Lucy and the New Dawn Traders

Fare Traded by Sail

Category: Open Ocean

Zen and the Arts of Ship Maintenance

Our Atlantic passage. Are you ready for this? It’s a long one… But then it has been a long sail… so here goes!

It took us 18 days of Open Ocean sailing from Cape Verde islands to Trinidad. Initially the sail plan was estimated at 13-14 days but the mix of a plague of repairs and breakages combined with periods of low wind delayed our passage. The bearing combined with the wind angle meant we had to jybe regularly as we made way (Our bearing switched between NW by W to SW by W depending on the jybe angle). Changes in wind led us to chart at least 500 sea miles more than the direct course line between Cape Verdes and Trinidad indicated. By the end of this passage we had covered 2521 nautical miles.

This means I’ve travelled over 5000 nautical miles to date, which equals at least one swallow tattoo! At the end I will surely have both.


For the most part we had blistering sunshine and smooth seas. Early on we had a small amount of drizzle and some overcast conditions but on the whole it has been bright and breezy. As the weeks progressed the ship got hotter and much stuffier down below. By the end sleeping at night had become a sweaty affair and the decks felt like walking across hot coals in the mid day sun.

Merde! Our soles are burning!

At the end of the first week the wind had dropped significantly and I feared we were becalmed in the ‘horse latitudes’, an area of little wind just above the line of the trade winds. Here the Sargasso weed swirls and mariners can be stranded for weeks at a time.

The term ‘Horse latitudes’ was coined by the explorers and conquistadors on route to the new world, with their full complement of beasts required for making war and conquering new territory. If their ships wandered from the trade routes into the airless centre stranded in swirling Sargasso weed with their ships rations and water running out, they would throw the horses over the side to conserve their precious supplies.

For a moment while gazing out at the glassy water I thought I heard the ghostly neighs of long lost white horses…

However the Captain soon snapped me back to reality assuring me we were in no such place and that the trade winds were just having an off day. Sure enough the following day, the weather broke, we experienced some rain and the steady winds returned.

Most nights the sky has been clear full of starlight with many shooting stars. One evening on watch with Antje, just before the full moon, we spotted an incredibly large meteor flash through the sky burning with green fire.

On another watch with Martina I asked her if she had seen any shooting stars this evening. She replied she had and pointed to where she had seen one. Just at that moment a bright star blazed across the sky. Our spines tingled.

We have been doing all our washing in seawater including ourselves. There are not even enough fresh water supplies to rinse in. Over the course of the 3 weeks we gradually became more and more encrusted in salt. It’s been difficult to stop even my short hair from turning into dread locks. All our plates, cups and bowls all taste of salt.

We swam several times along way. The water is much saltier here, very warm and in the mid Atlantic it is a beautiful deep Bristol blue hue. But by the end we were all desperate for sweetwater showers. Near the end of the passage we sailed through a squall complete with torrential rain. Not a moment was lost stripping of to delight in the sweet rain.

I’m showering in the rain. Showering in the rain. What a beautiful feeling, while sailing through the rain.

Once again as we departed from the Cape Verde islands we were flanked by a pod of playful dolphins. This has happened every time we have left port so far.

The most abundant organisms we have seen are schools of flying fish. These weird fish have long wings in place of the fins on their sides. These wings enable them to leap out of the water and glide up to 10 meters across the surface. We have had more flying fish commit suicide by landing on our decks than we can remember. Every time it happens they get put in a bucket and saved for breakfast. Gaddafi has eaten flying fish nearly every day.

Oh Breakfast!

At one point Jamie and Damon saw a school of flying fish leap out of the water being chased by a huge Mahi Mahi fish that could just be seen through the tip of the waves.

At the end of the passage we gained another crewmember; a little bird that sat on our stern all night.

Haven’t spotted any whales though… Maybe on the way home…

Our penultimate day at sea was hot, humid and incredibly sweaty. We had a long list of cleaning tasks to get through before we arrived in Trinidad plus 2 of the heads (toilets) had broken. It was a long day for all as pipes were dismantled and pumped out, the bilges swabbed clean. At the end we savored a stash of beer Jamie had secretly stowed in Cape Verde and as the sun was setting, a beautiful rainbow appeared over our stern.

We have had an eventful but on the whole tranquil crossing. It’s no bad thing to spend over 2 weeks in a bikini and bare feet, sharing stories and feasting together, while cruising on a vintage trade ship.

Ships rations

With the departure of Kat in the Cape Verdes, It was back to Jamie and I to be on Galley and rationing duties. Upon realizing that some of our key ships rations were going down much faster than we anticipated and that we were likely to be at sea longer than planned, Jamie and I had to issue some rules for the provisions. Our cheese and egg supplies were being eaten far faster than planned as people had been helping themselves for breakfasts and snack throughout the day. By day 7 the galley was completely off limits save getting bowls of cereals, toast or tea in the morning. This didn’t go down well with the other crewmembers and led to much grumblings.

We also had a little cheese making experiment. Once while making yoghurt Jamie underestimated the heat in the engine room. This led the yoghurt to curdle with the coagulated proteins separating from the liquid whey. Not wanting to throw it away, we decided to strain it and see if we could make cheese. Fortunately I had a stock of muslin cloths with me so put one to good use hanging the wobbly gelatinous ball of sour curds in the galley.

A couple of days later we had the final product, a sour cream cheese, as an addition to boat made pizza and Chilli sin Carne. It was delicious!

But the big foodie news of the passage was Antoine’s fishing success. Finally after weeks of effort with a whole array of different hooks, lines and varying techniques Antoine finally mastered the art catching several Mahi mahi, AKA Dolphin fish, for supper. A welcome addition to the ships vitals!

At the end of the 1st week at sea it was Easter. I made a batch of fresh hot cross buns. We also had some little chocolate bunnies and chicks stowed for each crewmember for Easter Sunday. By the end of the 2nd week we had run out of both white and brown flour, which sadly put an end to bread and cake baking.

Our fresh vegetables ran out in the 2nd week. However our fruit supplies last well especially after we learnt to cover all the citrus fruits and melons in Vaseline to prevent surface moulds. For the first week we feasted on deliciously sweet pineapples from the Cape Verde islands. We have been getting really creative with canned provisions using lots of fresh lemons, limes, herbs and spices to bring fresh flavours to dishes. Everyone apart from our Frenchmen likes lots of fresh chillies and curry spices.

The biggest challenge in the galley has been coping with the constant movement. At times Irene can be pitching through the swell corkscrewing 20 degrees either way. I’ve adapted a song to hum (occasionally wailed) in those slippery moments.

Oh lord won’t you buy me a gimballed oven… All other ships have them, why doesn’t this one? Work hard through the day preparing Crew sup’r. Oh lord won’t you buy me a gimballed oven… 

Finally, as with any long passage, we had to be super vigilant about our water supplies. Irene doesn’t have a large water tank so we were carrying bottled drinking water for crew. However despite our best efforts and orders not to wash excessively or run the taps we still drained the tank in a week. This prompted a rush to recount all the bottles on board and to start tracking our daily consumption.

Seamanship

We continued the daily lectures and structured conversations throughout the weeks at sea covering topics such as meteorology, navigation, maintenance, rope work and all the various bits of knowledge required for the Ocean Yacht masters qualification. We had a good session learning the most important knots for the ship including Reef knot, Bowlin, Hitch, Double hitch, round turn and 2 half hitches, timber hitch amongst others. We were then immediately tested on them by a rapid-fire knot exam. Jamie emerged victorious with me in second place. I think a rematch soon is in order.

We are now well familiarized with the names of the various parts of Irene with Leslie quizzing us sporadically.

Gaddafi took each of us through the methodology for astronavigation at sea using his sextant. A sextant is a telescope attached to a series of filters, a mirror and arm measuring degrees of angle. We each took multiple sightings of the sun at time intervals in order to chart our position. By measuring the angle of the sun, or other celestial bodies, from the horizon we established our position with the aid of a current Almanac. An Almanac is a book published yearly with details the orientation of the planets and major visible stars to the earth along with having useful information like tides times.

On the penultimate day Leslie delivered his final lecture to the crew, which turned out to be an exam on all that we had studied over the last 2 months.

Repairs and Maintenance

There wasn’t a day that went by when we didn’t need to fix or repair something on Irene. She certainly demands a lot of attention! But she is a hundred year old lady so it is to be expected I suppose. On the first day the rope for the main hardener on the main sail frayed and needed replacing. The following day, the flying jib halyard frayed which required a new section of rope to be spliced in.

Next the main throat halyard chaffed and almost snapped twice. The first time a new piece of rope was pulled through to replace it. But after the second incident it was decided that it was likely to happen again unless someone went up to see what was in the way. We sailed for 3 days without the main sail and made way with a ‘blooper’ instead which was hoisted from the mizzenmast. Once the swell settled first Damon, then the captain went up the mast.

There was a bit of metal that was discovered to be the culprit. While fixing the main halyard Damon discovered that the starboard spreader was cracked. There was no way of repairing the spreader at sea which meant that we couldn’t hoist the flying jib or the top sail, as this would put too much pressure on the top mast which, incidentally, also appears to be in danger of snapping.

While on dawn watch in the second week while helming a large solid wood block fell from the top of the mizzenmast onto deck with a very loud thud. The pin of the shackle attaching it to the mast had worked loose.

Also on this day the iron fittings on the end of the main boom almost fell off. This led to a long messy operation whereby the sail was dropped, the fittings removed and then reattached with tar, black butter and longer screws.

Finally while on a dawn watch a week later Martina and witnessed the combing and main sail detach from the boom. Fortunately this isn’t a key piece of kit and Damon was able to lash the sail directly to the boom quickly.

Throughout this leg of the Voyage Damon, with Martina’s assistance, has been making a new awning for Irene out of sailcloth. It will be hung over the boom while in port to provide shelter from the sun and a place to sleep under at night while we sail through the Caribbean.

And after all the hassle and waiting for the broken Sat Phone, it still isn’t working properly! Don’t ever buy an InMarSat phone. Incredibly frustrating the amount of time we hasted on this piece of kit.

But there were moments in the middle of the Atlantic as far from as we could be, when we were thinking. Cripes. What next? Fortunately nothing was terminal.

And on the brightside, many lessons are being learned for future voyages. Anyway there is a long list of repairs we will have to make in the lay over days in Trinidad.

Trading places

During the first week at sea, Antje and I switched bunks with Jamie and moved into the fo’c's’le. Jamie, after 3 months in a narrow short bunk constantly banging his head, was desperate to move to one of the cabins with the larger double beds. The fo’c's’le is much more airy and light and I was pleased to have my own bunk. After the move the captain promptly renamed it the ‘foxhole’. As the fo’c's’le is at the front of the ship it experiences more the pitching which is fun and irritating in equal measure.

The FoxHole

At no point do I ever stop moving on this ship, even when I’m asleep. This can be exhausting and I’m sure is the reason why everyone is having very vivid dreams

States of mind

Time takes on a new dimension while at sea. The hours can stretch and warp leading watches to fly by or feel like pulling teeth. Over the weeks I’ve had more ups and downs then a yo-yo.

I’ve now been with Irene and her New Dawn Traders for 3 months. I joked as I was leaving London in January that I was taking part in an extreme version of Big Brother. Mostly it’s been serene, relaxed and profoundly peaceful. The perpetual routine of watch interspersed with hours lying on deck reading or playing our instruments. But there are moments when you realise you have never been so bored, so frustrated or wanted more than anything to step off the back of the boat. Or send someone else over the side!

The biggest difficulty to deal with is irritability, my own and others. It can be difficult at times to muster the strength to fend off other people’s harsh words and micro dramas in such a small space.

Then someone brings you a cup of tea and a biscuit. All is forgiven.

Mostly these feelings emerge after a fitful night of disturbed sleep. Irene is noisy at the best of times and everyone must do one of the night watch meaning you are either late to bed or early depending on which time slot you are on. With so much time to think, to sit, to stare I’m finding that things bubble to the surface that I thought had been long forgotten. Often I can’t even remember exactly what it is, just a physical feeling that has lain dormant trapped in memory, freed by the perpetual rocking. Consciously I take stock, remembering it not to be real and certainly not present.

With the same view of the sea day in day out and little in the way of wildlife to observe on this leg it has, at times, been difficult to fill the hours. Eventually you stop trying.

Patience with myself, others and time is the most valuable lesson I think I’m getting from this experience. Finding freedom from my own mind.

Hard life

Brain food

I’ve read a great deal on this passage. And there has been much sharing of books between the crew as we share our favorite stories. The most read so far is The Last Grain Race with 5 of the crew now familiar with Newby’s adventures aboard the Good Ship Moshulu.

Two books stand out for me on this leg.

Firstly I read Quantum, the story of the discovery of the Quantum world following the journey of Einstein, Planck, Bell and Bohr plus others as they discovered new properties of light, the atomic structure and mapped out the periodic tables right up to the discovery of teleporting particles. It also details the impact or the first and second world wars on Scientists and Universities. There are also some enchanting details about Einstein’s (and others) life including how he used red or white roses to symbolise his decision to accept Planck’s offer to join his faculty in Berlin.

Secondly, and is undoubtedly my favourite book thus far, is ‘The Voyage’ by Charles Morgan, a rich poignant story about a vine grower in France just after the Revolution in the late 19th century. I instantly adored the main characters Barbet and Therese, a pair of voyaging dreamers, and was unable to put the book down until I had completely devoured it 2 days later. The story is about their separate voyages beyond expectation and unfolds between Cognac region of rural France and Paris. The vivid accounts of the French vineyards, reeds and rivers and woodland landscapes where some of the story unfolds leaves me dreaming of solid ground and the countryside once again.

Heureaux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage. Joachim Du Bellay.

Our next port of call

We’ll be in Trinidad for up to a week while we unload cargo, load our bounty for Bristol and re-provision the ship. We have some adventures planned with the Trinidad Slow Food Cooperative while we’re there. We are in search of spices, coffee, angostura bitters. And apparently there is award-winning chocolate to be found!

We are also losing some crew members here as they disembark to continue their journey into South America.

I’ll keep you posted. In between drinking Rum and Coca that is!

If you ever go down Trinidad
They make you feel so very glad
Calypso sing and make up rhyme
Guarantee you one real good fine time

Planetai

7 days and 7 nights. Wandering by the stars from Vigo to Tenerife.

Highlight – The stars the stars the stars!

Lowlight – Our main rig collapsed after the jaws on the gaff broke….

Saturn day

A week ago today we slipped our lines from Vigo and set our sails for Tenerife on a bearing of South South West. Once agin the sun was shining brightly (I know I know! I say this nearly every post) and the winds were fair and there was a moderate swell.

Bye bye Vigo

After leaving the main harbour and cruising past the islands at the mouth of the estuary we had a light lunch of Smorgasboard before getting stuck into some training drills. We went through the routine for ‘Muster’, man over board and fire. The man over board routine was especially important as this was the first time practising the manoeuvre under full sails. After successfully completing the drills we set our course and settled into our watch system. Jamie and I were on watch from 10pm with the Captain Laurance. The sky was almost cloudless with a bright haloed moon. Our initial heading had us sailing in the direction of Orion.

Ville on Night Watch

We passed many cargo ships in the night as we sailed through the main shipping lane from Lisbon. Most of the crew went down with seasickness including Jamie who spent most of watch looking either quite green or being sick and poor Kat had to make her bed in the saloon with a bucket next to her head all night.

Moonday

The following morning I was dragged out of bed before my watch to set the sails, gybe and hoist additional jib sails. We were making max speed of 10 kts with an average of 7-8. The swell was 4-5 metres. Our ship Irene was rolling all over the place which wasn’t helping the members of crew still suffering from sea sickness. On night watch I spent much of the time I was not helming the boat studying Star finder, an app on the iphone that shows you all the star names and constellations if you point it at the sky.

Full moon through the rigging

As we changed watch I took over the helm while we prepared to reef the mizzen sail (The sail on the smaller of our masts at the stern of the boat). As the wind was directly behind us and was building in force we were struggling to maintain the course due to the turning force of the mizzen sail pushing Irene up into the wind. It meant steering the boat was like a continual wrestling match. Irene was built as a coastal trading vessel and her hull and rigging are really designed for reaching along the shore taking advantage of onshore and offshore breezes. Not running downwind with the trades. Later in the afternoon our skipper Leslie gave a lecture to the trainee crew on coastal navigation. And the rest of the day I spent nose deep in my books.

Mars day

This was my galley day so I spent most of it preparing food. We were making excellent progress getting many sea miles under our sails. The winds were still good and there was a big swell. At some points we would look back over the stern and see a big wave approaching and be thinking is that going to break over us before the ship would lurch and surf down it. I set about preparing veggie burgers from scratch including baking fresh burger baps and making hand-cut chips along with Tahini chocolate cookies which I had promised the crew the night before. It turned out to be far more difficult than I expected due to the motion of the ship. At one point I was kneading bread in the saloon and got completely thrown against the side of the ship with the dough landing in my lap. Later I sent all the coleslaw mix across the galley.

Floured baps and tahini cookies

There was one particularly big wave which sent all the crates of our vegetable flying. After a while of thinking what the hell is going on deck I went out to check. And was gobsmacked to find that the the main rig had collapsed!

The collapsed main rig

Everyone was on deck wrestling with the main sail trying to restrain the boom and main gaff. In the heavy swell the jaws of the main gaff snapped off leaving the rig flaying widely pulling the boat over.

Untangling the mess of the collapsed main after the gaff jaws broke.

The crew were very shell shocked over dinner and we sat in silence as we ate. Kat commented that it was one of the most terrifying experience she has had on a boat.

Mizzen sail sail rigged from an old jib

However we managed to get all the sails safely stowed and we rigged up one of the jib sails to function as mizzen stay sail to go some way towards replacing the wind power we lost from the befallen main sail.

Mercury day

Remarkably we are still making good progress without our main sail. Average speed is 6 kts. The swell has settled.

Mmmmmmmmmmm

Kat and Jamie made the most incredible lemon meringue pie much to the delight of all the crew – we scrapped over every last crumb.

As the sun set the sea took on a surreal quality of quiksilver with the sun as a perfectly circular molten lead orb.

Sunset. Again.

We listened to The XX by moonlight while helming under the stars with jupiter and venus to starboard and the moon and orion, the striding warrior, to port. I finished reading ‘Unbearably lightness of being’ a book on existensial philosophy and the nature of the soul. A final line from the book:

“Its terrific to realise you are free of all missions”

Jupiter day

Dawn watch and by jove it was another incredible sight. Each and every one has been slightly different. This one was marked out by the complete absence of any clouds whatsover. We are skirting the coast of Morocco so its an African sun rising over our heads today. The moon set at 7.47am and the sun rose at 8.10am. Already by 10 am it was baking on deck and we were reaching for the sunglasses and suncream. I made round of melty cheesy cumin and chilli eggy bread for watch breakfast. Martina joined us on deck for her breakfast before taking over the watch with her pimped up cornflakes. As she arrived on deck to sit down near the poop a massive wave broke over the deck and sent her cornflakes flying all over her crotch.

“Oh manno Schiesse. Verdammt Irene!”

Later that day we took turns dosing and cooling off with buckets of cold seawater.

Wet boys scrubbing the decks

The idle was only broken momentarily when Jamie struggled with a person from Specsavers over the Sat phone while trying to order a new batch of disposable contact lenses.

“What why didn’t you tell me at the beginning of the call that no staff are in yet. I’m calling from a sat phone! Do you have any idea how much this costs?”

Probably not. They were in Slough.

Venus day

The watch routine and the toll of being at sea for 6 days was starting to take its toll. In the night Antje had a really funny dream where she was being screamed at by Gaddafi (Ramon) to go PORT! then STARBOARD! Back to PORT! Antje was helming in her sleep with my feet! (We share a room and the double bunk top and tail – beats the hell out of the narrow top bunks with no head room!).

Without a doubt this was the most idyllic harmonious day of the week. Some how we all slipped into a mesmerising trance like industriousness on baord. I was back on galley duty and spent most of the day on deck slowly washing, peeling and grating veges for salads and evening dinner

Antje hoisting the mizzen staysail

.

Baggy wrinkles

Martina and Antje were making ‘baggy wrinkles’ for the masts (grass skirts from untwinned rope to protect the sails from the rigging). Captain was sanding and painting the gaff. Everywhere you looked on board someone was peacefully at craft. The earlier parts of the week we had been more fragmented due to sea sickness and rougher conditions. The best part of the day was a seawater bucket shower on deck after a delicious dinner of shepherds pie.

We finally cruised into Tenerife on Saturday. First sight was the tip of the Volcano around 10 am just as I came on my watch. Antje woke me at 8am.

Just another sunrise

“Lucy. You should see the sunrise. It is the best yet!”

Sun from the east rising over Irene

Gradually the full form of the island emerged from the morning mist.

The volcano faint in the mist!

We sailed into Santa cruz harbour and were given a mooring in along the sea wall next to the fishing boats and ferry. Another tall ship called Alva is in the harbour. We made fast the lines, jumped into the sea for a quick dip before stepping into Babylon…

What I hadn’t realised when we set from Vigo to Tenerife is that we were sailing through an epic planetary moment with all 5 visible planets in the sky and we saw every single one of them from the Atlantic. Truly truly blessed. 

Planetai means ‘Wandering stars’ in Greek

Onwards to Tenerife!

We are casting off from Vigo. It’s breezy, fresh and sunny. Hoping for good winds and happy sailing. It will take us 7-8 days to sail to the Canary Islands.

Hasta la vista!

Today Mars will be at its closest and brightest!

Traversing the Bay of Biscay

In summary…

Phosphorescence, dolphins, whales, hitch hiking birds.

And OMG the most incredible starlight.

Rolling rolling rolling

We went this way, that way, forward and backwards ov’r Bay o’ Biscay. A bottle of rum to fill my tum, a sailors life for me!

The 3 long days we spent in Dournenez might as well as been a month for the way it felt. When we finally cast off the ropes after getting the insurance we were still reeling from the news that we could finally leave! The Captain didn’t waste any time in issuing the orders to leave. Irene was desperate to get moving after 3 aching days against the harbour wall. At points we thought she might rip free from the mooring lines the noise she was making against the fenders.

There was a thick mist across the harbour as we headed out in the murky night. I was on watch with Jamie and was sent immediately to bow watch. The visibility was not more than 100 metres so we needed to check for other vessels or the lights on the shoreline. The boat is 35 metres in length so we use walkie talkies to communicate between the bow and the helm. We slipped past the headland and headed out for the Bay of Biscay. By the end of my watch I was frozen through having not had time to grab my thermals and gloves. I quickly grabbed some of the supper Ville and I’d prepared earlier for the crew and jumped straight into my bunk. My next watch was at 2am.

Antje and Ville by the Whaleback

I arrived back on watch to find us out at sea with our wake illuminated by phosphorescence and torpedoes of sparkling dolphins. They were dashing underneath playing in the water pressures and surfing forward on our bow waves. Earlier Damon, Antje and Ville had witnessed a pod of whales. The remainder of my watch zipped by in a waking trance between scanning the horizon for ships and helming Irene.

Dolphins leaping on our Bow in Biscay on Sunday

Following watch was at 2pm. We acquired a hitch hiker: a little ginger land bird which spends its time circling the stern and perching on the spreaders. We could hear it singing as it flew with us.

Little bird

Jamie and Ramon spent the afternoon inventing nicknames for each other and the rest of the crew. Ramon has been nicknamed ‘Gaddafi’. It has evolved from ‘the General’ in light of his persistent bossy crankiness. Antoine is ‘El Guapo’. Ville has been renamed Mika, the fastest Finn on the circuit (we witnessed him in action in Dournenez – this guy is hot stuff when it comes to French girls). Laurance is ‘Captain Ricky Marmite’. Antje is ‘Snoopy’ and Martina is ‘Marge’. Jamie has 3 nicknames at present (Ritmo, Saint James and Diplomat) – none have really stuck though so we will have to keep mulling it over. And without any doubt whatsoever, Leslie is Captain Birdseye. Jamie and Laurance came up with Tweety pie for me in light of my persistent twittering and pointing at things. Hmmm.

One day I'll be a Captain dreams Jamie

In the night watch Martina accidentally killed one of the land birds on board (not our little ginger birdie though). It was snoozing on the deck and she stumbled on it while trimming the sails. Ramon gave it a seaman’s funeral. Later during the day on Sunday I watched horrified as my little ginger bird went for a little flight from the stern and couldn’t fly fast enough enough to get back on board. I watched as it made 3 failed attempts to get back onboard, falling exhausted into the waves until the finally it rapidly disappeared into the sea in our wake. I was heartbroken to lose our little singing friend who had travelled with us for 2.5 days from France.

Other highlights of crossing the Bay of Biscay were reading ‘The Last Grain Race’ and playing my flute. For the first time in month I could feel the tensions ebbing away. The run up to this voyage have been fraught. And the last few weeks on board have been tense as we have negotiated a relay of obstacles from regulators and insurers to getting boat ready. The last few years I’ve barely played my flute and it was a great joy to sit on my bunk learning old tunes. I also spent some time trying to decipher the notes on my Echo Harp, a beautiful gift for this voyage from my neighbour Gini. It is a double sided dual layer mouth harpsichord made in Germany by M Horner. The only thing I can play at the moment is ‘Glory glory hallelujah’ and not that well I might add. We have a large assortment of instruments on board. Jamie has a Clarinet, Ville has 3 flutes, Leslie has a french horn, Ramon has a guitar and I have a flute, 2 harpsichords, a slide whistle and a Ukelele. We may well have formed a band by Brazil.

The swell as we crossed Biscay was 4-5 metres with gentle rolling. We have got away very lightly. With conditions only worsening when we crossed from the abyssal plain back onto the continental plain as we approached Spain on Sunday evening. I was in my bunk at the time being thrown about trying to get some sleep before a dawn watch. Already it is significantly warmer on board – I found myself kicking of my bedding, socks and Guernsey in the night.

Antje woke me at 5:45 for my watch on Monday morning. I scrambled on deck to find myself immersed in starlight with not a cloud in the sky. A faint wisp of dawn was emerging on the horizon. The shoreline twinkling with the lights of an array of fishing towns on the northern coast of Spain just south of Cape Finisterre.

Antje and Ville remained on deck with Jamie, Damon and I to watch transfixed as the sky transformed from deep cobalt to cyan, orange pinks and deep red until sun emerged from behind a hill; a flaming white ball which rapidly doused the sea in glitter.

 

The northern spanish coastline is speckled with wind turbines.

Wind turbines at Sunrise Cape Finisterre

I made eggy bread for breakfast and took over the helm for the remainder of my watch.

Entranced by the sunrise while helming on dawn watch

Drenched in sunshine we watched the rocky arid coastline drift by. By mid day the sun was scorching and most of us had changed and kicked off our boots, padding about in bare feet. Seriously I know I’ve said this before but WHAT IS UP WITH THE WEATHER? Great to be in shorts, t-shirt and bare feet but is this normal in February?

We glided into port and were greeted by the harbour master. The harbour is a tight feet for a boat the size of Irene so we needed to be nudged into our berth by 2 ribs. The skipper and Captain looked on anxiously as we passed close to a range of rather expensive looking power boats missing them by a whisker. Finally we leapt ashore.

Ramon is originally from Vigo and has negotiated access to the swimming baths, pool, sauna and turkish baths for us. After a week without showers and nearly 4 weeks on the boat with lukewarm (at best!) showers we are over the moon.

Irene snug in Vigo harbour

Our cargo arrives Thursday so we have a few days to relax in Vigo.

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