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.