Sunday, 30 September 2007

Further Chile update...

We have had a frothy day on the sea, max gust 48 knots, usual gusts 40 knots storm gib up and still going along at 7 knots. I was busy making cornish pasties, (as one does) and the wind switched off. We now have west 13 knots. the calm before the storm?

We have 537 miles to go, and feel very silly with a storm gib up, but there is no way I'm getting Adrian to do another change, we'll just have to slop around for a bit.

The waves are from the SW, 8 seconds from top of one to top of the next and about 6 metres, we also have a west swell which is a right little bugger and keeps pouring water down my neck.

It has been raining, butr not too bad.

We received this email about 2 hours ago, hopefully they have one final blast to get through and then they are on the homeward run. makes me very grateful to be here, safely on the river!

Update on Chile.

Latest email says....Its horrible!!!!!
its sooooooo cold here!!  Wind is WNW 6/7 big confused seas,
working jib reefed right
in will change to storm gib this morning,
everything ok but cooker had a funny turn
last night soi first job today was to fix that,
i cant do without a hot cup of
Thats a wind speed of between 22 and 33 knots, according to the forecast the waves will be 4-6 metres on wonder they need a cup of tea.

The forecast today has tempered a little and hopefully should not reach the 60k that they were predicting a few days ago, however they may well see 45k before its over. No joke in seas that high approaching a lee shore.

Rather them than me!

Work and Wooster.!

The boat has been a hive of activity, seriously damaging to available blogging time!
TBH( the better half) is at the stage of business development that is moving towards marketing and launch....pretty exciting for us both.

Yesterday was a red letter day as he finally got the website up and running. Yahoo!!! ( Sounds of great celebrations). The blog is also up and running.If you fancy an interesting read do go and have a look!

I mentioned in an earlier entry that there was quite a difference in lifestyle between the liveaboard cruisers who still work for a living and those who are totally retired. One of the ways we see this is that , generally, those still working are at the younger end of the age range. There are of course exceptions, us for a start!

The new technologies have certainly enabled more cruisers to turn a crust . The traditional liveaboard means of earning tended to be boat based skills such as canvas work, refrigeration repairs, engine repairs, woodwork etc with some talented individuals using their creative skills as writers, artists and musicians to keep the kitty topped up.

I wonder if this will eventually change the demographics of the cruising community? And how that will affect the kind of boat out here on the water?

What we do seem to be seeing is more, larger boats around. Certainly in the most popular areas of the Caribbean such as the Leeward and Windward Islands the average size of boats has increased pretty dramatically over the past few years. At 40 feet ( our length) we felt like one of the smaller craft, and yet , to our mind this is about as big as a couple can handle when the weather gets serious. One of the developments of these larger boats, still usually with a crew of only two, has been a much greater dependence on 'systems'. Electric winches, computer charting and navigation and so forth. This in turn has created a greater demand for skilled service people for the sophisticated repair problems that always need doing! It is difficult to be self sufficient in terms of servicing and repairs when each piece of this new equipment is designed to need a fully trained technician to care for it!

We cruise at the other end of the spectrum. We have no electronic chart plotters , all our navigation is done on paper charts in the old fashioned way with a pair of dividers and a good old plastic chart plotter. We have no freezer, no electric winches, no icemaker. TBH can handle most problems that we encounter( so far, touch wood!) he services the engine, repairs the refrigerator, mends the sails and canvas work, and can work his way through a myriad of other practical problems. Which many times has been absolutely vital as we have been in places where there is no help!

A few years ago, when we were in Portugal, we completely rerigged the boat,using sta-loc fittings that we could put together ourselves, that is changed all the wires that hold up the mast, ourselves. It was slow hard work in a hot climate but helped us understand much more about how our boat works and where problems are likely to appear. That all makes me feel much more comfortable when we do venture out to wilder parts of the world.

Web development,software writing are the new skills that are easily adapted to the gypsy life of the cruiser. It will be interesting to see how our world changes over the next few years.

So as we had been working so hard yesterday we treated ourselves to an indulgent evening cosy in our cabin with the tropical rainy season in full deluge outside! A glass or two(!) of red wine, a huge bowl of my favourite spaghetti bolognaise and two episodes of the old BBC series of Jeeves and Wooster.Heaven!
For those of you not familiar with the series its set in the 1920's the characters being a titled twat and his butler Jeeves. Its wonderfully silly and I just love the language....

'"I say old chap thats a bit of a rum do!"

"profound jocundity"

"Ticketty Boo"

Marvelous stuff, I recommend it!

So I must away for 'tiffin and crumpets' before a 'saunter along the riverbank ' with 'ones jolly super old chap!'

Toodle Pip! (Goodbye!)

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Todays weather in Chile

This is todays surface analysis for Chile, as you can see the system to the South has moved a little further north, our friends have just reported that they have a force 5 with a greatly increased swell. We know they are well prepared for a 'blow' and are thinking about them!

Friday, 28 September 2007


I had planned to head in to town this morning but the weather, raining, and the emails, interesting, have changed my plans.

Instead I have been searching through the books on sailing in Chilean waters that we carry on board. Yes, you may ask why! Well we carry the books 'cos I really want to sail there and I like to be prepared, after all we were going to go to the Med three years ago and instead crossed the Atlantic . We couldn't have done that if we weren't already carrying the charts and pilot guides for this part of the world could we! So anyway I had an email from friends currently sailing from Easter Island to Valdivia in Chile asking for some weather information..........

They have been forecast storms by Sunday but can't find any corroboration and wanted me to search the net and other sources to see what I could come up with- they know that I am living my dreams through them at the moment, me being Marina bound and all that.

It was fascinating trying to understand the very different weather system down there in the Southern Hemisphere. For a start its all upside down and back to front, if you know what I mean.

Its some big amount of wind down there. There is a MASSIVE low off Cape Horn and just the isobar packing(thats the lines that measure the pressure and therefore help to predict the wind speed) made me feel dizzy.

I found some information that I was able to transmit straight back to them. Like us they have an SSB radio on board that means we are able to keep in touch by email wherever we are in the world, even mid-ocean. Its very basic, no attachments and very slow but it makes such a difference out there.

When we first moved on board we relied on a mobile phone to keep in touch, we have three children back in the UK, but as we moved away from Europe that became hideously expensive. We then set up our radio to work with the laptop and via a wonderful service called Sailmail we were able to start emailing from on board. Of course there are now wifi spots all over the world, and many marinas including the one we are currently in enable you to access the worldwide web from the comfort of your boat! Along with the introduction of Skype which is an internet service that enables us to make worldwide phone calls for very little or even nothing our world has changed considerably.

It has made me, as a Mum, much happier to sail further afield knowing that we can all keep in touch with relative ease and economy.

The other considerable change means that TBH can organize and develop a new business from almost wherever we are in the world. What this all adds up to is FREEDOM!

As a slight digression I remember back in 'the old world' sitting at dinner with half a dozen CEO's of big international companies. All extremely successful men in their mid 50's. Ever curious I asked them what they wanted from the rest of their lives, lets face it they were at 'the top of the tree' still reasonably young, where did they see themselves going from here.

Mostly they were flummoxed! More of the same, charitable works. They turned the question on me, what did I want? I thought hard, FREEDOM. They scoffed! No such thing! You can never be free! What do you mean by that!

Well I was surprised but soon realized I had vocalized the one thing that we all seek but very few find. I think it frightened them! I am not sure that I have completely achieved my goal yet but I am getting there, working towards that carefree, laid back view of life where i can go with the flow and enjoy the moment. Sometimes I can feel it, a tangible sense of everything being in balance. Like when the sails are perfectly set and our boat makes a cheery chuckling noise as she dips through the waves. Like riding a horse that is right on the bit, a glorious floating sensation on top of a magnificent beast. Maybe I can't have that all the time but WHY NOT!

Sailing, cruising give me a lot of that freedom. No timetables, well except tides! No red tape. Well except customs and immigration! No limits. Well except my own fear!

Might take a while! But until then I revel in others adventures as well as my own and dream of whats yet to come as well as reveling in whats happening right now.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Credit where its due...

Cruising is something I have wanted to do for a VERY long time . I remember reading Rosie Swale's book 'Rosie Darling' and being captivated by the adventurous and alternative lifestyle, that was back in 1973. I was just 17. My dreams were of wide oceans and free spirits. Not a lot of that to be found at a North London academic hothouse.

I don't think it was the sailing that appealed so much as the traveling and the lack of commitment to a 'regular' lifestyle. Anyway the dreams continued and mostly got swallowed up in the details of a very ordinary life. Maybe I just didn't want it that badly.

What I have done over the years is read avidly, always with my nose in a book, I started to gather information on my chosen subject. I believed that if I wanted something hard enough eventually I would get it, it usually works.....and it did this time too! Just took a little longer than I had expected!

So I'd like to pay homage to the writers and other dreamers who helped keep my thirst alive.
Lynne and Larry Pardey, one of the original bluewater writers. Their way of life certainly isn't for everyone,wooden boat, no engine(initially). For years I wondered how they lived so comfortably on a 24' boat, then I realised they are TINY PEOPLE! No wonder it worked.
Their books can be somewhat anal(!), but as I have sailed further and longer I recognize the sheer weight of experience that they bring to their writing and the just basic, sound commonsense that they use.

Hal and Margaret Roth, this couple remain my all time favourites, Hal does the writing, beautifully, and you can hear Margaret's voice hidden in the details. The elegant, intelligent descriptions of anchoring techniques in 'After 50,000 miles' and 'How to sail around the world' put so much into context for me personally.

Annie Hill, her book 'Voyaging on a small income' was a definitive moment for me, as for many other dreamers! It WAS possible to do all this without megabucks and look, here was somebody out there DOING IT! Hints and tips from food to furling and all written in her own particular style.
Just a couple of years ago we were alone in a beautiful anchorage in the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama when in sailed a neat gaff rigged steel boat, it was Annie and Trevor her partner.....I was overcome with hero worship.

We got to know them and I don't think Annie realized what she did for me over the few days that we spent together. As she spoke of her fears and loves I understood that it was OKAY to be afraid of some things on the boat! The past year had been difficult for me thinking that I did not have the gungho attitude of say, the Smeetons.I was having a crisis of confidence in both myself and our boat. But as I nattered away with Annie I felt my confidence grow, it was alright, I was normal!!! Oh Annie you have no idea what a difference you have made to my life- bring it on!

John Seymour's book 'The complete guide to self-sufficiency' whilst not at all marine based has been an important part of my library since it was first published back in the 70's. Filled with knowledge of preserving foods, making beer, building windmills, all on a Welsh hillside mind you! I still faithfully carry a copy on board, just in case we wash up ashore one of these days!

Martin Northey
was the guy who started to bring my dreams a little closer to reality. We found him through a small ad in the back of one of the yachting comics advertising off season sailing courses in the Algarve, Portugal. He cleaned up our rusty skills, taught us to Yachtmaster level, found us our wonderful boat and most of all believed in us, he knew we could do it!

The website of John and Amanda Neal has been interesting to follow. They teach offshore sailing on board their Hallbery Rassy and have tons of experience. Amanda's monthly cookery column is always worth catching up with.

There have been many other things, books-titles long forgotten, chance meetings with capable people, the poetry of dreamers but I cannot close this post without mentioning TBH(the better half). He made it all possible. Finally a life partner who shared my desire for adventure, and he was practical too.

As Libby Purvis, a writer in Yachting Monthly and The Times, said in one of her columns, "I'd rather have a man who can unblock the heads than a Yachtmaster on board!"
Well here, here Libby. Couldn't agree more. TBH stays calm when I panic, comforts me when I am afraid, climbs to the top of the mast, mends the engine( and the heads) and is always on the look out for the next excitement. I couldn't do it without him xx!

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Beyond the Sea..

I have just watched the film 'Beyond the Sea'. Starring,directed by,produced by,sung by Kevin Spacey- oh boy what a film!
I love it when film does what it should, becomes the medium that cannot be produced in the theater , on the television or in a book............and this does all that. When an actor truly uses their talent and intelligence to transform a character into a three dimensional celluloid being it is a moment to be savored.......
The editing is magnificent and some of the cinematography is awesome. The use of the child is terrific, what acting!Definitely *****stars!
This site
doesn't rate it but what the hell, I never did follow the crowd!

I want to be doing this.....

Sailing towards a blue horizon!

I am sailing......

............well I'm not really, but I wish I was! We have been here in the marina for 10 weeks now and I am getting itchy feet. I know that we need to be here for a good reason but its frustrating none the less. Our emails are full of news from friends, sailing from Easter Island to Chile,from New York to Annapolis, from Scotland to Dorset...........

TBH is close to finishing his ''magnum opus', its a work of amazing originality and genius, just like the man himself............and I really mean that. I keep teasing him that I will want a new frock for the Nobel Prize awards but there is a note of truth in the leg pulling!The book is pretty much completed but there is a final glitch with the software that this is all about, its driving him mad!I have no doubt he will sort it out, he always does. His concentration is amazing even in his sleep he is thinking a way through the problem, wish I had even a tiny bit of his aptitude.

I find it quite difficult to just be in a supportive role but I guess there are times for everything as we live! Cooking has become my therapy, I am really enjoying looking out new recipes and trying them out...TBH says its like living in the 'Masterchef' programme(a BBC TV competition where three chefs compete to cook the best meal). Thank goodness he is such a good consumer.

The nice part of being here is ,that with access to the internet ,I have discovered all those wonderful foodie sites!! I am totally addicted to Its a portal where people post a photograph of a wonderful food or dish, you click on it and it takes you to their site-oh so yummy!I have started to cook food with much more care, and I hope, fineness. Fiddly recipes and difficult presentations.
I have been trying all different styles but ,currently, am really in to Indian meals. We have 'The Australian Womans Weekly Book of Indian Cookery' on board!! I know , I know all I can ever think of is that song by Victoria Wood- ...beat me on the bottom with a womans weekly! However the recipes are clear and they WORK!

The curries are subtle and flavorful, none of this blow the back of your throat out with hot chillies and I have even made samosas( little meat filled pastry triangles that are deep fried). They are pretty fiddly to make on the boat but boy do they taste good.
We eat extremely well on board, although we try and keep to a couple of meals a day (waistlines!). Sometimes the local ingredients can be a bit hit or miss...improvisation is often the order of the day.But the longer we stay in any one place the easier I find it to source all those little bits and pieces that I need.

One of the best things we have done is to update our gas(propane) system on board. This provides our cooking fuel for both the stove and the BBQ. When in Panama we found US gas cylinders available at $35 each, well our old camping gaz (the blue ones from Europe) were in dire straights so we made the decision to switch systems. Oh that was such a good idea. Our gas locker, it turns out, was designed for this 20lb cylinder and we are able to carry 4 of them! Thats enough for nearly a year of use!!!We also rigged the BBQ up to run off them and with the greater pressure that they deliver the temperature on the BBQ is now perfect. I have even managed to bake pizza !
We have a Magma BBQ- excellent bit of kit, but my pride and joy is the Taylors 041 Gas stove.No longer in production sadly, it is the Rolls Royce of marine cookers. Two gas rings and a double griddle/simmering plate. Large oven( I have baked a 16lb turkey and all the trimmings in there) and a good sized grill. Its as versatile as most shore based cookers and this one even swings to accommodate the movement of the boat, clever huh!

I see no reason why life on board should be less comfortable than life ashore. It seems vital to create a comfortable living space, otherwise why do it! We have seen quite a lot of couples give up because they were 'camping' on their boats. Women in particular can find it more difficult to sail away and why would they leave the homely surroundings of land based living to use plastic plates and glasses!OK when we are underway there are compromises to make but once the hook is down or the mooring lines out its time for the best glasses and fancy foods again. Cheers!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Catching up.

Yesterday evening we had a visit from Ulf and Jen from Seaquill.
They have been off sailing to Belize to renew their visas as well as traveling in to the highlands in Guatamala to attend Spanish School, meet up with friends and do a bit more sightseeing. It was really nice to catch up again and especially so as they bought a pile of new books with them! Books are one of the things I really miss. Not being able to wander in to Waterstones and come out with an armful of the latest titles. Sometimes I wake up having dreamt of wandering round the bookshelves in a big bookstore- I'm really happy till I remember I was just dreaming. Lots of places have a bookswop corner but sadly the quality offered is usually pretty dire. Loads of quasi-religious novels, thrillers etc but little good quality literature. Its such a joy when you meet a boat with similar taste- like Christmas.......So, I have a nice pile of new books to read which is just great!
Plus they came armed with wine, ice, nuts and olives-the perfect guests.
I made a couple of pizzas and we had a great evening putting the world to rights.

One of my successes this season has been herb growing. The deck of the boat is covered with pots of greenery. Basil, oregano, chives,mint,lemon basil, coriander. Its pretty hard work getting them to survive in this environment but mostly they do okay. It makes a great difference to cooking to have access to fresh cut herbs. In fact its the envy of most other cruisers! The most difficult thing is finding good soil, we have survived on a bag of potting compost that we have been carrying since we left Panama but this is now finished-oh misery! I have hopes of getting some new stuff from Guatemala City. It needs to be sterilized compost or you can pick up all sorts of nasty bugs and creepies that eventually kill off the plants........very nasty.
On the dock and at anchor they all live on deck but when we are underway the forward heads gets converted to a green house! Mostly they survive okay for a few days but the more delicate stuff does look a bit seasick after a while! I have also had great success with growing salad leaves and rocket(arugula). We had a continuous supply for a month whilst in Honduras from just one small trough(1'6" x 8") That was such a treat!
I also grow mustard&cress and sprout beans, very self-sufficient! It'll be tomatoes and cucumbers next! Thats a joke!
I was dismayed to read a comment on a forum posting on the YBW site that the poster considered the sight of greenery growing on deck the sign that you had reached the home of a dead-end cruiser! I beg to disagree, anyone who sails to remote coasts and islands will do all they can to ensure a little variety in their diet. We are often well away from any form of retail outlet and many of the islands in this part of the Caribbean don't grow decent greenstuffs and definitely no herbs!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Start the week.

Its been a busy weekend. We are staying in a marina at the TBH needs power and internet for his business venture so here we are! Its interesting how those of us who live onboard and still have some kind of employment/business have quite a different lifestyle to the retired/part-timers.
The activity in the Marina can be pretty relentless. Pot-luck suppers, BBQ"s, Karaoke nights, Film nights etc.........sometimes it seems more like one of those retirement homes..........scary thought.
We join in from time to time but our day revolves more around working, both for financial gain and on the boat jobs that continue to demand our attention.
We have a to do list that seems to grow ever longer at the moment.....I am sure that once we pull up the anchor and get out the docklines the boat breathes a sigh or relief, relaxes and everything goes to pot! I also believe that its a strong case of 'use it or lose it'!

So the weekend, well Friday we got out the dinghy to head to the town upstream from here to do the weekly shop. Its a good 40 minute ride with our 4hp outboard but we get a sense of inverted superiority as we are overtaken by countless other rubber ducks with much more powerful engines, at least we are doing our bit for the environment(well it sounds good). A visit to the ATM machine to collect some cash, polite greeting to the gun toting guard who watches the door for us.........dash round the Supermarket and then a leisurely stroll back through the street vendors to top up with veggies, fruit and spices.

Its at this point that a very patient TBH starts muttering about breakfast. The dock where we leave the dinghy whilst we shop has a great little restaurant and offers a good breakfast, usually very slow but tasty. Pancakes with a pile of papaya,melon and banana and a cup of coffee. A strawberry batista (milkshake) for me comes to 34Q, thats about 2 pounds 20p, good value to create such a happy bunny.

The place is usually full of backpackers waiting to pick up a boat to take them down river. Boy am I glad not to be young and traveling like that. Their pale skin and angry looking insect bites combined with a massive rucksack, these days one on the front too(rucksack I mean).They mostly look weighed down with the worries of the world. I wonder what they do all day.....wait for boats and buses I guess!

Saturday evening one of the cruisers organized a TEXMEX BBQ up by the pool. Oh yes its a pretty posh marina! I made marinated shrimp that I had bought the previous day from a fisherman who came by the boat. Huge and still wriggling as he transferred them to my bowl they certainly tasted exquisite after marinading in a honey and lime concoction. We grilled them on the BBQ and served them with an avocado salsa.........worked perfectly.

Sunday TBH was busy working on his computer, some problem with compiling part of his code so I indulged in an orgy of laundry. My least favourite job on the boat. There are some washing machines and dryers here but the electricity becomes temperamental when you try and run them all at the same time??? So its a slow process. I spent time sat in the palm thatched palapa by the pool, watching the insects-there was a great stream of leafcutter ants marching back and forth. Got bitten by a nasty red bottomed fly that really hurts but, fortunately, seems to do no lasting damage. Its a tough life just relaxing even check under the seat cushions for concealed snakes before sitting down!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

...and it came to pass!

Well I don't really want to go back and rewrite all our adventures in the Caribbean over the past three years so I've made the decision to start this blog from NOW.
NOW, is currently on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. Boy a few years ago I had no idea where Guatemala was, never mind how to spell it and here I am. Thats one of the great things about the life I lead, you just never know where you might be and whats going to happen next.....
Central America has been a place of really pleasant surprises. If we had spoken even two years ago I would have never imagined that this was somewhere we would stay so long. Its been a real eyeopener. To date we have visited Venezuela,Bonaire,Curacao,Colombia,Panama,Providencia, Honduras,Costa Rica and now here, Guatemala. The vibrancy of life is something that has hit me hard. The music, the colours,the wildlife! There is enormous poverty...the kind that I have never seen first hand , but somehow the people we meet are, in the most part, happy and contented with their lives. I have certainly started to learn that "things" are not essential for a happy life.TBH says that he is struck by the fact that you don't see really hungry people here, not like he experienced in Africa. Yes there is malnutrition here but its mostly caused by ignorance rather than lack of food.
Organizations here on the Rio, like, work to encourage self-sufficiency and knowledge of sustainable agriculture amongst the young and homeless.
When we first arrived at a tiny village on the borders of Colombia and Panama I went in to deep culture shock and to a certain extent that has stayed with me.I felt as though I had dropped in to a National Geographic Photoshoot! Sometimes its really difficult to equate my lifestyle with the things I see around me.The sparsity of belongings, the sheer hard work of living in these tropical climates, the dangers of wildlife(snakes,bugs, bad water), the lack of medical care. It has made me think far more deeply about my own life and the directions I would like it to take.

MMnn bit deep and retrospective but thats okay too!

Here on the Rio its a real interface of lifestyles. On the one hand the river passes through isolated jungle where Mayan Indians live very much in the same way as their ancestors, fishing from dugout canoes, cooking over wood fires, doing the washing in the river. Then further upstream you pass the enclaves of American style marinas,large house for the rich weekenders from Guatemala City. Stores carrying luxury food items, cars and buses. Sailing is an extraordinary platform from where to watch a country unfold itself to me.

Its only a decade since the end of a vicious and cruel civil war here in Guatemala and somehow you can still feel the tension that inhabits the country. Corruption and crime abound.Most locals ,who can afford it, carry guns. Big pump action shotguns, smaller handguns,slung in shoulder or waist holsters....You certainly watch where you are walking in the supermarket! Shootings seem to be common place and all the bars have signs at the door saying 'no weapons'.

I still can't make up my mind how I feel about this place. It has an overwhelming sense of sadness and fear. The faces smile at you but the eyes remain watchful. Children are ushered away from the gringos for fear that they will be kidnapped. By the gringos, either for adoption or organ harvest! Who knows if these fears are based in any truth? I don't.

In the Beginning............

So, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Start my own Blog. Yeah right! Computer literacy is not one of the skills that I can claim as my own. I can sex a chicken, pluck a goose, present a TV show,cook a good meal, helm a ship,raise a kid,identify English wildflowers and artificially inseminate a cow but suddenly none of those knacks are worth a tinkers cuss.
So bear with me as I learn to navigate my way in new territory and in a new language, I am not the quickest learner so this may take some time............TBH(The Better Half) assures me I will master this Universe, we will see!

It has been three years since we sailed across the Atlantic in our little boat. I am still not sure how that happened, we were going to the Mediterranean but leaving Gibraltar turned right instead of left...doh! Thirty two days at sea with TBH, not a sign of land, another ship or a rescue helicopter. There were long days when I seriously thought I had lost the plot, after all it was only a joke! I now identify totally with Ellen Macarthur's wild crying moments as she sails the wildest oceans, I know just how she felt as the courage you thought would always be there for you disappears into a sad little puddle and drips away........ I met places deep in my psyche that I NEVER want to revisit. Still I made it, in one piece, several stones lighter in weight and with the start of the initial stages of scurvy!