Gaelic Greetings!

As so often, our progress through the water is far faster than our progress with the blog, with which we’re way behind the pace.  With many hundreds of sea miles under her keel since the last post, Pipistrelle is now in Oban Marina, Kerrera.  We were last here nine years ago and are thoroughly enjoying being back in the inner seas off the West Coast of Scotland.

Still to come are three articles to bring us up to date.

They won’t necessarily be published in that order!


Posted in Scotland | Tagged ,

Flotsam and Jetsam in the North Atlantic

Variable weather, trying to catch the wind, constantly changing sail configurations and dealing with unidentified submerged objects all made for a challenging, not entirely uneventful passage from Bermuda to the Azores.

Back home in the UK, having flown from Bermuda as planned, Elaine provided land-based support for Pipistrelle, following the same weather forecasts, receiving daily progress reports and providing information when needed.

Once Elaine had left, Bob Tuckwood and Pete Stone (both very able sailors and cooks, Pete also a diving instructor!) were tremendous help in preparing Pipistrelle for the passage.  Apart from provisioning, preparing and freezing ready cooked meals, many jobs on board were required to try to ensure there were no mishaps on passage.

We left St. George’s on 19th May, having refuelled with duty free diesel and checked out, heading north in a flat calm.  Weather wise, it was not unlike leaving the Galapagos for the Marquesas, knowing the engine would be running for at least 24 hours before we would find the wind, and then head first east, then north or north east to be to the north of the Azores high pressure area.  No doubt several course alterations would be necessary to stay in moderate breezes, avoiding windless anticyclones and strong winds of forecast depressions.

At midday the following day we realised something was obstructing the propeller.  Pete snorkelled to investigate, and cut free several hundred meters of fisherman’s buoyant rope.  We continued on our way, were finally able to turn off the engine at 34N, and continued sailing to 36N apart from one brief period of calm.

Five days afterwards, at 21.45 on 25th May we were motoring again, and heard a thump on the stern followed immediately by a drop in engine revs.  In a slight swell, a very light breeze and no moon, we had no alternative but to turn off the engine, set the staysail to reduce roll, and wait until daylight to investigate.  During the night the wind picked up, so we set the genoa.  Next morning we had 17 knots of breeze, so slightly altered course for Flores, and continued sailing.  During the following days we watched many dolphins alongside, and as we approached the Azores a few whales, some of them large.

On 31st May we were able to hoist the main as we closed Flores, and then furled the staysail and dropped the main in the lee of the south coast of Flores.  With Pipistrelle drifting, Peter went over the side again, this time to remove what was left of a large black bin liner, but it was strong and tight enough to need the bread knife to remove it.  It was a huge relief to be able to use the engine again when required.  We hoisted the main once more and set off for Horta where we arrived at 12.30 on 2nd June.

We sailed a total distance of 1,913 nm in 13 days 20 hours, at an average speed of 5.8 knots, and covered 1,000 nm knowing we could not use the engine!   Best 24 hour run: 175nm.

The ARC Europe Rally had arrived in the Azores 3 days before us, so the marina was packed, and we found a place alongside two other boats on the outer marina wall.  Horta in its heyday had many beautiful buildings, but sadly many of these are now in disrepair and abandoned.  But we found some very good restaurants, and the renowned Peter’s Sport Café lived up to its excellent reputation.

With flights for Pete and Bob on 7th and 8th June from Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel, we left Horta on the morning of 5th June, and whilst we were able to sail for an hour, we then had to motor for the rest of the 140 nm overnight passage.

Alongside in the main marina on the afternoon of 6th June, Pipistrelle is secure and sheltered from the storm forecast to arrive in three days’ time – on the 9th!

Posted in Azores, Portugal | Tagged , , ,

Pipistrelle makes Landfall in the Azores

After a 14-day passage, Pipistrelle, with Bob, Pete Stone and Bob Tuckwood on board, reached Horta on the island of Faial.   A full account of the trip will follow shortly, but this is worth posting!

On the marina wall it’s customary for crews of visiting yachts to mark their arrival by painting a picture.  This is our ‘Picasso’, amongst the hundreds of others painted over the years.

Quite a landmark …. nine years and 50,000 nm

Somewhere on that wall is ‘Batrachian’ (Pipistrelle’s previous name) by her owners at the time, Stephen and Katherine.  There too is ‘Overlord’ – the classic yacht we sail, which has cruised the islands on several occasions.

Posted in Azores, Portugal | Tagged , ,

Bermuda – The Onion Island

Thanks to growing thousands of tons of onions in the 19th century and exporting them in the main to the USA, Bermudian seamen were known as ‘Onions’ and the island, ‘The Onion Patch’.  Though trade declined after WW1 until the 1930’s, when locally grown produce could no longer compete with vast harvests in Texas, the islanders’ nickname lives on.

A British colony since 1707 and now an Overseas Territory, Bermuda is a lovely friendly island with an extremely pleasant climate – most of the time.  At 32.20N it is the most northerly coral atoll in the Atlantic, situated towards the western edges of the Sargasso Sea, and of course famous for being part of the legendary triangle that bears its name.  This imaginary reaches from Miami in Florida, south east to San Juan in Puerto Rico and north to Bermuda whose reefs are strewn with over 300 shipwrecks – a paradise for divers with deep pockets!  This is an expensive spot!

Quaint St. George’s, where we anchored, is a UNESCO site with an old Town Hall and Square, museum, churches, post office, restaurants and boutiques.

The limestone houses, unique to the island, are all painted in pastel colours and have signature white stepped roofs to catch the rain as there is no mains water supply, a tradition that dates back 400 years.  By law 80% of water has to be collected and stored in a tank under each house.  Nowadays roofs are painted every two or three years with a special non-toxic paint to keep the water as clean as possible.    Otherwise, desalination plants provide water for hotels and numerous golf courses that attract thousands of tourists each year.

With no self-drive hire cars on the island, to go further afield we could either take a very expensive taxi, or use public transport – far cheaper at US$ 20 for a day pass.   We took one of the frequent ferries to the historic Royal Naval Dockyard at the very western tip of the island, where cruise ships dwarf yachts in the small marina and overshadow the dockyard itself.  The America’s Cup teams were there too along with throngs of people wandering around.   For us the main attraction was the Commissioner’s House within the extensive fortifications of the National Museum, housing fascinating artefacts from 500 years of Bermuda history.

Back in St. George’s, Bob T who had joined us a few days earlier for the passage to the Azores, experienced some of the rain and high winds at the anchorage which proved to have excellent holding.  Pipistrelle’s anchor remained firmly dug in when one morning the wind rose to 28kn and then to 41kn+ in 2 hours, the motion very much like being on the ocean!  Coincidentally ARC Europe yachts arrived from the BVI during the storm.  Unfortunately, some had great difficulty in dropping anchor, with much dragging – not what’s needed after a challenging passage.  In lighter airs that afternoon we moved to the main anchorage where we would get more protection ahead of one of the countless changes of wind direction over the next few days.

Apart from seeing some of the island while we were there, time was naturally devoted to the normal amount of ‘boatie’ tasks.  OCC Port Officers Steve and Suzanne, of Ocean Sails, carried out small repairs to the genoa, they also tried very hard to help with a boom vang repair which didn’t work out in Bermuda for various reasons – more about that in a future blog. Otherwise of course, laundry was on the agenda at the local laundromat along with reprovisioning mainly for fresh fruit and veg.  Very conveniently both laundromat and supermarket were within easy walking distance of the dinghy dock, Somers offering a wide range of Waitrose goods at Fortnum and Mason prices!  But that’s Bermuda!

After two weeks, Elaine disembarked to fly home (in a stiff breeze, it was some undertaking to get her plus luggage ashore in the dinghy without getting anything wet!), leaving ‘the boys’ to wait for a suitable weather window and prepare Pipistrelle for the next stage.


Posted in Azores, Bermuda, Portugal | Tagged , , ,

Farewell Caribbean

After the family had left, we turned our attention to retrieving our ‘clobber’ from the locker, re-provisioning, cooking on-passage meals to freeze, baking bread and generally preparing Pipistrelle for our first serious passage of 2017 – from the Lesser Antilles to the more northerly latitudes of Bermuda at 32.22N.

Pete Stone joined us for this next stage from Antigua (17.03N) and we departed on the afternoon of Monday 1st May for the 950 nm run to St. George’s.   Leaving Barbuda to starboard after about 40 nm, we altered course marginally to sail due north for Bermuda.

The passage took a total of 7 days in varying conditions from light airs and champagne sailing with warm sunny days blue seas and starry nights, to lively Force 6’s and overcast skies with 2 reefs in the main plus staysail.  Under full main and poled out genoa we sailed for a day to avoid continual gybing with Pipistrelle sailing extremely comfortably, before the boisterous final 12 hours, 3 reefs, much cooler temperatures and damp nights.   As the latitude increased so did the layers of clothing, with jackets, long trousers and footwear for night watches.

A call to Bermuda Radio on the VHF coming up the St. George’s Channel announced our imminent arrival before going through the narrow pass to the Harbour.  We were finally alongside the Customs Dock at 16.00 on cool and dull Sunday 7th May.  With formalities completed we found a quiet spot to anchor, tidy up Pipistrelle above and below decks, celebrate our safe arrival and get a welcome night’s rest on an even keel.

For the record, we motored for 3 hours, sailed at an average of 6.6kn, 8.7kn being the top constant speed (11 kn was seen fleetingly), and our best 24 hour run was 170 nm.

Posted in Antigua, Bermuda, Caribbean | Tagged ,

It’s Here!

So what have we been up to for the last five months?

Cruising The Caribbean again …

We returned to Grenada mid-November and stayed at La Sagesse, while Pipistrelle was prepared to be launched.  The resort is excellent, and staying there again was delightful. Unfortunately it was all rather marred by an unsatisfactory experience prior to ‘splashing’ at Grenada Marine – we will not be hauling there again!

Ingemar and Ann-Britt arrived from Sweden on 24th November, joining us in Prickly Bay for a two week stay taking us north to St Lucia.  Before leaving we had a very enjoyable dinner at The Aquarium restaurant with Ole & Jette from Lahaina who are Danish. The weather was far from settled, strong breezes and rain, sometimes heavy, but we did manage to return to the Tobago Cays for a couple of fine days, as well as visit Mustique for the first time.  In 2010 the winds were not favourable so it was ‘third time lucky’.

Mustique is a lovely island, and very different from the other West Indies.  Through ‘The Mustique Company’ the wealthy property owners fund the roads, the airport, it has its own airline, and is all kept impeccably.  We enjoyed sundowners at the famous Basil’s Bar, and took a taxi tour of the island to ogle at villas owned by the rich and famous.

After a short stay in Bequia, and leaving there early in the morning, we managed to make Marigot Bay on St Lucia in a day sail, and moored stern-to for the night at the Chateau Mygo restaurant.   A half-day guided tour took in Rodney Bay and Pigeon Island and climbing to the peak, Ingemar and Ann Britt left us to return to a cold Sweden, and we sailed on to Rodney Bay to collect some urgent parts, and had the pleasure of watching the final ARC participants cross the finishing line – as we did in 2009!

Our next stop was Sainte Anne on Martinique, where we had decided to spend Christmas and the New Year.  As we approached we encountered a mighty squall and rainstorm reducing visibility to a few yards, but it cleared enabling us to pick out the anchorage, and decide where to drop the hook.  Imagine our surprise to find we had chosen a spot right next to Gosi.  We last saw Tom and Barbara in Jacare, Brazil where we had spent time together, including a trip to Olinda.

Sainte Anne is a lovely village on the west coast of Martinique just to the south of the major yachting centre of Le Marin.  The village has almost everything you could wish for, a quaint church, lovely buildings, quiet alleys with bars and restaurants, a brilliant boulangerie and patisserie, hikes and hills to climb.

We then met up with Phil and Norma Heaton on Minnie B, and a Belgian couple, Stephane and Ann.  So, the stage was set for dinner on Christmas Eve at ‘La Dunette’, overlooking the anchorage, and then New Year’s Eve at ‘Les Filets Bleus’ on the beach just to the north of St Anne, with midnight fireworks courtesy of nearby Club Med.   Memorable gatherings in themselves, on Christmas Day we were treated to an absolutely perfect sunset and remarkable ‘green flash’ to clapping and cheering from all the boats in the anchorage.

Hiring a car, we explored the capital of Fort de France and the Jardin de Balata, beautiful tropical gardens in the hills to the north east.  Phil and Norma joined us for a trip up the east coast, which was a delight after the heavy traffic on the west, and we found many interesting and enjoyable places to stop.

We were sorry to leave Sainte Anne, but were on a time line for our next visitors Brian and Helen.  So after a night in Grande Anse d’Arlet and then in a quiet anchorage just south of St Pierre, we daysailed to Dominica and anchored in Prince Rupert Bay, Portsmouth, towards the north of the island.  We had no sooner anchored than boat boy Edison came alongside, and remembered us from 2010 – wow!  Once we had got ourselves organised it was time to drive our hire car along the picturesque and windy road to Douglas Charles Airport on the east side of the island to meet Helen and Brian.  They had flown down from Antigua with LIAT via Barbados with two bags of luggage.  Whilst the flight was more or less on time, LIAT had managed to lose one of them (Helen’s), and it was over a week before it was finally found at Barbados.  So a visit to Roseau the ‘capital’ towards the south of the island was in order to buy essentials for Helen from a limited selection in the one and only ‘department store’, and Elaine lent her other clothing to keep her going.  Brian was constantly on the phone to LIAT, and through his persistence the bag was eventually found in Barbados.  We then discovered LIAT is known locally as “Left it at another Terminal”!  Their record on the customer service website is appalling and local advice is to use the ferry.

Our passage north took us to the islands of Les Saintes where we found we had to pick up a mooring – anchoring is now forbidden except in deep water.  Part of Guadeloupe, Terre-de-Haut on Les Saintes with its narrow streets, boutiques, bars and restaurants is charming.  La Fringale proved once more to be a lovely setting for dinner.   On Guadeloupe proper we enjoyed the botanical gardens at Deshaies, and hired a car to tour the island, and take a hike to the Carbet waterfalls in the southeast.

Les Saintes


And so on to Antigua and Jolly Harbour.  After a visit to the airport Helen was happy to be reunited with her luggage, just a day before their flight home!

Jolly Harbour was a short stop for us before we made our way to Gustavia on St. Barts, to find the anchorage had totally changed for the worse since our visit in 2010.  It was incredibly busy and uncomfortable from the wash of constant ferries, so after one night at anchor we sailed the short distance for Saint Maarten/St Martin (yes – that half Dutch/half French island).

St Martin and Marigot Bay on the French side is protected from easterlies, and being duty free as far as chandlery is concerned, provided us with the opportunity to purchase a new Jabsco pump for the aft heads, and to find an engineer to fix the watermaker, which had been giving us problems since leaving Grenada.   We met David Dowoghue who is an expert on Spectra, and he totally serviced the Clark Pump.  We now are making more water than ever before.

Quite by chance we met up again with Serge and Siao on Pearl 2, a Wauquiez PS 47 built in 2015.  We first came across them in Martinique, and this time we sailed with them to Baie Blanche, Tintamarre, which is a national park.  Once we had re anchored closer in to the shore it was calmer, and an evening on the beach with crews from 3 different boats, all French, was very enjoyable.  So too was watching numerous turtles popping their heads up above the water line before disappearing once more into the deep – always a marvellous sight.

We left Marigot Bay at 04.30 to make the 80nm passage to the British Virgin Islands during daylight, and arrived at Virgin Gorda at 18.20, to find Phil and Norma on Minnie B waiting for us in Gorda Sound.  Having checked in we managed to hire a car and do a tour of the island, finishing for sundowners at Hog Heaven, overlooking the bay, Necker Island and Mosquito Island (owned by Richard Branson), before we parted company again, sailing in opposite directions.

The need for a medical check-up took us to Nanny Cay Marina, where Miles is the General Manager, and also as it happens the Port Officer for the BVIs with the Ocean Cruising Club.  We found him not only charming, but also very generous and hospitable.  We unexpectedly encountered some problems, and Miles and his Yard Manager Keith took control and our stay at Nanny Cay was excellent.  In the ‘Peg Leg’ Nanny Cay has a good restaurant, hotel, swimming pool, haul out facilities, as well as all the trades that one would expect at a world class marina.

Culebra, or the Spanish Virgin Islands beckoned, but we stopped at Cruz in St John (US Virgin Islands) to check in, and try to buy a local sim card.  Being US, their values are rather different from ours, a sim card costs $25US, and the minimum data we could buy was $55US, or a total of £64!  Just unreal, so we decided to rely on internet available in bars or restaurants.   We then headed north west to the north coast of St Thomas, anchoring in Magens Bay, and were amazed to find only one other yacht there, though it is large and well sheltered.  Maybe the reason is that in strong trade winds, you have the katabatic effect of gusts screaming down the hillside.  But we sheltered there whilst the strong easterlies persisted, and discovered that the whole sandy beach was privately owned, and a charge was made of $2 US per person from cruise liners that dock in Charlotte Amelie, plus the taxi fare, a deck chair, drinks, food, paddle boards all extra!  A nice little earner!

We then sailed west to Culebra, an interesting passage knowing that we would have to sail back against the prevailing winds, and also knowing that the anchorage we were aiming for faced the prevailing winds, so what would the shelter be like?  As we approached the offlying island of Culebrita we could see masts in the anchorage, and then the reefs we had planned to negotiate.  As we passed through the reefs and into the buoyed channel, the seas calmed and we found a lagoon that reminded us of being in the South Pacific!

Needing to find out where to leave the dinghy to get to the airport to check in, Bob approached a boat that turned out to be a Wauquiez Centurion, owned by a fascinating Australian and his charming American wife, Paul and Lynn Elliot on SV Kiana.  Sundowners followed, and a phone call to Immigration by Paul announcing that we had arrived, and would check in the next day.  The week that followed was cold, wet and windy, so whilst on a mooring, the anchor was deployed together with a line made fast to the mooring block on the sea bed.  But we managed to explore the island, and in particular its beautiful sandy beaches, made use of by day trippers from Puerto Rico, only a few miles away.  The weather prevented any exploration on Pipistrelle, but we would love to return, it is so different and relaxed compared to the rest of the BVI/USVI’s.

Our passage against the wind to Jost van Dyke to check back in to the BVIs was good, and we arrived in the late afternoon.  At 1900 when it was dark, a yacht anchored close to us, and then Bob heard French voices, followed by a dinghy coming towards us.  Instantly Bob realised this was Max who he met on Damahwil in Corsica last summer, and with friends he had sailed  the Atlantic to the Caribbean.  A great crew, who we met for lunch the following day, before they left for Puerto Rico, and then on up the eastern seaboard of the US.  It is such a small world!

Mo and Nigel joined us in Nanny Cay, and we spent a very enjoyable 10 days exploring Tortola by car, then to Virgin Gorda for a repeat of our experience with Phil and Norma.  Then west to Norman Island for a visit to the ‘The Indians’, a very good snorkelling site in 2010.  What a change for the worse; a lot of the corals have been damaged or have disappeared, in particular the soft corals, and the fish life has left for pastures new.  So that was a big disappointment, but in Benures Bay, Norman Island we found some good coral and plenty of fish, so returned there after ‘The Indians’ for another night, before sailing back to Trellis Bay, Beef Island for Mo and Nigel’s departure.  It was a great week, and the weather could hardly have been better.

As they left, the heavens opened, which delayed our return to Gorda Sound to check out of the BVIs.  Then an overnight passage to St Martin, our first for almost a year, and then on to St Bart’s where we anchored at Ile Fourchue which has a small bay protected from the north and east. Again, all up wind sailing, but with a purpose in mind!

This bay is lovely, surrounded by craggy peaks just waiting to be climbed, the island private but hiking here is acceptable.  And snorkelling is good.  There is virtually no coral, but the surrounds of the bay is fallen rock, giving way to a sandy weed strewn bottom, which turtles love.  And they are in abundance, with heads continually popping up for air, and we found a baby turtle resting amongst the rocks, but happily he swam away as Bob snorkelled down to check he/she was ok.  There are plenty of sting rays here, together with some live conch shellfish, which we have never seen before.  Normally we see plenty of shells but all of them empty.  We also saw a Nassau Grouper, again a first for us, but unfortunately no photos as Bob’s Sony camera that he puts in a special case for underwater photography has developed a fault.  We now find it common to these cameras.  Thanks for the built-in obsolescence, Sony!  The bay will certainly be one of those unforgettable experiences.

We then made the short hop to Anse de Colombier, another lovely bay on the NW corner of St Barts, before setting off on the long day sail back to Jolly Harbour on Antigua, to await the arrival of Andy and Annie, Bob’s son and daughter-in-law, and their two young children, Florence whose 6th birthday we celebrated on board after Easter, and Reuben who is three.  This turned in to a very special time for us.  They were with us for 10 days, so we cleared sails, seating and other ‘stuff’ we have accumulated over the years out of the starboard aft cabin and into a locker at the marina.  At last more habitable space on Pipistrelle!  To share the boat, go swimming in Deep Bay, and take them to other sights on Antigua was truly memorable.


Posted in Antigua, Bequia, BVI (British Virgin Islands), Caribbean, Grenada and The Grenadines, Guadaloupe, Les Saintes, Martinique, Mustique, St Barts, St Lucia, USVI (US Virgin Islands) | Tagged , , ,

Wait For It …..!

A summary of the last five months’ Caribbean cruising is finally, finally nearing completion, with publication and photos when we reach our next destination ….

B E R M U D A!



Posted in Bermuda, Caribbean

Happy New Year 2017!

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and peaceful new year.  Fair winds and following seas for the cruising community.

With Pipistrelle’s lay-up in Grenada for the hurricane season, the blog took a break too, so with the new year, here is a resumé of what we were up to in those past six months.

A picture tells a thousand words; this is the story, with some boating thrown in of course!

Spring in the English garden

Around Bournemouth and Poole

Summer in familiar North Hampshire countryside

In London Town

Interlude in Sweden

Superyacht sailing in Corsica

Oxford weekend

Berkhamsted School 475th Anniversary

Offshore Cruising Club (OCC) Regatta


Now we’re back in the Caribbean, retracing our steps from seven years ago and slowly heading north.   An update will follow soon.


Posted in England, General, Scandinavia, Sweden | Tagged , , , ,

Pipistrelle Takes a Break

After those well-earned sundowners we mentioned before, and flights back to the UK, Pipistrelle is now ‘relaxing’.  Chocked up and strapped down on land at Grenada Marine, St David’s to the east of Prickly Bay, it could be worse.  Staying on board would have been most uncomfortable with the heat, humidity and mosquitoes, so the nearby resort of La Sagesse is absolutely ideal with its good accommodation, quiet clean bay, sandy beach and ‘shuttle’ service running to and from the boat yard more or less on demand.  And the staff are exceptional, almost like a family, with most of them having worked there for over 10 years, all thanks to the owners Jerry and Mike, who have created a great team.  We’re already booked in there when we return in November.

In fact, of the three yards providing haul out services in Grenada we chose Grenada Marine over Spice Island and Clarke’s Court because we felt it was a safer place to layup and the trades on site are superior.   Mothballing Pipistrelle for over 5 months of the hurricane season is no trivial exercise – it’s not simply a question of ‘lock-up-and-leave’.   What seemed like – and was – weeks of preparation gradually ticking off tasks from a seemingly never-ending list, ranged from serious engine and generator maintenance, winch servicing to ensuring all laundry was done and the fridge / freezer emptied and defrosted, as well as cleaning all interior surfaces, finishing with white vinegar, removing all deck equipment, sails, lowering the anchor and chain to a trestle on the ground, and removing all running rigging … to name but a few.

But we have had some experience of tropical lay-ups, notably in Thailand when we left Pipistrelle in Krabi for the monsoon season.  Click ‘And So To Bed‘ to see the article.

One highlight amongst all the hard graft was a night excursion to see leatherback turtles laying eggs at Levera Beach which is on the north east coast of Grenada, immediately to the south west of Sugar Loaf island.  Well worth the 90 ECD combined cost of travel and entry fee to the National Park.  Flash photography was not allowed so these are the two best shots.  See too the account of our unique experience nearly six years ago in Testigos, the Venezuelan Islands.



Posted in Caribbean, Grenada and The Grenadines | Tagged , , , , ,

Summary of a Circumnavigation

First of all, and just in case you may have missed our news in the last blog, Pipistrelle has completed her circumnavigation!  Here she is at anchor in Grenada.

On 2nd June 2010 we sailed from Prickly Bay, Grenada on what would become our round the globe journey.  Almost 6 years and 35,000nm later, we dropped anchor early on 5th April 2016 in nearly the same spot.  We feel immensely privileged to have cruised to so many different destinations, marvelled at the wonders of nature and wildlife, met and appreciated people from different cultures and enjoyed the company of likeminded cruisers along the way.

To sum up our voyage succinctly is challenging but here goes …

After Grenada our first cruising grounds were the beautiful and largely unspoilt Venezuelan Islands of Los Testigos, where we witnessed what turned out to be the first of many David Attenborough-esque moments when under cover of darkness, a leatherback turtle laid her eggs on a beach.  More remote islands followed including Los Roques.  We were fortunate enough to explore when it was still relatively safe – six years later it is not.  Then on to the ABC island of Bonaire for the most fantastic snorkelling and diving, from where we commuted frequently to Curacao – a short day passage.  From Aruba we set sail for the 16th century city of Cartagena, Colombia where we took part in Independence Day celebrations in November before heading towards Kuna Yala, or the beautiful San Blas islands.  Arriving in the east, we worked our way westwards through the chain, spent Christmas and New Year at Panamarina before going back through some of the islands again, they and the Kuna Indians were just so unique.  Then making the hop to Shelter Bay Marina, on the Colon side of the Panama Canal, brought decision time…

We made the right choice!

Transiting the Panama Canal in February 2011 was a highlight in itself and descending into the Pacific was an auspicious moment in our lives.  We had heard we would have the best sailing ever crossing the ocean that makes up a quarter of the world’s water.  We did.  From the Las Perlas to the Darwinian Galapagos where we cruised for three weeks and on to the majestic Marquesas, we were enthralled, despite having an uncomfortable couple of days in our first experience of the ITCZ.  With the aim of reaching New Zealand by the beginning of November, we were on a schedule to follow the trade winds.  Time enjoying anchorages and culture of the Marquesas and Society Islands of French Polynesia with its beautiful and varied topography, snorkelling with a manta ray in the remote island of Suwarrow, the northern Cook Islands, discovering Western Samoa with its Robert Louis Stevenson associations and then on to Niuatoputapu.  Here on the northernmost island of the Kingdom of Tonga, with the local population and other cruisers we commemorated the second anniversary of a devastating tsunami and participated in the annual church feast.

A brisk sail south took us to the Vava’u group with its marvellous anchorages, snorkelling and diving spots and then we began watching the weather for THAT window to head south from the Tropics, to Opua.  Two southern summers centred on North Island in New Zealand sailing around the Bay of Islands, Whangarei and Great Barrier Island together with the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland were unforgettable experiences.  We have wonderful memories of this marvellous country and it would not have taken much for us to become harbour-bound there, simply heading north again for the NZ winters.

But in 2013 we left for Vanuatu, where we witnessed eruptions at the active volcano of Mount Yasur, watched a land diving spectacle at Pentecost, sailed to the uninhabited Huon Reef, the Louisiades (Papua New Guinea), and via the Torres Strait to Saumlaki in Indonesia.  From there we sailed westwards through the islands to Nusa Tenggara, went diving off Labuanbajo, saw the dragons of Komodo, enjoyed song and dance on Bali, stopped in Java to visit the ancient site of Borobudur, got up close and personal to orang-utan in Kumai, Borneo, and then sailed on via Jahor Bahru for the bright city lights of Singapore.  The island of Penang provided a fascinating ‘stopover’ for a few days before we headed on as far as Rebak Marina in Langkawi.

2014 saw us based around Langkawi and Phuket, from where we explored the impressive Hongs of Phang Nga Bay, the Krabi area, as well as the beautiful Similan Islands.  It was also our opportunity to go travelling in South East Asia for a month while Pipistrelle was safe in Yacht Haven Marina.

In January 2015 we slipped the lines once more and set sail across the Indian Ocean stopping firstly in Sri Lanka, then working our way through the aquarium of the Maldives where we were struck by lightning for the third time in our voyage, putting us behind schedule while repairs/replacements were done in Gan on Addu Atoll, the southernmost of the chain.  Then on to deserted Chagos, and from there a challenging passage to the Seychelles.  Our toughest, roughest ride ever followed to Madagascar where cruising the northwest coast is sublime and where fishing, lemurs and chameleons made up for the trials of the previous days at sea.  Then from Nosy Bé through the Mozambique Channel to Durban, South Africa.  Finally to Simons Town in December, where we enjoyed wine-tasting excursions in the Cape Town and Stellenbosch areas before embarking on a fascinating self-drive land safari in Namibia to round off the year.

So to this year.  Mid-January, we departed Simons Town and sailed the South Atlantic from South Africa via the remote British outpost of St Helena to Jacaré, near Cabedelo, northeast Brazil.  After a longer than expected sojourn of about 3 weeks there (we could not resist travelling for two of them), we sailed for the Iles du Salut off French Guiana (of Papillon fame) and on to Grenada where – amazingly – we closed the loop and in only two and a half months had sailed 6,000nm.

We just need to point Pipistrelle towards the UK again now, from where we set off at the end of May 2008.  But that’s for another year.

And now for a well earned sundowner …


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