Friday, January 05, 2007

Back On It.

There’s only one thing you should do when the moon is as big and bright as it was last night. Visit as many bars as you can, get hammered, seduce some poor unfortunate with your mind blowing dance moves, then whisk her away to deserted beaches and spend the rest of the night with nothing but the stars for cover. Unfortunately the generous measures of rum during the ‘getting hammered’ stage mean you rarely make it any further. At this juncture you’re far more likely to end up staggering to Rasta Shack and passing out till dawn. Welcome back to Antigua.

After arriving here last March I managed o find myself a job on a Ketch called ‘Constance’ a 95ft Van Dam Nordia. (Basically a big sailing boat with two masts) So one week after arriving in Antigua I was sailing back to Palma in Mallorca. I spent the next 7 months working on her, where we spent most of the time in Mallorca with a cruise around the Greek island. It wasn’t always easy, but the owner and his family were always a pleasure to have on board, which is rare in this industry. I flew back to England in October 06 were I spent two weeks down in Warsash, a marine college near Portsmouth, learning how to sew people back together when they fall apart and deliver babies. I was putting this knowledge to good use about 2 months later when I had my brush with death for 2006. After a heavy night at Abras my ankle blew up like a football, it turned out I had Acute Cellulitis, and if I didn’t take heavy, super, bad arse drugs 50 times a day for a year I’d die from blood poisoning. The doctor later confessed she’d thought the drugs probably wouldn’t work and I’d at least have to go to hospital.
She also added it was amazing what they could do with prosthetic limbs nowadays, don't know what she was getting at there. However thanks to my advanced immune system I was able to walk again after a couple if days, and two weeks later I was off the drugs in time for Mr Phips’ arrival.

On October the 25th I finally flew back into Antigua were I patched up Magic Roundabout, threw her back in the water and put the mast back in.
Luke joined me on the 15th of November and swiftly amazed me with his record attempt on ‘The Most Times Passed Out In One Night’ Although more recently he has moved on from the ‘getting hammered’ stage to pumping out some truly masterful moves on the dance floor. It’s only a matter of time before the Flying Lunge or the Sprinkler attracts someone who isn’t a man. While the beach will be richer, Rasta shack will have lost a valued patron. Alice joined us on the 26th of November and continues to satisfy all with her ability to make tea and sandwiches under almost any circumstances. Scotty, with Jeff and Ebony, have been a bad influence on the crew of Magic Roundabout but we feel richer for the experience… possibly…

Monday, February 27, 2006

EnglishHarbour, In Antigua... Hell yeh!

I staggered of the boat this morning and jumped in the dingy I’d borrowed from Lesley on Coconut. As I’m drifting away from Magic Roundabout I pull the cord to start the engine…nothing happens, I try again… nothing… Bollocks. Last night I met up with Chris and Joe from ‘Lazy Dawn’, who I’d originally met on my way down to Lanzarote, Lots of beer (cold beer... So good!) followed, which my poor alcohol starved body wasn’t used too, I had a great night, but christ I feel like crap today. So after allot of tinkering, pulling cords, grunting and swearing, another dingy comes round the corner and, very kindly, gives me a tow to the dockside. Welcome to the Caribbean.

I left Gran Canaria on Saturday the 4th of February at 1600, under blue skies and northerly winds, perfect. However, its not going to last. The weather forecast I got before I left wasn’t good. Its Saturday today and on Tuesday a filthy great weather system is coming through which is going to beet the crap out of me. I know this, but I’ve just been stuck in Lanzarote for 2 weeks, and I can’t face waiting any longer. The weather is likely to head North, so I head south down the coast of Morocco to try and get bellow the worst of it. There are loads of great big container ships everywhere and I never get more than 20 minutes kip at a time. When I finally turn west and head towards the Caribbean it all kicks off on the VHF Radio, there are boats all around me and one of the starts playing Britney Spears over the Radio, so then half the ships are telling him to shut up and the other half are shouting for more. This turns into a full scale slagging match which culminates, understandably, in more Britney. This would be the last time I’d see a ship or hear a voice for three weeks.

That was on the Monday. By Friday I’d passed through the worst of the storm and the wind was starting to come round into the north. The last couple of days had been pretty tough. I’d been sailing with the boat laid over on it’s side, hardly any sail up and water going everywhere. My hatches were all leaking and it was pretty damp down bellow. Cookings a tricky one when your going along like this, but I managed to keep myself going on a nutritious diet of coffee and Hob Nob biscuits. God bless McVities.

By the second week the weather forecasts I had, had all expired, so I was having to take every day as it came. I did have a couple of hours break before the wind went round from the south west to the north east. The sun came out and I managed to have a bucket shower and brew myself up some spag boll. However it wasn’t long before I was flying down monster waves with 35 to 40 knots of wind (1 knot is 1 nautical mph and a Nautical miles about 1860 meters) blowing me west.

The next couple of days were perhaps the most fun, but at the same time the most draining. When a big wave comes up behind you, if you catch it right, you surf down it, and how fast you go depends on how big the wave is… I was going very fast. At one point I went down to make some coffee, next thing I knew there was this massive RAUGH coming from outside and the whole boat starts shaking, I look out the back and water’s flying all over the place. I glance over at the GPS as the speed swiftly climbs to 16.9 Knots! My top speed is usually around 7 knots. So it’s probably the equivalent of getting a Minnie to180mph! It was, as I say, great fun, but all it takes is for a wave to catch you in the wrong way and it can cause allot of damage. As a result I had to take the helm almost the whole time, and got very little sleep. When your tired it becomes so hard to think straight and you start making stupid mistakes. Mine usually came in the form of leaving the hatch open. Waves were constantly breaking over the boat and an open hatch warmly invited all this water to go bellow. Looking back on it now, a bit of water down bellow doesn’t seem to bad, but at the time it really pissed me off.

My last week was such a contrast. The wind and waves died down, the sun came out, and the fish started biting my line. I started cooking, and came up with some true culinary masterpieces. My personal favourites included ‘Salami and tomato soup Shepard’s pie’ and a very fine ‘Tinned tropical fruit Crumble’ all made in my trusty bread tin, which also produced some very fine bread.

I finally dropped my anchor in English harbour at 1500 on Saturday the 25th of February almost exactly 21days to the hour after I left.

Hell Yeh…

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I'm Off!!!!

Dead swift one as the weathers against me and i have to get a long way south to avoid a storm thats coming through on tuesday. But i'm going! at last. Take care everyone and i'll see you in a couple of weeks!!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

How did i end up sat in a boat in Lanzarote...?

For the last two years I've been preparing for this trip. There have been hundreds of changes to the plan along the way, and the only thing that has remained constant, is that as soon as I'm certain something is going to happen, something happens to change it.

In 2004 I was in my first year at Portsmouth university, studying water sports science. I had never really planned on going to university, but towards the end of summer in 2003, I wasn't getting any work and inactivity was eating away at me. I had got my yachtmasters and cruising instructor qualifications that year, and was hoping for a job teaching people to sail or in yacht delivery, but a lack of experience was counting against me. I thought that if I could be close to the solent studying something water related then I would soon get the experience I needed. It worked in a way, as soon as I committed myself to the course the phone started ringing and I was having to turn down jobs that a couple of days ago I would have jumped at.

Anyways, I started looking for a boat, thinking that I could live on it, attend university and do it up for a trip around the world. After months of searching I went to visit my Grampa who lives just outside Amsterdam in Holland. While I was there I went to look at a Sweden Yacht 340 I'd seen advertised. To cut it short, I fell in love the moment I stepped foot on her, and three months later was sailing her back to England.

I had helped on a couple of deliveries with a company called PYDWW (professional yacht deliveries worldwide), and as the end of my first year at Portsmouth uni was coming to a halt, I got offered a delivery of a 'luxury' 30m sailing boat from Sicily to Auntibes in France. The boat was privately owned but was going to charter under YPI. It had an interesting history comparing it had only been launched 2 months before. They needed a first mate and I took the job. After allot of blood, sweat and tears refitting in Antibes, and against all the odds we picked up our first charter guests in Spain and went on to have a successfully season, although we did seem to have more than our fair share of problems.

As a new academic year approached I decided not to return to Portsmouth. I'd learnt more in a couple of months working on a boat than I had in a year at Uni. In November I left Awol Again and went back to England to prepare my boat and earn some more cash.

While this was going on my sister Alice had been in Thailand for the last year, and was constantly inviting me out to see her. With Alice away I had no close family in England, and with preparations for Christmas in full swing I was feeling very alone. I gave in to her requests and booked the flights to Koh Toa in Thailand, planning to return home in the beginning of the new year..... Koh Tao is an incredible place, and it has a magnetic influence. I learnt to dive and worked as a dive master for a while. Before i left i took my IDC and became a PADI OWSI diving instructor. 8 months later I returned home for the last time and finally set to work on my boat.

My aim for the boat was to be able to trust the integrity of the hull, (so at least she would remain afloat!) the integrity of the mast (so it wouldn't fall down!) and to be able to trust the electrics (so she wouldn't catch fire!) with all this accomplished I kitted her out and left for Falmouth, where I planned to leave from, to cross the Bay of Biscay. It wasn't till the 1st of September that I got down to Falmouth. The season was advancing and I didn't want to get caught out in Biscay. The deep water of the Atlantic hits the continental shelf of Europe in the middle of the bay, and in bad weather massive confused seas can make it a terrifying place to be.

On the 5th of August a weather window developed and my sister and I left Falmouth in a force five from the South East. I'd finally left. From there we sailed down to La Coruna, then on to Cascais, just outside Lisbon, (excellent aquarium and some very good surf!) then on to Marina Rubicon on Lanzarote, where we tied up on the 17th of October.

My Mum died when I was three and then 8 years ago my dad had a stroke and died as well. I was 14 and my sister had just turned 18. Amungst other things, as a result of this we lived together in a beautiful big house in the country outside Milton Keynes. The problem was that we're both never there. My Sister is an excellent diving instructor, which takes her all over the world, and I've got this boat. So we decided to rent it out for the time being. Once again I had to leave the boat were it was and fly home so we could move everything out and make the necessary preparations.

Things moved very slowly to start with. The tenants weren't moving in till February and Alice was, understandably, reluctant to move everything out before Christmas. I had met a family from Norway on the way to Lanzarote, Trond, Lesley and their children Colin 6 and Camilla 9. They were taking part in the ARC which left on the 20th of November. They needed a hand and I needed to get back out there, so I went with them and another friend of theirs from Norway, Jan Christophersen. We crossed in three weeks with a brief stop in the Cape Verdes. I couldn't have wished for a better 1st crossing or a nicer group of people to be with. If my crossing is anything like that one, I'll be very lucky.

On returning to England we had Christmas and new year, found a small house in Buckingham to live in, and moved everything. Moving is hell. On Tuesday the 24th I flew back to Lanzarote.

Which brings me neatly to Sunday night in Marina Rubicon, on board Magic Roundabout. It hasn't exactly gone to plan since I arrived here, but I can't face going into that yet.