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.

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