch by the time signal, and then listen to the news. Then Penny would get breakfast, usually Quaker oats then bread or Vitawheats with jam or marmite. I would wash up and Penny wipe, after which it would be time to take a morning sight. We would then do maintenance work and odd jobs until it was time for the noon sight.

By this time it would be sweltering, and after taking the sight we would have a bath to cool off. To do this, we would plug the cockpit drains and half fill it with sea water. Then we would take it in turn to bath, using detergent instead of soap. To rinse, we would haul up buckets of sea water and pour over ourselves. On paper this all sounds easy, but you must bear in mind that running before the wind, the boat continually rolls, from up to 30 degrees one side to 30 degrees the other, but not necessarily evenly. It is impossible to put anything down without it sliding from one side to the other, and although one gets used to it, it is very tiring.

Penny taking a bath

After our bath we would take the afternoon sight and work out our position. Our usual practice was for me to take the sights and for Penny to work them out. In high seas it is not easy to “shoot” the sun from a small boat. The sun does not stay in the same relative position for more than a few seconds at a time, and swell continuously rises to obscure the horizon.

Concentrating on simple addition and subtraction is equally difficult and makes one’s head dizzy. On a firm platform, both tasks would be simple. At sea, it amazes me, how we get the accuracy, we do. Of course, to find a big island like Barbados is much easier than it will be to find a low atoll in the Pacific, but our technique is improving all the time. Anyway, it’s not the mystery it seems to be, to the beginner.

We find two meals a day quite sufficient. After taking the sight, I peel the spuds, then we have our evening meal, and by the time we have cleared up, it’s nearly dark. Penny nags me into playing cards for half an hour or so most evenings, but this soon gives me a headache. At 9.30pm or so we usually have a hot drink and then turn in. Even when there is no moon the stars give a reasonable light, and it is a peculiar sensation to lie in bed and watch the vane moving the tiller backwards and forwards. One gets no sensation that the boat is moving forward, only the eternal rolling from side to side.

Living as we do, in an area roughly 6ft by 16ft, we have no secrets from each other. I feel like a man with a season ticket to the Follies Bergere, but prohibited from going backstage. From a man’s point of view, a trip like this, would make an ideal honeymoon. Women, except for a few hardy spirits, would prefer the bright lights, I expect. Once one has confidence in the boat and in one’s ability to handle it, one’s fears recede. Our most worrying times are when we are nearest land. When you are only a few miles from land and an onshore blow is threatening the mid ocean, can seem a haven.

On Saturday the 16th, we went to bed with a force 5 wind behind us. We lay in bed, and listened to the regular swish of water every time we surged forward on the top of a sea. We were indeed being rocked in the cradle of the deep. Later, in my half sleep, I became gradually conscious that the periodic swishing, had turned to a constant roar. I became fully awake, with a start, and dived for the hatch. The bow wave was foaming out phosphorescently on each side and our wake literally shone behind us into the distant night.

The boat was sailing magnificently, as fast as I could ever hope to sail her. I thought of the 505’s at Lyme, planning at their fastest, and felt the same elation that I got from watching them, but with an additional sense of power, as well as the speed, involved now. The rear shrouds and the backstay were so taut, that they were humming in the wind. This was what we came for. Had we been on a day sail at home, I would have let her rip, and hang the consequences. But here, the risk was too great. With over 1000 miles to the nearest land, or perhaps, steamship, for that matter, we could not afford to lose our mast. I knew too, that this wind would soon build up much heavier seas, and that I must reef whilst I still could.

Yelling to Penny to come up and stand by to release the sheets, I scrabbled into my safety harness, and clipped my way forward, from hold to hold. The working jib, (100sq ft) was boomed out to port, but not clipped into the forestay. As Penny eased off the sheet, the boom swung toward the bow until I could reach forward to detach the boom clip from the sail. Then, after fastening the boom end inboard, I released the halyard, slowly smothering the wildly flapping sail at the same time. The effect was almost magical. We had lost over 1/3 of our sail area, and although the boat was still traveling fast, the tension had gone and the movement eased. I felt that unless the wind increased considerably, we were safe enough like this.

Penny went below, but I stayed up for half an hour, until I was satisfied that there was no more danger. This was the first time we had touched the foresails since we had put them up, nearly 1000 miles before. The following day the wind had eased a little, but the seas had built up a lot. I spent sometime, checking over the foresail, for chafe, and renewing the lashings which had worn through on the sail hanks. In the evening we were able to put the sail back up. We now went back to force 3 for two days. On Monday the 18th, at 6pm, I rose from my seat in the forecastle, put my head up through the hatch, and looked aft. Penny, who was preparing to cook our dinner, (kippers) thought I was joking, when I said “There a ship right behind us”.

At 7.30 pm we had just finished our meal, which we had elected to have in the cockpit when the motor vessel ‘ULYSSES’ of Amsterdam, pulled across our stern and went past at a distance of 150 yards on our port side. We were not the only people in the world after all. We waved. They waved back. Then they pulled away from us and gradually diminished in size.

On the following day the trade winds gave us a good kick up the pants, and our daily runs increased. Our log showed around the 112 mark each day, but our sights gave us considerably more, so we were now getting a fair amount of help from the north equatorial current.

The wind stayed with us for the next three days. On working out our sights at 7pm on Saturday November 23rd, we found that we had done 147 miles in the previous 24 hours and the distance to Barbados was only 59 miles. At this rate we would follow our usual pattern and arrive in harbour during darkness. As we felt we should not risk hitting land in the dark, we decided that we would continue as we were for another 35 miles, during which we would sleep, and thereafter lighten sail and keep watches. Now came the 64 dollar question. Had our navigation been accurate?

I found I was unable to do more than doze, fitfully, and every half hour or so, pushed my head up to look around. At 1 am I though I saw a lightening in the sky on the horizon ahead, but could not be sure. At 1.30 when I had looked again, the glow seemed brighter. At 2am I was sure. I awakened Penny, and after a short discussion went forward and took down the jib. Penny went back to bed and I sat in the cockpit trying to estimate how far away the glow was. It is difficult to express how elated I was, that after 3000 miles we hit the nail right on the head.

In another hour I could count the flashes and identify the light. After a while other lights came over the horizon. I called Penny to take over, and went below for my spell. It seemed only minutes I had slept, when she called me. Barbados was now outlined against the sky and we could hear the surf. Easing round to port we ran down parallel to the coast. In a short while the sky began to lighten in the east. The sea subsided as we slowly came round into the lee of the island, and soon we had to put up the mainsail and were reaching northwest. As the coast came nearer we made out the brilliant green of the vegetation above the yellow sandy beach. It was wonderful to sail with the wind on our beam, in a flat sea, heeling to the breeze, instead of rolling as we had done for the last 4 weeks. At 7am we had rounded the buoy at the southern extremity of Carlisle Bay, and were eagerly scanning the 30 or so yachts moored in front of us. Penny said that she thought that she could recognize ‘SHE’ so we tacked up in that direction.

It was ‘SHE’ and to our surprise, she still had her quarantine flag up. Sailing past her we threw our anchor over and dropped back to lie 20 feet off on her starboard beam. As we lowered sail, Sheila and Bob came on deck and we exchanged greetings and discussed our respective passages. They had arrived late the previous evening.

By 10am, both boats had cleared quarantine, and then we all went ashore. As it was Sunday we could not go shopping, and in any case we had no local currency, so we went to the Cruising Club, where we were made welcome.

Crossing the Atlantic (told by Sim)

3 hours after leaving Gomera and tacking into a very light wind, we had made little progress and wishing to get well away from land before dark, we took down the sails to stop them slatting and started the engine. Darkness found us off the bottom end of the island, with no wind, but storm clouds and lightning on the horizon to the Northwest. Our course should have taken us to the west to round the top of the island of Hiero 25 miles away, but as the storm gradually drew down on us and the wind and seas increased, the best course we could make was SSW, so it seemed more prudent to run before the storm rather than risk hitting Hiero in the dark. The wind was now force 7 or more, the north western sky was veined with continuous forks of lightning, which though impressive to watch, also conveyed to us a feeling of our own puniness.

When we were far enough south to be sure of missing Hiero, we cut the engine and we began to drift before the seas, steering down wind but with a westerly slant. I shortly engaged the steering vane, out of curiosity to see if it would make my manual steering lighter. We had by this time almost given up hope of ever getting it to work, but before leaving Gomera I had stripped it down, once more, and altered the ratio of pull on the tiller. Now I found that if I let go of the tiller for any reason, we did not immediately go off course. I began to leave it for longer and longer periods, and found that though we wandered, we never broached to. As you can imagine, I felt like a dog with two tails. In half an hour I had gained sufficient confidence in it to go below (Penny was already in her bunk, trying to sleep).

At longer and longer intervals I popped my head up through the hatch, and always finding all well, I finally took off my safety harness and laid down. Being by now dead tired, I was soon asleep.

In the morning we awoke to find that the wind had dropped almost away, though the seas were still high. We hoisted our main and genoa and set off to the west. We could dimly see the outline of Hiero through the haze in the northwest. By 9 am the wind had increased to force 4, and in the next 4 hours we gradually took in sail to ease the boat, until by 1pm we were down to about a third of our main only. With the wind Southwest by West, we tacked south, looking for the trade wind belt. After 5 hrs of very heavy wet going it started to ease off, and by 7pm we were back to a force 3 from Northwest. For 3 days we sneaked our way Southwest. The self steering gear was still working, and although we weaved on each side of our course like a drunk, we did not have to handle the tiller at all.

The main shipping routes did not pass this way, and we had not seen a vessel since leaving Gomera, so we thought it safe to sleep comfortably at nights just getting up three or four times to see that we were still on course. On the Friday, the trades came in with a rush (or so we thought). Over the weekend we poured along before an East Northeast wind, heading directly toward Barbados, running with our genoa boomed out on one side, our foresail the other. On the Monday our observations put us 700 miles SW of Gomera, but by the evening the breeze had left us and for the next 6 days the most we could raise was force 2. In the worst of this period we did only 60 miles in 60 hours. By the Saturday we had begun to think in terms of a 60 day passage. On Sunday the wind came back at 3 to 4.

Sea birds were the only living creatures we had seen since leaving harbour. No sharks, no pilot fish. Not even a flying fish. On the Monday evening, about 5pm (GMT), on scanning the horizon I saw what appeared to be a white wave top, ahead. It seemed to stay in the same place longer than it should. When the boat lifted on a larger swell than usual I realized that I was looking at a sail, hull down. I shouted to Penny, who was preparing dinner. She rushed out, and with her younger eyes confirmed this. No boat had passed us, so we knew we must be gaining on it. We had 3 hours of daylight left and then we might lose it forever in the darkness. Quickly we raised the mainsail to give us extra push.

It seemed years before we could make out the hull. We thought it was probably one of the boats we had met in the Canaries, and as we drew nearer debated as to which one it could be, and what nationality. At 7.30pm we were almost within hailing distance, I started to take down the main, in case we should pass her too quickly. She was only a small boat, running under twin jibs. The crew looked to be one man and one women. As we drew level, our main dropped with a rush and we slowed down to sail level with them. I was engulfed in masses of canvas when I heard a voice say, “Tell your husband to turn round”. I turned, and was immediately photographed. “He’s my father, not my husband” yelled Penny, indignantly.

“What class boat are you?” I shouted. “Dawn Star, Spartan class” was the reply.
For several minutes we shouted questions and answers at each other. We learned that she was sailed by George Fairleigh and his wife, and had left Hiero 2 days after us but had had more favourable winds, and been able to sail a more direct course. We arranged to see them in Barbados and as it was now nearly dark and we did not want to have a collision in the night, we headed off to port and soon lost sight of them. This episode gave us a great boost.

Dawn Star mid Atlantic

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Las Palmas to Gomera

(As told by Sim)

For several days before we left Las Palmas we had a southerly wind, which made our anchorage a lee shore, and oil was being blown into the corner of the harbour used by the yacht club. Our new paint was covered in it to about 6 inches above the water line, and every time we went ashore we got ourselves plastered in it, so we were glad to leave.

On the Saturday night in the club, we said goodbye to all the friends we had made, and on Sunday morning about 8 am Adolfo (Penny’s Spanish boyfriend who we were taking to Tenerife) came aboard, and as there was little wind we dropped our mooring and motored out to the entrance, putting up our sails as we went. As we did so all the other yachts started blowing their fog horns and waving us goodbye.

When we got to the end of the mole we stopped our motor, expecting to sail out, but the wind barely moved us, and we just stuck there for about an hour, blocking the fairway. The damned engine wouldn’t start again. It was most embarrassing after our moving send off. The only thing that wasn’t moved was the boat. When we did get the engine started we made out to sea and eventually picked up a light breeze. It was gone noon when we rounded the Isletta (about 6 miles) and were able to set a straight course for Santa Cruz de Tenerife, about 60 miles away.

Until darkness fell and we had about 20 miles to go, we were plagued with variable force 2 winds, but shortly after dark, the wind came swooping down on us. We took in two slabs of our main and tore along, taking it white over our bows. With about a mile to go, it went dead flat again, and we then motored on and into the harbour, where, in the dark, the only vacant place we could find was alongside a water barge. It was 10.30 pm and too late for Adolfo to find his brother, who was to guide him to his new digs so we hauled a load of gear out of the forecastle and settled him in a pipe cot for the night.

We were awakened in the morning by the crew of the water barge, who wanted us to move, so they could get out to water a ship. Eventually little Stella Mira was squeezed into a row of large yachts moored bow on to the quay.

Of these our immediate neighbours were Moby Dick, a German ketch of about 20 tons, and Waltzing Matilda, a world cruiser written up in Hiscock’s book, and now owned by a colonel of yank marines.

We had the usual trouble finding gas etc, and the oil here was nearly as bad as in Las Palmas but we could step ashore instead of rowing. Instead of the two days we had expected, we were here ten. In this time we met several other boats which included Allen II (australian) Rozinante (yank) Narua (english) Encantada (yank) Edala (yank) Ard Chaun (welsh).

I have written you about our passage to Gomera so will tell you what happened after our arrival there.

We entered Gomera harbour about 10pm and after a near miss on the wall at the entrance, due to poor harbour light, we found ‘Rondelay’ and ‘She’ inside. We had last seen them at Las Palmas. They showed us a good spot to anchor and we turned in for the night. We found Gomera the most pleasant place we had been to so far, except for a permanent swell.

The port is small, and only ships of less than 500 tons seem to call there, but mostly small inter island fishing vessels, converted to motor and trade call at the rate of about 2 a day. The populace seemed very pleasant to us. There is a yacht club, with, as far as we could gather, only 5 members and no yachts. The president is the local chemist and the secretary the local notary. They have had a grant of 200, 000 pesetas from the government and plan to make Gomera the best centre in the Canaries for visiting yachts. We think this will ruin the place. They organized a trip for us all (8 of us) and took us into the interior to see the local beauty spots, standing us a very good meal in one of the villages. During the meal the president entertained us with an impromptu demonstration of sleight of hand with cards and coins. He was very good.

When leaving the harbour, he drove us up into the mountains, round hairpin bends with sheer drops on one side. We shot round blind corners, with the horn tooting all the time. We were all green with fright. The sea was never so frightening. Coming down was even worse. He would accelerate to 50 on a straight stretch and then enter a 180 degree turn with a screeching of tires, the centrifugal force throwing us all toward a thousand foot drop. The roads were all banked the wrong way and how we didn’t slide over I’ll never know.

‘Rozinante’, ‘Allen II’, ‘Barracuda’ and ‘Encantada’, all old friends, arrived and we met ‘Silhouette’ (yank) with a very nice couple called Marta and Joe aboard. They had us all in stitches, recounting their experiences on the nudist island of Levant in the Mediterranean.

Most of the boats I mention are going our way so we shall meet some of them again. Ours was the smallest boat in Gomera at this time. The Flemings, in “SHE” left on Sat Oct 26th for Barbados and as we were now ready, we decided to leave the next day. The wind was too strong in the morning, but by 2pm it had eased, so we raised sail and headed out, with the others waving goodbye. It’s hard to describe one’s feelings when we depart like this, knowing that we may never meet again. It seems so much more dramatic than parting ever seems on land, perhaps because we are going into the unknown, we feel so small and lonely. When we leave the companionship of a group of people, all with the same interests as ourselves, who in a very short while have become as old friends as some landlubbers we have known for years.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Last letter from Las Palmas

Las Palmas
British Yacht “Stella Mira”

Dear Phyl,
I had your letter last week, but delayed replying, as the bearings had arrived from Stuart Turner and I had made arrangements to be hauled out. We are now out lying on a cradle alongside the pier at the yacht club. The tide just reaches us at high water. Since we have been out I have given the bottom another two coats of anti fouling and the top another coat of paint. We now look very pretty, so everyone tells us, and I must say I agree. The boat is now pale blue with a red bottom. The top plank I have left white in the class condition. The combing is now a darker blue, as we could never keep the varnish smart on it and we shall now be able to touch it up with paint, easily. (I feel the need to touch up occasionally) we are keeping the coach roof and the cockpit combing varnished but painting the seats to match the hull, as varnish wears off after a few weeks.

The whole ensemble is rather chic. I will send you pictures as soon as I can get some developed. The two photos enclosed are of the boat before the change and of me after a prize giving (note: see previous post April 2nd), you will no doubt agree that I look a lot fitter and healthier than I did at home. None of my trousers fit me as I have lost three of the five stomachs I use to have. Let’s hope you can do the same by the time we meet again.

After all the trouble we had getting the bearings, they sent the wrong size and I shall have to send them back with details of the exact measurements. This does not mean that we shall be delayed, though, as I have been able to stop the gland leaking, and although the old bearings are slack, we can use them in an emergency. We do not have to use it on the crossing, and since being here we have had plenty of practice at picking up moorings under sail. I shall have to exchange bearings sent direct to Barbados and put them in at our next haul out. The boat is all ready to go back in the water, but we must wait for the boatmen to find time. We can’t push them too hard as they are not charging us, but we shall probably give them a bottle of whisky (12 shillings). When we are in we should start stocking up for the crossing and should be away shortly afterwards.

Our first stop should be Tenerife, to fill up our gas cylinders. Although we have now found a place to fill them here, they do now seem to put much in as the proper agents do, and anyway the cylinders are showing signs of rust, so we shall exchange them.

After Tenerife we want to call at Santa Cruz de la Palma and at Hiero, both of which places we have been told not to miss, as they are both uncommercialised, and are on our route anyway. We shall only stay one day in each place, then comes the big crunch.

You’ll find this hard to believe, Penny no longer eats biscuits ad lib, as we don’t buy them very often. She also eats porridge for breakfast. We spend only about 70 Pesetas a day, mainly on staples, i.e. sugar, milk, bread, meat, fruits and veg. Despite this she has put on weight and has lost her usual aches and pains. She now speaks Spanish adequately and is very popular with one and all (except me, sometimes).

After you receive this letter our address will be Barbados. If any letters arrive after we leave, the Bayldons will post them to us. There are two letters arrived at the club, addressed to the Hiscocks in Wanderer 4, most presumably they will be here shortly in their new boat. Before we leave, I hope.

Two Nicholson 38’s have arrived. One is bound for Brazil and then South Africa. The other has a chap named Bob Carson, with his wife and son (about 23) bound for the West Indies. He flies a R.A.F sailing club burgee. So we presume he is a retired Wing Commander or something.

I have met a chap here on holiday with his wife from the Falkland islands. He apparently runs the island cinema and general store there. They take 6 months off every 2 years and go right around the world, buying stuff for their store. He says he sells everything, food, electrical goods, clothes, tractors, you name it, he sells it. The population is just over 2000, mostly agricultural, but they are right up to date, the girls wear mini’s and the youth in general is on par with that at home (god help them).

I’m glad you have got a job at last, it should give you less time to worry. I would have liked the job of marina manager. Ask Len if there are any sailing schools, and what are the prospects in the boat hiring or chartering business, dinghies or bigger stuff. The chap on the next mooring is a Swede (Invicta 26ft 5ins) English speaking. He is very keen on Penny but she thinks he is too old (about 30). Anyway, he was a ship’s officer and has 12 thousand ₤’s with which he wants to open a yacht hire, sailing school, type business. He has been to Perth and liked it there. We shall probably both be calling at the same places en route to you, so we may keep in touch.

I have just asked Penny if she is going to write to Australia and she said “I may do” so keep your fingers crossed. I wrote to Tillerman, but have not had a reply yet. Whilst the boat is out I have made one or two adjustments to the gear so I am living in hope. We should be able to self steer across the ditch (slang term for atlantic), anyway, without it as we shall use only fore sails, and it’s the main which pushes us off course downwind.

Penny has been cleared for appendicitis and we have been given instructions what to do if her colic returns, so don’t worry about that.

I’m glad that you are beginning to appreciate my few good points now that we are apart. (this works both ways) At least we should have a fresh outlook on life when we meet, which should be good for both of us. What type of jobs does your agency deal with? And how much do they pay you? At least you can’t moan about the cold, like you did in John Goddard’s office.

You sound very struck with Perth. So far we have met about 6 people who have been there (including the Bayldons) and they all say it is a nice place.

Does Len belong to one of the yacht clubs yet? And if so what type of boats do they sail? Has he picked out a nice quiet place to keep ours when we arrive? If he hasn’t joined one yet tell him to pick a good sailing one, not a drinking one.

I agree that Bristol and the shop seem years away. THIS is definitely the life. With a small steady income (as little as 7 or 8 ₤’s a week) and a slightly bigger boat, who could wish for anything more. We had a boat in here called Sugar Creek (now gone onto Hiero) 34 years old, a Colin Archer type, 30ft long left beam, a real solid job. With 2 chaps and two girls aboard. They left England last summer, cruised in the Med to the Riviera from port to port and then down the African coast. They buy all their food in bulk with no fancy stuff. They make all their own bread and cakes etc and say that they can live, food wise, for ₤2 a week. They wear a minimum of the simplest of clothing and do all their own boat work. They haven’t a care in the world and live life as it should be lived. They even have an old sewing machine and make all their own clothes.

If you are able to get any cash for anything I write (which I doubt) hang on to it, as we shall need it to start up with. I feel I can get by on what I have left. Did you tell Len that Charles thinks we should all go into the charter boat business (more wishful thinking).

In our improvised oven we are now able to make bread, pastry, small cakes etc. The tins of chicken fillets proved dry and almost tasteless, but we now make better chicken pies than Birdseye, by putting a tin of chicken fillets and half a tin of veg soup in a pastry casing. We also made steak pies with the Seniors Stewed Steak this way. I tell Penny that if we ever run out of meat I’ll cut a slice of her surplus rump off and make a pie with it.

In my letter about the trip from Vigo, I forgot to mention that I had a molar tooth out, just before we left, and couldn’t eat anything solid for the first week. Whilst we are here we take our laundry to a launderette where it costs us 47 pesetas for 6 kilos. One of our problems here is squash. The local makes taste horrible. When Penny wrote to Tony she asked him to ask Desmond (through Dave) to get some Eiffel Tower crystals for him to send us. This was about the time that we sent your card to Durban. She hasn’t had a reply, let alone the crystals. She wants to know why you moan about her letter writing. All the squash and Ribena we bought from England is long gone. We have recently been through our stores, and put back in the cellar all but what we shall need in the Atlantic. At the moment it looks as if we shall be bringing you a load of bully beef. So far since we started we have only opened one tin, and had a job to get through that.

We shall probably buy a load of tinned cocktail sausages as they are cheap here, and we shall try making Toad in the Hole. I have bought a small canvas and made a small raffee for running in strong winds. This also makes a very effective wind shoot. When fixed upside down over the fore hatch the cabin is the coolest place in Las Palmas. It has not yet been hot enough to use the canvas awning. The chart case that I made at Rozel, now makes an admirable table, but not at sea, as it stops us getting through to the toilet and we do not use the fore hatch if the sea is rough, because of spray.

We have had the sleeping bags washed and they are now stowed up in the forepeak out of the way, as they are now too warm. We are also suffering from a severe surplus of heavy woolies, which are now a nuisance, but are too good to dispose of. At Vigo we both bought sun hats, because our noses were peeling, but we seldom use them now. Where sun tan is concerned, I seem to have reached saturation point, as although I wear only swim trunks and am in the sun all day. I do not seem to burn and do not get any browner. When I take my trunks off to shower, my bottom must look positively fluorescent. In mid ocean, I shall try to get that as brown as the rest of me.

Love Sim

P.S It has taken me ten days to type this, so most of it is now old hat. Since I started an English and two French boats and a Belgium and an American boat came in to Las Palmas which we have now left. We have now sailed over Tenerife ( 54 miles), and are only waiting our laundry and the small gas cylinder to be refilled, before we sail to Gomera (60mls)? Two or three days after that, we shall be away.

P.P.S Have heard from Tillerman.

P.P.P.S Gear still doesn’t work.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


In response to a comment on the previous post I am detailing what navigation equipment we used.

We bought a 1923 Plath Vernier sextant for £10 from Harold Hayles Chandlery. He was selling it on behalf of Eric Hiscock who had been presented with a new one at the London Boat Show. If you refer to his book “Voyaging Under Sail” you can see it on page 189, plate 35. He used it to sail around the world in Wanderer III. My father has had it sitting in his cupboard for the last 39 years and you can see from the photos here that it has deteriorated somewhat in that time. Dad is thinking of donating it to the museum if they are interested.

We didn’t have a chronometer, but Dad had an Omega Seamaster watch which only gained a few seconds each day. The only radio we had was a Philips shortwave receiver on which we received time signals and corrected the watch when necessary. At times we couldn’t receive a radio signal in mid ocean but we didn’t have to be so accurate there with no land anywhere near us. We also had a battery operated electric clock on the bulkhead down below and we adjusted this to the time of the watch whenever needed.

Dad would take the sights (not an easy task with the boat bobbing up and down with the waves) and call out "Now" to me and I would take note of the time on the clock, then he'd hand me the sextant and I would read what he'd taken and write it down. I tried to take the sights as well at first, but as my son commented when we took the attached photo “Gee this is heavier than it looks”, I found it very tiring on the arm to hold it up to your eye for long enough to take a sight.

So we settled into a routine of Dad taking the sights and me working them out. I had to teach myself how to do this from Eric Hiscock’s book “Voyaging under Sail” and Mary Blewett’s books “Celestial Navigation” and “Navigation for Yachtsman” as Dad’s working out of the sights was clearly not accurate (see earlier posts). The sextant was also difficult to read as the vernier measurements were so small, so it was easier for me to do that with my young eyes.

We used
Sight Reduction Tables for Air Navigation” Volume 2 Latitudes 0-39°, Declinations 0-29°
and Volume 3 Latitudes 40-89° and Declinations 0-29°
"Nautical Almanac"

These were purchased from an Admiralty Chart Seller in Bristol, along with charts that covered as much of our journey that we could. We hoped to buy some charts of the Pacific in Panama which we did. Dad has also kept the charts and Sight Reduction Tables all these years.

We tried taking lunar sights a few times but found that we were able to accurately work out where we with just a morning and noon sight most days (after our first fiascos between England and Las Palmas - see previous posts). There were only a few occasions when the sun didn’t come out and we couldn't take sights as you will read when we get to that part.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The “ Great International Race to Jandia”

Sim's account of the Great International Race to Jandia

Jandia (pronounced Handia) is a lighthouse on the southwestern tip of the island Fuertoventura. It is on a bearing of 107 Degrees Magnetic from Las Palmas and said to be 60 miles. We were asked by the Real Club Nautico de Gran Canaria to enter for the race, as were all the other visiting yachts. We understood that this was the first of what was to be an annual race there. The start was scheduled to be at 7.30 in the morning. On the night before, all the crews were asked to attend a meeting for briefing. There were 14 boats entered, of which 8 were club boats and the visitors. The boats in order of size were as follows:

Barracuda, 72 ft (Ketch), American, Wood
Lady Ann, 68 ft, British, Wood
Alondra, 39 ft, Spanish, Wood
Tirma, 39 ft, Spanish, Wood
Gran Canaria, 27 ft, Spanish, Wood
Ramon, 27 ft (Tumlaren), Spanish, Wood
Esperanza, 27 ft (Tumlaren), Spanish, Wood
Willeca, 26 ft 5 ins (Invicta), Swedish, Glassfibre
Stella Mira, 25 ft 9 ins (Stella), British, Wood
Coronado, 24 ft (Coronado), Spanish, Glassfibre
Mistral, 24 ft (Mistral), Spanish, Glassfibre
Almerica, 21 ft 6 ins ( Cinder), Danish, Glassfibre
Atlantis, Nimble Trimaran, Spanish, Plywood
Vendaval, Nimble Trimaran, Spanish, Plywood

A small Spanish naval vessel was to escort us, and as most boats had walkie talkies, this would act as a radio control vessel.

At the briefing it was decided that as Jandia was just a beach with no shelter, the race would be to Morro Jable, a village about 8 miles farther along the coast where there was a small cove. The meeting ended with punch and snacks. The island television news' camera took shots whilst the meeting was in progress.

I had asked Ann and Hugh Bayldon, the only English members of the Real Club Nautico de Gran Canaria if they would crew with us. Both are rising 60, but very keen sailors, owning an 18ft Tiburon day boat and a Snipe. To sleep them we had spent most of the afternoon moving about 2cwt of gear from our pipe cots where it is usually stowed and transferred it to the Tiburon.

As Ann and Hugh live about 10 miles out of the town, we had arranged to sleep them for the night. It was dark when we returned from the meeting to Stella Mira. Penny and I offered to sleep on the pipe cots, but they insisted that they should, saying that this was nothing to being on safari in Africa (I learnt later that Hugh had shot over 30 elephants whilst in the service there) they seemed to think it was all great fun, 'Jolly and all that'.

We were awakened the next morning by a club mariniero (boatman) who had rowed out to tell us that Hugh had left his car lights on all night. We knew that the boatmen would be in great demand this morning and as we had not intended going ashore we had deflated our dinghy. So to relieve the congestion on board, Hugh took his gear with him, to complete his toilet ashore. He had to queue for half an hour to get a boat back though.

The club boats are used mainly as day boats and are therefore stripped of gear. When there is a race, the club members draw lots to select skippers and crews. The previous day, mattresses and so on had been ferried out. As far as we can gather there are no cooking facilities on board, the crews each taking their own ready cooked food or snacks with them.

To start races here, no guns are used, the signals being visual only, flags being flown from a starting launch, 10 minute Flag - White, 5 minute flag - Blue, Starting flag - Red. I assume that no two watches on this launch give the same time, as I have noticed a variation of as much as three minutes in these five minute intervals. (I kid you not)

By half past the hour, most boats were sailing up and down the harbour. The Invicta on the next mooring to us, had as yet shown no signs of life, so we began to shout to Willie the Swedish skipper, thinking that he had been out on the town the night before with two Polish brothers, (from a smaller boat) who were going to crew for him.

We weren’t far wrong. They were, in fact, still on the slipway, trying to get a boat to bring them out. Willie told us later that when they did get aboard, and get the sails up, the anchor was stuck. Before he could sail over it, the Poles, in their hurry to catch up with the rest of us, just detached the cable and threw the lot overboard. When they finally got to Morro Jable they were unable to anchor and had to tie up alongside one of the big ketches.

Most of the boats, us included, had up main and genoa. Knowing that Hugh raced locally, I asked him to help us for the start. The Red flag, however, caught us on the wrong tack, and when we crossed the line there were only the two big ketches and the Trimaran Atlantis behind us. The ketches were so far up the harbour that they would have needed binoculars to see the launch, let alone the flag. As we left the harbour the starter was firing rockets to attract their attention. This late start did not hold them up for long. Within half an hour they passed us with all sail set, doing about 12 knots.

Outside the harbour we found a beam wind, force 5 on our port, with not too heavy seas. The fleet had already spread well out with the nimble Vendaval well to the front. Opinions as to course, obviously differed, some boats being well downwind. We gradually began to overhaul Mistral and Almerica. By the time Ann and Penny brought up bacon rolls for our delayed breakfast Almerica was 100 yards astern. Coronado was now the nearest boat in front of us. She is of American design, built in Spain and reputed to be a very fast boat for her size. She was skippered by Tony Arias, one of the club’s best helmsmen. About a quarter of a mile separated us.

Esperanza, skippered by Carmelo Gonzalez was about 100 yards in front of Tony. The distance between the three boats remained unaltered for the next 10 miles, but the rest of the fleet slowly pulled away from us. Try as we might we could not lesson the distance between us. I was sure that boat for boat the Stella was faster than the other two and could only suppose that our extra weight was holding us back. We were four as against three in the other boats, we were carrying 6 months supply of tinned food under our floorboards as well as 25 gallons of water. Our full cruising inventory is not exactly featherweight, either.

The two boats in front, now began slowly to separate. Coronado slowly pulling away downwind and Carmelo easing slightly to windward. We could see no obvious advantage in following one of the other so we continued steering on 107 which took us right between the two. Slowly we began to gain on Esperanza but Coronado held its lead on us.

After 25 miles, Esperanza and Stella Mira were level pegging, with about a mile between us. Tony was still slightly in front but half a mile downwind. For the next 17 miles our positions remained unchanged. Almerica and Mistral were so far behind that we could not see them. By this time we could make out the outline of the hills behind Jandia. It was now 2.30pm. Our log read 42 miles and we had a beam wind of constant strength (force 5) since we had started. As we came nearer the land we could now see the lighthouse dead ahead.

The wind now began to freshen. We put two rolls in our main but kept our genoa flying. Coronado also reefed at this time. Carmelo was now in the best position, instead of reefing, he was able to free his sheets a little, and head downwind. He slowly drew ahead. The position when we passed the lighthouse was: Esperanza a quarter mile in front of us, with Coronado behind Carmelo but well downwind. The only other boats in sight were Ramon about 250 yards in front of Carmelo and Atlantis on the horizon downwind. (She had broken a stay and was later towed to Morro Jable.) Beyond the lighthouse in the lee of land, the sea was almost flat.

We had barely gone 200 yards when we were nearly knocked down by a howling gust. We wondered what had hit us; Hugh, who was on the tiller, grabbed frantically to release the mainsheet. Fortunately the boats weather helm had forced us up into the wind and spilled most of the gust. Before we could even think of reefing, we were in flat calm again. Two minutes later, another gust struck us, but we had the sheet free and were able to spill the wind. For fifteen minutes we yoyo’d along, one minute doing maximum knots, the next nearly stationary. In one of the flat spells I looked to see what had happened to the others. Coronado was now nearly a mile downwind and becalmed. Esperanza was 300 yards in front, heeling right over, in short seas about 6ft high and desperately trying to reef.

Realizing that we should soon be in this disturbed water, I hastily lowered the genoa and lashed it to the pulpit. Not a moment too soon. Almost immediately we were battering our way along waves which all the time seemed to be getting steeper but not longer. The mountainous coast was barely half a mile to port and with an off shore wind, we should have been in sheltered water. But this wind was funneling down through the many valleys and knocking up short steep seas, on which we literally bounced from crest to crest. When I looked up at the mast, it was whipping like a fly rod. I hastily reefed the main down to the third batten, no easy job, the way we were bouncing about.

In the middle of all this, Ann kept repeating “Isn’t this exciting; I never knew it would be as thrilling as this”. I thought “ Me too, neither”. I relieved Hugh on the tiller. His watch having been nearly up when this had all started and he was beginning to feel the strain. With reduced sail (only a third of our main left flying) the boat handled reasonably comfortably and we had time to look around again. We were amazed to see Esperanza, still only 300 yards ahead, so becalmed, that she had turned and was facing, almost, the way she had come. Ramon was also becalmed, and Coronado, although sailing slowly, was way behind and well downwind of us. As we watched, Ramon and Esperanza, found the wind again, but only a gentle zephyr which barely gave them steerage.

Penny, Adolpho and Ann Bayldon with Las Palmas in the background

Now it was our turn. We left the area of disturbed water and our impetus carried us 200 yards into what could have been the Sargasso Sea, from its calmness. We sat and watched the other two pull away, making toward shore, where the water appeared more ruffled. This may have been only a mirage though, as they soon became stationary again. Our own sails flapped a little, and we began, again to move slowly.

For half an hour or so, this drifting match continued. First one, then another boat getting a cats paw. The leaders of the fleet, could now be seen, anchored in the distance. Ann was still saying, “Isn’t this exciting, isn’t it jolly”, every so often. The cats paws came from any and every direction. It seemed to us that the course which gave the shortest distance must be the best one, so although advised to go inshore, by a motor fishing boat, which passed us, we kept pointing the boat toward the anchorage. This policy seemed to pay off, as we gradually caught and passed Esperanza. Ramon now had the luck to find a private wind of her own, and slowly pulled away from us all.

As we neared the anchored boats we could see the finishing line well past them denoted by a dinghy and a buoy, both with flags. Within 400yds of the line we could see our opposition, all behind us. The nearest was Carmelo, a quarter of a mile away, then came Coronado, then Mistral and Almerica, who had caught all of us up during our drifting match. At this point our luck finally ran out and we remained as if anchored for the next 20 minutes. First Coronado, then Mistral, closely followed by Esperanza, and finally Almerica, passed us and crossed the line.

As if to spite us, a gentle breeze then came up, and carried us over and down to the other boats. We selected a vacant spot and dropped our hook in about 4 fathoms. By the time we had lowered our sails it was 8 pm and pitch dark. Our log registered 55 miles. The first 45 of these had taken under 8 hours. The last ten, about 4 ½ hours.

As we had existed on snacks during the race, we thought we would now go ashore, have a look round, and get a meal. According to Hugh, boats to and from the beach were suppose to be laid on, but after 10 minutes spent shouting “ mariniero” and “ bote” with no response, we became discouraged and were just about to inflate our Avon (dinghy), when a dark shape loomed up out of the darkness. It turned out to be the dinghy of a powerboat which was usually moored next to Hugh’s Tiburon back in Las Palmas, and whose hired hand had recognized his voice. We all piled in and soon landed through fairly heavy surf, on a steep beach. About a mile further along the beach, so we had been told, was a hotel.

As we started in this direction, other lost souls joined us in our trek (confusion, confounded). Rounding a headland, we saw brilliant lights coming from a very large building, several stories high, and stumbling over boulders and patches of soft sand, eventually reached it, only to find that it was still under construction and not yet opened. As we stood wondering what to do, a car came along a dirt road and stopped. Out jumped Thomas Navaro, the skipper of the Trimaran Atlantis. (Whose only words of English are “ I am going to the country”, interpolated as often as possible into any English conversation he can break in to, but a really nice chap). He had apparently commandeered the village’s only taxi and learned that there was another hotel about 2 miles down the road.

He bundled about 8 of us inside, and off we went, bouncing along the dirt road at 50 mph swerving every few yards to avoid boulders. We off loaded at the hotel, and the taxi went back for the others. The hotel was a single story hacienda style building, complete with swimming pool and all the trimmings. It was set in the middle of nowhere, was German owned and catered for German tourists, who came there for a quiet peaceful time. They certainly didn’t get it that night, or the next.

Penny and Ann Bayldon, were the only women to come on the race. The local yachtsmen seldom take female crews, regarding this type of race as an excuse for a stag party. In any case the stripped club boats would be too uncomfortable for the average women. Perhaps that’s why they strip them; the party was still going on when we left, after having our meal. When we got back on board again it was nearly midnight.

Penny had been taken sick with violent stomach pains towards the end of the race and still had them when we went ashore. One of the Spanish boats belonged to a doctor, (a specialist from the Las Palmas hospital) and he examined Penny at the hotel, diagnosed acute appendicitis and recommended that she transfer to the naval vessel and go home in that. As it was too choppy to transfer, she stayed in bed and gradually recovered (when we were back in Las Palmas, Hugh took her to his doctor who said “Poppycock” and diagnosed colitis.

During the night, Ramon, whose crew had found lodgings in the village, went adrift and when found and towed back, had lost a jumper strut, and had to have her mast lowered and be eventually towed all the way home to Las Palmas by a power boat.

In the morning we went ashore again and had a look at the village. It consisted of 30 or 40 adobe huts, with a church and a mission run by nuns. I don’t think they had had as many visitors at one time before, ever. Beyond the village were bare, brown, arid mountains, and beyond that we were told, is desert for 20 or 30 miles. The beach would be beautiful if it weren’t for the village refuse dumped on it. From the boat it looked lovely.

We spent the day swimming and beachcombing (away from the village), and in the evening went ashore again for a meal. This time all the boys were quieter, and we were able to get a better picture of the rest of the race. The winner was Lady Ann, Vendaval was 2nd, Barracuda having blown out 2 genoas, was 3rd , Alondra 4th, Tirma 5th, Gran Canaria 6th , Ramon 7th, Coronado 8th, Mistral 9th, Esperanza 10th, Almerica 11th, Stella Mira 12th, and Willeca 13th. Atlantis retired. Both Lady Ann and Barracuda had recorded force 9 on their anenometers coming through the rough patch. On Willeca, Willie, the Swede had gone below to nurse a bad hangover. The two Polish brothers, who claimed that they had been professional yacht skippers in Denmark, took the boat so far north, that the escort vessel was said to have spent hours searching for it. They arrived sometime during the night.

On this 2nd evening, most of the skippers, said that they would start for home well reefed, and take their time. All, but the Barracuda had been gone 15 minutes when we pulled up the anchor and with working jib and the main reefed to the 1st cringles we worked our way back to the lighthouse. The wind was nowhere near as strong as before, and in the few bad gusts we eased our sheets and kept going. Once past the lighthouse, we settled down to a steady force 5 again, and though using much less sail area, we took about 1½ hours less on the return trip, sailing really comfortably. Apart from Hugh nose diving into the stew, and getting it all over the galley ceiling and in his hair, when we were hit by a bad sea, all was plain sailing. We passed 4 boats on the way home. It seems that the extremes of calm and storm that we met off Jandia, are quite normal for the southern coasts of most of the islands here. Anyway, it was all good experience.

I think that with normal racing inventory, and a clean bottom, we would have put up a much better show. The effects of our extra weight, were most apparent in the calms off Morro Jable, in which conditions, I believe Stella’s would normally excel.

As you can see from the picture everyone gets a cup for participating. Sim is 3rd from the right at the back.

Letters from Las Palmas

Las Palmas British Yacht “Stella Mira”
Las Palmas.

Dear Len,
You will no doubt be surprised to get a letter from me after all this time. My literary short comings are not from lack of intention but from sheer laziness. At the moment we are lying about 200 yards from the yacht club at Las Palmas. Penny has come back from shopping and keeps distracting my attention by talking to me, which gives me a good excuse to stop writing, but I must not be tempted.

By the time you get this letter Phyl and Lesley will be almost due to arrive, and you will also probably have heard from the bank. I feel all kinds of a rotten so and so to unload my responsibilities onto you, but am taking advantage of the fact that you and Queen will be so pleased to see Phyl that you will forgive me. (I hope). When we arrive, I know that I shall have to knuckle down again, and may never have that chance to spread my wings again, poor little humming bird that I am ( especially after 4 or 5 days in a force 5 wind), so I felt that I must make the most of this break in my life. I wish that Phyl would have come with us, and even more, that We and Yours could have done this together. Its not all beer and skittles, but the good far exceeds the bad, and it think the bad will make us understand our own shortcomings more.

When we arrive, I hope we can afford to keep the boat, as we have now learnt her trustworthiness and she is truly our home. Although we moan at the rolling when we get in heavy weather, I think this would be the same in any boat this size. If we have to sell her I hope that it will not be immediately and that you will have a chance to do a really good trip in her.

I will not tell you in this letter, of the things that have happened to us on our way here, because it would take too long, and if I wait till my next letter Phyl will be with you and this will kill two birds with one stone. I will enclose a letter with this one for her, which you can give her when she arrives.

We hope you are all in good health, and that we are not causing you too much trouble.


Dear Phyl,

I hope you are as well as this leaves us. This is just a short letter which I will put in with Len’s. We have had a good trip so far with nothing worse than force seven. The next leg of our journey, although one of the longest, should be sunshine with fair winds behind us. The boat, except for the self steering, which still does not work, is proving to be very satisfactory, and we are becoming more and more proficient at handling her. Your fears of a jinx were groundless. Several other boats are here waiting to cross the Atlantic, ours is amongst the largest, and our equipment and stores superior to most. The yacht club, here has offered us all their facilities and we have been adopted by two English members, a retired Lt Colonel and his wife.

We will write in detail, giving you all the tale of our trip, when we have had time to see to our immediate needs, so this will only be a short letter. Write and let us know what kind of voyage you had. We missed you by a week, and I can imagine how disappointed you must have been.

I hope that you and Lesley like Perth and that you and Queen enjoy your holiday together.

I wish you were here, everyone we meet expresses friendship towards us and the other boats ask us aboard for drinks and a good old natter. You’d love it.

I’ll stop now, because I want to write a nasty letter to Tillerman.

All my love

Las Palmas British Yacht “Stella Mira”
C/O Real Club Nautico De Gran Canario,
Las Palmas, Canary Isles.

Dear Phyl,
I hope that you are all well and that you are all settling down and still like Perth. Though it’s a bit late now if you don’t.

Forgive me if I don’t write any details of our trip to Las Palmas in this letter. We are rushed off our feet trying to prepare the boat for our next step. I have had your letter for several days now but this is the first time I have had a chance to answer it. It is a dull day, otherwise we would be continually interrupted by visitors.

It is very frustrating here. Although the shops are full of all types of fancy foods, we find that the things we really need are hard to come by. For instance, camping gas, which is advertised as an international service, is not obtainable here. There are over 70 agents on Tenerife, which is two days sail, but none here. When we run out, which looks to be soon, we shall have to sail over for some. Batteries for the navigation lights and the echo sounder, are not sold here either. The shops are stuffed with ½ 1b packets of English biscuits, but they all turn out to be stale. Squash (cordial) here, although with English brand names, is packed in Spain and tastes peculiar. Fruit and veg are cheap and plentiful, but are pig bin quality, except bananas of which we eat about a dozen each per day, raw, frittered or with custard.

Penny is seriously learning Spanish, but I am too old a dog to learn new tricks easily—respite for another banana—but I find many of the words similar to Italian, so I get by.
How did you get to be on television? I thought we got away from all that when we left Ilfracombe. Is Australia really like Bob’s slides? You are presumably in the winter now, and have the real heat to look forward to.

We were entered in one of the local races last week and came 4th. The first two were in a twelve metre and a six metre, so we didn’t do so badly.

We have been asked to enter for the annual race to Fuertoventura which is 60 miles away. This will be a good tuning up run to try out the various alterations we are making to improve our comfort during our longer trips, and we shall take Colonel and Mrs Bayldon as crew, to try to repay them for some of the hospitality they have shown us.

Penny has written to Tony and asked him to send us some Eiffel Tower lemonade crystals and some Spanish and French books, but there is no reply as yet. Penny thinks that she can learn languages on her lone watches when we are at sea, I spend my time on watch planning bigger and better boats so that we could all do this together.

When we have fitted out I will take time off to write of our voyage from Vigo to here, but I warn you, you may find this boring. We have not finished our first film yet, but when we do I will send them to you.

I will say goodbye now. Give my regards to all.
Love Sim.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Vigo to Las Palmas 3

Comment on our trip from Vigo to Las Palmas

We started off taking 4 hour turns at the tiller, but at night, after a couple of nights, we discovered how hard that was. Sitting there in the dark, hanging onto the tiller and steering, watching the compass, time passes extremely slowly, it was cold as well. The only way I could get through it was by having one of the packets of sweets we had taken with us, (fruit gums or blackcurrant pastilles usually) rationing myself to one sweet every 15 minutes, so that the time passed in 15 minute blocks.

I would also sing every song that I knew, Beatle’s songs were my favourite, but once I had exhausted them and other popular songs (which was usually pretty quick as I could never remember all the words, just the chorus) I would then sing all the hymns I had learnt at school, as having repeated them so often, I knew the words better. I’m not sure how Sim managed to sleep through my tuneless singing! After a few days of this, we decided that it was too much and made the night watches only 2 hours long, you’d just drop off to sleep and it felt like you’d hardly had any, before it was your turn again.

Once again, we still couldn’t figure out what was wrong with our celestial navigation, we couldn’t be where some of our sights put us. We had almost reached the point where we would have to turn east and head for the coast of Africa rather than being carried beyond the Canaries with nothing between us and Antarctica except the Cape Verde Islands, when we woke up that morning and found the boat covered with red dust. Again, someone must have been watching over us. Luckily Sim is an eclectic collector of knowledge and knew about finding the null on the radio to help us steer to Las Palmas.

We did eventually work out what was wrong with the aid of a Swedish yachtsman we met in Las Palmas. He explained that we were reading the sextant wrongly and showed me how to do the calculations, which I took responsibility for the rest of our journey, as Sim’s calculations would never come out the same twice. After Las Palmas, we never had any problems with navigation as long as we could see the sky to take sights.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Vigo to Las Palmas 2 - Letters

Stella Mira tied up to a larger boat in the foreground, the yacht club with it's indoor pool in the background

Vigo to Las Palmas

British Yacht “Stella Mira"
C/O Real Club Nautico De Gran Canaria
Las Palmas, Canary Islands.

Dear Phyl,
This is to let you know that we are still at Las Palmas, & why. When we arrived from Vigo, we were, as you know, later than we thought. We arrived here after dark, and not knowing our way in, we were about 6 miles down the coast and had to motor sail up against a force 6 wind. In the morning we found we were taking water through our prop shaft, the bearings of which, proved to be slack.

When we had searched Las Palmas and found no spares available here, we wrote to Stuart Turner in England for them. We have had the invoice, but the parts are still lost in the Spanish post somewhere. We had also used nearly all our gas and found that camping gas is not attainable here. We were shunted around from place to place in our search for an agent, until we were shown the official list of agents, and found there were none there. After we had been using our primus for a fortnight we managed to find a firm who had the right size union and could fill our cylinders. We still can’t get our calor gas one filled though.

Penny has had a spot of stomach trouble. She had violent pains and we had to get a doctor to her. He diagnosed appendicitis, and wanted her to go to hospital the following day for an operation, but by then the pains had stopped, and another doctor disagreed with the diagnosis. As we cannot afford for her to have appendicitis in mid Atlantic, she is under observation and undergoing tests to be sure. She now feels fine though.

We have been delayed here too long and the hurricane season has started, and we have been advised by seasoned travelers to wait until the worst is over. According to the Admiralty Pilot, which gives statistics for the last 60 years, we must wait until October before we can cross in reasonable safety. I agree with you that the Las Palmas is a tatty place. It’s certainly a frustrating one. Believe me I’m fed to the teeth with it and will be glad to get away.

There is probably no Consul at Barbados. As far as I know it is a colony or something. Letters will have to be sent Poste Restante, Bridgetown, or to the yacht club there. I will let you know when and where in good time. We hope to make up for the delay here in good time when we once get started.

Mrs Phillips has written us and she has apparently adopted the cat, but Tony supplies the food. Tony has not written us yet though. You do not seem to have had the card we sent to Durban.

When we do leave here we shall be in good company. So far there are two Yank, two English, two Polish, one Swedish, one Spanish, one French & one Swiss boats waiting to cross and more are expected to arrive before October. There are others waiting in Tenerife, we are told.

The boat in front of us is owned by Polish twin brothers who are political refugees, on their way to Chicago. Their boat is only 18ft long with about 10inches of freeboard, much smaller than the Norena. The boat behind ours is an Invicta, which is sailed by a Swede (solo), who bought it and entered it for the transatlantic race, but he’s lived in the tropics for the last 15 years, and couldn’t stand the cold, so he retired after 4 days. The biggest boats are American ketches, one 60ft long and the other 40ft.

So far we have not had any luck with home baked bread (which may account for Penny’s stomach trouble) but we are still experimenting. Penny is still as untidy as ever in harbour and I could sometimes wish her elsewhere. But at sea she has to be tidy or the movement would dump everything on the floor. She is actually very good at sea, and takes all the hardships and discomfort in her stride.

You advise me to buy a camera and a projector, but I am scared to spend cash in case we need it in an emergency, as you know, I invested all our capital for a minimum period of one year, to obtain a higher interest rate, and once what I have is done, we shall have to fiddle. I don’t think we shall starve though, as most of our bulk stores are intact. Penny may have to learn to like rice etc, though.

One of the English chaps here has built 2 successful self steering gears and is going to have a go at mine, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Pete sent Penny a special edition of the evening post with the pictures of the floods. Goldie’s house was marooned, so perhaps she’s too busy to write to you. I’m glad to hear that Lesley likes school and has settled down. Can you give us more details about Perth, and how you spend your time? We would like to feel at home as soon as we arrive. Have the packing cases arrived yet?

The next part of this letter will ::::::::::::::::: I got stopped here by Col Bayldon & his wife, who rowed out to tell us that if we can stay till the end of October, he can get me three weeks work as a film extra, at £60 and all found in a film to be made by a British company here. Another chap as building a marina in the south of the island, and is starting a chartering agency in November and can get us 1600 pesetas a day (that’s ₤10) from which he will deduct 10% for expenses. This is very tempting. What do I do? The next bit will probably be of equal interest to Len, so I will interpolate a few words to him before I continue.