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We left Cape Town early on 22nd February and had a quick shake-down sail (to test out our new Genoa) across to the bird sanctuary of Dassen Island 39 miles away. Just as we were dropping our anchor mid afternoon an enormous “rock” appeared less than 10 metres away on our Port side which hadn't been there only a few seconds before. As we did a double take wondering how the hell we hadn't seen it, the lump moved and we realised it was a Hump-backed Whale surfacing..... unfortunately, we just couldn't get to the camera quickly enough before it went back under water !!!



We stayed in the anchorage to finish all our final stowage and to get used to being back at sea and left on 25th February on the first leg of our Atlantic Crossing. Goodbye South Africa...
 




It was a great run for the first few days with 15 knot winds. These winds combined with our clean bottom, new Genoa and maybe a bit of current were pushing us along nicely and we were averaging 150 miles per day. As always, this didn't last and by day 6 we were drifting along again at about 1.5 knots... Whilst this was a bit wobbly, we were still on course and it was warm and sunny so we weren't really complaining. After a sluggish 36 hours the wind returned with some squally weather but, at least, we were making good progress again.

Unfortunately, our kicking strap blocks exploded under the pressure of goose-winging the Main sail so Roger had to quickly make replacements using his “Blue Peter” manual, lots of string and bits of sticky tape which we hoped would hold until we arrived in St. Helena when he would be able to make a better bodge pending a decent Chandlers in the Caribbean....

The next few days were quite uneventful.





We arrived in Jamestown, St Helena on 10th March after 13 days and 4 hours, covering 1,750 miles – an average of 5.54 knots – our fastest ever Ocean passage.... We also passed our 50,000 miles mark and crossed the Greenwich Meridian so quite a memorable trip.




St Helena is a small volcanic tropical island lost in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean – only 10 miles x 5 miles. The Island is the second oldest remaining overseas British territory (after Bermuda).



The Customs and Immigration formalities were very quick and easy - The Port Controller was a very nice Guy called Steven who made us feel very welcome. It turned out that he was a Londoner and a Spurs Supporter.





Jamestown is quite a small place. We spent a day with a lovely old Chap – a 77 year old called Robert who took us on an Island Tour.
 



This included Napoleon's House where he lived from October 1815 when he was exiled on the Island until his death in May 1821. {In 1858 the French Government gained possession of Longwood House and the lands around it and this is still French property administered by a French representative under the authority of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs}.






Napoleon was buried originally on St. Helena but in 1840 permission was granted to return his remains to France. A winding footpath leads to the Tomb which has a large white stone bearing no inscription. It is surrounded by several trees among which are 12 Cypress trees planted in memory of Napoleon's twelve great victories. 





We also visited Plantation House where the Governor lives and saw the resident Tortoise “Jonathan” who is one of the highlights of the Tour and, not only the oldest resident “Saint”, but also one of the oldest Tortoises in the World at 176 years old.  





The Island remains very unspoilt – there are only a few Tourists making it all the way out here either on the Royal Mail Ship (5 day voyages from Cape Town) or on one of the very few Cruise Ships that stop on the Island.

RMS St. Helena


It almost seems a shame that they are building the Airport as we are not sure how the Island and the Islanders will be affected once it opens in 2016 and the anticipated influx of Tourists occurs...
 

New Runway


A more unusual Tourist attraction is Jacob's Ladder which has 699 steps stretching 600 feet high from Jamestown in the floor of the valley to the Fort at Ladder Hill on the western Valley Slope. Originally a rope ladder used by Soldiers climbing to and from the barracks at the top, it was replaced in the 1820s by a horse powered inclined plane used to carry manure out of Jamestown's stables for use by the Farmers inland.
 
This plane was dismantled by the Royal Engineers in 1871 but the steps remained and today it is either a short way up or down the valley, an exhilarating climb, or 699 steps of torment, depending on your point of view and level of fitness.





He made it...


The record for climbing the Ladder is 5 minutes and 16.78 seconds set in January 2013 by a chap running on all fours - Roger was a tad slower but he made it to the top and got his Certificate to prove it.... Vicki's acrophobia hit her just under halfway up... she shouldn''t have looked down.

Creeping back down..


In April 1898, Joshua Slocum, on his famous and epic solo round the world voyage on his yacht “Spray” visited Jamestown. He departed for the final leg of his circumnavigation having presented two lectures on his voyage.




There is a St. Helena Golf Club which, of course, we had to visit and Roger played the 9 holes. It was not quite as well maintained as the Courses he had got used to in South Africa but it was fun – especially when we almost missed one hole completely as the Groundsman was doing some repair work and we couldn't make out where the Green was located !!!





After 2 weeks, we had had enough of the rolly anchorage and decided it was time to leave. Like Slocum, this was the last leg of our circumnavigation...

Ready to go...




We left on 25th March goose-winging at about 4 knots in sunny weather. All crew were sleeping on deck until about 6am when a nasty squall hit us sending 2 dogs plus 2 crew scurrying below rather rapidly with our sleeping bags, blankets etc.

We were experiencing quite light winds most of the time with intermittent squalls and averaging only about 90 mile per day. Mind you, we were getting quite expert at clearing the cockpit when the rain came...



As seems usual for our Ocean crossings, we had not seen any other vessels since we left St. Helena but, on the 11th night, any vessel within about 100 miles of us could have heard “The Beast of the Atlantic” howling into the air as Basil awoke from a deep sleep to find 2 birds taking a cheeky break on our Solar Panel. He was not a happy little Chap at their outrageous behaviour and we ended up having to take him below deck to stop his barking until the Birds had flown away !!!

A few nights later, we had 4 more birds stalking us with Basil going nutty. After a confrontation on top of the dinghy, it was time for him to be confined below again (rather than Vicki having Kittens worrying about him)...



By the 14th day , we were well into the Doldrums but moving steadily albeit very slowly. We crossed the Equator on 15th April (29 25.814W) and were back in the Northern hemisphere again for the first time in over 5 years. We were hopeful of picking up the NE Tradewinds any day soon. Our progress was still very spasmodic but we were getting there...

Toasting Neptune


We were experiencing lots of weed patches around the Equator - some up to 400 yards wide. It was very spooky sailing through them as the Sea went completely still and quiet.



On day 32, we saw 2 ships making a total of 4 the entire trip. It had been pretty lonely with no other yachts or even fishing boats around and we were looking forward to making landfall and enjoying that first Beer... 



The strange Seaweed that we had seen around the Equator was still with us and kept jamming up our Aquagen every 5 minutes. We weren't sure what it was or what had caused it but it was becoming a real nuisance. {We subsequently learned that this was Sargassum Weed which generally inhabits shallow water and coral reefs. It is widely known for its planktonic (free-floating) species reproducing vegetatively and never attaching to the seafloor during it's lifecycle}. It was frustrating having to run the engine for 3 hours a day just to keep our batteries topped up.

Land ahead


We were still making erratic progress going from one squall to the next and it seemed like we were never going to get to Grenada but, on 1st May 2015 after 37 days and 5 hours and 3,915 miles, we finally dropped our anchor in Prickly Bay.